Advice I Want To Tell My Daughters

Back in 1994 I was avoiding a bad situation at home and was staying up late at the office playing chess online at 1 or 2 in the morning. A guy named “Seggev” from Israel and I would play one minute chess all night long back when one minute really meant about 90 seconds because of lag on the Internet.  I was so tired sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was being checkmated or if I was just having a bad dream after a heartbreaking argument. Every two hours or so we would reluctantly agree to take bathroom breaks, 9000 miles apart. Whatever it was I was running from, he seemed to be running away from it as well.

On one of my bathroom breaks I ran into the guy from the office next to mine. It was two in the morning. “Why are you here?” This guy had a new baby at home so it was meant as a rhetorical question. “I’m writing some software to catalog pages on the world wide web”, he said. This new thing. “I figure maybe I can get some government funding.”

Good luck with that. I went back to my office. Seggev was already back and challenging me to another game. When I finally went home at about 6:30 in the morning my girlfriend at the time threw her backpack at me. It was filled with books. The computer in the office next to mine was “”. My friend’s company, Lycos, became the first major search engine. But we weren’t really friends.

Lycos got sold to CMGI, then went public. Then crashed with the market and the advent of Altavista, Yahoo, Google. Bits and pieces got sold to a Korean company. Other pieces sold to a company in Spain. For awhile it was called TerraLycos. First it was in the urinal next to me. Then it was worth a billion dollars. Now its flushed down the toilet somewhere in Europe.

Sixteen years later I’m sitting with one of my daughters. Its dark outside and little hailstones flick at the window. The night’s demons clamoring for our attention. She has insomnia and her mind is racing.

There’s things I want to tell her:

  • Fly kites as much as possible. While they are in the air, they keep you on the ground
  • Don’t read the newspaper so much. They sometimes breed the worst horror fiction.
  • Never do anything you don’t want to do. Even if it seems selfish at first, life is too short.
  • Diversify everything in your life, including the people you listen to for advice.
  • Learn lots of games. They turn you into a killer without you ever having to hurt someone.
  • This is a cliché, but never listen  to anyone who says “You can’t do that”. Those are usually the people who can’t do it. Not you.
  • Even though life is short, there’s also no rush. You have to put on a parachute before you jump out of a plane.
  • Preparation is the key to having good luck. And lots of it.
  • Every day is an adventure even though you might not realize the specifics of it until years later.

Eventually she fell asleep and I went upstairs. I try to close my eyes but I can’t sleep. The rain stopped and the house is dead silent. There’s going to be a day when she has to do it all on her own, without anyone to sit quietly with her while her mind speeds away.

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  • Harry van Beuningen

    I like your column. Sometimes it makes more sense than other times, but always entertaining and a good read. This is however, a fantastic article. Thanks for writing it, and all the best.

  • pjc

    What I like most about James’ articles is the perspective he’s gained from such a wide range of experiences. James seems like the kind of guy who has seen some crazy stuff, without ever losing touch with the important things.

    James, if your daughter is lucky and wise, she will always have someone to sit with her. It just won’t always be you.

  • Mark

    Great article! I will pass on the same to my daughters!

  • Sarah

    Never do anything you don’t want to do is pretty straight forward. But what if I don’t know what I want? :) Great column, I’m a new reader, and I think you are awesome.

  • Great post. I have a 9yr old daughter and know how you feel. My favorite things you pointed out are:
    – “Diversify everything in your life, including the people you listen to for advice.”
    – “This is a cliché, but never listen to anyone who says “You can’t do that”. Those are usually the people who can’t do it. Not you.”

    I’ll give you another one I say all the time:
    – “Do something and you control the doing. Do nothing and you give power to others who choose the doing.”
    I often quote this when it comes to the kid’s chores and getting ready for school in the morning. But, the meaning behind this quote becomes oh so important in the years to come.

    I actually bought a blank notebook when my daughter was born…and have slowly filled it with quotes/lesssons from others and myself that I believe she’ll need to hear/read in life as she gets older. Or if something were to ever happen to me before I could share everything I know. Kinda of an insurance policy on ensuring a part of my lessons/experiences in life will not be lost.

    Keep up the highly interesting posts,


  • Andy Weissman


  • bill waddell

    nice picture. one of the best moments of my life was skating on a neighbourhood ribk with my son when he was 10

  • Sooz

    :)Never..stop flying kites.
    :(Never..ever go to bed scared.
    :( :(Never..ever..ever go to bed ‘Angry’.

    Always know that you are never alone!!
    It’s okay if you don’t know what you want in the moment.
    It’s been many years since I was less then ten yrs old and I still haven’t figured that part out. always..this is beyond good!!

  • This is my favortie kind of writing. The kind where anyone who loves this NEEDS to read this and anyone who doesn’t – doesn’t.

  • I enjoyed the article, James, but wanted to point out a sometimes contradiction between two of them: Sometimes what you don’t want to do is be prepared. But of course that possibility underscores the fact, yes, fact, that “every day is an adventure.” Come visit us sometime.

  • whatever vein u have been tapping into recently is just awesome man and daring.

