I Don’t Know Anything

I really messed up and I’m ashamed of it. A lot of people wrote articles saying bad things about me over the past two years. I’ve written about some of them here and I’ve given them too much attention. And some of them I’ve thankfully ignored.

Someone wrote an article a few weeks ago criticizing badly something I’ve said. In doing so he proceeded to have his fun in every way and then other commenters joined in.

how i feel when I don't know anything

So, who cares?

My problem is this: I responded. I went into the comments and I said “this” and “that” and tried to defend myself, etc.


For one thing, the article against me was totally correct. I don’t know anything. I just have opinions about things. Other people have opposing opinions. In fifty years none of us will have buildings named after us so what does it matter. Even if it were a nice big building named after us it still wouldn’t matter. We can argue about economics or politics or relationships or whatever. Who cares?

Sometimes people present opinions in a way that shows me they are jealous or unhappy with their lives. Perhaps the mother or father beat them as children and now they want to beat me. I don’t know if that’s the case here. The author was anonymous. The commenters were anonymous. They all clearly disliked me and like a little baby, that hurt my feelings.

I don't know if the guy trashing me work in the worlds tallest building?

(the author of the article trashing me lives in Dubai. Perhaps he works in the world’s tallest building.)

So I got into the mud and played with pigs.

As I mentioned in the article, “How to Deal with Crappy People” and “The Crappy People FAQ” when you get into the mud with pigs, you get dirty and the pigs get happy.

So I got very dirty. What does that mean? Did I really get mud on me?

No, I got a ton of bad energy on me. All over the Internet people spew their negativity. I want to be positive. You can’t be positive if you are around negative people all the time.

Here’s what happens:

  • you spend time thinking imaginary arguments with them about how bad they are
  • you may actually engage in those arguments, wasting more time.
  • you then go back to those arguments seeing who responded.
  • more and more people feel bad. They either feel more and more angry at me or they themselves feel offended on what I say.
  • OR, even worse, people I could’ve helped instead do not get helped. Posts I could’ve written do not get written.

And so my goal of becoming a good, positive person who helps people gets severely hurt. Why say severely? It was only for a day or two. It was only the Internet. I’m not upset at the anonymous trolls. They can’t help themselves. But there was no reason to go negative when I could’ve been positive.

A day or two is a long time. Every day counts. If you want to meet the love of your life and you spend time chasing a girl who treats you like crap then that’s one less day your energy went towards something very negative in your life instead of something very positive.

If you work a bad job and decide to trash your boss in gossip with your co-workers and then go out drinking away the misery that’s one less day you could’ve been developing skills, developing your network, and reaching out to positive people who could’ve helped you move into a better position.

Those days are opportunities you may never get back. Who knows what you missed out on them. They don’t repeat later. You’ve lost them forever.

So I write these posts, “How to Deal with Crappy People” and then in this case I don’t follow my own advice. Maybe that was the day I could’ve written a post helping at least one person and then the world could’ve been a better place.

And it’s not that I am so great. Think how it all adds up. Everyone fighting their imaginary enemies. Everyone going out to dinners and gossiping and getting jealous and chasing things that are bad for them. Everyone who is missing out on helping people or doing better things in their lives than arguing. It all adds up.

Waste Of Energy at Gossiping

(waste of energy to gossip)

Finally everyone was ganging up on me in this article. Saying what a fool I was. Saying what a jerk I was showing myself to be. The more I answered, the more I was being buried in the quicksand of mud. I was getting angrier and angrier and so was everyone else. And I really felt like I was paying attention to these people and ignoring others who were so much nicer to me and who I should’ve been really paying attention to.

I try to practice my own advice. Just like I try for every business I do to be a success. And every kiss I give to not have secondary meanings. And every time I exercise to see improvement. But sometimes there’s pain. Sometimes there’s failure. Sometimes I just have to say, “practice makes permanent” (Note: it’s never “practice makes perfect”. No such thing).

So finally I wrote in the comments on that article, “I’m really sorry I didn’t give the answer you were looking for.” And decided to stop.

And it’s true. I’m really sorry.


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  • Anonymous

    Absolutely. Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus” doesn’t even take into account this kind of wasted time. 

  • I am glad you are back again. You need not to be sorry.
    How is your back pain? Still taking yoga lessons? I would love to read someday about your experiences in India, other than yoga. 

  • Great post James! Dealing with people who trash your writing or art is always hard to take gracefully. I try to put them into two categories.
    1. People I respect who are looking out for me and will give me constructive criticism.
    2. People who will rant about things in life whether I were there or not…so let them rant.
    It isn’t easy. My blog got trashed by a guy yesterday on Google+. My first instinct was to defend myself…but then I didn’t. In this case, another blogger, who I really very much do respect jumped in and did a much better job of refuting the guys points and he did it without any personal anger involved…so the results I am sure were better.
    Thanks for the great blog post! (Saw that Chris Brogan is now a fan of your work…so that is awesome!)

  • I either ignore criticism, or if I respond I view it as a training or an exercise to hone my debating skills. And as a blogger, criticism is still better than no publicity at all.

  • Anonymous

    They would put their names on their garbage if they weren’t afraid of the truth. 

  • “I’m really sorry I didn’t give the answer you were looking for.”

