Ask James: Learning Wisdom, Where To Have Sex, Jewish Vampires, Overpopulation, Tipping, and More!

Recently by James Altucher: Brain Storming – Everything Is Allowed

Every Thursday from 3:30-4:30 EST I do a Q&A session on Twitter. I answer right then but take some of the questions and expand further into a blog post. If you have any additional answers for the people, PLEASE answer them in the comments. I am sure they will appreciate. And if you have questions for me PLEASE join me in my next twitter section next week and follow me on Twitter.


Priscilla P. Wood @PriscillaPWood: Can wisdom be taught?


Wisdom CANNOT be taught. But ignorance can be unlearned.

Think of all the major life decisions we are taught to not even think about: school, college, owning a home, having babies, getting married, western medicine, voting, and on and on. We make these major life decisions without even thinking about them. And then we end up on the deep shit side of the swimming pool.

People make decisions on these matters without thinking. Without adding up the numbers. And then what happens. At fifty they are unhappy. At 60 they kill themselves.

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Start to question everything you’ve been taught. Realize the ignorance in many of the things you learned. You came into the world already with wisdom. Now you have to spend as much of your life as possible unlearning the ignorance that has clouded over that wisdom.

How do you “unlearn” ignorance:

  • stop reading news
  • exercise every day. sleep 8+ hours a day, eat well (every atom on your body ultimately comes from what you put into your body)
  • be around positive people
  • be an idea machine
  • be grateful every day for the small, tiny life we all have.

Wisdom is simply unlearning the ignorance.


Matt Herron @mgherron: What is the relationship between relationship success and career success?


There’s a saying: “Happy Wife = Happy Life”.

This was said to me by a well-known hedge fund manager when I blew off a meeting with him and I lied and said that my wife needed me to do errands around the house that day.

He’s now divorced. And his fund hasn’t done so well in the past few years. And prior employees of his all quit when they were underpaid and mistreated. So everything went wrong. Whenever my relationships go awry, I lose around $15 million cash, give or take, until I’m broke and crying like the little baby I am.

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“Success” is a weird word. It’s one of those things that everyone wants but nobody knows what it means. Or, at the very least, everyone has different definitions of it and that definition constantly changes. Success for many people also implies something in the future. As if, “right now I am not a success but if I have X, Y, and Z, then I will be a success.” This sentence is a man-made brainwashing fabrication. A baby doesn’t think about success. it just wants food, shelter, and some cuddling. That’s success.

After that we get thrown layer after layer on top of our definition of success: a college degree is a success, owning a house is success, having a certain salary is success, having a spouse who looks like a model is a success, having a big boat is a success. My view is: you get success after you give up all these definitions. You are successful right now. Pick yourself!

How do you do that? It’s by following the only method I know that encapsulates all aspects of health and prosperity. Abundance can’t come without it.

We have four bodies. The flesh and blood physical, the emotional, the mental, and the spiritual. Every body is fed by food. Emotional food is fed to you when you are people who are positive and avoid people who are negative. Mental food happens when you read, develop ideas, absorb knowledge, spiritual health is obtained when you give up all these man-made definitions of success.

If every day you can at the very least check the box on these four bodies then you will be a success. For physical, just walk around the block. For mental, just make a list of ideas. For spiritual, be grateful for what you have. Say them out loud. For emotional, stop dwelling on the negative – catch yourself when that happens and replace it with a positive.

Then you don’t have to worry about future success. All success has already happened to you. The right things will happen. Your life will completely change within six months. And relationship success and career success will automatically be yours. And you will have spiritual success, health success, emotional success. All these things will add together to make you a human being instead of a robot. That’s success.


Craig E. Steinfeld @CESteinfeld: Are crazy dreams worth pursuing when a current job is stable and has ample opportunity for growth?


For every question, take out the words that are loaded with fear and see what the sentence looks like then. The “fear word” here is “Are”.

Let’s move it around in our laboratory and see what happens!

“Crazy dreams ARE worth pursuing when a current job is stable”.

In other word, you want to pursue a crazy dream.

But it doesn’t have to be black and white. I like stable jobs to. I had crazy dream after crazy dream when I had a stable job at HBO, for instance. And pursued all of them. On the side. Your life is a sword that you are forging in the fire of the metallurgist. Make sure it has two sides. The side that can keep the stability so that you don’t have the worries of paying the bills. And the side where you can pursue the crazy dreams.

