10 Life-Changing Decisions We Make Without Thinking

I showed up at the SATs in my pajamas. I had woken up late for the most important test of my life – the one test that determines what college you get into, which then determines how happy you are, who will marry you, how much money you make, and how many people you can legally kill or maim before they jail you in a minimum security prison while your money rests in Swiss bank accounts. I rushed out of bed, got two number 2 pencils and went off to the school on that Saturday morning.


About 200 kids from all over  the county were waiting to take the test and were crowding up the hallway. I am not exaggerating: When I arrived they parted down the middle like I was Moses. I was in my pajamas: glasses, acne, my hair uncombed and in every direction and grasping those two number two pencils. I was like the God of the SATs.

I clearly looked like someone who was going to kick ass on the SATs. I was 17 but I had been taking the SATs every year, as practice, since I was 12. I remember crying at age 12 begging my mom to teach me the quadratic formula, “just in case”.

What a joke. I can’t even remember the quadratic formula now or what it’s used for.

Because nothing is used for anything.

Our lives are the worst misshapen archaeological digs. Imagine a skyscraper built on top of an aquarium, built on top of a merry-go-round built on top of an earthquake fault in the middle of a volcano. None of it makes sense. It’s a maze, a mish-mash, a mess.

And yet that’s how we grow up. Get good grades or “it goes on your record” (nightmares still of my mom screaming at me when I was in fourth grade and caught shoplifting: “YOUR RECORD”…”your record”…”YOUR RECORD!!!!”). Get a good SAT score. Go to a good college, then graduate school. Get a good wife , get a good raise, a promotion, move horizontally through the corporate ladder, then vertically, zig zag up like in the childhood game chutes & Ladders! Get money, get a good car, fly business, then first, get art, build a stock portfolio, get your kids on the same path you were in (“if it was a good enough for me, it better goddamn well be good enough for you, you spoiled little brat!”), get a new kidney because I have so much money, get an award, get multiple women crying at your funeral, and tough guys, Old Men of the Sea, spilling at your ashes over the ocean (“the world will never be the same”, one of them finally says after  the requisite silence.) GOD BLESS AMERICA!

What the hell just happened? I was going to write about YOUR major life decisions and for half the intro I’m a virgin in pajamas with two pencils comparing myself to Moses.


A) College. Oh my god. How many times to do I have to say it. I even wrote a book about it. I’ve been writing about this since 2006.Finally the NY Times has caught on. Mark Cuban even wrote an article this weekend. People are finally realizing it: COLLEGE IS/WAS/WILL BE a SCAM. I mean this in the worst possible way. It’s the US government trying to rob our 18 year olds (who do you think backs the $300,000 in student loans you graduate with?) because they’ve stolen from us until we’re shopping in dollar stores in Vermont as the only way to survive. I’ve written and argued and explained too much on this one so you can read about what I’ve said here and that will lead to the rest of the links. Note: I give alternatives that are MUCH BETTER than sending your kids to college.

But my main question for this article is: why do we think our 17 years olds are prepared to make a decision that involves a half a million dollars at this early stage in their lives (DO NOT argue with me about the math. I will beat you down with a stick.) ?

B) House. Oh sure, you can buy a house for $200k and sell it 10 years later for $400k. That’s the extent of how people think about this decision. We’re not allowed to think deeper. It’s the American Dream. It’s ROOTS. It’s what’s needed to create stability before we can CREATE.  We NEED A HOUSE. It’s drilled into us from an early age. Not even the white picket fence. Just something innocuous that’s implanted like a secret science fiction chip into our brain: “Just a place I can rest my feet and call my home”. "A place I can plant flowers." "A place I change the walls". ROOTS.

It’s such BS. And again, I write about it here. But: maintenance, property taxes, interest payments, more maintenance, time spent, lack of flexibility, lack of ability to maximize your income because you are stuck, illiquidity of a massive investment, massive debt – and is the debt backed by…the US government. God Praise the Queen! Or the President. Or the Minister of Security. Whoever. Someone has their hand in your pocket. There’s a hole in your pocket. They are feeling around past the hole.You! My good friend. Have just been molested.

C) Marriage. I’ve never seen something like how it is in the movies: two people meet in a cab and then head to Las Vegas and get married. Maybe it happens in “real” life but I’ve never seen it. But I’ve seen two people, age 23, meet for a first date and then ten days later get married. Or even worse, two people live together for 5 years and then finally decide to get married.

What the hell are you thinking? Marriage is like the worst thing ever (married people, hold off, I’m going to come full circle on this)

  • You’re going to spend the next 70 years with that person EVERY SINGLE DAY


  • You’re going to see that person in every worst possible way. On the first date, imagine them in the hospital with tubes sticking into every hole in their body and their head shaved. Now kiss them.


  • You’re done. Unless you are cheating (please don’t do that. It’s too stressful for everyone involved, its unhygienic and could spread disease, and it will destroy all the people around you) you are not having sex with ANYONE ELSE for the rest of your life.


  • The passion in your marriage will eventually wear off. Not necessarily, but it’s a normal part of life. As I’ve written before, there’s the saying: put a penny in a jar every time you have sex before the marriage, take a penny out every time you have sex after. You’ll never empty the jar. I hope that doesn’t happen to me but we’ll see.


  • It costs money! On average, that is. Let’s say 50% of marriages end in divorce (I don’t care if the number is accurate. Some large number ends in divorce) then imagine the expenses of supporting two households. Or three. Or I know people with five households they are supporting. It really hurts.


  • You might fall in love again. With someone else. Anything can happen. We are talking 70 years! Hope that it doesn’t happen to you but some people are addicted to falling in love. Maybe your new spouse is. I hope not!


  • People change. What you liked about your wife when she was 23 might be 100% different at 33 and 100% different at 43.  I hope you change together but that’s a pretty big gamble. If you were a gambling man would you gamble that two people are going to change together over a period of 70 years? I would almost never make that bet without incredible odds.

This doesn’t mean I hate marriage. I love being married. Here’s my post on The Purpose of Marriage.

Just don’t make this major life decision without thinking about it. I have a checklist in the above post. Make sure you can AT LEAST check all of those boxes.

D) Children. First off, before I rant, I LOVE my children. Someone sent me an angry email the other day:

“Your the biggest prick in the world for talking about how your 10 yr old daughter is spewing BS and vomit from her mouth when she lies to you. Your a sad excuse for a father you piece of shit. You cruel, heartless bastard. I hope you lose your wealth and your possessions and wake up to what this life is all about you shit head scumbag.”

My emailer's name is Tom Wait and he lives in Newark, California. I am grateful when I get an email like that. It lets me test myself. I don’t respond. And I feel bad that his anger has forced him to unleash on me like that. But I also have to consider: do I talk about my kids too much. I don’t think so.

So I will talk about them more:

Kids suck. And people just keep spewing their sperm around, making more kids, like it’s the easiest decision in the world. Then suddenly you have a new US citizen living in your house who is one foot tall, can’t even walk without your help, screams all the time, doesn’t speak English, craps on the floor, and has to fed by you. OUT OF YOUR BREASTS if you are a woman.

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Are you crazy?

Then we get older it gets a little better…if you like being a chauffeur all day long and hanging out in kid’s stores and watching cartoon movies about baby bears lost in the jungle. I mean we are talking some serious bad decision making here when you have a kid.

Now, its not all that bad. (my daughters making each other laugh make up for it) but let’s not forget:

Kid’s cost money. $30k per pregnancy, then thousands per year on food and clothes. Then thousands every year on school supplies, books, gas to drive them places. Then thousands every year after they hit 18. Then maybe 10s of thousands a year after they hit 35. And will they ever appreciate it? We’ll see. I don’t know yet.

And even worse: having a kid really changes your relationship with your spouse. Now the kid is her (or his) love of her life. You have to really see and pay attention to how the kid affects your relationship with your spouse or that could suddenly get a whole lot more expensive (see above). Believe me. But people don't think of this. Don't think of the consequences. It's not true that "no time is a good time". That's just an excuse to make a bad decision. The sperm hits the ovum and KA-BOOM!