    Love it.  That sums up the situation better than anything; the “antimatter posters”, those who count their accomplishments not in construction but in destruction, are never looking for answers.  They have their conclusions already and are seeking reinforcement to shore up their insecurity.  Your answer, not buttressing their walls of sand, becomes an attack of the worst kind – the kind where those that disagree find that it carves them out even hollower than before, an internalized pain that they know comes from their own lack of confidence, their own suspicion that they have made no other contribution other than waving the flag of their own agenda.

    Your answer calls them out on this perfectly.  Strong work.

    The expression to remember when dealing with those attacks, “A critic is a legless man who teaches running.”

  • Because you mentioned that the trashy author comes from Dubai and assume that he works at the Burj Kalifa, maybe it’s Tom Cruise: 
    http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/mission-impossible-4/ ? He was there recently and had to climb the tower, jump out of it, and do lots of other silly stuff [see the video at the bottom of above link]. Maybe that’s why he was frustrated?

  • The thing I learned in dealing with crappy people is that you can’t call them crappy. (You can here, but not when you are in the forum where they are being crappy.)

    I got into it once in a forum, and described the crappy behavior in a couple of ways, and the crappy people started acting more like that. For example, I said something how they were acting like Charlie Sheen, going completely nonlinear and then declaring that they are “winning!” Their reaction was not to have a moment of introspection and realize that it was true, their reaction was to get even bat-s*** crazier.

    So, finally, I learned not to even apologize at all, and instead try to turn it positive. “Thank you for sharing your opinion!” 

  • I live in Dubai and I think your blog is awesome. I always recommend it to people I meet who have a little entrepreneurial twinkle in their eye. Having said that, please use a more up-to-date pic of Dubai next time (it changes fast) or face total jerkdom.

  • interesting how the crappy people read your earlier post and recognized themselves in it. 

    You’re one of the most open, insightful writers I’ve read in a while. And you’re good enough, smart enough, and … :) 

    • I read your comments at the article. You did have a bit of an attitude, which I get, but you smacked the hornets nest

  • dmp

    It’s amazing how much energy the haters have, and it never goes away, so trying to stem that tide is an exercise in futility. A Buddhist response I came across some time ago that I try to say to myself when I encounter this attitude is “Thank-You, but I decline your gift of negativity.” Then I just smile and get on with my day.

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic post.  Thanks.

  • xo .

    I guess the appropriate encouragement is that people will say what they will and don’t let it get to you too much. But that’s really hard when you are feeling in the dumps. There is definitely a lesson in there about crappy people and how you cannot win against them.

    You cannot be all things to all people, however good your intentions. Not everyone appreciates or has experienced dirty fiction in real life, and therefore cannot relate to the way you write and the story you have to share. For the most part, we can all learn a lot from your wisdom and  experiences. You are real and we all love you for it. You are not a god, but that’s ok.

  • It’s not easy being positive all the time, in fact, it is quite the opposite.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.

  • Is it possible to respond without negativity?  Stick the to facts, ignore the disrespect. 

    If your goal is to spread your ideas, the controversy helps to do just that.  You get your name and ideas presented to whole new audiences.  Those who spew the negativity are suddenly working for you.  Many of the readers may have agreed with at least some of your ideas. 

    What would happen if you were to look at it as an exercise in harnessing that negativity to your own benefit?  Every negative James Altucher story is an opportunity to lure some eyeballs to your site.  Suddenly you will look forward to the attacks.  You respond respectfully with two simple goals:

    1) To promote the conversation. 

    2) To entice people to visit your site. 

    You don’t have to win the argument or address all of their points.  Perhaps you will send them a thank-you note at the end.   

    • Anonymous

      “Stick to the facts.  Ignore the disrespect.”  I try hard to do this when I respond to thinly-veiled hostility (or unveiled hostility also, of course).  Other readers are smart enough to see the ugliness, too, and letting it sit there unresponded-to just accentuates its negative appearance.  Refusing to stoop to that level makes you feel good (after you get past the momentary urge to refute/debate) and may elevate your appearance to others, also, as a side benefit.  That’s because all of us know that we can’t respond to every person baiting us into a fight.  Not only is it almost always fruitless, but it’s a time-waster and not worth the banging-up we’ll get in the process.  Think about it – we may be drawn into it in real life, but would you stop to interact with a crazy person soliciting a fist-fight from you on a street corner?  Of course not.  You would just walk on by.

      • Anonymous

        I meant to say, “we may be drawn into it in the cyber-world,” (as opposed to real life.)

      • That’s true.  In the real world it often makes little sense to engage a negative person and a whole lot of sense to avoid them.  If, that is, you can only lose by engaging. 

        Frequently things are not so simple.  Often there is something to be gained, but that gain can come with costs.  James has outlined those costs in many posts. 

        It is important to ask, What is the goal?  Why do I feel tempted to engage?  Is it to defend my reputation… to hit back?  If that’s the case, chances are I am only damaging myself. 

        It seems to me, the goal here is to drive traffic to this blog.  Conflict seduces attention.  Attention drives traffic.  Fact of life.  Not a pretty one, but a fact nonetheless.   

        It is possible to USE the conflict as a tool for good.  Not only to get traffic but as a showcase, displaying some of the themes of this blog in a difficult setting, one where two people do not agree.

        By responding to a few specific criticisms and ignoring the attacks, it is possible to reap the benefits of the conflict without succumbing to the harmfulness of it. 

        Caveat:  Easier said than done. 

