How to Change the World (Or…How to Occupy Yourself)

I cheated. When I was in college I took six courses a semester and then worked another 20-30 hours a week to pay for my bills (on top of the debt I was incurring). Often I had to miss classes because I had a job that I had to go to. One time I showed up for a midterm and the room was empty. Later I found out the midterm was the day before. I had to convince the professor to let me retake the midterm.

A week later he gave me the same midterm he gave everyone else but I had gotten a hold of that midterm and had a week to prepare the answers. Grade. A+. I've explained over and over, College is a scam these days trying to relieve you of all of your future income.

(biggest student loan debt in history)


My roommate in my second semester was the son of a wealthy doctor. He was also a Marxist. In particular, he liked Trotsky. I didn't understand any of the differences. Later, I'd run into him and he would be talking about "the worker". He would be in one of the cafeterias reading, in no rush to get anywhere. I was always in a rush. I had either a class or a job. I wanted to take six courses a semester so I could graduate early and not get into even more debt. I felt like I was a "worker" and would get mad at him for always talking about how "the workers" are exploited. He had an anger that I couldn't understand.

Many people are angry. Here are some of the things they are angry at:

- banks took big bailouts and CEOS got paid big money afterwards. This is horrific. Why did it happen?

-  after the CEOs took home big paychecks, thousands of their own employees lost their homes.

- 10 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I couldn't point those places out on a map if you had a gun to my head. I was always bad at geography. [See, "Name Me a Single War That Was Worth It"]

- 100s of billions in global corruption funded by the US. Why did Hosni Mubarak's family amass an estimated $200 billion while he was President of Egypt. How many of those hundreds of billions came directly out of US taxpayer pockets. How many Mubaracks are there all over the world as we continue to fund every corrupt government in the world out of fear and anger towards our perceived enemies.

- Why are banks more busy foreclosing than lending? (Although, to be fair, I don't think ANYONE should be buying a home right now. Home ownership is a total scam propagated by the banks for the past sixty years)

- Why do we have military actions happening in over 120 countries right now even though the last legally declared war was in 1941.

And on and on. People are angry. I get it. This is anger I understand. And people have a right to protest. But then the anger gets warped even beyond the truth. "The US caused 9/11". "The Jews control Wall Street" (a common anti-semitic refrain heard among the Occupy Wall Streeters but under-reported in the news).

(sign seen at Occupy Wall Street)

I get angry also. I want things to be better in the world. I want change. Why do so many African dictatorships horde money we send them while their citizens die of hunger? Why did GM go bankrupt and allow their entire middle management to lose their life savings and pensions? Why has unemployment doubled in the past 3 years.

People say, first, "well you can vote and make change." Clearly that doesn't happen. No single vote has ever created change. (See, "Politics is a Scam and Why I Will Never Vote Again") And who do we vote for? Bush who started all these wars? Or Obama who continued them (he even kept Bush's Secretary of Defense and now we are in year 10  of Afghanistan). Voting doesn't work.

So then people do "Plan B". Let's Occupy Wall Street. Who is on Wall Street? Certainly not the bank CEOs, who are on Park Avenue and in Greenwich, CT. "Oh,its a symbol", people say while they shout nonsense at security guards who lost their homes and low-level back office workers who work at the stock exchanges but can't afford to pay their bills. So nothing happens so they now "Occupy Portland" , "Occupy Seattle" and on and on, trying to change the world.

I will tell you how to change the world:

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A) Stop being angry at the world first. Ultimately, you can't change it by force, by voting, by protesting. Nothing works. So it's none of your business what's going on out there. I forget who said it but someone said, if you want to walk comfortably, it's better to put on your own sneakers than cover the entire world with leather.

B) Heal yourself. Forget about the past ("historical is hysterical") and forget about the future (a popular book right now is that America will be #2 by 2025. My view: who even cares? And who thinks so far ahead anyway? I can get hit by a bus tomorrow and not even be here in 2025.) Focus on how you can be a better person NOW. If each person was healthy now, then change will happen.

C) How do you heal yourself? Do "The Daily Practice" I recommend. Blah. I hate recommending that every day. In my book, I Was Blind But Now I See,  I have some modifications on how you can tailor the Practice to your lifestyle. But here's one trick that you can do instantly. If you find yourself getting angry about some world event you can't change, label that thought "not useful". Instead, replace it with a thought that makes you a better person. Perhaps a thought of gratitude towards what you have. Gratitude improves not only you but the people around you. This is the seed of world change. Not anger.

D) Pretend you're an alien. I have another trick I use on myself when I'm down or angry. I picture I'm an alien who wakes up in a different body each day. Today I woke up in the body of "James Altucher". Oh, guess what? He's angry at something. How quaint. He's worried about something. But he's got all these other advantages. He's waking up and the weather is good, he's healthy, his wife is next to him, he's got various other advantages. Why should he be so angry? I'm here on a mission to help "James". What can I do to make HIS life better and healthier today? Because tomorrow my mission is over and I'll be somewhere else.

E) Change comes from within first. Not within society, which is always going to cater to the lowest common denominator, but within ourselves. I'll give an example. I first wrote about my anti-college views in the Financial Times in 2005 or 2006. Then on Yahoo Finance, then on AOL, then in the Huffington Post and the NY Post, and this blog. I don't take credit for anything but now, thanks to other people who then continued the discussion, the debate about rising college costs is no longer dismissed as "oh, that guys an idiot" but now is a serious mainstream discussion and will only get more serious over time. First YOU change, make your mind flexible, healthy, clean, while emotionally and physically and even spiritually you remain healthy. Then you'll know what to do. That's how change begins.

F) Finally, SHUT UP. Most people don't think before they talk, which is probably why these "protests" are so disorganized.

In a nutshell:

- you change

- the people around you begin to change

- the people around them begin to change

- the world becomes a little better.

Another example: a few weeks ago I wrote about "9 Skills Needed to Become a Super Connector". It got syndicated in various places. Overall maybe a million people read it. Let's say 1% get effected by that article. Those 10,000 people will start introducing people to each other. Some of those introductions will result in positive changes in society.

Before you start yelling at the world, begin the discussion inside of yourself. Only then will you have any real lasting impact outside of yourself. Only then will the angers of the world start to fade away and on the day you breathe your last breath, you could know that you did the best you could. And the world has become better for it.



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  • Hannahkirchner


  • “Nothing works. So it’s none of your business what’s going on out there.”

    Sorry, but what? That’s non sequitur. Even given that “nothing works” (which I also disagree with – social activism has worked many times – see MLK), why would that mean “it’s none of your business what’s going on out there”? An inability to effect change doesn’t mean one should turn a cold shoulder, or willfully accept ignorance. That’s crazy, dangerous talk. 

    Point taken that change begins within, but lets not pretend that external forces are ineffectual, or that causes aren’t worth championing – because they are.

    • tormunkov

      I would recommend reading Leonard Reed’s essay “I don’t know” The OWS protests can be a benefit if they weaken the ability of the currently powerful to use force to interfere with our legitimate economic interactions. 
      If OWSers celebrate their triumph by creating more restrictions, like “Buy American or Else”, or “Buy Union or We’ll Burn It All”, then that will increase the distortion and tyranny we are already burdened with.
      Additionally, any type of brutish mentality like “The Rich Jews Occupy 0.5% of the Middle East, Arabs Must Push Them All Into the Sea” never helps, no matter how enamored one is with supporting the recently invented Palestinian people.

  • “It’s easier to wear slippers than to carpet the whole world.” -Stuart Smalley aka Al Franken. I like that simple thought and look to make it my default position in life. Or “Pretty Woman” “You take care of you!” One working girl to another… Thanks James – for making me think, for making me feel, for opening my eyes and renewing a sense of decency for all.

  • Anonymous

    I had a very similar school experience.

    My classmates were wealthy, and espoused their “world saving” ideas constantly.

    My favorite was a classmate who graduated (debt-free thanks to Mom and Dad) and then used a family inheritance to start an “educational organization”. In her interview with the alumni mag, she made a point of saying she felt a calling to do something other than follow the “dress suit and pantyhose” careers of her classmates.

    Her “educational organization”? She would go sailing, on a yacht, around the world, and send videos of her experience to classrooms around the world. Classes could follow the yachts progress on a web page.

