Ask James: Billionaire Sex, Obesity, Writer's Block, My Problems, Charisma

The other day I got an interesting question via email. A girl I know would like to marry a billionaire. She’s tired of the hassle. She lost a lot of weight (she sent before and after pictures), she signed up for and other sites like that, and she started getting messages.

But still nobody wanted to get married. The highest offer she got was $1000 for one night of sex. An offer she turned down because she felt a billionaire should pay more. She asked me what she should do.

In a few weeks I have a new book coming out:


It contains a curated version of many of the questions I’ve answered on twitter (divided up into chapters by category) and original material that I’ve answered via emails. I hope you like it. I hope it’s the first of many such books.

Next week I’m away. I might take this Q&A format on both twitter and radio so having a meeting about it. But back to the regular Twitter Q&A in two weeks. Meanwhile, here’s this weeks



wiserguy1971 Wise Guy

@jaltucher How would you “solve” obesity, the cost of which has reached $177 billion as of 2011? Diabetes, cardio, cancer, MS and alzheimer

ANSWER: Clearly Obesity is a national epidemic and has been for at least two decades. America has just gotten fatter and fatter with our processed foods, our lax eating habits, our corporate parks that discourage any form of exercise, and most importantly: our blinding faith that whatever trouble we get in down the road can easily be cured by the miracles of modern medicine.

So we eat. We enjoy our pleasures. We eat, we drink, we smoke, we screw hookers and pass the resulting diseases onto our wives (causing cervical cancer) – there’s no end to the way we punish ourselves.

To answer your question though: there’s no cure.

The only cure is evolution. Eventually one generation sees another generation kill themselves slowly through these ills in our society and then they clean up a little.  Eventually the costs of obesity become so great that companies jump into action with incentives to keep weight down, and children learn not to repeat the problems of their parents.

I saw it with my dad. He kept gaining weight. He kept having “TIAs” which are pre-cursors to strokes, but he maintained the same diet, the same intake of alcohol, the same stresses, and guess what? Sleep apnea and stroke. Both diseases related to obesity and weight gain.

There’s two pieces of good news:

  1. Obesity has plateaued in recent years. And although 33% of American adults are considered obese that number has not gone up (or down) in the past few years. THis is the first time in 20 years the number has remained stable. Although the bad news is 33% is totally unacceptable. Every one of these 33% will have medical dysfunction as a result of being obese.
  2. Inflation: A few months ago there was this horror story in USA Today. Potato Chip manufacturers were getting hit so hard by inflation they were actually REDUCING THE NUMBER OF CHIPS PER BAG and then, even worse, NOT TELLING US.

Horrors! First USA Today complains about Obesity (it’s a once-a-year standard story) and now they are complaining WE ARE NOT GETTING OUR CHIPS!

This is an outrage! How dare they reduce the chips and not tell me.

But it’s true. Food per dollar spent is going down. So the end result of the Federal Bailouts of 2008 and QE1 through QE 10 will be less obesity. Which, of course, is the ultimate goal of the Federal Reserve.

By the way, this is speaking on a macro level. On a micro level – if you want to lose weight – any diet at all will work if you stick with it. It doesn’t matter what diet. The problem is people can’t stick with a diet. Why will any diet work? Because the main way people get calories is by eating junk food and not a single diet will let you eat donuts all day long.

Exercise increases metabolism. Maybe. And only a little. The only thing that will truly work for you is having 2 meals a day, making the portions no bigger than a fist, and no junk food in between.


markmccarthyUK Mark McCarthy

@jaltucher how do you overcome writers block? You always find something substantial to say!

ANSWER: I have a post coming on this next week but I can tell you the two most important things (it will be a “list post” so be careful):

  1. Start in the middle. The other day I was having trouble writing an intro to a post. No problem. Skip the intro. Start in the middle. When you rewrite you will probably delete the intro anyway. So, for instance, lets say I was going to write “How to save the United States”. And let’s say I was having trouble with the intro. Do I look at it from a personal perspective? A patriotic perspective? Do I throw in some experiences?

Assume I can’t figure it out. I’m blocked.

That’s ok. I’ll go right in the middle. Lets say I have 10 solutions. I’ll start with number 5. “Sell off all the federal highways and use the proceeds to pay down debt.” Now its easy. I can give my justification and reasoning. Now I’ve got a paragraph or two. Then I go onto #6. “Pull the military out of the 130 countries we are in.” Now I can give more justification and reasoning and personal experiences if I need to.

And finally at the end, I can write the intro and outro. BAM! Writer’s block solved.

But what if you can’t come up with an idea. This is harder. Wait for post next week on this.

But I did promise 2 reasons so #2: Read writers that inspire you. When I first started writing this blog I would read and re-read teh 20 or so writers that inspired me. And then, mid-story or book, I would get a flash of an idea and I would walk over and start writing.

