Ask James: World peace, is sex better than money, how to start new things, and how to stop caring what people think about you

Each Thursday from 3:30-4:30 EST I hold a Q&A session on Twitter. I love doing it and I really appreciate all the questions I get and I hope my answers are helpful. It fulfills my sincere, lifelong dream to be the new Dear Abby. Then on the weekend I expand some of the answers and make this blog post. I am also putting together a big that expands some of the answers even further and also includes some original material I get from questions I answer via email. The title of that book (working title) is: “FAQ ME”. Here are the results from this week’s Q&A:  (also, now’s a good time to Follow Me on Twitter)


iamthecosmos juan dominguez  ASKS: is sex better than money?


For me personally it goes in this order:

  • Those rare moments when I don’t want anything at all.
  • Sex
  • Spending time with kids (way lower on the scale. Kids can be a drag also.)
  • Writing
  • Making money (because then I feel the hours I put into a project has paid off. My only go with money is zero to do with buying things but everything to do with extending the runway to enjoy the other pursuits in my life)
  • Reading
  • Hanging out with the few friends I have
  • Eating
  • Smelling coffee
  • Sleeping

And that’s about it. Looking at it  – its sort of pathetic. I don’t really enjoy that many things in life. But I will say this – making money spikes up the libido. So you have to be careful when it happens. You’ll be out there trying to have sex with anyone. Make sure it’s with the right person.

What are your top ten things that make you happy? Be honest!



jimmycabo Jimmy Cabo Asks: Walkaway number ?


There’s books about this, everyone has a different number. Why does everyone have a different number? I knew one girl who needed to be the life of the party in a big apartment in NYC, with a house in the hamptons and a yacht in the Mediterannean. She had been married to a guy twenty years older than her who was a billionaire and that’s the lifestyle she extracted from him before the divorce.

She would cry on my bed in my empty apartment thinking about it. It would get so bad I’d want to leave my own apartment and check into a hotel.  I would tell her it sounded so boring, to have servant serve you mojitos in the middle of the Mediterranean. Ugh, what a boring thing. Just the thought of: getting to the Mediterranean, getting a boat, and being in the sun. Who does that?

Here’s what I want to do: nothing. I like wrting this blog and I like reading. But that’s basically it. So my magic number is pretty small. You need: rent for an ok apartment outside of the city ($3000). You need insurance ($2000 if you have kids), you need a car and food (another $2000), and some travel money (lets say another $2000 per month that adds up for one good trip a year).

So that’s $9000 a month. Lets round it up to $10,000. So you need $120,000 year after taxes. On $3 million that’s 4%. Eventually municipal bonds will be back at 4%. So that’s the number.

It’s not bad to have more than that number, by the way. If you have much more than it, though, you have a problem. You could get distracted by the money. Or it could be a burden.

We all know money doesn’t bring happiness. It doesn’t solve all your problems. It solves your money problems. Which, we’ve determined, 3mm is enough. So what do you do with more than that. Well, some is cushion (just in case you’re stupid .Which I often am). And some of it you can be a superhero with. And the rest you should probably just burn in a bonfire.

So then what’s the goal. Happiness is the goal. What’s happiness? It’s not sipping mojitos in the sun in the Caribbean. (Did I say Mediterranean before? This girl had boats everywhere).

Happiness is contentment. It’s looking at everything in your life and saying, “this is good. I’m not stressed.”

Happiness, in my opinion, is the freedom to pursue more spiritual pursuits. We can’t do this while raising kids, trying to support a family, trying to live a normal life. But we can do this later. Money brings that later to now.

By the  way, that “3 million” is so you never have to think about money again. Butif you have a job or lifestylebusiness you enjoy and it leaves you room to pursue your spiritual pursuits than you know what your “walkaway number” is?

Zero. You are among the blessed if that’s your walkway number.

(See, “Getting By On One Million A Year”)


guillermomedel Guillermo Mede Asks What’s the best way to approach a VC?


Here’s the checklist. Make sure you check as many boxes as possible.

