Summary and more in depth answers from this Thursday’s Twitter Q&A. Every Thursday from 3:30-4:30 I’m around on Twitter answering any questions about anything. Even stuff I have no clue on. Try me.


Michael Kane (@unionkane) asks: What are your tips for interviewing? I always seem to choke up and get performance anxiety. Thanks!

ANSWER: Before an interview:

Know everything you can about the history of the business you are interviewing for. How did it start. The backgrounds of the founders. What were the goals of the business. How they’ve changed. When the business has faltered in the past. With any large company you can always find this out.

In a science fiction sense you want to mind-meld with the company. It’s as if you WERE the company so the ideas you start to come up with are ideas that will better the company. This will shine through in the interview.

If it’s a smaller company it’s not so easy to do this. But then you can always know the competitors. Know the ups and downs in the industry. Performance anxiety in an interview is similar to anxiety in any performance – it’s 100% related to low confidence. You build confidence through knowledge and practice. I have a later post on this but I had HUGE anxiety about going on TV the first time. I describe in a later post how I overcame the anxiety.

But before the interview, visualize the entire interview in your head. Bring up all the points you studied about the industry. About what your role will be. About ideas you have.

Make sure you exercise before the interview. This also reduces anxiety. But it makes you tired. So once you exercise, build the mind muscles back up by coming up with 10 ideas for the business. Even if its interviewing to work as a shoe store salesman, make sure you understand every brand out there, how the store can use social media to drive customers, etc.

You can usually get the names of the people you are going to meet in the interview process. Of course, use Google to find out everything about them. Again, the overriding consideration is that knowledge builds confidence which reduces anxiety. Exercise also reduces anxiety.

Finally, surrender. Very important to have a feeling of “Ok, I’ve done all I can. It’s in your hands now. Whatever is the right thing will happen.” A feeling of surrender and humility and a sense that there’s a higher power (even if you call it something as silly as “The Force”) will help reduce anxiety.

Now go get the job. Don’t think about the past (fired from prior jobs) or the future (if I don’t get this job then I’m lost). These are “not useful” thoughts (see ”The Power of Negative Thinking”).


@GlobalMacroZen asks: How do you find the time to write/exercise?

ANSWER: The only answer is really “wake up earlier”. We waste so much time during the day. For instance, checking email is a 2-3 minute adventure. Many people check email on their phones or computers at least once an hour. 16 hours in a day that’s 32 minutes a day. About 10,000 minutes a year. Over a 40 year period that’s 400,000 minutes or X days checking emails.

Other time wasters that can store up minutes in your day: watching dumb primetime TV. Going out drinking with friends (have coffee with your friends mid-day). And there’s a million other time wasters that can be read about in any number of productivity books. What do you do with all this extra time? Easy. Go to sleep an hour earlier. Wake up an hour earlier, refreshed (no prime time junk in your brain).

This seems like not a big issue  in your 20s and 30s. But when you get older you realize that a minute of anger, a minute of stress, a minute of junk is 60 seconds that you could’ve been happy.

If you don’t exercise, if you don’t get the creative muscles going and stay healthy, then when you are older all of that junk adds up: you’ll be less happy, less healthy, quality of life will be down.

@GlobalMacroZen then said, “my schedule won’t allow that.”

ANSWER: Is that what you are going to say on your deathbed?


David Schawel (@bondtrader83): Who do you turn to for advice?

ANSWER: It’s important to have someone you can trust that in just about any situation you can turn to for advice. It’s no wonder that many great businesses are started by two people: Google, Microsoft, Apple. For me, I turn to Claudia (at when I most need advice.


Nisey7 asks: Where does one begin is he/she wants to start investing?

ANSWER:  First off, daytrading is dead. You can read my “8 reasons not to daytrade” or my “10 Reaons Not to Own Stocks

That said, I do not think investing is dead.

