Ask James: 16 Trillion in Debt, Love What You Do, How to Make a Million Dollars, and More

[Note: this Ask James is divided into two parts. It was too big. The first part is in this post The second part will be sent out via my free email newsletter tomorrow.]


Subtle Overlord ‏@subtle_overlord: Should I be worried about $16 trillion as a 23 y.o.? Will it ever be paid back?

Answer: My poor baby. You are 23 years old and yet you are carrying a 16 trillion dollar weight on your shoulders. How come? Who has scared you? What are you afraid will happen?

(the only true Willy Wonka)

The world has existed for 3 billion years. Debt has never destroyed the world. People came out of the caves. They made tools. Civilizations fell and started and fell and started. In the 1930s we had the dustbowl of the midwest, 22% unemployment, no jobs for anyone, and the rise of the most terrible tyrants in history in Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union (and many would also say the US). And we survived and flourished. The 1950s and 1960s (and the 1980s and 1990s and even the 00s) became the periods of greatest innovation, creativity, and success in every way. Everyone has a TV, the price per unit of light in your house is 1/1000 what it used to be, everyone in the US knows how to read, and almost every family has a car in their driveway. What a miracle. There were 10,000 nuclear warheads aimed at your house for most of your life growing up. Did any of them hit?

So why are you worried about 16 trillion in debt? Two or three things can happen:

A) The country continues to grow and innovate like it always does and that creates more income and wealth for people and eventually we pay down that debt or do what we have ALWAYS done, which is to rollover the debt.

B) The country suffers through inflation (as it has since 1913 when a dollar then is worth 3 cents today) and since all of our debt is denominated in dollars we use those inflated dollars to pay down the debt. I’m not saying that is good or bad. But that’s how we’ve always paid our debts in the past and I don’t see what is different now.

Worry how you can be in the “1%”. Not the one percent in wealth. But the one percent in health.

– Physically, if you simply don’t drink, eat well, sleep well, and do minimal exercise, you will be a 1%-er

– Emotionally, if you simply stop engagingas much with the peoplewho bring you down and spend more time seeking out and spending timewith the people who inspire you and bring you up, you will be 1%-er

– Mentally, if you read every day andcome up with ideas every day so eventuallyyour brain is a living idea machine (give it six months only) , then you will be a 1%-er.

– Spiritually, if you spend time each day counting out loud the things you are grateful for. If you acknowledge that many things are out of your control. If you say, “there’s someone out there who is worried about that 16 trillion so I’m going to worry about my insides”, then you willbe a 1%-er.

When you are a 1%-er the problems of the world fade away as  dots or pixes in a vast landscape of art and creativity. You get to now paint on this great landscape and not be overwhelemed by it. You are 23 and have 80 years in front of you. The weight of the world will shift off your shoulders and gradually you will be light and free and ready to explore.


Lino M. Gill ‏@linomgill: Invest on my weaknesses or keep on focusing on my strengths? How to optimize the two?


Let’s say Michael Jordan at his peak was on your basketball team. There are ten seconds left in the game and you have the ball and you are down by one. Do you throw it to Michael Jordan or do you throw it to the worst player on your team. Both are wide open and ready for your decision.

If I were your coach I’d fire you if you threw to anyone other than Michael Jordan at that moment.  He’d take theball and score and  you will win.

Always focus on your strengths. They are your strengths for an important reason. At one point you were passionate about them (and perhaps still are) and so dived into the subtleties enough to make yourself a master of those strengths. That’s why you are strong in them. The weaknesses are there because you have no interest in them, are no good at it, and for many reasons, may never be good at it. You may have new passions in the future. And those passions will turn into strengths eventually. But weaknesses don’t turn into strengths.

In business, for example, I have problems focusing on just one thing. Which is probably why I will never again try to be CEO of a company where that company becomes my only focus in life. Is that a weakness? Sure. Do I care? No. because I like spending time on many interests.

Also, I know I am not the best investor, to be honest. I like to invest where people smarter than me have invested. And where CEOs who are smarter than me are running things. I’m good at understanding big demographic changes. So I pick those. Then I find the CEOs and co-investors within those demographic shifts that are better than me at what they do.

In other words – delegate your weaknesses. Then for all practical purposes, your weaknesses and strengths will side by side make you an enormous success.