    This struck me as the height of absurdity. This is what poor inner city students need? To watch, nose against the glass, the adventures of rich white kids cruising around on a yacht! Inner city kids need training in science, technology, writing, etc. How many computers could have been purchased with the money spent on the yacht cruise!

    At any rate, thats my rant against rich Ivy Leaguers. I’m going to tell my rack straight As at the inexpensive state college instead – why spend all that dough just to get a close-up view of the bizarre priorities of rich kids!?

  • Bobby K.

    “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.” -Mother Teresa. 

  • Thanks for your wise post — backed up by experience. 

  • You’re out of line with that allegation of anti-semitism. I looked into your link; the only things I could find was involvement people who had a background of questioning US support of right-wing Israeli policy (which is pretty disgusting, arguably a strong influence in creating 9/11 amongst other things).

    Many pro-Israel organizations in the US attack people and organizations that question the degree and nature of US support for Israel, and accuse them of anti-semitism; they (often quite successfully) turn a political position into an alleged hate crime. People thus tainted then open up other organizations and movements they get involved in to tarring with the same brush.

    You should investigate these things more closely, and with a more critical eye, before spreading that kind of propaganda. It’s beneath you.

    PS: I looked further into NewsMax itself. It seems to be itself a right-wing “news” source. OWS doesn’t have a specific political leaning; but it seems to have been latched on to more by what the US calls liberals than conservatives.

    • What about the photo. I just get turned off by ANY thing that gives life to the ugliness in society.

      • You should turn off the Internet, then, James. There are ugly people everywhere, and ugly sides to people, *seek and ye shall find*.

        • Well, I don’t even really see anti-semitic stuff on the Internet unless i actively search for it. At Occupy Wall St you don’t have to actively search for it. It’s on a sign right in your face. It just sort of underlines for me that there is too much anger there, even if what they are angry about is technically “correct” on many points (not the anti-semitic stuff ,of course).

          And because there is no personal discipline there (a la MLK or Gandhi) it’s all boiling down to hate and anger. Personal integrity and honesty come first in my view. then a protest movement will leave the hate crimes at home.

          • And, btw, I do largely turn off the Internet. I’d rather spend time thinking.

        • Anonymous

          The point is that OWS needs to police itself. Take that sign down, or take it across the street so it’s not part of OWS. 

          OWS has leaders. They aren’t anarchists. Someone is turning a blind eye to this.

    • I don’t think James is saying that this is what the protests are all about, but it’s silly to say that (like any large protest movement) the Occupy protests aren’t drawing out a nasty fringe of people.

      If the photo isn’t enough, try some video:

      • The public streets draw out a nasty fringe of people. The roads draw out a nasty fringe of people. TV and the Internet draws out a nasty fringe of people. Should we give up on the lot of them?

        • Yes, although I will add that I don’t see the anti-semitic on TV at all or when I’m driving around my town, etc. Only at Occupy Wall St

          • I regularly meet people who are trying to kill me on the roads. But then I’m travelling on two wheels, not four…

        • Per the whole “dealing with crappy people” aspect of the Daily Practice, I’d have to say yes.

          • I realize the “them” was ambiguous; but I was referring to “roads, TV, Internet”, not “nasty fringe of people”.

      • Public, thanks. Interesting that she identifies herself even as an employee of the government education system. Nice to see what children in the largest city in the country are exposed to.

  • Any therapist will tell you that, to change your partner, change yourself first. “Change yourself:” I concur–that is the way to change the world. And gratitude catches more flies than anger. Or something like that.

    Can you still take extra courses for the same tuition at colleges? I did the same thing at a 4-1-4 school–I took 5-1-5 and worked two jobs to get out faster with less debt. Never regretted it. Free courses saved me a whole semester of tuition, fees, etc.

  • Neil

     Found you on and am glad of it. As for voting..I agree it’s been pretty useless. A fellow columnist on rockwell, Fred Reed, is reputed to have said he’s “neither liberal or conservative as they are both twin halves of the national lobotomy”.
     My own journey of changing myself has run me smack into the “resistance is futile” mindset of both people and institutions.
     Resistance may be thought futile by so many but for me cooperation/acquiescence is optional as long as it hurts no ones else. Individual liberty used to mean being responsible for one’s own success or failure. When did we lose that?
     It used to make me angry but I’m done with even that now. “Butterfly effect” or pebbles rippling the whole pond, we all affect each other somehow.
     Keep changing the world.

  • Kevin Faul

    Steve Jobs’ last words were ‘Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow.’

    I wish I could have heard him say this because when I look at the things he did in his life, those words are so simply appropriate. 

    Here was a man who looked for and followed what he loved. He loved beauty. He loved creating, he loved discovering. He focused on making himself better and he made our lives better. He made the world better. But he focused on himself first. 

    He did not start out a rich man. He was a smelly vegan hippie following his own path, with heart. From this path, he connected with others and they created things. Those things started small, then grew, and grew, and grew. We can work with what we have.

    In his own words, “…it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward…but it was very very clear looking backwards…” All of us may not know our own dots, but each of us has them.

    Apple, Pixar, 2 children and countless chain reactions are the result of Mr. Jobs. This blog is the result of Jame’s  actions and his own path, with heart. It started small and is growing. 

    If we start small, we too can grow and affect the change we wish in the world, but we have to trust that the dots will connect in the future, whatever the dots may be, and then one day YOU will be the person we all look at and say:

    Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Just like I do some days when I read this crazy, ridiculous brilliant blog. 

    James, Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish:

  • JH

    “Before you start yelling at the world, begin the discussion inside of yourself.” Exactly. No one person can change the world, so it’s best to change what you can (i.e. yourself) and lead by example. I’ve thought that for years. Thanks for putting words to it.

  • we are all just doing time

    Hi James – I am pretty sure your quote re wearing shoes was originally sourced to the Hindu spiritual master, Ramana Maharshi.  I think it goes like this: “Wanting to reforms the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns.”  Another way of saying “hatred can never conquer hatred. Only love can conquer hatred.  This is the eternal law. ” Rough quote of Siddhartha Gautama
    Thanks for your writing, as usual provocative and helpful. OWS is such an interesting phenomenon. Full of sound and fury, but inevitably doomed to fail due to its structural limitations. It is too bad. 

  • Kriss Bergethon

    My facebook update from Friday:
    “I am NOT a percentage. I am not part of YOUR percentage. I don’t trust the conniving Wall Street fat-cats, or the pretentious self-entitled hippies that blame them for everything. I don’t need a handout OR a bailout to make a living. I have achieved in my life due to the help and guidance of my friends, family, and mentors; NOT because of a faceless bureaucrat or a corporate hack. I try to incite change by leading a life full of freedom, joy, and wealth and teaching others to do the same. I don’t need a picket sign or a rally. I’m living my dream. I am NOT a percentage.”  Seems to fit the bill here.  Nice post James

    • Kriss, thanks. that’s a really great point.

    • Gina

      I wish more people would take a moment to consider the mere presence of a road when they are so quick to bend down and demonstrate how they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps.

      Beyond creating capital improvements, many of these vilified bureaucrats are actually work the public good. Just for sake of an example, I kept many thieves beyond the reach of traditional law enforcement from taking your money and made sure the companies refunded your grandparents life savings. People had tears in their eyes are they thanked me, all while continuing to vote against their economic self-interest. My colleagues and I weathered years of marginal salaries and zero raises, but now we are leaving. As the old guard is retires, the only ones left watching the corporate hen house will be the stereotypical lard bricks. It is very sad.

      Just imagine the state of the world if Brooksley Born was successful in convincing  former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and former Assistant Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to regulate the financial derivatives market.

      In plain English, Ms. Born’s proposed regulations might have prevented the entire financial crisis. Maybe that might have been worth your tax dollars.

      If not, vote Libertarian.

      • Boetie

        Fractional reserve banking itself is a violation of depositers’ property rights that banks routinely commit – this is the objection many libertarians, have not laws against lieing, cheating and stealing (as far as I understand it).  I hate to lump people together into one group because we all know people have disparate views about specific things, but a strict interpretation of property rights seems to the one thing that people calling themselves libertarians are most concerned with.  Clearly, markets don’t function without rules prohibiting fraud.  But from my perspective I would like to explore ideas about how to function as a society without having to threaten people with crimes against the state and would rather see a system that relies on positive reinforcement of good behavior, of respecting other people’s property rights because it is in their best interests to do so, not because they fear getting spanked by the man with the gun.  I agree that the market needs regulations against fraud.  And in the context of the financial system as it exists today, then you are right, we need people like her and like Bill Black. 