Read “The Essays of Warren Buffett” by Lawrence Cunningham to see what the master has said over the past 50 years. Note, I’m not even pushing my own book, “Trade Like Warren Buffett.” Cunningham’s book, compiled from Buffett’s letters to investors, is better.

Second, read “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley. Ridley is one of the smartest men alive  right now. His book will teach you how to question the assumptions constantly posed and feared by the media and used to scare you. He goes over everything from peak oil, to overpopulation, to wars and violence, and analyzes all the statistics. Why is this useful? How will this help you pick stocks?

It’s because picking stocks is not the hard part in investing. Warren Buffett says it succinctly, “if you have good reason to believe a company will still be here 20 years from now, it will probably be a good investment.” We know Apple will still be here, for instance, so that’s a good stock to pick.

The problem is: what do you do the next time there’s a 2008 (or even a summer 2011) and all stocks crash. You have to be able to really analyze and say “is the world ending” or “is this just a blip.”

Look at this chart here of the Dow for instance. Can you see where the crash of 1987 occurred? It’s barely noticeable. And in your consciousness even it has to be barely noticeable. That’s the hard part in investing. “The rational optimist” plus being healthy and secure in other parts of your life, will help you become a better investor.

The times when I lost the most money investing was not because I was picking bad stocks. Most of the stocks eventually hit new highs long after I sold them. It was because I was either unhappy with my work life or marriage or family or whatever. And so not thinking straight caused me to not invest straight. That’s the key to successful investing.


Kern Patton (@kernicus) asks: Is being an tech entrepreneur in the midwest impossible? Do I have to move to the coast?

ANSWER: I gave a talk last year at a venture capital conference in Des Moines, Iowa sponsored by John Pappajohn, an 83 years “young” entrepreneur himself who I write about here in a post written on my birthday last year (there’s a specific reason I wrote it that day).

The room was filled with potential entrepreneurs, each with amazing ideas for tech, energy, marketing, and other sectors.

I absolutely think being on the coasts is the worst way right now to be an entrepreneur. There’s a million little startups begging for money from VCs and angels. The problem is there’s also a billion little parties, meetups, tech meet-ups, etc. where everyone parties, listens to boring talks, etc. All of this is a distraction.

The Midwest is ½ as cheap as the coasts. Here’s what you do:

– Stay in the Midwest so you can live as cheaply as possible
– Build your product or service
– Get a customer or traction. Begin to learn what can go wrong in your business.
– Get revenues

Then decide if you need the coasts or not. Chances are you don’t.


Marked-to-Model (@Morgan_03) asks: What defines you as a person?

ANSWER: My goal is to have nothing define me as a person.

Morgan_03 then followed up and said, “Really? Not even “loving father, caring husband, successful entrepreneur”?

ANSWER: All of these things are good things. I want to, of course, be a caring father, for instance and I want to achieve success in a variety of silos in my life. But when I’m on my deathbed I ultimately want to be just me. Nothing to define me. Nothing I can look back on and say “that was me” because all of that is artificial and man-made. Any definition at all is limiting. At the end of my life, when I’m staring into god knows what, I want to be limitless.


Main Event (@djmainevent) asks: How important is having a plan if you want to get anywhere in life?

ANSWER: It’s very important to have a plan. For instance, let’s say you want to be able to bench press 200 lbs. (I’m making this up, obviously. I never want to be able to bench press that). You won’t get there randomly. You first come up with the goal (“bench press 200 lbs”) and then with that goal in hand you know every day how you can slightly improve to meet that goal. How you can change your diet (more protein!), how you can get to a gym, what increments you need to take in order to bench 200 lbs, which muscles need to improve (there’s a billion little muscles around the shoulder that have to be worked on with different machines, etc). And so on.