E) Eat: You are what you eat. I can’t even think of a more true statement. Where do you think the atoms in your body even come from. A lot of it comes from the food you eat. Most people don’t think twice about: cheese Danish in the morning, pasta and spring rolls for lunch, potato chips during the day, 8 cups of coffee, steak and fries and ice cream at night with a bottle of wine to smooth out the day. I’m not describing your meals. I’m describing how I used to eat. Every day. But the wine might start by 10am. Just to feel good about my afternoon meetings.

See my post on how Lisa lost 100 pounds. “Sugar hurts your bones, increases wrinkles, and makes you stupid” she told me the other day. And sugar is in about 99% of the products sold in the grocery store. So people blindly do it because  it’s hard to do otherwise.

F) Media. Again, you are what you eat! Even if you eat dog shit all day. I’m a firm believer in this: you have four bodies. Not just one. A physical body that you have to take care of to live. But also an emotional body. A mental body. And a spiritual body. These bodies need food to survive also. If they die or get sick then you die and get sick in some way.

The emotional and mental bodies get their sustenance from the things you read, the stuff you watch on TV, the people around you and what they are saying or gossiping about. You are what you eat. The spiritual body lives on your ability to be grateful, on your ability to ignore the daggers and hate that are constantly thrown your way (see email above under “Children”) Otherwise it will starve to death. And so will you. And so you will your ability to love others and make others happy.

When you are grateful for others, their accomplishments, their successes, their magic, becomes yours. Then you are better than human. Then you are magic.

But people don’t think twice about picking up the worst crap to read on the train, on the plane, before bed, or let’s watch these shows or watch these movies. Or hang out with these gossipers, or spend a day not being grateful for the…for the…I can’t even fill it in. Just being grateful FOR.

G) Stocks. People will look at every detail of a $30,000 car before making a purchase decision but lose $100,000 in seconds on a bad stock purchase that they didn’t do any due diligence on. This is why I write “10 reasons people should never own stocks”. But if you want to own stocks, build a checklist in advance. A plan. You will only own a stock if it has these 10 features. And don’t put more than 3-5% of your portfolio in any one stock. Don’t be an idiot. But people were, are, and always will be. I see it every day.

H) Luxuries. When I was five I wanted a drumset so my parents got me one. I never used it. So when my kid was five and wanted a drumset I, of course, got her one. She never used it. The same goes for most of our purchases. Think how much money you can save per year if you just avoided all the things you never used for more than a week a year. It would be thousands I’m sure.

I) Jobs.  Most people hate their job. I get emails every day, “I hate my job”. I wrote a post, “10 reasons you need to quit your job right now.” But people are brainwashed by the American Dream into thinking: job, promotions, money, raises, bonuses, SUCCESS.

This is not what success is about. And yet it feels good to be wanted. It feels good when they make that offer. SO you don’t think twice about it. After all, you got that degree in accounting so why not be an accountant. Again, make a checklist. I’ll do another post on what I think that checklist should be. But don’t make a decision will effect the next 20 years of your life without doing the appropriate due diligence.

J) Alcohol. Most people I know drink at least five times a week. I’m not going to criticize. There’s lots of reasons to drink. It takes the edge off a hard week (see “Hate job” above). It gives you that buzz so you lose inhibitions in an awkward social situation (that first date ten days before you get married, for instance). Some people like the taste (ugh, give me a vanilla milkshake instead, even with all the sugar).

But think about how much you spend on alcohol a year. That can be just cash in your bank. And meanwhile, you avoid the sugar in alcohol, the bad ramifications when you lose those inhibitions, and all of the cancer-linked diseases that are related to alcohol. Not to mention the general harm against your liver. I don’t even know what my liver does. But if something gets in the way of peeing and shitting then its NO GOOD.

If you avoid these ten things, think of how much money you would avoid losing in the 20 year period between 18 and 38. Just think about it. I can tell you for me the number is in the multi-millions. It adds up each year.

I’m not saying that’s not worth it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make these decisions.

It’s just that people make these multi-million dollar decisions without even a second thought. At the time it seems like nothing. Its love, or chemicals, or addictions.

Or even worse, its what your parents told you to do. Or your friends. Or your colleagues. They want to feel justified in their own horrible decisions.

Or even worse than that – its the American system of non-stop brainwashing via government agendas and commercialism. Who backs the student loans. Who backs the home loans. Who wants you in jobs paying maximum taxes? Who wants you paying those surplus taxes on alcohol? And the billion dollar companies advertising to you all day long when you are semi-hypnotic states watching brain-dead TV.

That’s a lot of pressure. It’s really hard to avoid it. I didn’t avoid it. And I paid. I paid too much. And i'm still paying. It will never end.

The biggest challenge in being an adult, in saving money, in having freedom, in having success, is the ability to break free from the brainwashing, is to break free from the Matrix. To live your own life without everyone trying to drag you down into their HELL.

Because when you break free, the hands grasping at you from the depths of hell will finally lose their grip and slip back into their own self-created abscesses. You’ll start to float higher. You’ll feel free, light, unencumbered except by your own wonderful decisions. Decisions made from a deep well of infinity inside of you that hasn’t been tainted or tarnished. Or, through the daily practice you can begin the process of cleaning it.

It's never too late. I've made every one of the decisions above. Often for the wrong reasons. Often repeatedly. And I've suffered for it. We've all suffered to some extent. That's what life is. But cleansing the four bodies I mention above, also begins the arduous process of alchemizing those prior decisions into a gold you could not have imagined. Into an abundance you only dreamed about.

And no matter what those choices are, when you are making them with full consciousness, with a cleanliness that goes straight through to the soul, you'll rise above the hells everyone else lives in. You’ll be in your own personal heaven.

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  • ClaudiaYoga

    I am curious about the “caveat” and cannot even pronounce that word

    • I would not want to be James right now.

      • I’m pretty sure James is smart enough not to put himself in the doghouse haha

        • Benjamin Dunphy

          sugar is sweeter when juxtaposed with bitterness.

      • Why is that?

    • hint: rhymes with “have Fiat” and is about as good.

      • ClaudiaYoga

        That is funny, I grew up with a Fiat, a 1600 model, gosh those things were funny

        • I just spent a week running around in a rental Fiat 500.  It was a blast!

          • ClaudiaYoga

            My dad had one of those too, those were the earlier ones, the front door opened from the middle and towards the outside/front and the motor of the car was on the back instead of the front, the trunk in the front… I cannot believe they still exist and that they get to be rented!  Must have been fun indeed!

          • sorry Claudia….  

            my rental was the new version Fiat has just begun importing here.  I’ve never had the chance to drive one of the old ones as you describe.I did own a Spyder for a while and had lots of fun with that….

          • In 1971, my mother brought me home from the hospital in Fiat 500 with suicide doors. I am sure she was holding me in her hands in the front seat, without seatbelt (and she was probably smoking as well).

            It is good that some things change, and some come back. :)

    • Barbemead

      cav – ee – at

      • BernardBrandt

         Almost. Not quite:

        ca – vee – at (CA as in ‘cat’, VEE as in the first part of VW, ‘at’ as in the preposition; accent on first syllable).

        But thank you for playing.

  • James, I landed a job I am so excited about very much due to your post about leaving a bad job/not doing what you really want. Once I made u my mind, there was a whole world of possibilities for me. Never stopped to look. Thank you so much. I owe you. Hope Claudia is well my friend.

    •  Economic, thanks a lot. It sounds like your are following your guts. That’s hard to do. But that’s what leads to relief, freedom, abundance. Congrats on finding the world of possibilities. The world free from the hypnotism.

  • Are there other life decisions we make without thinking that I might be missing?

    • How about sex?

      • Fred

        I believe James mentioned he is happily married. :D

    • Benjamin Dunphy


    • I’d say 90% of what most people do. Most of what we do and say is the same as what we did and said yesterday. We form habits and we call our day-to-day lives “making decisions” or “making choices”. In fact, your main choice is what habits to cultivate, and you probably can’t change more than 1 habit every month or two. Most people just don’t take the time to investigate their habits, so as Benjamin Dunphy says below, “Inaction” is determining the trajectories of their lives.

    • MaxBlacks

       To live in the future whilst dreaming of a rose coloured past thus failing to realise we exist in the moment.

    • Chuck

      spending a lot of time with family

    • Well, there’s at least two others, since your intro says 12 MAJOR LIFE DECISIONS YOU MAKE WITHOUT THINKING.  Let’s say 11) End of Life Care (many people go along with medical interventions and hospitals and whatever their doctors and families want without even knowing about options like hospice) and 12) writing intros for our blog posts.