  • Steven Goff

    “Diversify everything in your life, including the people you listen to for advice.”

    The best advice in the above read….hands down

    “Don’t read the newspaper so much. They sometimes breed the worst horror fiction.”

    The worst advice in the above read…hands down

    And the two are contradictory if not hypocritical in nature!

    Let them read the papers or wem or watcxh TV everyday and all day if they like. And draw their own conclusions and derive their own questions. By saying “dont read the papers too much”… like asking or encouraging them to be complacent if not passive and oblivious to the current event that are currently ruling the world. James you are in the media bussiness per se…..I was surprised when I read this above.

    I cant tell ya how much I enjoy reading this site and your stories James….Good stuff!

  • Tom

    Steve Goff hasn’t lived enough days to understand! Great advice for your daughter, son or others.

  • We always taught our children, “Be responsible. Your smart and you can see something wrong will have a bad ending. It’s a deal sounds too good to be true it is. Nothing is “free” no matter what the vendor says, they always have some catch to get your money or time. Be kind. It’s OK to like someone that treats you well. You are know by who your friends are—if they are criminals or bad, you can’t change them. Same for marriage/dating—Nice guys are the best. Bad, mean, nasty guys…well they eventually end up in jail after beating you up. It’s ok to date a geek, they are usually nice and kind, make lots of money, and will treat you well. Having a house, car, money in the bank, a nice guy and children sounds boring but it beats the drama of bill collectors, evictions, court hearings, and wondering where your next meal is coming from.” If you want drama and excitement, get a job.

    Plus a few others.

  • murali


    Wonderful post, and the kids look real cute. :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Liviluwho

    this makes me cry like a stupid baby. i’m in high school and all i ever hear about is putting effort into an education i’m not even remotely interested in. you make me feel like being a badass and punching my counselor in the face.

    • Ha, well, try not to punch her in the face. BUT, be aware that you have more options than people are telling you. Its your life.

      • Cc

        Teachers only know the world of teaching and education and there is more to learn. I think a few years in the military are a great alternative to college or high school..

    • Anonymous

      You should be aware that going back decades, some experts in education held that students should put their effort mostly only in what they were very interested in.

      My father was such an education expert: He encouraged me to pursue my interests and never pushed me to make grades. In broad terms, he was correct. He did make sure I did actually understand the crucial material well enough.

      Actually, having grades that are really bad can hurt you, so don’t let your grades fall that far.

      He was really good at French, and so was my brother, and I was awful at French, and they didn’t try to help me. I’ve never needed to know French, but it would have been a little better if they had helped and I had done better.

      In college I did well learning German. The difference was that the German teacher taught the subject ‘orally’ which is actually a much easier way to learn a foreign language. I believe that now, borrowing from how I learned German, I could learn French with little trouble, although I still have no need to know it. Or, if you can’t learn some subject one way, then look for another.

      In the end, it’s your life. Some of what you want is general competence so that you can do things, take care of yourself, help your family, and get financial and emotional security. Uh, you don’t want to feel helpless or incompetent!

      So, look around and see what topics, subjects, and fields you want to learn well enough to give you some competence. And pick some topics, etc. where you want to specialize. Pick some such that you like. Then put most of your effort on those topics, etc.

      College? What do you really need for college? You need to be able to read well enough to read moderately difficult text with understanding. Then you need to be able to formulate ideas, get them clear, organized, and supported, and then write text that presents your content clearly with good grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Now for spelling, just use software! For grammar and punctuation, keep a copy of, say, your text for Senior English. Then you can learn enough with just a few hours reading the basics of grammar and punctuation. For math, of course you need basic arithmetic, fractions, decimals, percentages, areas, and volumes. You need basic algebra. Then you will be ready for freshman college math, say, one semester as an intermediate step and then calculus. Usually calculus makes good use of the trigonometry functions, so somewhere you will need a course in trigonometry. Actually you can learn enough about trigonometry for calculus in a few, easy evenings. There is nearly enough to type it all in here, but not quite!

      History, foreign language, English literature, civics, etc.? Not really crucial. E.g., for foreign language, you can take a first course in college. History? Get a chronology and for depth on the individual events use, say, Wikipedia; that should be enough background to start even a moderately challenging college history course.

      In high school, I got interested in math and got good at it and, thus, saved my academic tail feathers. My eighth grade math teacher told me not to take anymore math, but I got a good Ph.D. in applied math. Actually, the K-12 teachers don’t know very much; so, get some at least good enough grades from them and otherwise mostly ignore them.

      There is a lot to life nothing like K-12 academics. For some of the more important parts, see how the ‘Main Street’ businesses in your area work.

    • Carmen

      Livi – it’s been nearly 20 years since I graduated, but I remember it like it was yesterday. While all my friends were, literally, going off to Wellesley, Darmouth, Harvard, and Tulane, I didn’t even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I racked up nearly $20K in student loans before failing out 3 years later. Nice! I went to college with a 3.8 GPA, honors student, and I FAILED OUT! I wasn’t ready. Not everyone is at 18. My first instinct was to sign on with an airline as a flight attendant. The training was free, but you had to commit 3 years of your life. It would have been a great way to see the world. Alas, it was not meant to be. So here I am, nearly 20 years later. I got my nursing degree (Associates, ’cause they’re SOOO much cheaper) at age 34, and I love being a nurse. Stick to your guns. Get a part-time job to gain some independence, experience, and make some money. Take a class or two here or there to see what you like.