  • Eric Chaffee

    We can’t be everybody’s moral tutor. But we can do our best at being upright. Joel Goldsmith told a joke in one of his books about two guys who had been drinking in a bar for many hours. One guy looks at the other, and says with a slur:  “You better quit drinkin’ cuz your face is gettin’ blurry.” 

    Nope, we can’t fix that “out there.”


  • Rarely have I had a meaningful discussion with strangers in comment sections or Facebook pages or through Twitter. Keyboard courage is rampant and people communicate online in a fashion that they would never do in person. Still, I’m here in the web, looking to learn. Looking to connect. The upside WAY beats the downside.

    I read your blog often. I’d say I agree with your point of view about 60% of the time. 40% of the time I could not disagree more. Your posts are usually quite assertive and go to one end of the spectrum. That kind of disruption will piss people off. Let em stew.

    And if you can’t resist commenting on other sites, you can always tell them “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.” 

    • info

      ‘Keyboard courage’. That’s great.

  • The author was anonymous. The commenters were anonymous. ” It would be interesting to see how many of these anonymous people would say exactly the same thing if they would have to give their real name and face to their comments. I have a feeling it would be a really low percentage…

  • Komlos45


    like many others i like your writing style & especially the content.

    i heard a comedian say that if someone hates your act, that is a badge of honor.
    it means you are saying something that affects them, makes them feel, think.

    i like to read your old posts & i look forward to your next.

  • Dicker Snoodle

    i’ve learned that there are very few things we actually ‘know’, even if we think we know something. many things I thought I knew just turned out to be opinions and oftentimes wrong. so having other people say you don’t know anything that you just have opinions is probably also true of themselves – they just don’t know it. that’s my opinion…

  • Anonymous

    Hi James.
    I’ve had my share too. It sucks.
    Did you read this? http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/am-i-a-privileged-fck-yep-guilty-as-charged-but-guess-what-so-are-you-ben-ralston/

  • Stay away from Pissing Contests
    (Wish I could tell that to Newt and Mitt)

    If your positions are well-reasoned and thought out, share them, and let it go — Go dark
    Let time do your defending, which time will
    You must have faith in Cosmic Justice

    The internet allows people to be the jerks they are
    Their normal life is drab and wimp-ish
    They are only tough, because they can be anonymous
    In their Real World, they would be fired and shot


  • Sergie Motiev

    Just to add to this ancient :-) law.
    Robert Anton Wilson, Prometheus Rising p.145:

    Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to this as “the
    hydrostatic principle in controversy,” whereby the fools drag
    everybody down to their own level.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, listen… Don’t you know this already? Don’t you know that:  Anyone, everyone, every single one of us can say ANYTHING, and there will be haters out there hatin’ from the very second your fingers type the last keystroke.  I’m not kidding.  I could submit an essay that simply says:
    And given the right media exposure, there would be criticism of my character, denouncement of my physical and spiritual worth, and death wishes posted soon enough.  I have seen photos of something simple and nice posted on CNN (that cesspool of human brain waste) and given enough time (checking back in 10 minutes), you’ll see the cobwebby corners of the disturbed minds of the world churning out their illness-products for all of us to view and try to make sense of.  The problem is that there are simply so many people in the world that anyone can collect a legion of people who want your head on a platter, seemingly simply because you exist.  Open your mouth to actually say something, and the mob multiplies.

    That’s the difficult part of interacting with the entire world on the “world wide” web.  I can’t believe you do it with your photo, your name, your general location.  Most people are not so brave.  Most people also don’t open themselves up to hearing what every brain and set of typing fingers in the world has to say to you.  You absolutely have to learn to file certain things in the mental garbage can as soon as they some in.  Easier said than done, but just start over and keep your resolve to save your energy for where it’s needed and remember that no one should feel obligated to respond to every single person who has something to say to/about you.

  • R Callaray

    It’s okay, J. “All experiences are opportunities to learn and grow.”  -Louise Hay

  • Callaray2311

    It’s okay, J. “All experiences are opportunities to learn and grow.”  -Louise Hay

  • Not knowing everything is what makes you so readable, personable and human, James.
    P.S. I never engage critics via comments. All that does is give greater forum to those who have both a chronic surplus of opinions and deficit in facts.

  • You help me, a lot. And in many ways, not least among them the wways you expose your inner doubts and turmoils, your imperfections,, your professional confessions. I have done this on the unprofessional front, hoping that by showing a life falling apart and then recovering II could encourage others. But it’s amazing how quickly a readership dries up duringg the falling-apart times. So I learn from you to keep the arc very short–even during the slow recoveries to include a positive discovery in each post. Thanks for being there for me.

  • James, thanks for the article, I am definitely struggling with negativity. I have goals, dreams, all these things I want to be, but I am holding back. I start, but stop, or never start in the first place. 
    I love your writing and I hope that I can have a break through. 
    I want to try your daily practice, or some version of it, but I still haven’t pulled the trigger. 
    Thanks man, hope you enjoyed your trip to India.

  • You’ve got the magic. Keep on keepin’ on, James.

  • I think you had every right to stick up for yourself.  It’s not big deal, be glad you were honest to yourself in the moment. Be grateful for what you learned, and be proud you turned it into something to help others.—Nothing bad in this so far….right?

    Intuition tells me this author-guy has a “man-crush” obsession with you, or something else that isn’t quite normal.

