Today, my guest is James Altucher. James is an amazing human being, a next level thinker, an investor, entrepreneur, author, stand up comedian, and former hedge fund manager. James is also a podcaster ranked in the top 100 podcasts who has interviewed just about everyone.
In this conversation he shares his perspective on trying to be 1% better each day, as well as strategies he’s used to be a great interviewer. James also opens up about giving away everything he owned and living only in Airbnb’s for over 3 years, while also sharing some of the best advice I’ve ever heard about marketing your creative work.
00:03:13 – What’s life about?
00:06:45 – Improving yourself 1% every day.
00:15:58 – The conception of Choose Yourself.
00:29:17 – Interrupting your guest.
00:30:49 – Making and losing lots of money.
00:36:20 – Spirituality and meditation.
00:50:10 – Death.
00:53:53 – Reading.
01:04:02 – Personal mission statement.
01:07:01- Lightning round.
01:18:00 – Airbnb.
1:22:10 – 10 ideas every day.
01:35:12 – Micro loans.
01:39:15 – Discussion about writing. notes go here….
Books by James Altucher
James Altucher Website
The James Altucher Show – Podcast
The James Altucher Report
Life Coaching Offer
Bryan: 00:02:41 James, welcome to this school for good living.
James: 00:02:43 Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it. I’ve been looking forward to this, uh, uh, excited to be here.
Bryan: 00:02:51 Yeah, I’m, I’m so glad you’re here, James.
James: 00:02:53 You know, and I only, I don’t really do that many podcasts. I don’t like to go on other podcasts, but I’ve been, but again, been really excited to do this one. You know, you, you’re a good interviewer. You have a good podcast, you have a, it seems like you have a very excited audience and, uh, I, you know, this is the podcast I want it to do. So thank you for inviting me.
Bryan: 00:03:13 Well, thank you. Now your show is amazing and the people you’ve interviewed, I mean, is the who’s who Mark Cuban, Coolio, Arianna Huffington, Peter Teal, everyone just about including Wayne Dyer, which I want to ask you about in a moment. But before I do, I want to start with my favorite question for Uber drivers. What’s life about?
James: 00:03:33 Life’s about living! There’s really nothing else. Like every day you wake up and you could tell yourself, oh my life’s about getting a degree, or my life’s about getting a promotion or my life’s about raising money for a political purpose or making money or raising my kids, which is probably a little closer to to what, what life is really about. But most of those things I just listed are very manmade things. And you know, ray, you know, you could say, look, I enjoy raising money and I believe in a political candidate. So I’ll raise money for them. Or you could say, I want to make money because I think that will give me freedom. But again, what is freedom to you? That my has different definitions for each person. Uh, so that you know, and how are you making money? If you enjoy what you’re doing, then you already have freedom while making money. So you know, it’s again, it, all of these things are, are man made definitions and human beings are just one species among like 50 trillion on the planet. And you know, that’s life. Life is, is everything that lives. And, and what I tried to remind myself is how can I make, how can I make each experience an experience worth living and experience that I’m fully inhabiting and, and either learning from or, or you know, um, um, somehow the experience is expanding my consciousness and knowledge of life in some way or, or, or as fascinating in some way or satisfying my curiosity in some way. And I think if you consistently do that, then everything else sort of falls out from that. Like your, your, your success, however you define that, your freedom, however you define that, your friends and connections, however you define that, your, your wellbeing.
Bryan: 00:05:34 Yeah.
James: 00:05:35 Sorry if that was a more esoteric answer.
Bryan: 00:05:37 No, now I find myself wondering, it’s like, yeah, that resonates with me and it’s totally what I want and I find myself asking now how?
James: 00:05:47 Well can I give you an example from my, like I’ll give you a much more specific example.
Bryan: 00:05:51 Please.
James: 00:05:52 So, so let’s say, let’s say I want to watch something funny. I can go on Youtube and I can find, let’s say my favorite standup comedian and I could watch a Youtube clip for 10 minutes and he’ll have some jokes and maybe I’ll laugh a little bit, fine. But let’s say I want to go, what, why would I then want to go to a standup comedy club when I could just watch stand up comedians on Youtube. So let’s say one ex, I’m going to make the metaphor one experience going to the standup club is living and watching a Youtube clip is kind of just a secondhand living. You know, you’re just sort of sitting on the couch watching a Youtube clip. You’re not really having a, an experience your, your, your experience.
Bryan: 00:06:44 Living life behind a screen.
James: 00:06:45 Right, so, so when I’m performing standup comedy, so now I’m an entrepreneur. I’m an author, I’m an investor. But I, for fun, I like to perform standup comedy. And I don’t like to just go on the stage and tell jokes because the, I know everybody who paid for a ticket in the audience, they could’ve just be at home watching a Youtube clip. So I want to give them an experience they can only get if they came out to that club I’m performing at, on that particular night for those particular, you know, 15 minutes or a half hour or whatever that I’m, that I’m performing. So, so when you think of everything as, you know, I’m not just delivering one kind of message in one kind of way. I’m del, I, I want to live life fully. I want to create the experience around me. I want to be a part of, I want to create it, I want to infuse it with as much life as possible. You know, you mentioned before what is living? The experience I’m in is not just me passively experiencing something. It’s also me contributing to that experience to bring it more alive. And you know, and I think this has analogy to, you know, traditional business. Like when you go to a clothing store, what happens? There’s no reason anymore to go to any physical retail location because you can order everything online. So I’m just using the clothing business as an example, a clothing store, a successful clothing business has to realize that. And they have to realize that what they are delivering to the customer now is not just clothes, but if someone walks into their space, then you’re delivering a unique experience in that physical space. Like maybe it’s, you know, the, the, the, the salesperson, you know, is, is a uniquely qualified, you know, a salesperson and can help you pick out the right clothes for you and really excite you about an event you’re going to and what clothes you should wear and, and so on. Maybe they offer you a glass of champagne in some stores, maybe they, you know, uh, again, help you pick out a gift, you know, in, in, in a way that you haven’t thought of and call up other stores and recommend other places. And I don’t know, again, it’s all about delivering uniqueness that you can’t get anywhere else. And, uh, you know, so I’m giving, I’m giving specifics, but, but, but the way you kind of practice this skill, like how do I, how do I deliver something unique? Well, you can’t, you can’t do it by, let’s take writing as an example. If all the, as many writers who are great writers and well known writers and I, I won’t say their names, but I don’t really like them because let’s say they’re professors of writing and all they do is just sit behind a desk and write. Well that’s great and that’ll help them improve at the skill of writing. But it won’t give them a life to, to write about. You have to, you have to live life in order to, in order to right. Now, I still think the skill of writing is an important skill to develop and you need to practice that skill every day. Just like, you know, you need to exercise or whatever you do every day to, to stay in good health. You need to eat good food everyday, whatever. But um, uh, you need to also go out and live life. So how do you do that? Well, every day you should nurture your connections and your network. So that means every day just slightly tweaking the, maybe the toxic people around you. Slightly tweaking, you know and bringing up the positive or good people around you. Uh, that’s one way. Another way is what, what do you love doing? What do you, what, what, what skill do you love getting, getting better at? Well, what are you going to do today to improve slightly even 1% at that scale. And now I always say 1% of the day is about 3800% a year. So think about that. If you improve at something 1% per day, you’ll be 38 times better in a year. Now people say, oh no, you’re mastering on 365% of no compounded to go into a compound calculator. It’s, it’s 38 times better now. Uh, what if you want to get better at tennis? It’s hard to quantify. What does it mean? 1% a day better? Well, just try it and you’ll say, you’ll be so much better in a year. Your friends will be like, I didn’t, I just play you. How come I’m losing to you now? I will use to crush you. Now you’re crushing me. That will happen every single time. So that’s number two is improvement. Number three is freedom. What does freedom mean? It means every day tried to have slightly greater percentage of the choices that you make, choices that come from you rather than come from the agendas of someone else. Like if your boss says, I need these things filed. That’s his choice. Instead of your choice. If you say, Hey, I have this great new idea for the business, can I do it? Now you’re making a choice and you’re directing the compass of your life. So I’m not saying it in one day, go from zero to a hundred so everything is just a little by little, it’s just all practice. Right. And these three things do it.
Bryan: 00:12:16 I love what you’re saying too. He really resonates with me. And this idea of being a participant, being an actor in your life, not a spectator, not having a passive orientation to these things in life is a process. And you’re right, I think we’re all a part of it. And we can either be passive and live that life from, you know, the the stance or we can be on the court and engaged in, in the game.
James: 00:12:41 Yeah. Like I’ll, I’ll, I’ll give you, and this is a, an important example for writers. Let’s say you write a book and a publisher, one publisher asks to see it, uh, and, and you get all excited and you tell everyone, oh my gosh, this big publisher just asked to see my book. I’m so excited. And you send, you edit your book, it takes months, you send it to the publisher and every day you’re waiting for this great phone call from the publisher and you could picture it. Like the publisher is going to call me and say, I’m going to give you $1 million and we’re going to put this book in every Walmart and it’s going to be a bestseller. It just be on the bestseller list and you’re waiting everyday, everyday and there’s no phone call and you’re thinking to yourself, why aren’t they calling me? Don’t they? Don’t they realize how rude this is? I work so hard on this book. Of course they don’t think about it at all. It’s much more important to you than it is to them. That’s just the nature of, I call it the law of entrepreneurial relativity. Your product is much more important to you then to whoever you’re delivering it to. They don’t care as much as you do. So, but eventually, three months later, the publisher calls and rejects your book. Now what do you do? You can either be disappointed and cry for months, and I’ve seen people do this. People have been disappointed and have cried for months. Or You could say, okay, that publisher rejected it. I’m going to make a list of all the people, all the agents and all the publishers, and I’m gonna also, uh, and I’m going to and make a list of all online publications where I could maybe write articles about publishing or I could submit a chapter of my book, or I can write essays and I’m going to do all these things to create this whole environment where publishers or agents are going to start calling me. Or maybe I’m going to reach out to other agents that I know, or a friend of a friend of a publisher that I know. So, so you start, this happened to me, this happens to me all the time. This happened to me just last week. So I was depending on one person for a certain opportunity. That person wasn’t being responsive. So every day I wrote to two or three other people and figured out other ways to get a similar opportunity happening for me. And low and behold, I had more opportunities than I could possibly handle. Like I, my schedule for this sort of activity became overloaded. And uh, and that’s what you do. That’s how you, again, not be dependent on someone else for your agenda, not be dependent on someone else for your happiness, for your wellbeing, for your success. You choose the pathways to your success and you can’t choose the outcomes, but you could choose a all, all you, you could choose how much you rely on others for your success.
Bryan: 00:15:36 Yeah, and I, and this is something that you speak, I mean this, if anybody said this, it would sound good, but it, it lands differently when it said by you. Where, you know, you’ve spent six years prior to your move in New York City writing novels and stories that were rejected by every publisher, Journal and agent you sent them to.
James: 00:15:55 Yeah. Hundreds. Hundreds of rejections.
Bryan: 00:15:58 Oh yeah. Over more than half a decade plus. Now, you know, with your book, Choose Yourself. Obviously that’s a central concept and you’re sharing it here. But I mean, this is, this is what makes a life, right? The difference between a life that’s extraordinary and a life that sucks. But how did you make that, I mean, how did you arrive at this concept of choose yourself?
James: 00:16:20 I got, you know, so many different ways it’s, it’s, everyone can relate to this where you work really hard on something or you pitch an idea or you just want a promotion so you can make a higher salary to pay your bills. And one person or two people, they just, for whatever reason they say no, it could be arbitrary, it could be they were having a bad day and you’re in the decision about you came up. You know, and I remember once this happened to me so many times, I remember once a 1997 I was pitching a TV show to HBO or in 1998 one of those, one of those years, 1997, and there was, there was one person, HBO was the only, there was no such thing as reality TV then. There was like the Real World on MTV. But then HBO had Taxicab Confessions, they had other reality shows, you know, kind of documentaries that merged into what is now called reality TV. And I was pitching sort of one of these types of, of brand new reality shows. And it was great. I thought it was great. And the one person in charge of making the decision, she loved it. She gave me money to shoot a pilot and then when it came time to greenlight it as a series, she said no. And the reasons really probably had nothing to do with the show. There was, there were reasons, there were many reasons that had nothing to do with me or the show or anything. And I ran into her recently, uh, like 20 years later, and she said, you know, I made a mistake. I always knew you were going to have the good ideas. I should have placed my bets on you. And, and I knew even then I was making a mistake and, but that was 20 years ago. What, what good does it do? Me Now? And Yeah. And so I, you know, when you have, or let’s say I’m pitching a, uh, a big investor, so once in a completely different life, you know, several years later are many years later, I was running a hedge fund and I, I visited with, uh, one of the biggest hedge funds in the world. And, uh, this guy liked me. We got along and we hung out. He gave me a tour of his whole, you know, fund and everything, and I, and he said, okay, so James, what can I do for you? And I said, well, I have this hedge fund and I invest money, you know, all over the place I have, I have good returns. And, and he said, James, I’m going to stop you right there. I would love to. I would love it if you worked for me. You could have a job here anytime you want, but I don’t know where you put where you invest your money and we already have good returns. And you know, I don’t know what you’d do with the money outside of here. I don’t like to let the money loose without me knowing what’s going on. And the last thing we need here at Bernard Madoff securities is our name on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. So Bernie Madoff rejected investing money with me at the time. Nobody knew he was a scam. And I remember being all depressed. Like I thought this was my one shot to raise like a significant amount of money. And, and also I, I thought to myself, how can I even compete with him. Again, I didn’t know he was an illegal, a scam. So I ended up starting a process of shutting my hedge fund down because of this. Cause I, you know, so one guy, I let him have a lot of power over whether I even stayed in business or not. And I just had so many of those situations. Not one, not two, not five, not 20. Hundreds. And you know, you build a company, you want someone to buy it, they say maybe and then they say no. Oh, I’m so disappointed. I was tired of those disappointments. And so I really wanted to set up my life and build my life. And again, it’s a little bit at a time. It’s not tomorrow, it’s a little bit at a time. I wanted to set up my life so that any one person’s no would not affect me. In fact, I got so used to hearing no, that I as a reflex now, I always view it as an opportunity to find even a greater, yes.
