Ask James: College, Confidence, Radical Honesty, Success After 50, Guilty Pleasures, and MORE!


CashN1n9 michael cash  asks: You said don’t go to college, may i know why???

ANSWER: I’ve written many blog posts on this. And I’ve had at least seven death threats on this topic. Here’s one of my posts on the topic. Here’s one of the death threats.

But I’ll try to summarize quickly:

  • –          Student loan debt is higher than ever. Tuitions have risen even higher than health care costs since I went to college. So why isn’t there a national discussion on this
  • –          Kids take the money and we all know what they do those four years. Don’t DENY it!
  • –          They’ve just spent 12 years behind a desk listening to boring teachers and taking tests. Why don’t you let them try one of these eight alternatives.
  • –          There’s a big stat: kids with college degrees make more money. Unfortunately anyone who took statistics 101 knows the flaw in this statistic. Can you explain in the comments below?



Jas_Cheng JasCheng  asks: How to gain more confidence and be sure on what we say?(In case people are trying to bring us down)


#1: Try as hard as you to not be around people who are trying to bring you down. Walk away. Don’t engage. Don’t talk to them unless needed. This part of my advice on “How to Avoid Crappy People”. A few months ago I sent an email to a formerly close friend of mine saying how glad I was that he had once been in my life. He wrote back with a litany of all the reasons I was a bad person. No problem. Now if he ever tries to write me it instantly filters into the Spam box and I don’t even see it. That’s how you deal with crappy people (along with what I suggest in the above link)

#2: If you have an artery that is clogged, then blood doesn’t get through properly. You get heart disease and eventually have a heart attack. You might die from the heart attack.

So I’m about to explain what I really believe in philosophically. We don’t have one body. We have four, and they are all mirrors of each other:

Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual. And there’s one “virtual blood” that flows back and forth between all of them to keep the whole entity (the “I”) alive. If the bodies are not aligned, then the virtual blood gets clogged

When the virtual blood gets clogged: “heart attacks” happen in one or more of the bodies. Or heart disease, or some other discomfort. This leads to self-doubt, sickness, and other bad things. When the bodies are not aligned, you can’t have confidence. You can’t have success. You can’t get off the floor and find motivation or be creative. You can’t be a beacon to others.

This is where my ideas for The Daily Practice comes that I recommend in this post.

I also provide modifications in my recent book  and explain it further. That’s the original material in that book.. The book is free for Amazon Prime members. $1.99 for everyone else.

But that’s how you have confidence. Doing that Practice and aligning those bodies

(Gratuitous self-promotion)


Bmp135 Benjamin Michael  asks: starting out as a writer, how much time should I budget daily. To reasonably get going.


The most important thing is consistency. Every day. Seven days a week. Writing is like a muscle. You start to get writer’s block more frequently when the muscle atrophies. I’ve been writing consistently since 2002. Before that I wrote consistently from 1991-1995. Nothing good, mind you. Just writing.

(Hemingway wrote 500-1000 words EVERY DAY)

But, I’ve also read a lot of books on writing by well-known and successful writers. Here’s the general consensus that I’ve experienced myself and all the writers I have read seemed to have lived by:

Three to five hours a day, every day.

Walter Mosely (one of my favorite mystery writers) has written that if you just write 500 words a day (three paragraphs) then in 100 days you have 50,000 words. Which is a roughly the length of a small but publishable novel. So you can write 3.5 novels a year. Or write one really really good one that you’ve rewritten quite a bit. Try it.

One of my new year’s resolutions is to try it.



AmanAlam Aman Alam  asks: how do I motivate others?

ANSWER: This has the exact same answer as “HOW TO BE MORE CONFIDENT” above.

Basically, if your bodies are aligned, if you are keeping healthy physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually then you will shine and glow and be a beacon to others. That’s the only way to truly motivate others.

Else the ones you are trying to motivate will sense where your bodies are weak and you will come across as false.



jaideepkhare jaideep singh  Asks: How to stop yourself from wasting time. It has become an addiction which leads to frustation at the end of the day.


I’m the biggest time waster of all. I was having breakfast a few weeks ago with Naval Ravikant, the founder of Angelist. He refers to the ritual of doing all the internet checks as “the loop”. The loop of checking twitter, facebook, emails, blogs, analytics, news, etc etc.

So I timed how long my particular loop took. I thought it  would be about three or four minutes. It was eighteen minutes. And that didn’t count me responding to anything. And I do that loop about ten times a day. That’s 180 minutes. THREE HOURS! HOLY….!

So here’s what I’m doing. You can’t stop cold turkey. that’s like a complete alcoholic stopping cold turkey. You wake up in the middle of the night with the shakes right away, and if you don’t end up in a hospital where they are pumping new blood into you then you can die.