    • Portercat

      Leisure Time: If you are saving time in one area (like not maintaining your “bought” house), what are you going to do with that newly found time?  Exercise?  Train for a marathon or do yoga?  Religion – go to church because your parents went there or choose something different?  Help others by volunteering or giving money or not at all – maybe you feel that your business is your contribution (a la Steve Jobs)?

  • Matthew

    I used to think I was jaded. I’ve changed my mind.

  • JT

    James, I would also list the mindless pursuit of sex on this list. It can get you into trouble while also potentially hurting you financially (how many “students” go to a university for this reason?). It can also take your mind off of creative pursuits that are much more worthwhile, and can also influence what movies you watch, whether or not to cheat, etc. Many of the items you listed above has this as an underlying theme. JT

    •  Yeah, very good point. I find that once I was able to say “no”, I found a lot more interesting peopel (women) who immediately entered my life. Because as you say you now have the time to pursue creative pursuits that can enhance you.

      • Napoleon Hill also talked about that in Think and Grow Rich.  

  • James,

    Love your no-nonsense, straightforward style, but it seems to me like you think everyone wants the same things as you, or only wants things for the “wrong reasons”.  

    1) College: Not for everyone, but is for most.  Having a college degree allows me to have a nice job that supports my family and most all my wants, while I slowly build my own businesses so that I can one day make the jump.  Without that degree, I would have NEVER gotten a programming job in 2002.  Think of a college degree as diversifying your background, minimizing risk just in case the whole entrepreneurship doesn’t workout as you planned.

    2) House:  I want land and a house because that’s what I want.  It has nothing to do with the American dream.  I want to be able to hunt deer during hunting season on my own private land. And I LOVE the maintenance part.  It is nice to get out there and bush hog a big field, split some wood, bail some hay. You should try it.   We also love privacy.  We don’t have neighbors, and it’s awesome.  

    Yeah it isn’t liquid and we can’t move any time we want.   But we don’t care about that.  We don’t want the ability to move at the drop of a dime.  Our family is here and this is where we will most likely always be.  I know it is hard for some who love to travel to understand, but that just isn’t what we want.

    What kind of coverage do you have that you spent $30k on the birth of your kid?  I think we spent $2500 for our own private room at a brand new hospital.

    Thousands per year on food and clothes for a kid?  Who cares if that is what you want? It is called sacrifice, and some of us are OK with it.

    I started reading your blog because you wrote some things that really hit home about being an entrepreneur.  It seems lately you are all about writing for shock value.  

    Don’t be the Ron Paul of entrepreneurs — obviously brilliant but says certain things that turns most everyone off.



    • This is only shocking to you because you’ve been brainwashed. In fact, we’ve all been brainwashed. Just take a step back and really “look” at things. People don’t want to admit or accept that they’ve been brainwashed. People think they’re too smart. That is why they feel offended by posts like these or “turns most everyone off.”

      And of course it’s all part of the American Dream, what are you talking about? By the way you make it sound, it seems like you would feel sad if you hadn’t gone to college or had that house to hunt ducks. You have to ask yourself why.

      I love Coldplay. Anybody? Haha. But the song Strawberry Swing goes likes this: “People moving, all the time, inside a perfectly straight line. Don’t you wanna, just curve away? When i’ts such. It’s such a perfect day.”

      I think I’ll go listen to it right now. Cheers!

      • Wow this really is Ron Paul-esque.   James has these followers that just regurgitate the same things over and over, expecting people to believe they are true.  

        To answer your question, yes not going to college would make me sad.  I would not have the kind of success that I have now without that little piece of paper.  Is it right? No.  But is it REALITY? Yes.

        Also, college was awesome.  The absolute most fun I have ever had, bar none.  Today I have a family and it equals it in fun, but it is definitely a different kind of fun.

        And as much as James wants you to believe that you can have the same amount of fun NOT going to college, it isn’t true in my case.  I went to James Madison University, where it is 2:1 or 3:1 girls and the parties are free. Sorry but that isn’t close to the “real world”. It is 1:1, drinks are $5 and the girls aren’t as attractive.

        Maybe if you want to live near or in a city, you can get away with all the things that James says.  Out in the country, not so much.

        • So it was all downhill from college? haha. Well, you don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t gone to college. How do you know you wouldn’t have had success?

          But anyway, I respect your opinions, to each their own. Oh and, the parties aren’t free. They’re thousands of dollars :) 

          • The kind of fun you have in college?  Oh hell yes.  

            If you didn’t have the time of your life in college you didn’t do it right.

          • Lets be friends.

          • tuna

            eatsleephunt (as well as many others) can demonstrate a level of success that can be attributed to achieving a degree.
            The assertion in the article is that you would have success if you didnt go to college. Can this be demonstrated in an equally reliable fashion?

        • John

           “The absolute most fun I have ever had, bar none.  Today I have a family and it equals it in fun..”

          I guess they forgot to teach that “logic” thing in the college you went to, eh?

          • Leaving off the end of that sentence takes it out of context.  The “fun” I had in college and the “fun” I have with my family are apple and oranges. 

            You can have equal weight of both but they are different. 

        • mikeyhell

          Ron Paul-esque? What do you mean by this? It’s derogatory, I presume, but why?

          • Talking about his small contingent of diehard followers that regurgitate everything he says as if it is gospel.  

            I actually like Ron Paul, think he is brilliant, but he unfortunately has said crazy things in his past that makes him un-electable.

          • Fred

            Such as?

          • That we should pay zero taxes. 

            And it isn’t like he doesn’t want income taxes and supports the Fair Tax (which will be America’s next economic boom).  He really thinks we could operate without any taxes.

            If he didn’t say things like that, he would have been elected long ago.  He saw the housing bubble and warned everyone, he wants to audit the fed, he even was against going to war in Iraq, which would appeal to the left. 

          • Jhyeti

             Ron Paul has never said there should be no taxes. He as advocated for eliminating the income tax. Something we did without in this country for well over 100 years. If you think the income tax is the only tax then I suggest you do more research.

          • I am well versed on the taxes we have and what Ron Paul has said.  

            If he doesn’t want an income tax (I completely agree) and doesn’t want a national sales tax like Fair Tax (which requires the repeal of the 16th amendment and has a sunset clause just in case they try to bring it back), then what does he expect to bring in revenue so the government can properly operate?  

            Regardless of how much we cut in spending (which I agree with him on almost everything), there is NO WAY we can go back to the expenses that we operated with “for over 100 years”.  

            THAT is why everyone laughs at Paul and his die-hards.  It just isn’t plausible in a extremely diverse country of 330+ million.

            For every 5 great ideas he has, he has some that are just out there.  

          • Loanauditscal

            I have to reply to this because I feel that you leave out a lot of Ron Paul’s reasoning behind his ideas and I don’t want someone who hasn’t read any of his books or actually heard him speak broadly on the issues to take you at face value without investigation.

            Ron Paul’s biggest argument against the income tax (besides punishing success) is that it is the main funder of the US’s quest for empire. We were a fairly prosperous nation but when we started getting involved in the affairs of other nations, it required more money to fund. Enter the income tax. 

            When you look at the history of a lot of wars, you’ll see that they either raised taxes, borrowed money or manipulated currency in order to afford it. Or a combination of the three. The US has been doing that for a while to fund our corporate/military adventurism and I can tell you, it’s going to cause a lot of future pain. 

          • Even with the suggested cuts Paul champions, we would still have to have taxation. 

            If it isn’t income tax or national sales tax, what is his solution?

        • Edith Spencer

          What many people who read the blog do not understand is that right now, a college degree is necessary ( whether 2 or 4 year) for getting many jobs, especially ones that involve mathematics, life sciences, engineering, medicine, law, farming, or working with certain types of tech. Art is a very strong maybe; journalism is a strong maybe; if you know that you love selling or gardening or cooking or working with your hands then college will be a waste of money. 

          If you are a minority of any sort( class or race), a college education is a step into the room and gives a fighting chance. 

          So the point is, think carefully before choosing college as a default. 

