Ask James: What Is Success, How To Get Rich, Online Dating, Meditation, OWS, and More

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Every Thursday
from 3:30-4:30 PM EST I answer questions on twitter. The questions
can be about anything ranging from money to sex to stocks to love
to startups to marriage to whatever. I answer the questions via
Twitter but I then summarize and give expanded answers by Saturday.

I don’t think
I know all the answers to anything. I’m not trying to be egotistical
by saying I have answers. But it’s fun for me and I’ve been through
a lot so I hope some of my answers are useful to people.

WHAT
IS SUCCESS?

@texandcoda
asks: In your opinion/experience, what defines success?

ANSWER: When
I first made a lot of money I thought, u201CThis is it. I succeeded
in New York. I'm on top of the world.u201D

Less than three
years later I was dead broke and lost my house. I was worse than
dead broke. I was probably over a million in debt. And I had no
friends. I lost them all.

u201CSuccessu201D
was just the midwife to the worst failures a man can have.
[See, u201CSuccess
is a Sexually Contagious Disease
u201D]

Then I did
it again. And again and again. And each time I let it give birth
to an uglier and uglier failure.

So I had to
redefine it for myself. What does success mean to me now? Simply
an ability to pursue the daily practice I outline
. I don't want
houses, or boats, or big vacations. I want freedom.
Freedom to get in shape, to stay emotionally healthy (which means
100% surrounding myself with uplifting people), mentally healthy
(the ability and time to write this blog helps that), and spiritually
healthy (the ability to read and have time and reduce my desire
for all the toys that success in America usually implies). I want
to die when I’m an old man knowing I was successful at these four
items.

That is success.
Am I there? I don't know. But I hope I get closer every day.

SHORTCUT
TO SUCCESS

@kehindabajo
asks: if there was a shortcut to success.what would it be?

I can only
say what's worked for me: the only shortcut to success is by doing
the steps outlines in
the Daily Practice
every day. I also provide modifications to
it in
my most recent book.
In the post I say specifically that in
six months your life will be completely different. I know this because
it’s worked for me.

Why does this
work? Because it keeps you healthy, it keeps you from being distracted
by emotional intrigue, it keeps you smart, and it helps you reduce
the passions and needs and wants that will ultimately keep success
from ever being your complete grasp. And here are the
nine obstacles to success
. Avoid those and you are off to a
good head start.

FAVORITE
COMEDIAN, SHOW, BEATLES SONG, BOOKS, etc

Several people
asked me my favorites on a variety of topics so I supply them here:

Favorite
Comedian: Louis CK and Jim Norton couldn't be more different
from each other. But I love them both. Jim Norton I went to school
with and I
write a detailed post about here
. The other, Louis CK, I've
probably watched every episode he'sbeen on TV (in the HBO series,
Lucky
Louie
which also featured Norton, and in his new series
Louie,
which is much better) and I've watched every Youtube clip with him.

Favorite
Vonnegut book: Slaughterhouse
Five
. The most autobiographical — it details Vonnegut's
experiences in Dresden during and after the fire bombing that destroyed
the entire city. It shakes up Vonnegut's spirit to the point where
the main character can't even stay fixed in time. The book is surreal
and I think represents Vonnegut's purest voice and philosophy.

Favorite
Freaks n Geeks episode: The 14th episode. u201CDead
Dogs and Gym Teachersu201D. Specifically the scene at the end when Bill
is crying because he can't handle the fact that his mom is going
out with the coach of the school. Bill is the ultimate geek and
he scorned the coach and everything he stood for. I related to Bill
and felt like crying when he was crying. Also, the first scene where
food is falling out of his mouth while he is laughing at Garry Shandling
(one of my favorite comedians) is classic.

Favorite
book about software: You don't have to be a programmer
to appreciate Joel
on Software
by Joel Spolsky or Hackers
& Painters
by Paul Graham. Both guys are (or started
as) programmers, built up successful business and learned how to
apply their programming skills to deeper issues in both business
and life. I recommend both.

Favorite
business book: The
Rational Optimist
by Matt Ridley is the perfect book for
business. It shows with science and sound reasoning why the doom-and-gloomers
will always be wrong. Economic development has saved country after
country from the disasters of infant mortality, illiteracy, war,
terrorism, and so on. I also like The
Science of Getting Rich
written in 1900 by Wallace Wattles.

