Ask James: Global Warming, Facebook, More Crappy People, and How Many Dates Before You KNOW


Jonathan Baker @jonathankyou  Asks: How do you establish ethics or recognize ones you already have? Especially when you don’t have a religion to tell you.


It’s an interesting question when you add the “especially when you don’t have a religion to tell you”.

Ask, “who told Buddha?” or “Who told Jesus?” or “Who told Lao Tzu?” I suppose you can say God did and then he asked them to transmit it to you. But I think better to find directly.

Why do people need religion. Often they get religion because they were born into it and stick to it for cultural reasons. Often people find deeper religion because they feel an emptiness or fear (of death) so they want to fill that emptiness with a path.

A path that goes from one emptiness to…another? We don’t know. Better to always go from strength to strength.

So how can you fill that initial emptiness without a path? So that all paths turn around and point to you instead.

I think the basic tenet that permeates most religions is Do No Harm. It can be thought of in another way: We do three things throughout the day: we do things, we say things, we think things.

On any of these things, there’s a before, during, and an after.

So my one rule of ethics, regardless of religion, is:

Before, during or after, I say, think, or act, I have to really ask: am I hurting someone and, if not, am I lying to someone?

If your answer at any point during that above question is “yes”, then stop. That’s ethics without a religion.

Will you find heaven then? Will your find the end path of your religion? Who knows? But you will be happier and so will the people around you (since they won’t be hurt by your words, actions, or thoughts).  And when the people around you are happier, the people around them will be happier. And that’s how a happy society can start. Unfortunately, most people, with religion or not, don’t do this.


Gonzalo Gandia @GonzaloGandia  Had an important meeting today + got anxious, sweating, light headed…has this ever happened to you?


ANSWER: Before any meeting that I care about I get very anxious. 100% of the time. This is a good thing. It makes you hyper-vigilant before and during the meeting.

Check out my post, “11 Unusual ways to be a better public speaker”. Many of those techniques apply.

But if you were going to do only two things, I’d say this:

–          Prepare as much as possible. If you are meeting a person from company X, learn as much as you can about the person (using google, facebook, twitter, whatever) and know everything you can about the company (history, all of their products, all of their divisions, the bio of the CEO, etc) and everything you can about the industry (the initial companies, how they merged, lost, won, etc).  Final piece of preparation is the same as if you were going on TV. What is your media message? i.e. What are the three things you need to say that nobody else has ever said and you are going to say them over and over again regardless of what questions come up. You will always end up back on your media message.

–          Finally, how are you going to make the people in the meeting laugh. The more they laugh, the happier they will be to see you again. It’s good to think of this a little in advance how to make people laugh. I do this before every meeting. Self-deprecation is a good starting point.


Zeke @zecket  How many jobs have you quit, and did you ever regret it?


ANSWER: I’ve quit six jobs. I’ll list them but some of these you won’t have heard of: Fore Systems (I was employee #10 and they later sold for over a billion), CMU’s Center for Machine Translation, HBO, Xceed (which bought a company I started), Investcorp, (which bought a company I started),  and now that I think about it, there were one or two more (usually involving companies that bought assets I had created).

I have never regretted a single one even though in some cases, much hardship resulted as I had to deal with rising expenses, declining income and net worth and even declining self-worth when I couldn’t find a replacement job or income source.

But I never regret leaving a situation where the people and circumstances are unpleasant for me. There are 100 million jobs out there. The unemployment rate for smart, ambitious people is probably 1% so if you really want a job you can get one. But most people don’t want to work for others. Most people want to do their own thing. Most people want to eat what they kill.

For better or worse, for most of the past 20 years I’ve only eaten what I’ve killed and not what I’ve been served. And sometimes  it’s made me vomit. Sometimes  it’s made me go to sleep hungry. But often it’s been very satisfying and at the very least, has created a lot of stories.

I’ve also been fired from several jobs but that’s another story.


Malpighian Corpuscle @asplenia  Asks: What do you do when someone won’t forgive? And when they have no desire for owning their part, only hating & feeling like victim?

ANSWER: We all deal with these people every day. These are called “crappy people” in my overly simplistic terminology. And guess what?

Crappy people aren’t the neighbors down the street. Or the people from the distant past you never see anymore. Crappy people, by definition, are the people often closest to you: family, friends, colleagues, bosses.

(you can’t force them)

The question is: why do you care so much what is going on inside of these other people. Only worry what’s going on inside yourself. And if someone is inside of your head, then get them out. So the only answer really is…ignore them.  If you can’t ignore them completely, then don’t engage with them. Say “hi” and don’t let them press buttons. Respond politely. Be pleasant. But get away as soon as possible so you can comeback on the computer and read my blog.



WiseR Guy @wiserguy1971  Asks: What about global warming?How much longer b4 we fully accept this fact ?



What about global warming? The highest global temperatures every recorded were in 1998.14 years ago. And 40 years ago we were worried about an ice age. So I think the politically correct phrasing now is “climate change”.