        • Gina

          Boetie, good points about libertarians. I should not have dissed them.

          Libertarians, along with anyone else who is passionate about politics, provide a good political perspective. I believe our government is one of balance and that the forces from all ends of the political spectrum are needed to keep it in balance. Debate is good.

          I am just weary of the spoon-fed theory that the only thing keeping you from health and prosperity is the pittance you pay in taxes. The amount you pay is so small compared to the benefit you receive. Most people have no concept of true self-reliance.

          There are many places in the world where you can test out your mettle. The sheep that buy into this theory remind me of the kids in school who painted anarchy circle-A’s everywhere and then went home to their cozy warm beds in the suburbs.

          I think we are off-balance right now. The income gap combined with rampant poverty is a destabilizing force. I don’t know how it will resolve.

          If you really want to get into my conspiracy theory, I believe video games, television, and cheap unhealthy processed food were all designed to keep us fat complacent zombies. The problem now is that people’s cable is getting cut by the cable companies.

          My suspicion is that there will be something violent that scares companies into a sudden outpouring of “generous” corporate social responsibility. This will be combined with the Republicans giving Obama a second term to do some redistribution of wealth so that they can sail into office just as things are getting good to take all the credit. (similar to the inverse trick of blaming Obama for our economic mess).

          I am not so much anti-Republican as I am anti-one party rule. The Democrats have not had a cohesive leader since the Clinton days. Democrats are so fractured, they are not a party but simply “everyone else.” I think this led to the growing force of independents and third parties. The problem is no one group has been successful. The reason I like the OWS – 99 percenters because they have enough support to make people pay attention.

          Karl Rove kept his party in lock step with his strategy sessions. The party also has absolutely brilliant people doing marketing. The ability to use a pithy slogan to turn public opinion is incredible… Obamacare, death tax, death panels, tax relief, etc.

          I want to see more alliances. One group that I think would be great to tap is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community. They have fantastic branding and they know how to deliver a soundbite. The Kardashian photo is brilliant.

          OWS seems to be taking that to heart. They have merged with the 99 percenters and, in spite of the nasty people with racial slurs held aloft get the most attention, the majority seem to want to be inclusive, most recently with the spreading popularity of Occupy Boston’s Memorandum of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. 

          So I continue to watch with fascination.


        • Gina

          Thanks for the heads up on Bill Black. He is a cool dude with kick butt credentials.

          Black asserted that the banking crisis in late 2008 is essentially a big Ponzi scheme; that the “liar loans” and other financial tricks were essentially illegal frauds; and that the triple-A ratings given to these loans was part of a criminal cover-up. He said that the “Prompt Corrective Action Law” passed after the Savings and loan crisis mandated that ailing banks should be put into receivership. Black also stated that trying to hide how bad the situation is will simply prolong the problem, as happened in Japan’s lost decade. Black stated that Timothy Geithner is engaged in a cover-up, and that the administration does not want people to understand what went wrong or how bad the banking situation is today.

      • The FED is not a regulatory agency.  

        There still are plenty of dirt roads in America, and most paved roads were dirt first.  Govt didn’t create the roads, people using the roads had their govt improve them, where they felt necessary.

        Can you be any more specific about what thievery you prevented?  The only thieves that seem to be out of reach these days work for the govt.  Has your cure become our curse?

        Your English is pretty good.  What is your first language?

        • Gina

          Richard Simmons, Brooksley was chair of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, created specifically to regulate commodity futures and option markets in the United States.The road was merely a symbol for all infrastructure, roads, energy, waste, communications, water… it also includes financial systems, IT, military, and anything that is a natural monopoly. We pay taxes to “let” the government manage these assets. However, due to public pressure (read paranoid people like you), most of this has been contracted out to private companies, when it would cost much less for the government to provide it in-house. If you want to find the “thieves” who stole you tax dollars, look at private corporations… or a mirror.This does not even cover the subsidies… farm, oil, even video games. Did you know that that Electronic Arts, who makes Dead Space 2, an apocalyptic battlefield of gore and space zombies, gets some of the best tax breaks out there? you do not like where your tax dollars are going, call your representative and senators. The best thing you can argue for right now is campaign contribution limits. Snide comments rarely make a difference. Speaking of which, English is my only language but I dearly wish I could pick up Italian. Maybe you can explain why that is relevant?P.S. It was crooked insurance agents who used their position of trust to con elderly folks into putting all of their liquid assets into a deferred annuity just so they can get a juicy commission. The seniors are left with no cash and have to wait years before it is annuitized for the senior and/or their heirs to get small incremental payments over years or forfeit all the interest the account earned plus surrender penalties.  Another agent simply convinced folks to give him money in exchange for promissory notes in a ponzi scheme of investments. My investigator and I found out what he was doing because we went above and beyond when others thought the investigation was over. This was the first action. This is after we figured out the rest of his scam and had him arrested for an organized scheme to defraud, grand theft and grand theft from a person more than 65 years old. is filled with many many people who would go the extra mile for the warm fuzzy of knowing they made a difference in someone’s life. However, the public hates us, the public does not think we should be paid at all, and we have run out of warm fuzzies. So we look for an exit and take it when it comes. Ironically, we end up a better salary.

      • Rich

        Gina, government employees aren’t the only ones who know how to build roads. The road system would be just fine if we were a society made up of entrepreneurs.

    • Darth-dick

      Go ahead and live in your dreams, for most people’s dreams are dead. They all died under the knife of this so called society. Your path may have been clear cut, but for most the path to freedom, wealth and joy is blocked by our inability for compassion and love for each other. Instead we are all focused on ourselves and green paper between our fingers. All we need is real love and understanding, which unfortunately we as a whole are quite lacking. Only a hand full of people seem to be real human beings to me, but maybe my view is skewered. But when I see people on the streets, all I can think about how people judge them so quickly as we all judge others. But this is a little different because of the dirt and grime on their physical beings, it makes it quite difficult to be look upon as a good man to a stranger with rags.

      We all have to the ability to by-pass our nature, why aren’t we tapping into that ability? It seems the path to wealth, freedom, and joy is usually dependent on how well we fit into this society as people, not how hard we work as others work themselves to death and they still die somewhere underneath the bridge or in a cardboard box. The corruption of government also has a role in this, but that’s already been explained. You’ll probably never physically see most of those outcasts, never hear them or feel them, but they are out there. Rotting away along with their souls, becoming shells of their former selves. They are all over this world and they are growing ever so more, they are the poor. Our stepping stones that we keep pushing into the ground while pretending they don’t exist. Its rots me from the inside out, as only empathy can provide which can’t really compare to their struggle. Maybe if we all just join as one and work together (I mean actually work together!) we could achieve things beyond all our wildest dreams (Going to distant galaxies, figuring out a system without money, etc). But it seems we’ll all be dead before that happens.

  • Rod Freeman

    “Pretend you are an alien” – I’ve never heard anyone have that perspective before – that’s awesome!

  • Shawn

    “You tell me it’s the institution, well you know, you better free your mind instead.”

  • It all begin with individuals taking responsibility for themselves as you clearly explain. I don’t remember which article, but there’s one where you tell people to put the oxygen mask on themselves first. I think maybe that same article also says something about when you’re a clean river people can drink from you. That was a very moving turn of phrase and it motivated me to start the daily practice.

    You have great wisdom James. Now if I could just find the article with the river quote. :)

  • At some point after every one fixes themselves, and puts themselves first, and puts on their own shoes, maybe they will be able to give a moment of their precious time left to care about those with those less fortunate or those in need.

    There is no reason that a person has to be completed healed of anything before they can help someone else, whether it’s a cause or a movement, a neighbor or people without water. 

    I can’t seem to put this in the correct wording, but I believe this borders on  – “aw forget about the issues and everyone else, I’m not centered yet… me first, every man for himself.”

    and I am the 99% on so many levels….

    • tormunkov

      Which is better for President Obama, and the world in general?

      1) For him to conquer his need to smoke tobacco and attain self-mastery. To eloquently share the pleasure this gave him in his 3rd novel.