  1. –          You have customers
  2. –          You have a product built or a service you deliver.
  3. –          If it’s a service, call it a product. Figure out how your service will become a product.
  4. –          You’ve already failed once with this same business, you’ve learned from your mistakes, and you transitioned accordingly. Don’t use the word “pivot”. I’m starting to hate that word. It’s like your coming out of a dance class.
  5. –          You’ve already raised money from friends and family.
  6. –          You know your competition inside and out.
  7. –          Most importantly, back to the top: you have customers.
  8. –          You have a “deck”. In the deck it says:
  • Who you are and why you are special
  • Why your product is special
  • What your revenues are
  • What your revenues will be
  • What the terms of the deal is

–          Don’t be afraid to give up a big part of your company. You have no basis for negotiation unless VCs are all over you. But if that were the case you wouldn’t be asking this question.

If you have all of the above, then VCs won’t be a problem.



BuddhaRenegade AJ  Asks: I took the time to get up early, get creative and I got nothing. I’m so uninspired it’s pathetic. What’s my next move?


Two things:

1)      Make a list of all the things you didn’t get done today that you felt you might’ve gotten done. I didn’t write a list of ideas. I didn’t work out. I didn’t find at least one positive person to invite into my life. I didn’t outline my novel. I didn’t apply for a job. Do this list at the very end of the day. NOW you just got something done.

2)      Tomorrow: Repeat. Get up early, get creative, and see what happens. If nothing happens, do #1 again. The important thing in the morning is trying. The important thing in the evening is still doing a list and this is an easy way to do it.

3)      I said two things but I meant three and I don’t backtrack or rewrite. Try to do at least tiny portions of what I call The Daily Practice: do something phsysically exhilarating, eat healthy, sleep well, get rid of negative people, come up with ideas, and surrender.

That’s it. You might not be motivated today. You might not be tomorrow. But eventually it will click in and you will be. More than you could’ve dreamed possible.


CashN1n9 michael cash  Asks: 1st question should we short/long S&P 500 in 2012?


(the Nasdaq over the past 40 years)

There’s two ways to look at this question:

–          Justification – you add up all the pros andcons of the world and see statistically what the S&P 500 typically does when this type of situation usually arises. The market doesn’t repeat but it rhymes.

So the way you make some sense of this is you ask: where else willpeople put money? They have to put it somewhere. Yields are too low. In fact, yields, divided by the S&P 500 yield is the lowest….ever. I read one analysis by Brian Wesbury at First Trust Portfolio is if you look at the typical ratio of the 10 year government yield over the Dow then the Dow should RIGHT NOW be at 45,000. And if you pop up yields to where he thinks they should be and bring down profits to where he thinks they should be you still have Dow 19,500

–          Supply and Demand. Every market is ruled by supply and demand. If it’s the beginning of the school year and I only have 100 pencils and there’s 500 students needing pencils then the price of pencils will go way up

So what’s the equivalent situation in the stock market right now.

We’ve just had three years in a row where all of the sahres in the market added together has just gone down for three years in a row. The last time that happened  was 1990, when we had a ten year boom afterwards.

i.e. Supply is WAY DOWN

Where does demand  come from? You would think mutual funds but that’s not it. By a factor of 4:1 overmutual funds the biggest demand comes from corporations. They buy companies and they buy back their own stock.

For 2012, companies have announced that hey will buy back over $1 trillion of their own stock. This is the first timethat number has breached a trillion and it’s the biggest number ever.

So even without M&A, which will certainly be high, demand is way up.

We have a market then, with supply down, and demand up. Like the pencil market described above. I don’t care how many people laugh at me on message boards (a great negative indicator by the way), this stock market is going straight up in 2012.


CashN1n9 michael cash  Asks:  2nd what is the best way to meditate? Thanks

ANSWER: I think the traditional way to meditate: in a half-lotus, eyes closed, blah blah, is too hard. People get bored easily. Thoughts get in there and people don’t know what to do with them.