I tend to believe my friends on these things. I like Stephen Dubner’s description of the facts and fallacies of global warming in his book “Super Freakonomics”.

But let’s say there is global warming? First off, the US is a small country. And relatively free of pollution. Go to China or India and complain if you are truly worried about global warming.

Global warming is a luxury. Notice the lack of articles on global warming after 2008 happened, when people began to worry about whether they were going to starve or lose their homes, rather than whether Manhattan was going to fall into the ocean.

Don’t worry so much about things that are not under our direct control. First try to be happier with easier problems. Then worry about big things. If you are still very anxious about global warming then ask yourself what else inside of you might need warming. See if you can solve that first.




Oz W.-P.-McK. III @wrgly   Has revealing so much in your blog and books affected you negatively?


Yes and no. Many people who used to speak to me, no longer speak to me. This includes everyone from friends, to former colleagues, to relatives. Many people have felt I have revealed too much. In one or two cases, I had to change a story to be less revealing.  I’m ok harming myself but never ok if I harm others in what I write.

But overall the blog has been a net positive. I’ve met MANY new friends. Some people I hope will remain lifelong friends. And I hope that continues. Being honest draws good people to you. Pushes negative people away.



Obladi Oblada @AlfredSureAndCo  asks: I didnt finish college. Sometimes I feel I don’t have what it takes because I didn’t finish.

Dont doubt yourself. college would not have given you the tools to finish your task. only experience will.

ANSWER: Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t give “I didn’t finish college” as an excuse. We can go through the list of people who didn’t finish college (Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs, Ellison, and on and on) who managed to find a little bit of success in their lives.

Here’s what college teaches: How to take a test. How to show up on time for a test. How to continue to socialize with the same people you’ve socialized with for the prior twelve years only this time you are without parental supervision for the first time in your life. And…that’s about it.

Now you need to learn how to learn. They don’t teach that in college. You need how to take life apart and put it back together again. They forget about that class in college. Even though it happens again and again after you graduate.

The key benefits of not finishing college:

–          You have  a head start on other experiences in life

–          You’re not in as much debt as your peers

–          Failure is hard to find in college. You can find it more quickly outside of college and learn to bounce back from it.

–          Stories. You will have more of them. Create a lot of stories in your life. They all go in a filing cabinet in your mind. You can refer back to them when you need them. And they cost you less to accumulate them while you are young. I envy you the stories you will tell.

I have excuses also. I got into too much debt in college. I wasted too much time in college. I took the wrong courses, majored in the wrong subject, didn’t become an entrepreneur early enough, never traveled the world when I was young. I graduated college, went to graduate school, and finally was thrown out, forever diminishing my ego.

I can use these as excuses an d often I did. But you won’t have to.


Odelya Bouganim @OdelyaB  asks: A serial entrepreneur wants to co-found my company – he has other companies under his wings. How can I maximize my terms?

ANSWER:  First off, congratulations. You have an idea/company that is good enough that someone serious wants an equity stake.

Now your challenge is: don’t let him overrun you with his credentials. Now you need to get into negotiation mode.

I wrote an article on this about how to negotiate.

But let’s summarize what you should do:

First, list the items that are potentially at stake that are all worth equity of some sort:

–          Will he put in personal money?

–          Will he get his fellow entrepreneurs to put in money?

–          Can he find immediate paying customers?

–          Can he provide office space, programmers, etc.

–          Will he put in sweat equity? If so, make sure he vests into his shares over time so that if he dispappears he suddenly doesn’t own half your company for nothing.

–          Will he provide product development?

Each of the above is worth some equity but not a lot by themselves.

If he is not putting in his own cash, then the vesting is the most important thing. He must vest into equity over time. And you are the judge if he is providing value (the only real value is if he provides customers or revenues of some sort).

You can give away the nickels (he won’t provide immediate customers) if he puts in the dimes (e.g. if he puts in significant personal money).


AndyLiebs @AndyLiebs  Asks: what is your favorite meditation technique?

ANSWER: First you have to ask yourself: what is the goal of meditation? Because I think in most cases, meditation is very bad for the brain despite scientific evidence showing that Tibetan lamas are more relaxed when meditating. Those are Tibetan lamas that have been doing it for fifty years. Not people who work all day and then collapse exhausted by the end of it.

How can meditation be bad? Isn’t it supposed to be relaxing?

Not really. In most theories of meditation (whether its from Buddhism, Zen, Yoga, etc) the idea is to separate out the “I” from the “ego”. Not to relax from a busy day.

(“Hmmm, McRib sandwich later?”)

And yet, when most people meditate – its all ego. You sit down, totally unprepared, and all you think about (all I think about) is “he did this, she did that, they did this ten years ago, I need to do this, I want to have sex with her, intrigue, me thoughts, money, worries, more worries, fear, etc” for a half hour. That’s no fun. That’s not meditation. No relaxing happens. No separation of “I” from “ego” happens. What does it even mean to separate “I” from “ego”.