I have about 8 goals that I’ve written down for 2012. I look at them every day. The goals might change. I might not stick with them. Or I might decide halfway through that I’m only going to focus on 4 of them. But each day I come up with the plan for that day that makes incremental improvement on all 8 goals. Those incremental improvements compound in your life exponentially the way money in a bank accumulating interest does. Before you know it, you are rich in the sense that you’ve achieved your plan. But without the plan, you are just flaying in the dark, with no money in your mental bank.


bluenextbear (@bluenextbear) asks: Have you ever given up on yourself?

ANSWER:  It’s a perpetual problem I have and maybe many people have: I give up on myself every day. I wake up, and I have to make sure my first thoughts are not negative thoughts. I get angry. And anger is just a small shade on the spectrum of emotions away from fear. So I usually get scared next. Then I have to go to the bathroom. Fast.

But when I’m done with that, the key is, how to get back on track. I try to practice an ongoing meditation, labeling thoughts as I catch them: “useful” or “not useful.” Any anger or fear thoughts or thoughts of, “I can’t do this” go in the “not useful” bucket. Then I begin my normal practices of the day. Exercising the idea muscle, writing, exercising. And so on. [See the above link on “The Power of Negative Thinking”]

Every day is a battle. Even if you have confidence one day there are so many forces in the world (Media, news, pop culture, family, enemies, bosses, colleagues, etc etc etc) that are trying to bring you down that you need in your toolchest a daily method of performing surgery on yourself so that if you do give up on yourself, even if it’s just for a moment, you have a way of coming back from the abyss.

In  a black hole there’s something called the event horizon. Once you enter that perimeter, there’s no escape and you are sucked into the black hole. There’s no way possible for anything to comeback once it’s in that  zone. The same thing with giving up on yourself. You have to pull yourself back before you are sucked into that zone. Don’t entertain it, don’t dance with it, don’t feed that feeling. You must say “not useful” and move on. Continue with the incremental implementation of your plan, discussed above.


Lynn Hasselbrgr (LynnHasselbrgr) asks: What are the statistics of men cheating more than once?

ANSWER: I don’t know the exact statistics but my gut tells me if a man cheats once, he’s going to cheat twice. I once read a story about a guy who would fire anyone who cheated on his wife “because if he can cheat on his wife, he can cheat me.” People cheat for many reasons: they might not be happy in their marriage is only one of them. In which case, they should end their marriage.

However, a big reason men cheat is because they are addicts. They love the chase, they’re insecure and need that chase, and then acceptance of the invitation to sex, to feel alive again. This might be a reaction not to the marriage but to any number of things that have happened since childhood.

So how do you treat an addiction? Can a person actually change. One possible solution is to go to a 12 step plan like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. SLAA.

I know many people who have successfully been able to go to SLAA and get over their love or sex addictions. But you have to treat it like you would treat any other illness. You can’t just say “no more cheating” because that will do nothing to solve the underlying causes of what happened.


@jaltucher here you go: how to become a faster decision maker while still maintaining the quality of your decision?

ANSWER:  In one of my posts someone afterwards said, “you’re always pushing ‘The Daily Practice‘” .

But the fact is, when I was down on the floor, going broke, losing my home, losing family, losing friends, losing businesses, any number of times over the past 25 years, the only things that’s lifted me up is simultaneously getting physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy.

Imagine that you have four bodies and not just one. And there’s an invisible blood that flows back and forth through each body, the way blood flows through your physical body. If any of the bodies or out of balance, then this invisible blood will not flow. And you will start to feel it. You’ll get less healthy, your relationships will sour, your ability to have ideas and execute on them will turn to crap, your ability to surrender and find balance in your life will falter.

But when everything is in balance and the invisible blood is flowing, when the heart of your being is pumping without any impediments, then you will make decisions faster, better, smarter.


Candri (@Candriawan) asks: In “Margin Call” there’s a quote: There are 3 ways to make a living: be first, be smarter, or cheat. What do u think?

ANSWER: None of those are the answer. There were many search engines before Google, for instance and many social networks before Facebook. So they were first but didn’t make a living. They all failed. And being smarter doesn’t always work either. Microsoft products were never considered best (Steve Jobs gave some funny quotes to Walter Isaacson about this) but they won.