  • Paideia

    Here’s a Nobel Prize Winner who doesn’t think gossip is a waste of time …

    • Isaiah103


  • cowboylogic

    You know plenty, you know what’s important. A good gun, a fast horse, and a good woman’s love.

  • Caromusa

    The thing is, you will never be liked by everyone.
    And that’s fine! I don’t trust people that everybody likes. They hide something, they are phoney, they don’t show their true selves. You could write a post about this: “How to deal with people not liking you”. 
    Keep doing your thing, you already changed my life a bit :)

  • Caromusa

    The thing is, you will never be liked by everyone.
    And that’s fine! I don’t trust people that everybody likes. They hide something, they are phoney, they don’t show their true selves. You could write a post about this: “How to deal with people not liking you”. 
    Keep doing your thing, you already changed my life a bit :)

  • hurricanelantern

    Dear Gladiator,

  • Miro Morea

    Don’t worry about it. It takes courage to put your opinions out into the public sphere, using your own name and picture, and it takes courage to expose your weaknesses and failings. It’s certainly something that I haven’t yet summoned up the guts for, nor is it something that many celebrity bloggers do. That’s why so many of them seem so plastic. They repeat the same mantras over and over again in whatever field they’re in – marketing, self-help, and so on. But they never let on to their own mortality and failings, which makes their posts very redundant after a while.

    Keep it up!

    • AJ

      I agree 100% Miro. To actually put your name and face out there James takes a lot of courage. With the recent launch of google+ I finally let my name and face appear and it scared the crap out of me. I must have switched it on and off 10 times by now.

  • Dont feed the trolls… #5 rule of the internet.

    • Great one. What are the first 4 rules?

      • Derek Scruggs

        Don’t talk about Fight Club.

        Don’t talk about Fight Club.



        • Test

          Step 1: Collect underpants

  • I remember reading piece of news about scientist who taught apes how to talk, to which one  commentator wittily replied – “What was the big news in that? The apes have been talking on the commentator sections for years!”

    The anonymous apes are especially talkative. Why? Because letters don’t blush. Because causing pain is a one-way street for them. Because they are in it for your (dramatic) reaction and not for the constructive debate. Because for them, hating and hurting someone else is much easier than taking a good look into the mirror. On top of that, they are armed to the teeth with demagogy – and demagogy can only be fought with counter-demagogy (which actually makes winning meaningless). It takes two for tango. If you refuse to dance with them, they will get bored rather quickly and move on.
    The very fact that those wannabe digital-ink slingers have invested so much time in trying to bring you down means that you’ve actually struck a nerve with a thing or two. That’s the metric of making a meaning. Don’t let them bring you down. Smile and stay true to your style.

  • KB

    James, you did help them.  It’s just that neither party in the flame war knows it yet.  That type of community needs something to rail on – it makes them feel better (superior) to be able to unload their own opinions.  Negativity isn’t even the issue, it’s just an outlet – forest for the trees, James.  Take a wide angle view of it.

    And of course, you came out of it with a good resolve as well.  

    Just turn your perspective.  Yeah, being a punching bag can suck, but sometimes, sad as it is, a punching bag is exactly what some people need to feel better.  Celebrity culture is a prime example.

    Which means you’re on the cusp of celebrity very likely.  You learned this lesson at a good time.  Things for a reason and all that jazz.

    Keep on.

    • KB

      I have to reply to myself here, as I only went from James’ blog explanation – in my opinion, seekingalpha is not a community that feeds on negativity or superiority.  Sorry to blow up your inbox, everyone.

      • I appreciate the comment. SA, to their credit, lets everyone have an opinion and has an opinion on anonymous posters. They specifically went out of their way to trash me in a personal attack. 

        HOWEVER, my problem was not with the article. There is free speech. They used it. But I was more apologizing to myself for even engaging with them. I should’ve just ignored and did something positive with my dad instead. The key of “never getting the in mud” is a practice rather than a rule and I have to always practice it or get sucked in. 

    • KB

      Allow me to edit this to say that I do not know the community mentioned, and therefore my comments toward it have no bearing.  My comment was more all-encompassing with typical forums.  Thanks all.

  • Whatever you pay attention to, that grows
    If you pay attention to crap, that grows
    If you pay attention to positiveness, that grows

    Both of them can work like magnets, you chose what you want to stick to…

  • Walterlu3

    Way to spin it.

    Here’s the article James is talking about: http://seekingalpha.com/article/317606-debunking-altucher-s-bull-i-could-see-but-now-am-blind

    The original poster wrote a well-argued rebuttal to some of James’ comments. James did not even read the article (he said so himself), and replied with ad-hominem attacks toward the author. You can read it and make up your own mind.

    • KB

      I’m heading off to read the article, but as a member of SA, an all-out attack seems a bit weird.  Haven’t been there in a few months, but there always seems to be a give-and-take exchange over there.  Thanks for the link.

      What I said in my post here stands regardless – both parties got something out of a ‘keyboard war’.

    • Well, you’re right. As I mentioned, dealing with this sort of thing is an ongoing practice. I should’ve been doing something positive with my day. Everyone has free speech. My speech would’ve been better off elsewhere. 

    • Sooz

      I guess it’s been a rough month for Akram..(market~wise)


    • luckynodak

      edited meaning deleted the link to the discussion? esoteric conversation going on here?
      why not let us all in on this?