Shumyla Jan ‏@shumylajan: What would you say to someone who believes there are too many startups, & that they’re the next big bubble?


I would say, “why are you worried about that?”

In 1993 I suggested to a friend of mine, Danny Sleator, that he turn his hobby (an online chess server which is now thriving at almost 20 years later) into a business. We started to pursue it. I had some code ideas which I started to implement on the game server. But then I lost interest. I got bored. I used all sorts of excuses to justify not being a part of it. I wanted to play games all day, hang out with my friends, read, write, and just in general screw around. I also liked watching TV a lot. So I gave up.

I told myself, “that’s it. I’m sick of doing startups” (it was my second), “from now on I’m just going to take easy jobs and focus on what I love doing.” I was just not ready yet. So I made excuses for myself and tried to place those excuses into the world as if they were one piece of a large jigsaw puzzle where the final picture was starting to become clear.

(too many bubbles?)

You are worried about a bubble? How come? Ask yourself if you are afraid to do a startup because you are afraid you will fail? This has nothing to do with the number of startups out there. The biggest startups ever often started in the depression or the recent recession.  Microsoft was started at the peak of a recession arguably far worse than the one we experienced. Those entrepreneurs didn’t ask themselves: “Oh, there’s a Depression happening. I better wait until the world is a better place.”

You make the world a better place by having a good idea, being healthy, and helping customers make their lives better through the effectiveness of your product and execution on delivering that product. The macro environment has nothing to do with your success or failure but everything to do with the excuses you tell yourself.

You make the world a better place by not focusing on excuses, or poverty, or troubles, but on solutions, creativity, and your own health.

I know it’s scary to do a business. And the world is dead set against you cutting free from your shackles so you can do the business you want to do. There’s worries about taxes, about the government, about global warming, about mortgages, about Europe, about China, about “too many startups”, about how poorly Facebook’s stock did after the IPO. And on and on. You can give yourself a thousand excuses.

When I was a kid in the 1980s a lot of my friends would give up on their high school work and start smoking, taking drugs, whatever,  because they justified that: “the world could go any day in a nuclear war, so I might as well have fun now. Why do homework?”

That was a great excuse. I even believed it somewhat.

It’s ok for you to believe there are too many startups. But don’t be afraid to add one more by throwing your own into the mix.

Now, as for the meat of your question: “is there a bubble?”

A bubble occurs when the prices for an asset go up today simply because…they went up yesterday. No other reason. People rush like a herd and try to catch the wave before the inevitable fallout that everyone knows will occur. Everyone thinks they are smart enough to avoid being the last man standing in the game of financial musical chairs.

That is not what is happening now. Instead, after a decade of generational malaise caused by the dot-com bust, 9/11, Worldcom, Enron, housing bust, financial crisis, high unemployment, you are starting to see entrepreneurs coming out of the caves with more excitement and in greater numbers than ever. This doesn’t create a bubble but does the exact opposite. It creates more ideas than ever as the initial ideas “mate” with each other to create newer, better ones. It creates jobs. It creates opportunities to make money and to create real wealth and jobs. It makes our lives better. It makes people happier.

Think of 1999. Or 1998. Were we in a bubble? Was the Internet a scam? Clearly not: Cisco, Apple, Amazon, Ebay, Priceline, Google, Facebook, Twitter, are just a few examples  where the Internet has changed our lives for the better and forever. We are on the Internet now for a significant percentage of our waking lives. There was no bubble. There was innovation. And although there were a lot of startups then and a lot of money both made and lost, ultimately the technology developed  change the world and if you stop with the excuses for a moment, perhaps your technology will change the world as well.


Drew ‏@The_IT_Guy_: why do you love what you do?


For the past fifteen years I spent a lot of time looking at my bank account. I would look every day and spend a lot of time counting the days until I would be broke if nothing changed. Since most of that time I wasn’t receiving a salary from any specific company it was easy to calculate.

My kids used to sleep upstairs in the matrimonial bed and I was too stressed to  sleep there so I would sleep in my kid’s empty bed. 3am I could feel the blood pulsing through every part of my body. My brain would be on fire. I was going to go broke. Nobody would hire me for anything. The IRS was after me. I couldn’t get my business/hedge fund/website/deals going  – whatever it is I was working on – and I was definitely going to go broke.