      2) To robotically read the following script at the the next U.N. meeting: I am dedicating my administration to wiping the scourge of tobacco from the face of this planet we all share. In one week, America will burn any remaining fields where tobacco is grown worldwide. She declares war on the 17% of the world’s population that currently smokes 6 trillion cigarettes each year, unless they fully desist in its cultivation, sale, and inhalation. The full military force and economic might of America is today forged into a gleaming sword of justice to bring into fruition a healthier, purer, smoke-free world.

      • Alx

        Well, if he quit smoking first, maybe there would be a chance in hell he wouldn’t state the obviously dictatorial and ‘filled with hate’ kind of declaration you have supposed. Was this supposed to be a clever comment, because I’m pretty sure anyone with half a brain would pick #1, or maybe they should consider the billions already lost to the ‘war on drugs’ and other tyrannical nonsense. Yeah, let’s make more laws and posturing to tell people what’s good for them, and steal more money from normal working people. What do you think made us all so poor in the first place. It wasn’t Wall Street, it was idiots voting for people who steal more and more money from every American making it.

        • tormunkov

          I agree with you Alx and want #1 also. 

  • This post reminded me of this quote from Krishnamurti:

    “Because the individual does not know his purpose, he is in a state of
    uncertainty and chaos. Because the individual has not solved his own
    problem, the problem of the world has not been solved. The individual
    problem is the world problem. If an individual is unhappy, discontented,
    dissatisfied, then the world around him is in sorrow, discontent and
    ignorance. If the individual has not found his goal, the world will not find its
    goal. You cannot separate the individual from the world. The world and
    the individual are one. If the individual problem can be solved by
    understanding, so can the problem of the world be solved. Before you can
    give understanding to others you have first to understand for yourself.
    When you establish the Truth in your heart and mind, there it will
    abide eternally.”

    • Patrick Jay

      What’s the “Truth” that he is referring to?

  • Plus: you didn’t remind people of your Q& A tomorrow.  :)

    • Good point! Twitter q and a from 330 to 430 et tomorrow! Thanks for the reminder.

      And I agree that helping people is good, even great. Good to help oneself AND others .

  • Gina

    Here Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), echoed by Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, state that to support Occupy Wall Street is to support “hate.” ECI, funded in major part by Wall Street’s own Daniel S. Loeb, CEO of Third Point Management, a New York based hedge fund, runs an advertisement splicing politicians that support OWS (albeit politically expediently) with hate-filled anti-Semitic statements that may or may not have come from the Zuccotti Park protests. Their tactic is to use the few “crappy people” to malign a political movement that directly threatens their way of life. (see e.g. )Why? Because the corporate heads their politician bedfellows know that if there is a Kent State moment, the nation will never be the same.Not only does the biased agenda belie the authenticity of ECI’s claim (why the need to splice in political opponents?), the fact that no one has been able to reproduce its results is damning.(1) the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) disagrees with ECI’s characterization of OWS.
    “While there have been some demonstrations of anti-Semitism in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, the ADL does not see it as an institutionalized problem. However, the group is continuing to observe the protests and plans to dispel any conspiracy theories that arise.”
    Here is a true description of the OWS movement, as seen by a sociologist. Note his lack of observations of hate speech.

    (2) op-ed columnist, Richard Cohen’s “keen reporter’s eye… failed to detect even a hint of the anti-Semitism” but did see, “the usual zaftig young women doing the usual arrhythmic dance, somehow missing the beat of many drums.”
    (3) certain Jewish leaders declared ECI’s charges were a non-issue.“We are publicly engaged American Jews who support both Israel and the ideas behind Occupy Wall Street and who also strongly oppose right-wing attempts to smear that movement with false charges of anti-Semitism.”Even Al-Jazeera weighs in… “The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), a far-right Republican pressure group, knows that it is still too early to roll out its full “Obama hates Israel” campaign. However, considering all the money in its coffers, it has found a cause that serves its purpose just as well: assailing the Occupy Wall Street movement as anti-Semitic”As for the why of why OWS supporters are mad, go here: or here back to the original topic, I may be wrong, but I have not seen anything cited besides ECI for such allegations. I am disappointed because I think anti-semitism is a serious charge that should be researched before condemning a movement in a well read and respected blog.

  • In my experience the best you can do to change the world is to remain silent. Might sound contradictory – but it works…

  • PC

    I really like point D) have the alien come visit you for a day.

  • You might be interested in this. One source of the shoe leather quote is from Shantideva, an 8th Century scholar at Nalanda University, from his Bodhicaryavatara 
    This is one translation
    “Where would there be leather enough to cover the entire world? There earth is covered over merely with the leather of my sandals.14. Likewise, I am unable to restrain external phenomena, but I shall restrain my own mind, what need is there to restrain anything else?”

    • tormunkov

      Thanks for sharing this, Neal. 
      Shantideva also relates these 4 steps to achieving lasting change in the realms of mind, anger, release, and freedom:

      1) The hostile crowds are as vast as space.
      2) What chance is there that they all should be subdued?
      3) Let but my own angry mind be overthrown.
      4) That my every foe be then and there destroyed.

  • Marc Hansen

    Whether you like it or not, this country changes because social activism. While you and your lot sit on your duff doing your daily practice, others are out there with their fellow man actually trying to make things better. Oh, and in your reasons for OWS, you forgot to mention the 40+ million living in poverty. I leave it to you to tell them that the daily practice will cure what ails them.

    • I think it will actually. I know it’s gotten me from zero to back to feeding my family

      • Jeremy

        Except you’re a pretty intelligent guy James… the masses are reliant on coordination from leaders with honest agendas.

        • And that will never happen with the masses largely unhealthy.

          • MC1171611

            Let’s see, the government creates unhealthy, fully-dependent, ignorant masses, then unleashes them on society where they get in the way of productive humans, and then the government reacts to “public outcry” (perpetrated by the government-engineered morons) and further enslaves productive humanity.

            Sounds like a recipe for 1917.

  • The Smartest Person in the Room doesn’t judge a movement based on pictures of signs he saw on the Internet.

    • But he uses it as an important data point

      • I can only assume that the writing in your book is as bad as your writing in this post.  This is one of the dumbest things I’ve read in a long time, especially by an apparently “professional” or at least respected writer.

        The biggest problem with your writing about OWS is that you think it’s a simple matter of the same people complaining who have always complained about inequality.  What you don’t realize is that this is a historically different time, where statistically a greater percentage of poor and middle class people have essentially become poorer than ever before.  This explains how this is a bigger movement than any previous anti-inequality movement. 

        You characterize them as communists when in fact, they are participating in democracy.  Even the ones who may not be able explain to you exactly what they are angry about still are out there because of levels of inequality that are historically different than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes.  People are genuinely hurting. 

        Given that the Occupy Wall Street people are not all extremely poor themselves, you see this as some sign that they are actually just a bunch of whiney kids with outsized ideals.  No.  They are representatives of all of the people being left out of the American Dream.  And no, not the American Dream of becoming a millionaire.  The real American Dream as its always been known of being able to enjoy life and provide for your family adequately and have a few extras and that’s all.  There are more and more people today, proportionally compared to the wealthy, who are not able to acheive this even with what you like to refer to so intelligently as “hard work.”  So f*ck you for your elitism in which you presume that all of these people are just a bunch of crybabies.  Stability in our country and economy will not be found until things become slightly more equal.  For some reason, you jump to the conclusion that this means everyone who thinks this is a communist or at least a socialist.  Of course, you’ve already explained how you don’t understand the difference between communism and socialism so this explains why you don’t understand the difference between healthy capitalism and unhealthy capitalism.  We have unhealthy capitalism now.  OWS wants healthy capitalism, and that’s it.

        • ACtually, I think you must’ve read a different article. You put more words in my mouth than I can reasonably fit there.

          • the more i read your comment the more funny it is. I said none of the things you claim I said. Quite the opposite.

          • I was responding to the premise of your whole argument about picking yourself up, which is a nice idea except that it doesn’t work at all when you’re talking about people in massive numbers who see no hope for picking themselves up.  I am not one of these people but I am speaking for him.  The  guy above says “the inequality argument has been debunked.”  Umm, what?  Does that win the argument?  Kind of like when someone says climate change is debunked.  Does that win the argument?  No, the evidence is there and it’s clear and most economists will tell you that we have an unsustainable level of economic inequality.