If you can’t do that and an evil Orc comes to fight you to the death you will lose the fight. You must have the weapons in hand for both stability and for the crazy dreams. Else, one side will always regret the other. The Orc will kill you in your sleep.


Alex Bakula-Davis @AlexBakulaDavis: What are your thoughts on the “quantified self” and how it could help change industries other than health (education, business)?


Introduction: Quantified Self, please meet Real Self.

The quantified self means measuring every aspect of your life to see what you can improve. There is nothing wrong with this. When I was a daytrader I wrote software to analyze my profit and loss statement on each day of the week, on every hour. Trades in the afternoon were net-losers for me. Trades on Mondays were loser. Trades that I made outside of my system were losers. I studied myself by quantifying my work.

But better is to do what I suggest above: check the boxes on physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. It doesn’t mean you have to meditate 20 hours a day and lift 200 lbs. Just check the box. Make sure you are paying small attention to the holistic “you”. Somewhere in there is the “real self”. The real self will see all of its quantified statistics improve, and then some, as a result.

The Real Self makes the Quantified Self look like a little boy who doesn’t know how to drink without a straw.

The problem with the quantified self is that you are taking bits and pieces of yourself and analyzing them to death. But when the real self is healthy then you will automatically know what to do how to integrate the disparate parts to make a better you.

For intance, in my example above, what I really should’ve done was not analyze my P&L but should’ve started eating more fruit and stopped trading altogether.

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Piotr @zuralski: What’s the one thing that motivates you the most?


What motivates me the most is a desire to have no motivations.

This sounds almost like a cliche. And, in fact, the statement itself is a motivation. I wish I didn’t have the desire to have no motivations. But I do. I’m motivated to make a lot of money. Every day. I’m motivated to write on this blog. I’m motivated to maybe write a novel or try stand-up comedy. I have 100 different motivations.

But every motivation is a battle. Its hard work. Its sweat and tears and failure.

I’m tired of those.

I want no more tears. I want no more failure. I don’t want to be motivated by anything so I can find out who I am without the putrid layer of motivation stinking up the joint all around me.


Confidential Account @ConfidentialAcc: Basically using drinks + sex after to show a client “a good time” to seal the deal. Your views on this? is it common?

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This was actually in the plot of last week’s Mad Men. Not sure if you saw it.

I used to run an agency so I know what this is like. I was wining and dining clients every day and night. It’s brutal. Clients would call me up at three in the morning thinking they were my best friend and asking my advice on their jobs, careers, etc . I would go to charity events just to impress clients. I said to my therapist (actually my ex wife’s astrologer) that I felt like I was never myself. That I didn’t even know who I was.

So what would happen? I would land the worst, awful clients. People who thought they could be 90 days late on the bill. People who felt comfortable asking for bribes under the table. People who would manipulate their noose around my neck until I could barely breathe.

Here’s what you want to really do to build clients of your agency: Be the Source. If you are not good enough to do something, tell them. Direct them to new vendors. Give them advice on how they can make their whole company better, on how they can make their lives better, on how they can look better in front of their boss. Be Google for your clients.

Google actually does nothing but direct you to other web pages. Google itself has no content. And that’s exactly why people go back to it.

Let the client know that the one thing he can always count on you and he can’t count on from anyone else is your Word. Once he relies on that then no other word will be good for him except yours.

I ran an agency for about about five years. It was painful. But the best clients were ultimately the ones who trusted me. The worst clients were the ones I paid bribes to. And yes, they were the worst by far.


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Russ Thornton @RussThornton: What do you think is minimum length to self-publish a book on Amazon? 50, 75, 100, more pages?


There is no minimum length to self-publish. i just self-published a 51-page book. Blake Crouch just self-published a 10 page short story as a kindle book.

The world has changed. Instead of this being a “pick me” world its become a “I pick myself” world.

There’s a myth that a book has to be 200 pages. Publishers gave us this myth. But publishers don’t really exist anymore. They are zombies and they are slowly dying out.

Most books should be magazine articles. Most magazine articles should be short columns. Most short columns should be 140 character tweets. And most tweets should be silent.

