{"feed":"Altucher-Confidential","feedTitle":"Altucher Confidential","feedLink":"/feed/Altucher-Confidential","catTitle":"Business","catLink":"/cat/bussiness"}

Kareem is definitely one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  I’m sure this is obvious to you.  (But I always have to start my introductions with the obvious, unfortunately.)

This podcast isn’t about basketball. Or sports. This one is about the search for your own identity.

(More on that in a second. I’ll tell you my favorite lesson from Kareem). But first, more of the obvious.

Kareem played 20 seasons of professional basketball. He stopped in 1989. But he STILL, to this day, holds the record for the most points scored in any one, single basketball player’s career.

38,387 – the unbeatable, magic number.

He’s also NBA’s all-time leading scorer.  And a six-time NBA champion.

50 years of athleticism. THAT’S peak performance.

Then he combined his career with activism, philanthropy (President Obama awarded him with “The Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the nation’s highest civilian honor.). Kareem’s also collaborated with HBO documentaries to create the highest rated sports documentary in history.  

Then he started writing. He wrote about coming to grips with his identity as a basketball player. He came face to face with his racial identity, religious identity and spiritual identity. And he continues his quest for these things over and over. (I do, too. I think that’s why I do this podcast.)

I wanted him to tell me about his search for his identity. Here’s...

Everyone’s favorite topic… Trump. I interviewed PJ O’Rourke back in May. But today (the day this show releases) is pretty much the one year anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. And so I explore alternate realities with PJ, a 2x New York Times bestselling author, journalist, Irish Catholic hippie and a world of other contradictions.

  • QUESTION:  “What would the country be like if all the First Ladies ran the country?”
  • ANSWER: “We’re out of slavery in 1800 because Sally Hemings would’ve abolished it.”


(That’s a chapter in his book. PJ tells you how the world would be different. He gives you scenarios to dream up a new world.)

He also asks you to vote differently… Hypothetically, who would you vote for if you picked the president based on who you’d go on a road trip with.

Our conversation makes you think. And laugh. And wonder. Which are the three keys to a free mind.

So I give you, PJ O’Rourke, author of “How The Hell Did This Happen: The Election of 2016”

Links and Resources

Tim wrote to me, I wrote back, then he never wrote back.

Finally we met and he said, “I owe you an email”.

No problem. Always no problem.

We became friends after that. I’ve been on his show, he’s been on mine, we email, talk, have a billion mutual friends, etc.

Every day I learn from Tim. Not only by asking him questions directly when I need to. But also, I constantly re-read “Tools of the Titans”, one of my favorite books.

Read it. Read it again. Keep it near your bathroom or your night stand.

Tim views every aspect of his life as an experiment.

He is the reason I think the “10,000 hour rule” (10,000 hours of deliberate practice is the only way to achieve your peak potential) is a very breakable rule.

Tim breaks the rules. In fact, if I can learn only ONE thing from Tim is that EVERY RULE IN SOCIETY CAN BE BROKEN.

The person who breaks all the rules is the person who escapes the prison the rules cage us in.

His main philosophy seems to be:

– STUDY the scientific research and history but with heavy skepticism and open minded-ness.

Don’t ask, “what truths do I learn from science”. Ask, “What questions is science studying. What questions haven’t they asked yet and how can I ask them?”


The only valid sample size for an experiment on YOURSELF is a sample size of ONE…the results on you. If something works for you, then…it works.

If you fast for a week and feel...

It’s weird. Normally, the people I interview on this podcast are at the end of their career. Bill is just starting. He spent years in law school. And then made up his mind (after a day of fasting) that he’s going to be a comedian.

“I came to the decision that I wanted to be a stand-up comic during Yom Kippur, I’m not Jewish, but a friend of mine told me, ‘You just fast for a day. Don’t eat food. Don’t drink water and think if today was the last day of my life, what would I have done differently?’”

He was in school to become a Marine lawyer. It was a career path that everyone approved of. Society approves. His parents approve.

It’s almost like you have to break out of the matrix to get the courage to say, “Okay, I just spent 12 years in grade school, 4 years in college, 3 years in law school all for this one goal: to become a lawyer. And now I’m going to throw it all away”

I wanted to know why… because I could see this was the making of a “choose yourself” story.

“I calculated it out,” he said. “I figured I can out-work a lot of...

Dov’s mom was a wacko who belonged to a cult and spent most of her money on freeze dried foods. She was waiting for the apocalypse.