            Yes, people all need to try to help themselves.  Duh, do you really think this is some kind of earthshaking argument?  The problem with this argument is that you presume, as an elitist, that the people who are pissed are not also trying to help themselves.  You assume that they are not also taking responsibility for their lives while seeing the systemic, macroeconomic evidence which continues to pile up showing us that things have become more unequal than they’ve ever been.  I understand that you’re not going to agree with me or see things as I see them, but you might at least consider that sitting in your lofty perch, you might just have a skewed sense of what economic inequality (and a natural reaction to scoff at any argument that would question the righteousness of the system you’ve so inordinately benefited from).  There will be sycophants of yours who will defend you here, but the larger social narrative doesn’t jive with the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” musings

          • AB

            I agree that Bruce Meyer’s work does not debunk much.

            But I also think you will not win many arguments if you keep saying things like “the larger social narrative doesn’t jive.”

          • That should have been ^jibe^  Otherwise I don’t see the problem.  The point is that this whole “take personal responsibility” narrative is really tired and totally avoids the really difficult issues of a growing lower class.  I don’t know for sure how it is that smart people aren’t able to see a problem (glaringly obvious in the mathematical evidence) of a growing wealth gap, but my hunch is that they don’t see the problem because they don’t want to admit the problem.

          • My main point is that for some reason you were picking an argument with me by saying i said things i never said.

            the only reason I can think you would do that  without reading my article is that you are angry somehow. I get it. But just don’t take it out on me.

          • There’s an important problem with your complaining that I’m saying things you’ve never said.  What you want to do is dictate the terms of the argument and have nobody say anything about the practical implications and realities underlying the things you’re talking about (especially if it deviates from the point you are trying to make).  Your arguments are certainly sound ideologically, except that ideology is not a sound way to deal with real human, social problems.  It’s a great motivational way of thinking — good psychology if you will.  So I will compliment you on your ability to encapsulate how to “occupy yourself.” Except that I suspect you are merely preaching to the choir.  And I just don’t think, from a sociological standpoint, that what you’re saying stands up to the really complex reasons why so many people are legitimately struggling.  Are we living in a society or are we just every man, woman, and child for themselves?

          • Boetie

            This is an odd comment.

          • I understand what you are saying about “everyman for himself” That’s the secret family code I didn’t learn as a child.  I too find that absurd and disgusting. However….I think that balance is a goal for the individual alone and for the individual in society.
            I don’t think a healthy balance with society has been covered here.  But someone can correct me if I am mistaken.

          • MC1171611

            Dude, you’re a moron. I spent the first three years of my marriage looking for a job, and wound up moving halfway across the country so I could better myself. I have no pity on whiners and Socialists (perfect picture of “democracy”: barely contained mob-rule) who are “demanding” things from Wall Street, and from the very government responsible for creating this mess.

            I work hard and made a better life for myself and my family. We still struggle to get by, and live week to week, but I’m not walking around blaming others for my financial problems: I just work harder.

        • MT

          The income inequality canard has been pretty thoroughly debunked.  See Bruce Meyer at University of Chicago for some recent work in this area.

      • Gina

        Just keep in mind that data points can be deceiving.


        Noun:A person or thing situated away or detached from the main body or system.A person or thing excluded from a group; an outsider.

        Occupy Wall Street’s most visible anti-Semite was picketing the Financial District long before Zuccotti Park was occupied.

        Smith, according to a recent interview, is homeless and going blind from glaucoma. He previously told me that he made a sign reading “Google: Zionists Control Wall St.” because God told him to. And yet, as Nathan-Kazis notes, Smith has been endlessly written about, photographed and filmed. He now represents Occupy’s “anti-Semitism problem.”Another man featured in the Emergency Committee for Israel ad is Danny Cline, who appears to be an aspiring YouTube star with no involvement in Occupy Wall Street beyond showing up at the park to film his own rants.The reality is that the Occupy Wall Street movement is filled with Jews. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency recently noted its distinctly “Jewish flavor.” Fifteen hundred people attended a Yom Kippur service outside Liberty Plaza earlier this month, in what participants described as one of the most powerful and moving events of Occupy to date.

  • Rolf Norfolk

    Excellent, to focus on the one thing you can change.

  • Johnwalles

    You need to move next door to joel stein.(I just finished Time and he isn’t in this weeks) He has the neurotic whitty writing down way better because he has been doing it much longer not getting waylaid by Wall Street like most smart northeasterners do. Back to joel, I think the california weather would help you tremendously. You could do yoga outside with Claudia and not have to remind yourself so often that you are now peaceful. When you have to remind yourself as often as you do you aren’t there yet. (A little “Zen”ie) I do keep reading and I plan on following you along your journey. Your focus is great. Thanks for keeping up the discipline of writing everyday. BTW there are night people and there are morning people. If I went to bed every night at 8or 9 and got up at 3 or 4 and proudly proclaimed my 8 hrs sleep I would probably blow my brains out in a month. No replacing Matt Lauer for me. Sorry I am missing your Q & A. I have to go to bed.

  • Anonymous

    I have had a shocking realisation reading this today.  The shock is that my libertarian tendencies do not accept that man’s right to wave that placard, they really don’t. 

  • Another great post! 

  • ama

    OMG, I LOVE your alien idea. What a great way to step back and look at your life more objectively.

    • Thanks Ama, the alien idea has been working for me for about a decade. Sometimes even when I wake up, I try to think “who am I now” and come at it with a miind of complete surprise. It makes you realize the things we all take for granted.

      • Do any of your aliens comes back to help you again?  and do you mentally see or visualize the alien who has taken over you?

        • Well, in the visualization _I_ am the alien. And the body I awake in (which always happens to be mine) is “brand new” so I have to figure it out from scratch and not be too concerned (with regrets, anger, fear, anxieties, etc) with how I got there.

          • So you (as the alien) has access to your brain.  See, I think your alien should come in without knowing your baggage.  face the day fresh, and see what happens next.

            Also in awkward social situations, we like to pretend we are walking through a movie (but not in the film) and everyone else is there to entertain us – I love doing this.

  • Would you consider Occupying Greenwich with me? Our signs could say: Preoccupied. 

    The fact is, as individuals and as a country, we suffer from an appalling lack of empathy.  Change does begin with each of us doing the best we can for ourselves, not at the expense of others and not blaming others for our bad luck.  But also not blaming others for their own bad luck.

    2 Posts on the subject:
    Is Griping Good?: 
    Why Capitalism Trumps Democracy Even in OWS:

  • Colin Robertson3

    “I judge a man by his principles, not my own.” – Martin Luther King.  

    This quote by the great MLK applies to all in this situation.  Does anger towards the protesters, or suggestions on how they should improve themselves based on your or my principles change anything for the better?  As much as I want to be angry at the protesters and blog and tweet about how they are making my generation of 20 somethings look arrogant and lazy, that’s going to get us absolutely nowhere.  

    Great article, and I truly wish the protesters would read and understand and apply what you said – but I’m not going to hold my breath.

  • tormunkov

    *Ramana Maharshi, the shoe leather quote guy, is related to Jyâna yoga.

    **Jyâna yoga teaches that there are four means to salvation…

     1) Discrimination: The ability to differentiate between what is real/eternal, and what is unreal/temporal. The image of a Swan is a good example, since a Swan was said to be able to
    separate milk from water, while drinking.

     2) Dispassion: After practice one should be able to “detach” her/himself from everything that is “temporary.”

     3) Virtue: Control of the mind, control of the senses, renunciation of activities that are not duties, endurance, faith, perfect concentration.

     4) Intense longing for liberation from the temporal legal and social constraints of the common man.

  • Jini

    James, you inspire me! Thanks!

  • @tormunkov
    I sense that you are dissatisfied with the tobacco industry, and maybe even also dissatisfied with the President, his smoking habit and his ability to write books that sell. 

    I think your question should be ask of President Obama directly.

    I mean no disrespect.  Maybe you could further explain your point so I better understand.  Thanks.

    • tormunkov

      No, I support the right of people to farm and earn a living, sorry for my convoluted prose. I applaud Barack’s success on his books, each of which I’ve read partially.
      I support a responsible persons initial freedom to smoke everything that can be smoked  until such time as they infringe upon others rights.

