Ep. 154 – Russell Simmons: How to Earn Your Worth

Russell Simmons James Altucher

Ask the world this question, and you’ll drown in failure.

You’ll lose. Anything you take, anything you earn, will be foul.

I bet you’ve asked this question before. Maybe everyday. Maybe all your life.

“How can I get?”

How can I get rich? How can I get happy?

How can I get more?

There’s no return on getting.

It leave you with nothing. Or worse than nothingness. Emptiness.

But there’s another way. It’s simple. I’m going to tell you how to earn your worth.

It works for me. And it works for my podcast guest, Russell Simmons, “the third richest figure in hip-hop with an estimated net worth of $340 million.”

He gets.

He told me a story. “That was my first realization that hard work turned into something,” he says.

“I had never been on a plane. I had certainly never been out of the country, and landing in Amsterdam they’re like, ‘Mr. Simmons what would you like?’”

“I’m like, ‘Oh shit Mr. Simmons.’ That was a revelation. I was a grown man I could get things I wanted.”

But not all his life.

He grew up in Queens. “Hollis, Queens and 205 Street. Frank Lucas was on our corner and so that was the heroin capital. The neighborhood went down very quickly,” he says.

“Obviously every kid took a lot of drugs.” He was 13. Joined a gang. Sold drugs, “had some experiences,” and escaped.

Now he’s the chairman and CEO of Rush Communications and the co-founder of Def Jam, the record label famous for spotting Beastie Boys, Jay Z, Kanye West, Rihanna and 100 others. Since 1984.

I wanted to know how he got here. And how he became one of my heroes.

“I didn’t discover hip-hop,” he says, “hip-hop discovered me.”

He was at the center of that universe.

He grew his opportunities. He spotted talent, formed partnerships, and became an entrepreneur.

He learned a lot. You might expect to hear “he hustled.” But mostly, he gave back.

“This idea that you have to trade with the world or manipulate the world to be successful is wrong headed,” Russell says.


“If you look at your own history of success it’s because you contributed to success,” he says.

It’s works for me too.

I give writing. I get readers.

I give interviews. I get advice, entertainment, a network, new friends, a memory, and experiences I would never get if I didn’t give.

And giving can be simple.

Write emails to people you admire. Surprise someone. Do something that makes someone else’s life better. Give ideas. Say thanks.

Russell says, “You have to be comfortable in your seat, and life’s only goal is to be happy and comfortable in your seat. From that space the universe unravels and it attracts everything. You become a greater giver because you’re focused on giving and you’re not fearful of the world. You become a contributor.”

“Anyway I’m out of cocaine now. Just so you know I’ve been vegan and I’ve stopped taking drugs almost thirty years ago,” he says.

That’s why I got to have him on my podcast.

He wrote a book, The Happy Vegan: A Guide to Living a Long, Healthy, and Successful Life.

It’s an incredible book. I learned a huge amount reading it. I’m not a vegan. But I’m strongly considering it.

When you listen to today’s podcast, you’ll learn how to “get.” Ideas, wealth, happiness. Because you’ll learn how to give.

“Good givers are great getters,” Russell says.

Ask the world this question, and you’ll earn your worth.

“What can I give?”

Listen now.

Resources and Links:

  • C. Leroy

    What is the name of the book that was talked about at -24:02?
    Thank you

    • James Buechler

      The Bhagvad Gita, which is the Hindu scripture.

  • Great insights. Everyone is looking to quiet their mind whether through drugs, alcohol or meditation. Bottom line, we all want the same thing, to feel good and make a difference. We need to know our being here mattered. The very fact that you are here means you matter. We have some serious work to do to heal ourselves and our planet. We are in the 11th hour. Thank you, Russell for speaking up and urging people to wake up. When you spoke about what happens when we eat meat, we intuitively know that all the crap that they are fed is what we are also consuming. Yet we ignore it. What really got me was realizing that the emotions of the animals also get transferred to us. It follows the same logic that we are never truly alone because we all share the same breathe. A breathe exhaled by you is inhaled by another. And so we share the same emotions when we consume our animal kingdom. Worth listening to. Worth reading your books. Thank you, both for a conscious conversation.

  • Mel Kimsey

    Good stuff James. Thanks and thank you for bringing Russel’s thoughts to us.

  • I’ve been a Vegan for 5 years and it was great!!! Now, I’m introducing organic local honey, organic free-range eggs and wild salmon into my diet. I’m also meditating for 5 minutes each day. It’s good to start small.

    • Jonathan Petrides

      Hey Dania, I’ve been doing an AllPlants (I prefer this name to vegan, sounds cooler!) diet for 6 months now. I love it! So, just wondering, how comes you’ve decided to add in wild salmon and the eggs? Were you finding problems from a health/nutrition perspective, or fancied the flavour, or something else? Just want to learn lots and lots! Really appreciate your advice :)

      • Hi Jonathan,

        I decided to add those because I missed the taste, not for health reasons. I hope this helps.


        • Jonathan Petrides

          Cool. I totally understand it… AllPlants food is just at the beginning of developing the flavour-rich breadth of yummy delights… it’s gonna be all about making plant-based living just as delicious, spontaneous, delightful and healthy as today’s norms, if not even more! :)

  • check out more on meditation and yoga on this post and podcast: http://www.emboldenadventures.com/featured-categories/meditating-in-india/

  • James Buechler

    Something happens around 7minutes; they go from veganism to Leroy Cohen (who’s that?), to Russell’s daughters. But, prior to that, his take on animal abuse, legalized torture, factory farms, yoga…all that, very helpful.

    I taught yoga five years, consult nutrition, and now play music for a living, so all this is a real gift from James.

    You don’t have to be vegan, you can add in lots of vegetables, be conscious of your addictions (cupcakes, for instance).