Ask James: Happiness, God, Morality, Dating Advice, and Charlie Sheen

Every Thursday I do this Q&A from 3:30-4:30PM. It’s probably the funnest part of the week for me. I love doing it. And then writing this post. I hope to keep doing them.

HOWEVER, for the next two weeks I’m in India. So the timing won’t work out. So I have to take a two week break. That said, if you have a question (in 140 characters or less) send to me at I’ll answer either through email or in a post (where I will hide email addresses).

Another two notes:

1)      I’m almost done with the free book: “FAQ ME” described at the bottom of this post.

2)      If you have different answers than me for any of the questions below, please use the comments to answer. I need all the help I can get.

(i did a search on "FAQ ME" and this image came up)



@MrJNowlin Jesse Nowlin

Asks how do you make more hours in the day???


Gandhi has a great quote on this. Someone said that with all of his responsibilities he probably should be not be meditating for a whole hour every day. He replied, “I guess I need to meditate for TWO hours per day.”

Time management is a myth. You have the time. You don’t even really need to manage it that much. For instance, going through “the Internet loop”: email, facebook, twitter, news, etc. For most people that takes 15-20 minutes and they do it up to 10 times a day. Do it twice a day.

But if that’s hard we must take more extreme measures: No TV, No alcohol, no dinners outside the house (ideally, no dinner past 7pm or even earlier) and wake up an hour earlier.

And, if you can, no meetings. And if you have a meeting, make it a walking meeting. Walk around the block for your meeting. So you get exercise also and the meeting goes faster. Or don’t allow any chairs in the meeting room. I can guarantee the  meeting will only be five minutes then.

And don’t waste time making excuses about this. Or complaining to me about it. I’m pretty busy also. So I don’t watch TV, I don’t waste time at dinners outside the house, I wake up an hour earlier, I try (please god give me the strength) not to do the “internet loop” too many times during the day.  I don’t take on meetings (or, rarely – I pack all my meetings into one day a week and then go from meeting to meeting).

So I’ve saved time.

Now, my big challenge – what to do with that extra time? So I write a lot. And help businesses I’m involved with. But I want to take even that down a notch. Spend more time with people I love. Spend more time exercising and reading. I hope.


@dylanized dylan hassinger Asks: any dating advice for introverts?


Yes. If you spend even one night at home you’re in trouble.

As Gretzky says, “skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s at.

So…go to tango classes. Go to yoga. Go to cooking classes. Join book clubs. Don’t think you’ll go to one tango class and meet the love of your life. All of these things are seeds that you plant. Some of the seeds will grow, some won’t.

(yoga class: all women)

If you find yourself with free time after this, sign up for every dating service. Send out twenty notes a day. Vary them up. Make them funny, clever. I’d do it for you but I’d have to charge. I was a dating service expert. I used all of them. Heck, I built one.

And you have to handle rejection, lots of it. But even a rejection is a seed planted. It builds strength in you and gets the word out: you’re looking, you’re available.

But most importantly, go to all the  places where there are more women than men. Believe me! Women want to meet you just as much as you want to meet them. And they love introverts.

Look at me! I’m hideous. But I worked it. And it worked.


MrJNowlin Jesse Nowlin asks: build startup on the side slowly, or quit day job get funding and move faster?


DO NOT leave the day job. BY the time I left my day job I was totally able to duplicate my income with my startup. I did not suffer one decrease. I had about 10 clients, including my day job, and I was able to juggle the startup with the day job by giving up on social life. I hired all my friends at either my day job or my startup.

From beginning of the startup until the time I left my job was about 1.5 years. Give it time.I feel like the world is in a startup frenzy right now. Relax. Corporate America as has been traditionally is now officially dead. There’s no safety there. There’s only hustling now. Always have ideas and you’ll eventually be able to leave the day job.



justinjmoses Justin J. Moses asks: what is the sixth law of power and how important is it?


When I answered this I was, and still am, assuming the question is referring to that book “Power: The 48 Laws of Power”. I don’t like that book. I think many of the “laws” are about building yourself up at the expense of others.

Success is not a zero-sum game, else we’d still be back in the dark ages. You’re most successful when your one overriding thought is how can I bring the most success to others.

That’s the ONE law of power that everyone needs.

BUT, I’ll answer the question: the Sixth Law of Power in the book is to court attention wherever you possibly can.

This is not so bad, relative to some of the other “laws” in the book.

However, you can’t court attention for the sake of courting attention. Everthing you do has to provide value. If you write a blog post, if you tweet, if you perform a service, deliver value. Everything. Don’t even think of doing something without asking first, “What value am I providing”.

So, for instance, I’m courting attention by writing this post. By doing the Twitter Q&A’s, by writing books. I’m trying to court a lot of attention.  Some of it is for ego purposes probably. Some of it is so people think of me when potential opportunities arise. I don’t deny I have selfish purposes.

But first and foremost, deliver value. That really should be the sixth law of power. And then, if the value is real and helps people, attention happens automatically.