    • Cc

      How are you going to pay your bills? Takes longer to earn money by flipping burgers. We are not all intelligent sociopaths. Save your money, take a year off, have a wild life, the only direction from the bottom is UP.

  • Someone has read Aurelius’ Meditations. ;) Most people miss the point of having a philosophy, actually living, and actually thinking, they are too busy chasing clouds. I have found that the Stoic way is the most conducsive to prosperity and happiness (I lost someone close to me because she couldn’t grasp that having happiness does not equate to having money, nor grasp the fact that hard work is not the same as good or smart work.)

    We have lost sight of the ‘ton Kalon’ the good that Socrates spoke of during his trial and death.

  • bookbabe

    I’m new to this blog. After this post, I’m sure to come back. Thanks!

    • Bookbabe, thanks. This is my favorite post of mine so Im glad you like it.

  • my parents gave me ambien. loook at me now :)

    the girls are big now. wow

    • Ambien is the theme of the week? “Speaking of Ambien lets talk about Reuters…” Thats funny!

    • Ambien is the theme of the week? “Speaking of Ambien lets talk about Reuters…” Thats funny!

  • Loved it, JA. Always fresh here.


  • Great Job! Daughters are the best! I hung up curtains for mine last night after I went to a family funeral. She was so happy. My granddaughter kept talking to me too! Good stuff! Strong women are strong men (mankind).

    • That must be such a pleasure. daughters are so much for me now , I can’t even imagine granddaughters talking away. What pleasure that must be,

    • That must be such a pleasure. daughters are so much for me now , I can’t even imagine granddaughters talking away. What pleasure that must be,

  • flyaway18

    My daughter has a mild case of Tourette Syndrome but every day she wakes up and leaves the house eager to attend school, and sing and be in the school play and play sports; all the while her ticks are raging. She is my hero. A teen’s life is so hard as they prepare for adulthood. It’s ok to be there for them unitl you die as they will soon dessert you once they realize they have wings to fly!

  • Daniel Eagle


    I am currently a college student in California. I came across your website via an article “8 Things..Instead of College” and I feel obligated to thank you for your advice and personal experiences provided on this website. I have been questioning my education recently, as I was herded into a prestigious university after high school from the pressures of parents, friends, and mainstream society. I look forward to the day of graduation when I can finally take total control of my life and choose my own destiny, so to speak. I plan on traveling the world, working odd-jobs, meeting new people, loving, and enjoying nontraditional experiences. Your advice on the true value of money, your experiences as “rich,” etc. are very valuable. Money truly is no means to happiness, contrary to what many middle-class kids are raised to believe. I look forward to continually reading this website. Thank you.

    p.s. this was a beautiful article and compelled me to post

    • Daniel, thanks so much. Money is definitely a tool to be used (like health, for instance, or marriage) but more and more I’m realizing the three important thing in life:
      A) finding happiness
      B) eradicating unhappiness
      C) having a smooth daily effort

      These three things are vague on purpose. For everyone they are different. But if A) requires you to have $100mm then you are far less likley to be happier than the guy who needs $10,000. If those 3 are truly the goals while we are here on Earth then the challenge is to make them as easy as possible.

      Sounds like you have some exciting adventures in front of you.

      • infinitepossibilities

        Hi James….
        I came across your article while reading about Steve Jobs….. And I absolutely agree with you about the 3 things… Money is definitely NOT something that will bring you happiness. As an individual who went down that path and with a broken marriage because of such wealth, i know and i agree that Money is just a TOOL….. and sometimes we forget the real things in life that is more important for each and everyone of us….. Your daughters are very lucky to have this advice from dad….. I know that is exactly what i am going to tell my little girl when she’s old enough….. find your happiness and do what your heart tells you is the right thing rather than what society thinks should is the right thing to do….. I followed that and it made me miserable and angry at the world…..

        Thanks for posting a great article…. :)

      • Cc

        I have to have enough money to pay for roof, clothes and food. roof can be shared, I don’t want to live on the streets. Not all of us are intelligent, etc… A society spreads help around since those unemployed can become criminals and take what we have got involuntarily – I prefer voluntary donations.

  • Your daughters are lucky. My parents said those things to my brother and me. It was the best gift ever.

  • Your daughters are lucky. My parents said those things to my brother and me. It was the best gift ever.

    • Yes, you guys are definitely lucky. It was a pleasure meeting the two of you (and being on the panel with Derek) at the Money Show. Looking forward to our next meetup.

    • Yes, you guys are definitely lucky. It was a pleasure meeting the two of you (and being on the panel with Derek) at the Money Show. Looking forward to our next meetup.

  • This was so good that it almost made me want to blog again. Also made me wish you were my Daddy.


  • This was so good that it almost made me want to blog again. Also made me wish you were my Daddy.