It means nothing so don’t even worry about it.

I’ve written before about my favorite technique for meditation. It involves two seconds but can occur throughout the day.

Meditation is simply practice. It’s stopping yourself in the middle of “I can’t believe she said this to me” or some other similar thought and saying, “this is not a useful thought for me”. This happens to me all the time. The other day someone left a comment on a blog ABOUT meditation to me that I thought was insulting to Claudia. So during the day yesterday I was thinking, “That guy is an asshole. I should respond by saying, this, this, or that.” But really the best thing (meditation) is to stop myself and say two things:

A)    This is not a useful thought. I’ll replace it with one that’s useful. For instance, I’m glad I’m not that guy and it’s too bad he felt the need to attack Claudia for no reason.

B)    I need to apply the “Crappy People” technique. Mastering that, and mastering honesty, is much more important than (or it can be viewed as a several year long preparation for) meditation. If you don’t master those then meditation is useless (you can call it “mad attention”)  because too many things in the ego will cloud the spare time you have to clear your mind.



Michael Shengeliya @MShengel  do you think FB is overvalued? Sure it’s almost impossible to predict future FB earnings


ANSWER: A lot of people also asked similar questions and included the phrase “are we in a bubble”.

The answer is Facebook is probably not overvalued (although it’s not necessarily undervalued either). It’s a market but not a bubble. Bubbles are very very rare. In Feb, 2000 we had an IPO bubble. We never had an Internet bubble. If we had an Internet bubble then we wouldn’t be seeing so many Internet companies now at all-time highs in the stock market. The dream of the Internet came true. It’s here! We all use it every day. And companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay are all all-time highs in profits. So that’s not a bubble.

Looking at the Super Bowl commercials about half of the commercials didn’t even put their website URLs. They put their Facebook URLs instead. This tells me what corporate America is thinking. That more and more of our ad dollars are going to be diverted from other sources (TV, billboards, Google, etc) and moved onto Facebook to get direct engagement with our customers.

The worldwide ad market is $600 billion. Facebook will be getting a bigger chunk of that market than any other Internet company before it, including Google.

Imagine the entire Internet going public. That would be worth, obviously, billions. Facebook is like a mini-Internet. We haven’t even begun to see what business models they will evolve into. You might ask, what does Facebook have to do with the US dollar? Everything. We are moving towards a world where true competition and capitalism means that every currency is allowed to flourish and compete. Right now, in the US, the US dollar has a legal monopoly. This will eventually end with the rise of alternative currencies like bitcoin, Facebook credits, and even gold. There may end up being more transactions using Facebook Credits than transactions involving the US dollar? Not tomorrow, not next year, but eventually.

You might even ask, what does Facebook have to do with the decline of worldwide violence and wars? And the answer there is also: everything.

That’s why I will never say Facebook is overvalued. Even if I’m not a buyer at the IPO.



John Kennedy @jfkesq  Asks: james, what is the number one thing you do every day without fail (except sleep and write and eat)

ANSWER: Without fail, I will always list the things I am grateful for. And I will try to make the list different (additive) each day.

Why? This is the one surefire way to crowd out negative thoughts. For example, people I hate, things I’m anxious about, things I regret, things I wish I were doing. If I stop myself and say, “I’m grateful for X, Y, and Z.” Then tomorrow I’m grateful for “A, B, and C”. Then the next day, “D, E, and F” then I start to build a big list of things that can crowd out the already big list of negative things I can choose to think about.

Is this avoidance of some sort? Maybe it’s important to think about things I’m anxious about. Maybe. But I’d rather not be anxious anyway. I’d rather just pay the check than be anxious about it. Or make the call than be anxious about the reaction on the other side. Gratitude is a great tool for replacing just about any other negative thought. And this, in turn, increases your time to think productive and useful thoughts. More on this in a future post.



Vito Phoenix @vittorioq8  is it better to get a mortgage from a bank, or pay the full price up front, for a small piece of property?

ANSWER: This is really a two-part question. The second part is below.

First off, its better to do neither. I’m assuming you are talking about owning a house. It’s better to rent a house than to own. I describe why here.

But, in summary. Why put up a big chunk of money, then pay interest (which is basically your rent on the property you already own) plus all sorts of things that go up with inflation (which is usually the typical argument for owning): property taxes and maintenance. Not to mention tying up a bulk of your assets in the up front payment that can be used for other investment purposes.

Then someone asked: Why borrow? Because the US dollar is falling off a cliff?

This has two answers:

A)     Yes. The US dollar may fall off a cliff. But at the very least, interest rates are near an alltime low so why not borrow at low interest rates than borrow later at higher interest rates? Always borrow when it’s cheap, as long as you have the income to pay the interest payments.