@oliverg12 Olivier asks why do you often encourage people to drop out of school, when you graduated from a good college with a respectable degree

ANSWER: Obviously this is a hostile question. I’ve written many times about the value of college. Here are some of my posts

This post: Living Life is Better than Dying in College, contains links to all my other posts on college.

My assumption is that the real statement this person is making is: you don’t want other people to accrue the other benefits you’ve accrued. You want to keep people down.

So, several answers:

A)     I went to college so that gives me experience on what college is really about. Would you rather have someone who didn’t go to college tell kids not to go to college? IN which case, there are also many examples.

B)      College now is different than when I was a kid. The most important difference: student loan debt is now so high that it exceeds credit card debt for the first time ever. Inflation has gone up 3-fold in the past 40 years, healthcare costs have gone up 5-fold, and tuitions for college have gone up 10-fold. How is this fair?

C)      People say, well, college students make more money than non-college students. This statement suffers from selection bias. The “type of people” who went to college twenty years ago certainly make more than the type of people who chose not to go to college twenty year ago. That’s a completely different statement and more correct.


@Julian_Lenz Julian Lenz asks your thoughts about the scene from wallstreet when charlie sheen sits in his apartment with beautiful girl and says life is great


A lot of times we strive for things that we think will increase our happiness: sex with the beautiful person at the gym. More money. A lot more money. A house. A nice big house. A nice car. Winning that last hand of poker, etc.

But think about all these things: you have sex with the beautiful woman one day (happiness!) and the next day you’re wondering where she is when she doesn’t return your calls (unhappiness!). You make a lot of money on a deal (happiness) and then you lose it on the next (misery!)

This is  not real happiness. It’s a mountain: the entire time you are walking up you are sweating and in pain. Then you get to the peak and you look around and you’re happy. And then you go down the mountain you no longer have that same happiness.

This “peak happiness” is not real happiness. It’s a fake happiness. It’s a dopamine addiction created happiness. More on happiness below.


greenjobseeker KAWB  in a business, is an idea the most valuable part of the creation?


I’ll give you an example: In 2006 I had an offer from a bank to buy the fund of hedge funds I was managing. The offer was a good offer except…they wanted me to sign a six year employment agreement. And if I quit at any point I’d have to give all the money back.  Even my lawyer said, “I thought slavery was outlawed”.  So I couldn’t take the deal.

So I outlined ten ideas I thought could be good businesses. Nine of those ideas were bad ideas. Anybody can outline ten business ideas. Anybody can outline nine bad ones.

Then I spec-ed out each business, I put the specs on, I took in over 100 possible bids from developers who wanted to create the businesses, and then I hired one for each idea, including for , which worked out well for me.

So the ideas were bullshit. You need to always practice the idea muscle else you won’t have any good ideas. But the actual important step was the NEXT STEP: the spec-ing out of each site, using to hire a developer, paying the developer to get started, and then STARTING.

The idea held the ladder. But I had to climb the ladder to change the lightbulb. Climbing the ladder, despite my fear of heights, was the most important part.


@AJBoom Adam Bastick: James, give me one piece of killer advice that i can use daily to make it a successful 2012


If a gun was to my head and I had to give one piece of advice (hard for me: I’m like a vomitorium of advice) it would be:

Spend more time with people who love you. You can do this at home, work, on the internet, wherever.

Corollary: spend less time with people who don’t love you.



chrisglopez Chris Lopez asks: if you have an idea that the market isn’t ready for, do you sit on it or build it out anyway?



Read the above answer. I had TEN ideas and NINE were bad. Maybe the market wasn’t ready for them. Who knows? I’d be broke now if I had tried to really pursue them instead of quickly cutting my losses.

Since 1990 people have been building apps for wireless devices. I would say the market only started getting readyh for those apps in 2010. (I know this, having started a wireless business that the market was not ready for back in 2000).

So, ideas are a dime a dozen. If you have an idea that the market is not ready for, come up with a new idea.



@adamclay211 Adam Clay asks: my self published material, should I completely giveaway


ANSWER: I have a post coming up about this in about a week or so. Basically, self-published books are the new business cards. I’ll explain why in the post but the short of it is: give, give, give away.


Unpacktherat Shirley Trevor asks: Thoughts on the anti-blog movement of authors using email services like Chimp Mail? Direct to the in box as they like to say.


ANSWER: TV didn’t replace movies. Movies didn’t replace radio. Radio didn’t replace reading. Photography didn’t replace painting.

People chose the medium they want to create in. The key is to have something to say. Then figure out the medium you want to use to say it.  I like blogging because, for me, it seems like hard work to build out an email list when I don’t feel I need to. Anyoen can just come to my blog and read what I have to say plus I can have other links on there to other posts that I think are relevant. I like my posts to be “3 dimensional” and link all around.

But some people like email lists. It’s more direct. I would say the style is a bit different. So it just depends what medium you want to be a creator in, an artist in.

The key, again, is to have something to say. Then CREATE.



@derekwhurst Derek Hurst asks: I know that you write a lot about getting motivated when times are bad, but how do you stay motivated when times are good?


Every day wake up and pretend you’re a superhero. You’re Clark Kent. Nobody knows you are a super hero. But you wake up and you get out of your bed and you have a mission: you have to save at least ONE life today.