  • Haley

    So what if it IS your opinion? Where on here do you claim otherwise? I’ve seen several articles where you even throw in a disclaimer somewhere stating that this is “only your opinion” or something similar. I didn’t see the article criticizing you, but what could these people possibly have gotten so riled up about over what is CLEARLY your own OPINION? People just hate when other people don’t think the same way they do.

    As for me, I like your opinions, I think they are very good and you explain them, showing clearly why you think the way you do. They are based on your own life experience.

  • KB

    I read the article and comments kindly provided by Walterlu3.  A few observations:

    1.  While the article was certainly worth debate, as the author did homework to ‘debunk’ James, he titles it by basically saying James is full of bullshit.  That is extremely unprofessional, even for SA.  So, while the article itself is not (largely) confrontational, how would one not respond to a title that calls them full of shit?  This one is SA’s fault, with partial fault to the author for ‘sensationalism’.  The author of the article even admits in the article several times that James is right on several fronts and brings up interesting debate points.

    2.  The comments were actually very fair going both ways until James appeared.  James, your defensive posture is not your best.  You dug yourself deeper in the hole as it went on.  I know you admit this above, and hopefully you have learned from this.  And, you probably should have read the article, responded with additional facts, and not called the author a nobody 14 yr old over and over – bad form, my friend.  But, on the interwebs, we are ALL guilty of this type of responding at least once or more.  Live, learn, move on.

    3.  There were really only a few posts I saw that were juvenile.  In fact, most of them backed James up.  I would accuse James of sensationalism, but the truth is he is being honest as he always is, even if it’s an unfavorable light that is shined his way.  Takes guts to point this out and not try to bury/forget it.  I do respect that for sure.

    As for the stock/economy debates in the article itself, I’m on the sidelines.  I took out what discretionary stocks I had and used the money to self publish, and James’ blog definitely helped that decision along.  At least I will invest and fail or succeed on my own, and not at the whim of a Rhode Island.

    Anyway, it really wasn’t that bad, and James’ apology above should be good enough for anybody on SA, though at the same time if anybody writes “you are full of shit”, how can you honestly ignore that?  Tough spot for anyone to be in.

    • I should be clear: I’m not apologizing to them. They are anonymous so don’t really exist. I’m apologiizing to myself for my not following my own advice in this particular case. And I’m apologizing for whatever positive, good will I could’ve put out that day instead of playing in the mud.

      • KB

        I hear you and agree, James.  Your state of mind is admirable, it takes a lot of cohones to let things go.  I do have to say, to your credit, you started one of the longest threads on an article on SA in recent memory.  There is a lot of passionate stock talk in there – have to say, glad I’m out of that game for a while.  It does get petty, and also consumes far too much time that could be spent creating.  Thanks man.

        • Yes, the stock game is ugly and many people are actually angry that the market is going up now. They made big bets on the other side. 

          • KB

            I would like to take this time to originally quote and timestamp a new saying:  “The VIX is a bitch”.

            I claim rights.

      • KB

        Additionally – I amend my “your apology should be good enough for anyone on SA”.  You don’t owe any ‘person’ there an apology.  What I meant is your post here shows that you know even showing up there was a bad idea. Not that you had to say that either – that was my point.

  • Clay

    I released a CD not long ago and it was mentioned it quite few blogs and websites. I’d say about 15% of the people took the time to listen to it and write an objective review. The other 85% didn’t like our style to begin with, ripped off someone else’s review, or threw out a few smart ass comments in order to update their web content. I decided not to read any reviews any more. They don’t help. Critics think they know you and your motivations but they don’t.

  • A few weeks ago you wrote an excellent article based on some advice that you had received in on how to emotionally deal with a negative book review, as well as the need to avoid the tit for tat response in defense of one’s written work.

    How are any of the negative articles that may appear from time to time about you then any different? Why not look at the mean spirited opinions from others as being nothing more than fuel for your media and publishing machine?

    You have a very engaged readership who agree or disagree on the merits of any particular topic. Just as you say, none of us really know anything when it comes to most issues. Sex, politics, religion, finances? It’s all opinion and dissection of behavioral processes that can’t really be dissected to the point of discovering its most basic unit. In that case everyone’s reasoned opinion is valid, unfortunately not everyone recognizes that opinions are ethereal and do not necessarily reflect the being behind their promulgation.

    If you can’t discover or find that most basic unit there’s no possibility of understanding the organism or being able to predict its complex behavior.

    No matter how bad our thoughts or opinions, that can’t ascend to the point of truly being evil unless they engender actions that cause tangible harm.

    Besides, just do a quick semi-quantitative analysis of the comments that you receive to your blog articles. It seems that the net result is people express a positive reaction from their interactions with your words and, ultimately, only good tangible actions come from those positive thoughts.

    • Doc_hawkins

      If you like Tim Tebo or not your comments remind me of the Nike commercial where Tim states all the things people told him he could not do. His one word reply


      • To which I can only reply: Thanks (??)

  • Anonymous

    wasn’t it socrates who said something to the effect that “all I know is that I know nothing”? 

    Stepping back and thinking about it.  It seems that most people (me included) think we know a lot when in fact all that we know is, like you said, James, simply our own opinions, perceptions, judgements that are in turn based on past opinions, past perceptions, past judgements, past biases, etc, that may not even be correct in the first place.  Some of them maybe handed down for generations and deemed as the truth when in fact no one bother to question or maybe even ostracized when questioning them)  So, I have to grudgingly agree with socrates and James that most likely all that I know is NOTHING, nada.