And cheating might work, but also might make you end up worse than you ever were. So all of the methods above could work but they also might fail horribly.

The absolute best, surefire way to make a good living is to help someone else make a good living. If your business or service helps others make money, particularly if your method is scalable, then the amount of money you can make is incalculable.

For instance, when I really needed to make some money, I advised someone on how they can sell their business. They made $41.5mm dollars. I can guarantee you I made good money when thathappened. I was spending a lot of time, for free, before that happened. But once he made money, I made money.


Yoav Ezer (@YoavEzer) asks: I am in a wedding with a lot of high level executives. Should I network?

I get invited to the occasional dinner where there are a lot of people I would like to network with (See, “Someone wanted to throw a grenade at me”)

The best way to network with someone cold (i.e. you don’t know them and know nobody in common) is to give them ideas that can help them make money. If you know who will be at the wedding, research their businesses, come up with 10 ideas for each person how they can improve their business.

It’s not like you are going to go up to them and say, “here are 10 ideas for your business.” But now if you are sitting next to them or find yourself casually talking to any of the people you want to network with, you are ready to instantly go into network-mode if the conversation starts to veer in the direction of their business.

Practicing this ability will get you better and better at it until you no longer have to come up with the lists in advance. You’ll be an idea machine at any event, able to manage the balance between casual conversation and idea generation with ease, and everyone will say, “we should have a meeting/coffee/lunch about this over the next week!”

  • I love reading these. Will you ever come to Minneapolis to give a talk?

  • Mansal

    I have to disagree with your point about day trading. I’m young, but I have nonetheless dedicated a good amount of time (less than I should to claim proficiency) to learning how to trade based on technicals. If you manage risk and use stops, the market is still great in my opinion.

    For example, obviously the last couple of days were wins for the bulls. Nonetheless, I looked at the technicals for X (U.S Steel) and saw that they were about to break above the 50 day moving average. Once it did, I bought and within 10 minutes it was up 2%. Within an hour 7%. On the day almost 12%. Sure, if I was wrong then it could have done down instantly, but a stop would have just lost me a few bucks and the cost of the trade – on to the next trade. If a trader is not greedy (takes profits instead of guessing the top etc) and disciplined (exiting even with a loss that is acceptable and pre-determined) they will be fine. 

    I would agree with you on one point, though. If you have to eat and live from only your day trading activities, then you will be in a constant state of stress (leading to suicidal thoughts, overeating, social life, blood pressure, etc – I read your other article and this is a comment for both). Technology these days (alerts, stops etc.) can make it easier for anyone to day trade, but it must be done in moderation. You can make those fabulous gains that you dreamed about and kept you awake, but don’t use money you need within the next year or two. So I would change your post to “8 Reasons Not to Day trade for a living” My two cents anyway…

    • The problem with believing in “technical analysis” is that those same precise charts, graphs and numbers are in the hands of lots of very smart people. Mathematicians, statisticians, physicists and others. They look at the very same things you do and amazingly come up with completely different interpretations, rationalizations and strategies.

      The tremendous growth in trading volume has come from institutional activity. They don’t leave investment decisions to chance. They all use mathematical modelling, yet the market still behaves in a non-mathematical manner, resulting in losses for some very smart people and gains for other very smart people.

      The very next day, those smart people can have their respective roles reversed.

      For every time a stock seems to behave in the manner in which a chart suggests that it should behave there will be someone to use it as an example of the beauty of technical analysis. What you don’t ever see are the overwhelming examples of when a stock chart has failed to accurately predict performance.

      If only the technicals had good predictive capacity, then there might not be a 99 to 1 asset schism, as everyone could access the charts to read the sell and buy signals.

      Of course, you’re right in suggesting that greed and the lack of discipline are like nails in the coffin, but most day traders and “chartists” never get to the point of being greedy.

