[MUSIC PLAYING] JESSE: OK. All right, guys. Thank you so much for coming. I really appreciate
you guys coming. We have an awesome,
awesome speaker lined up. I’m personally very excited. I’m a big fan of this
guy, James Altucher. He’s a multiple
best selling author. He’s written books like “Choose
Yourself,” “Reinvent Yourself,” “Trade Like Buffett.” He’s a serial
entrepreneur, investor VCs invested in over 20 companies. He’s a prolific podcaster. He’s interviewed people
like Steven Pressfield, Tony Robbins, to Rick Ross, who ran
a big drug empire in the ’80s, so people from
all walks of life. He’s a crypto expert, but
he likes to remind people that that’s not all he’s about. That is all the rage right now. And he does have an awesome
class on MasterClass you guys should check out. And if you guys want to
learn more about him, go to Jamesaltucher.com. So without further ado,
let’s start this interview. I really appreciate
you coming here, James. JAMES ALTUCHER: Jesse,
I can’t tell you how much I’m appreciative
of being invited here, my favorite company
in the world. JESSE: Absolutely. And you apparently have
a pretty good story when it comes to Google, right? JAMES ALTUCHER: Well,
well, so one time, I started this company. And I’m always in the mode
as soon as I start a company, I want to sell it,
which is really kind of not a good
philosophy to have. But unfortunately,
that’s my philosophy. And so the instant
the company started, I basically went around
to every company– AOL, Yahoo, Google,
Forbes, Interactive Corp– and it was kind of like a
social media site for people interested in investing. And I basically
said, we’re for sale. And Google Finance was
just starting at the time. I don’t even know
what’s happening now with Google Finance,
but Google Finance was starting at the time. And I met with them in New
York, and it was great. It was in this
conference room where it goes right into
a video screen where the people
in San Francisco are on the other side, so it
felt like one big conference table. And I just remember walking
into Google in New York, and people were
skateboarding around. There was chefs making lunch. There were people
getting haircuts. Everybody had, like, three
monitors, or crazy monitors. And I’m like, oh my gosh. I really want to be here. I want to come to work here. I hadn’t had a job in
12 years at that point, and I just really wanted
to just hang out there. And I remember waking up
at 2:00 in the morning, and I had that
feeling like you get when you’re on your first high
school date with a big crush. And I had this feeling like,
oh my gosh, I love Google. And so I wrote– I think it was Katie Jacobs
Stanton that was running Google Finance at the time. She ended up working for
Obama, then working at Twitter. I don’t know where she is now. I wrote her and I said, I
really loved the meeting. I love Google. I can’t wait until
our next conversation. It was like everything
you would write as, like, after your high
school crush first date I wrote in this email
hours after I met them. And she never wrote back. I never heard from them again. But which is typical also of
that high school first date. By the way, I never had a
first date in high school. I had a first date when I
was in college, finally. But I’m imagining that’s what
it would be like if you had a first date in high school. So that’s my Google story. JESSE: There you go. Well, any time you want to come
hang out, just let us know. You’re always welcome. JAMES ALTUCHER: That’s great. JESSE: So I want to just get
in your background a little bit just for some context
for the people that don’t know out there. And you’re very
vulnerable and open about the adversity you’ve
faced in your adult life, but take us back
to the beginning. Give us a bio. Give us everything. JAMES ALTUCHER: Sure. So I’ll speed through it, but
I was a technologist at heart. I majored in computer science. I went to graduate
school, computer science. In fact, the last time
I was on this campus, I visited an ex grad school
classmate of mine, which was Astro Teller, who runs– I don’t know what
it’s called now. It was Google X then. I don’t know what it is called. JESSE: Google X Moonshots,
I think was the name. JAMES ALTUCHER: Moonshots, yeah. JESSE: Moonshot Factory. JAMES ALTUCHER: And then I got
really interested in writing. I wrote four failed
novels, which I don’t know where they are now. They’re thrown out somewhere. And I decided I wanted to be
in the entertainment industry, so I went to work
for HBO in New York. And from that, I was able
to combine several interests at once. I knew technology. I knew how to build websites. In the mid-90s, no one else
knew how to build them. But I was also in the
entertainment industry, so I started a company
that focused on building very particular niche websites. You could probably even
tell what kind of websites just by the way I look. But almost all of our
websites were the websites of gangsta rap record labels. So– that’s supposed to
be a little bit funny. But we did Bad Boy Records, Loud
Records, “The Source Magazine,” Death Row Records, Jive Records,
and AmericanExpress.com, which most people don’t know is
actually a gangsta rap record label. And TimeWarner.com. Went We did Miramax.com,
when Harvey Weinstein was running it. And it was funny. We did ConEdison.com’s
website, and then we made an internal
website for them to keep track of
their Y2K stuff. And I remember asking them
in one of the meetings, where are you guys going
to be on December 31, 1999? And 100% of them was
like, we’re going to be long far away
from New York City then, because they had no faith
in their abilities to keep the electricity going on Y2K. But everything was fine, so
they didn’t know anything. [LAUGHTER] So I started that company. We grew pretty fast. And then during the
boom of everybody was acquiring, and IPOing, and
so on, so we sold the company. I remember my sister who was in
junior high school at the time was learning how to build
websites at that point. And I was thinking to
myself, oh my gosh. I charged HBO $75,000 to do
a 3-page website about Dennis Miller, and now my junior
high school sister’s learning how to build
websites, so this business is going down– this
industry is going downhill. And within probably within
three or four years, every single business in
that industry was bankrupt. And so I sold that company
and started a VC fund, started a hedge fund. Along the way, I
went totally broke. So I sold this
company, cashed out. It wasn’t like I had paper. Cashed out for enough money
for the next three generations of my kids, grandkids,
great grandkids could live. And then I manage to
spend every single dime. Like, there was one summer– it was really unbelievable. And again, it wasn’t
like on paper. There was one summer I probably
lost a million dollars a week. And then at the end of it,
I go to my ATM machine, and I had $143 left
in my bank account. So then I lost all this money,
and so I wrote some software to figure out, why
did I lose this money? I modeled. I did all sorts of statistical
pattern modeling, pattern recognition on the stock
market over the past 60 years, and started trading based on
this software that I wrote. Built up a hedge fund,
then a fund of hedge funds, then I built this kind of
social media site for investing. Sold that, started another
hedge fund after that. And then gradually, I started
doing more and more angel investing, because I realized
I really couldn’t handle– day trading and
hedge fund investing was so stressful
for me in every way. I remember I would
put on a trade and the trade would instantly
go against me sometimes, even if every software
was shouting it. And I thought I could outsource
my emotions to the software. And I would still
get so stressed. Like, I would go
across the street. There was a church
across from my house. And I’d go across the street. No one would be in the church. And I would literally go right
up to the statue of Jesus and I would pray, please
make S&P futures go up. [LAUGHTER] I’ll do anything. And I’m Jewish. So I’m in the Catholic church. It just wouldn’t work out. And so eventually, I did
a fund of hedge funds. But I decided to get out
of the hedge fund space, and I focused more
on angel investing, which was much easier– not easier, but much
more relaxing for me. And then I had previously
written a bunch of books in the finance space. But then suddenly, I
started writing about– this was around 2010,
I started writing about the things I
was feeling vulnerable about, and the things
I was scared about. And I realized, look, this is
much more important to people. Not everybody cares
whether Apple is a better investment than Microsoft. But everybody goes through
periods in their life where they don’t know
what they’re doing, they don’t know what path
they should be taking, they feel like maybe
they’ve made some mistakes in their journey, and they
want to reinvent themselves. And so I became very interested
because I had reinvented myself so many times, I
became very interested in this process of reinventing