    • MaxBlacks

      College didn’t get you the job YOU DID!
      How many other people went for the job who had exactly the same piece of paper as you did or had a better piece of paper than you did and yet YOU made the difference and got yourself the job.
      I have yet to meet a sane employer who hires people based on what their particular piece of paper says.

      • I totally agree that the little piece of paper shouldn’t mean jack.  I tell my friends that all the time.  In REALITY, employers very much care about it, especially back then.  It may be changing somewhat now, but there are VERY few employers around where I got my first job (Northern VA) that DO NOT care about that piece of paper.

        I think the future is the free MIT etc classes and employers finally realizing that little piece of paper doesn’t mean anything.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the case right now and won’t be for another 20+ years.

        • MaxBlacks

          I do agree that paper did have much relevance in times gone by. Back when I was staring my stint at exchanging my time for someone else’s assessment of what it was worth (1977) it was possible to walk out of your job on a Monday and be in a new one on Tuesday. It might not have been one ‘the paper’ said you were capable of but it paid well nevertheless.
          I am not as pessimistic as you are about the future though.

          • Yes and I know the landscape has changed even since I was trying to get a job post-9/11, both in available jobs and college tuition.  I know that when I become an employer, the little piece of paper will not matter as long as the person has the skills.

      • It got him in the room dude, calm down.

        • MaxBlacks

          Calm down?
          Pardon me for having the temerity to suggest that maybe, just maybe this man, this human being, was the difference between the pieces of paper in the room, dude.

          • I think anyone with a brain realizes that, but the reality is that absolutely no employers were hiring unless you had that piece of paper first.  It got me in the door, and then yes, I sold myself.

            Sure there are jobs that hire without the piece of paper, but you have to have experience.  Hard to get that first experience without that piece of paper.  That is reality.

          • wpsmithjr

             You also can “get in the door” with 10-12 years of the proper experience, and no degree… and therefore no debt to pay off.  I know because I’ve done it. 

            When it come to getting a job, many people want to see a history of success… and at that point the degree doesn’t matter. 

            If you want to enter a specific field… health care, engineering, or law… then you need a degree.  But there are plenty of jobs that “require a B.S. degree or higher” that you can get without the degree if you have 10-12 year experience in sales or management and a proven track record of success.

            If you get a degree to enter a specific field, and the market for that field gets saturated… then you’re out looking for the same jobs as everyone else who spend 4-8 years in college… who also have zero experience.

            There are plenty of people with degrees right now, collectively owing over a trillion in college loan debt… who can’t find a job… not even as a waitress.

          • You cannot begin to attain the 12-14 years experience without the degree in MOST fields.

          • Goannar

            Not so. Personal experience says you can start working and get into some senior income relatively promptly without formal qualifications. I’ve seen it many times. Most of the highest paying jobs are not advertised. Indeed most decent jobs never get advertised through the public media. It’s who you know, networking and information gathering (and trading information) that counts. It isn’t quals that are sought as primary attributes. If you feel you need them then either: a) you are involved in a regulated and guilded profession (like medicine) or b) you lack experience, confidence, skill and most importantly, a network. Brush up on your networking skill- be known- be a “name”. Finally, consider, the time you spend building your educational debt mountain denies you several good years of doing exactly what you should be doing- working and building that network and your skills. You’ll never be able to buy that timne back again. You’ll NEVER be able to get that debt monkey off your back for years either.



          • Yes, because every industry professional wants to network with an 18 year old with no experience out of high school.  I guess you think 15 year olds should be working on “their craft” instead of chasing tail and playing sports? 

            You are right though, networking is extremely important.  I met many people in my network in college.  I am sure more than a few millionaires were created on Friday because they networked with Zuckerberg at Harvard.  Millionaires are probably created on a daily basis because of the networks they made in college. 

            If no one went to college (because it is such a waste), 
            those entry level jobs where you can get “experience” without a degree would vanish, and the unemployment would skyrocket to astronomical proportions.

            BTW I paid off my college loans last year, 9 years after graduation.  So NEVER is a bit strong.  I know tuition even within the last decade, but students can work like I did through college to pay it off.  

            Get work experience and go to college at the same time, all while paying off your student loans.  That is a good plan.

          • Loanauditscal

            In a way, the experience part is like a degree. And it usually takes more time. But, the experience people are usually better at what they do.

          • I agree with you.  I did both.  While I was getting my degree I worked in an accounting department for a large company both for the experience and to pay for living expenses.

            Experience is way, way more important than that piece of paper you get on graduation day.  But employers will never give you an interview for your first real job unless you have a degree in most fields.

          • Yikes looks like my “calm down” comment was closer to the truth than I thought. Anyway I couldn’t agree more. That once you’re in the room, it’s up to you to prove that your the most valuable person for the position among the other candidates. However for better or worse, right now if you don’t have the “piece of paper”, you’re generally not making it past the resume scans.

    • aposer

      He doesn’t have a problem with what path you choose, just that you consider where it’s taking you. Property taxes aren’t going lower. Can you handle that if you lose your job next week.

      I’d love to have some acerage but i’d better have enough money to cover everything, including paying some one else to bush hog. When its 95 and humid and that motor has been running for awhile, it gets old quick.

      I rent now. I don’t have to clean the gutters, repave the drive, pay $8,000 dollars to have a tree removed, and it’s nice for ME.

      As for James’s shock value, i wish i’d gotten about 10,000 volts years ago

      • I actually agree with you — when you say “ME”.  What’s good for you may not good for me.  What we spend our money on or don’t spend our money, really shouldn’t matter if we are happy.

        As for your statement regarding if I lost my job, I would fall back on my college degree and experience and get a job in my industry.  If I couldn’t do that (highly unlikely), I would get a job at McDonald’s or WalMart or or or and change my standard of living. 

        Are you really trying to insinuate that we should live as frugal as possible just in case something might go wrong?  
        Not trying to live beyond my means but definitely not the way I want to live.   

    • “College degree as minimizing risk just in case the entrepreneurship doesn’t work out for you as planned”??
      “building my biz slowly so that someday I’ll make the jump”??
      “NEVER gotten a programming job in 2002”??

      These lines make me LOL hard man.. The first one assures you cannot be creative. Creativity is the exact opposite of Security. Creativity is man’s very Nature, and Nature knows no Discipline aka security.
      The second one assures that you’ve always lived your life that way. Waiting to do something, but tip-toeing at the shore, fantasizing what it would be like to dive in. Well, I bet you have never taken a single step in your whole life with ABSOLUTE COURAGE. Fear is a bitch.
      The third tells me that you are too Closed to possibilities, too much controlled by circumstances. You “sacrifice” what you want, very often,njust because the ‘circumstances’ aren’t fit right Now. And, that you are dependent on others for everything you do. You cannot face yourself alone, I bet, again ;)

      The BEST THING about everything above is that you will never think that you may have a wrong perception of life, and there’s an impeccable logic. A very powerful logic that none can argue with: “I have more that 90% of the people living on the same lines as me, they can’t be wrong. The Majority is always right!”. Beautiful logic, logic is flawless. However, thats how Brainwashing works.
      We are misled into life-less ways of living coz the majority, the logic, says so.

      And the rest of us, in Jobs’s words, are the Crazy Ones.

      • Wow you sound so interesting.  Please enlighten me on all the risks you have taken and how you are so awesome.

        • Well, I didnt, in anyway, wish to say that some people are more awesome than others. Awesome has different definitions for everyone. So, I don’t really care what you think. I have lived a ‘secure’, planned, life, and I, probably, am fortunate to come out of it quite early. Awesome or not, now, I live foolishly, insanely, adventurously, and I think it’s quite natural. It’s super addictive, cz it frees.

          I just wished to give you something to contemplate upon. I can be 200% wrong, or even more. Observe it with an unprejudiced mind, there seems to be some truth, if it rings a bell in your head, accept it. FYI, It will need great courage to accept. Else trash it and forget about it completely, I suggest. :)

          I ain’t saying ‘My way of life is right, yours is wrong’. No. I just stated my thoughts. If its the case (which seems to be), its okay. There’s nothing bad about living a ‘secure’, ‘risk-free’, ‘fear-filled’, ‘brainwashed’ life. But EVERYTHING is bad about not being aware that you lead such a life. If you lead it, lead it, but stay aware of these facts. Don’t lie to yourself.