  • Great work, I followed a winding trail to finally post on this board but found myself prepared to follow when I normally don’t bother – the left-field angle works even with the cheesy 33 hook. Nice, obviously loads of hardwork, it shows, well done. Thanks Greg

  • fredy


  • Pennyafranklin

    So . . . let’s follow some of his advice. Watch less news and read less newspapers which fuel the sensation of consuming and fear and uncertainty (this doesn’t mean we have to have our head in the sand, but sensational news is an addiction that can keep a person from actually living life) Turn off the TV, leave your Iphone or Android at home and fly a kite!

  • Tiger528

    Wow! Great advice

  • Socrates

    It’s not that money makes happy. Whoever said so, anyway?! It’s the lack of money, however, that causes problems. Few dreams come true without money.

    The other thing is “about history”, which the author considers as inconsequential. Yet remember this truth: “Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.”
    G.W. Bush and his Iraq debacle come to mind and untold others. Alexander the Great (in 329BC) already was told by the King of the Scythes in Afghanistan that even he would never be able to subjugate that country and accepted a gentleman agreement for peace and cooperation. (cf. Curtius Rufus). Not having read history (or understanding Karakorum geography), the Brits, the Sowjets and, unfortunately, ourselves got stuck in the very quagmires Alexander so deftly recognized and avoided. By contrast, ignoring history has cost us dearly in lots of lives and trillions of treasure in both Iraq and Afghanistan. What an expensive lesson, to have skipped History and Geography in class!

  • Elmerfusco

    Go to college to have fun, expose yourself to diffferent ideas, round out your education. Don’t go there expecting a guarantee of a good job, especially if you have a liberal arts degree.

  • Mainehotglass

    after 40 years as an attorney, i realized that i had alot of fun, and made alot of money. i tell young people to get training rather than an education. it’s a great difference. one can always be educated; it’s better to be trained, like being an electrician or a plumber. think about it. good luck and hard work.

  • George

    One more thing.

    The world needs ditch diggers too.

  • Kevin

    Am I a dick for hounding my kids about getting good math and science grades? You’re making me feel a little bit like a dick. Haha.

    • Index1000

      I suppose it comes down to whether the good grades are for their benefit or yours.

  • Jimmy

    Hey man, I got something that will cure your insomnia. I’m a thinker, like you – always with my head in the clouds. Maybe you just need to get a job at Fed Ex. You can think about whatever you want while you’re in the back of the truck stacking boxes. Then, exhausted, you can go home and wind down with a couple of drinks (no more than two, right? ) and fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. After you take a 30 min. power nap as soon as you get home. It might just be the best thing that ever happened to you. It was for me. I been working there 5 years. I don’t always like it – but the pay is okay and I got no problem going to sleep.

  • Wondering and still believes


    Very selfish, self centered destructive advice. No thought or guidance about love, loyalty or the joy of giving as well as receiving (well, taking in your case). No wonder my shallow ex-husband likes your advice lol, makes him feel better about leaving his family when I got ill. Sights and advice like yours helps him sleep at night while he chose and chooses himself, drinking and doing “whatever is easiest” and throws everything but his job away when he actually has to be “responsible” and run away when he might actually have tone there for others except for himself.

    I hope our daughter and yours sees that people and marriage and yes love are not disposable but worth working on, persevering when times are hard and giving as well as receiving….and how fun and joy there is when you can share yourself with someone who loves you and how you love back.

    • Viv


      Seek counseling. Perhaps your husband did not leave you because of your illness; perhaps he left because your illness was the last straw….no one wants to take care of someone they don’t like. Have you ever considered that maybe you just weren’t “the one” for him? You can’t change anyone else in this world except yourself. No one OWES you anything, but you sure seem to think they do. I’m thinking that you are not so much upset with him for abandoning you as you are with yourself for choosing such a loser. If you can look inside, maybe you won’t make that mistake again.

      Actually, I’m surprised that I’m bothering to respond to you. I guess I felt compelled to point out that your bitterness is part of the problem….Altucher is simply trying to protect his daughters from people like you. I’m guessing that the following line upset you the most because it’s what your husband did….but that’s simply your own personal issues talking….

      “Never do anything you don’t want to do. Even if it seems selfish at first, life is too short.”

      I wholeheartedly agree.


      • Wondering and still believes


        U are so right-my illness was his last straw. Not.

        He never had to lift a finger to help me as I am not debilitated and completely take care of our children and home.

        Viv, it couldn’t be that he chose to continue to lie, continue to use crack, continue to abuse alcohol, and pay for prostitutes instead of the rent and bills and then scream at me how I was spending too much money on “gasp” groceries!

        All of this he chose to do all in the name of “Never do anything you don’t want to do, even if it seems selfish at first, life is too short”.

        So “Viv”, I suppose you want your kids and yourself to be married to a person who goes by that philosophy? Wow, I lived it and I don’t wish that experience on even you. We all have to do things we don’t want to do, at work and at home. Unless of course you are the type of person who just expects everyone else to do all the work and take all the responsibilty while you kick back and receive all the rewards with none of the work-and then if it looks like you might have to lift a finger – run and just go continue sucking the life out of the next person.