There were a few times in between. Whenever I was doing something I loved I would suddenly forget about my bank account. The situation hadn’t changed. But somehowI had confidence that the bank account woudl take care of itself. if I caught myself worrying about it I would pound my chest, say “Abundance” and focus back on what I was loving. This happened several times in the past 15 years. Every single time I was doing something I loved, I made money off of it eventually. Enough money to stave off homelessness and in a few cases, to create some security for my family.

Right now I love what I do. I am doing two things:

A) decreasing doing the things that don’t give me pleasure. When you are in the flow, opportunities will abound. Everyone will pop  up  with opportunities. You are a tree that is blossoming out of the ground. And a tree sprouts many branches. But like a bonsai tree from Japan, you must prune the branches that don’t increase the beauty of the art that is your life. You must prune every day, even thesmallest branch that threatens  to become so big it weighs down and changes the shape of the entire tree and kills off the branches in its way that contain the flowers and leaves you truly love.

The hardest part  in this decreasing is even finding time to do nothing. That means not even doing the things I love to do. Silence, noticing the boring things around you, not always obsessing on the object of your love or crush, is part of the pruning that ultimately creates the most beautiful tree. When you notice nature, nature notices you and you become a part of it. Silence, observation right now of the beauty around you, both physical, emotional, and spiritual, helps you to maintain the flow so that you haveenergy to give the things you love.

B) Creativity. I love writing this blog. I love thinking of the posts I can write. I love the very human interaction of interacting with more people than ever digitally. I wish i were even more creative than I am but I’m working on it. It’s something I want to improve. Andwhenthefeeling of change hits me, when my creativity goes in a different direction, I hope that I can follow those whims and prune the correct branches instead of the branches society has taught me I “should” prune.

How doI know what is “love” and what it isn’t. My body will tell me. My emotions will  tell me. When I feel anxious, or obsessive, or nervous about an outcome, or if I start looking at my bank account, then i will know that love is lost and I will look to shake things up. And when the darkness inside of me starts to quake in the middle of the night, because  I’ve been there before, I know everything is about to completely change.


$unn¥ A¤aरwal ‏@sunnyag: do you think US will attack China before 2020

The United States owes China trillions of dollars. China lends us money  by buying our treasury bills. On the flip side, using the money that China lends us, we buy Chinese goods. Chinese factories make all of our iphones, for instance. The relationship between China and the United States is symbiotic and as long as we continue to strengthen that relationship through active trade, then the relationship will be a success and the entire world will benefit.

A few months ago I went to a lunch where Jon Huntsman (former candidate for  President and former Ambassador to China) and Henry Kissinger (former Secretary of State who encouraged Nixon to open up relations with China) were having a discussion about what the US should do about China.

The thing I found fascinating was the  different styles the young Huntsman and the older Kissinger had. Huntsman was rattling off names of the people who would be leaving the Chinese government over the next few years, the people who would be replacing them, what each person potentially meant for our future relations with China, what the political and economic views were of each person, etc. He came across as extremely knowledgeable of the intricacies of their internal government.

BUT, I found Kissinger to be more interesting. He had  this macro view of China without regard to who was doing what and when and where. He  said, “China doesn’t want any troubles. It will do what it needs to do to not cause any troubles with the United States. But it also doesn’t want to be told what to do.”

We can’t tell China what to do. We can only work with it while they work with us. There will never be an invasion by the US of China. What would be the point? Would we take over their country? Look how well that worked for us in Iraq or Afganistan. We have no idea what to do once we invade. We are horrible invaders and the world is a mess wherever we get involved in more than a behind-the-scenes  fashion.

So don’t worry about China. Worry about how you can contribute to the ever tightening relationship the two largest powers will have. They are two twin stars orbiting each other. Make sure you create a shadow in their refracted and prismed light.


Leon Benson ‏@LeonBenson2: what’s the best way to keep the momentum going once you finally start making progress in your chosen career path?


The best way to keep momentum on the outside is to keep momentum going on the inside. I’ve self-sabotaged myself in every way. every time I’ve made money I’ve gotten my momentum slowly siphoned off: bad investments, bad people, bad extracurricular activities, and overall BAD. Ultimately I would end up going from riches to broke, homeless, friendless, family-less, and just in general – LESS.

