Ask James: Youth, How To Get Smarter, Lady Gaga, Paul Krugman, and Who Would I Take a Bullet For

(we should all age so gracefully)


Kevin Koskella ‏@kevinkoskella: James, how do you deal with the stress of getting older and the feeling that the years are flying by?


Aging, decay, death, is a horrible part of life. And it happens to every atom, cell, molecule, animal, human. But it’s horrible. Eventually, about 15 trillion years from now, all of the light will be extinguished from the universe, everything left will just be a lifeless husk. It’s sad that such beauty was created and there is no other course for it other than eventual imploding despair and nothingness. I can relate that you are afraid of the decay that will happen. And it’s not just the decay, it’s the uncertainty of which things will break first, which memories will be forgotten, which bones will be the next to break, and finally, the ultimate question of what happens next. Knowing that we will never know until it’s too late.

But I hate to tell you, I love getting older. Because the years that preceded my current advanced age of 44 were really not that great for me either. Or for  many people.

0-5 years old: you shit in your pants and you are dependent on other people 100% of the time to move, to eat, to bathe, to sleep, to wake up, to communicate. It’s awful. Those were probably the worst years of my life. Particularly the shitting in my pants part because sometimes it happened in front of my friends. Or on top of them. I still remember that. My mother comforting me when all the other kids on the block were laughing at me.

5-13 years old. What a nightmare. The fear of first grade. Of school. Of my father telling me: first there’s school until 18. Then college until 22. Then graduate school until 26. Then work until 65. Then you die. What the hell! And then, at age 13, junior high school! That was like a prison. I was getting acne, braces, glasses, and random kids that had beards at the age of 13 were fighting each other in the hallways until there was blood. And girls started getting pregnant. And now I have a 13 year old! This is horrible!

13-18. Disaster! High school. Teenage years. Constantly lusting after every girl. If you’re not a guy you might not even be able to imagine. All I could think about was girls. It doesn’t matter what the teacher was saying, I was pressing up against my desk to get constantly excited. And then I would eye every girl in the hallway with the implicit question: “will you have sex with me”. From 13 to 18. And do you know how many girls eyes back with a “yes”? ZERO. What a nightmare.

18-25. College, then graduate school. Horrible. And the sex, while plentiful, is not even that great either. Nobody knows what they were doing and I knew even less. And then when you start to get a job and you have to pretend like you know what you are doing but you know nothing and all you want to do is cut every corner and quickly retire. At least, for me.

25-44. Career. Family. Debt. Responsibilities. Fears. The first time I ever thought of suicide. Squashed dreams. Failures. What are so great about these years? I mean, I’m glad I have two kids now. Did I want them? No. But now I’m glad they are alive so they can torment me for a few more years.

I’m 44 now. I think maybe I enjoyed 5% of the years that came before this year.

What do I have to look forward to now?

Ahh, bliss. I have Claudia so I hope the next 40 years are good in that department. My kids are older and soon they will be adults so finally I can be their friend instead of just their dad. I legitimately like them so I think that will be fun. I’m wiser do I don’t make the non-stop stupid mistakes I made from 25-44. Persistence is not about sticking with something, its about making mistake after mistake after mistake until stop making them anymore. Hopefully I’m at that point.

Health after 44. Several good things. I am much more aware of my digestion now than when I was 21 so it means I eat better. I also sleep better because I realized that drinking was one of the stupid mistakes from 25-44. I also have now accumulated enough positive people in my life (after 44 years) that I don’t have to hunt for too many more in order to enjoy my friendships. The good thing about maintaining health is that every year I probably move up in ranking in the looks category among people my age. When I was 21 I was probably in the bottom 10%. Now maybe I’m hopefully at the 50th percentile. That’s a big improvement!

So I figure this is good for the next 20 years and then maybe other health issues start to happen. Like cancer or something. Bring it on, bitches! No chemo for me. Chemotherapy rarely works and just makes you more sick. I’m looking forward to morphine, hospice, saying goodbyes to people. Making jokes about it.

Maybe I’m looking at it too lightly. What does death mean? It means nothing. Literally nothing.  There’s a big ocean out there. My life is a single wave on that ocean. A wave that laps into the beach, disappears, and then gets drawn back into the infinite ocean, where all life began. I’m looking forward to the welcome home party.



John Doe ‏@Rothbard_Fan: how do I explain to my parents that a grad degree doesn’t equal success? I’m 22, 150k in debt scares me.


By your twitter account I can see that you personally love liberty, freedom, the pursuit of your own dreams. And yet your name is “John Doe” the ultimate name for those who want to hide. I am sorry you are so torn. Sorry that your parents are trying to bottle up the freedom. They are only doing it because, like all parents, they assume they know what is best for their children and they won’t give up control EVER, if they can hang on to it to MAKE SURE you do what you are “supposed to do”.