Bryan: 00:20:43 That’s a really, I want to say mature, but I think it’s, um, enlightenment is probably the word.
James: 00:20:49 But I still get disappointed with the no’s. But now I just, I, I, I take a step back and, and say, okay, I, this is another opportunity for me to follow my own advice. Don’t wimp out here. Don’t beg for the yes, just start diversifying the pathways you’re taking for success. Again, like last week I needed something done. I wasn’t getting it. One person was sort of in the way. Uh, and so I diversified. I started contacting other people and for other similar opportunities and bam, good things happened. At first, I was disappointed. At first I was like, why isn’t this happening? And I was upset, but I said, okay, take a step back. Do what you always say you’re going to do. Do what you always do. Choose yourself. I’m, I’m getting that feeling again, that constriction in my chest where I’m not choosing myself. I’m letting, I’m hoping for someone else to choose me. I’ve got to take that back. There’s always a way to choose yourself. Might not have, it would have been easy if this person had said yes and I wouldn’t have to do this. And I don’t know how long it will take for me to get around and choose myself, but this is what I have to do if I’m going to succeed.
Bryan: 00:22:02 Yeah. This feels to me like a variation on, on the theme of, you know, Steve Martin’s be so good, you know, they can’t ignore you or just be so good, you’ll never be denied. And, and I think about the saying, you know Alice Walker talking about the, the most common way people give up their power is by believing they don’t have any.
James: 00:22:21 That is such a great quote. I did not know that quote. Thank you.
Bryan: 00:22:23 Yeah. And here you are just with the tenacity and the persistence and the vision and the commitment or whatever. And you know, some of it.
James: 00:22:30 But by the way, it’s a, it’s a good point because she’s right, because as soon as you, as soon as you’re depending on someone else to sort of choose your success, you don’t have any power. The other person has all the power and, and you and, and that’s true. You really don’t have any power. You have to work, you have to earn, earn the power and, and that’s hard every single time and it’s, and here I am, you know, 20 years later, 25 years later or 28 years later after first writing, you know, a story down and it’s still every week looking for ways to always reclaim my own power.
Bryan: 00:23:10 Yeah. Okay. I have so many questions I want to ask. I’ll ask this one about Wayne Dyer cause you talk about a few years ago now, it’s of course he passed away a few years ago. So maybe more than just a few, that you were preparing to interview Wayne and you knew that Wayne was a, a talker and that if you were going to be effective in your interview, you’re going to need to learn the skill of interruption. Yeah. And I think you are a master at this in your own podcast where people were sharing, but you’re able to go in and anticipate what the listener is going to want to hear and ask a question at just the right point, I mean the right question at the right time. Will you share with me what did you learn either in preparation for that conversation with Wayne or since then about the skill of interrupting effectively?
James: 00:23:56 Well, let’s, so, so Wayne was very gracious. He, I don’t think he ever did any other podcasts except mine. He died shortly after my podcast and I interviewed him in 2013. I think we released the podcast in January or February of 2014. Um, but I had a backlog, uh, before I launched the podcast. And, uh, I knew Wayne because we, we both had the same publisher for, for one of my books, I had a book called The Power of No, and, uh, it was published by Hay House.
Bryan: 00:24:27 He had the power of intention? So they were right on the shelf together.
James: 00:24:30 Right, exactly. And, uh, uh, so I knew it. I knew his publisher very well. I had also, I was also doing a radio show for Hay House and I had his daughter on my radio show. So it’s again, one of those things you’re diversify all of your approaches into a, into getting access to somebody because Wayne was very hard to get ahold of. But you know, to prepare for him. I mean, there’s a lot of ways I’ve prepared for any guests, but I, I watched videos, I watched his, you know, he did all these, all this stuff for PBS, uh, all this, you know, fundraising and gave like hours and hours of talks for PBS. He’s also.
Bryan: 00:25:08 I love something I read on your blog about when you’re interviewing someone, you want them to feel like they’re in therapy. Like you’ve researched and prepared so well. It’s like.
James: 00:25:18 Yeah, it’s always the best thing for me when a guest says, um, oh gosh, you got me with that question, I feel like I’m in therapy now. And, uh, but with Wayne, I was really nervous because he was probably my first guests where I wasn’t kind of personally a friend with, um, you know, I think at that point I had Tim Ferris, Tucker Max, Ryan Holiday. I had a, I had a bunch of guests who are, you know, well known, but Wayne, I didn’t really know. Uh, but I read a lot of his books. He’s written a lot of excellent, uh, self help books and they’re not, they’re not as new agey as one might think. Uh, I think they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re very good and, but I knew people even told me, Oh, don’t worry about this podcast. Just ask him one question and he’ll talk for an hour. And then that’s the podcast. And I’m like, no, that’s not really, that he could do that just by himself. It’s not, I want to make my podcast a unique experience for people. And so it’s not interrupting what it is, is if he says something that makes me curious, then, um, then when else am I going to ask Wayne Dyer a question? Like, if he says, oh, and then, you know, I talked to President Clinton, uh, I’m curious like why did you just pick up the phone and call his cell phone? Or what did you do? Like how did that happen? Like I’m curious, I can be curious about something stupid like that. But, and by the way, that wasn’t, that was actually the interruption for Tony Robbins, but Wayne Robbins, Wayne Dyer had, I was curious about different things, but, uh, when else am I going to get the chance? It’s not like the podcast is going to end and then a week later I’m going to call Wayne Dyer and say, Wayne, hey buddy. Uh, I just wanted to ask you how you got in touch with that, you know, or how you did this one thing. And, uh, no, the only chance I’m going to have is that one hour I have with him and I’m never going to get that chance again. And chances are if I’m curious, the audiences probably curious also. So I, so I’m trying to put myself in the minds of the audience. They’re listening to the podcast with Wayne Dyer cause they want their lives to be better. And they think, you know, with, with good reason that listening to something, Wayne Dyer says might improve their lives. Now they could also just read his books and if he’s just talking, he’s just going to say what, what he writes in his books. So I have to be curious. I have to read the books, I have to find things I’m curious about then if I’m asking about them. Uh, I, and, and he says something that’s confusing to me. And by the way, I, I consider myself a fairly unintelligent person. I’m going to be curious and be confused about lots of things. So I’m going to ask, like, I was talking to Coolio at one, uh, one of my podcasts, you know, and he was a famous rapper from the 90s in 1995 he had the highest, you know, selling song of 1995, for instance, Gangster’s Paradise. And uh, I, and was one of, it was my favorite song in 1995. So I was so happy to have Coolio on and, and I learned a lot of things in that podcast. But at one point he said, um, you know, and then he got this, you know, crack habit, you know, crack addiction. And then he got over that and he started doing this and then, and I’m like, wait, wait, wait a second. How do you get over a crack addiction? Like what did you do? Like I was curious. I’ve never gotten over a crack addiction. Uh, I wanted to know how did he specifically do it like that. I’ll never, I’m never going to call him up again and say, Coolio, what did you do to get over that addiction? The podcast is over now. Now you could just tell me it’s just you and me. No, I want to find that on the podcast.
Bryan: 00:28:57 If you ever going to call them up, you’re going to talk about different stuff. You’re not going to talk about crack with Coolio.
James: 00:29:02 I’m gonna talk, I’m gonna talk about, uh, his recipes for cooking. Cause you know, Coolio is now a chef, he’s on the Food Channel a lot.
Bryan: 00:29:11 That’s amazing. No, that, that makes sense because then you’re right, it feels less like interruption and more like following your curiosity.
James: 00:29:17 You know, and it’s funny though, at the beginning of my podcast, a lot of people would criticize and email me and say, James, let the guest finish talking. And so I guess I prob, I don’t know what happened because I don’t get those emails anymore. Maybe it’s because people are used to me doing it or maybe I got more skillful at fitting it in.
Bryan: 00:29:38 Or maybe they just stop listening. Yeah, I doubt it. But maybe.
James: 00:29:42 Oh no, you know, now that I’m thinking about it, you know what the big difference is? I do almost a hundred percent of my podcasts, like 99% of my podcasts I do face to face. And I think interruptions are more fluid face to face. You know, I 93% of communication is supposedly nonverbal. And when you’re face to face and in person with somebody, uh, you could, there’s a lot more signals with your body. You sort of make when you’re about to interrupt. And so people know, okay, either did they, they’re going to start slowing down and it’s a more natural flow.
Bryan: 00:30:14 Yeah. It doesn’t feel as awkward for sure. Okay. So talking about Wayne and I had some questions for you about spirituality and you have this whole concept you talk about in your book about multiple bodies, you know, the physical body, the emotional body, the spiritual body. But I am, I was really curious about the fact that the number one search phrase on Google they took it takes people to your blog is, I want to die. Right? And things like, I, I hope to die. I want to disappear. You know, things like that. What is it, do you think about you, your message, you know, the things you’re saying, how you’re saying, whatever this attracting that. I mean, what’s that about?
James: 00:30:49 Well, I think, you know, my, my, in 1998, I built up a company, uh, I sold it, I made a lot of money and then, uh, and I made enough money that I could have lived for the rest of my life and my children and their children could have lived for their rest of their lives. And instead of doing that within one or two years, I was dead broke. Like I was just broke. I had. And when I say broke, it wasn’t like I was bankrupt because I had no debt. I just simply had about $143 in my checking account and that’s it. After having tens of millions of dollars in my checking account and uh, you know, and then after that I wanted to learn what I did wrong. So I, I, I’m making a long, a very long story short, but I started investing, I started studying, investing like obsessively, I started writing about investing because, uh, I wanted to write what I was learning and kind of real time. And then I started a hedge fund. I wrote some software for investing. I completely changed my investing so I wouldn’t lose money hopefully the next time. And around 2009 or 2010 I was like, you know what? Screw it. I, I, you know, when you’re, when you’re in the investing business and the investing writing business, it’s almost like you’re not allowed to admit failure. I think it’s a little more common now. And in part, I think that’s because of, I don’t, I don’t want to take total credit, but I think people saw a lot of people who work at all the big business networks. I know them all personally. They would all read my blog. I think they saw me doing it. And then kind of the success of my writing had after that. And so I think it became more common to admit your mistakes and your failures. At the time I was doing it like 2009 or 2010, I was writing about, oh my gosh, I went, I started this business, I went broke. Uh, I was suicidal, I was depressed and then it happened again. And then it happened again. And then this happened. All these like bad, weird things happen over and over again. And uh, and people would like really criticize me. Like, why are you writing like this? Like why you saying this? You’re not allowed to say this. No one’s ever going to invest with you again. But what ended up happening was people realized, oh my gosh, this guy is the real deal. He’s authentic. He, he had experiences just like me. I mean, a lot of the people who were criticizing me would privately write me emails and say, Hey, I get it. I’ve been through that as well, but I just can’t say it on TV. Um, and I would say it on TV. Uh, so everybody thought I was completely insane and you know, and I was writing about like specific articles about when I wanted to commit suicide. And so like if you Google it right now, if you put in quotes, I want to die and put that into Google, I don’t know what number I am. I used to be the first result out of like 44 million and a Google pushed it down because so many people complained and they manually put the national suicide prevention hotline up there correctly so. And so I don’t know where I am. It just depends on the person and whether they’ve searched me before and whether they’ve searched suicide before and what they clicked on and so on. But, but I’m there, uh, either the second spot, third spot, four spot, probably on the first page at the very least. But, uh, so I think I just wanted to have no BS. People don’t really care whether they should buy Apple stock or not, or Microsoft stock. People want their lives to be better. And part of the way you reach people is by being authentic and by being vulnerable and by telling the truth. And that’s, I, I, I stopped writing really, uh, at least in my writing that is, is, you know, I put on all the websites and, and, and for the public, I stopped writing about stocks or investments and I started writing just about the things that I experienced that helped me. Notice, I didn’t start writing about things that will help you. I don’t know what we’ll help you, but I wrote about what helped me and if people related to that and wanted to try it, they could try it too and see if it helps them
Bryan: 00:35:08 Experiences in controvertible. So the fact that you’re, you know, you’re asking these questions are very personal. Someone once pointed out to me that the, the intimate is the most universal. So when you’re taking what is true in your experience, what you’ve lived and you’re talking about that and it’s not spouting theory, you know, and whether people want to apply that or not and see if it works or not. And, and clearly it has for you, you know, it’s, you’re still alive. You’re, you seem to be very successful. You’re serving many others. I think for many people, your where they aspire to be, you know, and yet as we know, life is not perfect. Um, I actually have a theory that it is, it’s just not our experience that it is. But with that, tell me how you think about spirituality. I know that’s a broad question, but that’s something I feel like our society doesn’t really have an effective way of conversing about. And I think there’s a lot of suffering that’s going on that could be ameliorated. There’s a fancy word that could be eliminated if only we had a deeper understanding and application of principles related to spirituality. How do you think about it?
James: 00:36:20 Yeah, I, I agree with you. You know, spirituality is also weird word because it’s an umbrella over so many different, are you talking about religion? Are you talking about new age kind of law of attraction? Are you talking about meditation and Mindfulness? Or you’re talking about angels or, or astrology like, uh, I know a lot of people say, oh, I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual. There’s a lot of dialogue around the word, but I think it really boils down to, uh, you know, the, the question, who are you like, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re clearly not. We, we, we kinda, it kinda makes sense that you’re not your body. You’re not the person you see in the mirror. Your skin changes every seven years. Like every single cell in your body is completely different. So the cells you’re wearing right now are not you, cause they’re all going to, it’s like you’re changing clothes. Like your clothes are not you. Um, and just your, your skin cells are just like your clothes. You’re going to discard them after a while as well.