myself, and getting rid of all the obstacles along the way. If anybody were to
decide, oh, I don’t want to be a software
engineer anymore. I don’t want to be an
accountant anymore. I want to be an actor,
or I want to be a writer, or I want to be a doctor,
or work in the health care business somehow, the
first thing everyone will tell you is, you can’t do
that, because I saw it time after time. I probably reinvented
my career 15 times, and that’s conservative. And every single time,
someone has said– usually the first person
I spoke to, my mother– had said, you can’t do this. [LAUGHTER] And you have to
figure out, well, how am I going to do this? Both psychologically
and mentally, how am I going to
learn to do this? How am I going to be
around the right people so that they influence me
and I’m inspired by them? How do I stay healthy enough so
I have the energy to do this? It takes a lot of energy
to reinvent a career. How do I spiritually avoid
the anxiety of failure? If you say to yourself, OK, I’m
not going to work in a cubicle. I’m going to be a
professional skateboarder. Well, if you do that initially,
you’re going to fail. Every day, you’re going to
fail at it, because you’re going to love something enough
that you’re going to realize, oh, the best people in
the world do it this way, but I’m not that good
yet, because you’re going to understand the
difference between the best and yourself. So you have to get through
the psychology of how do I keep improving, even though
it’s so hard and so painful to fail every single day? And just all these things of
the process of reinvention, the pain of reinvention,
the pain of success is very psychological, and
requires a lot of energy, and it requires a lot of– spirituality is the
wrong word, but a way of dealing with the anxiety
of trying to improve yourself no matter what age you are. We always think,
oh, when I’m 18, that’s when I’ll put
myself on the right path, because I’ll study
it in college, and then I’ll be
an expert, and then I’ll succeed at what
I studied in college. But what if at the age of 40
you decide you want to change? What if the age of 60, you
decide you want to change? And people change at every– I don’t know anybody who
has done the same thing from the age of 20 to 60. And you have to be able to deal
with all the ups and downs. Now, some people don’t,
and they stay the same, and they get gradually that
chronic level of anxiety that just builds into their system. And then every disease
basically is related to that. That slow stress that you don’t
really notice, but exists, as opposed to handling
the volatility of trying to succeed at something. That volatility eventually
subsides, and you succeed, but it’s very, very
difficult on that path. And so I became very
interested, and that’s why I just heard the podcast. That’s why I wrote these books,
“Choose Yourself,” “Reinvent Yourself.” And “Choose Yourself”
was a great example where I wanted to
write a book that was a story that was for me. And I didn’t want to deal with– and of course, because the book
was called “Choose Yourself,” I wanted to figure out,
how do I choose myself with publishing this book? If any of you have
written a book or tried to write
a book before, it’s very hard to get published,
and the rewards of it are very small. So when you submit
your book to somebody, you have to get
through an agent, you have to get through
an editor’s assistant. An editor has to say,
this is a great book. A marketing team for a
publisher has to say, this is a great book. The publisher has to say,
this is a great book. The publisher has a committee. They have to say
it’s a great book. Bookstores then have to
say it’s a great book. So all these steps
along the way, you have to have all these
people who are not qualified, really, to tell you your
book is good or bad, when you’re the only one
who’s qualified to decide. So I decided to skip that with
the book, “Choose Yourself,” and I’ve done that ever since. And that, by the way, was
my most successful book. I’ve sold over a million copies. And again, the benefits
of not only doing what you love doing, but
figuring out along the way how to avoid the
obstacles that nobody else has even thought to avoid. “Choose Yourself,” I
ended up self-publishing. I self-published it through
another smaller company down the street called Amazon. Or actually, up the street
very far, I should say. And again, with
everything you do, there’s ways to usually
choose yourself, to kind of avoid a lot of
the obstacles and pitfalls that the gatekeepers will
always try to put in your way, the you can’t do this people. So in a nutshell,
that’s my background I can talk about specific
hedge fund strategies, but that’s not is
as interesting, or how to make a
website, or whatever, but that’s not as interesting. JESSE: And you were writing
manuals for computer chips at one point, right? JAMES ALTUCHER:
Yeah, a long time ago, there was a company
called Four Systems that had the fastest chips
out there, and I was writing their manuals. And I remember– and I
wanted to be a writer. They hired me figuring A, I
knew computers, I knew hardware. I’ll play around
with their chips. I wrote the initial
software for their chips, and then I wrote the
customer manuals. And they were so bad because
you can’t do something you’re not interested in. And the CEO calls
me into his office, and he literally
said to me, don’t you take any pride in your work? And, like, what kind of
response is that going to get? Like, am I going to suddenly
realize, oh, you’re right. I should take more
pride in my work. Immediately, I
thought to myself– I’m nodding to him
on his suggestions, but I’m thinking
to myself, I have to quit this job as
quickly as possible, and that’s what I did. I quit and left for HBO. Oh,no. There was an intermediate
job in between, but yeah. JESSE: So how do you go from
that, from working a dead end job, not being
inspired, maybe having some kind of
learned helplessness around trying things on the
outside, to what you are now, which is an idea machine,
where you’re trying things constantly? If you think of
something, you do it. You have your hand in
millions of different things. You’re incredibly productive. How do you go from that
to where you are now, and maybe focus on the
incremental small steps you took in that dead end
job to get where you are now? JAMES ALTUCHER: I mean, there’s
a lot of different answers. I’ll kind of skip ahead
20 years to answer it. Not quite 20 years. Maybe 18, 17 years later. But at one point,
I was broke again probably for the third time. I kept making a lot of money,
and then somehow ferreting out the fastest way possible– it
was like it was like my life’s goal to figure out the fastest
way possible to lose millions of dollars each time. And so one time
again, I was broke, and I remember I
was on a hammock. I had two houses on this
nice piece of property, and there was a hammock
in between them. And it was just pouring
rain, and I realized, I’m broke again. It’s pouring rain. The IRS is literally,
like, stamped on the wall of the house, like,
going to be seized any day now. And I’m on this hammock. I’m thinking, how could
this happen to me again? Why is it happening to me
again and again and again? And I realized,
well, on the way up, things were
happening differently than on the way down. And it was what I
talked about earlier. On the way up, every time,
I had focused really hard on physical health, which
basically doesn’t mean, go to the gym every day, but
it means eat well, move well, sleep well. Emotional health, which means
be around good people who will support you. You need 20 or 30 positive
people in your life to counteract 1 toxic
person in your life, and it’s such an important rule. That ratio never changes. Creative health, which is
do one creative thing a day. And spiritual health,
as I referred to before. But the creative health– now, I’m going to go
back in time a few years. So a prior time I had
been broke, I decided, OK. I had never been in the hedge
fund or finance space before. I had been in the
internet space. I was a technologist. I had been in the
creative space. I had shot TV shows. I had done a bunch of things. I’d written books. But I wanted to be
in the fiance space, so that’s when I wrote this
software modeling the stock markets. And I wrote to everybody
in the business that was a hero of mine,
and I said, can you meet me for a cup of coffee? I’ll just take five
minutes of your time. Can you meet me for
a cup of coffee? I got zero response. I wrote to 50 people. I got zero responses. Because it’s not as
if Warren Buffett is going to suddenly
get my email and say, Gladys, hold all meetings. James Altucher is going to buy
me a 60 second cup of coffee downstairs, and I really
need to meet this guy and let him pick my
brain for five minutes. This was probably going to
be more like an hour or two. Nobody ever says that. I don’t know why I said
Gladys was his secretary. It seemed like the sort of– if you thought Warren
Buffett had a secretary, it’s like Gladys, or Bertha,