We can’t live as if we are in India in the 5th century BC with Buddha. It’s too hard for most people.

Yoga philosophy, starting in the third century BC tried to help things a bit. They added two features to traditional Buddhist meditation:

–          Physically – its very hard to sit straight for a long period of time. Physical yoga (the kind practiced in yoga studios all over the world) was really intended not to look great but just to teach people how to be limber and healthy with their bodies so they could sit straight during meditation.

–          Breath – Yoga added pranayama. What was happening was people were gettingtoo tired after yoga so falling asleep duringmeditation. So the yoga greats from 300 BC developed pranayama, a system ofbreathing to stimulate themindrightbefore meditation.

But even this is too difficult. I’m going to India ina month to do yoga for two weeks. Those two weeks alone are going to brutalize me. It’s like I’m tied up andbeing tortured for two weeks.

I haven’t answered the question. I’ve just describedthe difficulties of traditional meditation.

What’s thegoal of meditation is what you have to ask and how can I best achieve it. The first goal is to be able to notice thoughts as they come up and…that’s it. Justnotice them. Most of the time we live ina dream where our thoughts just happen and when we say “I” we are referring really to thesmorgasbord of thoughts andemotions on our mental screen that moment.

Meditation separates the thoughts from the “I”. Just like your food is digested and then excreted. Your thoughts and emotions ultimate are as well. The”I” is behind them.

So I think this: “The Power of Negative Thinking” is the best way to practice that all day long. Without sitting in a lotus position.

By the way, why is meditation done in the “lotus position”? it’s because its painful to sit that way. The circulation to your legs stops. Your legs go numb in about 20 minutes. After about 40 minutes the pain is excruciating. But that’s great – it gives you something to think about that you can notice and push aside during the meditation. Meditation is not traditionally blissful. It’s hard work.

So why is it called “lotus”. It’s because plants are still, they grow, they are beautiful. That’s what you are when you are a good meditator.

Well, good luck with that. Much better to practice what I suggest above. Rember it’s called “practice” for a reason. Because life sucks. And sometimes you’re really in pain. And really suffering. Then, what you learn in meditation can be applied to real life. Practice makes perfect.



JakeLarsen7 Jake Larsen  Asks: How can I sell 10,000 copies of my book??


Notice this question is not : how do I sell 1,000,000 copies of my book. You know why? Because the guy who asked the question knows that it’s really really hard to sell even 10,000 copies of your book.

That doesn’t seem like a lot but if you sell 10,000 copies of your book its practically a bestseller. It might even hit the best seller list if you sell 10,000 copies the first week your book is out.

And not the Amazon Kindle Store list for:

Advice>How-To>Self-Help>Creativity where my latest book, “I Was Blind But Now I See” is #1 but still hasn’t sold 10,000 copies (but is  close)

But the New York Times Bestseller list or some list like that.

My worst selling book: which came with a $100k advance, was done by one of the biggest publishers (the same imprint also sells Seth Godin and others) who said they were doinga hueg marketing campaign, etc.sold 300 copies. 300!

It came outin November, 2008 and was called “The Forever Portfolio”. I begged them – we are in the worst financial market in history – nobody is going to buy a book called “the forever portfolio”. “But its on the calendar,” they said.

That’s why the book failed. That’s why the publishing industry will fail. That’s why bookstores will fail. That’s why agents will fail. And editors will lose their jobs. And all the people in the middle, the entire chain of links that build the bridge between READER and WRITER will collapse and kill everyone still walking that bridge.

To sell 10,000 books then, keep that mantra in mind: READER and WRITER are the only things important.

Then you need to do everything you can to connect to your READER if you are the WRITER:

  1. –          Give your book away for free
  2. –          Give talks, even if you have to put up a sign and say, “I’m giving a talk here” and only 3 people show up.
  3. –          Blog. Blog with the best fiery content you know how.
  4. –          Guest post on blogs related to your topic.
  5. –          Comment on everyone’s blog. Get your name out there.
  6. –          Give more of your book for free. Give it to everyone you meet in the street.
  7. –          And, by the way, I’m hoping your book is good.
  8. –          Note: if you manage to give away 10,000 copies, you will sell 10,000 copies.