Bryan: 00:37:26 In that thought, by the way of really getting that every so often that our cells completely regenerate and that they’re regenerated from the substances we consume, the food and other chemicals and whatnot. When I really connect with that thought like that is astonishing. Like, yeah, what the hell am I if I’m not this body, right? That clearly his impermanent and regenerates of its own intelligence, like that alone is mind blowing,
James: 00:37:52 Right! So then you might say, well, I’m my personality, but think about personality for a second. Like let’s say your drink, some alcohol, your personality might change, might be you might be happier or you might be angry or you might be violent. Um, but you know, depending again on the food you do, you take in the, the uh, what kind of drugs you take, whether it’s uh, you know, someone that you will take antidepressants. So when people take Adderall, so many people take antianxiety so many people drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Your personality is changed by these artificial substances you or, or natural substances you, you put in your body. So as your personality you, or like if someone makes you angry on a bet, on a day, that’s a bad day for you. You might get more angry than you’re accustomed to. Is that your personality? Is that the real you? Like what’s the, who? Is it just a matter of your upbringing? Like if your upbringing was different with your whole personality, be different. So it’s probably, it’s not your emotions or personality that’s also probably kind of clothes that you wear and you discard them. Like, you know, you should spend one third of your life asleep. You don’t bring the same personality of your day into your dreams. You often have a different personality in your dreams. You see, you discard one personality, you go to sleep, you have another personality for the other third of the day. So, and then the next day might be a Saturday. You might have a different personality on a Saturday, then on a Tuesday. So who’s, who’s you? And so, okay, so let’s leave emotions and stuff like that. Well, is it your thoughts? Are your thoughts you, well, the average person thinks about 60,000 thoughts a day. I don’t know how they scientifically determined that, but they did. And we know what a thought is like, you know, neuroscience tells us that thoughts essentially originate in the brain for the most part. A little bit in the, in the gut. You have some neurons in your and, and, and neuro chemicals in your gut. But most of your, your neurochemicals are originating in the brain. And you know, we can see I with, I dunno, with equipment, when neurons start firing and there’s electrical activity in your brain and if the electrical activity slows down, like for instance, if you’re meditating or if you’re watching TV or if you’re asleep, then you’re thinking less. Uh, and by the way, television and meditation probably will put your brain in the same kind of pace of generating thoughts as opposed to like sort of running around New York City in meetings. So meditation, television, suddenly you’re thinking instead of, you know, at a rate of 60,000 thoughts a day, maybe it’s at a rate of 10,000 thoughts a day or 20,000 thoughts a day. But clearly your thoughts when you’re watching TV is where are very different than your thoughts when meditating.
Bryan: 00:40:48 I see when I meditated, my thoughts seem to you know proliferate.
James: 00:40:52 You’re all about Game of Thrones. And so it’s as if you’re watching TV. But my whole point is is that your thoughts are not really you either. Like let’s say, um, I wake up and I’m angry at someone and oh, why did this person do this to me? And so now let’s say a third of my thoughts that morning, it might be about thinking about this other person. Well, that’s not my usual thoughts. That’s not really me. So then who are you? We don’t really have a real answer to this question and probably because an answer involves words and it involves thoughts and we’re already going at a deeper level than words and thoughts. So I think kind of sort of, I don’t want to use the word meditation now, sort of like contemplating on this concept of like, who am I really? And thinking about that is, is spirituality, so, so you said a life is perfect. Well, if you get rid of the thoughts, the emotions, the body, uh, the culture and society around you, the physical things around you, everything kind of is perfect. We can’t even like label it. It’s, it’s there’s. It’s not quite that there’s nothing because we’re here, we know where we exist, but that’s all we really know for sure is us, is that we exist, but we don’t really know anything else. And so that’s why I say, okay, now let’s put on the physical body and make sure this is healthy. Now let’s put on the emotional body, makes sure that this is healthy. Put on the mental body, make sure your neurons are firing at your full potential, and then put on the spiritual body, which is this sense of surrender that none of this is really important. That we’re here to just experience. Everything else is just kind of a uh, a recording machine. Your, your body records, what you, what you put into it, your emotions record, you know, what’s, what, what that body is fed. Your mental body records, what that’s fed, whether it’s books or people telling you things or you know, your thoughts and then your spiritual body is sort of kind of, you know, something we don’t quite understand and it’s all, what I think is the best is when everything is healthy, then they’re all connected and they’re all working together. Your emotion feed, your body, your body feeds your creativity. And we know this for a fact, like just as an extreme example, if you’re sick in bed, you’re probably going to be less creative than if you’re healthy. If you’re, if you’re, if you’re spouse is supportive of your, your dreams and your efforts and you’re not arguing every day, all day long, you’re probably going to be healthier. You’re probably going to be more creative. So we know that these bodies are connected and I think that’s when they’re fully connected up and flowing smoothly as smoothly as possible. That’s spirituality. That’s, that’s a way of connecting a little bit more to this deeper self that we, that we don’t really understand. So that’s kind of I, and I hope that answer doesn’t sound, you know, woo woo. It’s not really, it’s all, most of it’s science, but we just don’t, some things we just don’t have the answers for.
Bryan: 00:44:01 Absolutely. I love, I love it. I love that description too, by the way, in the interrelation between those different aspects of ourselves. The two things that stand out to me from when I hear you articulate it this way, one is about, and this is kind of an inquiry that I’m living now about this, who am I? And, um, you know, many spiritual teachers, especially in the eastern traditions, talk about this one question can carry you to enlightenment if pursued, you know, intensely enough or long enough about who am I? And really the seeming kind of miracle that anything we can say we are, we’re not yet. You know, there’s not that they’d never yet for me anyway. It seems to be the confirmation of what I am, only what I’m not again and again. And then the other thing that stands out in what you said is this idea of these being recording kind of recording machines and recording devices, these different bodies. And uh, immediately when you said that I thought, yeah, I mean clearly on the physical body scars, you know, emerge and patterns of behavior if especially it’s more easy to see and instances of trauma where people shut down or start a new set of patterns. But then I find myself immediately going, wow, so where’s the freaking eraser? You know, if it’s a recording device.
James: 00:45:19 Yeah. I mean, maybe it’s a recording device because maybe, I mean, now I’ll just get into my science fiction like theory of this. Maybe there’s just one huge consciousness and it sends out, it sends us all out where we’re all part, we’re all the same. We’re all part of this deeper consciousness. That’s why we can’t put a label to pure existence. And this consciousness just wants to keep learning. It’s just constantly curious and it doesn’t even know what it’s learning. It just sends us all out. And then when we die, we go, we get absorbed back into that deeper consciousness, which is not a bad thing. Like everyone’s so afraid, oh, I’m going to lose my personality. I don’t know. My personality is not so great. Like I’m frustrated a lot. Like I’m in. I don’t, I, I, you know, I had, I’m doing this podcast but earlier this morning, I had really bad news, like one of my best friends from, uh, like this period from 1992 to 1998, uh, passed away, uh, last night, very late last night.
James: 00:46:23 And I found out about it this morning. And, um, one of the last things he told me for first off, it’s a very sad thing. It was very sad for me. Um, I, I went through, I don’t, no, no, no, no, it’s, but, but, but that’s just it. Is that, you know, he was in a lot of pain. He had known for years. He, this was going to happen to him. You know, things happen and, and you get sad and, and, and you move on. And maybe now he’s part of this bigger consciousness and experiencing things, but it’s, but one thing he told me was you can never mortgage your present moment. He, well, what he said it about himself, he didn’t give advice. He said one thing that changed with him once he got this diagnosis a few years ago was he stopped mortgaging the present for a future payoff. So you know how like if you’re a guy, sometimes you’re in the friend zone with a girl and maybe if you keep hanging out and being nice to her, she’ll eventually, she’ll realize how great you are and she’ll love you and marry you. But at first you’re, no, she’s nowhere near, she’s going out with someone else maybe. Hanging around waiting for that. For her to love you is mortgaging your present moment for a future payoff. That’s an extreme example. I don’t know how, if that’s appropriate or not, but, uh, uh, that’s what he was referring to specifically is that he doesn’t, he, he stopped doing that in every area of his life. And I thought that’s, that’s really important. And again, I’m sad that I will miss him, but I think we’re, you know, we’re obviously all meant to die and, you know, whatever a deeper part of ourselves exist. I’m sure.
Bryan: 00:48:07 I don’t know, I’m counting on Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis to come through in a pinch for us here in the clutch.
James: 00:48:12 Yeah, sure. I would, I wouldn’t mind. Like, I’m not gonna say, oh no, I want to die. Like, but if I, if my quality of life goes down, I’m certainly going to die. Like, if I keep high quality of life, that’s fine. But, uh, like my, in my friend’s case, for instance, he had low quality of life at the end, but, uh, uh, I, I think ultimately you, you do get absorbed back into whatever and it’s, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. And this idea of, you know, only focusing, you know, it’s kind of a cliche to say, oh, focus only on the present moment because you can’t really only focus on the present moment. I have kids for instance, so I have to focus on their needs a little bit and I can’t just run off into the woods. I got to pay their bills and make money and hopefully make a lot of money so I don’t have to worry about it cause I’m kind of a worrier. Uh, but uh, uh, you know, I think focusing on the present moment means, again, living life to the fullest and it doesn’t necessarily mean being, that doesn’t mean be the life of the party everywhere you go. It means for me thinking, what does it mean for me to make this moment, you know, the best possible moment and, and just doing that all, all the time. And that’s, that’s all we can really do. And I think from that falls, spirituality and so on, it’s a very interesting discussion. By the way you, you bring up, you allude to things that I know what you’re alluding to. And like when you say, you know, I’m not this, I’m not this, I’m not this. There’s different disciplines where that’s kind of the, the meditation. There’s also disciplines though that are related where it says don’t think that, because even when you think I’m not that, that’s you’re laboring yourself, not that, right. Yeah. So you have to kind of, that helps a little bit to get the focus, but then you even have to like say, well I can’t even put words to it.
Bryan: 00:50:10 Yeah, no, that’s in a conversation with your friend. And in this line of inquiry to is it reminds me of, um, someone once said, when we die, we become what we were before we were born. I mean, what it is, I don’t know, but I think, yeah, maybe it’s true.
James: 00:50:29 Yeah. I like that thought. That’s a nice thought. Uh, and you know, all we can, all we can do really is, you know, like I ran into a friend of mine the other day in the street and for the past year, this friend has been, we have been good friends for many years. And then for some reason in the past year, this friend has been oddly rude to me. I don’t know if it’s something I did. I don’t know if something changed in his life. I don’t know if there was some perception of something I did or, or maybe I’m just wrong, but I found myself waking up the next day like, why is, why is he been rude to me? Like what, what did I do? And uh, you can’t ever ask why? Because then I’m like, uh, giving him again, I’m giving him part of my thoughts. I’m giving him part of my morning, I’m giving him part of my emotions and.
Bryan: 00:51:25 And you kind of wrong whatever you came up with an answer to why it could my total garbage.
James: 00:51:30 Right, right, give you total garbage. And I can’t ask him either. He’s not going to tell me.
Bryan: 00:51:35 And even if he did, he might not even know.
James: 00:51:38 He might not know or he might lie or whatever. Or he might be truthful and I might do, be defensive. And who knows? So we’re still going about living our lives. But I can say, okay, but if I’m really going to be, again, if I’m going to, if I’m not just talking about these four different types of bodies and spirituality, if I’m really living it, I have to say, okay, this is emotions. I need to kind of clean the emotional body and I need to focus on who I am, which is kind of this sort of I, I exist and then I need to kind of clean house and every other area so that it all the sort of invisible spiritual energy can, has no obstructions through these four different bodies. It’s, I don’t want to have a stroke in between my emotional body and my mental body. People think of a stroke as an obstruction in the physical body and the veins and the physical body. But I think it could sort of happen if, if anything is obstructed between any of your bodies. Yeah. And again, it sounds a little bit of woo woo, but it’s really just a metaphor for living like a good healthy life all the way through. Sure.
Bryan: 00:52:45 Balanced and yeah, whole. Okay. So let me switch gears to a topic that’s distinct but feels somehow to me related which is time. Asking how I have a few different questions and you can answer any of them or something different if you want. But how do you think about time generally and then how do you structure your own time? How do you use time effectively?
James: 00:53:13 Uh, that’s a, that’s a good question I’ve been thinking of lately because I don’t necessarily think of myself as super productive, but lately people have been asking me, um, oh my gosh, how have you, how do you get so many things done? And again, I don’t really think of myself as so productive. Like I’m going to, I’m definitely going to watch a couple of hours of TV tonight and I’ve probably played for about an hour, uh, chess online today. And I’ve been reading books that have nothing to do with anything else. But I also then did work related stuff.
Bryan: 00:53:53 What have you been reading?
James: 00:53:53 Uh, uh, well, I’ve been reading a book, so I do have a podcast with someone, uh, uh, uh, who she’s a therapist who writes about what her, what therapists really think of their patients. So I’m reading her book. Uh, Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Google. He has a book coming out. He’s coming on my podcast. I’m reading his book. Uh, Dave Berry, the humorist. Uh, he’s written like 50 books. He’s, he has a new book coming out. I’m reading his books. I read a couple books simultaneously. And then I’m reading a book that I’m loving, uh, by the comedian Doug StanHope, uh, about his mother. And it’s a very funny book. It’s kind of a memoir. And uh, uh, and then I, uh, but then I read and then a guy get inspiration. Like, oh, that’s a really interesting thing that that person said. And when sometimes when you read a couple of books at the same time, you see ideas from one being applied in interesting ways in another book. And combining them gives me an idea, oh, this is going to be an interesting article taking what she’s writing. But applying it to something he just said, that made me think about something from my life. And now, boom, I have an article to write. So I write an article and then I think to myself, well, okay, there’s an article I was thinking of writing, but what if I take just one idea from this article, search for images, what this quote on it that’s related to this idea. Now I might have an Instagram post. Uh, and so I’m making it so I know I wrote an article, then I have an Instagram post, did reading for the podcast, uh, when we were setting up the equipment to do the podcast with you, I quickly read eight ads for my podcast. So I got that done. And uh, uh, you know, I have, uh, uh, other things in my life that I do. So I, I, you know, some things you know to, take really, you just sit down and do them. So I had to send a video of myself. I’m going on tour with my podcast and also doing comedy on the tour. So comedy/podcast, but I needed to send a video of me doing comedy. So I sent it to a bunch of people. You know, I had to, it took me 15 minutes. I had to find the right video I wanted to send and then I sent it out to a bunch of people. So suddenly it seems like I’m doing a lot of things, even though I sort of look at my days most the day I was just playing games and reading and uh, uh, what was the other thing I said I wasted time on?
Bryan: 00:56:30 Playing chess for an hour.