B)      Second, there’s a saying “cash is king”. You always want to have as much cash around as possible. If the shit hits the fan like it did in 2008 you won’t be able to borrow again for years. At any interest rate. So what if you lose your job and risk going broke and you can’t borrow and you can’t sell your house. Then I hope you have cash in the bank. Good thing you borrowed as much as you could, you’ll be saying to yourself. Better to be foreclosed on then go broke.



Vic H @Vic5557  Do you think humans would have a fighting chance in daytrading again ?



I’ve written before about why people should not daytrade, despite the fact that I used to daytrade and have written books about daytrading. Here’s the 8 reasons Why People Should Not Daytrade.

But think about it. Right now the average trader sitting at home is up against three massive roadblocks:

–          Computers. High frequency computers that are attached right into the nucleus of the exchanges that make trillions of trades a day snapping up 1/10 of a penny right in between every one of YOUR trades. Why fight that battle against them? What do you know that they don’t

–          Criminals. No matter what my feelings are about the laws on insider trading – right now it’s against the law. And I would estimate 90% of hedge funds are guilty of breaking that law. Every day. Again you have to ask: what do you know that they don’t.

–          Congressmen. They are allowed to trade based on what they know is about to be passed into law. This is a huge unfair advantage and at the moment it’s completely legal for them to take advantage of it. Why would you want to fight that uphill battle.

Everyone thinks they can be THE ONE. The guy who armed with “technical” and moving averages and Elliot Wave Theory, etc who can fight all of these uphill battles.

I’ll give you an example. I was on a plane Monday morning. A guy passed me and recognized me from one of my CNBC appearances. He was in his 60s. He said to me with a knowing look, “the market is going down big this week. BIG.” He raised his eyebrows to emphasize it.

I was polite. “Oh yeah? How come?”

“It’s obvious,” he said. “All the technicals. You’ll see. It’s going down big.”

Meanwhile, as I write this, the market has gone up every day this week. Futures are up. And the Nasdaq closed at a ten year high yesterday. Unless the market crashes big today, this random stranger who felt compelled to pass on his sixty years of wisdom in such a definitive fashion will be dead wrong. Will he remember he was dead wrong? Of course not! He will go back for more fun in the sandbox next week. And lose even more money.

Don’t be that guy when you are sixty. Or thirty. Or twenty.



Maggie @wikibacher  Asks: I have an idea that I think people will love but I do not have contacts to make it happen. What can I do?



I will tell you the exact same thing I did that worked for me.

Make a list of 20 people in your industry that you don’t know.

Tell them your idea completely. Don’t leave anything out. Be succinct so you don’t bore them. Flatter them a little.

Then tell them you can do the idea FOR them.

See what happens. They won’t steal your idea without you. They will contact you with questions, ideas, and maybe a meeting setup.

If one of them respond then contact twenty more people. Even write your idea up in a popular blog. Whatever it takes. Get your idea out there. Someone will eventually ask you to do it.

See also: The Techniques to Be a Super-Connector




Malpighian Corpuscle @asplenia  Asks: how many dates does it take to see if someone’s a good match?


There’s four issues:

A)    Do you like them?

B)    Do they like you?

C)    Are you a good match?

D)    How soon is too soon to express it?

I think within two seconds you know if you are attracted to someone. And probably by the end of the first or second date you know if they like you. If you don’t know by that point then something is not quite clicking. And even if you are clicking, you might want to wait awhile before consummating. For me, if everything happens too quickly then I’m either too nervous or then I don’t trust the person (or myself).

I kissed Claudia on our second date. (See also, “How I Met Claudia“)  But I was nervous. We took a long walk. Maybe a two mile walk. On mile one there was a point when we were staring out on the East River and looking at the Brooklyn Bridge. I could’ve kissed her. But I got nervous. So we walked another mile. Then we were at another point, right at the tip of Manhattan in Batter Park, looking at at…the East River again.

I was still nervous. I did what a five year old would do. I made fun of her teeth. They were a little crooked and pointy. Like a vampire’s. That made her feel self-conscious I think while I leaned in for the kiss. Then there was discussion: “why didn’t you kiss me a mile ago?” she asked. More discussion: “ok, no bed for  awhile though.” She didn’t want to rush. I was fine with that. I knew I would get there eventually.

But on the second date, after that first kiss, I knew. And still do.

  • Brett Stubbs

    Best blog ever!

  • Anonymous

    Ask, “who told Buddha?” or “Who told Jesus?” or “Who told Lao Tzu?” I suppose you can say God did and then he asked them to transmit it to you.

    But who told god? Seriously. This train of thought is an infinite regress and gets us nowhere.

    The answer discovering ethics and morality has to be that one (read: me), doesn’t wish to live a life of hypocrisy. In order to live a virtuous life free of hypocrisy then one must be dedicated to truth and logic no matter where these paths lead us. Thus, I do not harm others because I do not wish to be harmed myself. A hypocrite will harm others and cry foul when others harm him.  Some can live as a hypocrite but I cannot. Am I making any sense?