My parents didn’t like it at first when I wanted to major in Psychology. Then they didn’t like it when I wanted to be a novelist. Then they didn’t like it when I left graduate school. They didn’t like it when I separated from my wife. My mother didn’t like it when I wanted to pull the tubes on my father and let him die when there was no hope. I would go in and see him and he would have bed sores while he was just staring at the ceiling with nothing inside. Many the time in my youth when he tried to tell me what to do. When he thought he knew what was best for me and tried in many ways (physically, financially, with logic, etc) to enforce it.

I’m an adult. And at 22, so are you. You have maybe 80 years left to live. Lots of people will disagree with things you do and decisions you make: your parents now, then your wife, or wives, then your children, or your peers, or your bosses. In the next 80 years maybe 100 people that are important to you will disagree with things you do. Maybe more.

Do you have to explain everything to them? To these 100 people? Chances are they will still disagree with you. Not because you are wrong, or because they are bad or stupid but just because that’s what people do. They get programmed with  their beliefs at an early age and then they start to disagree with everything and anyone that goes against those beliefs. People have a tendency to walk over boundaries. I’m me and you’re you and there’s a boundary between us but often people want to say, “I’m me but I’m also going to try get you to do what I would do”. If they try to enforce that too hard then that’s going over your boundary. Adults shouldn’t do that to each other.

There’s no way to explain to your parents the decision you are making. You are 22 years old. You are an adult, a citizen of the universe, a human capable of great love, great achievements, and many experiences you have yet to experience. You are right to be scared of $150,000 in student loan debt. Maybe they have never experienced that. They don’t know what it feels like. But they are scared you won’t get a good job if you don’t go to graduate school. They have their fears and you have your fears. Your parents love you very much and their concerns are out of fear for your future job safety.

Acknowledge their love. Love them back. But it’s up to you now to become a little wiser every day. You only need to explain things to yourself. And how do you do that? You need to plan for yourself. You need to outline what you will do and how you will do it. If you require financial assistance from them at this point then you need to start figuring out how you can financially go out on your own. You are 22.

Most of all, you don’t need to argue with them or convince them. You stay quiet. You don’t overthink. Your body will tell you what feels right and what feels wrong. Stay healthy so the message is as clear as possible. Don’t muddle the message via drinking, bad relationships, worries about your parents, worries about your future. Just listen.

Let your body explain to you what to do. Then do it. Don’t worry about anything else.


Doron Greenspan ‏@DoronGreenspan: Best way to get motivated?


It’s very painful when you feel unmotivated. It’s like the world is a merry go round and everyone is having fun and you’re just lying down on the ground, unable to get on the ride. When I am unmotivated I can’t get out of bed. There was one period in the past three years where I look back on it and I can’t even imagine what I was thinking during the day. I did absolutely nothing. Zero. And as a result my entire life turned upside down after just one month of doing nothing. But it turned around for the better. And thank god I did nothing during that month. I needed to gather the strength.

You are really asking me two questions:

A) “Why am I feeling unmotivated?”

B) “How  can I get more motivated?”

Forget motivation. There’s a reason you are feeling unmotivated. You might  not like your job anymore. Or your spouse. Or your home. Or your entire life. Take a step back. You aren’t healthy. Something is not connecting.

In October, 2008 I was managing some money for a hedge fund. They were getting me started and wanted to see how I would do. In September, a horrible month for the markets, I was up. But in October I was down and I was very depressed about it. I’d refuse to look at the quote screen. I’d lie down on my hammock outside and fall asleep. I remember one time it started raining and I woke up. But I knew the market was crashing and I was long stocks (I even bought Lehman Brothers at one point) so I decided to just keep sleeping. When I finally woke I was soaking wet. Then I got sick and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was unmotivated.

I had a down month and the guy who gave me the money called me. He said, “I’ve been calling you ten times a day. Where have you been?” I told him I had no excuse.

He said, “ok, I have to pull the money from you. It’s not because you were down on the month. Who cares. It’s because you never called me back. If you want to be good in this business, you have to be able to return phone calls and learn to communicate.” He was right. 4 years earlier I had helped him seed his own fund and now he was much bigger and had just been doing me a favor and I had let him down.

At the same time I was trying to start another company. A crowdsourcing ad agency called JungleSmash. You can see the results of it at since I no longer have the domain name It was going well. But I lost motivation for it. The guys from Freakonomics were helping me with it and I disappointed them. Meanwhile, I couldn’t focus on writing. I was moving houses AND this is precisely when my marriage was disintegrating. Ultimately, by the end of October I was mostly in random hotel rooms trying to figure out if I was ever going to see my kids again. I was depressed. Nothing could motivate me.

