Ask James: Cheating Spouses, Spiderman vs Batman, How to get a Job, How to Write a Novel, and More

Every Thursday from 3:30-4:30 EST I hold a Q&A session on Twitter. You can ask me about anything. Anyone can answer really. I don’t always have the right answers but I try my best. Then I summarize some of the questions into a blog post. THEN, and coming THIS WEEK, I take questions from the blog posts, rewrite them in some cases, add Q&A I’ve gotten from emails, and I’m putting out a book called “FAQ ME”. Which, if it does well, I’ll follow up with “FAQ ME 2”, etc.

Again, I don’t have all the answers. If you have additional thoughts on any of the questions below, or if you disagree with me and want to add your own answers, please do so in the comments. Anyone who was brave enough to ask a question would love your answers.


Ms. Abigail Marie ‏ @abbymaries  best advice for newlyweds? 😉

ANSWER: I’m perfectly qualified for this question, having been a newlywed now twice!

I think there’s four parts of a relationship:

–          That initial honeymoon period where it’s all goo-goo love and is very nice and what we always remember and/or fantasize about.

–          The “wedding planning” when everything involves taking the relationship to that all-important next level. We almost forget the past and the future when we are going through this. The planning is all-consuming.

–          The real honeymoon. The thing that happens there is we start thinking about the future. The long-future. Right after you get married you realize, “Wow, I’m going to probably spend forty to sixty years with this person.” And you start planning and imagining how that will happen.

–          Babies. But let’s not worry about that yet. You’re a newlywed.

So you’re in part 3. Where you start thinking about the future. Where will you live? How will you afford it? When will you have kids? How will you afford their education and health? Should you rewrite your wils? Should you now start a business or settle in for the long-run at your corporation?

So much future to plan for. Sixty years! Holy shit!

But…you can’t ever forget about that initial honeymoon period.

Where you wake up next to someone and feel surprised that he or she is actually THERE. You can touch them! They are there for you. There is something new every day you learn.

Never forget: there’s something new every day that you can learn from the other person. Some new passion you can incite. Some new smile you can create on the other person’s face.

Planning for the future takes up a lot of mental energy. So don’t ever forget about that initial passion and how happy it made you both feel. Try every day to surprise the other person with your memories of it and how happy you were then. You both were.

(See also, “The Purpose of Marriage“)


Jacqueline Xu@Jacquelinexu  asks: I have a trouble finding a job, although I got an MBA in US, worked in China for 7 years, trilingual, trying hard on networking.


Clearly you are qualified for anything. You can be a congresswoman or a janitor. Or a hedge fund trader or a secretary for the vice-president of manufacturing at a local ball-bearings company. You can be a stewardess on Shanghai Air or you can be an expert on Chinese import-exports. Anything.

So why aren’t people hiring you?

It’s a hard world out there. In a hard world the way to stand out is to help other people stand out and succeed. It’s hard for them also.

Between your MBA and your 7 years in China you must know A LOT of people.

Here’s what I would do if I were you:

A)     Every day, get your coffee, and start thinking about two people you can introduce to each other and why. How their lives would benefit if they met.

Then introduce them. It will take about ten minutes.  After 20 days you would’ve helped 40 people improve their lives. One of those people is going to have a job for you.

Another idea. And this is an idea that I’ve seen applied repeatedly over the past two years and it’s driven opportunities to many people:

B)      Organize a dinner. Be prepared to spend about $1000+ or find a sponsor for the dinner. Do it at a nice restaurant. Call it Chinese-American Business Awareness dinner. Invite everyone you can think of: include media, investors, business owners, and your colleagues from business school. Even get a speaker if you can.

As the center of this, all the attention comes on you. This is the most powerful networking tool out there but many won’t do it out of shyness or lack of interest in spending the money on paying for 30 bottles of wine, food, plus tip. But this will make you stand out for sure.

When you are the source, all good things flow back to you.

C)      Blog every day about another person who has taken advantage of his or her Chinese-American knowledge and how valuable the intersection of that knowledge is. For instance, Robin Li was a lowly worker at Dow Jones in the US. Came up with a search engine idea. Felt it was too competitive here, so went back to China to create Baidu. Have some “big” stories (Robin Li) and some small stories, people we’ve never heard of. Again, you become the source. We all follow the source.

Try these for awhile. Also try some of the ideas I suggest in “Nine Ways to Be a Super-Connector”


Priscilla P. Wood@PriscillaPWood  How do you deal with people that under-deliver?


I’m not sure if you are talking professionally or personally so I will answer both and maybe it’s the same answer.

My basic answer is: you get rid of them immediately. There are plenty of people (both professionally or personally) who will be more than happy to overdeliver for you.

But first, explain in a very constructive way how they are under-delivering. Don’t say, “you are under delivering.” Say, “Here is what I need. X, Y, and Z. Do you think this is more than you can handle. No problem if it is. But I NEED those things.”

If they then can’t do it, then they have “the disease”.