    •  Yes, you are totally making sense. I don’t quite like the word “logic” in there. I don’t think you avoid harming others simply because you don’t want to be harmed. Sometimes you don’t want to harm others because you KNOW it would be the wrong thing to do.

      • Anonymous

        It’s easy for me to get turned around when I start writing about this stuff. More thought is required on my part (sans infinite regress, of course).

        Thanks, Mike

        • L O V E…   Love others as you love yourself.   easypeasy, people, no thinking involved.  Free yourselves..and just L O V E.

    • If you want to live a life of “Truth and Logic”, and with that I suppose you mean that you want to examine everything with the scientific method, that will also lead you nowhere. 
      First of all: examining reality beginning from yourself, you won’t even be able to prove the existence of the self. It cannot be demonstrated. Nobody has, so far. The scientific method is an agreed process with which we examine the world, (and it has led to great achievements, and I have great respect for science), but it cannot lead to the truth. Imagine an animal that lives on the bottom of the ocean where light doesn’t penetrate. Obviously, it has no concept of light, even if it has ancestral atrophied eyes. And I believe we are in the same position in relation with the truth, we cannot even conceive what it is.
      “Compare not thyself with others, but with Me…” says Jesus; and when you decide not to do harm to another is because you see Him in him; meaning you see something that transcends both of you; and “logic” has nothing to do with that. It’s a religious concept, and it is good.
      Good luck to you.    

      • Leonardo – That’s a mighty big leap – from the lightless bottom dwelling sea animal – to – “Compare not thyself with others, but with Me…”

        I agree, there is a lot we don’t know.   And you may be right, what is real may be beyond our ability to conceive. 

        But I also know that human beings loathe the unknown.  We hate it when we have only some of the facts.  If we cannot figure out why the sun comes and goes each day, we create myths to explain it.  Our brains evolved to become fill-in-the-blank myth creating machines.  Those who chose the most useful myths won the evolution lottery. 

        Encouraging others to “see Him in him” is undoubtedly good and has proven useful.  If that was the exclusive tenant, it would be perfect. 

        Trouble is, there’s more.  So much more, in fact, that it’s a convoluted mess.  And it is in that mess that humans find reasons to see fellow humans at “IT”, then do horrible things to IT.  This dehumanization requires the suspension of logic.  Those with the most practice at suspending logic find it easier to dehumanize.  The more radical the less logical. 

        But suspension of logic is required if you are offering one right answer.  So it continues. 

        It is the worst aspect of religion.

        • Okay, but logic, which is simply a method of thinking, has nothing to do with it. “Seeing God in others” means to transcend your human condition, (your “it” condition), and to find the element you share with the other human being.
          “Man was created in the image of God” is a myth, as you say; but it is not a lie. It is a metaphor, which is meant to say that people are exceptional creatures in the Universe, and that individuals, therefore, are sacred. This is the myth, (which is not a lie, I will never tire to repeat), that gave us human rights. Before Christianity, women and children and a lot of men had no dignity. If you see Him in the child or the woman , you probably think twice before hurting them. While logic might tell you that is okay to expose an “imperfect” child to the elements and let him die, (like they did in pagan ancient Greece, the birthplace of logic) or to kill a newly born girl, because she would be just a burden, (like they still do today, in some cultures).
          That said, I cannot even call myself a Christian. I’m just a creature crawling on the bottom on the ocean. I can’t see the light and I don’t even know what it is. (But I’ve got eyes).

          •  A myth is indeed a lie to the literal believer. 

            Faith requires suspension of logic.  Professing faith in one possibility requires ruling out all others.  Doing so without proof or without reason is illogical.  But humans do it all the time because we abhor being in a state of, “I don’t know”

            Suppression of logic can be taught and it can become a socially self-enforcing phenomenon.  I need not reach back to ancient Greece to find examples.   Suicide bombers are the favorite but there are many others all around us. 

            The more we practice this suppression the better we get at it.  We perfect the tools to keep it in check.  Eventually we can reach the  point where it is inconceivable to see any other possibilities. 

            While it may not be the case for you, the vast majority of the faithful use myths as the reinforcer of the lie, and a surprisingly large percentage believe the myth literally. 

          •  “Before Christianity, women and children and a lot of men had no dignity.”

            This is simply historically incorrect.  There is a far longer pre-Christian history than post Christian.  Human rights and dignity have been found and missing in cultures long before the birth of Christ.

            Christianity is not the original source of human dignity or human rights.  Nor did the arrival of Christianity do away with humans mistreating each other.

            Indeed Christian history in this regard is one of the most bloody.