What got me off the floor? Not trying to get motivated. But first trying to get healthy.

I believe this: we have four bodies: physical (the obvious one), emotional, mental, spiritual. They are all connected. There is virtual blood that flows between them. There is a virtual heart in the middle. The blood is pumping through every second. Any blockage in any body and you have a “heart attack”, i.e. you get depressed, unmotivated, unhappy, unwilling to relax, you feel anxious, you feel like purposeless.

It’s important to get back on track with each. In one post I recommend very lofty goals to get each of the bodies in shape. But I take it back. Start with small goals. For physical, maybe instead of: “working out, sleeping more, eating well” just do “don’t drink soda for one day” or “sleep 8 hours instead of six”.

For emotional, instead of “get rid of all the crappy people in your life” try “next time you are angry, put yourself in their shoes for ten seconds”.

For mental, instead of “writing ten business ideas a day” how about “write one idea”.

For spiritual, instead of any kind of meditation or prayer, how about just “find one thing you are grateful about today.” Today I’m really grateful I get to answer this question of yours.

When you do these things, it feels like you are doing a lot of activity. But what actually happens is that all of your bodies get a little bit quieter. Over time the anxieties and all the thoughts that spring back and forth like a ball in a pinball machine, starts to get more and more silent and less active. This is what happens when you clean these bodies.

It is out of this quietness that true motivation and ambition comes. It turns your body into the transmitter for something else. Wait for the transmission. Wait for the message. You won’t need motivation then. Motivation will take you over and everyone around you will feel the energy spilling forth.



David Rowyn ‏@davidrowyn: What has been your most effective method of self-promotion?


The most effective method of self-promotion is more self-less promotion.

There is no good method of self-promotion. If your focus is on getting yourself noticed then make a sex tape and “accidentally” distribute it. For 10 years I wrote about stocks, appeared on TV, managed money, wrote books, and started a company about stockpicking which I sold to Did it promote me? Perhaps a little. And when the market went down, everyone hated me. When the market went up, people liked me. I very much enjoyed being liked. I very much hated being hated.

CNBC’s Erin Burnett show, where I had a regular spot, dropped me in early 2009. The Financial Times dropped me in early 2009. dropped me in early 2009. Yahoo Finance dropped me. On and on. And when the market started going up again, they all wanted me on again. Even, made up of people who actually hated me, asked me to start writing for them again.

This has been pretty hard being rejected by everyone. And not only that, during that exact period I was going through a divorce, I was rebuilding the relationship with my children, I was trying to survive financially, I was still regretting going broke repeatedly in the 00s. 20 years of fighting the fight and suddenly everyone hated me. I had fears of going broke again. Just like everyone, I had fears of the financial world bringing the entire world down with it.

In November 2010 I decided, screw it, I just want to say what’s on my mind. I wanted to say I was scared also. I wanted to stop pretending. We now live in what I call “The Choose Yourself Era”. I’m sick of relying on other people to choose me. Starting in 2010 I chose myself.

I started writing on this blog. I started making new friends. I started building new business opportunities for myself and meeting new groups of people. Not just people who were going to have me around to suit their own purposes but people who respected what I had to say because they knew they were getting honest answers based on my limited experiences in a variety of areas.

I told people it was okay to fail, because everyone fails. That it’s ok to be disappointed in yourself. Okay to be angry sometimes. Okay to not always achieve every goal and that there are other ways to find happiness. Okay to sometimes be sad because life is mostly about failure and sadness, punctuated with occasional success. I gave my own methods for networking. I described my different businesses, the successes and the failures. The things I was ashamed of. It made a difference. Without planning it, I built trust.

Sometimes it’s even alright to hate what you’ve become, to realize that 20 years of hard work have put you in a place where you feel stuck and lonely. Everyone feels this way sometimes. After working 100 hours a week for 15 years, I was mentally and emotionally lost. I had to rebuild. Writing this blog helped me with that.

And when you relate to what everyone feels, and help them find permission inside themselves to feel that way, and express this in forums and formats that everyone reads (blogs, twitter, facebook, comments on other blogs, syndicate to other blogs, books, etc) then this is effective self-promotion. You don’t need one million followers. Snooki needs that. You just need one person that you really, sincerely help. Then they will share that help with someone else. And so on. And if you keep persisting with the thought in mind that you are a radio transmitter for the feelings that are always out there, always in the ether effecting everyone, then people will tune in and hear your message. That is self-promotion.

Building Twitter followers

Adam Kornfield ‏@adamkornfield: Any good methods for building twitter followers and interacting with people? Loving the live q&a!