    Now I can choose whether I am to be disoriented & unsettled by this thought or completely released and at peace.  Decision, decision…

    • Funny, Claudia mentioned the same Socrates quote to me last night. I recently read Paul Johnson’s bio of Socrates and he seemed like a very ahead-of-his-times guy. I admired Johnson’s description of him. Surprisingly, Johnson seemed very down on Plato. 

  • bill f

    You’re really full of yourself and it shows–maybe that’s why you get negative comments. If you’re so funny, then why aren’t you “America’s Favorite Humorist” or something, instead of being the subject of your own blog? How narcissistic is that? No answer required.

  • bill f

    I’d love to read the article, James. Please post it. I may even decide on joining the others in hating you!

  • Doc_hawkins

    I have found there are two type of folks

    1. Those who don’t know
    2. Those to know they don’t know
    I avoid #1 but it keeps sucking me in. 

  • Doc_hawkins

    Many of your articles may appear killing time but in the long run they provide fuel for constructive thought in many areas you cannot imagine.

    Examples of  products their inventors never imagined the uses
    Duct Tape   (Hey Alabama would fall into the Gulf without this)
    XML File Formats

  • Sumantnc

    damn those cyber-bullies.  I’ll put my cyber-trench coat and stand them all in line’.

     Pull a Jay & Silent Bob and randomly show up to their front doorstep with a print-out of the comments.  Or do a CNBC Chris Hanson and be inside their home.

  • Anonymous

    Oh geez…isn’t it funny when you know better, yet you get sucked into the trap. If we could just avoid those pitfalls that take us out of the game…

  • Derek Scruggs

    Re: imaginary arguments – I find myself doing this even when there’s no one on the other side. Like if I make a questionable decision, I imagine myself defending it to some imaginary antagonist. Stupid. 

    Recently I’ve been making an effort to catch myself doing that and say STOP! It seems to be working.

    • Yes, that actually does work. Another thing I do if I catch myself is to change directions and start listing the people in my life I’m grateful for. That works also. 

      • Saltaway

        When I was a young salesman, I was worried about going to see an angry client. An old pro pulled me aside and said that you only need to use 2 words. Stay calm and after the other person complains or even finishes yelling, say,”I understand.” 90% of the time the other person calms down. The other 10% will repeat their complaint. If they do say, “I understand”.

  • I feel your pain. I have been trying to ignore the BS in my life, but I let it get to me this week.  I wasted a perfectly good weekend recovering from focusing on this crap. Thanks for the article. I will go back to my mantra “it’s all good.” After all that’s what people like your critics wish to hear. 

    • Claudia’s technique, if she catches herself “mid-anger” is to think of the person and say “God Bless her”. That seems to work for her.

      • Mark Fredrickson

        She is right and she could actually say it out loud. See Proverbs 25:22

  • saltaway

    Why are you awake at 11PM? Go to sleep. Get your 9 hours in.

  • AJ

    James, two things that always help me come from one of my teachers, Pema Chodron. 
    “Hold your seat” and “Don’t get hooked”. Both are hard, but when you do it, even just for a second, you can quietly observe what is flying around in your mind – it usually isn’t pretty. So hold your seat next time (just for a minute) because it will usually pass like gas and you’ll feel better. And know this – you are fearless and appreciated. It’s 12:20 and I can’t sleep again and now I feel better after reading your post because you are humble and you get hooked, just like me.
    Take care,

  • Whenever I’m about to argue with someone on the internet, I think of this comic: http://xkcd.com/386/. The ONLY way to win is not to play.

  • James – I’ve been reading your blog non-stop since your first post on TechCrunch.  You get it and you don’t have anything to prove to anyone.  Thanks for your words of wisdom and experience – makes me and many others feel that we’re not alone. Keep writing & and let’s just leave it at that…

  • Anonymous1

    You seem like a good person but that was a tough exchange on SA, it honestly just seemed like you were outmatched. After that, I don’t know how much financial advice I will take from you but wish you the best of luck. I will continue to check these pages for interesting articles and viewpoints. I appreciate that you are trying to help people out and that you spend a lot of time doing so.

    • Anonymous1

      Let me soften my own comment with the following: I would not take anyone’s “advice” on it’s own and invest my money without understanding it first…and purely on an analytical basis, he did seem to have you. All that being said, I commend the fact that you blogged here about it and apologized for getting in that kind of exchange (which did involve a fair amount of mudslinging).

      If I would have happened upon that exchange some other way I may have never visited this site again. However, since you brought it up, I’ll be back. Everyone makes mistakes.

  • Carsten Hucho

    James, but it was not me criticizing you in such a harsh way, right? 
    Once I jumped onto your weekly “ask me anything”… and rambled that nobody could even think of giving answers to everything, lalala. Somebody pulled me in a corner and I understood:
    you don’t claim to give answers.
    You just offer to listen to the questions. And that is great! 
    And then you give your opinion.
    And from there on people can jump all over you, ignore you, comment you, whatever.
    Let’s call it *inspiration*.
    … inspiration, written in a, well, down-to-earth style.

    I enjoy it
    (especially when I object :) as I sometimes do here: http://www.smarts-club.com )

    • I enjoy it also. And everyone is welcome to jump in and give answers as well. Its more like a community that way. 