          • Well, you are wrong. Christianity is the source of individual dignity in the western world. Of course “human  rights have been found and missing in cultures…” They are missing now; but what has that got to do with Christianity? I wasn’t saying that the birth of Christ meant the automatic emancipation of the oppressed. There isn’t a lot of pre-Christian history; recorded history begins about 6000 years before Christ, and it wasn’t recorded very well; and I know that a lot of blood was shed in the name of God; like it was for a lot of other things, so what? What does a crucifix represent? A victim. A victim of power. It doesn’t represent authority or force. (Unlike the mug shot of a U.S. President, on a wall, who’s going to put me in jail, if I don’t do what he wants).
            It represents God who became a man, became one of us, died on the cross for our sins, and in so doing gave each of us dignity, as individuals and as a specie. It’s the meaning of the Christian myth, and it’s unique. (That’s what Islam finds so offensive: God who becomes a man. And they’re killing us because of it).
            Thanks for putting up with me. 
            (Nice looking blog, by the way)

          • Hi L….

            In the 6000 years of pre-Christian history you aknowledge there is no shortage of cultures with respect for human dignity.  It was a long established concept that Christianity adopted and then, like many religions, failed to actually live.

            As to the Islam/Christianity conflict, it’s been going on since the crusades and both have been enthusiastic killers of the other.

            Indeed far more Muslims have died in this recent go around than Christians.

            No worries about putting up with you.  Rarely have I been disagreed with more charmingly.  We are beginning to hijack this thread and are unlikely to find agreement here.  But if the opportunity presented itself for an actual conversation, I’d happily buy the coffee.

            take care.

          • Good, thanks. I love coffee.

  • The purpose of meditation is to stay in the present, easy to say and very hard to do.

    Love that little story about you kissing Claudia, you guys are an inspiration. :)

  • Ethics doesn’t come from religion, I think he’s confused with morality. Ethics come from social morays, like don’t abuse positions of power granted you

  • Haley

    I love your blog so much. I have attended three separate colleges on my path toward my “future”. I’m all over the place and I always have been a very indecisive person. But more than that, each of these situations just did not work for me. Something was wrong. Now, I’ve just withdrawn from a four-year state school, to the horror of some friends and family. I’ve decided to pursue a two-year degree in nursing. I feel it is my calling and I figure, why spend so much money AND time on four years when I can get the same job with a (VERY cheap) two-year degree? I can always go back and add two years on to complete my Bachelor’s if I must. 

    My point is, I hate college. I think it is a colossal waste of time and money for young adults to be frittering their time away trying to “figure out” what they want to do. That’s an awfully expensive price tag for what is essentially… pondering. If I could I’d skip it altogether, but given the career choice I have picked I need at least two years. 

    I have no idea where I was going with this, I guess I just banged out whatever came to mind :)

    •  I really congratulate you on going against the wishes of EVERYONE and following your heart’s desire. Not many people would do that. its rare to show such courage at a young age. And all of your arguments against the 4 year degree are dead on.

  • Anonymous

    For big meetings visualisation is a good tool, do it in bed the night before, visualise the who and the what, doesn’t have to be the exact people, what would i ask, what do they really want, why would they pick me, and preparation as James says, data is good, if you can get that data rolling of your tongue the second they ask the question then you’re informed and in control…

    •  Very good idea. Reminds me of Zen in the Art of Archery.

      • Anonymous

        Also makes me think of this article from the NY Times today…not so much the lead about Target but about habit forming…

    • Robinheinen

      Be careful there though! By visualising these meetings in your head, you always come up with different scenario’s, of which probably 99,9% are wrong. A little problem I have, is that I tend to visualize the meeting in every possible way it could go… Pro’s and con’s here; You will definately know what to say in just about every possible situation, which is a plus… The down-side of this is that (what happens in my case) your mind can lose confidence in your abilities, because of all the negative options you visualised(What if they don’t like me, what if I feel sick and puke on the meeting table, what if this person I’m meeting is a complete ass… IN THE END I’M ALWAYS WRONG). This is bad, BAD… I would love to just be able to stop this “doom-thinking” and relax a little more, it’s hard.

      • Anonymous

        Think of it as a path…when it forks bring it back to the main path…you need to lead people to where you want them to be…once you’re in control your breathing will become normal and your stomach will stop it’s treachery ;) 

  • Not sure I agree with you about Facebook. If they’re going to continue to survive on ad revenue, they’ll need to either get ads up on their mobile platform and do it well (not optimistic about that, given how busy and clunky the full website has become), or mine user data to make the ads more personalized (not optimistic about this, given FB’s already deaf ear to privacy concerns). If they can grow into a new kind of business, like Google did, then they’ll do well.

    Re: stocks, isn’t the lesson to avoid trying to pick them, rather than avoiding them altogether? I agree that trying to pick them from your laptop at home is a terrible idea, but investing in a broad index fund (i.e., trying to earn S&P 500 returns, not beat them) seems like a good idea to me.

    •  I don’t think they are going to survive on just ad revs although thats a big part of it. I think they WILL be getting ad money that has historically been reserved for offline venues and that has not happened before.