          Btw, your curiosity to learn “how i am awesome” is appreciated, whatever your intention was. ;)

          • You attacked me endlessly in your first post, and now you are saying that you don’t care what I think as if I attacked you?  Weak man.  

            Your inability to answer the question is enough for me to “LOL hard”.  

            You Altucherites are hilarious.

          • I am glad you had a great laugh. Thanks for the compliment by the way, I am hilarious :)

            Well, it was never about me, so I don’t care a bit. My intent was to wake you up (if you really feel attacked, and if you really wanted me to share my proof of ‘awesomeness’, I think there must be some truth in what I said).

            And yes, I am a very weak man, when it comes to try doing something I don’t love or feel like doing. I do things my way, and the way i want. It’s a great feeling to be weak before your heart.

            And btww, if you really wanna feel what’s it to be like ‘awesome’, in your words. Read Steve Jobs’s biography and his interviewers’ description of how he lived life.

            I think he was sane, but the only reason he calls himself the Crazy One is that the majority is insane, and so the they are considered as normal.

            I’ll blast off James Altucher and rip apart his opinions in the worst possible way whenever I’ll feel the need. It’s a coincidence that his views on these things match with mine.

            My only intent, again, was to ‘try’ to make you unprejudiced and open to your own shortcomings. You have all your life, dont worry, you’ll make it. Then you’ll actually know, what LOLling Hard means ;) njoY:)

          • You are so knowledgeable.  You even know exactly what I want out of life and how exactly I should live it.   I want to be just like you, and therefore just like James.

            Sorry I am not a sheep who thinks Jobs was a God.  

            Get back to me when you have accomplished something of significance (you can choose what that significance is) with all your risk taking, crazy life.  Having more than 27 twitter followers would probably be step 1, you entreprenuing guru.

            I’ll be content building my business at a slower pace than the people you read about, but without the risk of the people you don’t read about who lost everything because they went too fast and didn’t get a break along the way.  

          • Haha.. I m very sure I won’t get back. U dont even need to get back to me when you think that there probably was something of significance in what I said. Just accept it to yourself, and you shall be done.

            Keep LOLling! NjoY!

          • And, about knowledgeability, I’m sure your kid taught you a lot of things when he was not even one, forget about the rest. ‘learning’ not always comes from the knowledgeable, it depends on you. When you’re receptive, the whole existence becomes your teacher.

            And, I’ m sure he didnt have 28 followers when he taught you awesome stuff about life. Keep learning bro. I admit I’m just a child :)

    • Like with everything else, there is no single answer that works for everyone. For some people and some professions, college is a must – you would not want a high school drop-out taking your appendix out.

      Also, people come to same results in different ways. My university education was ended after only one year due to war, but I ended up making 6-figure salary even without education (I barely spoke English when I started too) – but I had to work 80 hours per week for many years to get there.

      Funny thing is – I am considering going back to school – I absolutely DO NOT need it – but I feel that it would be a fun challenge to accomplish.

      Lastly, there are things you CAN learn at school that could be applied (admittedly, not many, and some things you could learn on your own). In the early days of Internet, I taught HTML at the community college. Some of my students ended up taking the path of web design and still credit my class to getting them on that path.

  • Michael Rasmussen

    Car.  You forgot Automobile.  

  • Quietjim

    How about credit cards. How about the difference between need and want on every purchase. 

    • MaxBlacks

       He who needs the least has the most…

  • Fudgeylogic

    I thought you would tell us your SAT score…

  • Jon

    Why hatin’ on the Economist?

    •  I find it to be boring AND fear-mongering. The worst combination.

      • OT

        Probably the only thing I have disagreed with you on in months.  For me, it is the only main stream media left worth reading.

    • Benjamin Dunphy

      any publication that takes politicians seriously should be categorized with people mag and us weekly. 

  • Chuck

    Last year, i drank alcohol every night. Was really brainwashed into thinking it would relax me, and make me sleep better at night (and that wine was a must with dinner)
    Now I don’t drink a drop of alcohol 6 days a week. I feel much better, more energy. And I think I could give it up all together if I wanted to. Thanks James

    •  Chuck, that’s great. I was similar and it became a huge relief when it was no longer part of my daily schedule. I don’t drink at all anymore BUT I do think your 6 day a week approach is nice also. Nothing wrong with a “day off”

    • kamalravikant

      I’ve noticed I get sick often if I drink (flu, etc), even if it’s a two-drink maximum.  

  • Saba

    James, I so would love to see the job checklist you talked about. As would a lot of people who are unemployed nowadays. Looking forward to reading it and will tweet and Facebook it like there’s no tomorrow!! Btw, I liked your appearance on This Week In. Always good to put a face to a name :-)

  • kcastagnaro

    James, I hope you expand on D) Children. Maybe on Father’s day. I just told a mutual friend yesterday that parenting sucks. I love my children. But parenting them… good grief. 

    • Father’s Day would be a good day for that post. And I agree. People don’t realize before they get into it. It’s pure love and pure agony.

      • kcastagnaro

        Part of the reason people don’t realize, part of the reason I didn’t realize, was because my friends who were already parents, lied to me. They only talked about the first half of the deal. They left the rest out. They lied by omission. :)

      • Terry Neudorf

         Yes it is.  But there is little else that is as pure, and for that it’s worth it alone.

  • Capitalistic

    I realized the American dream trap during my freshmen year in college. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Corporate American life SCARED ME TO DEATH. Who would want to be stuck in a cube 8 hours a day??? Doing what? Spreadsheets?But there I was. A top tier college grad. With 100k in student loans. Worked at top tier companies for 5 years. Realized it was a scam. Quit. Borrowed money. Bought a business. It went belly up. But it was the happiest two years of my life. Went back to banking. Went to business school. More debt. Graduated in 2009. Absolutely broke. No one would hire me for various reasons.Started a new company. With no money. Although it’s been rough, but it’s the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m actually using my brain, and doing what I love. ENTREPRENEURSHIP. My family thinks I should be working for IBM or Goldman Sachs. Like everyone else. But everyone else forgets that those companies were started by entrepreneurs.
    I love my life.

  • Capitalistic

    James your posts help me remain sane!

  •  It continually, you continually blow my mind, in a good way, with your fresh perspective on all standard-issue ideals. You articulate so supremely, the unspoken, unconscious contents of my own “dilemma” and frustrations. You provide me with an escape-hatch from my involuntary internalized dogma. I am not alone. I cherish this feeling daily, and thank you for providing me with a much needed reprieve and reinforcement of not living up to expectations other than my own. TDP.ME, indeed! Thank you, James. One part big-brother (familial) one part father figure, always a best friend. Thank you!

  • Gammy

    You are a smart successful interestng guy but I think you overachieved with that lovely lady!

  • Deadpod63

    very well written and thought out…..Thanks

  • Nfamous365

    House –  I found this NY Times calculator to be rather helpful on whether to purchase a home or not: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/business/buy-rent-calculator.html  Granted it’s not perfect but every time I get tempted to purchase a home I plug in the data & it reconfirms that I should stay a renter.

    Thank you for another brilliant post!!

  • Tim Public


    As usual, I agree with some of your positions but not all.

    1. College- as  it works today, it’s not as useful as it could be. I did well on SAT’s back in the day I guess, a 1392 if I remember correctly but I decided not to go to college in the traditional sense. I skipped the first two years and just took the junior/senior classes at night school. My employer paid for all the tuition and books. I never graduated and it’s never come up much in my career. I am an exec at a large computer company. I also talked my way into grad school without an undergrad degree but decided not to go, too busy.  I really believe you have to look at the learning you need to succeed, not just getting  degree. Some professions need a degree, so just some level of training and learning. I believe that all colleges are going to go virtual in the next ten years anyway. The costs make no sense.

    2. Owning a house- I really disagree with you there. I love owning my own house, enjoy maintaining it, gardening, etc. For the average person, paying off your house is a major step to financial freedom. I think it is an absolute key to retiring early and it’s a good investment long term. I do not like asking somebody if I can change something in the place I live. There are some downsides but the positives outweigh any negatives I can think of.

    3. Kids- they can be a pain and joy. In the big picture, most of us leave no footprint when we pass through life, there is no legacy. Our kids are our only contribution. If you can raise a few kids the right way, hopefully they pass that on and you make that small contribution to bettering the world. If everyone does that, the world improves incrementally. What else do you leave behind when you are gone?