(See also, “Why and How I Self-Publish”)


BuddhaRenegade AJ  Asks: I work for the gov. I want to work for myself but I’m scared stupid (mortgage etc). What can I do to break free from the fear?


There’s two, maybe three answers:

First off, look at Charles Bukowski (See, “6 Things I Learned from Charles Buskowski”.

He worked for the Post Office for 12 years. Then he quit and wrote a novel in 30 days and it was a bestseller and all he did after that was write.

How did he do that? Well, everyone thinks all he did was drink alchohol, rape women, and work at the post office. How could someone like that possibly just quit and write a novel in 30 days.

Well, the drinking and raping part is largely not true.

He wrote every single day. So years and years in advance of his quitting the post office he put together 30 page “chapbooks” of his poetry. He started writing columns for the skankiest newspapers. He started giving readings at random bars and universities where three people would show up. He started writing stories and publishing them (or getting rejected by) the least-read literary journals on the planet.

He built up bit by bit. And he did it all on the side. They even warned him, “you can’t do this on the side” but he repeatedly ignored him (at least a third of his first novel, “Post Office” was the word-for-word warnings he got from the government that he ignored for years).

If  you want to do, do it fearlessly, do it on the side, wake up early and do it, stay up late and do it, but DO IT. And the right exit will come. For Bukowski, it’s when a publisher offered him $100 a month (just $100 a month) for life if he quit his job and would just write and the publisher would have first dibs on anything he wrote. That publisher became very rich.

The second answer, which is almost my default answer on anything is: do the Daily Pratice. If you stay physically healthy, surround yourself more and more with positive people and do not engage with the crappy people, continually come up with new ideas (the way Bukowski would write every day no matter what), and spiritually cultivate a sense of surrender and gratitude and honesty, then the answers will come at the right time.

I’ve seen it in my own life. And also, now that I’ve been recommending this for a year, I’ve seen it in the emails that have been written me: your entire life will change within six months.

Third answer: and this answer will be also answered if you do #2 above: what are you afraid of?  I like security too. I’ve had a lot of insecurity in my past which built up a lot of fear, which has built up a scarcity complex inside of me.

So picture this: you leave your job, you fail at your next thing: what’s the worst case scenario? What is the absolute worst? Is it as bad as you think? What will you do then? Really imagine it and see if you can deal with it. I call this “The law of Reverse Attraction”. By really imagining the worst that can happen, most often it will never happen

Remember to thank the people around you every day.


iChmpneGrl Champagne Girl asks what’s the greatest act of kindness ever shown to you?


Having kids, I can easily say the greatest kindness ever shown me is my parents raising me. A woman goes through hell delivering a baby. Imagine all your guts cut open and rearranged just to pull out this bloody, crying, shitting machine. And then making sure that shitting  machine stays alive for the next ten years until it can basically feed itself.

What a drag that is.

I ask: how can I return that kindness

Step one: having kids and repeating. Which is hard. I do it, but vaguely. I’m not tha good at it.

Step two: being kind back to your parents. I was never very good at that.

Step three: doing whatever else you can to be kind to the world around you. I think I’m best at this but I don’tknow. Time will tell.



socialhotchoco Priscilla Wood  Asks: World peace, is it possible within our lifetime?


World peace is never possible. The US alone is bombing six countries right now and has military in 130 other countries. And a dozen or so countries seem to have nuclear weapons so that will keep everyone on edge (it  might be less than a dozen but even one is too much)

Here’s a list of all ongoing wars that cause more than 1000+ deaths per year:

There is good news in all this. The author, Stephen Pinker, has shown that % of deaths caused by ANY violence has gone down every century for the past 20 centuries. Even the 20th Century, which had 2 World Wars, nuclear weapons, the Vietnam War, etc. had less violent deaths as a % of the world population than the 19th Century, which had less than the 18th century, and so on.