And his father ran a junkyard. He was gay. And emotionally abusive to Dov. So one of the jokes Dov tells on stage is about his parent’s relationship. He says his mom knew that her husband was gay. But somehow, her biggest problem with him was that he ate too much sugar.

The situation is incredibly odd. And undeniably funny.

But he doesn’t talk about it in his stand up at all.

I wondered why.

I remember seeing Dov on stage. He was creating this weird, sort of anger or tension with his subject.

Example: He was trashing his wife, right in front of her. And she was laughing. (I was confused.)

But this is Dov’s interpretation of comedy. And that’s really why I was interviewing him.

“I don’t think of it as trashing. I think of it as telling the truth. And that truth may be a little challenging to hear, but if I’m being honest then that’s the truth. You can talk about anything if you can make it funny.”

Comedy became a self defense mechanism for...

There’s nothing romantic about starving. There’s nothing cute about living off salvia. Everyone loves Beyonce and Jay-Z for their art AND their wealth. But when painters ask for payment, they’re spit on (metaphorically).

So what makes some artists worthy of wealth?  And how can I can achieve that? How can you?

“It comes down to mindset,” Jeff Goins said. “Professionals have a professional mindset.”

Jeff is the bestselling author of “Real Artists Don’t Starve.” And I’ve been wanting him to come on this podcast for over a year.

When we finally met, I was late.

“What does that mean?” I said. “What does it mean to have a professional mindset?”

He gave me an examples (Michelangelo, Walt Disney, James Altucher, Shakespeare, etc.)

Shakespeare didn’t only write plays. He built the theater. This is key to choosing yourself. It’s why I self-publish.

Fact: whenever you try to make a dollar, you only get 5 cents of the dollar.

Publishers, producers, editors, gallery owners, theaters, investors, everyone needs to be paid before you.

Unless you understand the basics of how to convert skill into financial wealth.

Example: Jay-Z was president of Def James. (Run DMC created the label) Then he bought Tidal.

He didn’t just subscribe to the system...

“Why are we addicts?” I asked my friend.

“What do you mean?”

“My kids don’t’ even know who the Beatles are. Everything you write, everything I write, will be forgotten within three days of us dying,” I said.

I’m addicted to my past. Afraid of my future.

The past is often too painful. It’s an alphabet made out of rain.

I want to assemble the letters into something sensible. So I can live. Live forever.

Why I write:


I was a spy.

I wrote down “David liked Joanne. He was staring at her”. I wrote down, “Lori likes Jimmy.” I wrote down, “Jennifer likes Robert.”

I think both Robert and Jennifer are dead now.

I was in Fifth grade. I brought in a spiral notebook. The metal at the end of the spiral would stick out and poke me.

And every time I noticed someone in class looking at each other I wrote it down.

What a mystery it is to fall in love!

Everyone wanted to see my notebook. Everyone wanted to know who liked who. “Who likes me?” I still want to know that.

I wouldn’t let anyone look at my notebook. “It’s private!”

Eventually the teacher said, “What is this notebook? Let me see!”

She looked at it. One page. Two pages. Three pages. She said, “Don’t bring this notebook back to class ever again. “

And that is the first time I wrote for a public audience. And the first time someone hated me for something I wrote.

The last time that happened was a few minutes ago (“This guy is...

Paul isn’t much older than I am.

But I feel like I’ve been watching him on TV and in movies since I was born.

We laughed about that.

Paul’s been doing stand up since he was 17 years old. Paul remembers watching the comics when he was little. It spoke to him on a different level than the Beatles or any of the other rock stars of the time.

Paul when to college, but then he after he graduated he took the nonlinear life path.

The path I feel like everyone should try out at least once in their lives.

He moved to the city and he started hanging out in clubs. He was making four dollars an hour.

But his parents were scratching their heads, why would you want to be a comedian?

They wanted him to be just about anything else. It was just too risky. And it was hard.

There were no paychecks, no benchmarks. It was an unimaginable world to his parents.

There’s no reason anyone should ever make it as a comedian.

But he did it anyway.

And I wanted to know what the initial appeal of stand up...

He had a panic attack on air.


A meltdown in front of five million people.

Dan was struggling with PTSD. And it led him to substance abuse and depression.

But like many people at bottom, his panic attack was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Dan knew he needed to make changes in his life. But he didn’t know how. His mentors and friends said “find faith.” So he tried…. Religion. Spirituality. Self help. And finally meditation.  