Then the rest of the day, be on the lookout for how you can help save that live. Or, if you must, save the world.

It’s a costume game. It’s make believe. But it works.


tfrojd Thomas Fröjd  asks: what should i blog about? I change my interests every day



Don’t give yourself anymore excuses to not just sit down and create! Creation takes practice and time. So start now whether you have consistent ideas or not.

Set up a blog: “My New Interest”

Every day or week post on it. Completely tell me about your new interest:

–          Why are you interested in this new thing?

–          Why did you lose interest in the old thing?

–          What connections are there between the new and the old (or older?)

–          And tell me at least one new thing about your new interest that I could not have read anywhere else.

Eventually you’ll start to see themes arise across your interests. Those themes will intermingle. Something cohesive will come out. For a brief time, you’ll be a blogger, then an artist. Then you will create something new out of the intermingling and mating of all of these interests.



@jonathankyou Jonathan Baker  asks: Can you talk about morality. Is it universal or relative?


Very little of morality is relative.

I did a post about a year ago that provoked some discussion on other websites. The post was “Was Buddha a Bad Father”?

Buddha was prince with everything: a kingdom, a beautiful wife, a newborn son.

So what did he do on the NIGHT his son was born. In the middle of the night, when everyone was asleep (so he didn’t have to say goodbye) he rode off on his quest for enlightenment.

On other blogs people wrote I didn’t understand the relative morality of what was happening. That fatherhood was different then. Ok, maybe. It’s an interesting discussion to me.

BUT, more interesting to me (and something none of the other blogs commented on when trashing me on this topi) was much later when Buddha finally came to scoop up his son and teach him about life and morality.

He gave perhaps his most powerful and useful sermon in all the Pali Canon (the collection of works containing Buddha’s actual thoughts instead of the meassive hearsay which has gotten passed down through the ages.

He basically said: “before, during, and after a thought, action or speech, consider whether or not you are hurting someone”

So this was a guy giving a moral rule 2500 years ago, 12,000 miles away. This rule is still an important rule and one that many people ignore. Every day I see trolls on the Internet trying to hurt people. People in the news trying to hurt each other. Politicians and businessmen trying to backstab each other.

Nobody follows this universal rule of morality. I hope I can follow it. But it’s very hard.

Notably, I believe it’s the last mention of Buddha’s son in Buddhist scriptures. So maybe he couldn’t follow it either. I don’t know.



Nisey7 Nisey What makes you genuinely happy?



I try to keep my expectations very very low so just about anything will exceed my expectations and make me happy.

This can have a double-meaning, one negative and one positive.

The negative is that I seek out shitty things and if they aren’t horrible then I’m happy.

The positive is that I try not to constantly seek $100 milion dollars, every deal, every girl, and then (since I can’t get all of the above) I will be happy.

In general, every day I try to reduce the things that I’ve spent a lifetime striving for. When these things hit zero, or as close to it as possible (I’m always going to want a roof over my head and a good woman next to me) I know I will be perpetually happy.



@jhilderley John Hilderley Bluffing. In business and love. Is it lying? Is it bad, ok, or a necessary evil?


I have a post coming up about this.

But basically, in life you have 7 billion competitors (the other humans who live here). How do you separate yourself apart? Well, this is easy. 99.99% of them bluff/lie every day

Cultivate constructive honesty (as opposed to “radical honesty”).

Then you will stand out in any beauty contest with the other seven billion people. You will rise up and shine versus your peers. You will rewards you couldn’t expect. More in another post.


williamsjohn John Andrew Williams asks: if you were to give one piece of advice to a high school freshman, what would it be?


Drop out.

High school is a jungle. Why do you think many high schools have metal detectors at the front door. Places with good, healthy people don’t have metal detectors at the front door.

People get hit, they get bullied, they get spit on, they get laughed at. Or maybe this was just me. I easily generalize so call me on it if I’m wrong.

The other day I met a 25 year old on his third business. The other two were successful. The third one just raised a million.

He dropped out of high school. He told me, “one day I realized I knew how to learn things. I could learn anything I wanted to. So what did I need school for?”

You can say “socializing with your peers”. Is that really so great in high school? It wasn’t so great for me.

So my advice is: drop out, start businesses, spend time with your friends when they get out of prison every day at 3pm. And the rest of the time, learn what you want to do and do what you want to do. You might never have that chance again so why waste that in a prison?

I had a lot more good questions. But I think 3000 words is a good size for a blog post.

Let me tell you what I’m doing.

I’m taking all the questions from the past 5 months and cataloging them by topic. Then I’m taking questions that I had in emails (and hiding identities), summarizing them and putting them in the same catalog.

Then I’m publishing it under the book, “FAQ ME”. The price will be free (for ebook). I hope people find use for it.

Also, as mentioned above: I’m in India the next two weeks. If you have a question for me, send it in 140 characters or less via email to I’ll answer or put in a post which will answer (and I will hide emails if I do it in a post).

I’m going to miss doing these for the next two weeks. I have fun doing them and in my own perverse way, I feel like I make friends while answering these questions. I hope you do too.

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