One minute a day I’m taking out of the things I do to waste time. There’s the loop, there’s playing extra games of chess online. Etc. One minute a day. By the end of the year I should be down from about 250 minutes a day to about 20 minutes a day. That will be good.

And my three year goal, as I mentioned in “My Minimalism Manifesto” is to get down to 30 minutes of internet time a day. Maybe I will find other things to fill that time but I hope they are fun, productive things.

That’s it. One minute a day get rid of. Don’t kill yourself trying to do it all at once. You’ll get the shakes and die. One minute a day.


socialhotchoco Priscilla Wood  asks: How do you tell the truth w/o sounding like and a$$?


In my post, “Seven Things Happen to You When You Are Honest” I advocate, obviously, honesty.

But not “radical honesty”.

Radical honesty is when you have no filter between brain and mouth and is advocated by many as the right way to live. For instance if you want to have sex with your wife’s best friend you just blurt that out to both of them. NO GOOD!

Most people don’t know how to do what I call “constructive honesty”.

I always view honesty as “Rule #2”. Rule #1 is don’t hurt anyone. I try to make it a discipline not to even have bad thoughts about someone  (very hard for me! Particularly at three in the morning or with random bank tellers.)

But I definitely don’t want to say something that will hurt someone.

Let’s say a friend asks me to look at a blog post. I look at it and don’t like it. I will take the time to think about it and then say, “do X, Y, and Z and this will be a good post.” That’s an honest answer, it helps them, and it helps their readers.

Let’s say someone asks me about a business idea they have. If I don’t like it I will say, “A lot of things have to happen to make that idea work. I think there;s a few ways you can simplify it to make it easy to do and still valuable to you.”

In other words: put effort into your honesty. Honest without effort is like shitting on the floor in the middle of your house. Nobody will visit you after that, and before long, you won’t even like yourself.



@JenShahade Jennifer Shahade  asks: what do you think of the phrase “guilty pleasure” and do you have any?

ANSWER: Before I answer this: Jen Shahade is one of my favorite chessplayers. A former US Women’s chess champion and author of two great books, “Chess Bitch” and “Play Like a Girl”. I’ve read both and benefited just as much from the second as the first.


Everything has consequences, good and bad. Everything you do. You can’t avoid it. Keep that in mind with this answer.

There’s three types of guilty pleasures:

#1 Those that hurt others. For instance, cheating on a wife. The consequence is that your pleasure is fleeting. Your sadness is painful (when you are back with your wife and miss the other person), and the consquences could be awful (the pain you cause everyone or even the pain caused by the withholding of love you are giving to your guilty partner).

#2: Those that hurt you. For instance, eating that huge chocolate cake at 4 in the morning when nobody else is up. The pleasure is delightful. The consequence is when the cake is gone, and when you go back to sleep and wake up later, feeling ill.

#3. Those that give you shame. For instance, a guilty pleasure for me is playing chess online. It doesn’t really hurt me. But I feel ashamed that I’m not being more productive.

My goal is to eliminate #1 completely from my life. #2 mostly (but be aware of the consequenes) and with #3 it’s trickier. I want to turn guilty pleasures into real pleasures.

Where does the shame come from? Some sense of “I have to be perfect”.  Or “I must NEVER procrastinate with games.”  Perfection only leads to shame because the only way to be creative, to be fun, to be flexible in life, to roll with life’s punches is to be imperfect. My goal is imperfection. To thrive in it. To thrive in my guilty pleasures until they transform me into a life of contentment.



linoxgill Lino M. Gill  asks: I’m acing your writing tips (thx!), but could you give us some tips on public speaking, presentations, etc.?


I’ve given five talks in the past three weeks. They’ve been on four different topics so I had to do a lot of preparing. I think four of the talks went well (people laughed at all the jokes) and one was a little flat but I was able to improve it for a later talk.

Here’s my post on “11 Unusual Methods to be a Better Public Speaker”.

Nobody believes me on this but the most unusual method is to “slightly slur your words”.



tombakalis Tom Bakalis  asks: Is it too late to start all over at 47 and still make it big?

ANSWER: The answer is, “of course not”. There are so many examples.

I can start off with this one I wrote about. He started his career in his mid 40s and became a billionaire.

But there are many other examples:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of “Little Women”) published her first novel at age 65
  • Colonel Sanders (who was only an honorary colonel) started his first KFC at age 65. Sold it in 1964 for $2 million when there were 900 of the .
  • Tim Zagat started Zagat’s at the age of 51.
  • Raymond Chandler’s first novel came out at 51.
  • Rodney Dangerfield was a used-car salesman well into his 40s before switching to comedy
  • Gandhi’s political career started at age 61
  • Frank Mccort wrote his first novel in his 60s.
(remind me to tell you my Rodney Dangerfield story)

And so on.