Make the highest quality book you can, without thinking of word-count, and publish it.Sincere voices will always rise to the top.


Julian Lenz @Julian_Lenz: Where is the best place for ideas to have sex? while taking a walk in the woods?


Wherever the partner you love is.


Ben Cohn @DaWhatBenja: What is the first step first a college grad in may?? international political economy degree


I wrote a book, 40 Alternatives to College. But now I regret the title. It should’ve been just “40 Alternatives”.

Here’s the normal ladder: Grades 1-12, College, Graduate School, cubicle world, office world, suit and tie world, executive lunchroom, retired with watch, golf club, hospital, nursing home, hospice, die.

Everything there is mad-made. Everything on the list is a scam. Grades 1-12 are a joke. My 10-year-old daughter is worried about her standardized tests. Why is she taking these tests? Not because the school cares about her education but because their government funding depends on her scores. So she has to stress and sweat about her tests.

Screw it.

Change “40 Alternative to College” to “40 Alternatives to Cubicle Nation”. At least for a year or two take the ideas in that book and do them. They will be cheap, they will be fun, they will expand your mind, and in a year if you want to go back to cubicle nation, then go for it! I wish someone had told me I had these choices before and even after college.


David Mansaray @DavidMansaray: I’m leaving university to pursue self-education + blog about it. Any advice for making it a success + interesting for readers?


You’re going to jump into the abyss. You are in the 1%. When you fall into the abyss you get scraped, you get hurt, you will break your bones, you will smash your head.

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So if you are going to blog about it, don’t cover up, don’t hide. Just bleed. You’re going to be so bloody it hurts. Bleed. Blood. Vomit blood onto the page, stick your pencil in it and start writing. If you can’t write something that totally embarasses you and reveals every scrape and broken bone in your attempt to escape the system then don’t write it. Nobody wants to read about it otherwise.

Here’s a writing exercise:

Write down the worst, most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you that you would never want anyone to know. Write it with just enough words needed to tell the story. NO EXTRA WORDS. Then erase it and rewrite it. Then do it again. You’ll get better each time.

Now, you may not want to publish it. It’s the most embarrassing thing ever. But take the #2 worst thing and write that and publish it.


Kitt Hodsden @kitt: How does one move beyond the victim mindset?


There’s two questions here. Are you asking about someone else or are you asking about you?

If you are asking about someone else then there is nothing you can do. Just live a healthy life and be an example. But if they drag you down then they need to be trained. They only get the privilege of being in your presence if they are no longer constantly a victim. This doesn’t mean be cruel or selfish to them. It’s just that there’s only so much time. This moment is a precious gift that the universe has given to you. Barring special circumstances, victims don’t get to share this moment with you.

This will train them. You will be the victim-whisperer.

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If you are talking about yourself then change the question from “how does one move beyond the victim mindset” to “how can I be a superhero?”

Every day, wake up and realize that you have traveled billions of light years to be in this body. You were given a mission for today. Save one life. You know the rule: give and you will receive. So be on the lookout for a life you can save. Does an old woman need help across the street? Does a friend need a call to get through a breakup or a job lost? Does your wife need help with something? Do your kids? Be a superhero every day. As soon as you stand up, “I don’t know what my mission is, but the mothership has sent me down here to save a life. So bring it on!”

Then you won’t be a victim. You will save the victims. You will save yourself.


Priscilla P. Wood @PriscillaPWood: Is the world overpopulated?



Here’s a funny quote:

In his 1968 work The Population Bomb, Ehrlich stated:

u201CThe battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines – hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.u201D

People thought the world was overpopulated in 1970 and we’d run out of food in 10 years. Now we are 2x bigger. the world will never be overpopulated. In developed countries 2 people on avg have 1.5 children. As the global economy develops more and more countries will enter the first world. First world countries have fewer and fewer children as infant mortality rates go down.

Technology constantly improves the seeds and fertilizers we use to plant food. Nobody in 1970 expected the amazing inventions that has increased food output.

The only thing that stops people from eating even in the most starved countries is not a lack of food but a surplus of government corruption at every level. But this changes the more we have the freedom to trade with these countries.

The world will never be overpopulated. This is why it’s important to not read the news. Every day the news says we’re overpopulated, we’re going broke, we’re burning up, we’re killing each other.