        I am not bitter, I am simply appalled at the casual indifference to everyone but self that you and those who agree with this article.

        Believe me, my ex is the most charming man you would ever meet-unless you are his long term girlfriend or wife. I find it sad that there are so many takers who use people up and discard them like used toilet paper.

        There is not one person who has a happy, healthy, relationship or marriage that would encourage the selfishness of most of what you states or this blog stated – if u teach ur kids this philosophy-u are dooming them to failure.

        I consider my ex a con artist – I am a pretty savvy person and he convinced me of his love, loyalty, and commitment all while doing all of what I listed and more.

        All I know, what goes around eventually comes around.

        I am striving to give my children tools to be good, loving, responsible, giving human beings-and to recognize people like you Viv, and the blogger. I pray for
        loving, giving, fun non-control freaks who don’t mind working at having a healthy relationship, not a partner who runs away the first time they have to do something they don’t want to do or refuses to give of themselves because “life is too short” to share of themselves and actually be someone they can rely on.

        That to me is one of the most important things a partner can be is “someone you can rely on and who is a safe place”.

        Viv, that doesn’t make me a bitter person in need of counseling, especially since any counselor would not advise any of their patients to go through life being a selfish a-hole.

        • Crystal

          I think that you deserve better than what you’ve gotten. Hope it gets better for you.

        • Anonymous

          You’re upset because a crack using lazy bum left you? And somehow you think he left you because of this kind of advice from James Altucher, who was suggesting nothing of the sort? Sounds like you got lucky when he walked out your door. And James’ advice is still quite good.

        • Anonymous

          You’re upset because a crack using lazy bum left you? And somehow you think he left you because of this kind of advice from James Altucher, who was suggesting nothing of the sort? Sounds like you got lucky when he walked out your door. And James’ advice is still quite good.

        • I don’t do anything I don’t want to do – because life is too short. AND YET…

          I give a great deal. Because I want to. At least once a month I bring a hot meal to someone in the street. I offer them a handshake, conversation, dignity. But I don’t do anything I don’t want to do.

          I’ve put myself through hell and back for my son. Been through the kind of pain and hardship that most people will never know. But I don’t do anything I don’t want to do.

          I go out of my way to help friends, family, strangers. Without ever doing anything I don’t want to do.

          What a narrow mind you have that this line instantly means be-a-selfish-prick to you. You quickly jump from a simple piece of advice about seizing the moments in life and living it instead of enduring it and turn the comments box into your soap opera.

          We all go through hell from time to time. I married a man who ended up beating me, holding a gun to my head, chasing me with a baseball bat. But you know what? I have to take some responsibility for that because I stayed and tried to fix it for two years. You also need to grow up and take some responsibility for the way your life turned out. How long did you stick around after you found out he was doing crack and fucking prostitutes? I mean seriously! You allowed it to continue. If you learn to accept responsibility for YOUR actions that allowed all of this you will be far less bitter with the world. It is incredibly empowering to realize that you have power over your own life.

          I hope you get to experience that empowerment some day. If you don’t, I hope that your children manage to grow up without absorbing your bitter view of humanity.

        • MsAnnaNOLA

           Sounds very much like a personality disorder. Specifically Borderline or Narcissist.

  is great to learn about borderlines. They are soooo good at fooling the general population while simultaneously torturing the people in intimate relationships with them. For your children’s sake it would be good to learn about this disorder so they can better deal with their father.

          • My ex girlfriend was a borderline… is my favorite site, that woman writes about the human psyche with an impressive amount of insight and what has to be first hand experience. check it out.

        • Chel

          It sounds like your ex was sick. Addictions wreak havoc on friends and family. What’s true for me, from my experience, is that addictions are a disease, as much as diabetes and cancer, except in the mind. And all those self serving behaviors you spoke of, including the drinking and drug use itself, are symptoms of the disease. It’s also a family disease. Our, (the families), behaviors change too. Out thoughts. Our feelings. Our focus, always on the tornado of the addicts life and behavior. Have you ever heard of Alanon? You might find freedom from the pain it sounds like you’re in, there. I hope you check it out :)

        • Na0ser

          So a shady guy games you hard, and then you expect him to be a good guy?

          Uh, read between the lines.

        • The thing is, someone who is seeking validation for their selfishness and shallow disregard for others will find it everywhere. Philosophy is redolent with many exhortations to ‘be ruthless in your desires’ – but this is not what is intended in most of it.
          You allowed yourself to project your own desire for love and loyalty onto this man, he was the receptacle for your own fantasy of an ideal romantic union – it did not work out, he was not all he seemed.
          Welcome to reality, it happens every day in the politics of relationships.
          This is not James’s fault, nor would he condone the actions of your ex – if you seek authentic love you will have to be truly authentic yourself, and weed out your own illusions, be ruthless with your own weakness and seek out a person who truly bonds with you, not another illusion.

      • Index1000

        Are you really as heartless as you come across in this post?

      • Any man who abandons his family is a coward! Pure and simple!