So person in another 20 centuries, after the aliens arrive, we’ll be all good. I hope 18 year olds are never sent off by our President to die or be maimed ever again.

(See, “Name me a single war that was justified”)



gc_80 Guilherme Carvalho  asks: Did anyone really pay attention to your thoughts before your first big win?


This is an odd question: Define “Win”. I assume that means when I first sold a company. Definitely after I sold my first company I got a lot of calls from people wanting to be my friend, wanting to invest in projects, etc. None of those people are my friends now. I’ve spoken to none of them in nine years at least.

In 1992 I was told by HBO, “if you ever want to work here, give us a call.” And I didn’t call them. Why not?

I thought I had to publish a novel in order to be special enough to call them. Finally I gave up on that thought and called them in 1994 and I got hired. Two full years later. Did I have a win then? No, not at all. I was the biggest loser of all. In every way. I was cheating on my girlfriend, out of shape, making no money (I had to lie about my salary to the people who hired me at HBO in order to get an even better salary), shirking my responsibilities at my then-current job, playing chess all day and night, and failing to get a novel published. I was a loser. I couldn’t even play basketball with my out of shape friends for more than 45 seconds at a time without beingout of breath.

You don’t need a win. That’s in your mind. You need confidence. You need to get rid of the feeling of:

“I can’t do this until I do X, Y, or Z”. Or even worse:

“I can’t do this until I do X, Y, AND Z”.

How do you get that feeling. I’m going to give the same answer and I can guarantee you your life will be totally different within six months: This.

(See also, “My First big Win”)



FrankFraboni Frank Fraboni  asks: how to stop caring what others think about u? easy in theory, hard in practice.


If I do a search on “Altucher” on the Yahoo message boards, its all negative comments about me. When I wrote an article on Business Insider (as much as I really like the writers and management there) it’s all negative comments about me. Same  for when I do videos for Yahoo Finance.

Claudia begs me not to look at them but I can’t help it. And then I can’t help the next part: I feel bad afterwards.

So what do I do? I stop writing as much for Business Insider. I stop doing videos for Yahoo Finance. I start instead writing with TechCrunch, or writing more on my blog. Places where people aren’t so obsessed with the latest I have to say about the economy or whatever but people who are more concerned with what’s really importantin our lives.

So the fastest method (the slow method is starting from scratch and figuring out why you care so much, etc which could take years) …

The fastest method is only being around the people who appreciate you and respect you and like what you say right now.

This doesn’t mean hang out with “yes men”.

It means finding good, positive people who inspire you and be around them instead of the ones who bring you down and trash you.



morganlinton Morgan Linton  Asks: what is the biggest barrier a new startup has to get past in order to be successful? Could be money, time, people, what is #1?


Two things, and these are critical:

A)    Find customers that rave about your product or service. You NEED this. If you don’t have this then you have a mediocre product that is going to perpetually have a hard time getting customers. Do you need money to get customers? No. You might not even need a product. It depends on what you are offering.

B)    Once you have a customer that RAVES about you, then SURPRISE them. Do one more thing they didn’t expect. Now you have a customer for life that will bring other customers to you.

Then repeat.

This technique always works.



HKrauser Harsh Kapoor asks: why do you think Tim Ferriss gets so many people hating him and his work?



First off, Tim Ferriss wrote the excellent books (the best titles ever): “The Four Hour Work Week” (you can imagine: how you can change your 40 hour work week to 4 hours. It’s a dream too good to be true. I wish I had come up with that title), “The Four Hour Body” (including a chapter on the 15 minute orgasm. So now you have to read the book just to read that chapter), and the upcoming “4 Hour Chef” which I already have on pre-order because I want to be a chef in four hours.

When the 4 Hour Body came out, Claudia and I were so excited we went to some event he was throwing but had to wait on line for threehours and it was freezing cold so we went home before we ever got in.