    I could go on but the message I get from this post, and many of your posts is that you need a plan for your life and you need to consider all the big decisions on their merits. You don’t have to follow societies accepted plan for your life. Consider each decision and make it as it best works for you and your family. Blaze your own trail.

    I would comment that you are a product of generations that were decidedly non-conforming. My sense is that kids today are much more conservative than we were, almost a return to the 50’s in a way. Do you agree?


    • Kim Kardashian

      You are a delusional moron with no connection to reality, you must have been stuck in you “house” watering plants and changing accent walls. Kids today are the polar opposite of conservative, home ownership has been proven to be a scam (you have to know how to count to figure that out, most American don’t) and 40% of college grads that came out of school in the last half decade are UNEMPLOYED!!! Wake up people, you are all SHEEP!!

  • Jake Ellison

    Great post! Thank you again for articulating so well so many opportunities we have in life to choose a path that may not be the “popular” route that so many others are taking around us. It takes courage to question the 10 life changing decisions we make without thinking. Coincidentally, the daily practice is a good way to build this courage.

  • So we’re not supposed to buy into the “American Dream”, but OMG the entrepreneur = god and doing the entrepreneurial thing = The One True Way?

    That’s just buying into a different branch of the narrative – one sold by Wired, FastCo, peripherally Apple (Cult of Jobs), a thousand different sources. 

    To submit to this hyper-individualist American cultural archetype is not intrinsically thinking for yourself than going to college / being an employee is…

  • Benjamin Dunphy

    another thing to consider is the smaller decisions we make within our everyday interpersonal interactions. these oftentimes lead to bad decisions simply because we have to quickly respond rather than reflect and consider. for young people, this is especially difficult because they’ve no real experience dealing with these myriad situations. they haven’t had time to see how others respond to them. and they sure as hell haven’t had time to reflect upon their personal reactions and the results they procured. and unless they’re really smart, sedentary, and disinterested in personal relations, these youth almost certainly have not theorized such notions either in group intercommunication or autarkic reflection. this is why, as you’ve pointed out time and again, wisdom cannot be taught, it must be acquired through experience and thoughtful consideration.
    one way to mitigate this is to think of every single decision you make as a binding contract: offer, consideration, and acceptance. tall or venti? hold on while i consult my lawyers…err, google.

  • James,

    You’ll have to relearn that quadratic equation when your girls bring home algebra homework. I’m the go to guy at our house when it comes to math homework, and when my son presented me with quadratic equations, I had to go look it up on the Interwebs. He mocked me. 

    I still don’t know why we need to know how to solve a quadratic equation.

  • Gabe Bloom

    James, you forgot religion and politics

  • Dude, looking at a bucket of KFC and milk shake makes me hungry already.

    • a couple of weeks ago, in Cleveland, I saw on a menu a milk shake:  Vanilla, Apple Pie and Bacon.

      Bacon?  Was somebody sitting around one day wondering, Gee, how can we make this remarkably unhealthy drink still less healthy?

      So, of course, I had to have one.  it was really, really good.  sweet and salt.  who knew?

  • aposer

    Stunning! you just destroyed the american economy in one fell swoop. no more college sports, realtors, luxuries, stocks, alcohol. Love it and lived it. Without a f****ing clue. i’ll share later. Really liked The Harvard Cheerleaders – $10 mil  wow! But its okay the taxpayers will probably pay that off.

    May be your best to date.


  • guest

     This site is the thinking man’s cracked.com.  :)

  • Benjamin Dunphy

    re: your diatribe on kids, i would agree that kids are not as necessary as they once were. 

    this is largely a result of our feral past, and how we have finally, after millions of years of evolution (if we’re only talking about our “human” evolution, but where the fuck is the brightline? where do you cut it off? honestly, you can’t. evolution is not static with neat categories like our sock drawer and our sweater drawer) landed on top of the food chain. within this paradigm, the only way to efficiently pass on the biological and sociological information of our current perspective as experienced through our cognitive, mortal vessel was to fuck and create little us’s. and slowly teach them everything we know. then die, and have the cycle repeat itself infinitely until a higher consciousness, understanding, and/or vessel manifests from the paradigmatic mess colloquially known as The Present. 

    however, these feral accomplishments of transgenerational information transference (what I like to call TITs. I love TITs) have become “civilized” by the very product of that evolution along the timeline of the fourth dimension. in other words, we started writing shit down. hooray! we can record our history and learn from our mistakes (HA!). we can write books! we can teach each other! and we can invent notions of nationalism and statism and subject mass conglomerates to propaganda and authoritative direction under the guise of “democracy.” 

    ok ok but seriously — now we have the fucking internet. information can be stored and accessed readily, easily, and cheaply. does this mean that we no longer have to have children? of course not, if we want to remain “human.” but it does mean that not everyone has to have children any longer, because as a species, we’re not too worried about extinction. well, at least from exogenous factors within the plant and animal kingdom. damn those asteroids crashing our party called evolution. 

    moral of this story: yay for birth control. excuse me while i go and log on to my blog. bring on the TITs.

  • Gadfly7

    Brilliant post. All those people producing children should do well by adopting kids rather than let their own ego propel their sperm to meet egg. If they love children then they should all children equally. why only the ones that carry my genes or DNA? All the 10 major decisions are normally made under delusion that is constantly being fed by the media, government, ads, etc. Try anonymity and live frugally, you’ll experience happiness none of the things listed above can provide. I do now and I did all the above mindlessly.

    • Anon

      Do you know how much it costs to adopt? (Even foster parenting has initial costs). The fact that you told people to both adopt and to live frugally in the same comment is hilarious.

  • Even worse… we spend 1/4 of our lives in SCHOOL. Not even GOOD school!

    Marc Cuban says that the point to college is to learn how to learn. MY GOD I DON’T BELIEVE IN! You’ve spent 13 years of your life in the public education system, and you still need another 4 years that you have to pay for to learn how to learn???? Isn’t that the first thing that they should be doing????

    And seriously, we spend 1/4 of our lives, and 70% of the best, most able years of our lives in SCHOOL DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING USEFUL OR PRODUCTIVE.

    My daughter is gifted. She’s 2 and she’s learning to read, already doing basic addition and subtraction and knows her numbers to 20. She plays with 5 year olds and educates them on what killed the dinosaurs. My wife and I have already taught her how to learn and continue to do so. By the time she’s 5 she’ll be reading Harry Potter and doing algebra and be better able to tell you what really happened during the civil war than most historical experts.

    Guess what? She’s not going to be in school for long. The sooner she can be in the real world experiencing real life, taking chances, learning every day and contributing to her own well being, the BETTER.

    Life is for the living. It is not for sitting in a classroom being brainwashed into conformity and being taught how to not think because of being inundated with concretizations to memorize instead of learning to how figure things out for yourself and test the answers you look-up on Google to see if they’re right.

    It’s time we stopped being cruel to our children and STOPPED WASTING 1/4 OF THEIR LIVES.

    • Opiner

      Amen brother. We are homeschooling our kids now and have never looked back.

    • wpsmithjr

       Don’t you know that it takes quite a few years for their indoctrination to take hold and completely brain-wash you into being their conformist, corporate slave?

    • jlib

      so we need a better education system but homeschooling isn’t the answer for most of the population who either can’t afford for their parent to be home all day, don’t have highly educated parents who can structure an academic program, or, have the financial means to buy books, travel, etc. People have the oppurtunity to learn in a variety of setting if they have a desire to, but I would not be where I am today without exposure to other human beings, without creating relationships, without the guidance of other adults or without the experience of being guided where my passions were already headed. The charges are enormous but college is only a waste of time if you are doing it solely for a better job. Those were never my reasons.

    • whoknows

      So your saying that your daughter will be able to read a Harry Potter book, do algebra and ‘be better able to tell you what really happened during the civil war than most historical experts’. I really fail to understand how this is going to happen, I’m not saying that I don’t agree that education can be excessive but don’t try to make people believe that you are in a better position to make that argument than anyone else because you just sound really pathetic.