But that technique doesn’t quite work for as well anymore. I’ve run out of the authors who have really inspired me and I’ve read their books ten times over. So I have to tweak this trick for myself.


mikeytom Mikey Tom

@jaltucher which do you value more highly, startups that are built to change the world or to make money?

ANSWER: The answer is obviously both. Let’s look at it at a micro level and macro level. Lets say you start a plumbing business. A plumber certainly saves the world. When my toilets don’t work, my world is over. And one person at a time, the plumber does the job that nobody else will do that is incredibly helpful.

If a plumber wasn’t helpful then plumbers wouldn’t make as much money as they do.

(saving the world is a big responsibility)

If you can’t help someone with your business then your business is no good.

Look at the biggest businesses: Apple, Exxon, Intel, Microsoft. Without them we wouldn’t drive cars, heat our houses cheaply (compared with 50 years ago) or have computing or be reading this article. They have clearly saved the world (unless you like living in a cave).

The businesses I started that were not helpful to people, failed. The businesses I started that had a mission that I passionately believed in, all succeeded. Remember, though, it’s ok to save the world one person at a time.

A missionary passion will equal success and wealth.


jennablan Jennifer Ablan

@jaltucher, Twitter or Facebook?




WIth Twitter I can keep my finger on the world’s pulse.

With Facebook I can keep my finger on my friends’ pulses.

Hopefully every day both are alive and healthy.

And with only one of the above companies, it would be hard to track both pulses, both of which are very important to me



Andrew Daum

@jaltucher hi james – what’s your feeling on the current state of the economy vs the noise spewing out the mouths of the talking heads.

ANSWER: The economy is ALWAYS better than what the media says. The media throws as much garbage in the trash can as possible. And then every day dumps it on their viewers.

Then…when the data is better than they thought, or even different than they thought. Do they apologize?


Today I was picking up a coffee (Claudia still in India, I can’t figure out this R2-D2 coffee machine). On the TV in the cafe: murder, death, disease, and Matt Lauer. All in one segment. Matt Lauer is probably worth $80 million at this point.

Does he really need to wake up at five in the morning just so he can read off a teleprompter about a six year old girl in Michigan who went missing and by the way, employment is only up because low-paying jobs going up?

When will these people apologize for their fear-mongering?


As for the question: just go to and check out the statistics for That stat alone will tell you how the economy is doing. If you don’t like that statistic, look at rail traffic.

Right now the economy is artificially flush because of the money printing. Eventually inflation will hit. But for now, it’s a royal flush. Time to take advantage of it.




dscotthep Davidson Scott

@jaltucher do you think Facebook is worth $100B? Has all the money already been made by private investors?


Yes and Yes

In August 2007 I went on CNBC and said Facebook would eventually be worth $100 billion. At the time it was valued at less than a billion.

Everyone was laughing. Joe Kernen was laughing. They kept playing a clip of Jeff Bezos laughing hysterically. As usual, I was a clown and I was in the middle of the circus.

Now, Facebook will go public at $100 billion, give or take.

Is it worth it? i don’t care about the current numbers or financials. Facebook hasn’t even begun to monetize.

Imagine if the entire Internet went public. That’s like Facebook going public. Watch the Super Bowl commercials. I bet more companies will put their Facebook pages than their websites in their ads. Facebook is an organized Internet.

And here’s my more personal reason for thinking Facebook will be worth $100 billion: 

The other part of your question: have all the private investors made all the money? Yes. I would not buy the IPO. I think Facebook is fairly valued whereever they end up IPOing it. Wait at least six months and see where the dust settles.



adamlcrain adam crain

@jaltucher read your book and agree about not buying homes. Are u against real estate rentals a investments as well?


WHAT!? Please read all my articles about real estate. Here’s one that links to all the others: 

Do you want to be the guy who does maintenance? Or even higher the company that does it? What do you do when people don’t pay their rent. Are you going to sue them? Kick them out? And what if real estate in your area goes down. Doesn’t matter how much income you are kicking off.

There are plenty of public stocks that diversify by buying real estate all across the country and have ways of reducing costs that you have no access to. Buy a publicly traded REIT if you believe in real estate as rental properties.



Priscilla P. Wood

@jaltucher How to have charisma?

ANSWER: It feels like I have ego if I answer this question. I can’t claim to be charismatic. But I do know what people will respond to in the long run. Try to work very hard at this list:

  • Be yourself. Meaning: don’t be afraid to say what you mean. Don’t hurt anyone by doing it but don’t be afraid to speak up and stand up for what you think is the right thing. Don’t be a follower.
  • Be honest. I’ve written before about the power of honesty: and it’s a real power that need to be practiced. There are so many ways we lie in tiny ways, even to ourselves. But if you stop it, or work on it, or practice being honest, the benefits are beyond what can be imagined.
  • Be kind: always have good will towards people. I really believe in the statement by Buddha to his son Rahula (Which I describe in “Was Buddha a Bad Father”) : Before, during, and after any thought, speech, or action FOCUS on whether or not you are doing harm.