I asked Dan, “So what exactly is meditation?” Because I think to a lot of people it has this unappealing notion of finding enlightenment and being closer to Buddha, talking to the Dalai Lama and blah blah blah.  

“There are a couple of ways to define meditation,” he said. “One is anything that gets you to pay attention to what’s happening right now is meditation. That’s a very broad definition. Another broad definition is training the mind/mental training.”

Your mind is trainable. It’s plastic. And ready to be molded at any stage of your life. (Including now.)

But it takes work. And trust me it’s not easy. I’ve been practicing meditation practice for many years.

Here’s the problem: most people who know a lot about Bitcoin can only speak “tech”.

I was at a conference recently. I was the keynote speaker but had zero talk prepared (as usual). It was a crowdfunding conference so I “crowdsourced” my talk.

I asked the audience: I can talk about entrepreneurship or I can take fifteen minutes to explain Bitcoin without using any technical jargon. Clap for which one you want.

Almost 100% of the people wanted to learn about Bitcoin without the technical jargon.

People are hungry for this. They don’t want to hear about “crypto” or “blockchain”. They just want to know what all this Bitcoin stuff is about.

Back in 2013, I thought Bitcoin was a scam. I was wrong.

First, some credentials.

In early 2013 I had my doubts. I started reading everything I could. Then I got my hands dirty.

I’ve been a coder / programmer since 1985. I decided to code up a Bitcoin only store (maybe the first ever) and sell my book, “Choose Yourself” on it before it was released on Amazon.

It was very hard. I had to develop the store from scratch since there were no easy tools to help me. There still isn’t (hint: business opportunity).

Once I launched it, quite a few people bought my book. I sold a PDF of my book for 0.1 Bitcoin. Bitcoin was then $60 so I sold it for about $6 per PDF. Right now, it’s as...

After divorce, I moved back into the Chelsea Hotel. This was ten years ago.

Robert was behind the desk in 2007. Robert was behind the desk in 1995 when I had originally moved in.

I hadn’t seen him since I moved out in 1998, about three months after I had been married. Which already tells you where I was heading: right back here.

In 2007, I walked in with my one bag. Robert barely looked up.

“You again,” he said. His first words to me in ten years. And then he checked me into a room.

I was home.

The Chelsea Hotel had bad art all over the walls. Sometimes struggling artists would pay the rent in art. You never know!

Sometimes other people paid in… other ways. But I paid with cash each time.

The first time I moved in was in 1995. I had done my first website for money. It still exists:

Shlomo, the owner of the diamond company, paid me with a paper bag filled to the rim with cash. He’s dead now. Died in a plane crash looking for diamonds in Russia.

Shlomo had a secretary with a wine-colored scar, blotting out the landscape of her cheek.

I loved her. I wanted to lick the scar right off of her cheek.

I took the bag of cash and went to The Chelsea Hotel and waited in the lobby for hours for Stanley Bard, the owner to show up.

“What are you? A drug dealer?” he...

Every woman I’ve ever had a relationship with has been healthier than me.

And they’re always lecturing me.

Even my 15 year old daughter.

So I invited Aaron Carroll, pediatrician and the author of “The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully” on the podcast. I wanted to throw out every argument ever made about coffee, carbs, alcohol, MSG, BACON, antioxidants, the list goes on!

Aaron can dismantle the rumors. And give you your control back (when it comes to health).

“There are people who make claims all the time about these kinds of things (food crazes, the latest media hyped diet, etc.), but there’s no conclusive links. This is the healthiest the human race has ever been ever.”

The healthiest the human race has ever been!

Aaron looks at ALL the scientific research. And figured out that someone is always misinterpreting the data. (Either the consumer or the media)

Half the studies are good and half are bad.  

So really, when it comes to your food it’s a sample size of one. If something makes you feel good, it’s probably good for you. If it makes you feel bad, it’s probably bad for you.


“This idea that...

I’m celebrating my 300th episode. With a GIANT episode. I took all the best clips from years and years of podcast. And recorded some new “behind the scenes” thoughts and ideas about each clip (what I learned and why I loved this guest, how they helped me and how they can help you, too). You’ll hear advice and EXCLUSIVE stories from Mark Cuban, Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, Sara Blakely, Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday and the list goes on. THIS is episode 300! And I can’t thank you enough for listening.