  • bala

    Interesting, But what is the point of having money if cant have fun with it. i agree that there could be a lot of waste but you need to have fun today which gives hope for tomorrow. i believe that, as long as you don’t make a mess of yourself then you are good to go… in any direction…

  • wow. awesome article. i remember my school days. nice blog you have here!

  • wow. very nice article. lol. i remember my college and high school days and the stupid mistakes i made

  • “why do we think our 17 years olds are prepared to make a decision that
    involves a half a million dollars at this early stage in their lives?”

    They are not prepared to handle any life decisions at 17 years old, in or out of college. 

  • Such a great and accurate post! The only one of those things I do is alcohol. It’s so hard to avoid, it’s involved in every social situation. But I RARELY drink enough to get drunk, unlike most people I know who in their 30’s still like to go big every weekend and some weekdays!

  • 4thaugust1932

    Brilliant post. 
    In globalization, we should amend our priorities accordingly.

  • I have read all comments and post twice – did James mention what was his SAT score? James?

  • Great post, James. The effects of exercising the The Daily Practice may not take place for quite some time. Perhaps we should plan and think differently in the short-term vs. the long-term. 

  • Kat

    James this may be your best post. It may even be THE best post of all blogs. I love the passion in it.

  • tao54nyc

    Saw this this AM…thought of you, James, immediately:


  • Caleb983

    Good post. I enjoyed it

  • Nbforrest

    College – agree that most college degrees and “educations” at present are pretty much useless. However, I have to ask, would you really want a guy who learned medicine from an online teach yourself medicine YouTube video operating on one of your daughters you say you love but seem to be such a huge burden on you? If my kid needs a kidney removed (one of them did) I want whoever is doing it to be as well educated and well trained as possible. That kind of education and training costs a lot of money and it should. 

    Kids – You come across as a selfish prick on this.  You complain quite a bit about how much child related things cost for some one who (from what I remember of other posts) places a great deal of importance on being/becoming enlightened. Yeah, kids cost money. Stop having sex if that fact bothers you. The purpose of the wet wiggle dance is to create offspring; to pass on genetic material to another biological entity that will perpetuate the species. The toe curling good feeling is a by-product of the process and not the purpose. 

    Marriage – The biggest problem with modern marriage is the involvement of the State. Asking permission to “marry” from a third party who has no real interest (apart from money) in a relationship between two consenting adults is what’s stupid. I will never again ask permission, get a license, to live with a woman I think I love. Humans have been hooking up and making babies for our entire history – its what we do. Kind of like breathing, eating and sleeping and I don’t ask permission to do those things. Marriage doesn’t suck, divorce sucks and the prospect of going through the legal divorce is what keeps most people hanging on to a dead relationship a lot longer than they need to. 

  • mikeyhell

    James says “The sugar is bad for you but at least it won’t kill your live[er] and give you cancer.”

    Actually, James, sugar might be a key culprit in the cause of sugar. Google Ronald Lustig and see what he has to say about it. You’ll regret doing so but at least you’ll have the knowledge, for what it’s worth. Life is hard without sweets. 

    • mikeyhell

      Oops, LOL, I meant to say, “key culprit in the cause of CANCER.” See, sugar is making me dumb. :)

  • Jon May


    Just curious, how did you do on your SAT? 

  • 4thaugust1932
  • Prov6

    Went to college in late 70’s early 80’s.  Back when it was real cheap.  It cost me about $5000 total in tuition, books, and fees.  Majored in Computer Science, and had a rewarding 20 year career.  Enjoyed most of it.
    Have lived in my house for 24 years.  I calculate I have paid appox. $350,000 dollars on my house: down payment, fees, points, principle, interest, insurance, home owners due, property tax, maintenance.  I could probably clear $120,000 on it now.  That’s about $800 a month for 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 1800 sq ft home – not bad for rent.
    No kids.  Grown step-kids.  Basically went straight to grandkids – much better.
    It is hard to eat right.
    Read everyday at lewrockwell.com and cryptogon.com, so have cured myself of false media.
    Did make the usual mistakes buying and selling stock.  Now use Harry Browne system – no brainer, make money.
    Luxuries – yes, huge waste of money.  Try to buy used.  Can save up to 90%

    Drink beer and shoot pool twice a week for $2.50 a pint.  Not bad.  It’s fun and the pool is actually free with the drinks.

  • kamalravikant

    Read this quote today, made me think of this post, how much of our life story is influenced by the decisions you listed: “The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”

  • i guess the guy’s favourite thing is to rain on anybody’s poarade… sorry to say he’s not the originator of the type of life philosophy he claims to preach… Shppenhauer did that before him… what is funny to me is the fact that he gets fame and fortune from his statements.. oh well we need happy and satisfied persons in this world … he is one of the very needful

  • I bought my daughter a drum set the christmas before last, she has been playing it EVERY DAY since :(
    it means she is likely to end up a drummer, does it mean I want her to become like Keith Moon?  Should have just bought her a crack pipe and be done with it.

  • James, I found your blog just about the time that I was throwing out all of my crap and completely rethinking my understanding of “success.” Thanks. And a extra big thank you for your posts on honesty and going with your gut. That changed my life.

    Also, did you hijack my Matrix analogy? Lucky I don’t believe in intellectual property rights.


  • Fred

    Go to college without really going to college.

    After high school if it’s at all possible, go spend a month in some country you always wanted to see. Then spend a month in some country you never even considered.

    In the fall enroll yourself at Big State University…or Local Community College, doesn’t really matter as you’re only going to take one or two classes for a couple semesters anyway. Once enrolled go find work, they’ll admire someone who is working their way through school. Work as many different jobs as needed to see what you like. Once you find something that fits, drop out of school.

    You’ll be gaining that experience, not going into huge debt, and maybe you picked up a couple contacts while you were in school.

  • How about a post for those of us who have made some of these bad decisions?

    We need help. :)

  • Mike55_Mahoney

    Pee Wee League coaching; that’s what I just read. A Pee Wee League coach gets 100 kids out to play a game that has nine positions. He gives them all the same coaching, the same pep talks. Its feel good for the kids. He knows it. The parents know it. 91 of them are going to sit the bench. Maybe once in the coach’s career will he actually coach a kid who makes it to a paying position in the big leagues.
    When I went out for baseball and was asked what position I wanted, I said batter. Bastards wouldn’t let me. The world had made a rule. No matter how much I wanted to be batter or how good I was mattered very little. Not only that but the brainwashers convinced me to stand in right field all the damn day for the privilege to bat maybe twice in two hours.
    Some things, if you want to do them, you don’t just announce, ” I wanna be batter ’cause that’s what my inner kinky says”! You gotta pay. By the rules, you gotta play.

  • Wallywallman

    For those of you who love your homes and doing your thing I hope you live where the state does not have the ability to tax said home.  I have paid for my small holdings and now it is mine.  Or is it?  Should I fail to pay my property taxes the state will kick me out and sell it to someone else to get their tax money.  Was it ever really mine?  No, I guess not.

    As for college, what a waste.  I spent one year wasting time there then went to work.  On the job training.  Spent 36 years in the computer industry, mainframes, single boards, networks and personal computers.  All on a high school education.  Oh, and I did work for IBM for awhile.

    The thrust of James article seems to me to be  to learn who YOU are and how YOU work.  Some of us like security and some don’t.  I really wish I had tried to be a cowboy instead of a computer geek.  Too late for me as I am now 66 years old?  Maybe not.  I ain’t dead yet and I just might try it.


  • Anastasia

    There is a big difference between educated and not-educated people. You can tell yourself whatever you want and flatter yourself about how you can educate yourself, but people can always see.

    The people without are much shallow, lucking a lot of knowledge, that considered basic.
    There are 0.00001% of non-college-educated people who actually can educate themselves, but it never happens, even though everyone is flatter themselves that they are exception. No, you are not. It is not about “getting the job”. It’s about evolution and growth as a person.
    The less educated person is, the more aggression and non-tolerance you will see in the person.

    About home-schooling. Interestingly, the well-educated families will not do the “home” schooling. Why? Because they are not delusional that they are able to provide good education for kids. No, they will higher tutors who are college professors, or make sure their kids get into the gifted programs. See how Europeans, Asians -immigrants in USA do it. Those are people with piety towards education.

    How can people be so arrogant thinking that they can provide more knowledge (than stupid(!) schools) to their kids? When they never read books or hate math?  Whole point is to make your kids know more, not just the same or less. Not mention that today there are no people who know it all.