So how can we avoid that? And not only avoid that, but drive momentum even higher?

The key is to nourish the inside.

I’ve written about it a thousand times before so  I will  try and simplify it.

You don’t need to do what I have said in a question above: eat well, sleep more, exercise, writedown ideas, be grateful, do the full daily practice I describe in this post.

It’s enough to simply do ONE THING a day.

Simply say “hello” to yourself. Most people never do this. They think count their money. They get angry about people who have wronged them. They sit in the shower and have sexual fantasies (err…unless this is just me), they think about how many millions they have in the future, andhow they can then help people, or hurt people, orhave revenge on people, or whatever.

(that ball is about to have a lot of momentum)

Stop it.

Just say “hello” to yourself. Here’s how you can say hello to yourself? Breathe in and feel the air on the side of  your nose. Say hello to your toes, wiggle them. Say hello to your arms. Imagine you can feel an energy field inside of your arms, inside of your stomach, your legs, your toes, your face. Until you are one big energy field that is inhabiting this body you wear.

Say hello to that energy field.

Now if anything happens that you feel is bringing the momentum down, say hello again. The Daily Practice I recommend flows from this energy field. You won’t be as strong, for instance, if you feed shit into  this energy field. Or if negative people are constantly bombarding you. Or if you don’t sleep well enough so you fall asleep when you are trying to say hello to it. Or you won’t come up with good ideas anymore if this energy field isn’t bright and vibrant.

You have no idea where momentum will take you. It’s hard enough to predict tomorrow’s weather, let alone  what island the storms of your momentum will leave you shipwrecked on when the tides settle down. So don’t try to control the mometum. The best think you can do is keep this energy field inside of you alive and well and strong and ready to go, ready to be a transmitter for all the life around it.

Nourish that and everything else will take care of itself.



Collegejunkee ‏@Collegejunkee: Hi James this is Alex Broches and this is my business College Junkee. My question is this: What is your favorite quote, and why.

Answer: My favorite quote (for today): “best way to push a boat is with the current”. I might have  a favorite quote tomorrow.

What does this quote mean? It means, “stop fighting”. Do what you can today. Not more, not less. Don’t try to push people into things they don’t want to do. Don’t do things you don’t want to do. Don’t try to force situations or deals orwhatever if it doesn’t feel right or if you have to compromise yourselfin anyway.

Ilook back over the past few years. Twice I failed to raise a hedge fund. And thank god. That’s hard work! But I was disappointed each time. At least three of my investments have turned to zeros. That’s normal. And thank god they didn’t work. They all led to other investments and they convinced me that the personal checklist I use to judge investments works on both the positive side and negative  side.

I look at my relationships over the past ten years. The disappointments I’ve had. In every way: friends, families, business colleagues, and so on. Thank god the ones that didn’t work out, didn’t work out, no matter how much I was disappointed at the time. No matter how angry I was. Nomatter how many times I called up, then argued, then hung up, then called back, then hung up, then pleaded, then cried, then hung up, then called back, then went there, then called from the door, then begged, then cried, then said goodbye, then came back five minutes later, then called form the door, then laughed at stupid jokes, then asked to see, then asked to be, then then then.

Thank god. What a fucking drag.

Nothing worked out. Because I would push the boat against the current. The direction of the current is easy to find if you are honest with yourself. You put your finger up and feel which way the wind isblowing. It’s simple. But between the fingertip and your brain, there are demons and lies that will try to disturb the electric impulses that are going to your synapses. Quiet those lies down and acknowledge the truth each time.

Then push the boat.


boz ‏@bozwood: Although 1st 6mo of building idea muscle any list of ideas is good, is it best to come up with ideas in direction of interests?

Answer: its actually good to come up w at least 50% of ideas OUTSIDE your interests. You have 100 trillion synapses tht need exercising.

Your brain is pretty big. I forget how many neurons you have but you have something like 100 TRILLION synapses firing between those neurons. The more the synapses fire, the stronger the connection is between these neurons.