I look at my twitter follower count (and related to that: my facebook subscribers, quora followers, klout score, comments on my blog posts, facebook likes on my blog posts, etc) and I feel regret. Regret that I care. But I do care. I want people to like me. I want people to think that my words have some impact. I want to have friends that even in this very ephemeral way, stay in touch with me.

So I like to have more twitter followers even though I dislike that I want that. And that’s social media in a nutshell. We all want to connect. We want to be loved even when other parts of our lives don’t provide all the cravings we need. The cure for that is to just be quiet. To understand that all the tweets in the world, all the Facebook updates, add up to so much of nothing. They exist in 1s and 0s for a few seconds, and then they disappear into some magical ether among the quadrillions of bytes of information shared every day.

So while I hate myself for doing it: I do have an answer for your question. The best way for building twitter followers is to give someone a gift. Somewhere, somehow (a blog, a facebook post, engaging in a conversation in twitter, answering a question on quora, etc deliver something of great quality – help someone out, provide someone unique. And in that gift, include a card. The “card” says, “please follow me on Twitter”.

That’s the answer to your question. Ask people to follow you. Ask and you will receive. Don’t ask, and like most things in life, nobody is going to do you any favors.

(Lady Gaga is #1 with the most twitter followers with 27,941,692 as of August 4. To be in the top 1000 you need at least 1,036,000)



Aaron Goldfarb ‏@aarongoldfarb: If one is 100% honest in his writing, good chance you’ll piss off your significant other occasionally if not often. What to do?


Everyone has two boundaries. The things they can’t write about themselves. The things they can’t write about others. Some people I don’t care about. I’ll write anything. But in general I don’t want to hurt anyone. So there are some things I can’t write about my wife, ex-wife, kids, sisters, mother, friends, etc in that order. And there are some things I can’t write about myself. I can write just about anything about Claudia. [just kidding, Claudia. I won’t write about how you like…]

Sometimes you feel you didn’t harm someone but they feel harmed. For instance, I might just say, “Samantha” where Samantha might be the name of my sister and she might get upset because her name was mentioned. The best you an do there is have an honest discussion about why you have the boundaries where they are and see if they disagree. If they do and you want to stick by “do no harm” then you have to respect that. Take a bit more poetic license and see if you get back within the boundaries.

My wife once wrote about what happened to her the day her mother died. Her mother died a very upsetting death (are their non-upsetting deaths when a mother dies?) A family member of hers protested so strongly that there was a midnight deadline that she would kill herself if the post was not moved. At just about midnight she removed the post. Did she do the right thing? Or was she manipulated into it? It was after all, her experience, her blog, her mother, and the family member who was offended was not even mentioned in the post. I don’t know if she did the right thing but she made a judgment call and then went back and forth doubting herself, particularly since the post in question seemed to help a lot of people. I cried when I first read the post.

All of this is to say, nobody is 100% honest. Everyone leaves things out. Everyone adds things in. And top of it, we all have our prismed glasses that look at every situation, adding our own nuances that were never there, and scribbling in poetic license to fill in the gaps. Do no harm, have honest discussions, determine the boundaries, and then do your best to fill up every boundary you can in as artistic and honest a way as possible.



Vincent Turner ‏@vinaeco: My question – how do you tell people who you think will never get funded that you think this is the case? #startups


You are a good friend for wanting to guide your entrepreneurial friend in the right direction. But don’t forget that it’s his life, his ideas, his dreams. There’s a way to tell him that doesn’t step over boundaries but you also have to be very careful not to ruin your friendship. Try to keep the love, and it is love when you want to save him from financial ruin, time ruin, emotional ruin – and try to keep the discussion as honest and gentle as possible.

I say, “that sounds like a bad idea. Here’s why.” And I give not a criticism but a constructive criticism.

I find I get unconstructive criticism a lot. Which is fine. People can say whatever they want. But I often get letters that sound something like, “I don’t usually like your stuff but this time I did.” Or…”I don’t usually agree with you but I like this one thing you said.” Why do people want to tell me (or tell themsleves) that they usually don’t like me BUT. People like to know that they are safe inside. That nothing has moved them. “I’m usually normal but every now and then I…” take a naked swim in  a public pool.

It’s the same thing when criticizing an idea. Most people like to be critics. They think they aren’t smart unless they are criticizing. So that makes most people bad critics since usually their criticism has no basis.

Don’t say anything unless every word is dripping with value. “I don’t like your idea because…” you have no plan for getting users, OR…the product is going to be too expensive and you can’t raise money…OR it’s been done before by X, Y and Z companies… OR your valuation is too high – don’t be a pig. This way you have given him what you feel is a roadmap for success. He may agree with you. Or he may not. That is his business and not yours.