or something like that. [LAUGHTER] I don’t know why I think that. I don’t know I
think she’s a woman. I happen to know
she’s a woman now, but it could have been a
man he had as a secretary. But nobody responded, and
so I figured, you know what? I need to get figure out– every time something goes
wrong, the common denominator in all these– it’s not like Warren Buffett
or all of these people were bad guys. I’m the common denominator in
50 people not responding to me. So what did I do wrong? And you have to think about it. And so well, I was
being totally selfish. Bill Gates’ time is more
valuable than my time. He’s a better human
being than me, so why should he give me
five minutes of his time? And so I needed to
start exercising what I call the idea muscle. Now, if you have
a bicycle accident and you’re in the hospital
bed for two weeks, you need physical
therapy to walk again. Your leg muscles will
atrophy that quickly. So it’s the same thing
with the idea muscle. If you don’t come up with
ideas every single day, and even bad ideas,
you’ll lose the ability to come up with good ideas. And so I started writing down
10 ideas a day, just for myself. They could be ideas
about businesses. They could be ideas about
books I want to write. They could be just stupid
ideas, like, here’s 10 pieces of clothing
I’m going to design. I don’t know how
to design clothes. Here’s 10 pieces of clothing. So every day, to this day, I
soak home with 10 ideas a day. And today, for instance,
I’m an advisor on a TV show. I came up with 10
ideas for them. And yesterday, I had
an idea, 10 things– and this is not even
ideas for a business– 10 things I value
more than money. And I remember on the very
first list of ideas I wrote– this was in 2002– I wrote 10 games I
could teach people to be great at in
just 3 or 4 easy tips. So the idea is I
wanted to write a book, how to beat your
friends and family at every game in the
universe, because when you go to Thanksgiving,
you play your friend– after dinner, you break out
the Monopoly board or Scrabble, and you want to beat all
your friends and family, and humiliate them completely. And why not? If you’re going
to beat them, you might as well humiliate them. And so I wrote down
10 ideas of games. And then for each game,
three or four ideas of how to win in that game. And then now suddenly,
I had an idea for a book that I could easily
write, which I never did. Most ideas are bad. But like, take a
game like Monopoly. What’s the one
thing you need to do to beat all your friends
and family at Monopoly? It’s just one tip, and you’ll
beat everyone at Monopoly. Anybody know? AUDIENCE: Build hotels. JAMES ALTUCHER: Hmm? AUDIENCE: Build hotels. JAMES ALTUCHER: Build
hotels is not correct. AUDIENCE: Persuade them to– JAMES ALTUCHER: Persuade them? OK, if you’re a good negotiator. But there’s one
set of properties– I’ll give you a hint. There’s one set
of properties that are far more valuable than
any other set of properties by a factor of, like, 5. AUDIENCE: Park and Boulevard? JAMES ALTUCHER: So Park and
Broadway, you’re saying, Park Place and Broadway? That is the most
valuable pieces, squares, but it’s not the most
important to own. In fact, those are the worst
to own, I’m sorry to say. AUDIENCE: Railroads. JAMES ALTUCHER: No,
I’ll tell you now. Nobody got it. The orange properties, the
New York Ave, St. James Place, and Tennessee, and
I’ll tell you why. The most popular square
to land on in Monopoly is jail, because there’s
three ways to land on jail. You either land on
the go to jail square, the dice take you to jail, or
the Community Chest has a card, go to jail immediately. So there’s three
ways to let on jail. It’s the most popular
square on the board. The most popular roll
with the dice is a seven. Seven takes you to the
utility right in the middle of the orange squares. So you’re most likely to
land on the orange squares, so you should own
the orange squares, and then build hotels on
just the orange squares, and then you’ll win. Bam, that’s Monopoly. After the talk, I can
answer about any other game, but Monopoly’s the
easiest to understand. So then I started writing 10
ideas for these other people. So I wrote 20 emails where I
really researched each person. I said, here’s 10 ideas
for your business. I didn’t ask for
a cup of coffee. I didn’t ask for anything. With one guy, I wrote
here’s 10 ideas– he was a well-known
writer, still is– 10 ideas articles about
investing you should write. With another person, big
hedge fund manager, I said, here’s 10 pieces of
software that you could use. We have a very similar
stylistic way of investing. Here’s 10 pieces of software. I’ll even teach your employees
how to use the software. They work. Here’s my personal
track record with them. You could have them. And another person, I
wrote 10 ideas for him. And out of those 20,
3 people responded. You still get a very
low response rate, but you’re giving now
instead of trying to take. Ideas are all about giving. You always want to help
people with each idea. So the writer said,
these are great ideas. Why don’t you write them for us? So I started writing
for his website. It was Jim Cramer. We started for his
website, thestreet.com. And then I got a book
deal based on what I was writing, because it was
very different type of stuff. And then I wrote
seven or eight books about investing
after that, and I’ve been on CNBC a billion times. Jim Cramer’s about to
come on my podcast again, so you build a
relationship over decades. And another person who responded
was this big hedge fund manager. He invited me over for lunch. We got to know each other,
and he ended up personally investing money with me, and
then I started my hedge fund. And then the third
person who responded said, yeah, sure let’s
have lunch, and talk about these ideas. I never responded to him. 12 years later I hit reply
on that exact same email and I said, hey, can you come
on my podcast instead of lunch? This is 2014. I hit reply on that
email instead of 2002. He responded and said, sure. It’s the only podcast
he’s ever been on, Nassim Taleb, who wrote
“Fooled By Randomness,” “Black Swan,” “Antifragile.” And now he’s coming– when’s
he coming on my podcast again? In February. So he’s never been
on any other podcast. So that’s another
thing I typically do is I’ll go through my
emails from 10 years ago, and I have 280,000
unread emails. So I’ll hit reply on
an email from 2007, and just answer as if I
got the email yesterday, and no one has
ever not responded to that way of
getting back in touch. You know how sometimes you don’t
get back in touch with someone and you feel really
bad about it? Wait 10 years, and then
reply, life hack number 867. So this idea stuff, I haven’t
stopped doing it since 2002. Every single day, I’ll
write down 10 ideas. But then sometimes people say– sorry if I’m answering
very long here. JESSE: No, it’s great. JAMES ALTUCHER: But you asked
about the micro steps to take. Sometimes, people say, oh,
ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution’s everything. People don’t realize
execution ideas are a subset of actual ideas. So I’ll give an example
that involves Google, and particularly Android. I was at a birthday dinner,
and a friend of mine was there with his
brand new girlfriend. And I said, oh, you guys
look really cute together. And they said, oh, we
just had the conversation. We’re going steady now. And I’m like, do people
still say that, going steady? Like, is that a phrase? And he said, yeah, we even
deleted our dating apps. So I had an idea the next day. I did 10 app ideas. And one of the ideas was,
let’s make a going steady app. And a going steady would be you
download the going steady app. You link to each other. You both say,
we’re going steady, and it deletes all the
dating apps on both phones. And it keeps track of all the
dating apps out there, just in case there are new ones. And if the other side ever
downloads a dating app or does anything tricky– we’d figured it all out– the other person gets informed. And so I wrote down,
what’s the 10– So then the next
day, I wrote, here’s the 10 mini execution steps. It’s not like, oh, how will I
raise VC funding for this app? That’s the stupidest
thing of all. You don’t think of ways to help
people and then immediately say, give me money
to help people. You need to show that you’re
a qualified and good person to help people. So I thought, what are the
10 next steps in execution that I can do to
create this app? So I went on freelance.com and
I speced out the whole app. So first, I speced out
the whole app, actually. I said, this is what the
front screen looks like. This is what the sub
screens look like. Here’s how you log on. Here’s how two people
connect to each other here. Here’s how two people
message each other. Here’s the list of apps
I want to watch out for. And then I speced it
out on a freelance.com. I got 10 companies from
US, India, and Malaysia, the big three, as we call them– that was a joke. And everybody said, oh, we’ll
do it for $1,000, or $2,000, or $500. And then I called up
each one and I said, the one question I