James: 00:56:31 Yeah. Playing chess. And uh, I don’t know there was other ways I was just goofing off, but uh, uh, I think again, the important thing is always making sure you’re making progress. Like, am I making, you know, in these areas of life of building connection with other people, you know, sort of cleaning that emotional body, um, improving at something. So that’s, you know, improving, you know, that’s related to the physical body and the mental body. Like, let’s say I wanted to improve at chess or I wanted to improve at podcasting. How am I 1% getting better? And then freedom. So freedom usually sometimes involves, how am I doing in terms of making money. I did a little bit of that today. Like one of my investments, I saw something they were doing that I thought they could do a little bit better. So I wrote to the CEO and I said, why don’t you try this? He never responded. I don’t know if he’ll do it or not, but that’s all they mean is that 1%. And if I do that every day or do it for a couple of different investments, I’m going to build wealth. You know, if across a bunch of investments, every one day I’m trying, I take two or three of them and I try to improve them 1% and uh, you know, so just takes a little bit that 1% a day. Remember compounded is 38 times better a year, which is enormous. Most people don’t do anything. Most people don’t try to improve at all during the day. It’s a, It’s a particular skill to improve. So what do, what do I mean by that? You can’t, I can’t just make a suggestion to my, to my friend who’s the CEO of a company I’m invested in. My suggestion might be bad, so I have to spend a lot of time thinking what types of suggestions or I have to learn. What types of suggestions are good, what type of bed, what time, what type does he listen to, what type doesn’t he listened to? What’s an effective way to communicate? What’s an ineffective way to communicate? These are all skills that I could also spend 1% a day learning how to improve those skills. So then I get to the point where I can make a suggestion that might be helpful to my net worth. It’s all contributes in the end, but it builds up bit by bit and, and I think that’s what people have to focus on is like, oh my God, I’m feeling so anxious. I’m 35 and I don’t know what I want to do with my life. There’s no answer. I am 51, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. It’s just that 1% a day today it’s 1% a day on all of these different areas and then that’s pretty easy to do. And then I could spend the rest of the day playing online chess or I just bought an arcade game. Remember defender? I don’t know if you ever remember defender.
Bryan: 00:59:19 I do remember defender. I, I didn’t do it when it was in the arcade, but I’ve certainly seen it. That’s a classic.
James: 00:59:24 You never played the most popular quarter arcade game in history.
Bryan: 00:59:28 Only on emulators online.
James: 00:59:29 So yeah. So I have the, I have the full box, just set it up, uh, plugged it in and it was working mostly something with some things where I’m working. So then I had to get 1% better. I had to learn how to take the box apart and fix it, which I did. Jay, my audio engineer would be very impressed. I took that box apart and I, and I’ve fixed it. There was some wires not hooked up right. And uh, uh, yeah.
Bryan: 00:59:53 How do you, how do you go about when you do planning, right? Who Was it? I think it’s attributed to Eisenhower that plans are worthless, but planning is everything, right? Yeah. Because approach years, quarters, weeks, days.
James: 01:00:06 So that’s a great, that’s a great quote. And I’ll tell you why, why, why? I think that’s a great quote. I could say to myself, you know what, five years from now I want to have 10 New York Times bestsellers. Uh, and that could be a goal. And everyone says you should have goals. So fine. Let’s say that’s my goal. So today since I’m focusing on, well, what can I do today? I’m not going to write 10 books today. I’m going to write maybe one page of one book and I’m going to write it as well as I can. Well, I might, I might learn something today or tomorrow or a year from now that might suggest, you know what, the New York Times bestsellers are all written by John Gresham and, or, or, or JK Rowling. And I don’t really want to write a legal thriller or a book about Wizards. So I might learn that along the way and so what do I do? Do I say, well, I’m still going to write my book and I’m going to market it really well to be a New York Times bestseller, or do I change my goals and I, do I say, well, I’m just going to write the best book I could possibly write. So now I, it’s okay to have that goal, but it’s really during the planning each day that you learn, you’re learning so much all the time. My knowledge of everything that I’m doing will be better a year from now. So the goals I made a year earlier, it might not make any sense anymore. I might, it might not even make sense for me to say, Oh, I’m going to write, because the average New York Times best, let’s say, let’s say you hit the New York Times bestseller list. Let’s say you’re number 10, you might just have sold 2,500 copies of your book in total and you made the New York Times bestseller list and I could maybe do a podcast and 200,000 people might listen to it. So I might say, you know what, if I really want to make impact or if I want to, you know, get recognized in the street, whatever my current goal is, I’m going to switch from writing more, putting more effort into writing, to putting more effort and more improvement into podcasting. Uh, let’s say I lose interest in podcasting a year from now. It’s like, okay, I did what I had, I set out to do with podcasting. I realized that now with all my new knowledge that I’m not going to make further improvements the way I wanted to in podcasting. I’m going to switch to doing standup comedy and or I’m going to switch to just focusing on my investments. And you know, it’s okay to switch goals, but I to this morning I woke up and I did do planning. I’m going to write an article, I’m going to do the podcast with you. I’m in a, uh, do an Instagram post. I’m going to prepare for a podcast. I’m going to get on more stages in comedy. I’m going to pick two or three of my investments and just see how they’re doing and check in on them and maybe make suggestions. I’m going to take my current business and read an ad for it and, and figure out where to put that ad and, and so on. Uh, so again, none of these things take a lot of time, but I’m going to do, I’m going to plan today. What are the best things I can do today? Even if tomorrow I learned some new thing, which forces me to adjust my longterm goals, I might decide, oh, standup comedy is useless to me. So that was stupid or not stupid. But, uh, now I’m going to focus on podcasting even more or whatever.
Bryan: 01:03:33 That’s very reasonable. And I, what I love about that is that it allows for the flow. You know that we are, I mean, I’ve heard it said that were more like rivers than statues and this idea that we’re a process. Yeah.
James: 01:03:46 Yeah. Like, like, like, like for instance, the river is always flowing downstream, but if you throw a stick in the river, you don’t know where it’s gonna end up. It might ended up on the shore stuck, it might end up all the way into the ocean. It might end up on the bottom of the river. You don’t know. But you know that the river is always flowing in that direction.
Bryan: 01:04:02 Yeah. No, I think, I think that’s fantastic. Um, do you have a formal personal mission statement or life purpose statement? Anything like that?
James: 01:04:13 No, because of this is that same reason, which is that I might learn something new. I, I’m expecting to learn something new tomorrow that would change whatever life statement I give you today. So, so it’s, so it’s the river analogy, but, but I’ll say it the way we said it before, which is living his life’s purpose. And so, so for the, for the river flowing is the river’s purpose. Uh, but it really, every one individual, you know, cell of water, uh, could end up anywhere. It’s just like any day could end up anywhere.
Bryan: 01:04:51 I know where that thought really blows my mind is even beyond the planet earth, right. But out to the 14 billion light year universe and we’re just this one little solar system in the massive expense, right?
James: 01:05:04 Like think about it, think about it in that sense. Like there’s no way to avoid this. I mean, unless, you know, science fiction takes hold, which it might, but at some point the last human being will live. Now maybe it’s because of something happens, you know, real soon, like a war or a plague or climate or whatever it is you think could end the world. But certainly when the sun, you know, explodes, at least there will be no humans left on earth because there’ll be no earth or, but let’s say you think, okay, we can put ourselves in AI and beam ourselves out into space. Well then you’ve got to deal with the galaxy expiring, and then eventually all the galaxies expiring. That’s going to happen eventually. And even if it’s in trillion years, so at some point the last human, will think.
Bryan: 01:05:56 Yeah. I, I had the thought similar to that, that I think some day Mcdonald’s will sell its last hamburger.
James: 01:06:03 Yeah. Yeah. Some, someday it will. Someday Google will have the last search and who knows. It could be soon.
Bryan: 01:06:11 Remarkable. And when I hear you describe it like that, someday the last human, you know, and maybe not because we go extinct, but maybe we evolve. Maybe we’ll become something more.
James: 01:06:19 Well the Isaac Asimov story. Uh, oh gosh. It’s my favorite story by him.
Bryan: 01:06:26 He only wrote 500 books.
James: 01:06:28 Yeah. Uh, he has this beautiful story where computers are getting smarter and smarter and humans are sort of melting with them. And I’ll just a spoiler. But at the, at the very end, the universe is expiring. All the galaxies are dead. But this massive like supercomputer, all human consciousness has merged with it and the universe expires. And this computer, uh, plugs in it’s new program and the first line, and the point is, is let there be light. So it starts, starts the next universe going.
Bryan: 01:07:01 I love it. I love it. Okay. Speaking of light, I want to shift now to the lightning round. If you’re ready. Yes. Okay. Let’s do this. Please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a…
James: 01:07:19 Life is like nothing. And I’m not trying to be philosophical, like, I don’t think there’s any answer.
Bryan: 01:07:28 That’s valid. We will accept that answer. All right. Number two, on a scale of zero to 10, where zero is not at all and 10 is extremely, how weird are you?
James: 01:07:43 I would, I would say, I would say I’m a 10, but I think everybody is a 10. Everyone’s kind of unique in their own way as they’re, they’ve been sent out to spy on the universe and report back to the mothership. We’ve all been, we’ve all been programmed with our unique instructions of equal weirdness, uh, to, to, to, to discover.
Bryan: 01:08:07 Yeah, I think you’re right. Again I forget who said everyone has a public life, private life and a secret life, but we all have it, right? So…
James: 01:08:16 I mean, I mean I think, I think in the traditional sense, like, like I don’t live my life like most people. Uh, uh, so I dunno, like I play Defender during the day.
Bryan: 01:08:30 You know, what point really drove that home for me was when I started to listen to your book as an audio book and you just made it clear to the listener right at the beginning that you are not going to just read that book verbatim. You were to, you were going to go off when something inspires you to talk about. And you know, it’s like, I like this guy.
James: 01:08:47 Let me ask you, from zero to 10, how, where do you think you are?
Bryan: 01:08:50 You know, I tend to think that all of life really is a bell curve and you know, we all think we’re better drivers than average. We all think we’re better lovers than average. So, you know, of course I think I’m probably weirder, but then there’s the part of me that goes no, I’m more likely than not, I’m just right in the middle of the bell curve anyway you know.
James: 01:09:07 It’s funny because you’re like, you know, in surveys 9 out of 10 people think they’re an above average driver. For instance. Like there’s a lot, there’s a lot of skills where people are diluted as to their ability. So like driving is one, I think poker is one of those skills. Like everybody’s like, oh, I’m good at poker because they play with their friends at home or their family and they beat them and oh yeah, I’m great at reading people. Uh, I think judging people, I think most people think that they’re, I’m a really good judge of people. Uh, and like I think it takes, I think, yeah, I think all of these things, it really helps your life if you admit where you’re not good on those things that everybody thinks they’re good at. Like for instance, I’m a below average driver. I’m an above average poker player, but I’m below average judge of people. Like, I really have to be told no, that’s really not such a good person because I give people too much of the benefit of the doubt. And, um, I’m a people pleaser. So if you’re a people pleaser, it’s hard to be a good judge of people.
Bryan: 01:10:10 Yeah, I do that sometimes. Okay. Next question. What’s something at which you wish you were better?
James: 01:10:19 Well, anything I’m currently trying to improve at. So I wish, I always wish I was a better writer. Uh, uh, and this is, this is 28 years, 28 years since I’ve been writing every single day. And uh, sorry, uh, 29 years since I’ve been writing every single day, uh, 17 years since I’ve been writing professionally, meaning getting paid for it. Uh, I really wish I could improve at writing. Uh, I wish I could improve. Right now I’m kind of obsessed with this new found interest, which is standup comedy. So I’ve been doing it for the past four years. I do it like five, six times five, six nights a week. I am always trying to improve at that. Uh, you know, I play chess every day, so I always wish I was better at chess. I wish I was the best in the world, but I’ll never be that. That’s another thing. I will never be the best chess player in the world.
Bryan: 01:11:18 Well, not with that attitude, mister.
James: 01:11:20 Well, that’s just it. Like you can’t, I can’t visualize myself winning the world championship and then suddenly, Oh, I’m the world champion. Like, uh, I, you know, you performance has skill, has some limitations. Like I’m never going to be the best basketball player in the world either. Uh, you know, but I could improve at it so I can improve at chess even though I know I’m not going to be the best in the world.
Bryan: 01:11:42 I hate admitting limitation. I hate it, you know.
James: 01:11:47 Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard.
Bryan: 01:11:49 But I hear you for sure.
James: 01:11:50 Like, uh, like I wish I was a, you know, I’m always trying to improve at it investing and I think I’m getting better at that. If I’m not improving at something, then I, then I give up at some point. Maybe not year one or year two or year three, but at some point if I’m not improving, I stop.
Bryan: 01:12:06 Yeah. I think that’s totally normal. That reminds me of something. Um, Tony Robbins says about, it doesn’t matter how far or how close you are to your goal. If you feel stuck, you will be unhappy.
James: 01:12:17 Yeah. Like I had a, I did a podcast for a while called question of the day. Uh, it was with, uh, uh, one of my close friends, Stephen Dubner, who was the co author of Freakonomics and it was, it was doing great. The podcasts was doing great. We were getting a ton of downloads. Uh, we were making money. I was getting a check every month from it. Uh, but we’re feeling stagnant. Like we couldn’t come up with new questions. Really. It was getting harder and harder to come up with new questions that were interesting to us. And it was like hard work were I’d have to go uptown or he’d have to come downtown. And you know, it was like hard work to do everything. And our, and our downloads, while they were good and putting us in the top 100 pretty consistently, they were not going up. In fact, they were probably mildly going down like maybe, you know, tiny, tiny bit each month. Eh, maybe they were basically staying the same, but it was just not going up. So we stopped after a year and a half, we stopped. I think, a couple of hundred episodes we stopped.
Bryan: 01:13:16 Next question, if you were required. So if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a t-shirt with a slogan on it, or a phrase, or saying or quote or quip, what would the shirt say?
James: 01:13:28 Oh Man. I almost wore it for this podcast actually. I wore it yesterday. Uh, I have like a dozen shirts that say, uh, the, the James Altucher show, uh, uh, podcasts. I have shirts for my podcasts, like swag for my podcast. That’s awesome. So, and then, and then I have coffee mugs that have, Choose Yourself on the front and then a quote from the book, Choose Yourself on the back.
Bryan: 01:13:53 What’s the quote?
James: 01:13:54 The quote is basically, um, if you let you know.
Bryan: 01:14:00 Of course I had to ask.