Let’s say have strong interest in sports and strong interest in politics and you have a lot of good ideas for both of those. Those areas of your brain are lighting up like the fourth of July. But the area of your brain involving gardening, or chemistry, might be dark. A ghost town. This is an overly simplistic view of the brain so think of it as a metaphor instead.

When you come up with ideas OUTSIDE your area of interest, you build up those synapses, you build up those neurons, you strengthen that part of your brain. Your brain is where the idea muscle lives. Where it atrophies through dis-use or turns into a superhuman machine with strong practice.

So practice coming up with ideas outside your immediate area of expertise. Several things might happen:

A) you find new things you were interested in that you didn’t realize

B) the ideas related to your interests might mate with the ideas related to things you aren’t as passionate about. I still think, for instance, a novel about an IRS agent who suddenly realizes he’s the heir to a long line of wizards would be an interesting story (Harry Potter meets the IRS, sort of).

C) It’s harder to come up with ideas about things you aren’t passionate about. When it’s harder, your idea muscle sweats, you get smarter, you become an idea machine. It might be painful now but thenext time your car breaks down in themiddle of the desert you might findyourself grateful tghat your idea machine is fully functional and ready to come up with possible solutions. Or the next time you go broke, for that matter, and have to fightto survive. Or the next time a business colleague tries to screw you over. All unpleasant things that you don’t want to deal with but it’s imperative your idea muscle is in top form in those moments.

Right now I’m about to get up from here and join Claudia and my daughter in painting with watercolors. I haven’t painted anything in years. I never enjoyed it. But I know when I get into it, parts of my brain start firing thatwere long dormant. It’s worthit to bring to life every part of your body and mind. That’s how you stay alive.



Jordan Phoenix ‏@jphoenix24: How would you end the war in the Middle East?


There’s no way to end the war in the  Middle East. It’s hopeless.

1) Shiites hate Sunnis

2) Fundamentalists hate secularists

3) Muslims hate Jews

4) Nationalists from each country hate the nationalists in every other country

These four things aren’t true for every single person in the Middle East. but they are largely true.

On top of it, for each of the 4 categories: unbelievable atrocities have been committed by each group in the four categories above against the other categories. Just look at the Jews and Palestinians. The Iraqis and the Kurds. Every fundamentalist Shiite group and the Sunnis.

(I hope we can at least get the hell out of there)

The only way to keep a modicum of peace is not to get everyone to the peace table. Quite the opposite. The peace table has been tried so many times, everyone  shakes hands in big publicity shots but then the participants are assassinated, war strikes up again like lit dynamite, and all the peace comes to an end.

Unfortunately, the only way for “balance” as opposed to peace is get everyone funded, trading, and as tense as possible. We destroyed thebalance, for instance, by destroying the Sunnis in Iraq. Now the Shiites in Iran will basically take over. The balance of Iran vs Iraq that lasted for decades is now over and that is causing massive disruption in the MIddle East to the point where we are worried we may have to go to a war with a new nuclear power in Iran.

Balance is everything. So what I would do is reduce trade sanctions everwhere. Keep well-funded the weaker powers in the sector. Keep the tensions alive across every border so everyone is equally nervous, and continue try to get businessmen back to the business of business instead of the business of war or hate.


Efrain Martinez ‏@martefrain_: is it better to be good at many things or GREAT at one thing?

Answer: i think being good at many things makes one GREAT at the intersection of those things. Which is how industries are made. Steve Jobs was good, but not great, at design and at electronics. The intersection became Apple.

I’m frustrated. When I was a kid I wanted to be a GREAT chessplayer. I wanted to be the best in the world. At best, I ended up as “good” although some would argue even with that.

I wanted to be a GREAT novelist when I was in my 20s. I wrote three or four novels. I poured my heart into it. I talked about it with everyone. i forced all my friends to read my stuff. I forced my girlfriend at the time to read 500 pages of my crap and forced her to tell me she liked it when I knew she was lying. At best, and that’s a stretch, I was “decent”. Maybe not even good. But it was a way to put in my 10,000 hours getting better at something.

I wanted to be a GREAT computer scientist. A famous professor. Have brilliant ideas with many students. I wanted to be the GREATEST entrepreneur. The GREATEST investor.