      • Destiny2799

        You’re an idiot!

    • Joe

      Lady, you gotta read Harry Browne’s “How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World”. You are too imprisoned, psychologically, by others’ expectations of you, or perhaps your own mental illness. Your faith in the artificial, government-ratified construct of “marriage” is also dragging you down. Like the author above says, don’t do anything you don’t want to do; why should somebody else live for you? Why should someone else sacrifice himself on the altar of YOUR happiness or expectations? Live for yourself, ultimately. Then branch out and help others–but only to the extent it still grows your own happiness. Oh yeah–and it wouldn’t hurt if you upped the Wellbutrin or Prozac dosage.

      • Wondering and still believes

        It’s funny, all I am saying is what any counselor would say.

        I have not said anyone was mentally ill, however when I state how selfishness and only thinking of self does nothing but hurt you and the people around you, I get attacked lol. ( which just proves my point)

        I also find it strange that those of you who responded to my post, identified with the man who left his family for drugs and alcohol.

        If you choose to ask another person to share your life by entering into the institute of marriage, you and especially if you chose to bring kids into it, you have to go into it knowing you have to work at it and give and take. It’s common sense. Life is too short to make and break promises.

        Now, by all means be a self centered “me, me, me” person if you are going to work from home, and have limited contact with “real” people. But if you plan on having relationships with others, then clearly you have to be willing to learn to do things that you don’t want to do…..even my youngest child knows that.

        If you are living by the philosophy of “it’s all about what I want all the time” – go for it, just don’t involve other people.

        In addition, no where in my post does it state that I wanted or demanded my ex to sacrifice himself on the alter of my expectations. That was what he wanted me to do.

        I cant quite understand why being a decent human being and being loving and respectful of the partner you chose to be with is such a foreign concept to the respondents of my post. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as you all are all about you.

        • Anonymous

          I think there’s a difference between selfishness and living a life where you are taking care of yourself, which serves to benefit you, and in turn, those you love. Being a dirty bastard to those around you just because you can, that doesn’t seem to be what James is advocating. Live a good life and do what makes you a happy person. Most people aren’t made happy by being jerks, so it stands to reason that’s not what James is suggesting his daughters do.

        • Anonymous

          I think there’s a difference between selfishness and living a life where you are taking care of yourself, which serves to benefit you, and in turn, those you love. Being a dirty bastard to those around you just because you can, that doesn’t seem to be what James is advocating. Live a good life and do what makes you a happy person. Most people aren’t made happy by being jerks, so it stands to reason that’s not what James is suggesting his daughters do.

        • NW

          He clearly isnt the only one with issues. You read a lot of stuff into this article that wasn’t there. I hope you both get the help you need.

    • Well, I think my daughters see that. Thank you. I think your issues might stem from the ex-husband more than from this article. But thanks for the comment.

      • Ramani_Rayne

        I just want to give you a virtual handshake for being so civil in your reply.

    • Ari

      I totally understand why you feel angered by this post, but it doesn’t make you correct.
      No one does themselves or anyone else any real favours by doing things they don’t want to do.
      Your husband should have wanted to stay with you and make it work, but he didn’t, and so the life you lived together was an unhappy one. Now he has gone to do what he wants to do, and maybe one day he’ll hit upon something that makes him want to change his life. Maybe you will too.
      Sure, it may have brought temporary comfort to havw someone pretend they wanted to help you or be with you, but in the long term, I believe it to be more devasting to watch someone who was only pretending all along, finally walk away.
      He gave you a gift when he left.
      If you are someone who believes things are “deserved”, then act like you deserve both his giving you your life back, to do with what you will, and also this advice from James, which again, you can do with what you will.
      I hope the rest of your life goes better then it has up to now. It can’t be pleasant to have this view of the world, brought on by your unpleasant expiriences.

    • ///


      Beauty comes from worth, which comes from YOU.

      Not other people giving things to you, not you working for the sake of everything but yourself. YOU. YOUR VALUES YOU HOLD.

      Alone, or not. You. Not others.

    • Artie Cab

      Whew!  A lot of anger there.  I did the same thing.  We are both better off today.

    • Rogie Ylagan

      teaching love is more effective if shown and not spoken.

  • Georgemedny

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, as the Dad of 3 daughters!!

  • K.C.Kamakoty

    Dear James
    I just have met you vide your articles and am mighty glad to have done so. There are so many things that I could never express and you have given them thoughts, a fresh lease of life through your writings. Keep the churning, on and may all of us enlighten each other.
    Thanks and Best Regards
    K.C.Kamakoty (from India)

  • Ischr2

    In order to get a handle on life I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I am ready to get married and have kids, so I am not thinking yet about college for them, but am wondering whether elementary school is such a great thing. Aren’t there better ways to teach them, and have them socially involved, and give them more interesting and valuable experiences than hanging out in school. I wonder what your thoughts about that are…also seen the fact that this is obligatory: talking about going against society’s norms!

  • Ajenkin0815

    Could not agree more!

    I have 4-year old twin daughters, and every day is a struggle. Being a parent is the hardest job on the planet, and we all just want to get it right as best we can, to ensure our children grow into mature, successful, contributing adults that make the world a better place by being in it.