have that I don’t know and I can’t figure it
out with my research, the one question I
have is, can Android and iOS from within
an app see what other apps are on the phone? It turns out Android,
yes, iOS, no. And since I didn’t want to just
do it for one operating system, I didn’t do that idea, even
though I’m absolutely sure it would have been a huge hit. But here’s a case
where I had the idea, I had the execution
ideas, I executed on them. It took me three
hours, two hours from beginning to
end to figure out to spec out the site, the app,
advertise it, to actually find developers, call them, figure
out what my main question was, ask them, and determine it
was not a good enough idea. So execution is not as
hard as people think, but you still have to be
good at idea generation to be good at execution
idea generation so you know what those
micro execution steps are. Now, if anyone can
help me figure out how to do it from within an iOS
app to see the other iOS apps, we’re in business. [LAUGHTER] But that’s kind of an example
of ideas can lead to execution. They’re not separate. It’s not that execution’s
everything, ideas are nothing. They’re interwoven
and connected. So that was my huge
response to that question. JESSE: That was a great answer. JAMES ALTUCHER: Thank you. JESSE: So you’ve had these
kind of wild financial swings that you just
described your life, and it’s been kind of a
volatile path for you. How has that changed
your philosophy, and how have things like
minimalism, and stoicism, and kind of non-attachment
to material things and money informed the way you think now? JAMES ALTUCHER: Yeah. I see what I call failure porn
all over the internet now. Like, oh, I failed, so my
next thing will be a success. Oh, I failed. Here’s 10 things I learned. That sort of tells me that
they didn’t quite fail, because failure’s really
insanely painful and difficult, some failures more than others. And it’s really unpleasant. Like, it’s an unpleasant
feeling in your stomach. Just because you hit
rock bottom doesn’t mean you’re not going
to go even lower. Most people I know who say,
well, I hit bottom here, and then if I drill– like on
my podcast, people will say, I hit rock bottom here. And I’m like, really? Well, where were you
six months later? And they were like, well,
then I was in the street with a needle out of my elbow. Well OK, that sounds more
like rock bottom to me. [LAUGHTER] So it’s really painful. But I think that’s
what really focused me on at the end of
the day, I really– and I say this to
my daughters, too– A, I ask them to ask themselves,
who have I helped today? Because if you’ve helped, that
means you have some energy, and that means you
have ideas, and so on. But really, I make sure I
check the list every day, physical health, emotional
health, creative or idea health, and spiritual health. And the spiritual
health, again, can I deal with the inevitable
things that I can’t control, like, oh, this business failed. It’s over. There was one day– can
I tell a story again? Do we have time? JESSE: Yeah, yeah. Go for it. JAMES ALTUCHER:
So there’s one day I was on the set of a TV show. Some friends of mine had
created this TV show, and they invited me to watch
the pilot being filmed. And one of my favorite
directors was filming the pilot. Some of my favorite
actors were in the show, having the best day. I was on the board of a company,
and my shares in this company were worth millions of dollars. And I get this message in the
middle of the day, emergency board meeting. And I’m thinking, great. The company got sold. I’m going to finally
cash in on these shares, and it’s going to be great. And I get on the call, and it
was announced right away, well, our largest shareholder, he
just told us he owes $90 million to the IRS. He never disclosed that before. We had to tell our bank. Our bank has fired us
as the management team, except for this
one board meeting. They’re going to pick
apart the company and just sell it in pieces
to their other customers. It was a billion
revenue company, and they’re going to
sell off each region and dissolve the company
just so that they can make their money back. We owed them like $15
million, which was nothing, really, for a billion revenue
company, but this was the rule. And within days, my shares
went from being worth millions to being worth zero. And I tried on the
board on the call, how about I buy the pieces,
or how about I find buyers for each piece of the company,
or how about I raise money, and we just pay back the bank? And they were like, everything
I said, it was just too late. They’ve already locked
us out of the offices. It’s over. And now, I get off the phone. And now, my favorite actor is
filming this amazing scene. If I even told you the
scene, you’ve seen the show and you’ve seen the scene. And my favorite director,
he’s directed “Limitless.” He directed all
these great movies. And I just figured,
you know what? I’m in the middle of nowhere. I just lost millions
of dollars, but this is the first time I’m ever on
the set of a TV show like this. I’m just going to enjoy
the rest of the day. And so I spent the next
eight hours asking questions to the directors, the
writers, the actors. And a few months
later, I explain to one of the writers what
had happened that day. And they were like, oh my gosh. You were the last one to leave. You were asking questions
all day long and enjoying it. And I think it’s
really important. I couldn’t control
anymore that situation, and I knew I wasn’t going to
sleep that night, because I was going to be
depressed and anxious. But I figured, OK. Right now, I’m
here, and I’m never going to get this chance again. We only live one life, and
I’m going to learn a lot, and I’m going to
take what I learned into new things, and
new opportunities. And I decided to
focus on that and not think about this negative thing. I made an appointment to think
about it later with myself when I got home, and that’s
how I acted in the day. And I think not wallowing
in things you can’t control is a very important part of
moving forward and making progress in life. Otherwise, you’ll just
be always held back by these negative events
you can’t control. JESSE: And how do
you use failure to hack the 10,000 hour rule? So for those of you
that don’t know, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a
book called “Outliers,” about 10,000 hours required
to– or this is just part of the book– 10,000 hours required to be
really great at any skill. And it does make you a
little kind of defeatist. It makes you think, I have
to be Mozart or Andre Agassi to get really good
at a certain skill. So how do you use failure to
kind of short circuit that? JAMES ALTUCHER: Yeah, so
that’s a great question. So anytime you want to
get good at something, I don’t know how old many
of you are, but I’m 49. I’m going to be 50 in a month. And just as an example,
over the past year, I’ve gotten somewhat obsessed
with doing stand up comedy. So I do stand up comedy
at different clubs all around New York. I’m doing Chicago next week. I go up three to six times a
week, and it’s a scary thing. It’s the scariest thing and
it’s the hardest skill I’ve ever had to learn, and I’ve
learned many different skills in my life that are
considered hard skills. And I talk to a
lot of comedians, and they were all like, yeah
20 years, 15 to 20 years. If you’re watching a
special on Netflix, chances are that
comedian you’re watching has been doing it
for at least 15, probably more like
20 or 25 years. And I’m thinking to
myself, oh my gosh. I want to do this in a year. I don’t want to be doing
this when I’m 70 years old. And it’s so painful
because yeah, you’re making people laugh. But before you go on,
you’re really nervous. And sometimes, you bomb. And sometimes, you get heckled. And sometimes, you feel
really awful afterwards. And there’s so many
subskills you need to learn. It’s not just about
telling a good joke. There’s maybe
different subskills. And by way of comparison, I’d
say becoming a chess master, maybe there’s 20 different
mutually exclusive subskills you have to learn and master to
become an overall chess master. With comedy, I would say
there’s about 50 subskills. And so part of this is related
to here I said to myself, well, I’ve been doing all these– I’ve done 300 podcasts with
amazing performers, the best performers in the
world at what they do. Again, I’ll mention Tony
Hawk at skateboarding, or Garry Kasparov at chess,
or Astro Teller from Google has been on my podcast. Sara Blakely is
probably the only self-made female billionaire
on the Forbes list, who invented Spanx. She’s been on my podcast. Arianna Huffington,
so many great writers, actors, comedians,
athletes, entrepreneurs. Richard Branson was just on. But on the 10,000 hour
rule specifically, I also had on
Anders Ericsson, who Malcolm Gladwell in
his book “Outliers,” he’s quoting Anders Ericsson
on the 10,000 hour rule. So I wanted to know, so I
invite Anders Ericsson on. Anders Ericsson broke it down. It’s not quite 10,000 hours. That was just a catchy phrase
that was used in the book. For some people,