Favorite
Beatles song: u201CWhile My Guitar Gently Weepsu201D — by George
Harrison, the most underrated Beatle and perhaps thebest songwriter
among the four. Even the title is like an entire poem by itself.

OCCUPLY
WALL STREET: Several people asked about this.

ANSWER: I've
written about this several times. But, here's the thing.

OW!

That's what
the Occupy Wall Street people are feeling. They are in pain:

  • They lost
    their jobs
  • They lost
    money while rich people got bonuses
  • They lost
    their homes
  • Maybe they
    lost their families

All of the
above happened to me. Specifically in 2008. I could easily be down
there protesting for the same reasons.

BUT, I actually
lived there for several years. On Wall Street. My roof overlooked
the New York Stock Exchange.

You never saw
a sorrier, sadder group of peple going to work every day than on
Wall Street in March, 2009. The actual people who WORK on Wall Street
are low-level people who are slaves of the banks. These people lost
everything. Now, to top off their depression, the protestors are
waving signs in their faces as if the Wall Streeters are the guilty
ones.

Let me tell
you something: the guilty parties live in Greenwich, CT. Work on
Park Avenue and Washington, DC, and they are more than happy to
see Occupy Wall Street all the way downtown on Wall Street.

Because of
the lack of organization, the Occupy Wall Streeters think they are
protesting something symbolic: the greed of Wall Street. The rich
bankers are 5 miles north laughing their way to the bank.

Lets get the
banks to start lending again. Lets let the stock market go up instead
of protesting it. When there is more money in the system, more people
will get hired, more people will find opportunities, more businesses
will get funded. Being angry at the people who lost the most won't
help anyone.

ONLINE
DATING

@AnonSheen
asks: What tips can you share about online dating?

ANSWER:

I saw a sign
the other day in a hotel I was staying at: The sign had a joke which
is very typical for online dating: Richard goes up to a woman and
says, u201Care you Linda?u201D Linda says, u201CAre you Richard?u201D Richard says,
u201CYesu201D. Linda then says, u201CThen I'm not Lindau201D.

In other words,
if you date online, you have to put up with rejection, fear, humiliation,
and massive game-playing. It’s a war zone.

The ONLY way
to succeed at online dating is to treat it like you would a job.
When I was getting my feet wet in online dating (and ultimately,
I met my wife that way
) I would spend 2-4 hours a day sending
or responding to messages, then maybe another hour on the phone
(some people want to hear your voice and make sure you can make
them laugh before they agree to go out with you) then actually go
on the dates. I got rejected probably 200 times. But in the beginning
it's a quantity game. Then you have to whittle down to get the quality.

The key is
to cut losses. Make sure you have goals (my goal was to find someone
who I could fall in love with, who had the potential for falling
inlove with me) and then immediately cut your losses if you knew
your goal wasn't going to meet. If you keep on going (for instance,
if you know your goal isnot going to be met but you keep on going
until sex is involved) then you might miss the potential opportunities
for your true goals to reveal themselves.

WHAT’s
MY WRITING SCHEDULE?

ANSWER: I try
to do this every day: Wake up at 4:30am. Coffee. 2 hours of reading.
What do I read? I try to read strong autobiographical fiction.

That sort of
sounds like an oxymoron: u201Cautobiographical fictionu201D. But authors
like Bukowski, Raymond Carver, William Vollmann, Miranda July, Mary
Gaitskill, have strong literary voices precisely because they write
about what they know best: themselves. They dive deep and even if
they tweak their own biographies enough to produce fiction, it's
often the fiction that is heavily based on truth and their own lives
that comes out the best. Jonathan Ames, Michael Hemmingson, Donald
Ray Pollock, Don Carpenter, John Fante, Celine, are also in this
category. I like to get my mind buzzing with their voices to get
inspiration.

Then I write
for 2-4 hours, then rewrite.

When I'm writing,
I have to search the feelings in my body to see what u2018s bothering
me. If something pops up, I immediately start writing what's bothering
me so much that my body hurts to think about it. Then I keep going
and see where it takes me. [See, "33
Unusual Ways to Become a Better Writer
"]

I also find
that if I DON’T stick to this routine then I usually can’t write
for the day. It’s the same time every day. And if I miss a day,
it probably takes me two days to get back into the routine. I was
busy this week in a lot of early meetings. It totally threw me off.
Now I’m back!

Read
the rest of the article

October
17, 2011

The
Best of James Altucher

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