James: 01:14:03 Yeah. Now I’m gonna forget the quote. It’s like, it’s the most popular quote for it’s been, it was the most highlighted quote in the book. Uh, you know, cause you could see on kindle or the most highlighted is, um, if you’re not choosing your own, you know, if you’re not choosing yourself, someone else is doing the choosing for you and you’ll end up resenting what you do, being bitter at it and not being good at it. Something like that.
Bryan: 01:14:28 Yeah. There’s, there’s power in that statement. Okay. Number six, or wherever we are. Um, what book other than your own, have you gifted or recommended most often?
James: 01:14:40 Uh, a lot of boxes. It depends on who I’m talking to.
Bryan: 01:14:44 Your very thoughtful.
James: 01:14:46 Yeah. Like, uh, sometimes you know, a lot of people are interested in writing. So, uh, and again, it depends what kind of writing, but let’s say somebody is interested in writing really good quality work. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, nonfiction, essay, science fiction, whatever. Uh, there’s, there’s two books that I think are really just like excellent writing. This, the first book I’ve read probably over 300 times, it’s a collection of short stories by a guy named Dennis Johnson called Jesus Son. The main character is a drug addict. And then in the stories there, it’s a collection of short stories. So it’s not a novel, but there’s one character who sort of floats through all the stories and it’s just such beautiful writing that I read it over and over and over again. And every single time I noticed something new in the writing, probably read it like, I don’t know, once every couple of weeks.
Bryan: 01:15:46 That’s the mark of great work right there. Yeah. Every time they engage with it you take away something new.
James: 01:15:51 Yeah and another book is, um, this book got a lot of criticism when it came out because it initially came out as a memoir and then it turned out it was more fiction than memoir or was at least part fiction.
Bryan: 01:16:02 So waite, is it Million Tiny Pieces or Three Cups of Tea?
James: 01:16:06 A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. And I think it is such a beautifully written book. It definitely helps me every time I read it, it helps me improve my writing. Uh, James has been on my podcast because I was, I was so happy to talk about the writing in his book and uh, and he worked really hard at building up his skills as a writer. So I don’t care about any of the criticism of I don’t care memoir, not memoir. I just want to be a better writer. And, and reading that book makes me a better writer. And then in terms of nonfiction, I don’t know. Uh, I like, I like a lot. It depends on the day. I like a lot of nonfiction and it depends on the person.
Bryan: 01:16:49 Okay. Thank you. So you travel a ton. What’s one travel hack, meaning something you do or something you take with you when you travel to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
James: 01:17:01 Uh, I dunno because I really, I do travel a lot, but I really, really hate traveling. Like I hate it. I love just sitting in my apartment and watching TV.
Bryan: 01:17:15 What do you hate about traveling so much? I mean, I get loving being home for sure.
James: 01:17:19 Well, just the process of traveling, it’s like it just drains you. And then you’re tired. And then even when I travel home then I’m, I’m knocked out for like two or three days. So it becomes harder to my, my main thing that I enjoy working on is I write every single day. Every morning I write. So if I’m traveling and then for two or three days afterwards and on either side, uh, you know, I’m too tired. It makes my writing more difficult. So, but, uh, you know, I used to, I used to just live in Airbnbs, so I didn’t, I didn’t rent an apartment and I didn’t own apartment. I just lived from Airbnb to airbnb.
Bryan: 01:17:57 So I understand you did that for like two years. Is that so?
James: 01:18:00 Yeah, about three years. Yeah. And uh, I will say one important Airbnb hack is a lot of people think, oh, I’m going to stay in an Airbnb and I’m going to do it cheaper than if I were to stay in a hotel. I find that to be a common attitude. My advice is never try to beat the hotel. Try to spend more than if you were staying in a hotel. Because if you’re, if you’re not having the amenities of a hotel, which an Airbnb doesn’t have and you’re paying less than a hotel, you’re going to, something is going to be wrong. Like something’s going to be horribly wrong with that Airbnb. So try to enjoy staying in a nicer and in a more expensive Airbnb then the equivalent hotel room. I don’t know if that’s a hack really, but it makes it makes your trip better. You’ll have a more enjoyable trip. And then also I always, um, whenever you go someplace, you know where you’re going to visit, I try to be as close. You know, there’s a lot of correlation between quality of life and length of commute. So I always try to be as close as possible to where I have to be. So that’s another one.
Bryan: 01:19:15 That no, that’s wise. I think a lot of people don’t think about that and you know, it’s in the same way that they don’t factor in the true cost of being employed somewhere. Right. Between the clothes and the meals and the childcare and, and the same thing about then the cost, not only of that home, but their experience and what they give up in the commute. That’s why I don’t live in California.
James: 01:19:35 Right. Like if you’re gonna, if you’re gonna live in like LA or New York City, you better have a really good reason for it because it’s expensive. And even if you like New York City, if you make a million a year, you, you, you probably will have a much lower quality of life than if you make 70,000 a year in Kansas City.
Bryan: 01:19:56 Yeah, it’s pretty, it’s pretty remarkable. Um, what about, are there any possessions? Is there any, any devices and any pillows any, you know, I dunno, infrared, like I’m just wondering, when you travel, is there anything that you’ve discovered that you like or supplements or you know, anything like that that you like, man, I never really travel without that. It’s the first thing on my list.
James: 01:20:18 Well, you know, I, uh, when I was living out of Airbnbs, I have also throughout everything I owned, so 40 years worth of junk that I had accumulated.
Bryan: 01:20:29 This sounds so liberating.
James: 01:20:30 It does sound liberating. It’s sort of is, but sometimes you would miss things or sometimes there’s things, oh my gosh, I really need this one thing that I would always use for the past 30 years and you just don’t have it anymore. So, but so that means though there was nothing, when I traveled, I would travel with two pairs of pants, two t-shirts, maybe two sweaters or one sweater. I would wear a jacket. Um, I had my computer and a and a phone. Uh, and that was it because then when I would land, I would buy like a toothbrush and toothpaste. So there’s nothing, there was. I would also have a waiter’s pad. So that’s something I would always carry around to take notes with.
Bryan: 01:21:13 So you’re sure to always travel with is the writers pad.
James: 01:21:17 I always have a writers pad to write ideas down because you have to, as soon as you have an idea, you think, man, this idea is so good, I’m definitely going to remember it. Nope, you remember nothing. You have to always write things down.
Bryan: 01:21:30 When you read the ideas later do you find that they’re still as good as the moment that you had them?
James: 01:21:35 I don’t really read them later. I’m just trying to practice, uh, exercising the idea muscle. So if you don’t exercise it, it will atrophy and you won’t be as creative. So I always try to everyday every morning I try to write 10 ideas or 10 somethings that are difficult to think about a day. And that, and I’ve been doing that since 2002. And uh, you know, you get better and better at coming up with ideas and being creative. It’s that 1% a day improvement.
Bryan: 01:22:07 That’s kind of the Sand Mandela practice. The equivalent.
James: 01:22:10 I would say if you were to start writing 10 ideas a day, every day, within six months, your entire brain, you’ll notice it. Your entire brain will be rewired. Your listener’s brains will be rewired and they will feel the effect. They will feel, they’ll look at something and say, boy, here’s 10 ideas for how this restaurant could be better that I’m sitting in right now. Or, or my car just just blew out in the middle of the highway. I, well, but magically I have 10 ideas to get out of the situation.
Bryan: 01:22:42 You know, I love that when I hear you say that and I, you know, I have the sense like I haven’t done it as a conscious practice like you’re discussing, but it’s resonating with me in a way that I know it’s true. Even without having done it. Right. And so then what, what I’m thinking is, man, when this podcast launches, I want to invite listeners to take this on as a challenge for six months. Like you’re saying, and not necessarily to share the ideas, like you’re saying, you don’t even read the ideas, but instead to stay connected in some sort of community to share their experience and what came from it as a result.
James: 01:23:17 And, you know, sometimes, so I say I, I would say I 95% do it for the exercise. It’s not like, um, uh, I, I don’t know what to compare it to but, uh, I 95% do it for the exercise, but sometimes I do share the ideas. So I might say, here’s 10 ideas for Google, here’s 10 ideas for Amazon, here’s 10 ideas for Linkedin. Um, you know, and, and then I’ll send them to, to them. And, and very often I’ll hear, I’ll hear back from them. So I’ve gotten invited out to Seattle and I, I, you know, the Amazon people, they, they rolled out the red carpet or their self publishing division and they showed me all the products they were working on and they, they wanted, you know, they, they, because they saw my ideas and they said, oh, we’re already working on some of these ideas. What do you think? I flew out to Linkedin. I flown out to Google. Uh, I’ve been, uh, I’ve been all over all over the place because of sharing ideas. I’ve gotten jobs because of sharing the 10 ideas. Then I started businesses because of sharing the ideas. I’ve gotten writing gigs because of sharing the ideas. So it’s, it’s I’ve networked because of ideas, I could send, you know, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, here’s 10 ideas for how you’re, what you could do with this next phase in your career. And low and behold, he’ll come on my podcast to talk about it.
Bryan: 01:24:37 That’s so great. No, that’s fun. Thanks for sharing that. Last couple of questions in the lightning round. What’s one thing I might, I might do that, by the way, I mean it’s, I don’t want to steal your idea by how do you know about that, by the way? Stealing ideas. Like if I.
James: 01:24:52 Oh, people should steal ideas all the time. Like what, what that like. I remember one time I started a business and I don’t know why I didn’t do my basic research, but I was like almost done developing this website that was going to be my business. And I realized, Oh my God, I have like at least five competitors that are already up and running and I got really depressed. But then I thought to myself, you know what, I know I am more passionate about this idea then anyone else. And I know I have more skills in this area than any of these people who are my competitors. So if you’re going to steal an idea, knock yourself out because A, there’s plenty of other ideas and I know, you know, it’s not like we have a scarce world of ideas. Ideas are abundant. There’s ideas all the time that never nobody would ever thought of. And, and second, the person who’s most passionate and most skilled, will, will win. And, and if I’m doing an idea, I’m going to have confidence in myself that I could do this idea. If you could do it better than power to you.
Bryan: 01:25:56 Yeah. And reminded of what Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in Big Magic about ideas landing in different places around the world with different people simultaneously as well. Just that magic of synchronicity and the Zeitgeists and everything.
James: 01:26:08 Right? And so, so writing these 10 ideas a day, that puts you in the flow of that idea stream. You know, there’s, as she points out, like there’s something happening, you know, how did Leibniz and, and Newton come up with calculus at the same exact moment completely. And you know, they weren’t talking. It’s like completely different, you know, way mathematical languages they use to express it. But they both came up with calculus. There’s like this idea stream that was flowing through it and they both tapped into somehow.
Bryan: 01:26:36 Yeah. Amazing. Okay. What’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
James: 01:26:45 Uh, I stopped, uh, uh, this is a small thing, but I stopped going to sleep in the same room as my cell phone.
Bryan: 01:26:56 Why?
James: 01:26:57 Well, when you, if you wake up in the middle of the night, you know, sometimes you would, oh, what time is it? And then you look at your cell phone. I was like, oh, I got some emails. I’ll get emails at like three in the morning and then you can’t go back to sleep or you or you react to the emails or like, oh, this person sent me this email and now I’m agitated, I got to respond and I might even get up and go a little laptop or desktop. Um, and then I find if I put it in the other room, I just wake up at like a good natural time for me. And I’m not that eager to read my emails. I try even further. I try not to look at my phone for the first hour of the day, which is, which is really hard, but I try to do it.
Bryan: 01:27:38 That’s beautiful.
James: 01:27:40 And, and also, um, I tried to, I tried to, uh, I try to eat well. So I, and, and by that, no, I, there’s no, well, I, you know, I’ve had so many, you know, nutritionists on my podcast. The only thing I can conclude is that, you know, processed sugar is bad. And I’ve had every type of diet person on my podcast. But I think in general, probably most problems, health problems come from eating, eating too much. And now eating too much by itself is probably not bad. Um, but the fact is is that almost all food is processed in some way. So the more processed foods you eat is probably, it’s great to solve world hunger. That’s how we solve world hunger is by processing foods. But we also get addicted to that processing. And so if you eat less, you’re probably going to eat less processed foods and that’s healthier. And in general, humans probably eat too much. And I’m over 50 years old. I probably don’t need to eat as much as I did when I was 30, for instance. So, so, so eating, eating less each year probably helps me.
Bryan: 01:28:49 Yeah. I’m, I’m right there with you. I just uh, crested 40 and uh, I think I’m seeing evidence of my metabolism slowing.
James: 01:28:56 Yeah, right, right around 40. I had to, like 40 was year I stopped pad Thai at Thai restaurants.
Bryan: 01:29:04 You know, the, you’re like, that’s it. Pad Thai.
James: 01:29:07 Yeah. I haven’t had Pad Thai since. And I love Pad Thai. Like I miss it.
Bryan: 01:29:11 Oh man, if I come to New York, I might bring you some Pad Thai. You don’t have to eat it. But uh, you’ll know I was thinking of you. If some Pad Thai shows up.
James: 01:29:20 You’re going to tempt me. But here’s the thing. But this is a very important thing. You can’t just sort of decide, oh, I’m just not going to eat as much. Like we, we, we have all these urges to eat. And so I specifically changed my lifestyle to fit this. So for instance, I do not go grocery shopping. I, and I don’t do any grocery shopping at all. Uh, because when I, when I go into a grocery store at night, you know, at night you have less willpower than in the morning. So, but people mostly shop at night. So if I go to a grocery store at night, oh, there’s a bag of potato chips oh i’ll buy it. I promise I won’t eat the whole thing. But it’s a guarantee that entire bag of chips will end up in my stomach. And so I only order delivery. But then you think to yourself, well, if you order delivery, the foods are all, you know, much, much richer. Uh, you might have more calories, but it’s actually not true. Like I can’t order a bag of Doritos from a restaurant. They just won’t, they don’t have that on the, they don’t, there’s never a bag of Doritos on the dessert menu. Uh, and, and in general, I just want to order dessert from a restaurant. I’ll just order my meal and that’s it. And then I reduce, that’s how I reduce snacking. And that helped considerably is by changing my lifestyle. So I never grocery shop, so I only order delivery.
Bryan: 01:30:47 Yeah, that’s smart. Okay. What’s one thing you wish every American knew?