it’s 10,000 hours. For others, it wasn’t. He said the Beatles, which
was the example in the book, the Beatles performed 24 hours
a day at these German porn clubs before they were famous. And that was how they got their
10,000 hours was the example Gladwell used. Now, Anders Ericsson thought it
was more like 4,000 hours when he calculated it out. So I figured, OK, it might not
be 10,000 hours for everybody, if you have some talent and
so on, although Ericsson doesn’t believe in talent. And then I started
asking everybody, what were common denominators in
your 10,000 hours, in your move towards world excellence? And there’s a couple of
ways that you can kind of hack the 10,000 hours. And an important one– I’ll get to failure
in a second– but an important
one is building up a strong community of
friends who are already successful in that subculture. So anything you
want to get good at, let’s say you want to
get good at tennis. There’s already a subculture. Like, if you just show up
at the professional tennis courts or whatever,
nobody’s going to talk to you, because
they don’t know who you are, and they’re already friends
with all the other pros. They don’t want to talk
with the weaker players. But if you can
somehow figure out how to be friends with all
the strong people in the space that you want to
get good at, you can literally skip five
to eight years of work, because they know everything
you’re doing wrong. They could just look
at what you’re doing, and they say, this, this,
this, this, you’re doing wrong. So as an example, I had a ping–
like many people, probably, I had a ping pong table in
my basement when I was a kid. I played ping pong every day
the whole time I was growing up, an I’ve played ping
pong for 40 years. Then I took ping pong lessons
a few months ago from a world class ping pong player. Like, he’s world champion level. 100% of the things I
was doing were wrong. So the way I held
the racket, the way I swung, the way I did the
backhand, the racket itself, the way I stood, even the
way I kept score was wrong. I didn’t even know– [LAUGHTER] I didn’t even know the
rules of ping pong. So just by taking a few
lessons, I immediately was like much, much better
than I was for 40 entire years. And so that’s the
importance of being around– there’s that saying,
you’re the average of the five people around you. Well, if everybody around
you is a chess grandmaster, you’re going to be
much more easily be a chess grandmaster
as opposed just playing bad people all day. And that’s true for
everything in life. That’s one fast way
to hack a good let’s say it really is 10,000 hours,
although I think it’s less. That’s a way to hack,
like, at least 4,000 or 5,000 hours out
of that 10,000 hours. Now, failure is
extremely important. So let’s say comedy– I go up on stage. And one time, I go up, and
I use the same exact joke, and everybody laughs. The second time I go up on
stage, and nobody laughs. In fact, I might
even get heckled. And I have videos of both. I videotape all the
times I go up on stage, or most of the times
I go up on stage. So I’ll take the
videos, and I’ll show it to several
comedians, and I’ll say, what is the difference
between these two videos? I don’t understand. I’m not seeing something. But they’ve been
doing it 20 years, so they instantly see many,
many things that I don’t see. I’m completely blind. For me, I’m only asking,
is the joke funny or not? For them, they’re asking, how
are you holding the microphone? How are you moving
around the stage? What does your voice sound like? Are there more men than
women in the audience? Are there more older people than
younger people in the audience? Are there more tourists or
non-tourists in the audience? Do you have a friend in
the audience who happens to be the first one laughing? There’s so many things
they are looking at. They might say, you may
think you said the same joke, but it’s actually a different
joke in these various ways. You switched these
two words, or you took two sips of water
instead of one sip of water in the middle of that joke. That was one response
that was completely 100% the reason why the same joke
was funny one time and not funny the other is that in
the middle of the joke, I took two sips of water
instead of one sip of water. And there was a
reason, the timing created too much tension
on the two sips of water versus the one sip of water. But it took a professional
comedian to tell me that. So again, failure
allows you to ask– you can say, oh,
I failed at this. I’m going to quit, and
that’s what most people do. Anything that’s
worth doing is hard. Else, everybody would be
a success in everything. So everything worth doing
is very, very difficult, so you’re going to
fail in big ways and you’re going to fail in
little ways every single day. Every single time I go on
stage, I fail at something. And I’m just speaking
specifically about comedy. I could be talking about chess. I could be talking
about business. In business, there are so
many subskills– again, I would probably say there’s
about 30 different subskills that you have to
master with each one to make money for yourself. But I’ll just stick to the
comedy example for a second. I had one case where– oh, but this is why
it’s important to– the question is, how
do you get to get professional comedians look
at my little stupid videos? They don’t want me to be better. They don’t want an extra person
saying he or she’s a comedian. But because of my
business expertise, I bought part of the comedy club
that I performed at the most, now, and I have a podcast. So I could talk to almost any
comedian I want to talk to. And right in the
middle of my podcast, oh, this is part of the podcast. Look at these two videos
of me doing comedy. Tell me where I went wrong. And it’s a great
way to get feedback. And so I’ve figured out how
to hack getting professionals to look at these mini
failures I do along the way and give me help. So most people wouldn’t even
guess what the most important skill is in comedy. You would think the
obvious, which is humor. Now, by the way, humor
itself is divided into a bunch of
different subskills, like how you write a punchline
is different than how you tell a funny story. A funny story in
public speaking doesn’t work telling the same
story in stand up comedy. No one will laugh. In comedy, everyone will
laugh in public speaking. But the most important
skill that many comedians have told me is not
humor, but likability. And so that’s why you see
many comics who are unknown. They get on stage, and they
start talking to the audience, where are you from? Or they say, I grew
up, and I was bullied, and here’s the worst bullying. And then they try to
make a joke at the end, but they’re self-deprecating
in the beginning, so the audience can
relate a little bit. That’s only one way
to build likability. There’s other ways
to build likability, and you’re learning
all those subskills. But like on business, I’ll
give you a very important set of subskills. So obviously,
product development is an important
subskill in business. But most people think
that’s the only skill. Oh, if we build a good product,
people will buy the product. VCs will invest in money. I have done hundreds of angel
investments at this point. I’ll tell you an incredibly
important skill that is different from any
other skill in business, but I won’t invest unless I
see that the CEO and maybe the other investors
have this skill. It’s really hard to
sell your company. Nobody wants to write you a
check that will make you rich. Nobody wakes up in the morning
and says, you know what? Today, I’m going
to make Jesse rich. Nobody has ever woken up and
said that in their lives. JESSE: It’s unfortunate. [LAUGHTER] JAMES ALTUCHER: No one has
said that about anybody. So having the ability to
convince somebody else, like, of course selling a company is
not about making somebody rich. But the reality is, it is. And so there’s all
sorts of ways you have to have this skill
to convince people to buy your company, and
that’s a 100% different skill than raising money, than
selling the products, than managing employees, than
sales, than negotiations, than building a product. All of these skills
are important. Dealing with a landlord
is almost as important a skill as developing a
product for various reasons that most people
wouldn’t suspect. For instance, if Google bought
a company, and I had a landlord, my landlord has to
approve that Google’s the new tenant instead of me. And if the landlord says no,
you can’t sell your company. So there’s all
these little things that most people
don’t think about when they start a company,
and it’s been the cause of so many
failures of mine, investing in the
wrong set of skills. And now, I have
one trick for it, which is I only invest in
it alongside people smarter than me. So I outsource my
thinking to people who have big research
teams doing due diligence. And ideally, the CEO has built
and sold the company before, so I know he’s got the
whole skill set, and so on. But these are some ways in
which failure has taught me. And I’ll just give you one