Don’t say something useless like, “Google can easily do it.” Duh. Google can do anything. But they won’t. Google has done nothing except search well (ahh, Gmail also but a lot of people have done email. And I do admit I’m typing this into Google Docs on a Google Chrome browser right now. Ugh, I guess they can do your product. But they aren’t going to do a dating service. Or a car. Well, a car they will do. But maybe you can do a better car but you won’t get funding for that).

Be constructive and really help. In order to do that you have to dig deep. Your friend has put a lot of thought into his idea. You won’t put the same amount of thought in, but you owe it to him to dig deep to come up with an answer. Or don’t respond at all. Silence is golden.


alex beller ‏@bell_er: has chess taught you more relevant things than school? more worth the HUGE time investment you’ve put into both?


I can write ten posts on this topic. I can write a book or two on this topic and not one mention any actual chess game. I don’t even know where to begin. Chess has taught me so much.

But right now I will just write about one of the things chess has taught me. Last night Claudia and I were in a dilemma. Every year for the past few years we’ve gone to India in January-February. Claudia hates the cold weather. HATES IT. Honestly, I’m worried if we stay up north during those months she  might even divorce me, that’s how much she hates it, although she will deny that. And India has other benefits: yoga classes, very cheap, we have a place to stay that is always available to us, the showers in the Dubai waiting lounge in between flights, the food they serve on the plane on the way back, the dosas, the cheap clothes pants I can buy that will fall apart after a year but only cost $6 each.

But this January we have a problem. We are leading a three day workshop starting January 18 at Kripalu. Kripalu is sort of a “wellness resort”. It’s a hotel where at any given time various programs are happening that teach aspects of wellness in one form or other. So no India this year. And Claudia is upset. She started thinking about Florida but was suddenly coming up with all the negatives.

I had an idea. And it was an idea I learned from chess.

There’s a book, “Think Like a Grandmaster” by Alexander Kotov, a successful Russian grandmaster from the 1950s. For a great overview of Kotov’s games I highly recommend the book “Zurich International 1954” by Daniel Bronstein. One of the best chess boks ever written.

But first, “Think Like a Grandmaster” is a must-read for every young chessplayer. In the book he simply describes how a grandmaster thinks. He says a chessplayer doesn’t look at a position and immediately start analyzing deeply down one path, even if it looks like the most obvious path.

First the grandmaster lists all his options, even if they seem totally ridiculous. List as many possibilities as possible, even if a move looks horrible.

This is great advice. Florida, California, Argentina, India (why not?), South Carolina, Africa, Italy, Mexico, all appeared on our list. We had lots of choices suddenly! We kept trying to think of more. Maybe today we’ll dive deep down each choice and make a decision. Or not. It’s nice to know we at least have many choices and one of them will be a good one. We “thought like grandmasters” and in doing so, reduced anxiety, gave ourselves many good choices, showed that the world was bigger than we thought, and will eventually make a decision that will make our lives better and help our minds to rest easy.

This is just one thing I learned from chess. In another post I will describe more. But for now, whenever you have to make a complicated decision, take a step back and see if you can think the way a grandmaster of life would think.

(World Chess Champion Magnus Carlson. My daughters have my permission to marry him).

Giving away ideas

Nick Fernando ‏@NickBFernando: best way to give away ideas per your suggestion?


My suggestion is this: when you give, you receive.

I wanted to trade for a hedge fund. I had never traded for one before. But I was trading very successfully in 2002 using trading systems I wrote the software for. All the trades were automated. I was clocking in money every day. But still, it was too stressful trading by myself with my own money. I felt like any day I could go broke. SOme days I did go broke, because I had living expenses I barely met.

So I wrote to the top 20 hedge funds I wanted to trade for. I literally gave them all the ideas and trading systems. Even the software. One person wrote back with some questions that could only be answered by writing more software. ONE person. Out of twenty. And, I should say, this was the second batch of 20. So I wrote more software and answered his questions. Then he invited me to lunch. Then another day to dinner. I read every book I knew he was interested in. He allocated money to me. I was in!

Another time, I wanted to write for a publlication. I wrote to the main writer for that publication (Jim Cramer) and I said, “here’s 10 ideas you should write articles about”. I have to say, they were good ideas. I didn’t hold back. They were my best ideas for articles. I should’ve started my own site and written the ideas up. But I wrote to Jim and he said, “these are great ideas! Why don’t you write for us?” And I was very happy. I felt like someone had selected me. I ended up making millions of dollars because of that one relationship. Thank you Jim! Even when I write bad stuff about you, I’m always loyal that you gave me that chance.



Ego and blogging

Jen Maidenberg ‏@JenMaidenberg: How much or little does ego play a role in your blogging? What about your thoughts on ego and blogging in general?