      But I also think the Facebook Credits things is a lot bigger than people realize. Again, its a mini-Internet. Many B2C models (and even B2b) that have worked for the larger Internet will work on Facebook perhaps even better.

      • I guess I look at FB Credits as the purest example of burning money that we have today.


    1) I feel bad when I do bad. 
    2) I feel good when I do good. 
    3) I have foresight, allowing me to anticipate how a particular action will make me feel. 

    The three combine to act as a nature-embedded gauge of right and wrong. 

    So, ethics is within me. 

    •  Yes, 100% agree.

    • Jon

      So if murdering someone makes me feel good then it’s ethical?

      •  Obviously that’s not the case. “Logic” is almost a word that should be thrown out of the dictionary. It’s only function is to point out contradictions when they are meaningless.

      • Today many people have jobs where they do things that challenge their innate ethics in order to get ahead.  They use their kids tuition and mortgage bills to rationalize their actions, and drink/drugs to deaden the pain this internal conflict causes. 

        I often wonder what would happen to the world if – poof – suddenly their drugs of choice disappeared.  Would they be able to contain the conflict or would it erupt? 

        But, yes, a small percentage receive pleasure in a perverse way by causing pain in others.  These people are damaged.  Maybe even broken.  They are the exception to the rule.  All rules have exceptions. 

        In general, people are inherently good.  They feel good when they do good and seek pleasure through positive action. 

  • Anonymous

    Even though I’d agree with the essence of  your answer to the global warming question, i’d like to point out that the argument that you are making in the line below is grossly wrong.

    “First off, the US is a small country. And relatively free of pollution.
    Go to China or India and complain if you are truly worried about global
    warming. ”

    Just clean air out of your car’s tail pipe does not constitute a “pollution free country”.

    Here’s a list of the worlds top contributors of CO2

    China 21.5%                         
    US 20.2%
    Russia 5.5%
    India 5.3%
    Japan 4.6%

    •  Good point. Although its interesting that CO2 levels have gone up with temperatures going down.

    • Anonymous

      And don’t forget, much of China’s CO2 is produced making products for the United States. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of its resources when measured in that way.

  • BBH

    I never understand why people say ” Before any meeting that I care about I get very anxious. 100% of the time. This is a good thing. It makes you hyper-vigilant before and during the meeting.” 

    From my point of view, being anxious (which is to say nervous) has NEVER (I repeat never) helped me. It hasn’t helped me in trading. It hasn’t helped me in social life. It hasn’t helped me at all. All it does is make you do things you otherwise wouldn’t. You say the wrong thing to your date. You fail to realize that this trade is not working out. Or you fail to come up with a good answer to some question raised by the good folks who are interviewing you.
    I think we all remember how back in school you could all the sudden forget every word of that poem once you’re in front of the class. That poem you knew so well, and know again once you got your F. 

    I’m a smart guy and 99.9% of the times I come up with a solution to a problem. This 0.01% time when I can’t… this is 100% when I’m anxious or nervous. So I really don’t know how being anxious or nervous can be any help. I’d like to stay cool and calm no matter what. 

    •  I think everyone is different here. I get more nervous if I’m NOT anxious before an important meeting. But, that said, over time you learn how to control that anxiety so you have confidence you’ve prepared, etc.

  • I knew my wife was the one after three dates.  The first one we went to a farmer’s market and it was nice but nothing special.  The second one was a fancy dinner and it was also nice but…

    The third date we sat in a little irish pub drinking beers and telling each other every secret we ever had.  I felt completely comfortable with her and told her everything I have never told anyone else.  That’s when I knew.

    • That’s nice when you can feel comfortable sharing intimacies. Then you know. Particularly if laughter is involved. 

  • Awww. :)  I loved reading your answer about how do you KNOW. I was the one who asked. I went on date #4 with someone and we haven’t even held hands yet — I’m not sure we’re clicking enough for a romantic relationship. But we like eachother as people, and he wants to spend more time so I guess we will see. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

    • I had a similar situation. 4 days and nothing was happening. Where still good facebook friends. But nothing ever happened and I couldn’t tell why or why she was still going on the dates with me. With Claudia I picked up the right signals, and it worked.

  • mitterpach

    Daytrade is like drugs. Tried it, spent some money, realised it would eventually ruin me, stepped back and focused on work. Pity I wasn’t following you few years ago, James, could save couple of hundreds…

    •  Everybody I know who daytrades is smart. But usually smart enough to create a product or idea that can make millions instead of gambling in a rigged casino.

  • Orson Presence

    On the religion question:

    I make no claim about any particular religion possessing the absolute truth, but if asked the question, ‘is there an absolute truth?’, I would have to say yes.

    To answer ‘no’ would be be logically self-defeating. It’s simply an alternate claim to absolute truth and therefore self-defeating.

    There must be truth out there, if only I could find it!

    •  I tihnk there’s logic, and thoughts, and debates, and questions. But at the end of the day there’s just you.