Focus on having high quality of life into old age. You have to plant those seeds now. Then today’s 50 is yesterday’s 25.



@JenShahade Jennifer Shahade asks: does twitter make us worse writers or better writers overall? Do you think <140 characters is about right or would u prefer more?


I like Twitter because there’s a “time limit” just as much as a word limit. The time limit forces people to ask you or interact with you in a way that takes no time at all to read and understand and no time at all to respond.

We can then take the time (like I am now) to expand on the answers. So I think twitter is a wealth of non-stop short ideas and we can pick and choose which ideas become bigger, become the ones that consumer our minds with more words than are probably necessary.

My answer at the time was slightly different but I stand by this also because Twitter is a place where many friendships develop over 140 words:

140 words is a great way to begin a conversation. More than 140 words (via email, say) is a great way to continue a conversation, and face-to-face is a great way to end a conversation, and perhaps begin a real friendship.



@NickHarleyNZ Nick Harley  asks: What is the best way to get the chance to pitch your product to big corporate business? Just call up the CEO out of the blue? They don’t care?


The question answers itself with the healthy skepticism at the end. So I agree with what Nick is saying: you can’t just call the CEO out of the blue and they DO in fact care

A good recipe for failure is to have ONE idea that fits ONE business and then they will almost surely reject you, even if you get through to the CEO, which is almost impossible.

A recipe for success then is the reverse.

Have ten ideas for thirty businesses. And then move up the ladder, pitching the head of business development at each company. Or using your network to find people at the company you can pitch to.

Will all 30 respond? No! But 6 will. And 3 will want meetings. And 2 might like one of the ten ideas. And one will say yes.

And that’s all you need.



socialhotchoco Priscilla Wood asks: Is there such thing as good, honest and fair negotiator?


A very good negotiator once told me, “In a good negotiation, all sides walk away happy.” Everyone gets what they want.

If this doesn’t happen, then the results of the negotiation will have negative consequences down the road. Maybe people won’t work as hard because they feel they got the short end of the stick. Maybe lawsuits will develop, etc.

(See, “The 3 Secrets of Negotiation”)



socialhotchoco Priscilla Wood  asks: Any political predictions for 2012?


I have no preferences one way or the other. Everyone thought Obama was going bring peace. Instead we’re bombing six countries and have military in 130 others, healthcare is more complicated than ever, taxes are killing us right in the middle of economic troubles, etc. And Bush was no better. And Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt, Hoover, etc etc was no better.

Everyone says Ron Paul has no chance even though I find him to be strikingly honest for a politician and he’s winning in the polls. It reminds me of a stock I once owned. I called another hedge fund manager who had 10 million shares of it. He said, “listen, this stock is going to go from $1 to $5 and then shortsellers are going to spread nasty untre rumors about it and it will fall back into the$2s until the next move up.” He was exactly right and Ron Paul reminds me of that stock right now.

I’d really like to be surprised and find a President who actually makes my life better. But I don’t think it will happen which is why I think we should Abolish the Presidency and take it one step further: Abolish Congress. Then I think life will be better. But those things are not going to happen. So I never rely on politics for my happiness. Or it’s outcomes.


But, like anyone, I enjoy watching the sporting event of it.

So my one prediction, whether I like this prediction or not, is:

Republicans: Romney is the Presidential candidate and Chis Christie is the VP candidate. This keeps both Wall Street and the Tea party happy and they raise a zillion dollars.

Democrats: Obama is the Presidential candidate and Hilary Clinton is the surprise VP candidate. Hilary’s served her time. Biden is nobody. And Obama needs and extra oomph to overcome his poor ratings.

After that, it’s a close race. It’s hard to unseat a sitting President.



@rajlikes Raj  asks: Is there one simple. common feature, one element you aim to achieve in every blog post?


In every post, try to do these three things:

–          Bleed. Sharing intimacy is a way to connect with people. Share an intimacy you are scared to share. That is bleeding.

–          Tell a story. If your post is just “top 10 ways to be a weightlifter” then nobody cares. You have to tell your personal story of how you went from a 98 lb weakling to a Charles Atlas weightlifter. Remember those ads in the back of comic books? In just a panel or two you go the story. The 98 lb weakling was at the beach with his girl. He got sand kicked in his face. He got angry, he did the Charles Atlas method, and now he’s ripped and shredded like Mr. Universe.

–          Deliver value. Since I started writing I make sure I deliver value in each post. Has to be value you can’t find anywhere else. There’s seven billion blogs and articles posted every day. How does your feeble words stand out amongst all that. You have to deliver huge value.

(See, “33 Unusual Ways to Be a Better Writer”)

Follow me on Twitter Please.

And next week will be the last (for January) Twitter Q&A because I’m going to India from jan 15 until Feb 1.








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