      • Don’t be sorry for your writing -ever.(unless you hurt someone)

        I read parts of books also – that I can understand.  :)

  • Maryfish33

    Like the article.  One correction “Let’s say 1% get effected by that article.”- should be affected.

    • You are probably right Mary. I always have a hard time with that one :(

      • dawn

        Mary’s right. My reminder: Affect is a verb (my cheat is AV – like audio/video); Effect is a NOUN (cheat here is EN – like en dash). Once you write affect/effect, obviously you’ll know whether it needs to be noun or verb-based. :)

        btw, thanks for your blog. I’m very happy to have found you just recently. You have truly affected (verb) my life for the positive.

        • LOL! Yes, you are right. Except for the times when “affect” is a noun (e.g., Bob’s affect was so flat that his psychiatrist prescribed depression medication.) and when “effect” is a verb (e.g., The Romans effected the unification of Italy with superb political skill.). Not confusing at all!

          Your comment has had the effect of affecting my funny bone this evening. ;)

          • dawn

            lol :D dammit :D

  • Dave Howard

    I think this article is pretty ridiculously self-centred

  • JG

    “…But then the anger gets warped even beyond the truth. “The US caused 9/11″…”

    James, I figured out the economy in ’04, and retired after investing in gold and silver and shorting the stock market over ’07-’08 with every cent that I had.

    I figured out politics in ’07, and refused to vote for McCain after having voted and campaigned for Republicans for 25 years.

    I figured out the evil in our government in ’09, and am utterly convinced that 9/11 was an inside job.  This is a 15 minute video talking about the third tower that collapsed in its footprint on 9/11; well worth your time, sir.

    9/11 was a replay of Pearl Harbor (‘The carnage of Pearl Harbor was a small price to pay to unify the American public in support of the war’); read Stinnett, ‘Day of Deceit.’

    You do great work, James.  Thank you for the gift of sharing your insights with us.  You have made me more appreciative of the many gifts that I have in my life.

    • JG. Thanks and congrats! What do you think what’s next?

      • JG

        James, if we elect Obama/Romney/Cain/Gingrich, I think we devolve to a police state, and life will be ugly.  I really do think there is a ‘shadow government’ (military, bankers, CIA) that pulls the strings of the politicians.

        If we elect Paul, I think we have real hope of a quick cleansing of the rot in our system and a return to economic and social hope.

        I expect we will have a return to the gold standard (de facto or de jure), and see gold moving to $10,000 per ounce (  So, I have 90% of my net worth in gold and silver in Switzerland and 10% in a remote Doomstead, in case we reelect/elect a status quo politician and we see an acceleration of the now underway decline.

        I the meantime, I just read, prepare, and recount and enjoy the blessings in my life (which is where your columns help me).

        • James, I think we already are in a police state. You’ve got TSA giving you a “choice” between being irradiated or molested.  Now random searches in TN on highways, also other states in train stations, stadiums.  Your papers please?

          The reality is most people don’t want liberty. I’ve come to terms with that. I think James has some good points that basically boil down to role model change and others will imitate you.

          Preparing for contingencies is a good thing, but you also need to understand and be realistic about the probability of events happening.  Sure, it is possible that gold will move to $10k / ounce, but I think there’d be a lot worse things to worry about if that did happen, and Switzerland isn’t going to be a safe haven. But what is probable?

          One thing that has really been unpredictable since 2008 is regardless of all the issues we have as a country, the dollar has remained a currency to flee to.  Given the whole world is on a fiat system, I don’t see any change to that, especially with the PIIGS / Euro turmoil.  All else being the same, they are worse off than us and the dollar is in demand because of it. This mitigates gold pricing.

          However, eventually (years? decades?) there has to be a coming to terms. The emperor has no clothes, and it’s only a matter of time before the sleeping sheep will overwhelm the wolves feeding off them. If we don’t role model what should be vs. what is, we will certainly devolve even further.  Fortunately, Ron Paul is saying the right things, and people are hearing that.  More and more people will seek out the right things to do. I feel positively for our future. Maybe not the immediate future, but certainly liberty is starting to germinate.

    • the author is a Jew….. he knows the score on 9/11 – but Jews are in deep trouble all around the world.

      who do you think has been fleecing us?  — Presbyterians?

      Corzine…. another f@cking:disqus


      We are going to be inundated with stuff like this… because Jews know … we know… the world knows… Jews are the problem and the solution


  • PBurns

    So you want us to shut up, while you talk, blog and tweet like a mad man preaching mindfulness.  

    • No. I don’t think that’s what I said.

    • Starkravingmadd

      Keep Occupying WS if you one of em! 

      Less competition for Us who are starting our own businesses!!


  • Brister

    Hey James, I like your stuff but you are talking out of your ass.  

    You need to occupy wall street before you write about it.  If you did you would not find a bunch of angry people.  You would find a bunch of people who standing up for change makes them happy. 
    Each individual has there own favorite reason, but if you want a list Michael Moore can give you a good one.     You have written that Corporation are now much more people friendly than they were 50 or 100 years ago.  Why?  Because people stood up.  OWS are not against corporation they just want corporations to be better.   What makes me shake is the endless list of CEO’s who have been hired by their peers and paid obscene amounts of money.  Its been like this for ever but in the last 20 years it has become epic.  CEO of tax payer subsidize PBS, at  $632,000.00.  Viacom CEO, 84 million dollars, .  Occidental  CEO, 76 million, Black & Decker  CEO 32 million.  Comcast CEO 28 million. The list goes on and on and on.  These people did not start these companies.  They are hired hands just like the rest of the 99% who work for them.  They do not work 500 times harder or are they 500 times smarter so they do not deserve to be paid 500 time more.    CEO’s are not hired because they are supper human.  They are hired because of who they know or who they are related to. CEO’s have raped and plunder the companies they work for and created Corporations that rape and plunder the people they were created to serve.

    I don’t have a personal problem with CEO’s, I would take the money too, it is the system that needs to change.

    • Starkravingmadd

      How about you start by minding your own biz(in a gud way) and start a business? Havent you ever heard of the old adage “If you cant beat em, Join em!”

      So much money in circulation today and the best way that yall came up with to get some of it is occupy Wall Street! Apparently most of yall dont have jobs & dont intend on starting a biz so lets go Fuck with the Guys who print money on Wall Street!!

      Dumb Fucks!

      • Brister

        Minding our own business is what we did during the Bush years.  Letting the thieves run our largest corporations in the ground whilst sucking millions out of them was not a good idea.  

        Start a biz and sell what to who,  people are burying themselves deep in their bunkers; surrounding themselves with layers and layers of security, provisions and gold.  

        I don’t think OWLs are expecting to be paid for their service.
        I do think their values are more about relationships and friendships and less about working for some shit corporation  that is giving all its money to its board members.  

        • alx

          How did the president of the United States allow the CEOs to do anything exactly? What business does the president have at all in governing corporations? That’s the exact problem these protestors should be protesting about… that there is any part of government that takes money from people and gives it to corporations! Our government has no business in the free market. If we had a free market that wasn’t tied at all the the Federal Reserve, than doing something like protesting a bank or complaining about something you don’t like about a corporation would actually matter, because you could always go on to the next bank. If people don’t like debit card fees for example, you pick the one with the lowest fees. The only thing stopping action like that from causing the banks and corporations who don’t appeal to the people to lose money is that the government is giving them more. It all starts with one action. Do this, and you will change the world. Ask yourself one question every time you decide whether or not you support something enough to raise your voice. Does it involve putting power or money under the control of a government that has never been successful at handling either power or control? Would the money or power be better spent by the people themselves? It’s unfortunate (and yes, this is a generality) that most of the people at OWS are liberals, because when they get home, they will just continue to hand every dollar the free market makes for normal people back over to the government, in the name of ‘progress’. Let people take over, we’re better at it. The market has always proven itself when the state and FED took its hands out. There’s nothing to complain about capitalism. Capitalism is the solution. Stop feeding money to the beast that funds corporatism.

          • Brister

            Bush and his cronies issued in an era of Make any amount of money you want, do it any way you want, fuck anybody you want, have no regard for what you are doing to people, the environment or the economy.  

            There is nothing wrong with corporations except when they are involved in slavery, sweet shops, child labor, discrimination of sex, race and pay… or in destroying the earth or peoples health. 

            Obviously you don’t know any of this goes on.  Ask a coal miner how things are going.  He will not tell you because he will lose his job. 