None of these things I became great at. My failures were so abysmal it can be even argued i’m lucky nobodyever sued me. certainly I lost friendships in my attempts to be great and in my reluctance to settle with “mediocre”.

And yet, now I have a lot of stories to tell. I have a lot of things that I feel i am good enough at I appreciate the subtleties. I enjoy the artistry in many different things. I’m able to help other people with their businesses, their books,. their investments, their decisions, only because I made thousands of lousy ones in my attempts to be great.

Maybe one of these days I’ll be great at something. It’s no longer as important to me. I want to be GREAT at having nothing be important to me. And even that is a goal that I should try to reduce.

Better to have a theme than a goal. A goal can be frustrating because you might not achieve it. Or you achieve it and you say “what’s next”.

My theme then, is to be a good person. To be honest. To be simple. To reduce stress. To decrease the things I want to be great at. To enjoy the years I have here  as much as possible. My theme is that I hope I answer these questions well enough.

My theme is to be good at enough things that the intersection of all these things, an intersection that is unique only to me, becomes a nexus of greatness.

[An additional aside: was just reading this morning Orson Scott Card’s book on “How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy” and he has an interesting paragraph about elements he used in one of his books:

“You can’t afford to close off any area of inquiry. Writing the same book, I recently called  upon ideas I learned from reading Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, “The Path to Power”, the detailed reference work on medieval village society, “The Lost Country Life”, Rafael Sabtaini’s romance, “Captain Blood”, Clifford Geertz’s “Interpretation of Cultures”, and Plato’s “Symposium”. 

See tomorrow’s email newsletter for my diverse “Back to School” reading list. ]


Shiuan Butler ‏@ShiuanButler: I’m a revealing blogger as well– wondering if there’s anything u’ve revealed that u regretted later..?


Yes. I’ve regretted almost everything I’ve revealed on the blog. In almost every blog post, sooner or later, someone somewhere brings it up in some way out of context that tries to damn me. The worst was when a vile but popular reporter who i was friends with inexplicably twisted my words out of context and encouraged over a thousand people to send me hate messages and trash me all over the place, causing a lot of problems for me that subsided almost instantly because i ignored him. Butstill, I felt hurt and still do else i wouldn’t be writing this. The things that hurt us most are not the people who live on the other side of the world, but thepeople who know us best, who are the most jealous, who have their own personal problems, and use that alltogether to boil a concoction of hate.

Every day ithappens.

So why reveal anything? If you don’t reveal, then the world has nothing new from you. I don’t invent big inventions. What I have to offer is myexperiences and whatI’ve learned from them. Some of them embarassing. Some of them painful. Someof them too revealing. these are my secrets i tell the world. And in doing so, create intimacy with the readers, with peoplewho needthatintimacy, with epople  whoneed to know that there’snoshame in failure, or troubles, or problems, or disgraces. Somethings are horrible to reveal. But if you aren’t afraid  to reveal it, then don’t write it.

I read your blog. You’re brave about what you reveal. Sex, relationships, interracial fetishes, and so on. These are topics everyone has issues with. Everyone has questions that we fightthrough life trying to find the answers for. By revealing about yourself, you help these people answer those questions. If you didn’t reveal about yourself – if you just ranted your opinion without sharing real intimacy then you are back in the “99%”, the people who are afraid to create, to innovate, tohelp, to standout, to love others enough to give something that’s hard to give away.

(click image for her blog)


Christian ‏@christian_r: when should you stick to your job because things might turn better?


First off, after 2 years, apply for new jobs. Right now today.

Not because you are going to quit. Or because you need more money or because you hate your job. But trust me, look at the job market and apply. Or quit anyway.

Because the job market is a marketplace like anywhere else. And in every marketplace since  the dawn of time, price is determined by supply and demand (mixed with a little bit of government regulation depending on the country).

So what are you worth? Is it more than you thought? Or less. It’s good to know. Find out right now. Today.

Now, let’s add an overlay to that: things  aren’t going well (implied in your question where you ask: “things might turn better”).

That’s one more reason you need to find your value in the marketplace.

One time I was frustrated at HBO. I wanted to be able to implement my ideas on HBO’s soon-to-be website. I had already made their intraneet but they were just beginning to think about a website. There was a lot of politics involved. Every department had their two cents. It was frustrating. So I went across the street to Time Warner (same company) and spoke with the people in the interactive division for the whole company. I knew them because my company on the side, Reset, had already made websites for other divisions within Time Warner. They liked me and offered me ajob on the spot. It was 50% higher than my salary at HBO.

