James Altucher On Why College Sucks, How To Win Any Game, & More.

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James Altucher is a fascinating guy.

He is an American hedge fund manager, author, podcaster, and entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded over 20 companies. He has published 20 books—including the really great books Choose Yourself and Reinvent Yourself—and is a contributor to The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and The Huffington Post.

During this discussion, you’ll discover:

-The magic that comes from writing down 10 ideas per day…8:35

  • Ben’s kids do this with hilarious results
  • Potential for a future in genomics
  • Come up with business ideas or ideas to pass on to clients/employers
  • Book: Hacking Darwin by Jamie Metzl

-Reading and writing during a pandemic…13:20

  • James’ 30-day book challenge
    • Broad outline
    • Step by step process
    • Can be written in 30 days
  • GPT-3 AI algorithm
  • Jerzy Kosinski, author of the book Being There
  • Book: Steps by Jerzy Kosinski, which won The National Book award
    • Years later, a guy copied the book word for word, submitted to 20 publishers; all 20 rejected the submissions
  • J.K. Rowling conspiracy theories
  • Books by Neil Gaiman:
  • Graphic novel series Wings of Fire  by Tui Sutherland
  • Book: 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson

-How James’ writing practice dug him out of a huge hole, financially and personally…20:40

  • Many big corporations didn’t have websites in the mid-’90s; James provided this service
  • Clients included American Express and Miramax
  • Sold the business during the stock bubble; enough to live comfortably forever
  • Lost $1 million per week for a time due to bad decisions
  • Money skills: making, keeping, growing
  • Had $143 in an account that once contained over $15 million
  • Purchased 100 waiters pads for $10; James loved the look of them, perfect for writing lists
  • Began writing 10 ideas per day planning a book
    • Pure creative flow
    • Business ideas, mentors you’d like
  • Ideas and creativity are like muscles; they atrophy over time
  • Final 2-3 ideas you feel the brain really working, like a physical workout
  • Idea lists for other people (businesses, writers, bloggers, etc.) then ask for a coffee date


-How James’ love of games improves his health and well-being…41:15

  • Poker players hire Ben for cognition, nootropics, etc.
  • Family game nights
  • Solve game problems every day
  • Hacks to beat family members in games:
    • Memorize all the 2- and 3-letter words in Scrabble
    • Build hotels on the orange properties in Monopoly (location, location, location)
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors world championship

-The importance of game theory…46:15

  • Every position on the board is a puzzle
  • Competition in a game is a safe way to practice fighting, war, business, etc.
  • Metaphors for life
  • Morality (googling words while playing Scrabble)
  • Blog article: How To Master Every Game by James Altucher
  • Quiddler word game
  • Game construction is also an interesting game in itself

-Things people should say “no” to more often…51:15

  • Book: The Power of No by James Altucher
  • We sometimes say “yes” when we really want to say “no”
  • People saying “no” and lying about why they’re saying “no”
  • Precious few are honest in saying “no”
  • Most meetings and most socializing
  • Lockdown forced James to cancel business trips (oftentimes making no money)
  • James never turns down an opportunity to do stand-up comedy

-Why James never says “no” to doing stand-up comedy…56:15

  • Tried it out one time and did really well; second time bombed horribly
  • Stuck with it; did 10 shows per week until it became natural
  • It’s the hardest skill James has ever had to learn
  • Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule, a common theme in his book Outliers: The Story of Success
  • 10,000 experiment rule, rather than hours
    • “Trying out something I don’t know the answer to, but I have a theory about”

-The necessity of college…1:05:35

-And much more!


Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

– The topic of suicide is briefly mentioned in this podcast. If you’re struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, They are open 24/7, 365.

James Altucher:

– Books:

Other resources:

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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for James or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

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