            Of the 20 richest Billionaires almost everyone of them deserve every cent they own. They either started the company that made them rich or they inherited the money. I have no problem with that, I don’t have problem with free markets, small government or capitalism.
            So if you think capitalism is letting corporations self regulate and that it will  lead to wonderful world, good luck with that.


  • Starkravingmadd


    How do you market/advertise to business in order to win a contract/job and get your startup off the ground?

  • The ultimate cynical view on effecting change came from Woody Allen’s early movie “Bananas.”

    In that movie, the idealistic rebel leader becomes crazed with power once he gains power.

    Quantum change in society is almost universally bad and results in a populace that becomes even more disenfranchised and their rulers more entrenched.

    Representative government, scam or not, still offers the greatest opportunity for change to actually occur and move society forward.

    MLK moved us forward, but he led by example and used the moral high ground. Marching and yelling, without coherent objectives and without making the moral case for basic human dignity and equality is doomed to fizzle. Seriously? Occupy Oakland?

    I marched and sat in during the 60’s and 70’s. Nothing really changed, because we were just “dirty hippies” and were perceived to only want to tear down existing structures and authority. Although the anti-war focus was strong and increasingly Americans came to agree with the basic error in pursuing that conflict, protestors never achieved that moral high ground and lost the opportunity to change society.

    I agree with you James on becoming an alien and then changing from within, but disagree on the last item.

    If you can get external to your true self and objectively assess and alter your path, why shut up? Lead by the example you set for yourself and let the world know, one person at a time.

    Oh yeah, and read my blog

  • Nathan Belomy

    Aliens huh, Nuclear fusion coming soon =)

  • Apivetta

    You don’t think it’s possible elements of the U.S. Government had some connection to the 9/11 attacks? At least knew about it and let it happen? It’s beyond the pale even to entertain the possibility?
    Ever read Paul Stinnet’s *Day of Deceit*, in which he exposes FDR’s foreknowledge of the “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor? Are you familiar with the Gulf of Tonkin incident? Ever explore the unspeakable weirdness surrounding the JFK assassination?  
    You’re welcome to tag anti-government conspiracy theories “warped.” I don’t see things that way at all.

    • Anonymous

      You know what I tell people now who say that the 9/11 sceptics are conspiracy nut?  Well, the “official” story is a conspiracy theory itself.  That a bunch of Arabs got on planes and flew them into buildings.  I don’t think anyone is saying they didn’t plan to do this.  What this looks most like to me is an FBI sting operation that at the last minute no one pulled the plug on. 

    • Anonymous

      The Official Version of 9/11 goes something like this…Directed by a beardy-guy from a cave in Afghanistan, nineteen hard-drinking, coke-snorting, devout Muslims enjoy lap dances before their mission to meet Allah…Using nothing more than craft knifes, they overpower cabin crew, passengers and pilots on four planes…And hangover or not, they manage to give the world’s most sophisticated air defense system the slip…Unphased by leaving their “How to Fly a Passenger Jet” guide in the car at the airport, they master the controls in no-time and score direct hits on two towers, causing THREE to collapse completely…Our masterminds even manage to overpower the odd law of physics or two… and the world watches in awe as steel-framed buildings fall symmetrically – through their own mass – at free-fall speed, for the first time in history. Despite all their dastardly cunning, they stupidly give their identity away by using explosion-proof passports, which survive the fireball undamaged and fall to the ground… only to be discovered by the incredible crime-fighting sleuths at the FBI Meanwhile down in Washington…Hani Hanjour, having previously flunked 2-man Cessna flying school, gets carried away with all the success of the day and suddenly finds incredible abilities behind the controls of a Boeing…Instead of flying straight down into the large roof area of the Pentagon, he decides to show off a little…Executing an incredible 270 degree downward spiral, he levels off to hit the low facade of the world’s most heavily defended building……all without a single shot being fired…. or ruining the nicely mowed lawn… and all at a speed just too fast to capture on video……Later, in the skies above Pennsylvania…So desperate to talk to loved ones before their death, some passengers use sheer willpower to connect mobile calls that otherwise would not be possible until several years later…And following a heroic attempt by some to retake control of Flight 93, it crashes into a Shankesville field leaving no trace of engines, fuselage or occupants… except for the standard issue Muslim terrorists bandana……Further south in Florida…President Bush, our brave Commander-in-Chief continues to read “My Pet Goat” to a class full of primary school children… shrugging off the obvious possibility that his life could be in imminent danger…In New York…Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein blesses his own foresight in insuring the buildings against terrorist attack only six weeks previously…While back in Washington, **** Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz shake their heads in disbelief at their own luck in getting the ‘New Pearl Harbor’ catalyzing event they so desired to pursue their agenda of world domination…And finally, not to be disturbed too much by reports of their own deaths, at least seven of our nineteen suicide hijackers turn up alive and kicking in lamestream media reports  and if you don’t believe this, you are a conspiracy theorist.

  • Philiplcamp

    James: The need to change oneself first is ultraimportant, as you say, but it’s not exactly new:

    To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order;
    to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order;
    to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life;
    and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.
    As far as voting goes, it is treated as a consumer item; vote for what you want & see if you get it. But it is a moral responsibility. How I like to see this is that when I vote for someone I become responsible for their crimes. Imagine standing before God on the Last Day while you get to answer for bombed out cities. You’ll start leaving a lot of blanks on your ballot, too.  :)

  • Matt

    Look, I am part of the generation that is involved with OWS.  I have to say that I am annoyed because people will automatically think I agree with them.  I went to college and am now pursuing a PhD.  You know why?  Because an art major is not going to get me a job.  I saw that the market was going bad when I finished college (2007) and applied to PhD programs.  The only thing I am mad about is that the Obama administration removed subsidized student loans for graduate students.  I took those loans out and used some of the proceeds in the stock market so that I have made enough money in the market to pay off the loans.  I also went to college on a full ride.  I agree that the education system is a joke.  However, if you game the system, it can be a decent play.  Education is an investment and you only invest if it is a sure thing.  Do I think getting a PhD is a sure thing?  No!  But I have a higher probability of getting a job than a high school drop out.  Also, I enjoy doing biomedical research because I might find a drug that helps treat illnesses.  I can go on about the FDA and how the government is ruining basic research.  Perhaps a guess blog James?

    • Starkravingmadd

      Go start a business instead of wasting time Piling High & Deep(PhD) ignorance in class…


  • Guest

    James, do you charge to syndicate your column? Or just require that they link to your blog after so many words of the article? I don’t see any info on this on your blog. 

  • I don’t agree with everything you’re saying, but your blog posts represent such a wide range of experience and propensity to take risks. You’ve taken the numbered list blog post to a new level.

     Having a self-help step that is “pretend to be an alien” coupled with some insight into the OWS movement is a nice example of that.

    All populist movements are going to have their fair share of muddle-headed ideology and impulsive bursts of violence. The police will always commit abuses. The protesters will always say stupid shit. But I’m glad that at least the movement is giving people hope and empowerment, that people don’t feel totally cowed by the dictates of the government or large corporations. That they won’t bend over for fees on debit cards, for instance.

  • A filthy Jew telling us to shut up and let OTHER filthy Jews continue ransacking our world.

    NO – this time REAL OVENS>

    he had me until he defended Jews and 9/11 … then tried to tell us condemnation of the Jews who DO control Wall st … is anti semitic.

    The whole world is and has been anti semitic…. as soon as they quantify the behavior of Jews LIKE YOU!

    • Jack, Normally i would delete a comment like this. I noticed you posted it anonymously but I trivially have found out who you are by where the IP address is coming from (Hi Albuquerque!).

      I’ve decided to keep your comment up for a few reasons:
      A) it doesn’t really make me angry. It’s too ridiculous
      B) it proves to me and the readers that the scapegoating that is occurring now can have dangerous consequences
      C) comments like yours also prove my point that the only way real change can happen is if we fight the anger that is within us. Clearly you are angry and wnt to take it out on someone (me, jews, whoever). You don’t have to be so angry. Remember: 60 seconds of anger like what you have is one minute of happiness that you have taken away from yourself.

      I hope you get better. And thanks for letting people see the dark side of what is going on right now.