When you just do these things, this is going to sound corny, but an inner light will shine through. People will see it. That’s real charisma.

I hope one day I can have it.




Richard Paulsen

@jaltucher Say you have a lot of Ideas, especially one that is really exciting, how do you motivate yourself to take the next step.


Several answers:

  • First, and I’ve written this before: most people let their idea muscle atrophy. When your leg muscles atrophy, in just two weeks you can’t walk without extreme therapy.

Same with the idea muscle. You have to sweat that muscle. Come up with ideas every day. But it’s more than that.

Let’s say after six months of coming up with ideas you START to have good ideas. What next?

Well, think of each idea as a quadruplet.

Don’t write down an idea unless you can write this:


Next step:

First customer:

First partner

I am horrible at executing. Horrible! I hate it. It’s boring and time consuming. I’d rather be coming up with great ideas.

My last business that I sold was I came up with the idea and liked it. But I had to force myself to take the next steps. So at the exact same time I had the idea, I spec-ed it out completely, within an hour I had put an ad on and hired an Indian developer to develop screen shots. And I set up my first meeting with my eventual partner on it. And I thought of the ten different ways I would distribute the site so people would see it.

Execution is forcing yourself to do those ugly things that come side by side with the idea. Don’t even write the idea down unless you also write these ugly things down.

Here’s what it reminds me of. I read a post recently by a woman who writes lots of novels. Sometimes she writes 15,000 words a day. In my life I have never done that. My tops is probably 7,000 on a GREAT day. She does it every day.

How does she do it? She totally outlines every step first. Then she sits down and bursts out the 15,000 words

So outline everything out or your idea does not even count as an idea. Then close your eyes and do it. You think writing 15,000 words in a day is fun? It’s misery. It’s boring. It hurts your hands. But that woman does it


Anonymous asks: I’ve started six businesses. They’ve all failed. I’m 49. What do I do if I’m a failure?

ANSWER: When someone asks me a question like this I always look for the “good reason” and the “real reason”.

It seems to be that starting and doing six businesses is far from failure. And 49 is young. So it sounds totally rational (the good reason) that he is calling himself a failure and trying to figure out what’s next.

But my guess is there’s a real reason. He might simply not like doing businesses and has another passion he wants to pursue. That’s the real reason and its right below the surface.

So he’s looking for excuses (calling himself a “failure”) to break his pattern instead of simply saying “I want to do X” where X might be something totally different from doing a business. Maybe he wants go to chef school. or be a photographer. Or move somewhere super cheap and paint landscapes.

Don’t forget: you can give yourself permission to do anything you want. Even when you are walking towards the altar you aren’t married until you say “Yes”.



DaveChmiel Dave Chmiel

@jaltucher What is the biggest or most annoying problem you wish someone would solve for you?


I think I answered this on twitter in too personal a fashion. Maybe that’s not what you meant. So I will give personal and professional answers.

My absolute biggest problems nobody can help me with. I have to day by day massage my problems so that they no longer jut out and stab everyone around me including myself

  • fear of going broke. A fear created ever since my parents went broke, ever since I went repeatedly broke. A fear thats hard to overcome no matter how much money or lack of I have.
  • fear of being abandoned. Claudia is a great wife. Will she ever leave me? Who knows? Every day I’m afraid.
  • fear I’ll run out of ideas for this blog or people will stop liking it. I work really hard to make sure
  • I’d like to keep improving the ways I’m honest with myself and others and the way I am kind to others.

This is all personal problems that nobody can help me with. The only way I keep working on them is by following my own advice I’ve outlined in my book: “I Was Blind But Now I See”: 

But here’s a professional problem I have that’s probably already been solved somewhere:

I need two things:

A centralized way to integrate all comments: when I do a blog post I have ongoing conversations on Twitter, Facebook (both on my personal page and my blog page), my blog, Google+ and sometimes Reddit or YCombinator and sites I syndicate to.

I’d like one way to aggregate all the conversations so people can really build community.

Next: analytics. When I post I get Twitter retweets, favorites, Facebook lkes/shares, G+ likes/shares, YCombinator likes, etc not to mention Facebook likes and G+ likes right on the blog itself. I’d like to get a sense of the total impact a blog post has.

These are two things I need and I’d probably pay a monthly subscription if it was done right.


khumk Casey Holmquist

@jaltucher practicing infinite patience, have the idea, have the partner, have the time, partner hs the progrming skil but he doesnt hv time


No bullshit! Your progammer is probably the best programmer in the world but I don’t care. EVERYONE has the time for an idea that can make millions. So “I don’t have a time” sounds like a good reason but it’s not the real reason.

He’s just not that into you, to misquote the book/movie.

Get a new programmer.





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