So I’m a fan. And I’m envious of how smart he was in his marketing, his writing, his choice of topics, and so on. Plus his idea that has defined the phrase “life hacking”.

I wanted to go to the conference he was holding last summer but couldn’t make it although have now heard all the details from others despite his extensive NDA he had everyone sign.

So why do people hate him? The same reason anyone hates anyone.

They hate themselves and project it onto him. They are insecure, so jealous of him. They were beaten as a kid, so want to beat him. And so on. Wish him the best of success and work on your projects that will be even better. It’s too much energy to hate.

I hope his 4 Hour Chef is a mega-bestseller.


juliejulie Julie Anderson  Asks: some guy started snoring during relaxation at Yoga today. It was very distracting. Should I have breathed through it, or left?


First off, I’m jealous of you. This is the best possible distraction to have. There’s two answers:

First, use the distraction as a teacher. relax and breathe even given that distration. See if you can meditate and relax despite that distraction.

Second, don’t forget that all meditation, even all yoga, is PRACTICE. Meditation is hard: it means you have to consciously notice the thoughts coming into your mind and deal with them rather than just let them take over. This is practice for when really difficult, harsh thoughts come into your mind during painful mmoments in your life. Because of meditation you will know how to deal with them. Because you have practiced so much.

Even yoga is practice. You get into a difficult position, you have to STAY in it, and you have to REGULATE your breath during it. Most of life we get into easy physical positions and we breathe arhythmically (faster when angry, slower when asleep, and all sorts of modulations during the day). In yoga you have to practice staying calm in difficult or painfulpostures and breathing rhythmically.

Now you have the best thing of all, a guy who is snoring. What a challenge to just breathe through it. The real challenges in life become much more difficult. This becomes good practice for those situations.

(See also, “How I was Completely HUMILIATED By Yoga”)


kvetchd Jeremy Seth Davis Asks: What do you do when you have too many disparate good ideas and don’t know which to pursue? I blame your waiter pad strategy!


Too many good ideas is a pleasant problem. Now come up with “too many next steps”. Then do all of them. You’ll be surprised how many you can do simultaneously.

And I’m serious: do ALL of them.

(get one of these TODAY)

Which probably means you have to eliminate distractions in life. Here are typical distractions:

  • A)    Cheating on spouse
  • B)    Prime time TV
  • C)    News
  • D)    Games
  • E)     Social media
  • F)     Web surfing
  • G)    Alcohol
  • H)    Eating late at night
  • I)       Too many hours of sleep
  • J)       Too much time having angry conversations in your head with people who hate you but you are afraid to confront

All of the above might take up an extra 3 hours a day. Who knows. List your distractions and really see where the time goes.

Then make a list of “next steps” for all your ideas. You can use the same waiter’s pad.

Then do them. When I started I also started ten other websites:,, I can’t even remember the names of all the other sitesbut there were ten of them and they all sucked. Except for That was the winner. Start them all and bet on the winner. Don’t try to force anything.

Don’t forget: having a pleasant problem is better than having a bad problem (no ideas).



JT_Beck Josh Beck Asks: what’s the best way to start something completely new to your life

ANSWER: I had to answer this several times in my life: when I went from HBO to being an entrepreneur. When I had to go from the Internet space to thefinancial space. When I started writing. When I had to get off the floor and started making money again in 2008. And  probably five other times.

Here’s what I always had to do:

–          Read everything I could about the new space. Everything. Don’t stop until you’ve hit 50 books at least.

–          Write. Starting writing ideas down on how you can get into the space. If I want to be a comic book writer I’d read every comic Marvel Comics was putting out. I’d read every book on writing comics. Then I’d start writing scripts and sending them in.

–          Network. Do whatever you can to meet people in the industry you want to move into. I’ve written before how I gave free ideas to everyone in the financial sector until finally two people responded and gave me a chance.

–          Then repeat.

This technique works. But you have to give it time, you have to have confidence, you have to have knowledge (hence the reading) and you have to be fearless and who you give ideas to. Then GO!




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