Recently by James Altucher: 7 Things I Learned from My 8 Greatest Teachers
I did this as a guest post on TechCrunch yesterday and now publishing here.
I know why I’m not a billionaire. Other than having the consistent self-sabotaging quality of destroying money in massive bonfires every time I sell a company I also have a severe psychosocial disorder which makes me a horrible connector of people. Connecting people who can benefit each other is the most useful skill you can have on the entrepreneurial ladder of skills. When you help others make money by connecting them together, the world forces itself into the moeubius strip of success that brings the money right back to you times ten. Some billionaires are great at it. If I write Mark Cuban an email he responds in two seconds even though he doesn’t even know me. He’s a “Super Connector”. I know quite a few talented super connectors and they will be very successful as they grow into it. Future Mark Cubans. [See, “How I Helped Mark Cuban Make a Billion Dollars and 5 Other Things I learned from him”.]
I’m horrible at following up. I also burn bridges. I used to play a nice social game of Wordtwist on Facebook every day with Don Graham, the publisher/owner of the Washington Post. Then I wrote a blog post, “Don Graham is a Punk”. Guess what. He doesn’t play Wordtwist with me anymore. Another time I was trying to get a job working for the hedge fund manager Stevie Cohen. He wanted me to share a few trades with him as I was doing them. We IMed back and forth a bit during the trades. One trade didn’t work out and I was ashamed of it. So I stopped IMing him. After a few days of this billionaire IMing me with, “Where’d you go?” I blocked him on my IM list and that was that.
But that said, I love meeting new people and I’ve always done a good job with the initial skills involved with meeting new people. I feel like I can meet anyone in the world that I want to. Whether I make use of that meeting is another story. In fact, it’s a fairy tale. Because I seldom do the follow up correctly.
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But here are the 9 Skills you Need to Become a Super-Connector.
1. Introduce two other connectors — this is an unbelievable technique. If you can introduce two people who are themselves great connectors then you become a meta-connector. They will meet and get along (connectors get along with each other for two reasons: they are naturally friendly people (hence their ability to connect so easily with people) AND they have a lot of friends in common almost by definition.) If you are in the middle of that connection then they will always remember you and you’ll always be on their mind for future potential connections they can make that would be useful FOR YOU. And their rolodexes are immense. So if you need to meet Prince William of England, for instance, or Ellen Degeneres then just connect two connectors and the next thing you know you’ll be dancing right down the aisle with Ellen on her show or bowing to Kate Middleton, or whatever you want to do. Ellen? Kate? Uma?
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2. Introduce two people with an idea in mind: Marsha, meet Cindy. Cindy, meet Marsha. Marsha, you are the best book editor in the world. Cindy, your book is the best book idea I have ever heard. You both can make money together. No need to “cc” me.
In other words, if you can help two other people make money then eventually, good things will happen to you. In cases where I’ve been able to do this (rare, but it’s happened) I always tell people who say “what can I do for you” that “if they ever find me in the gutter with blood leaking from my mouth and a needle sticking out of the veins in my elbow then at the very least pull the needle out.” That’s all I ask. The first time I ever did this I went home (1994) and told my girlfriend, “I just helped two people make money for the first time ever.” And she said, “yeah, but what did you get?” I got nothing. But I felt something. I felt like I had done good in the world and that if I kept doing it, eventually it would return to me. And it did. With those very two people that first time but about years later.
3. Have a dinner of interesting people. I’ve only done this twice. When the last Star Wars prequel came out I invited people from every aspect of my life (friends, hedge funds, writers) to a dinner, I got everyone movie tickets, and it was a fun night. I solidified my relationships with some of my investors, plus some of the funds I was invested in, and I managed to connect people up who later did business together. On another occasion I threw a party for everyone who had been fired by thestreet.com. It got a little awkward when the guy who had done most of the firing (who had himself been fired right before then) was also there but it was all in good fun. Not sure how much goodwill it created for me. Too early to tell.
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But, I much more enjoy GOING to the dinner that I’m invited to. [See, “Why a Grenade Needs to Get Thrown At Me”] I’ve met a lot of interesting people. My main problem is is that my normal bedtime is about 8pm. So sometimes I fall asleep at the table and everyone thinks I’m on drugs. And other times I just can’t go to the diner because I know I won’t be functional the next morning when I like to write. But sometimes I got just because Claudia gets sick of having me around all the time and pushes me out the door. So please keep inviting me.
4. Following up. This is the hardest part for me. I have a list five years old of people who introduced me to people I actually wanted to be introduced to and then I never followed up. For instance, a few months ago I wrote a post “Burton Silverman, are you dead yet??” Burton Silverman is one of my favorite artists. I wanted to know if he was dead to see if the value of one of his paintings had gone up. Guess what? HE WROTE ME to tell me he wasn’t dead yet. And as I type this, his studio is only a few blocks away. I could visit him right now if I want. Except…for some reason I never returned his email. He’s on my list. But followup is my hardest part. Then I put it off until I start to feel guilty about not following up. So then I push back the follow-up even more. At my first company I hired someone to follow up for me. Claudia tells me she will follow for me on emails. But I have a hard time letting other people do things for me that I should really be doing for myselves. For awhile, there was a dwarf from the circus that was willing to wipe me but I ultimately had to let him go. I just couldn’t go through with it.