James: 01:30:55 Uh, I wish every American knew to not, to not take things so seriously. Like everyone’s so angry at everyone else right now. And, and yes, every political issue is important for some people. So if you’re a woman and you want to have an abortion, it’s life changing, whether it’s legal or illegal to have an abortion. Um, so that’s an issue that’s important to you. And, and, and I’m pro choice. I’ll, I’ll vote for that. But nothing is ever black and white. Every issue has, has nuances. Um, and we see a lot of this. That’s why there’s two sides. That’s why there’s two sides to almost every issue. There’s the, you know, Trump and Barack Obama both had stances on immigration. It’s not like Obama was let’s let everybody in. And Trump is, let’s kick everyone out. There’s nuances, there’s a spectrum. And so everybody now is playing personality politics, identity politics. Uh, and yet most people probably don’t really know what the actual laws are. Uh, you know, they’re just playing the personality. They don’t, I don’t know actually what the immigration laws are because it doesn’t really affect me that much. You know, abortion laws, I don’t really know the exact laws. I’m pro choice. But again, there’s nuances from state to state. I have no idea what those nuances are. And if I cared about every single issue, that would take up all my time. So you kind of have to pick your spots. So that’s why as a shortcut, people play, people join a group and they sort of, once you join a group, you believe in all of the issues of that group. You know, I wish people would think a little bit more for themselves and take, you know, don’t take every issue so seriously because you’re not going to be a master of every single issue and it doesn’t make sense to just sign up for one group on every single issue and you know, and, and, and you know, that said, there’s a saying, you know, clean your room before or clean your room before you try to change the world before you try to clean the world. And so I wish people would do that a little bit more instead of like arguing with each other on Facebook all day long.
Bryan: 01:33:26 Yeah. It’s, it’s not a real dialogue on, on social media in most cases for sure.
James: 01:33:32 Right. So that’s one thing I do. I never go on the news feed on Facebook or the news feed on Twitter. Uh, I, oh, I, I, it’s part of my business to distribute content. So I will post on my page and I will post on, you know, I’ll tweet and I’ll post on my Instagram. But I never look, I never watch the news, I never read the news. I never look at the news feed of my friends on Facebook. If I need to know something, I’ll call somebody or emails somebody. How’s it going?
Bryan: 01:34:00 You don’t care about what’s going on with their kids and what they had for lunch.
James: 01:34:04 Uh, you know, like if something is serious is happening, like you know, a friend dying, I will know. And if something is seriously happening in the news, like people say, well, you must be really uninformed. Listen, I’ve worked for almost every, and I’ve written for almost every major news outlet. You don’t get informed by reading the news. Reporters are not informed. They’re, they are forced fed news based on the political bias of the companies they work for based on the publicists who are sending in the news. There’s no more journalism that’s really happening or it’s very rare. So I, if somebody says to me, I like someone I trust and me, oh my gosh, you need to read this one article in this one magazine. It’s about something that’s important to you. I’ll read it, but I am not going out of my way to stay informed. And by the way, I’m just as informed as anyone else. I will even go on news shows without knowing the news and I’ll be more informed than anyone else on the new show.
Bryan: 01:35:04 Yeah. That doesn’t surprise me at all.
James: 01:35:06 Because you just get the news by osmosis anyway. But, but then everything else is just filters on top of that.
Bryan: 01:35:12 Yeah, totally. Well, okay, so here’s the conclusion of a lightning round. I just want to end this by doing two things. One is, um, taking a moment to express my gratitude to you for your generosity with your time and your experience, and to share with you that I’ve made a micro loan through kiva.org on your behalf as a way of expressing my gratitude.
James: 01:35:33 Thank you. I hope you, uh, I hope that loan works out for you.
Bryan: 01:35:36 Yeah. You know, I love Kiva where I realize I actually do lose money because some people default in, some people. Um, there’s currency exchange loss, but me as a lender, I never get interest. Instead that goes to the field partners on the ground in places like India or Kenya to fund their operations. So it’s, um, it’s not an interest making venture for me in any way. Instead, it’s a way of helping to deploy my blessings I think in, uh, in ways that make a difference. This loan went to a 37 year old woman who lives in North Juniper in West Bengal, India. She’s a, got a household of five members, earns about $112, the equivalent of 112 US dollars a month. So she’ll use this money to purchase more patty to expand her families patty business.
James: 01:36:22 Oh, that’s great. I like that. Yeah. You know, by the way, I think that peer to peer lending could be a viable source of income as opposed to a savings account where you get like one half of a percent interest you probably with, with good diversification. And you know, smart lending, you could probably make eight or 9% a year with peer to peer lending. Yeah. It’s my gut, I’ve never, I’ve never done it. I’ve done some research on it. Uh, if I was at that point where I felt like, you know, using that as an investment strategy, that’s what I would aim for is eight, eight or 9%.
Bryan: 01:36:59 And one thing I love about this too is that it’s not charity, right? There’s really no conditions if she never repaid me. I understand. And there’s nobody, there’s no white male from a Western country saying, you know, what you need to do with this money is it’s trusting their own intelligence and experience to use it for the highest good of their family and their community.
James: 01:37:16 Yeah. And, and, and again, to make, if you were doing this as a money making strategy, you would have to do like hundreds of these types of micro loans or more thousands to make it worthwhile. And then there’s other more sophisticated ones, like not just Kiva but, but Yield Street, which is sorta like trade finance and the in the hedge fund business. But without, you can go directly do it instead of doing it through a hedge fund, which is, it takes all these fees. So there’s various ways to do this kind of lending. Yeah.
Bryan: 01:37:46 Well, and the other thing I want to put here just before the last few questions specific to writing to make sure I get it in and don’t try to leave it to the end is, is just, um, let listeners know, you know, anybody that’s enjoyed, clearly, anybody that’s listened to this long has, has enjoyed this. Um, how they can learn more from you, how they can connect with you. Um, what would you like those people to do?
James: 01:38:09 Uh, I think my podcast is, is a lot of fun. I mean, your podcast is good too. So there now they have two podcasts they can listen to. Um, I have a lot of fun guests. I have a lot of writers on my podcast, both fiction and nonfiction. Fiction I always loved discussing the process of writing and I have both genre writers and literary writers. Uh, and uh, you know, like I have had on Ken Follett and Judy Bloom, both of them have sold more than a hundred million copies of their books. I’ve also had on James Frey, who was very literary writer, uh, and I’ve had a ton of nonfiction writers on. So That’s interesting because you know, you get, you know, what all their information that they know. Uh, and that’s a great, they spend 20 years of doing the research and then in an hour long podcast I can get, I tried to get as much information or two hours. I can try to get as much information as possible from them so you don’t have to spend 20 years, uh, doing it. And um, you know, also Jamesaltucher.com is my website. All my articles are there, so that’s it.
Bryan: 01:39:15 Awesome. Okay, well then let’s switch gears for one last time to move into an exploration of the, the magic and misery that is writing. The creative process. Where to begin. Let me start by asking who has been influential for you in your career and your development as a writer? And what have you learned from them?
James: 01:39:37 Well, uh, hundreds and hundreds of people, all writers have been influential to me. Um, so I mentioned Denis Johnson and his collection of short stories. If you read that book 300 times, you’ll be a good writer. If it even one step further. If you’d take your favorite story in that book and you write it out by hand for yourself and just really study it sentence by sentence, you’ll be a better writer. So reading makes you a better writer.
Bryan: 01:40:07 What will that do for someone. I mean I get their overall skill and the quality of their product would increase, but that’s kind of vague. How does that make, cause I heard Benjamin Franklin did that. He would tell you, you can tire passages and reproduce them word by word.
James: 01:40:20 Well I think what you do, what happens is you see why, you know, a really great writer, no word is, is in the wrong place. So if I’m writing, let’s say you’re writing a legal thriller, I’m just making this up. Let’s say you’re writing a legal thriller. You wouldn’t say, um, you know, oh, the, the, the flowers on the, on the bush, we’re turning a pale yellow and the sun was mixed with, you know, different hues of purple, pink. Like you might say that you might not, but you probably wouldn’t because what does that really add to the story? But for Hemingway, when he describes nature, he’s not describing it to be poetic, even though it might come across as very poetic, he might say, he might start something off a chapter off, uh, oh, we were going to go hunting. But I could see in the distance the clouds were dark and foggy. And that’s not about the clouds. That’s about what he’s about to say in the story. So you, you start to learn how, how the words themselves contribute to the structure and the movement of the story. And then you learn also, you, you can go through, in a good writer, you can go through every single sentence. And there’s not a single cliche. Cliches are cliches because they’re there in every other book. Like most writers write in cliches. Uh, you pick up almost any romance novel and it’s filled with cliches or, or, or many, you know, genre novels that don’t make the bestseller lists. They don’t make the best out of us because there’s probably lots of cliches in them in the plot, in the language and the phrasing. Um, and you see the people who don’t use cliches, you start to think what did they do? How did they take a look at this image and come up with a completely brand new way to say it that nobody else has ever said before. And that’s just fascinating, that’s why I say when I read a book 300 times, suddenly new, some new sentence will pop out at me and I’ll think to myself, oh, he was thinking of something differently than I thought he was when he came up with this exact phrasing. And so it’s a similar in standup comedy. So I would say recently stand up comedy has been influential on my writing. You know, you can’t, you in stand up comedy, you cannot have a word out of place, one word out of place. And people won’t laugh. One, one consonant out of place, one letter out of place. People won’t, won’t laugh. And, uh, you know, you learn this kind of industry of words that is really important. Uh, so I, I would say more recently, you know, comedy has been very influential in my writing, not because I’m trying to make my writing funnier, but because, you know, when you, when you, when you write a sentence down, even if it’s one sentence among thousands in a, in an essay or a story or a book, what was the point of that sentence? So if you make a joke, it’s one thing to say, um, you know, oh, you know, when I, when I, whenever I’m in New York City, whenever I leave New York City, I realize the rest of the world is not used to the smell of urine. So it’s one thing to say that as a joke, meaning New York City, you know, everywhere you go, it smells like urine. But think deeper. Like what’s the point? Like, can New York City get better? What’s an example? Like did you see someone peeing like is there or they’re mentally ill people in New York City? Like you know, it forces you to explore things a little. If you want to be good, it forces you to explore things a little deeper. And uh, which direction am I going? Did I leave New York City or am I going into New York City? What’s, what’s, what’s a better way to get the point across? Uh, so you know, you think you think about much more nuance things and, and again, because I’m going to try it on a stage and people either laugh or they don’t laugh. I get direct feedback if I’m achieving what I’m hoping to achieve. And sometimes people laugh by the way at something, but I might not have made a point. So I have to push back at myself and say, and this is what I learned from comedians make a point. And you, and you find when you think, well what’s the point of this? There’s a lot more room for humor that I’m missing, that I left on, I left on the stage and then you say it, cause there was a lot more room. And because I didn’t make, I didn’t really get to the point, even though I got to a punchline, there was probably five more punchlines until I got to the real point. So anyway, that’s just a few little things. And the other thing is very important by the way. Uh, and, and this is an important role and even knowing this rule, you should still do this rule because, and you’ll see what I mean in a second. When you write something, take out the first paragraph and take out the last paragraph and then read it and you’ll see that it’s better. And even knowing that rule, you should still follow that role.
Bryan: 01:45:42 That’s awesome. I love it.
James: 01:45:44 Like even knowing it and you’re right, the first line in the first paragraph or you’re like, I’m not going to take out that paragraph. It’s great. Write the whole thing and you realize, ah, yeah, when I took it out it was better. So it still works.
Bryan: 01:45:56 That’s great. So you, I heard you say in this conversation you write every single day. Yeah. What does that look like? Do you have a certain time of day? Do you have a word count? Do you have a duration? Do you do it longhand? Do you type?
James: 01:46:11 Um, I type and it’s always in the morning. It’s never in the afternoon. Uh, it’s you, you know your brain is most, again, I don’t know if this is true or not, Dan Arielli, the behavioral scientist did a bunch of studies and he determined that your brain is most active, uh, two to four hours after you wake up. Meaning if you wake up at seven then from nine to 11 is your brain is at peak activity. So I try to read in those first two hours and then in the second two hours when your brain’s the most active or the second two to three hours I tried to write and then I write. So I’ll think of some prompt or I’ll think of some story and then I’ll just write and sometimes it’ll be good. Sometimes it will be bad. I used to judge myself everyday like, oh, it wasn’t good today. So it’s a waste. But no matter what I, if I challenged myself and I write, you know, I might not, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s good or bad, I’ll publish the good stuff. And I, I’ll usually ignore the bad stuff. Or, or maybe a year later I’ll pull up something that was bad and rewrite it and, and it will be better because I’ll improve for a year from now. And they say, the same thing again, happens in comedy. Like recently I did a joke that I last that I retired four years ago because I thought I felt like it sucked four years ago. But now when I do it, I’ve made it better. So you learn and you make things better.
Bryan: 01:47:39 So when you’re working with these things over such a long period, I mean, how do you engage with what you’ve written? Do you have some kind of a filing? Like do you have some kind of a sophisticated filing system? Do you do it chronologically? Do you put tags on what you write? Do you go back and reread things from time to time? I mean, how do you manage, because you’re very prolific.
James: 01:48:02 Yeah. So I have like on my, on my blog on Jamesaltucher.com I probably have about 3000 articles there, uh, since 2010. So, um, kind of these people in this personal essay slash story style. And so I’ll often go back and reread and I’ll see, oh, that thing from 2011, I don’t like it anymore, but I liked the concept so I’ll rewrite it. Um, that’s, that’s one technique. Another technique it might be something that happened to me yesterday. Um, wha, what’s the most interesting thing that thing that happened to me yesterday, I might write about that. Uh, uh, another might be, and again, now that I’m kind of mixing comedy with writing, it might be that, oh, this weird little thing occurred on the stage. So I’m going to write this, I’m going to flesh that out into a story rather than a comedy bit. Cause it’s, cause I know I focus grouped it, right. I said it in front of a stage and people responded, maybe they groaned or maybe they heckled or maybe they laughed, but they still responded. And so that’s a story that gives me an idea for a story. Um, you know, we’re all sorts of things. You know, I, I, uh, a couple months ago I played in a poker tournament sponsored by the Clinton Foundation. Now I have no political bias. I don’t know. I don’t, Bill Clinton was president, what was it, 19 years ago. I have no opinion on, on him as a, as a, I don’t know him, but I wanted to play poker in this, in this tournament. And uh, so I did and I spoke with President Clinton for a while and I got my picture taken with him and I posted a picture on Instagram and within seconds I lost a hundred followers on Instagram. And people even wrote, you know, that’s it. Unfollow. Like they were like hurting me somehow, like by an a, an anonymous stranger out of tens of thousands of anonymous strangers is unfollowing me. Oh my God, I should really do something to please him. I should take down this photo of me with President Clinton. I, you know, it’s not everyday you get to talk to one of the 40 or so people who are president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world. So, you know, whatever. Uh, but what was interesting to me was that people would unfollow me on social media because of that photo. And so that is a story that’s interesting to me. So something’s interesting to you then. It’s probably a story if, if you know. Louis CK once said, if you think about something three times in a week, then you should probably write about it.