P.S. If want to go back to hear the full episodes with these guests, click below:

Ep. 62 – Tony Robbins: Money Is Just A Game

Ep. 217 – Tony Robbins: About The Time Tony Robbins Smashed The Podcast Table (and other things I learned)

Ep. 211 – Sara Blakely: What I Learned From Spanx Founder Sara Blakely

Ep. 204 – Mike Massimino: “I’m Not Good Enough” Probably Means You Will Get Good Enough

Ep. 63 – Tucker Max: Tucker’s Surprise Announcement

Ep. 133 – Tucker Max: Mate: Become the Man Women Want

Ep. 221 – Tucker Max: The Difference Between People Who Succeed and People Who Don’t

Ep. 226 – Jon Morrow: Do You Have A Gun To Your Head?

Ep. 258 – Nancy Cartwright: Becoming Bart Simpson… How to Find the Artist Inside Yourself


If I compete with you, I’m a loser. It means I’m not helping anyone in a new way. Ryan said, “Competition is for losers.” He was quoting Peter Theil. Instead, you have to invent your own category… here’s how.

Show Notes:

Trust Me I’m Lying” by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is The Way” by Ryan Holiday

Ego is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday

The Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday

The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday

The Daily Stoic Journal” by Ryan Holiday

A famous writing technique created and taught by Julia Cameron called “morning pages.” You can read about it in her book “The Artist’s Way

Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius

A phrase from Ryan’s mentor, Robert Greene and author of “The 48 Laws of Power” (Ryan mentions “tactical hell” when everyone’s just reacting all the time)

A quote from Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and bestselling author of “Zero to One” (Ryan quotes him saying, “competition is for losers”)

Ryan’s article “Uncommon Advice To Any Young Man Wanting To Become Insanely Successful (Or Get Something From Someone Who Is Successful)

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside” by Kelly Cutrone

The post Ep. 298 – Ryan Holiday: Competition...

Around 5000 years ago, the aliens landed and handed out little calendars to everyone building those statues on Easter Island.

“Here”, they said, “look here.” And they pointed to a box labeled January 1.

“Wha,” said the Easter Islanders. “Wha? Wha? Wha????”

“It’s the first day of the year, you idiot. From now on, when you wake up on this day of the year every year you’re going to say, ‘THIS IS THE YEAR!'”

“Thi I Yee”


“Yeah, say it like you mean it. No more eating. No more dating losers. Exercise. Keep a diary. No more business failures. This is it! Nonstop improvement!”

And then the aliens left. Everyone stood around look at each other. “January 1” one of the Easter Islanders said. “January 1!” another repeated.

They started jumping around, “January 1!!” Then they started doing pushups. All of them. They started to eat better.

They joined a gym that was at the other end of the island. They invented disco.

But just three months later they were back to dragging huge stones thousands of miles to make those big statues.

“January 1?” one of them said to another.

“Well,” the other said, “maybe next year.”

And that, Mollie, is the story of how January 1 became the most special religious holiday on the entire planet. It’s the day we wake up and say, now I’m different.

‘January 1’ went viral after that. First in Australia. Then with the Eskimos. And others.

You’re such a good father, said Mollie never.


I’m a skeptic that there is a god that sat down at a typewriter and wrote a BOOK.

I’m a skeptic that Allah spoke to Mohammed. I’m a skeptic that Moses parted the Red Sea.

I’m a skeptic that Buddha achieved something called Enlightenment.

I’m a skeptic in affirmation. I’m a skeptic in heaven or hell or afterlife or reincarnation or crystals or astrology or Myers-Briggs or self-help gurus.

I don’t want to be a skeptic but…

One time I spoke to a famous self-help writer who writes about productivity.

Then he showed me his secret weapon. The secret weapon he didn’t write about in his 400 page book on productivity.

He lifted up his shirt.

Nicotine patch.

I grew up Jewish, so just by circumstance of who my parents were, I don’t believe Jesus turned wine into water.

I wish Jesus just ONCE would come back and take advantage of his superpowers.

Maybe he shows up at a restaurant with his disciples and the waiter comes over and says, “Would like to see the wine menu?”

And Jesus winks at his disciples and says, “No thanks. How about just a glass of water for everyone.”

If I were Jesus I would certainly do that.

“Would you like to hear our specials?”

“How about just one fish for the table?”

“But there are 13 of you!?”

Jesus holds up the palm of his hand. “It’s ok. Just one fish.”