    It’s a fine line to walk in telling them, live your life, do what you want, but still be considerate of others. I know this because that’s what I was taught, and I struggle with being TOO kind! People tend to take advantage of me, because I care so deeply for others that I always put myself last.

    Good advice!

  • Crystal

    I liked most of the things that you want to tell your daughters. Some of them made me want to make comments though.

    – Don’t read the newspaper so much. They sometimes breed the worst horror fiction.

    You should stay informed about what’s going on though. Should you wear a sunhat or rainboots? Should you go see the pyraimds or g somewhere else? What do you mean my semester abroad in Tokyo was cancelled?!!?! (That actally just happened to a friend of mine this last week.) You need to know what’s going on, but you don’t have to watch every awful newsclip that comes your way, nor do you need to dwell on all of the negative parts.

    – Never do anything you don’t want to do. Even if it seems selfish at first, life is too short.

    When your daughter says, “Gee Dad, I’d love to take out the trash for you, but I don’t want to. And you told me to never do anything that I don’t want to do, even if it makes me selfish. So, you have fun doing it.” Let me know how that goes. Everyone has to do things they don’t want to do. I don’t know about you guys, but I know that if they didn’t pay me to work. I wouldn’t do it. I go to work and put up with things that I don’t want to deal with because if I don’t work, I don’t have a roof over my head, food on my table or an Netflix to watch. Sometimes the things that you want will drive you to get through all of the stuff that you don’t want to do. Diet and excercise anyone? No one I know wants to skip chocolate cake or work out but they would like to look good in a swimsuit and when that happens, it makes sweat and pain worrth it. Now by any means, I don’t mean take all of the physical and mental crap that comes your way. I’m just saying that while life is short and you should make choices about what you are and are not going to do, everyone has to do things they don’t want to do, and sometimes for good reason.

    – Learn lots of games. They turn you into a killer without you ever having to hurt someone.

    My husband and I love playing all sorts of board games, card games and computer games…but it does boil down to one of us being a winner and one being a loser. However, if or when we adapt a killer instinct we usually won’t play with each other for a while. Have fun winning, but be a gracious winner and a gracious loser, or no one will want to play with you either. If you really want to develop a killer instinct, play the computer on hard.

    – This is a cliché, but never listen to anyone who says “You can’t do that”. Those are usually the people who can’t do it. Not you.

    Blanket statements like this just bring out the devils’ advocate in me. My first thought was well, what about when your daughter wants to murder someone.? Are you going to tell her, ‘go ahead, have fun?’ Or are you more likely to say, ‘no, you can’t do that?’ Now murder aside, I like this one. People seem to have the idea that if they can’t do it, it can’t be done. Totally untrue. People are not gifted in the same ways. I am not an athlete, I have not yet managed to run a mile in less than 10 minutes, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. In fact I’m sure there is some crazy record for something like a four minute mile. I’d just like to see the finish line within four minutes.

    – Even though life is short, there’s also no rush. You have to put on a parachute before you jump out of a plane.

    I like this one too. It speaks for prepartion for the future while living in the moment. That is often a hard balance to find.

    • Maxplotzli


      @ Your commentary/analysis of James’ advice re. “This is a cliché, but never listen to anyone who says “You can’t do that”. Those are usually the people who can’t do it. Not you.”

      Like you, I also thought that James was advocating that his daughters should engage in murder. I’m pretty much certain that was PRECISELY why he included this piece of advice.

  • Bootdadddy

    “For awhile it was called TerraLycos. First it was in the urinal next to me. Then it was worth a billion dollars. Now its flushed down the toilet somewhere in Europe.” – BRILLIANT…laughed for 5 minutes!!

    I enjoy your writing and consistently find responses startling. I’m compelled to say “haters’ but then I’m playing the game. People, please try not to take yourselves too seriously or feel overly justified. It’ hard to hear your views through the flames…

    As far as marriage, I am a 2x loser mid-divorce now. The saddest memory in my entire life was the profound shock and fear on my 4 kids faces when we told them dad was moving out. Even now, it’s painful. Yet, the greatest gift that I can give them is an example of what a healthy relationship looks like, especially for my 2 girls.

    Through my projections, I have taught my 2 boys that marriage should not be considered for men until they are about 35. It took me at least this long to grow up.

    Most relationships are challenging. The good ones are challenging in non-threatening positive ways. But all relationships require the ability to withstand ambivalence. We’re just humans after all. Let go of the “idealized” version of your mate (and yourself) and see what happens…

  • amandals

    I do not see at all how this is being percieved as bad advice. I find it myself to be quite endearing. I don’t believe he is saying don’t handle your responsibilities because you dont feel like it but rather don’t let other people rule your life. You can not make anybody happy if you are not happy yourself. It’s titled advice I want to tell my daughters. He’s a father who cares enough about that much and his points are thoughtful.

  • Phoenix

    As a father of a beautiful 6 year old i couldn’t agree more, good advice for anyone really not just your kids. live life to the fullest, make responsible choices, do be afraid to dream but keep you feet on the ground, all very good advice.