Bryan: 01:50:44 I like that. Yeah. Yeah. And I love the way you said that too. If something’s interesting to you, it’s a probably, It’s probably a story. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, at the same time where we know, you know, writing, I mean, it’s such an interesting practice too, because there are all the different reasons and, and you know, motives in, in that. When you write as your writing of things that are interesting to you, how aware are you of your audience?
James: 01:51:10 Uh, I’m pretty aware actually, you know, I’d like to be able to say I don’t care, but I do care. I want people to like it. And I think when people say I don’t care, they shouldn’t let the audience dictate what they write. But I do care that the audience is entertained and educated. I, I, by what I write, which me, which one has to mean also that I’m having fun writing it. If I’m not having fun writing it, the audience is not going to have fun reading it and uh, like, and I like to, I like to have know that, oh, I’m going to write a sentence is going to shock people a little bit. Like I can’t believe he wrote that. I, and I always test myself a little, like before I hit publish, I have to ask myself, am I a little bit afraid to publish this? Because if I’m not afraid to publish it, it means it’s probably been said before and then I, I’m feeling a little too safe. Like if, if, if you always go to the safe spot, what, that’s where everybody is. They don’t need you and they, it’s already crowded there. They don’t need another person in the safe spot. You know, you have to go to a part, someplace that’s a little unsafe. And there’s, there’s certainly in this world, plenty of places that are not so safe, uh, in, in terms of writing.
Bryan: 01:52:24 Yeah, for sure. No, I really liked that perspective. And I know it’s a little different because it was a comment made about marketing that Russell Brunson said, but it makes me think about your, your comment now about writing and being safe is, um, where he talked about in his Book.com Secrets saying, if I haven’t pissed somebody off by noon, I’m not marketing hard enough. You know?
James: 01:52:46 Yeah. Well that, and, and, and by the way, I’m not a natural marketer and marketing is different than sales. I’m sort of a natural salesperson, but marketing is really hard for me. And when I see my products marketed, I’m just like, oh, I can’t believe it. But, but marketing is important. It’s the way you get a message out and you have to use the methods of the best marketers. Even if you don’t like them because the best marketers will get their message out. And if you’re not using their techniques, you won’t get your message out. So marketing and, and he’s right marketing. I have never had more enemies and more people send me death threats than when I was spending the most amount of money marketing products. So, so, and, and that means the marketing’s working because that’s when you’re making the most money to cause you also get a lot of people who like what you’re doing when they actually look at the product and they like it and so on. But, uh, it’s definitely, it’s definitely true for, for, for writing as well, like, uh, and, and, and, and sometimes people tell me like, so I’ll, after this Clinton thing, oh, I was thinking of having another person on my podcast, a Democratic presidential candidate. And by the way, I’ve Republicans on my podcast as well. I’ve had a Democrat. I don’t, I don’t really care about the two party system. Um, but, uh, somebody, you know, one of my colleagues said, oh, James probably shouldn’t do that because look what happened when he had a picture of Clinton on his Instagram. I don’t get, I don’t care at all that I do care about having more downloads by care more about being interesting and, and, and, you know, and you know, I, I did something the other day and I’m sorry I’m making your lightning round like.
Bryan: 01:54:29 No, no, no. We were good. We were past lightning. We’re in, we’re in the homestretch on writing.
James: 01:54:34 So, so, so, so like I did something the other day, which I knew, which I knew what caused me some trouble, but I made, I did about a hundred tweets in an hour. So what I did was I tweeted The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Running a Business and then I tweeted or, or apply to it rule number one, rule number two, rule number three. And I did like 100 rules. And for people who get notified because they follow me, they get annoyed because they’re getting a hundred tweets, like popping up on their phone. And so I got right away, I got like maybe 500 people unfollowed me and I knew that would happen. Um, but I created so much value that by the end of the day after from where I had started, I had a thought, actually 2000 new followers, so net net and a thousand new followers. So again, you can’t think too short term about likes and follows and stuff like that. I do think about about providing value for the audience, about entertaining the audience without being slightly afraid to hit publish. Um, you know, like in that, in those, in that tweets, I call it a Twitter masterclass that I do in that Twitter masterclass. One of my rules w uh, I did like an FAQ, I fake FAQ and one of the questions was, should I have sex with an employee if I start a business? And I answered that as truthfully as I can. Well, that’s a little scary in today’s environment. So I, you have to push a little bit always.
Bryan: 01:56:07 I think you’re right. And I think about, I mean, this whole area of marketing as a writer, right? I think there’s a lot. It’s in the same way I see it with coaches where they seem to have money blocks, they want to serve people, they’re talented, you know, they’re motivated. But then when it comes to actually making a financial exchange it somehow seems dirty or scary, you know, or something. And I see with writing, you know, somebody pointed out to me that you look at the cover of the New York Times bestseller, it doesn’t say New York Times best writing writer, best writing author, it’s bestselling author, right? And, and this whole thing about, I remember when Tony Robbins, I watched a video with him on, I think it was on business insider ink or something, and he said, I knew early in my career that if I didn’t become a master marketer, my ideas would die on my lips. And what I have to share with people is too valuable to let that happen. So I saw a kind of an analog in my life when I worked at my dad’s spent $100 million to build a motor sports park in the desert west of Salt Lake. And what I saw was there are so many talented drivers, but if they can’t effectively market themselves, and the term in that industry, you know, is find a ride. If they can’t find a ride, if they can’t sell, you know, and get sponsors to fund because motorsports is, we know it’s expensive. And it was like you can have all the talent in the world behind the wheel, but if you can’t convince somebody to, to underwrite, you know, your campaign, you’re, you’re not going anywhere in that sport.
James: 01:57:31 It’s true. It’s true. Uh, and I mean, that really is the, the, so marketing is so critical for our success and you know, someone who’s passionate about their product but, but doesn’t do the marketing, they’re just going to lose. Like, you know, for, for me, my biggest encounter with that was I had a slightly different take on cryptocurrencies than most people in 2017. And, uh, my take was unique and it was a, at the time nobody even understood what bitcoin was, what blockchain people still don’t really understand. But I had a way of explaining it to the layman. I’m a technologist by training, but I also have been in the investment business. So I had a way, I understood both sides of it. It had a unique perspective and I also was looking at it from an evolutionary perspective and the evolution of money and it’s on, so I’ve developed a product where I basically said most crypto currencies are scams, but here’s how you identify them and here’s some good ones. And I’m not trying to advertise it here. Like I’m not telling people to buy it or anything. But I hired whole team of people to help me. Cause I, and the reason I did this, I had a lot of readers who are asking about cryptocurrencies and I saw that they were buying scams. So I decided to put some effort into it and I built a product and because I spent some money and decided to market it, the marketing was successful because the country people wanted A, to make some money or to save some money or to not lose money. And B, they responded to me explaining cryptocurrencies to the layman. But the marketing was, it was working. So we hit the accelerator, the more it’s working, the more you hit the accelerator. So there were, I, we, we spent in one month, I don’t know how many, how many tens of millions of dollars. Uh, and it was just like my face all over the, we like bought the internet and it was like this eccentric crypto genius has this surprising prediction. And it was true with marketing. You know, I did, I did, I will say 95% of crypto currencies are scams. That prediction turned out to be true. And uh, but nobody would look at the product and all these articles came out, you know, who is this guy? This guy’s evil for doing all this marketing. And I’m like, did you read, I would even have friends call me your, why are you doing this? This is so disgusting what you’re doing. And I’m like, look, I’ll send you the product. You could see, and I actually lost friends over this, which you could say maybe they weren’t friends to begin with, but still it hurt and so much hate. And I’d say, just read the product. I’ll send it for free and nobody would they just like, no, no, no, your marketing is disgusting. But what can you do? You have to, you have to sell to sell.
Bryan: 02:00:23 Yeah. You know, if, if you’re in the business to truly serve people, I mean anybody can sell, they can write on, on in word document and go to Amazon and self published. But again, if the word doesn’t get out, it’s like having a great restaurant. You’re gonna have wonderful food. But if people don’t know about it, you know, you’re not going to be in business very long. Yeah. So, okay, last, last few questions here. Coming down the stretch. When it comes to writing caffeine or no caffeine?
James: 02:00:49 Caffeine.
Bryan: 02:00:51 What’s your favorite delivery mechanism?
James: 02:00:53 Uh, just black coffee. Oh, okay. Cause I don’t like, I don’t like, I don’t like dairy and sugar, as I mentioned, I think is bad for you. And I don’t like the taste of coffee either, but I don’t know. Probably, I don’t even know how much coffee helps me anymore. I try to only do like two or three cups, you know, some people do much more, but I don’t know. I have a harder time without coffee, I think. I don’t even know. I have coffee every single day.
Bryan: 02:01:26 Yeah. I don’t know how Tony Robbins does it. No alcohol, no coffee, no meat. And that guy has more energy.
James: 02:01:32 I know a, yeah, I know a lot of people like that and, and the, they do a lot of like green juices and stuff. I think that’s, everybody’s got their thing.
Bryan: 02:01:39 Yeah. So what, um, when you write music or no music.
James: 02:01:44 No music. I don’t want any, just, I don’t want any distractions. Now I will sometimes write in a cafe, but though that’s not distracting cause I’ll tune out all the people talking. But music is, you can’t tune out. Uh, so music, I like to just listen to because I like listening to music, not because it helps my writing.
Bryan: 02:02:07 Yeah. What technology do you find indispensable as a writer? Um, I mean the Word Processor obviously. Right? Is there any other apps or devices or.
James: 02:02:19 No. Zero.
Bryan: 02:02:20 Okay, well that was easy. What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?
James: 02:02:25 Uh, getting a professional cover designed.
Bryan: 02:02:31 So how’d you go about finding the designer and how did you make, how did you ensure that it worked well for you?
James: 02:02:36 I mean, I really interviewed lots of designers and I also tried to find designers who had previously designed bestselling books. Uh, you know, a book you, you don’t know if you’re going to like a book. When you walk into the, you see when you walk into the bookstore, there’s 10,000 books. So you want your, if you write a book, you want your book to look like the sort of book that is on the table with the bestselling books. That’s, that’s the best thing you can do to attract the first few seconds of attention. And that’s the most important seconds. So they’re not reading the book. They might not even see the title of the book because they’re from a distance. You just want your books to look like it belongs on the bestseller table.
Bryan: 02:03:22 Yeah. That reminds me of what Ryan Holiday says when he says, people say you can’t judge a book by a cover. That’s ridiculous. That’s why they have covers.
James: 02:03:30 Right. And, and by the way, for the book, Choose Yourself, I hired Ryan Holiday to help me market that book.
Bryan: 02:03:36 Yeah. That’s right. I just read his Perennial Seller and he mentions you. Yeah. And that’s one thing I’m curious to ask about and this one, I dunno, maybe this is, maybe this would be a question better asked, not as part of the podcast, but I actually reached out to Brass Check as well and said, you know, will you help me? Um, I have a book that I’m kind of stuck in the middle of, uh, toward the tail end off. And uh, I was a little surprised when the response back was, well, you know, I’d be happy to help, but um, how about our initial consultation? We’ll charge you $1,500 for one hour and then we’ll go from there. It was like, holy cow.
James: 02:04:15 Well, I think, I think they’ve, in the past five or six years, they’ve just changed a lot as a business. And, uh, you know, you know, there’s not many people doing what Ryan Holiday does. Like he’s the full package and the sense that he’s a good writer, he’s a good marketer, he knows the industry inside and out, and he’s extremely smart and, and he’s older now than he was when he was working with me. His, he was a young guy in his mid twenties. Now I think he’s, he must be in his early thirties, I dunno. Um, and I think just, he, he, he’s making a different kind of money now.
Bryan: 02:04:56 Yeah, for sure. But he’s very talented. No question about that. Yeah. Okay. Um, how do you, so this is not directly related to the craft of writing, but to the, maybe more of the business of writing. How do you think about, and as a writer, this could be a business person, but I’m specifically thinking of coming to this from a writer. How do you think about relationships and how do you maintain relationships that are mutually beneficial? You know, and good specifically for your career as a writer.
James: 02:05:25 This is real. This is really important. And like I honestly, this is going to be the topic of like five podcasts episodes, but you know, you really need to make sure all the relationships in your life are conducive to the lifestyle of a writer. So you need kind of peace and quiet in the morning and you need someone who could kind of, um, you know, that means all, so you probably need to go to sleep early. So, so you don’t want to be with somebody who’s out partying till midnight every night. Um, you know, it’s probably not healthy to be with an alcoholic as an example because that will create undo stress for your writing. Uh, it might be material later after you end it with that person, but it certainly won’t help your writing then I can guarantee that. Um, yeah, you just need, you need to kind of eliminate anybody who’s like, being a writer is very difficult. It’s not, you know, people always say, Oh, do what you love. Uh, writing is not something people really love. It’s really painful and frustrating. And, and it’s, you do it because you, it’s like you have to do it. And, uh, and that’s a cliche. So I don’t know a different way to say it though, but, um, you know, you, you, you write because you know, you think you’re good at it. You think you have something to say. You think you could be entertaining. You think this is a, uh, uh, an interesting way to make money and to make a living. You think it’s a pathway to perhaps other careers. There’s a lot of reasons to write, but it’s a very hard and very, um, everything has to line up and, and relationships, most important has to line up and be conducive. Like, someone has to, they don’t have to read your writing. They don’t have to edit it. They don’t have to um, uh, you know, they just have to not be disappointed if you’re not there at 8:00 AM because you’re writing and they have to, uh, be supportive of your successes. They can’t be jealous of your success. That could be a problem. I’ve had that as well. And, and, and you know, two writers are often hard to be together because if they’re not truly supportive of each other. If, if one’s going to be jealous that that ruins the whole thing.