“The disease” is when people try to cut corners, try to get by, try to hustle, don’t like their employers and will consistently try to backstab them. The disease spreads during cigarette breaks, gossip breaks out on the stairwell, drinking binges with colleagues at night.

I had an employee once who was unhappy. He was constantly making fun of one of my partners. He started showing up later for work. And he was hanging out socially with other co-workers. Who were then starting to show up late for work. The disease is highly contagious. So you eliminate by firing them.

And on a personal level you  have to very very quickly state what you need. If they won’t meet what you need then that tells you something about them. Or, if they won’t at least have the discussion.

I’ll give you an example on the personal level. When Claudia moved into my apartment (on Wall Street in NYC) I had no furniture. I mean, ZERO furniture. I had a table with no chairs. And some mattresses for me and my kids to sleep on. Claudia wanted some sort of place to put her clothes. But I kept delaying.

Finally she said, “when you are delaying like this you are telling me that you don’t mind if the woman you claim to love is getting her clothes dirty all over the floor. You are saying you don’t mind if I live like a homeless person.”

I got the dresser. And gradually more furniture. Problem solved.




Robbie@RobbieAb  build foundation for great company long term, or get easy money first that don’t align with your overall goals for your startup?

ANSWER: Never take money before you have a company already cruising along.


I’ll give you an eample (and I wrote about it here). I started a website,, a dating site for twitter. Also,, a way for companies to manage their presence on twitter. I combied them together into one company. I had $500,000 raised in a first round.

Then…I realized it was a bad idea. People go on dating services anonymously. Twitter is mostly not anonymous. I had already spent good money building these sites. I could’ve paid myself back with the money raised. But I turned away the money and sent back the money already wired.

Some people said to me: just use it to figure out a business. Never turn away money.

(my failed dating service website)

But this would’ve been wrong. Not only for my investors who were trusting me. But because if I didn’t really know yet what business I had, I could’ve ended up wasting the next two or three years trying out idea after idea with their money and disappointing everyone.

I don’t do that.

Create a product, get people using it, find out what’s wrong with the first version or two of your product, iterate, and when you finally have a business model or even better: paying customers, then you can take money. Because then you know what you will do with it, and you will have a reasonable chance of making your investors happy in a very competitive world. Making them happy will make you happy. Make sure you always have the highest probability of doing that.



Eric Romer@EricRomer  what’s the right balance of selfishness?

ANSWER: Capitalism, almost by it’s nature, is selfish. You go out there into the world, you make a lot of money for yourself by beating out the people who compete with you. It’s your money or theirs. So it feels selfish.

But actually, as Adam Smith has shown, capitalism is the reverse. The “invisible hand” as he calls it, might be selfish. i.e. the ultimate outcome of capitalism might seem superficially selfish.

But the reality is that to stand out the most you have to 100% selfless, 0% selfish.

A)    Come up with ideas that will make the world a better place, not just your house a better place.

B)    Help your employees and customers succeed and flourish. This selflessness will come back to you ten times over. People will kill for you. And they will remember you 10, 20, 50 years later, when they have new deals you can participate in or new opportunities.

C)    Everyone wants to contact the giver, not the taker. Be the ultimate giver and you’ll never go hungry.

So the right balance is just that: 0% selfishness. Then the entire world is yours for the taking.



Priscilla P. Wood@PriscillaPWood  How to find humor or be funny when doing a presentation?

ANSWER: I wrote this post: “11 Unusual Methods to Be a Great Presenter”

But, the most important thing: be self-deprecating. I have one slide in a presentation, for instance, where right before I turn to it I say, “The last time I drove a car there was unfortunately a photographer present” And then I go this slide:

And then people laugh. Come up with a self-deprecating joke every other slide. Talk about bad relationships. People relate to self-deprecation and bad relationships.


We live in a falsely perfect world. Everyone lies and says they’re perfect in some way or other. I see this in the financial space or even the self-help space most of all. But nobody is perfect. Everyone has problems. Everyone has low points. Everyone has failed, has sacrificed, has cried, has done stupid things. Do be open about yours and people will relate and find it funny. And then love you for giving them permission to fail also.

Ultimately your talk is not about your topic, but about making people feel better about themselves and the world around them.



Voytek V@authenticvoytek  What are your top 3 favorite movies?

ANSWER. Ok, now that I thought about it more I have more than 3 favorites. BUT:

Lawrence of Araba


Schindler’s List

Why those three? Because they are all epic, they are all terrifying. They are all roughly true stories (the Truth is often a 1000x more interesting than fiction).

And they all deal with people who have a certain degree of craziness. People who through their personal nobility, their hardships, their inner demons and angels, rose up and created an entirely new world from that nobility and craziness. Whenever I see one of those movies, I want to be like the main character, someone with the inner strength to change the world, to change everything around me with the force of my will. That’s what those movies are about.