  • Altucher, don’t be so hard on yourself, we are all a work in progress. 

    Think of this, they can’t dislike you (they don’t know you personally) they can only dislike your writing -which is an extension of you but is not you.

  • It’s amazing how anonymity brings out the worst in people. I came across some interesting related research on game theory and figured I’d share the blog link.  Hope it cheers you up like the dozens of positive comments below have hopefully done.  http://blog.opspark.com/2011/12/23/the-golden-rule-and-game-theory/

    By the way, what is it with brilliant, creative people and the inevitable inner turmoil?  After first encountering your TechCrunch blogs plus your bio and tributes to Claudia, I figured, Hey, this guy has it all.  Then I came across your mention of contemplating suicide several times and thought, Dear God, genius comes with a price! 

    Keep helping others, keep crappy people at bay, and by all means, keep inspiring the rest of us. 

  • Scottdeitler

    James just keep repeating “Pins and Needles. Needles and Pins. Its a Happy Man that Grins.” This from the famous philosopher Ralph Kramden.

  • Am

    hey, but I think it is kinder to yourself if you let yourself feel what you feel… If you feel hurt, why must you try to deny those feelings and berate yourself for being a “baby”. It is normal to have feelings…for a human, heck, it’s even necessary. or, God forbid, you’ll turn into one of those trolls or even a psychos yourself… just ignore them and know their sick minds can’t do any better… all the while letting yourself and your close ones take care of your (understandable) feelings in a compassionate way… TAKE HEART! it’s a tough world out there, the deeper we go the tougher it becomes: it is so much easier for losers to attack you then go and expose themselves to these dangers by doing something creative… anyway, take heart once again and keep giving the good things to people – you’ve got it, it’s the only way to HAPPY!  :o)

  • James, thank you so much. I utterly enjoyed reading this … really resonated with me. All best, Don

  • Anaujokas

    Nothing good comes from a message board rebuttal. All laws of gentlemen engagement goes out the door.

    Thank you for writing about everything! Every post that I read  i feel like you are forming the words and feelings that I can’t quite articulate. Thank you for articulating.

  • Astatkevicus

    Great post, James. I think we can all relate to what you said here. Recently, a very wise person said to me, “There is nothing to attack and there is nothing to defend.” If we could all try a little harder to live by that philosophy, the world would be a more peaceful place.

  • John Klepper

    Perhaps your answer was what they were looking for, unpleasant as that notion is (funny) it may be why Frank sang about some folks getting their kicks “stomping on a dream.”

  • Misatoratner

    hi James this is my first ever comment to post in Internet. I just wanted to tell you that I enjoy reading your articles. because I can see that there are still very humane people in this world, which is full of cruelty committed by psychopaths and by people abused directly or indirectly by psychopaths. I started to wonder whether it is the direction of human evolution. but I would like to believe that is not the case and you are one of the people to encourage my belief. please not be affected by people who just enjoy hurting other people due to inability to connect other human in other way.

  • Nice post as always James, and your right Jason.

    James Check out: 7 Must have iPhone Apps for All Internet Entrepreneurs:


  • hrh88


    I’ve had more than the usual number of crappy people to deal with in the past couple of weeks. Just bad luck. I tried to think of your advice. “Get in the mud with the pigs and you know what happens”, I kept saying to myself. “Don’ t engage”, I kept mentally repeating. “Don’t talk about them behind their backs. Say this five hundred times.” Impossible! The hardest thing is to stop thinking about them and all of the things that you wished that you had said and what you are going to say the next time that you encounter said Crappy Person. Now you’re hooked. They have taken over your brain. You are wasting MILLIONS OF BRAIN Waves. CRAP! How to disengage. How to distract oneself. How to stop wanting to beat them, be better than them, justify oneself to them, defend oneself to them, to prove that you are right and they are miserable scum and on and on and on for days. 

    Here’s what helped. One of the aforementioned Crappy People was a doctor. I came across a blog written by a doctor entitled “Why are doctors such jerks?” His advice. Treat Doctor Disagreeable as you would your grandfather with Alzhiemers. If Doctor Disagreeable says that Jimmy Carter is President and there is an alien spaceship in the parking garage, simply agree with him. I found this advice and the accompanying mental imagery quite helpful. 

    I also found it helpful to go on RateMD and Vitacheck. It seems that Dr. D’s other patients found him as vile as I did. This made me feel really really good and quite vindicated, justified my loathing and assuaged my bruised ego and was altogether quite delicious.  It didn’t do much to staunch the brain waves though. So he still wins and I’m imperfect. Oink oink goes the crappy little pig. 

    Your post helped too. It’s soothing to know that there are other imperfect beings out there not following their own advice. Just know that you are not alone in this. Keep fighting the good fight, James.

  • What other people think of us . . . is none of our business.

    I don’t know if you crave external acceptance/validation like I do (history from FOO I’m trying to grow up out of), so I’ll try not to project that tho it’s hard not to. It can’t matter, in the end, what others believe about us, except that we admit when we have been tools, or mistaken, or have acted badly, then move on.

  • Anonymous

    What a brave, wonderful article. Not too many people would admit ‘they don’t know anything’ or that they’re ‘sorry.’ I missed the brouhaha that led to your self-reflection, but I admire your humility and vulnerability. It takes a strong person to be that open. Thanks.

  • Jimmyjeblonski

    That article sucked.