Bryan: 02:07:51 And then in terms of professional relationships that benefit you as a writer, how do you think about or approach developing and cultivating and maintaining those? I mean, people like Clinton, I get, it was a charity poker tournament. You got a photograph, you probably, you know, didn’t get his cell number, you’re not like a deep connection maybe with him. Maybe you are. But, with other people too that, I mean you had a lot of podcast guests. How do you stay in relationship in a way that’s meaningful?
James: 02:08:21 You know, it’s funny cause a lot of times I’ll have the podcast guest and I want to stay in a meaningful relationship, but I often don’t. Um, you know, they’re, they’re busy, they’re on to other things. And, you know, my podcast was just a stop for them. But some people I stay in touch with, but really, you know, every, every artist uh, and I don’t mean to, you know, act like art is some special thing, but if you’re trying to do something artistic like writing or whatever, every or even business, if you want to be good at something, you kind of need a scene. So let’s take computers in the 70’s. It’s not like Bill Gates came out of nowhere. Steve Jobs came out of nowhere. Steve Wasniak came out of nowhere. Paul Allen came out of nowhere. They all hung out with the homebrew club in the San Francisco, which was a, which is a home computing club in the 70’s. And they all knew each other. They had a scene, you know, the head of Atari was in that scene. The head of Osborne computer was in that scene. Uh, they, they all knew each other. They call each other on the phone and, and discuss things. Um, the, the, the literary world where the 1950s was the beat movement, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs. Well guess what, they all took classes together. They all hung out with each other. They all helped each other edit their books. The art scene, you know, you had Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, they lived in the same building and Leo Costello would, the gallery owner or the dealer would visit them until they had a scene. And that scene created the art world of the forties and fifties. Andy Warhol created a pop art scene, you know, Warhol, uh, Larry Rivers, Roy Lichtenstein, and they were a scene. They all knew each other. Andy Warhol was going to try to do point list, work on kitschy cartoons. And then he saw Roy Lichtenstein was doing it. So he developed his other things that Campbell soup cans. So you kind of grow up as a scene. And so I feel like it’s important to grow up with other, you know, as you develop your skills, you know, join writers groups, social media. Write for other publications. Like I wrote from any publications, like whether they were finance publications or self help. I tried to write it for as many publications as possible. So I would build my seen across many different types of writing. And, it’s, uh, it’s important to build your scene.
Bryan: 02:10:50 Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s such a great concept.
James: 02:10:53 I mean, when I, when I was writing, Choose Yourself, I would call three bestselling authors all the time. Tucker Max, Ryan Holiday, Kamal Ravikant, and plus other people in the, in a kind of a next circle beyond them. You know, but it had taken years to develop a scene.
Bryan: 02:11:14 No, I, I can see why that would be so powerful. Okay. So last two questions. The first one is for anyone listening who is, I say where you want to be, meaning that you’re a published author who people read and that they enjoy it and benefit from your writing. So for people who are either, they aspire to that, but it’s, you know, they’re, they don’t necessarily believe, you know, it’s possible for them or maybe they’re taking steps toward that, but they’re, they’re feeling stuck somehow or they’re not sure if it’s worth, worth it to keep going. What advice or encouragement do you have for people in that situation?
James: 02:11:52 Are we talking specifically about writing?
Bryan: 02:11:54 Yeah. As people who want to see their words on pages, and I say words as writing, it could be they want to do a podcast, they want to do a TED Talk. They want to speak from stages otherwise.
James: 02:12:03 All right, but let’s say writing.
Bryan: 02:12:04 Yeah, that’s right. Writing a thought leadership maybe.
James: 02:12:08 Okay. Cause writing could lead to the other things. So, so, uh, just I, I’m just making this up on the fly, but it’s sort of basically what I did. Uh, again, 1% a day. So there’s no pressure. You don’t have to, if you sit down and write page one of a novel, you might not ever finish that novel. There’s no pressure. It’s great that you wrote one page today of a novel or a nonfiction book or a Linkedin article, um, or whatever. But anyway, 1% of the day in these three areas, you got to read. So you got to whatever, you got to read nonfiction and you got to read fiction. So the reason you got to read fiction is because the best writing comes from fiction writers. But like anything, 99% of fiction is poor, poorly written. So read the best fiction writers you can find, but the fiction that excites you, um, you got to read nonfiction because you only have your one life. You might as well learn from the lives of others. So read as much nonfiction as possible so you learn from everyone else’s life. Um, so everyday I tried to read nonfiction and I tried to read fiction and I also tried to read a little bit of kind of self help or spiritual books. Um, and then you got to write every day. The only way to get better at something is to do it. You can’t get better at stand up comedy if you don’t go onstage and be a standup comic. You can’t get better at the 40 yard dash unless you run the 40 yard dash every day. So, uh, you got to do it. So you gotta, you gotta write every day, write 300 words, write 200 words, write nothing but sit in front of a blank screen and I don’t know. Write our past 20 meals down, you got to write, you can’t, you can’t actually have writer’s block. If you having writer’s block, just rate your last meal. And tell us a story about that. You know, you and I have just been talking for, we didn’t have, we’ve been talking for what, two and a half hours. We didn’t have talker’s block, so don’t, you don’t have to have writer’s block. I could have taken any minute of this and just written it down and it would have been a couple hundred words. So you know, you have to write every day and then you know, everyday I try to build my scene like, oh, today even I wrote to a magazine and I said, Oh, this article I just wrote might fit your magazine. I haven’t heard a response. I may never hear a response, but if I do two of those emails every day, that’s over 700 of those emails a year. I need I just a 1% response rate and I’m writing in seven new magazines a year, over 10 years. I’m writing in 70 publications. Now everybody in the world’s going to know who I am. Everywhere they look, they’re going to see, oh, there’s another article by James. And what’s he doing in this magazine is another article by him. So that’s what happens. Um, and it, and it works. That technique works. So those are things. And then what’s what happens after that is you’ll start getting better and you’ll start publishing and you’ll, by the way, you could even publish bad stuff. Nobody really knows the difference. You just start publishing and uh, uh, uh, and then you can decide what to do. Once you start publishing, you’re more likely to be asked to, uh, do a TED Talk or you’re more likely to be asked to do a podcast or go on other people’s podcasts or give talks for corporations so you can get a speaking agent. Um, so you know, one thing that keeps, keeps leading to another,
Bryan: 02:15:32 I really loved that and I love the everyday nature. This is not clearly, this is not for people who are dabbling. This is people who were committed.
James: 02:15:41 Yeah. But, but also you might write for a hundred days and then someone might say, hey, I really liked those first three articles you did. Here’s what you, you want to do this job man, and we’ll give you like a lot of money and opportunities and you’ll say, okay, and then you’ll stop writing like writing did, what for you, what you wanted it to do and that’s it.
Bryan: 02:15:59 And you choose yourself in that. And every moment.
James: 02:16:02 Yeah, like, like David Letterman was a standup comic and I’ve never seen him do standup comedy. I only know him as, you know, he did for 30 years a David Letterman show.
Bryan: 02:16:14 Yeah. Yeah. So, okay. So my final question and some of it you may be touched on or covered in that answer, which I think is really beautiful is, so we talked about if there was kind of one thing which was three things and they lead to something that somebody did when it comes to writing to further their career, complete their projects, what would you say, what advice or encouragement would you give to somebody even if they’re just starting out when it comes to marketing?
James: 02:16:42 Well, that’s a good question because again, marketing was, was really difficult for me when I was using, you know, the standard marketing tactics. You know, in marketing as a science that changes every year. Uh, and, and marketing and product might be different than marketing writing. Um, for marketing writing I think the key is, uh, two things. One is if you write a book, start the day you finish your first book, Start Your second book. Cause the best marketing for your first book is if your second book is a bestseller and then people will go back and buy the first book. But the other thing is right for as many publications as possible, write for Linkedin, write for media and write for Huffington Post, write for Thrive Global, those are sort of open platforms, but then write for, I dunno, whatever it is, Ink or the Yoga Journal or Men’s Health or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or you know, I’m naming big brands, but there’s, there’s a billion websites that you can write for depending on what your interests are. Um, you know, right. For some obscure golf site, a or right. For some fantasy sports site if that’s your thing. Uh, uh, so, so just that, you know, A, that’s how you build your scene and B, that’s how you build your audience. You never going to build your audience from, or, or very rarely will you build your audience these days from writing a book. And then some, suddenly everyone reads it. Like, name me like here’s, here’s a challenge. Name me a popular author who first published, let’s say in the past five years.
Bryan: 02:18:23 Well, that’s about the window.
James: 02:18:25 Or 10 years, 10 years.
Bryan: 02:18:26 I was going to say that’s about the window of Ryan Holiday’s career about 10 years. Right.
James: 02:18:31 Okay. So, so, but Ryan Holiday was already writing a lot of blogs that were popular and he was writing for observer.com he was writing on Medium or Linkedin or his blog. Uh, Tim, Tim Ferris had like Tim.blog and his blog was huge before the Four Hour Work Week came out. Tucker Max is another great example.
Bryan: 02:18:51 What a bunch of James Clear.
James: 02:18:53 Uh, James Clear had a huge blog, still does as a huge blog before Atomic Habits came out. Like people would always, I mean, I knew I would run into James at conferences. He hadn’t written a book yet, but his blog was getting millions of visitors a month. So, uh, you know, uh, Yuval Harari, Sapiens. He had an extremely popular course on Coursera, uh, that, and then that turned into the book Sapiens. So you know, you just, you, you, you, you’re not going to get your marketing start from the book. You have to just be everywhere.
Bryan: 02:19:26 Yeah, that makes sense. And it’s kind of, again, the proof of overnight success. Usually takes about 15 years or so.
James: 02:19:34 Yeah. And it doesn’t have to, by the way, like that, that’s also kind of a thing people say is, oh, my overnight success. It took 15 years, but you could have successes along the way so that it, it like you’re, you’re not going to be able to get to those 15 years if it’s all failure and then suddenly in 15 years of success. You’ll have successes along the way if you’re, if you’re working at it.
Bryan: 02:19:54 Yeah. You know, the very last thing that I want to ask, it’s, it’s kind of a two part question because the first part is about you and I, I might be getting this a little bit wrong, but my understanding is that you ask a question of yourself every day, or you make a commitment to save a life. And, and I, I’m interested to know a little bit more about that, but I also want to tie it to anybody who’s listening and especially who’s now listening to this two, two and a half hours or however long this is edited, that if they want to do, make a show of gratitude to you or you and me for having made this and hopefully it’s helped them on their journey in some way that was also somehow perhaps inspired by your commitment to save a life. What’s something that you hope a listener would do even if you never knew about it? Like help an old lady cross the street or do something kind for a neighbor? What would, what do you say about that?
James: 02:20:43 I, I don’t know, because again, you can’t clean the world before you clean your room. So I would say, oh, going all the way back to the beginning of this podcast, you know, take care of yourself maybe a little bit better tomorrow than you did today and look.
Bryan: 02:20:58 1% better. Just 1%.
James: 02:21:00 And by the way, it’s not like I’m great at this. Like, I’m trying to do this too, like this is, we’re all human. So, you know, some people seem superhuman and seem to have magically, you know, come to this earth with super powers to their perfect already. But like, I’m very imperfect. And so it was a challenge to try to clean my room every day. And I mean that metaphorically. But, uh, that’s, that’s all really.
Bryan: 02:21:26 What’s the thing about saving a life?
James: 02:21:28 Well, like for instance, if I post something on Instagram, don’t just, I’m not just going to post some like cute little picture or whatever. I want it to be meaningful and again, both and entertaining. So people look at it and are amused or, or, or shocked or interested or intrigued and I want it to be, have a point. Um, and the point should be something not immediately obvious. Even if it was a quote someone said a hundred years ago, it’s gotta be something that intrigued me, that I want to live my life by. And in the, I think other people, it gives permission. Other people will say, oh, well, he’s doing this. I should, I could do this. I didn’t think I could do this, but I could do this. So that I think that, you know, helps. I always think of writing, say if you’re doing it right, writing should save a life, even if it just entertains. Hey, sometimes we need to be entertained is pretty hard.
Bryan: 02:22:26 Yeah, for sure. Okay. Well again, I just want to say thank you for sharing so, so generously. I’ve really enjoyed this and I’ve learned a lot and I’m taking away a lot of inspiration and I suspect that those listening will have to, and I hope that if they didn’t already know who you were, that they continue that journey of growth and an inspiration by listening to your podcast as well. And if you ever find yourself in Salt Lake, I hope, uh, I hope you let me know. You’re always welcome as a guest in my home.
James: 02:22:56 Thank you. And again, I don’t really go on any podcast. Thank you so much for inviting me and, and uh, you know, I was really happy to, to come out here and we had a great conversation. You’re a great interviewer. Um, are you ever in New York City?
Bryan: 02:23:12 I am. I’ll be there a couple times before the end of the summer.
James: 02:23:15 Oh, excellent. Well, uh, let me know. I’m, um, I’m out a little in July. I’m taking one of my kids to London for a kind of a camp and but I’m around most of the summer. And then you’ll have to cut. You have to come by my, uh, I, you know, I own a comedy clubs, so you have to come by and a that’s right. Check it out.
Bryan: 02:23:32 I would, I would love to do that. I appreciate that, that invitation. Um, and I hope your tour, I know that Salt Lake is, um, is not the booming metropolis that some of your other cities might be, but I, I hope your, your comedy tour happens through Salt Lake. If so, let me know and I’ll help you get the word out a little.
James: 02:23:49 Yeah, that’d be great. Because I’m doing in June, I’m doing la, Boston, and Cleveland. So there’s no reason why Salt Lake can’t be event. The fall is really where I’m going to go around. But no reason why that can’t can’t happen.
Bryan: 02:24:03 That would be fun.
James: 02:24:04 Thanks so much. I really appreciate this. Thank you.
Bryan: 02:24:07 You take care and I’ll look forward to the time we connect again next.
James: 02:24:11 Excellent. All right. I’ll talk to you soon.
Bryan: 02:24:13 Okay. Bye. Take care.
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