      • I did not choose to post anonymously… I didn’t have a choice

        And at least one reader understood the dynamics at work here….

        calling people SICK and deranged when they learn and complain of Jews

        Jews who are the enemy of not only America, but capitalism itself … and every other culture but other Jews…

        THAT is what’s twisted.  Your fatherly tone to me to ‘get better’ makes others gag because they know… the world knows… Americans have been put to sleep with Jewish media telling them how profoundly important and talented you are.

        Ugh… it’s all coming home to roost… AGAIN.


        and My name Is Jack Thomsen…. and I live in Albuquerque

        who cares?  — I’m one of billions who hate Jews

        • MC1171611

          I’m one of the SANE billions that thinks you need to get punched in the face.

      • guest

        This has made me finally realize…I have got to get the heck out of Albuquerque!

    • Starkravingmadd

      Jack t, I think it should be more like Jack a for Jack ass!!


      • Apivetta

        Jack t should stick with defaming Muslims, Southern whites, Baptists, Catholics, the Euro-Christian tribes in general and, specifically, the (eternally accursed) Germans. Teutonophobia rocks! You may defame any of these groups in polite company. You will be admired for your hip and sophisticated derring-do! 

    • Jack — hatred is poison. It is the information equivalent of cancer. It really is.

      Don’t consider this as advice. My advice is worth about as much as anyone else’s. Consider this as an attempt at first aid. Stop the hatred now, and purge yourself of the poison, while you have the chance and the choice.

  • Reminds me of this excellent bit from Leonard Read:

    And, at the
    very least, most men fail to see how one who concentrates on self-perfection
    could possibly have a hand in elevating the human situation. The
    Count of Oropesa, more than four centuries ago, had a passion to
    reform the world. A Spanish saint, San Pedro of Alcantara, gave
    him the kind of counsel I am urging on everyone who would advance

    “May your
    Lordship not torment yourself: there is a remedy for this deluge
    of crimes. Let us be, you and me, that which we should be. There
    will be two less souls to convert. Let each person behave thus:
    it is the most efficacious of reforms. The trouble is, that no
    one wants to correct himself and everyone meddles at correcting
    others: thus everything stays as is.”

  • DwightJohnson

    I agree entirely with your statement “voting doesn’t work”. Politics is about making friends for yourself with other people’s money. That money is mostly our taxes. To fix the problem we need to gain control of our taxes. Sitting in Zuccotti Park all day won’t accomplish that. We need to create voluntary membership organizations (I call them “cantons” after the territories in Switzerland), to whom we assign one goal: get control of our taxes from the government. It’s our money, after all. Let those who pay the taxes determine what the taxes pay for. Much more at See also my book “If Not Democracy”.

  • James,

      How very yogic of you. Claudia is having quite an influence. Kinda like Christie Brinkley had on Billy Joel just about the time his music turned to crap! Don’t let your music die James!   I find it odd that you of all people left out the most important voting power we have, our money. Bankers, politicians, manufacturers, retailers, they’re all nothing but dogs that can follow the scent of the almighty dollar. Put your dollar on a string and drag it through Wall St. is more powerful than sleeping in a tent on the street outside the building where a few poor shlubs have to work under great stress and pressure.   Some of us are finally getting that. I totally respect the people who wanted to close their accounts with Citibank and BoA because they didn’t like how those businesses were using their funds. This is the way to change. Don’t like the impact of superstores on the environment and globalization, shop at small local businesses. If enough people do, it won’t take but a week before Walmart starts creating Walmartettes in your strip malls.

       The means that people will have to accept change. They may not have the brands they like, they may have to travel and extra five miles to get to do business with someone who is more ethical and support Ron Paul instead of one of the Idiots on Parade (okay, sure I have my biases too!). But the point is solid.

       A vote in the booth in November is worthless! Everyone in America not buying American cars until they get the same gas mileage as their equivalent model in Europe will change the economy. Want better politicians? Don’t do businesses with the supporters of idiots and scam-artists. I guarantee one month of decreased business by a retailer because of who they gave money to and you will see them withdraw their support publicly. No money = no electee!


    • I’m not sure whether you are agreeing with me or disagreeing with me.

      • LOL! Well, for the most part, I find it difficult to disagree with your sentiment. You clearly believe that by being the change we create the change; except we can’t, unless enough of us choose to do so. Otherwise, the forces against our change operate against our intent. But, enough metaphysics mumbo-jumbo.

        You raised the point that voting is a scam, and you are partially correct. If what you vote for is a person to lead change, then you will be sorely disappointed. If you represent the change through how you use your money, then there is a good chance those seeking that money will listen. However, this supports the point I made earlier that enough of us have to choose to make the change in order to produce the desired effect.

        I agree with your recommendations, they are an important step for anyone to participate in change, but believe changing yourself is not enough.

  • Ugh… the memories this brings back…

    Singing ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson, in the choir at basic training.  Similar message, but such tainted sources, lol.

  • Musicisart2

    In the land of the dark-the ship of the sun is pulled by people like James

  • General Observation:

    What I find funny/peculiar about Occupy Wall Street is the expressed anger from the 99% who don’t want to believe they are actually also the 99%. 

    You don’t have to be protestor to be in the 99%. You don’t even have to agree with them, it just doesn’t matter.

    If you are not in the 1%……’re in the 99% 

    Happy Friday Everyone!

  • Mike Phillips

    James, you seem like a thoughtful, intelligent person yet I have to tell you that your comments about 9/11 are really causing you to lose all credibility.  Please do a little research before you ridicule the entire 9-11 truth community.   Building 7 might be a good place to start.

  • KB

     D) is insanely genius.  You could start an entire new religion out of that.  Hopefully the branch of the military that deals with market-ops doesn’t pay attention to your site.

  • 2Afraid2Ween

    great post altucher-  q. how does cain pronounce your name? a. (i’ll TOUCH’ her),  i feel your “be the change you want to see in the world” essay.. i’ll bet gahdi dreamed he had a shaggy head of hair like yours…  I challenge you to write your bolded principles in haiku form…   keep writing and ill keep reading.. 

  • Rich

    James, really enjoyed your article!
    I agree with it 99%. The 9/11 comment is the only thing I’m in disagreement on. Even if you do not believe 9/11 was an “inside job”, to mock at the idea that 9/11 was the US’s fault is I think misguided. At minimum, the US played a role in encouraging the attacks by having its troops across the islamic “holy land” (blowback).

    Anyway, I’m new to your blog and looking forward to more thought-provoking stuff!

  • Hey James, I thought you might like this quote, hope you enjoy!
    A man decided that he would change the world.But, he wasn’t successful.So he decided to change the country.But, he wasn’t successful.So he decided to change his community.But, he wasn’t successful.So he decided to change his street.But, he wasn’t successful.So he decided to change his family.But, he wasn’t successful.So he decided to change himself.AND HE WAS SUCCESSFUL.AND HIS FAMILY CHANGED AND THEY AFFECTED THEIR STREET.AND THE PEOPLE ON THE STREET AFFECTED THEIR COMMUNITY.AND THE PEOPLE OF THE COMMUNITY AFFECTED THEIR COUNTRY.AND THE PEOPLE OF THE COUNTRY AFFECTED THE WORLD.
    I dropped out of college to do this:

  • 2Afraid2Ween


  • Bushman

    I like your web-site. Times ahead will be very challenging for us all. The world has more debt than assets. And a collapse of the financial system is coming. Watch documentaries on youtube about Argentina and Cuba(after Soviet Collapse). Each Cuban lost 20 pounds in the 2 year period after their collapse.  Survival will be tough but the human spirit is amazing. Many Americans are soft and pampered. The mechanics, builders, farmers, and military men will have skills in demand for the times ahead. Suburban bankers not so much…. Anyway, keep the positive vibe.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, James. I don’t know the difference between the impact of one vote and one act, each of which is, seemingly to me, an act of faith that one or the other will remove anger. Both have a place and a time, a purpose and an effect.

    Unless the comparison is that the vote is directed at changing the outside world and the act is directed at changing at a personal level, it seems what is in your head is what counts. The article emphasized anger at the world.

    Next time you are angry at the world sing. Run a hard sprint. Punch a bag. Write your congressman a vituperative letter. Save the letter till tomorrow. Read it. Trash it. See if anger goes away.

  • schulwitz

    The  “9 Skills Needed to Become a Super Connector” link is broken.

    There, I just made the world, a little bit better.