There’s a saying: “if it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead” in the newspaper business. The same goes for blogging. The easiest way to bleed is to take something you don’t necessarily want people to know (“I hate kids”, “I failed school”, “I lost a million dollars”, “I killed a man”, etc) and start with that. Then we see your human. I’m human, you’re human, so we can relate.

When you have ego, “I’m great so I’m going to lecture you on the ten ways to be happy”, then nobody wants to read. Ego is a commodity. Honesty is a rarity.

I read recently someone saying, “Your knowledge is a commodity”. This isn’t true. Only ego is the commodity. Your deep, personal knowledge is unique to you. And if you can express it well and without ego, then people will want to read you.

There’s a new area of literature. It’s not novels, or short stories, or literary non-fiction, or magazine articles. It’s “blogerature”. Very few bloggers do actual “blogerature”. In blogerature every paragraph has to deliver value, even has to have a cliff-hanger. And has to be humble and self-deprecating to an extent (don’t be insincere about it) .

When I sit down at the computer I have enough ego to think “people are going to want to read what I am about to type” but then drop off the ego there. Nobody wants to read crap. Follow these “33 Unusual Rules to Be a Good Writer” and that will help with the ego.

The most important thing I do before I start writing is I try to be quiet. If my mind is filled with junk, then junk comes out. Ego comes out. If I try to just sit here, take deep breaths, relax, then I feel it helps eliminate the ego so real writing can begin. Don’t TRY to say anything. Just see what happens and start typing.

Not so fresh

Florida Evans ‏@TrdrFlridaEvans: Sometimes I get that not so fresh feeling.


Claudia reminds me: I think you haven’t showered in four days. So I know what you mean. But although your question is sort of a joke, I’m going to answer because it’s important to me to always feel “fresh”.

I don’t always follow these (at the moment I am not feeling very fresh) but here’s what you will do and you will feel fresh:

  • sleep 9 hours
  • bathe
  • brush your teeth and then use a tongue scraper and floss
  • take a huge bowel movement
  • shower again
  • do yoga
  • no alcohol
  • no tv or news. Read good books.
  • clean your desk. clean your kitchen.
  • don’t gossip, even about people you hate. try to hate less but that’s hard
  • meditate. Easiest one second meditation: Just say “I don’t know”. Or say, “I love myself” over and over.
  • list five things you feel grateful for.
  • eat just two meals today, minimize carbs and sugar and heavy meat.
Ok, you asked and that’s the answer.
(She’s got that fresh freeling)


Doron Greenspan ‏@DoronGreenspan: Whats the best way to become smarter?


The best way to become smarter is to become stupid. Like, really really stupid. First off, almost everything you learned in school was either insufficient or a lie. And it was also just facts. So being smarter involves starting today with a blank slate. Everything you’ve learned in the past is either incorrect or a lie designed to manipulate you. Think of all of your commonly held beliefs, for instance. Every one of them. Assume they are all wrong. Now start from scratch.

This applies even to basic words and vocabulary. Believe it or not, the more words you know, the more stupid you might be.

For instance, take a candle. What if you forget the word “candle”. So now you’re confused. You see some wax and a string.

A study was done: you’re given a match and a candle and two metal rings. You’re told to make the metal rings into a figure eight. The people who were told they have a “candle” solved the problem about 50% less than the people who were told they have “wax” with a “string” at the top. How come? Because the people who were told “string” tied the rings together. The people who were told “candle” tried to use the match to melt the candle enough to cement the rings together but the rings wouldn’t hold together. What a stupid thing to do despite their bigger vocabulary!

Take everything you see – try to rename it into it’s components. Unlearn the macro words. Take every emotion you feel and do the same. Take all your relationships and do the same. What does that mean? It means if you are angry at someone, look at the situation from their shoes and really accept their anger. What does this have to do with being smart? It means your mind gets less clogged by your anger, which is nothing but shit stuck in the pipes. Eventually a plumber has to come in there and clean things up or the water won’t flow. All of your resentments, jealousies, anxieties clog the pipes and make you less smart.

Accept the anxieties. They are part of life. But say hello to them and let them move on. If you can. Practice that.

And then  go outside and look around. Don’t name anything. Don’t name the sunrise, the people, the mountains, the fresh air, the flowers. Those are just words you were taught. That was all part of the brainwashing. Take a deep breath. Enjoy.


How to apologize

Ed Zitron ‏@edzitron: how do you apologize to someone


A few years ago I had to call someone I blew off for many years. I didn’t have to call him but I wanted to. He had been a good friend and then for some reason I stopped returning his calls. And then when I stopped returning them, he kept calling and saying, “why aren’t you returning my calls?” and I felt so bad I kept telling myself, “I’ll return his call tomorrow, DEFINITELY” and then I never would.