      • Hmm, these are all good points. The mathematicians, statisticians, and institutions hopefully DO use the some of the same technical analysis because they pile in and grow profits more and more. 

        If they go the opposite way, then put a tight stop and get out with very little lost. It all comes down to greed and discipline and I disagree with your assertion that chartists do not get greedy. They don’t all try to make a million bucks in every trade, that’s not what I mean. Trying to get a 10% return on a 2-day trade versus accepting a 5% gain and moving on to the next opportunity.

        • You misintrepted that comment about chartists and greed. More chartists don’t get greedy because they never see tha gains materialize over the long term in the first place. Greed exists when you have something and want more. Most daytraders using charting and technical analyses never make it to the point that their profits are sustained long enough for greed to set in

          • Well I disagree, but I guess we will not know. And I’ll consider myself lucky for not being in that category.

    • Mike Periboob

      It is extremely tempting to trade. It is obviously the way to quick money. Just dont delude yourself that it is anything but gambling. Like a good, smart, poker player, a good day trader can make a fair living, even get wealthy. But it is just shuffling money around. Do you not want to do something actually productive with your life? I know a few well-off retirees that are pretty depressed that they didnt actually DO anything.

  • The “daytrader” comment is really accurate. Not only is it dead, but there’s some thought that it never should have been given life, in the first place.

    I’ve always thought that day traders and penny stock people were like Gangbangers.

    You just don’t really see any of those kind of people making it into adulthood.

    Some go out in a flame, others with a wimper, but there’s rarely glory involved.

  • The “here are 10 ideas for your business” is a great networking idea. Just beware. When I was consulting, I gave away 100’s of good ideas, and soon got the reputation for being someone with good ideas. Which meant that 4 or 5 times a week I’d get calls from people who wanted to take me out to coffee to talk about their business, but couldn’t afford to pay me consulting fees. The free $1.75 Americano at the coffee shop for an hour of my time was nice, but it didn’t pay the rent. Weddings are different, of course, because it’s a social event, and there’s free booze (if you’re lucky) and if you live in New York, maybe you get dinner instead of coffee. So just make sure those drunki-ish wedding guests are qualified leads before you take the next step. That’s a good tip for business, dating, and marriage, I think. Qualify all your people.

    • Julie, that’s a great point! I’ve had the same experience myself (although I usually decline wedding invites). I love this “10 ideas” approach. But I’ve gone through several periods in my consulting life where I’ve had to stop giving away my creative energy for free. 

      It’s a weird thing, and I don’t understand it but I sure have seen it a lot: it sometimes feels like others are playing a different game than you are, and they don’t accept it in the spirit in which it’s offered. It can definitely snowball and then begins feeling exploitative. 

      I agree re: qualifying your connections in that area. My criteria isn’t whether they’ll give me business, though. It’s whether they will appreciate the favor and whether they would reciprocate with a favor, if asked. I do pro bono work, as well, and I put that in a different category. But I only do it for non-profits who lack a budget in my area of expertise. I decline requests from organizations that would simply prefer to use their budget on things they can’t get for free.

      I guess my bottom line is appreciation and reciprocity, in some fashion.

    • @Julie Anderson
      I don’t see problems with that.
      If your idea generation time is in high demand – you may start charging for it.
      Allow 10 hours per week and then if you have more demand than that – ask for $10/hour.
      If you still have the demand – raise the price higher etc.

  • James, thanks for the mention.  I particularly liked the one on ‘no identity’.

    If living from that perspective things can be a) scary, true, but also b) all brand new!

  • You can do a start up in the midwest.  We fund em at

  • While it is cheaper in the Midwest, we have found the talent pool shallow.  In my town they refer to it as the “brain-drain.”  People move to where they can find employment. It can be challenging.

    Opinion: Men who cheat are men who don’t appreciate what they have. Until they learn to actually “love” someone they will always think of themselves first.

    What reason was it that you wrote your birthday post?