  • Smart, funny, poignant, slightly manic — I’m in. Thanks for a great post.

  • Artie

    Some get it James, some don’t.  You win some, you lose some.  Keep up the great work/s.

  • Msadu

    Fabulous ideas.. i agree with everyone of them. I lost my father when I was 12, but am sure if he had to give me advice it would be along these lines. & living it makes the living worthwhile! :)
    PS: Is always nice for a girl to know that someone is sitting quietly by her when her mind races through the world.

  • Kate

    I’d just like to say thank you for this post. I am a college student right now and have heard almost all of these things from my own father. Even though I don’t think all of them are right all the time believe me you when I say this- I have seen where this advice comes from and what kind of man gives this advice. You’re daughters are some of the luckiest and we’re the type of women that end up changing the world because our fathers told us it was ours to do so. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    from the third “rule” down I pressed copy and paste. Good stuff. I’ll send some of it to my lawyer.

  • Life is Sweet

    Thanks for the article. As a father I think I will always feel there are things I still need to tell my daughter. As far as education, my daughter was smarter then I was when it came to that choice which I thought was mine to impose on her but in reality was hers to choose and she did. My little girl visited a few colleges and decided it wasn’t for her. I was being tranferred by my job and she was out of high school. She decided to get a job instead of following dad. I had drank the Kool-Aid but bit my lip vowing to never let her see me sweat the details.
    That was years ago and she went through some knocks. She was a hard-worker and came up through the ranks. She grew up when losing a few jobs. She moved back in for a while because her company was bought out and they no longer needed her services.
    Then she started in sales and really learned how safe verses money. She also becaome really good at sales partly out of necessity and partly out of passion. She found her niche without college and without daddy.
    Daddy retires soon and his little daughter is taking him on a cruise to celebrate his retirement. Did I mention the cruise is paid for by the company she works for because of her record sales in a downturned economy?
    She confided in me that the economy made it easier to be a better salesperson because when people came into the store they were there to buy and not to graze and gaze. 
    Parents want the best for their kids – kids need to grow up and find out what is best for them.
    You allow that to happen and support them when needed then you both might end up with what you want.

  • Gregboege

    Brilliant… you’ve got the “stuff” mate.  Keep it up (as if you wouldn’t anyway).  

  • ///

    The ONLY bullshit idiot in this discussion is YOU, because you cannot care with yourself enough to care for yourself.

    Your projection onto others shows, and every human being lives for themselves first, and cares deeply for those things which are important thereby.

    Refusing to care for yourself prevents true caring for other values, for, what it is coming from is judgmental projection, not even judgmental solidity.

  • ///

    Well said. :-)

  • Mary Ryan

    That’s pretty lovely.

  • WM

    You write well

  • nife

    Thank you. I love you in a purely platonic fashion :)

  • I’ve actually written a post similar to this but it was from a biological meets theoretical point of view. I would want to teach my daughter about love and dating. Not what to avoid, but what to look for, which is what I think a lot of father’s forget to do. I love your blog. I’m eating it up right now. BTW get out of my head, will ya? : )

  • TheresaGHW

    Right after high school, I did one semester at a Junior College. Then I got a job in Baytown making keys for Cole National Key Company in a tiny trailer behind the Sears Store when it was on Texas Avenue. I was the manager working 9a-6p Monday through Saturday. I earned $2 per hour, which was minimum wage in 1974. I shared a large one bedroom apartment with a friend for $125 per month. Our apartment was next door to a grocery store. Then I made some dumb decisions and everything changed. I ended up having to move into a house with a girl who had druggie friends who would be asleep in the house when I got home from a nightshift at a StopNGo. After 2 months, I moved home. I learned a lot in those 6 months. So many bad things could have happened, but I think God was watching out for me. The world is so much different now for the teenagers.

  • 328341

    This is exactly why it is so incredibly important to teach your children how to make and choose great friends and how to find inspiring, honest, supportive, genuinely interested and interesting people to hang out with (IRL). And the first easy step towards that ability is simply to teach them to be genuinely interested themselves.

    It is one thing to have a shoulder to stand on, it is entirely another to be the shoulder to stand on. Teach them the value of both!

    If parents worldwide would only fulfill these two simple teachings then the world would be a better place and letting each other go when the time may come, will no longer seem as daunting.

  • Erica Angeline Solano

    Thank you for sharing your story, James! I was one of those people who followed my “dream” and got an education, took out student loans to pay for it, and when my “dream” didn’t pay the bills I got stuck at a desk job paying off those loans I took to get to my dream. I loved being a professional musician, and I’ll be damned if anyone takes first chair in the orchestra away from me. But truthfully I have to move on because it didn’t pay the bills, so I’m left asking myself what have I to offer the world. Or what do I have to offer that I can charge for. :) I look forward to reading on!

  • Shitmic

    Nice to here somebody thinking out of the box, thought I was going insane with the way I viewed things, seems I’m not alone in this world!!

  • I’ve really appreciated discovering your blog and have gotten a lot out of the many posts I’ve read thus far. Thanks.

  • Love it.