So eventually I called him. I simply said, “I’m sorry. I get that way sometimes and I don’t know why. I get weird but I want to get together and hang out and I’m sorry.” So we got together and hung out. And, because we truly are good friends, even though years had passed by, we instantly were good friends again. We took a long walk. I showed him the ring I had gotten for Claudia to ask her to marry me. He said congratulations. I hadn’t even shown Claudia that ring yet. It was nice to share my secret with a good friend. But the apology came first. Just be honest about it and hold your breath and get it over with. So you can be friends again.


Lavada Lindsey ‏@coilsANDcurls: Is it creepy or overbearing for some1 looking for a job 2 send a fb message to the CEO’s inbox. It’s a social media savvy company


Yeah, you’re a creep. That’s so creepy to send an email to someone.

But seriously, send an email but make sure it contains value: here’s 5 ways to improve your company. By the way, I’m already applying for a job at your company as an X.

Even better: Oh! Try this. This will be fun. Make a Facebook ad and a Google ad where you are ONLY targeting him. Everyone does a vanity search. Make sure you buy the keyword for his name. So the ad reads: “John Quincy, CEO of XYZ! I have 5 ideas for you, here they are! [then put the first one and a link to the rest]” and link the ad to your website with the five ideas. And explain in the website why you want the job and the title you are asking for.


Dani Ramírez ‏@danibluebishop: What moves you to do this Q&A? Do you expect to retrieve some info? Just interaction? …? Thanks! #pureCuriosity


When I was 12 years old I bought a collection of “Dear Abby” columns. She was the biggest advice columnist ever. One question asked was by a woman who followed her husband home from work one night. He stopped off at a strip club. At the strip club he went into a back room with a stripper. When the man got home the woman confronted him with what she saw. He said, “don’t worry! The stripper was only doing ‘sexual favors’ and nothing else!” The woman asked “Abby” what she should do and what did he mean by “sexual favors”.

I actually forget what Abby responded. Nor do I remember any other question from the book. But I remember thinking: wow, adults get “sexual favors” occasionally. And, “I want a job like Dear Abby. I could be real good at this.” All my life I wanted to do that. I tried to major in Psychology but I got a D- and then a C- in my first two classes so I wasn’t allowed to major in it. And my father told me I would make no money being a psychologist but I didn’t care. I still wanted to be someone who could give advice. So I read every book I could find on psychology, self-help, spirituality, meditation, etc. And then I forgot it all while I started some companies and became miserable for about twenty years. Now I want to try again.

I don’t make money doing this. But thank you for letting me do this.

 [And note: feel free to email me questions at I don’t always respond. But sometimes I do.]


Brandon Harnish ‏@bkharnish: how do you apply pacifism to being a father. My nephew lied to me. And what good does it do him to just let it go?


As I write this, I’m upset at one of my kids. She was rude to me right after I took her to a friend’s party and picked her up at the party and then Claudia cooked dinner and now she was using my computer to play games. Life was good for her and she was still rude to me about something. What should I do? Here’s what I will do:

– I always have “office hours” with my kids. They can tell me anything bothering them but I can also tell them.

– If they behave really badly I tell them I’m disappointed in them and why. This may or may not solve the problem right there.

– If the behavior continues then I suspend certain privileges. Computers for instance. Or phone for a week. This will work.

– Sometimes there is nothing you can do. As kids get older they turn into their own people. Maybe they are right about what they are saying about you or too you or how they are behaving towards you. How do you know you are right? Sometimes the misbehavior was their only way to express their feelings about an oppressive system (You). So question your own behavior to. The people that you love around you deserve that.

Economist or elitist

paul church ‏@eddtorial: Paul krugman a brilliant economist, or whiny elitist?



Think about it. “Brilliant economist”. That means: he went to a good school, he went to a good graduate school, he wrote a PhD thesis that got acclaim from other PhDs in the area and got him published quite a bit in hard-to-read academic journals edited by other PhDs who went to good schools. And he did this over and over for many years.

Combine that with the fact that the first doorway information opens to get into your brain is the amygdala, the part of the brain that responds to danger and is ready instantly to pounce with rage, fear, anxiety, etc.

Put the two together.

Now what words come out? It turns out “brilliant economist” and “whiny elitist” can be interchangeable.


(Famous Zombie/Economist)

Class auction suit against BoA

Charlie Haycock ‏@charliehay: got a post card about a class action lawsuit against Bank of America entitling me to $, what are the odds I’ll ever get a check?


I get one of those a month for various reasons. I have two responses:

A) You will never get a check. If you do it will be for $35.17. Meanwhile, the lawyers make a ton of money. Something should be done to regulate class-action suits but too many congressmen are lawyers and made their money that way (look at John Edwards) so you can forget about that.