quote from so Ray Dalio was on my podcast last week. We haven’t released the podcast
yet, but he is the founder and still runs the largest
hedge fund in the world. He’s worth tens of billions. He said in the podcast,
“Pain plus reflection equals progress,” and
that’s a very valuable quote relating to how you
hack these 10,000 hours. JESSE: Yeah. I want to get to
Q&A in a second. But real quick, I want to
couple two questions together. JAMES ALTUCHER: Sure. I promise I’ll answer
it more quickly. JESSE: No, you’re all good. So the two questions are, what’s
your favorite podcast you’ve ever done, and why? And then the second question is,
what’s your favorite life hack? Or to put it a
different way, what’s the one thing these people can
do that will have the greatest multiplicative effect,
positive effect on their life, whether it’s sleep or whatever? JAMES ALTUCHER: Sure. So the best podcast
I’ve ever done, it’s really hard to
answer, because I learn so much from all
of these amazing people. Like, I don’t know how many
people grew up on Judy Blume books, for instance. Like I grew up reading– Judy Blume was the best
children’s writer in the 1970s. She sold 150 million
copies of her books. And I would never
have imagined when I was in fifth
grade or sixth grade that one day, I was going
to talk to Judy Blume. Like, that was an
amazing moment for me. I know it doesn’t sound
like the most amazing thing. But usually the best
podcast I’ve ever had is my last podcast,
because that’s the one that’s still
so fresh in my memory, and I’m thinking
about it, and thinking about the things they say. So again, Ray Dalio
was the last one I did. But I’ll talk about the
worst podcast I ever did and what I learned from it. So this was in 2014,
I did this podcast with the rapper Biz Markie. Do you know Biz Markie? He did that song,
“Just a Friend.” It’s kind of a popular song. And I said to him, what’s it
like that everybody knows you primarily? You’ve done a lot of songs and
albums and things in your life, but everybody primarily knows
you from “Just a Friend?” And he was very upset. He said, I’ve done much
more than “Just a Friend.” And I said, that’s true, but
two things I want to point out. One, if I go to your
website, the song immediately starts
playing, “Just a Friend.” [LAUGHTER] And if I were to go to China
right now and ask anybody, do you know who Biz Markie is? If they know you at all, they’re
going to sing, “Just a Friend.” So he’s like, yeah, but
I did “Yo Gabba Gabba” on Nickelodeon. I did this song, that
song, and he hung up on me. So it’s only time somebody ever
hung up on me in a podcast. And so I figured,
OK, well it’s not so fun to just put
this podcast up. So what I did was I had
the audio engineer play the podcast, and then
with another person, we analyzed what I did wrong
throughout this podcast. So we kept having the engineer
rewind, fast forward, rewind, fast forward, and
we kept commenting how I could have done a
better job on this podcast. So I made it like a meta podcast
about doing this bad podcast. So everything is content. Process is art. Just as much as the outcome,
the process of the final outcome is artistic in and of itself. We had scheduled at one
point for the podcast Jordan Belfort, who he’s famous for
being The Wolf of Wall Street. He’s a criminal. He once spent time in jail. He did his time, so I
shouldn’t say he’s a criminal, but he spent time in jail. Leonardo DiCaprio
plays him in the movie. But before the
podcast, he asks– it’s the only the time
I was ever asked this. He asks– his publicity team. I shouldn’t say he– his publicity team
said, you need to submit all the
questions in advance. And I said, no. Soviet Russia did that. Like, I’m not doing that. And I’m going to ask him
whatever I want to ask him. And listen to my podcast. I’m never mean to
anybody on my podcast. It’s not like I’m
trying to trap somebody. So it shows me they didn’t
their work on my podcast, and I didn’t want to–
and anyway, it wasn’t like he was a peak performer. The guy was a criminal, so they
want to have him on my podcast. Again, he did his time. Not a criminal. I have to say that, legally. So was that a
failure or a success? Well, I wrote an article
mentioning that I turned process into content. It was an article that appeared
on 20 different platforms, got tens of thousands of views. And I don’t think
he’s a bad guy. It could have just been
his publicity team. I have no idea. But everything I do that doesn’t
work out, I always figure out, how do I take this
process and turn it into art in some other way,
or turn it into a business, or turn it into an
opportunity, or turn it into an idea for somebody else? So I always repeat that
to myself every day, process is art. Because whatever we
do, however we falter, even if I completely fail,
for instance, at comedy, the process of failing, like,
I’ve written about bombing. And just the process of how
you deal with that becomes art. And for me, art, I write
for so many different things and for so many
different reasons, it becomes connected to
all my other businesses. So now, not only am I writing
about bombing in comedy. But for one group of my readers,
I’m writing about failure. And another group of
readers, I’m writing about, here’s the metalanguage
of how to learn anything, and part of the
process of me learning something that’s a hard skill. It doesn’t matter
what this skill is. So there’s so many
different levels. When you treat process
as art, there’s so many different
ways you can use that to create new works
of art that have nothing to do with how you started,
so that’s incredibly valuable. So I think that was the answer
to, what’s my favorite podcast? So I took that Biz
Markie experience and I made art out of
it in a different way than I had initially expected. And then your
second question was? JESSE: Life hack, favorite one. JAMES ALTUCHER: OK. And this happened to
me even yesterday. Somebody comes up
to me and says, I read your suggestion
of doing 10 ideas a day. I thought it was nothing. The best life hacks
are not like, oh, inject this super soldier
serum into your arm, and you’re going to
become Captain America. The best life hacks
are simple ones that people don’t realize the
compound effect of it over time becomes a miracle. And so writing 10 ideas a
day improves your idea muscle and strengthens your
idea muscle 1% a day. 1% a day compounded
is 3,800% a year, billions of percent
over 10 years. So your ability to compete
against everyone else becomes so powerful over time,
even over the course of a year, even over the course
of three months. If you just write 10 ideas a
day– and someone came up to me and told me this yesterday. He said, I didn’t think
this would be anything. I figured, I’ll try it
for a couple of weeks. And he said it was like
magic what happened. It creates so many
opportunities. It’ll create so many– whether it’s businesses, or
skills, or relationships, or if you want to meet your
future wife or husband, it’s this one thing. And I’m not even
advising people to do it. This is what it’s done for
me, and the results of that have been incredible. And then number
two, of course, is making sure no toxic
people are in your life. You cannot cure a toxic person. You can only remove yourself
from their presence. And so be around people
you love and who love you. I know it sounds
corny or cliche, but I even described
it in a simple way. As a hack, to take between
4,000 and 8,000 hours out of the 10,000 hour rule,
it’s so incredibly important. Those two things
alone are if you just do that, your life’s going
to change almost overnight. And you know, we keep
toxic people in our lives all the time. We think, oh, I have to
deal with this person because they’re my cousin,
or they’re my neighbor, or they’re my friend
since high school. Well, let me tell you something
is important about that. The guy who lives in another
town who you never see, that’s never the toxic
person in your life. It’s always the
people close to you that you think
you can’t get away from that are the toxic
people in your life. And that’s the hard thing
for people to realize. Oh, no. That’s my grandma. I can’t avoid her. Well, I’m sorry. You only live one life. Are you going to spend
a big percentage of it with somebody who’s
going to ruin your life? Anyway, I don’t want to end
on a negative note, though. [LAUGHTER] So I will say that
10 ideas a day and being around people
you love and who love you, that hacks’ really
the 10,000 hour rule, because that allows
you to take failure, and just fling yourself
onto your idea machine, and onto these
people who love you, and they are the safety net
that will bounce you back up. JESSE: Awesome. Do you guys have any questions? Yeah. AUDIENCE: You alluded to family. And I was just wondering in
these tumultuous ups and downs how that affected your children,
or how did you protect them, or did you want them
to be part of that? And then, yeah, that’s– JAMES ALTUCHER:
OK, great question. So the question is, when I was
having these ups and downs– and they happened maybe