So I quit HBO. A few days later, HBO gave me the responsibilities I wanted, the 50% raise, and a bonus to get me to stay. At the time I was making a website for them based on a movie they were doing thatwas based on the book “The Late Shift” by Bill Carter about the late-night wars between Letterman and Leno. It made me think I wanted to have my own talk show so that’s when I pitched the idea of doing a website where I would interview people that were out at 3 in the morning. I write about that site here.

So all of that mixed together and I decided to stay at HBO. I went out with my parents to celebrate. I was really happy. 20 months later I quit again to run fulltime my own business. And 17 years later, despite being broke several times  in between, I never went back to having a job.



dublao ‏@dublao: What to do when your GF/BF is not ready to commit and wants a break, but both love each other a lot & are a perfect match?


I really liked this girl once. And I thought she liked me. But sometimes I’d call late at night and she wouldn’t be there. And other times she would say to me she wanted to take it slow. And sometimes she’d say to me “nothing can happen now because we work together and she felt uncomfortable with it”. And other times  she’d say “let’s take a one week break”.

All of these thigns were painful to me because I liked her so much.

But here’s thereality: shedidn’t like me. And she didn’t really knowhowto get rid of me. So she would saynice things to me to cushion theblow of the bad things she had to say to me. It doesn’t mean she wasa bad person. She just didn’t like me that much. ANd  I becameneedier andneedier. Until I was crying rightin front of her about why we couldn’t be closer.

So there’s no such thing as “let’s take  a break” and “not ready to commit”. You are not a perfect match with the other person. Quite the opposite. You are a perfect match for theperson you think he/she is but that person doesn’t exist. And you don’t even exist. HYou are not yourself else you’d think more rationally about this. You are a shadow of who you could be because you are looking at yourself in the mirror created by this “GF/BF” that doesn’t erally like you that much.

This relationship you have will play out, like they always do, regardless of what I say. But it’s not going to work  out and you’re going to need to end it before you can move on and find out what YOU really want and not what someone else wants from you while you wait around with your mouth and tongue sticking out hoping to find nourishment on the crumbs that are thrown your  way.



Albena Mitkov ‏@albenakm: you are just fabulous! do you have a support group you meet regularly? are you willing to come to ct to meet one? would be honored


I don’t meet with any kind of support group BUT I am planning on doing a weekend workshop at Kripalu which is sort of like a spiritual resort hotel.

Here’s the link to the retreat:

Basically, everyone gets there Friday. There will be dinner (I think) and I’ll give a talk and some Q&A.

Then Saturday morning, Claudia will teach a basic yoga class which will include some breathing/pranayama exercises.

(click image for link to retreat)

Then I will give a talk about the relationship between entrepreneurship and spirituality. Can one be spiritual, secular, and  successful all at the same time?

A break at that point will include some worksheets to fill out. Then the afternoon for Q and A and some discussion of the role of meditation in society. At night, a discussion of meditation and the role of meditation (if there is any) in our society. Then some silent time until the  morning on Sunday.

Then Sunday, yoga and breathing again and a little bit of meditation. Then more Q&A, group workshops, and talks from me. If you have any questions about the retreat, feel free to email me at or through the Contact button above.

I’m a bit nervous about it. I’ve given lots of talks before but haven’t done the weekend retreat thing. I’m looking forward to being a little out of my comfort zone and seeing what happens.

(preview of newsletter tomorrow. See below).


I had so much material for this Ask James that I made a Part II which I will send out exclusively via my free newsletter tomorrow.

Some of the questions I answer in that part:

“How to Make a Fast Million Dollars”

“How to Network”

“How to Be Persistent”

“How to Meet That Special Someone”

“The Back to School Reading List”

“How to Handle Being Ugly” (including commentary from Quora on what it’s like to date a supermodel)

And several other questions.

You can sign up for my free newsletter (and get my last three books for free) by going to this link.  And please comment and add to the questions I deliver. I’m not an expert on anything so I always appreciate hearing more answers to the questions asked me.

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