B) Business idea: create a class action lawsuit portal. Get every class action lawsuit on there (there are thousands). Almost everyone in the country is entitled to be in the “class” of some lawsuit. For instance, if you are a vegetarian and ate McDonald’s fries in the 90s you are owed some money. If you used in ipod in 2005 you are owed some money. Etc. Everyone is owed some money.

Meanwhile, how much would a lawfirm pay to either advertise or get leads from your website. A lot! Guess what the most expensive word is on Google AdWords?


Because it’s related to huge huge class action lawsuits involving asbestos. So lawfirms will pay several hundred dollars for even a click if someone searches on that word. So a class action lawsuit portal will make a lot of money. Go for it! I was going to make this but made instead.

Feeling like shit

Leon Benson ‏@LeonBenson2: How do you deal with feeling like shit no matter what you do or how fortunate you are?


I am really sorry you are feeling like shit. Sometimes that happens. We’re not really meant to be happy all the time. Nobody ever said that. Sometimes there are real reasons to feel like shit. Like when someone close to you dies. Or you lose a job. Or whatever. Sometimes, though, we just wake up and we’re depressed and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But make sure you check the box on all the big things. There’s a lot of macro things people feel upset about that there’s really no need to feel upset about.

Let’s pick the macro things:

– we can complain about Obama or Romney

– the environment. That’s something to complain about. It’s too hot here today.

– We can complain about Obamacare and how our taxes are going to go up.

– How about we complain about how the banks screwed all of us. I can’t even get my bank to return my calls.

Then there’s more personal stuff:

– I can complain that so-and-so is ignoring me now.

– Or another person trashed me

– Or I didn’t get enough “likes” on a post.

– Or somehow I didn’t make as much money on something as I thought I was.

– Or I can’t sell my goddamn house.

– Or my kids don’t listen to me.

There’s lots of things to complain about. I don’t know anybody who is so fortunate that they couldn’t, if given a piece of paper and a pencil, fill it up with things to complain about. And we can compete with each other. Who can complain the most? This is a popular game played at the water cooler on a Monday.

The brain likes to complain. In fact, one of the main duties of the brain is to complain about things. The amygdala usually gets all inputs first, before the other parts of the brain. This is the part of your brain that gets angry about things. In other words, this is the complainer in the brain. It doesn’t like for inputs to go around it. It’s biological. If you are an animal in the jungle, your brain needs to process the dangers first. Don’t forget that we are evolved from the people that actually RAN AWAY from the trampling elephants as opposed to the people who got trampled.

But the brain likes to have something to do. Else it gets nervous you will stop paying it. So it obsesses on these dangers. It puts you constantly in a state of “fight or flight”. You get addicted to that obsession. Your identity and ego gets wound up in the complaints. “I’m a failure”.

So see if your brain is getting too active. Too needy for your attention. If it is, you can bring it back in balance using what I call the daily practice where you balance the health and goals of all four aspects of your body: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. You can pick small, incremental goals in each category and check them off each day at 

But the other thing is: you might simply be clinically depressed. Go see a psychiatrist. Talk things over. See if there is a medication that might help. But don’t just rely on that medication. That’s like someone with lung cancer relying on chemotherapy rather than stopping smoking. Do what you can for your health. But also see a professional.


aztimesaver ‏@aztimesaver: What single piece of advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting out with a new startup idea?


People always make entrepeneurship unnecessarily complicated. Here’s what people often ask me.

“I have an idea. Should I get a lawyer and incorporate?”

“I have an idea. Should I patent it?”

“I have an idea. When should I get an accountant?”

“I have an idea. How do I find a good business partner because I don’t know business so well.”

“I have an idea. How much equity should I give employees?”

“I have an idea. Can you introduce me to venture capitalists or maybe you can put in money?”

These are all bad questions.

The questions I always ask back is:

– is the minimal feature product built yet?

– do you have users or paying customers? i.e. does anyone even want what you have to offer?

So the best advice is to be able to answer yes to those two things before you ask any other question. And if you are doing a service business (i.e. there is no product), then the most important question to ask yourself is: do you have a single customer willing to pay for your service? That’s the only thing you need to focus on.

I think with my last company, I officially incorporated the day before I sold the company. And that’s the first time I needed a lawyer for it.



Paul Voss ‏@Dafmaster: who’s on your list of people you would take a bullet for?


I would take a bullet for you.

[Please follow me on Twitter. I do a Twitter Q&A every Thursday from 3:30 – 4:30 PM EST. Or you can email me at Or you can join my email list and get my last three books for free. I hope you do all of the above. Forgive me if it takes a long time for me to respond to emails.]

Share This Post

Other posts you might be interested in: