Five Emails I Got Last Night

I like getting emails. Please send them. I don’t always answer but I read everything and try to answer. 8pm is a bad time to email me because I go to sleep around them and by morning time the email might be buried and I won’t see it. Here are some emails I got last night and I answered them. I’m only taking snippets of the emails here.

EMAIL ONE: Anxiety

This email was about my newsletter I sent out yesterday (see bottom of this article for link).

“Waking up @ 4:00 am usually means you have important stuff to resolve (maybe more than disciplining the kids); but you probably know that. so let go of your anxiety, truly relax (if that is possible for you) and it will surface.”

My response: I go to sleep at 8pm so 4am is when I usually wake up, give or take.

Bonus response: (i.e. not in the email I sent back.): Whenever you think someone else is anxious or angry, look in the mirror. Sometimes when I think Claudia is anxious about something, for instance, it’s mostly because I’m worried she’s upset at me about something. Those are the times when I am most anxious. But waking up at 4am for me is pleasure. Nothing to be anxious about at 4am because nobody is up. Nobody is chasing me. I have no reason to “fight” or “flight”.

EMAIL TWO: Young Entrepreneur

“How much would you charge to mentor a 24 year-old who is seeking to start his own company but is afraid he will fail?”

My response: “I would charge nothing. You know, when you’re 24 maybe  you should fail. Failure is success because you can learn 1000 things from each failure. Success is also success but could lead to later failure. Either way you will do fine. Just start it and don’t think too many thoughts about failure or success. Think instead: am I solving a problem for people? How will you know the answer to your question? If people tell you you are helping them. And then if people pay you to help them.

So just start and see if those two things happen.

If they don’t then you failed. Congratulations and good luck on your next adventure when you are 25. And when you are 26.”


“James…I was incredulous when I read this sentence that you wrote in a recent
post: “I considered [suicide] many times but always the thought of my
kids stops me. I also always reminded myself that whenever things got
that bad it always seemed to get better at some point and I was always glad I
didn’t do it.”  Incredulous, because from where I sit, you now seem
to have it all (materially and spiritually). A great wife that you love and
loves you. Great kids that love you and you love them. Money (which you made) to
provide well for your loved ones. Good health. That the thought of suicide
crossed your mind at some point in the not too distant past, makes you that much
more human, and makes what you write even more interesting.”

My response: “Thanks M, everyone deals with their own internal definitions of
happiness. Every day is hard to know what it means. Does it mean
getting everything? Or does it mean wanting nothing?

Thanks for the email. What are you up to?”

Bonus response: Someone once told me, “you never know what someone is worth until they declare bankruptcy”. The same is true about everything, not just money. But marriage, career, love, emotions, mental illness. I’m not saying I’m bankrupt in any of these ways. But we’ve all had many ups and downs. We’ve all been on the floor. Some people have it much worse. Some people starve to death when they are children. This is horrible. Everyone can easily look at that and say, “a 4 year old is starving to death today so I have no right to be sad.” And yet, everyone has the right to be sad. And yet, how dare we! It’s a contradiction.

When we focus on our own journey, we indirectly help the four year old? How so? Think about this: Hurricane Katrina shut down 95% of the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. So the price of oil spiked. So congress gave incentives to farmers to use corn to make biofuel. So the price of corn shot up. So the price of tortillas in Mexico shot up. So poor Mexican tortilla makers went out of business. So urban centers in Mexico got more overpopulated and poor Mexicans starved. Another thing: with corn so expensive it became more expensive to feed cows. So the price of beef shot up. Everyone starved.

Every one thing effects everything else (can someone please tell me if it’s “effects” or “affects”). The only thing you really have control over is your own feelings of peace. Nobody else’s. So right this second, can you feel a tiny bit more peaceful. Let’s say you are really angry at your boss. He just passed you up for a promotion. What can you do this second? Instead of imaging the big argument you will have with him and all the ways it will play out, just acknowledge, “I am really angry at my boss”. This puts a little distance between you and the anger. Instead of you being a character in the  movie, you are now an audience of the movie. It’s still the same movie (“Anger at Boss”, rated R, starring me and boss). But at least now you can enjoy the popcorn. And leave at the end.


The emailer, who is a good friend of mine so I hope she doesn’t mind I share part of her email, was worried about my use of the word “shit” in yesterday’s newsletter.

Part of her email: ”

The shit thing – its a little embarrassing.
It doesn’t mean you have to be a role model all the time but being a hero incurs responsibility
Swearing (cursing… Whats the difference) is sometimes a way of grabbing cheap energy
It’s funny – I do love Louis CK, for example
But, on the other had, I don’t see Pema or the Dalai Lama cursing
Not that you have to be Pema right now, nor is there just one way to get somewhere, but it seems really important to you to get to a place of perfect peace, pretty sure how you speak and the words you choose direct your thought patterns”
My response: “Don’t be embarrassed. I get it. And I love Pema Chodron. but also, her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, was notorious for cursing, getting drunk, having sex with his students, the whole thing. And yet when you go to Karme Choling (one of his main retreats) the reverence for him is amazing.I don’t know what perfect peace is. but I know its not worrying too much about words.

Reminds me of the story, which you’ve probably heard, of the two zen monks walking by the river. They find a prostitute there. The prostitute can’t get across the river because she doesn’t want to get her clothes wet. One zen monk picks her up and carries her over the river and puts her down. The zen monks keep walking but the other monk is very agitated. Finally he says, “why did you touch that prostitute, you know its unclean to do that and not appropriate for us?” The first zen monk says, “i put her down at the river. why are you still carrying her?”

I find all the time what hurts us (not you or me, but people in general) is not the event, but what we keep in our head after the event. The worrying, the anxiety, the judging – all of these things fill up the brain, giving our minds something to do when really we want to “fire” the mind.

How is starting a new practice going? Are you making people look good? What are ten ways people can look a lot better but without invasive surgery or procedures? ”

 I hope she answers. Because when I look in the mirror I want to look better.

 EMAIL FIVE: Dow 20,000
 The email: “Just curious if you are still predicting DOW 20,000 by the end of this year???”
 My response: “Maybe. Are you?”
 Bonus response: why the three question marks? I sort of feel the first question mark signifies the sentence was a question. the second question mark signifies disbelief in my answer if I answer “yes” and the third question mark is laughter mixed with anger.
The financial markets will do what they do. It has nothing to do with the potential to make money. I wrote a post recently about a company that went from scratch to a billion in the past five years. Somehow they survived the Dow going down 50%. Money is an energy we invite into our lives (this sounds corny but it’s true). With the right mindset you can find opportunities in any environment. But we use the Dow, Obamacare, Europe, the price of gold, whatever, as excuses for failure. I know this because I have used the past two recessions as excuses for my failures. So I am guilty. But I’ve learned from these examples around me that have defied the economic conditions.
So my real answer is, “yes, I believe in Dow 20,000. For me.”
 I didn’t ask anyone permission to use their emails. I hope that doesn’t dissuade people from emailing me. I didn’t share any names. Nor did I share all the emails I got and responded to. I’m grateful for anyone who wants to communicate with me. And many of the emails above came from friends. I hope they still like me, because I care too much about whether people like me.
As an aside, I just spilled coffee on my shirt and I have two meetings today with people I’ve never met before. I hope nobody thinks I peed on my shirt or I’m wearing an old shirt or anything.
  • Jim

    Contacted you twice, on Facebook and by e-mail. Never received an answer. And months passed.

    • Del

      Don’t assume anything – it may have just been the case that your email landed in a spam folder *or* the recipient was too busy with personal matters *or* was overthinking the ‘perfect’ response and instead chose not to reply …or their reply wasn’t very nice so it’s still sitting in the Draft folder (or was deleted altogether)

  • Zach

    It’s “affect” when used as a verb, and “effect” when used as a noun.

    • Not exactly. Both words can be both noun and verb. Example: “You can effect change in your life, and those changes may affect you positively. Just displaying a positive affect may have the effect of making you happier.”

      • Zach

        Sorry, I should have specified that it’s a rule of thumb for 95% of the time.

      • Lauren

        Effect is a noun, affect is a verb, and “positive affect” (pronounced aff- ect as opposed to uh-fect) while a noun, refers to the physical manifestation of a mood.

        • Since the above comment is responding to my comment, here it is, clarified. In the two sentences I wrote it’s like this (in order) 1. Effect:verb; 2. Affect: verb; 3. Affect: noun; and 4. Effect: noun.

        • But to answer James’ question in the paragraph above the hurricane, it should be “affects.”

  • Ctreporter

    Has anyone ever heard of ” Paranoia Remailer”? I recently responded to an email on my blog from someone who used them to scramble their email and resend it anonymously. Why not just use a fake email address?

  • Unrequited London

    I heart you James. And I am a big fan of cursing. See also Bryan Kest. Claudia will know who he is.

  • mikeyhell

    “When we focus on our own journey, we indirectly help the four year old? How so?”

    James I don’t think you answered your own question. Could you please try again? thanks

    • The best way to change the world is to one at a time change ourselves from the inside. If we can’t do that, we can’t help to change the world, let alone a helpless four year old.

      • mikeyhell

        Thanks, that’s what I thought you were getting at.

  • quietjim

    your friend would make me want to hit something

    • I just sent this post
      to a bunch of my friends

  • Does it get easier after you fail the first time?

    • it doesn’t . failure sucks. but it gets easier to learn from them. it also gets easier to start again. but all the time I think, “is this really happening AGAIN?”

  • kamalravikant

    Love the Zen as well as reminders to return to the mind, that is where it’s all solved.

  • Well SHIT, if I didn’t have a good mentor 10 years ago I would surely be thinking about killing myself if the dow doesn’t hit 20,000 this year.

  • Valerie

    It’s sweet of you to share the spotlight with readers. Looking forward to more Dear James installments – there should be a flood in your email by 4am ;)

  • The point of the blog is to add “shock value” and be “honest” Hmmm. saying shit – and replying to the virgin seems odd. Your name is creative, you have made a nmae for yourself….to those who can think independently – do you believe you offer value? I just don’t fucking see it.

  • Ctreporter

    If you can replace “Affect” with “Alter” “Adopt” or “Assume”, then it’s “Affect” (“A”). Everything else is “Effect” (“E”).

  • affect=emotion
    effect=cause and effect=influences

  • gramanell

    When in doubt re affect or effect, google the usuage and you will be corrected if wrong.

  • KJP712

    Three question marks at the end of a sentence means the person asking the question has doubts about his own life.

  • I like the swearing, it keeps shit real… and unpretentious. And Pema uses a number of swear words in her books. Swearing is like everything in life… use in moderation.

  • I even told my friends to take a look at your blog and in fact your blog is already bookmarked on my computer. Hope to see more of this.

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  • GCS

    had the same question Jim; do you still hold Vringo and your thoughts on finally collecting from Google and ZTE? Thanks for your thoughts here….

  • Thanks a lot
    brother for the bunch of useful information, I am truly impressed!!