Sometimes skeptics fool themselves.

They replace god with self-help gurus. They replace mystery with unproven science.

They say, “I believe ONLY if I can see.”


“If you were on the outside looking in you’d probably think, ‘This guy’s got a really good life.’ And on paper I did, but on the inside I felt like I was dying. I was depressed. I was unenthusiastic about my life because I knew I was in a career that was ill suited to me. But I just couldn’t see my way out of it,” Rich Roll said.

He told be about the time he felt a tightness in his chest. He couldn’t walk up the stairs. He had to take a break halfway up the flight.

Rich was 39 and dying.

Rich and I talked about his story before… how he transformed himself from a depressed and overweight alcoholic to a plant based, vegan eating, mega athlete / bestselling author / podcaster / writer and total peak performer.

But THIS time we dove even deeper.

“I was trying to force this round peg into a square hole for most of my life,” he said.

I wanted to understand the switch that led him to himself… He told me his secret. And I believe him.


He went to rehab. And got help for a problem he couldn’t handle on his own.

That’s Rich’s meaning of “surrender.” Getting help when you need.

But it’s hard to know when it’s the right time to get help. I probably need help right now. It’s...

“You sound like a moron,” one of my closest friends recently told me. It was because I was feeling sick but I haven’t been to a doctor since I was 18.

In one month I turn 50.

The last doctor i went to was my pediatrictian before I went to college. I don’t even know what doctors do now.

“You could be a hypochondriac,” another friend of mine told me. “Maybe you’re so afraid you might be sick that you refuse to get a check-up.”

So I don’t know if I should go to a doctor or get even more scared. Sometimes I’m always scared.

“You have to move into your own apartment,” my friend above told me. “Moving around from Airbnb to Airbnb is creepy,” she said.

A few months ago I finally did it. I was scared to do it. I don’t know why. I don’t like buying things for myself.

I don’t like roots. I don’t like to lock myself into a place. Bad things happened to me when I do that.

But I did it. I didn’t want to be “creepy”.

It was really hard. I have never had a credit card. So I have no credit score. So nobody wanted to rent to me.

And then I had no furniture. I only had one bag with two outfits and a toothbrush and a computer.

I’m 49. I’ve never moved into my own apartment by myself.

“You will feel stable,” my friend told me. “You don’t even realize how good you will feel.”


We all have vulnerabilities. And I exposed mine to Linda because it’s a free therapy session. She’s a well-known psychologist and bestselling author born in Canada, living in the UK.

I had to ask her about all her theories. And all her books. But mostly these 2:

1. “What Men Say, What Women Hear”
2. “Unfollow: Living Life on Your Own Terms”

Because I am still outsourcing my self-worth to new measures. First, it was money. So I gave up Wall Street (for many reasons). And then it became book sales and now podcast downloads or laughs when I’m on stage doing stand up.

And so I asked Linda “why?”

Why am I sacrificing my art for identity?

“We create because it’s in,” she said. “We’re social beings and our identity is bound up in what we create. That identity needs to be confirmed by others, right? It’s an interesting thing: identity. It’s simultaneously what makes us different but it’s also what binds us with a group”

Then she told me about the evolution of acceptance.

“Years ago you’d have a much smaller group validating that. Now, you have people out there, James, that don’t have a vested interest in you feeling good about yourself. Actually, there are people out there that would find it interesting if you didn’t. And you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Is the source not important?’”

“What do...

“This guy tried to kill me. He had a gun to my head,” Jon said.  “We were leaving the country.  We got intercepted.”



I was interviewing Jon Alpert.  He was trying to smuggle controversial footage out of Iraq.

“I was basically a complete failure up until the moment that I started making films,” Jon said.

He was constantly trying to make his community a better place, but his attempts were always unsuccessful.

“I want to make this country better. And I’m not a good soldier. And I’m not a politician. So I can’t go represent in Congress, but I can be a good reporter,” he said.

He took two passions (camera and country) and combined the two to become creative in the intersection.

His documentaries show aspects of social change that I’ve never seen anywhere else. There’s this undercurrent of a larger problem… an issue or a cause that people are fighting for. I feel like, in talking to Jon, that I want to be fighting for something too. Jon had a core. A direction. And a destination. All in one.

“The camera is a license for me to go up to you and to invade every single part of your life,” he said. “The camera is a license to invade people’s personal space.”

“And I’m doing it because I love my country and...