  • Kelly

    I think you are amazing. The negativity can stregthen you. All great writers have a crowd of people filled with insults behind them. I am just glad you have not stopped, and kept going reguardless of how you felt. I just found these blogs while trying to come up with some material to write myself, and I have really learned a lot. It would be a shame if these blogs came to an end. Thank you. I really appreciate them.

  • what a great idea.  Admit you made a mistake and you intend to do better.   I think passing on good energy is a valuable part of your blog.  I can’t stand the negative head in the mud whining.  I like the idea of associating with nice people.  Even the best of us have  moods and we become momentarily insane or bitchy.  You are very good at showing both sides.  I have a daughter who can be wonderful and other  times she is very mean. I try to ignore her meanness.  Most of the time, it is temporary and means nothing in the long run.  We all get caught in these moments of insanity.  We need to ask for “forgive me please” and go on and try to do less of the bad stuff.

  • believe me, from what I have noticed around from dealing with people, your self awareness is something not to be ashamed off, It is a truly uplifting experience, and anyone who embrace such concepts should only be thankful instead of continuing to be skeptical…

  • Tgxman

    sometimes i read your stuff and you seem so down on yourself. i dont get your lack of self confidence. to me you sound like a great guy. i wish i had friends like you. youre funny, i think brilliant, and what you do here putting yourself out there practically naked takes tremendously big balls. i read your pieces and throughout them im cheering for you. here’s my advice to you-
         know what you are! and what are you?  whatever it is you’re trying to be. if youre making a conscious effort to be something and taking action towards that then thats what you are. some will get you some won’t. some will sit back and criticize sometimes harshly while they hide behind their walls yet others will embrace you. as long as you feel loved by your wife then thats all that matters.

  • Amira

    I can totally relate with what you’re saying. Through mindfully being aware, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time arguing with ridiculous racists/sexists ignorants because I’ve had enough of the racists/sexists crappy people who have screwed me over repeatedly in real life… For example on the NYT comment thread on an article about 22 babies dying of cold in Afghanistan the other day all of them less than 5 years old (one of them less than 30 days old), honestly I cannot believe anyone would be so heartless as to say racist comments on there but crappy people, unfortunately are not going away anytime soon… ;( And I realized here I am arguing with some random moron on the internet when before I was busy doing like cancer research (I was a scientist). So then I came to the conclusion that it’s a lot of wasted time and energy, I’m not helping myself out of my own crappy situation, and I’m not helping others either. So I made a conscious decision to stop trying to educate the ignorants and instead water my seeds of joy by either volunteering or watching comedy or being grateful for the sunshine, just happy stuff… :) And if situations like this come up I say: “OK let’s agree to disagree” and try to move on. It’s not easy and most of the time really I’m not able to move on but just sharing some of my experience…
    “All you have to do is to decide what to do with the time that is given to you” -Gandalf 

  • Samuel James Neville Squires

    I think whatever you can throw your most positive energy (and I don’t mean that in a cheesy moments for morons listening and thinking like their inanimate arseholes at midday way) at, all at once, will work the best. There’s 1 you, And that’s you. If you feel that negative energy, like liquid bloody magma all over your hands in one of those infinite e-battles, it’s very likely you’re in the wrong place, arguing about stuff you don’t really believe in. Barking up the wrong tree. Trying to bring down infinity by shooting all your life force through the eye of a blind needle. I mean, it feels like shit from the start. You don’t want to be there… and when you don’t want to be somewhere, usually it’s because it’s the wrong place. Instincts can be pretty powerful guides in a smart/generous guy like yourself… I mean it’s a shit hole… these pop-up voids for people who come to argue for the sake of it. I’m a surviving veteran of the most heinously, radioactively negative and knuckleheaded battles on the most obscure little ephemeral walls, in the most distant recesses of the e-universe, in the history of the void. I mean if you think I’m wrong I’ll argue with you all day about it, wrong or not, and you’ll feel like shit afterwards, right or not, because I always do, and you’re on my turf. I could argue with my own ideas. I used to regularly, without knowing it and with knowledge of it. But I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being wrong, but when someone tries to make you feel like a piece of shit for it, even if you’re happy to be wrong, then you might want to say something about it, occasionally, and zip, you’re in!
    It has nothing to do with belief or truth, obviously… they’ll back 1+1= ‘anything but what you say it is’ to the end. I will, half the time, still, ESPECIALLY if you’re right, I’m already starting, but don’t say I’m wrong still. It’s insecurity… for mine. I’m terribly insecure, and I believe deep down that I am very stupid and talentless and useless, which quarrels badly with my lofty aspirations to have a brain in the cerebrally barren landscape I seem to exist in. We mean nothing to our families, let alone anyone on the street, and then suddenly, we’ve made contact, on the net, and we’re going to take it out on you! And that awful nausea of falsity/negativity it comes from talking about stuff maybe I either don’t know or don’t care about, or my heart aint’ in situ’. It’s a very peculiarly/uniquely deflating and vacuous www vortex that didn’t exist 20 years ago… I’m deflated now from talking about it…

    • Sam Squires

      Whoah… maybe I’m not a survivor. Rant. But anyway, I don’t think writing positive articles, and you’re doing it in all sincerity, can every really be a bad thing if you’re as well informed as you can be. I agree that the bad feedback, destructive feedback, can be divided and used to advantage. All the best.