four or five times. Let’s say three where I went
completely broke to the point where I lost a home,
had tax issues, was really depressed
and suicidal, and there were other
times kind of in-between. And how did this affect
my family, particularly my children? So I had two daughters,
and now they’re older. I suppose ultimately, they
would know better than me how it affected them. But I tried very hard to
be positive around them, and not let them see how
things were affecting me, and try to put things in
the best possible light. I suppose that, to some
extent, having two daughters for me, personally, inspired
me in a couple of ways to keep going for their sake,
and to show them that this is– You can’t teach by
telling somebody, do this. You can only teach by example. And I don’t know what
the final result will be. They’re 18 and 15 now. But I hope that by example
through all these years, they turn out to
be– and so far, so good– they turn
out to be good adults. But I always try to buffer
them from everything. I’m sure it worked
to some extent. It didn’t work for others. Maybe in some ways, they’re
more anxious about things than I realize. But again, time will tell. I did think of it, though,
and being aware of it is the first solution. And just doing the best you can
is, after that, is important. But I wouldn’t, like,
shake them, and say, you’re two years old. We’re going broke. [LAUGHTER] Like, I would never
do anything like that. For better or for worse,
their mother and I did get divorced, though. I don’t know if it was
related to all my failures, but I certainly wouldn’t want to
be married to me at that point, so– JESSE: Any other questions? Yeah. Hold on one sec. AUDIENCE: In 2018, what’s your
thoughts on going to college? JAMES ALTUCHER: 2018,
what’s my thoughts on going to the college? The same as my thoughts in 2005. So in 2005, I was a columnist
for “The Financial Times,” and I wrote this article,
“Why Nobody Should Ever Go to College Again.” And at the time, I was
the only person saying it, and there was lots of people
trashing me on different blogs. I actually lost some good
friendships over this. And now, I think it’s a
more viable discussion. I think people can have this
discussion without being slaughtered by everybody else. But the way I see it is
in college, so many– tuitions have gone up
faster than inflation every single year since 1977. For every single
year, there hasn’t been one year where inflation
went up higher than tuitions. And in part, that’s because the
government backs will lend you money against your tuition,
and it’s the one kind of loan you can’t get rid
of in a bankruptcy. So of course, let’s give it
to every 18-year-old who’s totally unqualified
to borrow this money. So you create this skewed– there’s already there’s a
problem in society where rich people get
certain benefits. I don’t mean to sound– this is not a political bias. This is the truth. Rich people have
certain benefits, and poor people don’t. And that divide gets
greater and greater, and that’s why we have all this
political strife right now. More than ever before, we have
all these political enemies. Like, half of Facebook
hates the other half of Facebook, and
vice versa, because of these political problems. And I think in part,
it’s created by some kids go to Harvard, and their
parents can pay for it, and other kids borrow $200,000
to go to a worse school. And meanwhile, there’s
plenty of places online to learn faster and better. There are so many online
educational resources to learn more than you would
have learned in college that I don’t understand
why 100% of kids don’t just learn for free,
better, and start making money, and don’t go into debt. It seems to me like a no-brainer
just thinking about it. Now, I have an 18-year-old. And so she was a senior last
year, which foreshadowing. [LAUGHTER] I kept saying to her throughout
her whole high school, we need to have
this conversation. You’re not going to college. And she would just– which wasn’t really a
conversation, right? It’s like a command. And she would literally
just turn around and start walking away. And I would say, don’t
walk away from me. It’s like the only time I ever
got angry about her was, like, on the topic of college. I’m like, don’t
walk away from me. We’re in the middle of a mall. I want to argue with you in
front of all these people. Because that’s the only time
we’d spend time together was when I would
take her shopping. But I realized several things. One is, A, I wasn’t
being a very good father if she didn’t feel
comfortable having a very basic conversation with me. So again, I had to
parent by example, and show openmindedness,
and listen to what she wanted
to do with her life, and offer her real alternatives. I even wrote a book, “40
Alternatives to College,” and I self-published it, and
she did not read the book. [LAUGHTER] So one time I said to her,
look, what do you want to be? And I know she’s going
to see this on a video, but she lied to me, I suspect. And she said, oh, I want
to be a neurobiologist. And I’m like, you have
never once spoken to me about anything relating to
neuro, or biology, or any ogy, or any neur. [LAUGHTER] You’re just not
interested in this. Are you interested in chemistry? Are you interested
in statistics? Are you interested in
all these subthings you’re going to have to learn? And she’s like, yeah,
yeah, I’m interested. And so I would buy her
neurobiology books. Did you read it? Never read it. But I knew since she
was in kindergarten, she’s been in every single
performance in her school ever. So I’m like, you
want to be an actor. Why don’t you act? And I’m like, well, you
have to go to college to go major in acting. I’m like, no you don’t. The first skill in acting
is learning how to audition, so here’s what
we’re going to do. This is what I offered to her. I’m going to give you in
cash, like, a brick of cash, the tuition I would have paid
to that school you’re going to. The president of
that school just agreed to go on the podcast,
so I shouldn’t make fun of it. [LAUGHTER] And all you have to do is watch
a movie with me every morning. We’ll pick a different
movie every day. You just have to watch one
movie with me every morning, and then spend the rest of
the day going on auditions, because you’ll learn A,
if you like the lifestyle. B, you’ll learn how to get
better at auditions when you’re 18 instead of when you’re 23. C, you won’t have
any kind of debt, or I would have saved an
enormous amount of money. And you’ll just be that much
ahead of all your peers. You’ll learn so much more
about acting actually being in New York. I happened to have had Broadway
producers and other producers on my podcast. It’s one call for me
to get you auditions. That’s the real advantage you
have, and might as well take advantage of it. And she said, no. Instead, she decided
to go to college, which she’s enjoying very much. And so I’m against it, and she’s
an adult. And I figured, OK. I don’t know if I did the
right thing or the wrong thing, but I wanted to be
supportive of her. Now, she’s deciding
what to major in. At least major in acting so you
learn a real skill that you’re interested in, and not learn
something like neurobiology, which I know you’re
not interested. It’s not like being
a neuroscientist is a fallback profession. Just learn an actual skill
that’s very hard to learn, acting, and then you could
see if you want to be an actor and come to New York. Now, people will
say, well, what’s she going to do later on if
it doesn’t work out as acting? Does anyone here– well, This
is a different sort of place. But most people I
know don’t actually do what they learned in college. I was a computer science major. I went to grad school
for computer science. And then my first real job
doing computer programming, I was so bad at
programming, I had to go to remedial programming
classes for two months just to be at the lowest level
of my job at programming. I went to an Ivy League
undergraduate school for computer science, and I
went to a top two or three graduate school for
computer science. Again, many employees here went
to the same graduate school. I know. They were my class. And it didn’t help me. Only the real world helps you. So that’s my two cents
on 2018, which is no. JESSE: There you go. Anybody else? JAMES ALTUCHER:
Don’t go to college. [LAUGHTER] JESSE: Let’s pass the mic
over there, if possible. AUDIENCE: What’s
your biggest insight on relationship and dating
that most people don’t realize? JAMES ALTUCHER: Biggest
insight on a relationship and dating that most
people don’t realize. And to qualify, I am
really not an expert, but I will tell you
a couple of things I’ve learned through failure,
and then a couple of things I’m trying to guess
as I go along. First off, I don’t
know if you remember this book, “The Rules.” It was written in the ’90s,
sold 3 million copies, great book these two
women wrote about dating. They were on my
podcast recently. And I’m not going to
discuss their book, but they gave me advice. And their advice to me
was do online dating. And I said, no. I’m never going to