    Education helps on each step of the way. I gained a lot form mine.
    (I have a phd ))) and 2 masters.) I enjoyed every second of it. 
    My degrees help me to travel the world for free (I get PAID for coming), I lived and travel to more countries that average American can name.
    I have my business (side-kick) that makes me 100/120k annually, just because of my education. )) My main job (that I love) is not 9 to 5, but flexible ))
    I have never lived in the car or was broke. I know that I will always make money no matter how old I am, or in what country I am. It all because of my education.

    But I understand that talk on how you do not need any education to succeed sells better. Who would like to buy a book “go to college, graduate, work, get a graduate degree, think, work, learn more and you for sure will be financially ok” is not what people want buy. They want something like “don’t learn, and you be rich is 10 weeks” It does not work this way. ;) 

    • Pompous-Bore

      I hope English is your third language,otherwise you are living proof that correct grammar ans spelling are superfluous to great minds…and liars

    • WaYneroberts

      If English is your first language, you just made my day

  • Jon May

    As a parent of three very successful kids, one in grad school, one in medical school, and one doing well in a highly competitive private high school, my observation is that none of them had the maturity or initiative to have gone off into the “real world” and obtained the experience they needed to start up (sorry James) or get linked up to a good job or career. And my guess is that few young people have those qualities. [It’s also my guess that those that do are the ones you hear about starting their own businesses in 9th grade].

    This doesn’t mean they should all go to college. And certainly college is a bad bargain for those who come out of it with no experience, no marketable skills, and huge debt. But the solution is not: go to college or don’t go to college. It lies in identifying a young person’s skills and aptitude and guiding them in the right direction. It also lies in encouraging and assisting those in their early 20s, whether they be in college or not, to get the right training or into the right internships and begin making those connections they will depend upon the rest of their lives. Despite an investment of billions (maybe trillions) of dollars in education we just don’t do a good job of this. But that does not mean we can’t. But black and white suggestions don’t seem to me to address what need to be done in any meaningful way.

    • Bingo.  

    • Another question is what is the value for the money. Truth is that some colleges and some programs are basically useless – so truly not worth the money. 

    • Greg

      This made all the sense in the world to me.  Kind of like don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Joe

    Mr. Hancock, you sir are brilliant, im 25 right now and woke up at 20 and rebelled against all of the conformity, friends and others thought i was crazy… I understand how to appreciate life, knowledge, and people. If my parents would of had your mindset i would of been this way much earlier. Sometimes i speak to friends and feel bad for them, their mindset. They THINK X,Y,and Z is what they are supposed to do and is correct, i try to tell them YOU ARE GOING TO DIE ONE DAY, do whatever you want, however you want.

    Let your daughter tell the teacher she’s wrong.. Let your daughter go to iceland instead of showing up to school one day… There are no barriers, conformity is a JOKE for the weak minded scared people who are afraid to think.

    James Hancock next time you want to do a MAN POST again like you just did, put a link or something, we all need to form a MASTERMIND GROUP or something im tired of associating with the average.

  • This post should be mandatory reading for everyone – and that’s as early as possible.

    Can’t help thinking how my life would look if I have known this/given this serious thought 10-15 years ago.

  • Patrick

    Damn.  I discovered this blog today, and can’t get enough of it.  It has been all the things I’ve been thinking over the years, written out in a blog.  Glad I’m not the only one.

  • Alexey Agapitov

    I like this articale very much, but I do not understand why to place ‘saving money’ before ‘having freedom’ and talk so much about amount of money spent for different purposes, While you are speaking about avoiding commercialism and brainwashing, why not to focus on amount of time wasted in college or watching crappy TV shows. I mean that system measures everything in money, but shouldn’t people measure their life in experience, knowledge, emotions and other?

    Or is it the way of reader’s task to transform money to equivalent time spent on their works?

  • LC

    Such an awesome article. To this day, I still have an essay saved that I wrote when I was 10 years old on “what I wanted to be when I grew up”. I wrote that I didn’t know, but I didn’t want to “be normal” and live in a “normal house with a white picket fence”.

    That was 20 years ago and I still don’t know where my place in life is but I haven’t caved. I picked up very early on that the adults around me who I heard conversing were miserable stuck with their kids, mortgages, spouses, and debts. I may not know the answer for me yet, but I know what it isn’t and I’m proud to have stayed away from all the major traps that make most people unhappy and STUCK.

    So far the only mistake (besides having a job, that one is very hard to avoid lol) that I’ve made is college- I’m 3 classes shy of finishing a degree that is now going to be worthless with the economy in the crapper. I was fooled not once but twice into thinking that college would get me somewhere. Shame on me. Thank God my employer paid for it this time around.

    Thank you so much for this blog, seriously. It’s SO HARD to view life this way when it seems like no one but you thinks for themselves. Everyone is in a mad dash (at my age especially) to get married, have kids, buy a house, live “the dream.” Good luck with all that crap!!! You try and reason with those close to you and you heard in response the same garbage answers that the media has brainwashed into them.You have few friends because you can’t be honest with many people about how you really feel and you get sick of lying and congratulating them on their (likely to be doomed) engagement,house purchase etc-. And you get sick of looking at the “masks” they are wearing (as one of your other articles talks about).

    If I were a man I might be single forever because it seems like every woman but me wants kids. I’m lucky that it’s easier to convince a man that kids are a pain the ass and a financial burden…but it’s not as easy as you’d think!

    I’ll continue to look to this blog for support on my journey!

  • HardKnocks

    College is not bad in and of itself. It’s the fallacy of having to go to an Ivy League institution or other expensive school. The smart play would be to send your kid to community college on the cheap to get through all the General Education courses needed before entering a specific (Major) field of study. You can hold down a job while in community college, live at home instead of an expensive dormitory, and get halfway to a degree with little or no debt. Then you transfer to a school that will print a respected name on your sheepskin so you can get in the door for the better jobs in your field. Instead of $200K+ in debt upon graduation, a student who plays it right may only have $30K or less in debt, and a good job with which to pay off that loan.

  • Patrick

    There is also a lot more to college than the education.  It is an experience you can’t really get elsewhere.  I graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering from one of the top universities in the US, but I did it for the experience and because I enjoyed it.  I now run my own web-based business.  The opportunity is too great to pass it up.  I don’t regret taking out loans for the degree or a minute of the experience.

    Additionally, *in general*, college has become a waste from an education perspective. There are still quite a few excellent schools that will not only teach you what you need, it will also get you a job you like and you will make a lot of money doing what you love.  In general, unfortunately, this is not the case. But that doesn’t mean all college education is bad.

  • Mon

    WE need to add also,deciding your Faith in Jesus Christ. Because we need to decide for our self if we are really Love Him. And this will really change what we think and act to one another.

  • James:

    First off, big fan. Love the blog just have a comment on the continuous rants against college:

    I’m a 20 year old upcoming junior at UNC (public university in North Carolina) and I have to say so far going to college was the best decision of my life. I’ve met incredible people, gotten involved with some amazing opportunities (this summer I’m coding for a local tech start up), and grown tremendously intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually (even though I hate that word).

    The best part is I’ll graduate debt free without having to work during the school year because of 1. Scholarsips, 2. Grants from the government and the university, and 3. The generosity of my father (who is still only paying ~$3000 a year to cover costs not covered by 1 and 2)

  • xxx

    However, I believe schooling is absolutely essential. It is highly possible those who have gone through mediocre public school education do not understand the importance of proper, good education. At school you learn to work with others, learn to differentiate between right and wrong, understand yourself, and learn lasting life lessions

  • Tarquin42

    It is almost impossible to choose for children, as the choice is hardly ever yours but your genes who make the desision via your subconscious, just like every rat and dove tries to have children is not their choice.
    You can however really choose not to have children :-)
    now that is the supreme victory of consciousness over subconsciousness

  • Rick Stabile

    Heh. For my ACT (that’s the exam we take in the Mid-west), I ate a breakfast of kippers and scrambled eggs.

    Must have worked, because it got me accepted to University of Chicago. Not Harvard, Princeton, or Columbia, I know …

  • Ravijot Singh

    What should people who use college (graduate school) as a way to migrate to America do?