Plus, in those three movies, the cinematography is without compare. Even Lawrence of Arabia which is so much older than any modern special effects movie today. The desert landscapes are beautiful, and the pace of the movie, the music, the language, the acting, all fit the pace of being in a desert  – slow, thirsty for more, beautiful. And Lawrence is so insane, so crazy, and yet so determined to be a leader among men. To shine where he was not allowed to shine in the strict confines of the class system of England. Ditto for the other two.

BUT: I have to add now:

“The Conversation”, “After Hours”, and my all time favorite comedy: “Superbad” as runners-up.



Gonzalo Gandia@GonzaloGandia  asks: batman or spiderman?

ANSWER : Normally I don’t like to answer personal questions (because they might not be interesting to anyone othert than me) like this BUT: this is an interesting one.

Most people would say “Batman” because he built himself up without having any powers at all and became a kick-ass superhero. However, several things are very important about the batman story:

A)    Batman started off super-rich, which gives its own form of superpowers right from the beginning

B)    Batman had a track record of putting young people into tiny shorts and serious danger (the young Dick Grayson / Robin)

C)    Batman was so emotionally screwed up because of his parents’ deaths that he was never able to have a normal relationship with a woman or any friend really. Instead, perhaps his main romance was with Catwoman, who was mostly emotionally unavailable to him and was also a criminal.

Now let’s take Spiderman.

–          Peter Parker was me (and perhaps you). A nerdy, shy, kid with glasses that was picked on by the cool kids, who wanted to get the girl but didn’t know how.

–          Peter Parker had to balance the challenges of real life (making money, having relationships, studying for school, etc) with the responsibility he chose to take on (helping people).

–          Peter Parker constantly had the media against him. Bruce Wayne rarely did.

–          Peter Parker got his powers from a mis-use of radioactive material. As did the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and many other heroes created in the 60s. With the rise of the nuclear age, we must always be wary of misuse of powers we don’t understand. Even with the cybernetic extensions to our personality that social media provides we must never forget that “with great power comes great responsibility” and that the challenge of remaining human in the onslaught of technology must remain utmost in our minds.


Michael Comeau ‏ @MichaelComeau   asks: @jaltucher Is the hardest part of writing a novel getting started

ANSWER: I am not the best person to ask (I’ve written 4 unpublished novels in my 20s) but I am writing a novel right now so I’ll share my experience with that:

I like Walter Mosely’s recent book on “how to write a novel”. It’s a short book because his main advice can be summarized in one line: Write 500 words a day. A novel is about 60,000 words. So in 120 days (4 months) you have your first draft writte. 500 words is only about three or four paragraphs.

Something else I read on a blog: a woman who writes (and publishes) many novels (she writes serials about, I think, vampires) explains how she writes 15,000 (!!) words a day. She outlines heavily beforehand. And then she just goes for it. She  says she went from 1000 words a day to 15,000 words a day using this technique.

Then, both writers say this is only for first draft. And then you have to rewrite. But whatever, the first draft seems hardest to me.

GOOD FRIEND IS CHEATING ON WIFE. SHOULD I TELL THE WIFE? (this was asked me anonymously in a DM) The only other information is that they are “newly married”.

ANSWER: NO! Don’t be in the middle. There are many reasons why someone cheats.  There are many issues that the person is working out individually and also as a couple. Why make the personal problems of a couple the personal problems of a “triple” (when you include yourself).

I have seen this several times. Where a friend is cheating. Even when I’ve seen people close to me being cheated on, for instance, I see the husband of a good friend out with another woman. I’m friends with the wife but not the husband so could’ve easily told the wife but I chose to stay out of it.

Why did I stay out of it?

Because sooner or later the wife finds out. And all shit hits the fan. Why be in the middle of shit spraying on your face. The couple will work it out sooner or later. One way or the other. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health.


tstinson@tsrcpw  does Obama have the ability to lead us into an new era of growth


I am totally apolitical. I am not for Obama. Or Romney. Or anyone. In fact, I think the Presidency has outlived its usefulness. I am in favor of abolishing the Presidency. I am putting out a Kindle Single soon: “NOBODY for President” where I go through the “accomplishments of every Presidency since Washington.

All growth comes from the private sector. It never comes from the government, which sucks the blood out of private sector growth through institutions like the FDA, or Congress for that matter.

(sometimes i think they are the same)

But let’s take Obama. We finished up World War II in 4 years, destroying Japan and Germany in the process, the two most powerful countries in the world outside of the US at that time. Why are we still in Afganistan after a ten year+ war? Why is housing still worse? Why is unemployment worse despite trillions spent?

Again, Obama can point to many achievements also. But I am giving it a rest on worrying about who will be President. I have enough other worries. I am keeping track of my wallet regardless of who is President.

I really appreciate all the questions. Above is a summary of just a few of the questions I got. Coming this week I hope is the book, “FAQ ME”. I expand and rewrite on many of the questions in the book and the book also contains some Q&A I received via emails.

I hope you continue to ask me questions on Thursdays from 3:30-4:30. And you can follow me on twitter at @jaltucher.

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