do online dating. And they said, why not? And I said, everything is
related to supply and demand. The value of how you
look at something is always related to
supply and demand. I sort of feel for me personally
that online dating creates this illusion of
infinite supply, so it reduces the value, for me,
of a relationship, a long term relationship. Now, short-term, who knows? That’s not what I go for. I go for a long-term. And for me, I feel like
having just a feeling of infinite supply,
well, all right. This person doesn’t
like Chinese food. Swipe. I’m on to the next one. So it reduces this
value I place on really getting to know somebody. So I prefer meeting
somebody through friends or through some sort
of interactions. But the other thing
that’s really important is it’s OK for– you have to have
anger compatibility with who you go out with. You ever have that relationship
where you’re arguing over here, and they’re arguing over here? And somehow, you’re
trying to put– I don’t understand
what you’re saying. You just said this,
but now you’re saying– you’re not compatible in
the way you’re arguing. There’s some line of
communication completely off. Now, many people will
say, well, that happens in every relationship. But I’ve seen plenty
of relationships where that never happens. And they argue, and maybe
they have a serious argument. But somehow, they resolve it. So I think anger
compatibility is important. The other thing I will
say is it’s one thing when two people
are able to support each other through hard times. If you’re in a relationship
with somebody and they get sick, you help them
through hard times. Or if they fail at business,
which happens to me regularly, you help me through hard times. But that is not the
important thing to note. The important
thing to really ask is, does this other
person helped me through successful times? So let’s say you were
dating somebody who– I’ll just use the
actress example– they say to you, I
just got an acting gig. I’m going to costar in
“Ocean’s 18” with Brad Pitt, and I’ve got to kiss Brad Pitt
in the middle of the movie. Now, I think a really good
thing is to be supportive of them achieving their dreams. And they, in turn, will
be supportive of you, and that’s a sign of an
extremely healthy relationship that will last forever. And there’s even
studies that show that that’s the type
of relationship that will last forever. Even more so than the
people who help each other during hard times is the
people who support each other during successful times. So I think that’s
really important. And then finally, I will
quote a good friend of mine. I’ve had both him and
his wife on my podcast. Basically, he said to me,
the most important decision you’ll ever make
for your career is who you decide to spend
the rest of your life with, and I really do agree with that. JESSE: Who was that person? JAMES ALTUCHER: So
it’s Brian Koppelman. He wrote “Rounders,” “Ocean’s
13,” speaking of “Ocean’s.” He wrote one of my favorite
movies, “Solitary Man.” He writes the TV
show, “Billions.” And his wife’s Amy Koppelman. She’s written three
excellent novels, plus the movie, “I Smile Back,”
starring Sarah Silverman. And they’ve been
together forever. We were giving a talk at a– I was interviewing
him at another company and he said this to me
either in the talk or maybe when we were on the plane. I forget, but I
remember it, though. JESSE: Do you want to
take the final question? AUDIENCE: Yeah, I’d love to. So I’m super curious
about this, and I just felt like I had to ask. So first of all, I
was going to ask you what are you most proud of? And then I was like, no,
I’m more curious about this. And I’m more curious– JAMES ALTUCHER: I’ll
answer that real quickly. I’m most proud of
speaking here at Google. AUDIENCE: Awesome. JAMES ALTUCHER: Obviously
Google, oh my gosh. I’m speaking. Thank you so much. I’m speaking in front of the
best company in the world. And just to add to that,
Google is such a great– I’m going to interrupt
you asking your question. AUDIENCE: No problem. JAMES ALTUCHER: Is
that OK on time, or– AUDIENCE: That’s totally fine. JAMES ALTUCHER:
So Google, there’s one aspect of Google that
is such an important lesson in life. When you go to Google, Google’s
this one page website, right? The search engine, I’m
talking about, Google.com. You go to Google, and
Google has nothing on it. There’s nothing there. But what you do is,
you type in, oh I want to learn about
motorcycles, and Google will as fast as possible, it’ll
literally say to you, I don’t know anything
about motorcycles. But we’ve determined
for you, here’s our 10 favorite sites and 400
million more, if you want. But here’s our 10 favorite
sites about motorcycles. Why don’t you go to one of them? And so they get you off
of– they measure of success by how– you guys measure success
by how fast the customer leaves the website. So now, if you want to find out
about, I don’t know, tennis, where do you go? Well, I remember that
other site, Google.com, was so good helping me
find out about motorcycles. I’m going to go back to Google
to find out about tennis. So what’s the life lesson? If you’re the source and
you’re willing to just, hey, you don’t have to
give me any money. You don’t owe me anything. You never even have
to come back here. Maybe this is the last
time you and I meet. But I’m going to still give
you my all and send you to the best resources. Who are you going to go back to? You’re going to go back to
the source, which is Google. Give credit wherever you can. Give ideas wherever you can. Always be the source. Be the bank of knowledge,
and information, and giving, and then everybody comes
back to you again and again, and that’s why I’m so
proud to speak here. What’s your question? AUDIENCE: Awesome. That was really nice. My question, and what
I’m most curious about, is what is the story
behind your hair? Like, honestly, no lie. The first article
I ever read by you, I was just like,
wow, this person, he looks very interesting,
and a little funny-looking. Like, maybe I’ll read his
article and see how it is. JAMES ALTUCHER: I
look a little funny? AUDIENCE: So I’ve just
always been curious. JAMES ALTUCHER: Do you ever
see Malcolm Gladwell’s hair or Brian Glazer’s hair. AUDIENCE: So I’ve always
been curious, because it makes you stand out, for sure. JAMES ALTUCHER: When I worked
in a cubicle, I kept it– and wore a suit, or went on TV– I used to go on CNBC a lot. I kept it short. Now, I work from home
most of the time, and I don’t really
bathe that much. [LAUGHTER] And I just go a little wild. So I had deduced most
of the activities I do don’t really require me to– I don’t know. I’m not dressed up or anything. I have only a few
outfits to my name. For a long time, I would never
have more than 15 possessions to my name. And I didn’t really consider
myself a minimalist. I just didn’t want
to own anything. I didn’t want to
think about anything. So I didn’t want to
think about anything except the things I loved. And just a part of that, I just
live the life I want to live. I don’t need extra frills. So, I don’t know. JESSE: Anything you want
to plug before we go? JAMES ALTUCHER: No. I’m just happy. I’m really super excited
you invited me to be here. I’ll promote your
dad’s two books. Can I do that? JESSE: Sure. JAMES ALTUCHER: “The
Tools” is a great book. To be honest, I read the second
book, but I forget the title. I have a really bad– JESSE: “Coming Alive.” JAMES ALTUCHER: “Coming
Alive,” great book. I think we were
planning on having him on the podcast at some point. It’s a great book, so
I really enjoyed both. But can I say one more
thing about memory? JESSE: Yeah, go ahead. JAMES ALTUCHER: And this
is related to Google, too. So I’m always
constantly worried– because I’m preparing
so much for podcasts and for other things, I
really forget a lot of things. I’ll even be, like,
out on a date and I’ll forget the name of the
woman, even if I’ve been dating her for months. So one time, I signed up for
23andMe, which is indirectly, I think Google is an
investor, or Google Ventures, or I don’t know. There’s some connection there. And I had the gene– I did the test, the DNA test,
and I had the gene, oh, there’s a little bit extra
chance you could have early onset Alzheimer’s,
which is a BS statistic. If you have a 0.001%,
20% more chance doesn’t really mean anything. It’s how doctors
always scare people. So I wrote to the
CEO at the time, and I said, oh, I
did some research. There’s all these foods you
can eat to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. How about I write
the AP40e, which is like the gene,
how about I write the AP40e, cookbook,
recommending all these Alzheimer’s foods? And she wrote back
instantly, that book would be a bestseller. You know why? And I wrote back, why? And she said, because
no one would remember if they had already bought it. [LAUGHTER] So I give credit to her. JESSE: Thank you so
much for coming here. JAMES ALTUCHER: Thank
you for having me. JESSE: We really appreciate it. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]