  • Loislanew

    I love your 10 ideas approach and how you’ve mentioned it for networking and as an avenue to getting an invite to meet someone.  Good stuff.  Congrats on your 1 year.  Keep writing.

  • Anonymous

    What are those goals for 2012? Very interesting.
    I’ll write mine first: Help a friend sell his sculptures
    Manage a band
    Help a friend send up a fund
    Get more accounts to manage (perhaps find someone to help me with that)

  • Anonymous

    I like the “live cheaper in the MidWest” idea. However, I think the MidWest is too broad a recommendation. 

    I moved the development group for my startup to a college town on the West coast (not in CA). It was a lot cheaper than Silicon Valley or NYC/Boston. Moreover, there is always a crop of smart young graduates who look at the quality of life in those places and say “f&&&k it, I’m staying here  and saving money, if I can find something decent”. Those are the people we hired, and they were incredibly loyal, hardworking, and cheap.

    My town isn’t terribly cheap anymore (a lot cheaper than the ‘hot’ places, but still twice as expensive as when I bought my first house). But, even though the weather on the interior of the continent sucks eggs, it still has quirky and fun college towns that attract bright people who want to afford a house and skip the commute. 

    So, if by mid-West you mean places like Lawrence, KA, Ann Arbor MI, or even Morgantown, WVA, then go for it.

  • Mike Periboob

    Re: Best way to make a living. Since I have already made my living, and dont have to worry about the competition, I will share a little trade secret. Dont try too hard to be the best in your field. I tried this when I was young, and was a failure–it was really hard, and there were lots of other guys climbing that same ladder that were willing to work harder than I. What worked for me (just lucky, I didnt think this up, I just stumbled into it.) was to find two very slightly related fields, and get modestly competent in both. Then find a job in between those specialists. In a way, it is similar to James’ advice to be helpful–helping two brilliant people who dont speak the same lingo work together makes them really grateful.

  • Julian

    > The absolute best, surefire way to make a good living is to help someone else make a good living.

    This. But the “someone else” must also be willing to help you make a good living in return. Which, fortunately, is often the case. Just don’t forget that you too deserve a fair share for your help.

    By the way this is the essential justification for markets, which predates money (and capitalism). The economy could crash all the way, it would still work.

  • Thanks James – love your blog and your interview tips will be flying in the direction of 100s of job seeking grads and post-grads very soon…enjoyed your book too.

  • Kepeneter

    This week’s session highlighted by great comments for me. 
    Thank you to James for giving and thank you to those who’ve commented for giving more.  You are “Liked”.

  • Coffeejoe

    @WriterVixen:disqus , those people who ask you to coffee and then pick your brain for free ideas were never prospects in the first place, so you didn’t lose money, just time. Look at these situations as opportunities to get even better at what you do. You may even find you make mistakes from time to time.Then, when you are in the presence of a bonafide prospect, you will crush it. All those practice sessions over coffee with non-customers will pay off. Just don;t accept every invitation for coffee. View each one as an opportunity to get practice with a certain type of business that may help you with a real prospect in the future.

    • Thanks for your note, javajoe! For me it’s not really about prospecting — I’m generally happy to help out and I’ll talk to anybody. My bottom line is basically the quality of the connection. I have often happily given away my talent for free to people and organizations who are passionately engaged in what they’re doing and who are appreciative of my effort. The people who get on nerves are those who view our interaction as a *transaction* rather than as a relationship. That’s when it begins to feel exploitative and gives me a sour feeling. 
      Actually, I consider my time as far more valuable than money. I can always make more money, but wasted time is gone forever. That said, I wouldn’t dream of passing up a coffee invitation — an annoying companion can never ruin a great cup of coffee, while good coffee can often improve upon annoying company. ;)

  • very good post! need to say you did a great job and i really appreciate it! vert interesting interview.

  • When is it time for a raise? (given you said bosses should fire anyone who asks for more money)