  • while religions may start with the premise Do No Harm the problem is they tend to progress from there:

    “No one can come to my father but thru me”
    We have the one true path
    We have an obligation to convert the heathens
    Those pesky heathens don’t know what’s good for them
    Their immortal souls are at stake, oh and it would be nice to have their land
    If we have to torture them a bit to get them to see the light to save their soul it’s a small price to pay
    Who said these guys were human anyway?
    These people are less than human, they are the devil’s tools
    This is why we have to exterminate them
    This really is nice land we’ve got here now what our god gave us.

    •  I think another way of saying that is that any “path” at all leads to a natural division: People on the path and then people not on the path. Then there’s a “disturbance in the force”. Which is why I like a “no path” approach if that makes sense.

      • sort of like the Tao (Dao) in Taoism, the path which is no path is perhaps the hardest to define or take. What really blows your mind is the counterpoint, when we truly examine all so called ‘paths’ we find they are nothing of the sort and  only share similarities on the surface. History never truly repeats itself. 

        Committing murder in some cases is defenseless (1st degree), in some cases it is not (on the battlefield of war), and an infinite number of cases in between.  

  • Matthew

    Hi James,

    I love your blog I’m a long term reader. I understand your position regarding day trading. Aside from starting a business, do you think investing in anything listed is a bad idea?

    What about swing trading or long term investing in selected small cap stocks? Due to their small market cap it is assumed that they are less well researched by big funds. Also high frequency traders don’t trade them due to their illiquidity.

    Thanks mate


  • I first started reading your blog solely because of your post “Why I Would Rather Shoot Myself In the Head Than Own a Home” May 15 2011..I remember making the comment: “When you buy a house you sell your weekends.”  I was on board 100%, never going to buy again.

    I think there are far too many individual and unique circumstances to consider when deciding whether to buy or not, in other words I have rationalized my change of heart.

    Never say never.

  • Jeanine

    lol James, you’ve got the facts about meditation all wrong! you’re not supposed to think about ANY of those things while you are meditating. you are supposed to think about nothing, literally. i’ve meditated once for 5 minutes and it’s a lot harder than it looks! you’re basically supposed to block all thoughts and forget about everything. it felt like an hour, but when i finished i felt so happy. 

  • again you have offered relevant thoughts James! my drawing buddy has just been made redundant and may have to sell his house! I have sent this on to him!

  • rollingdancefloor

    I’ll never be as smart as think they are, I’ll never love them as much as they love themselves,

    The worse that can happen is
    nothing happens. Nothing is happening now, so it can’t get any worse. I hope it
    gets better. Most people don’t like crunchy peanut butter. It’s my favorite. And that’s just another reason I love this blog, you can just say anything that’s on your mind.

  • rollingdancefloor

    when your on a streak and you’re winning, you don’t count your losses.
    Thank you James.

  • Well… global warming is a real problem.  Unfortunately, it’s a problem that, if we took it seriously, our brains would melt and we would have to start spending massive amounts of money and severely rearranging our economy.  So we don’t do that.

    I once got sick of people telling me about what the future would look like, so I put together all the books together and tried to arrange them for a short presentation.  Here’re the slides:

    Long story short, I’m not having children.

  • Having a system of ethics is part of the human condition and is necessary for our mutual survival. Religions have co-opted its ownership and have laid out principles of behavior, thereby establishing their moral authority. By so doing, organized religion has sent the message that religion is greater than the human core.

    Those steeped in dogma will always say that the ethical lessons passed down by Jesus, Buddha and others were Divinely inspired, as mere men could not have created rules of behvaior

    How conveneient. But by believing so they dismiss the ability of human beings to independently create a system of societal and personal order.

    For more faux analyses of life, politics, religion and stocks read TheAcsMan

  • KB

    Don’t worry so much about things that are not under our direct control. First try to be happier with easier problems”


  • Ethics (see Aristotle). He believes that being good has a lot to do with just being human. It’s what set’s humanity from other species. We have the potential to live an amazing life and to guide ourselves by reason.  


      Yes, but you have to define what reason is.

  • Gonzalo Gandia

    Thanks for the input on my question, James! (It was the question dealing with anxiousness)…but I particularly liked your answer about honesty. It rings home with me because I’m currently writing my book and struggling with a dilemma. I have some very pertinent and interesting stories to tell, but they may hurt people along the way. Granted, I really don’t care too much as these people aren’t worth it, but I don’t want them creeping back into my life! So my question to you is: have you ever gotten sued for slander? Especially if you recount a story that neither of you can prove either way? Interesting conundrum I’m in right now, but I think I’ll just let the stories fly and see what happens…

  • Matthew

    James aside from starting a business, do you avoid investing in anything listed? What about small caps for the more long term? High frequency traders are less able to trade in that market.

  • College gives you education and a degree, but it doesn’t teach you how to make a career out of it.  It doesn’t teach you survival through creativity and relationships with other people.  That’s what a career is based on.