James Altucher is doing AMA on Reddit right now, and I think he’s brilliant (I subscribe to his blog).
Just wanted to note some of his answers for reference, they are great.
Q: You said you blew all your money on “expensive toys, trips, and bad ideas” What was the WORST idea?
1) Buying a house. People always forget: a.) a house is an illiquid investment so you cant get your money back when you need it most b) there’s millions of hidden costs when you buy a house c) the bank owns your house. not you. When you sell your soul to a bank, you reap what you sow. d) “choosing yourself” requires freedom. the white picket fence becomes a prison bar.
2) I put $2mm into a wireless device company that didn’t work out. But in general I kept doubling down everywhere because it wasn’t any one bad investment but a psychology that I needed MORE to be happy. Choosing Yourself requires a philosophy that LESS actually creates abundance in life.
Q: On the flip side what is the best thing you used your money to buy and the most fun thing?
The best thing I ever did with my money was just keep it in cash. Cash in the bank lets me know i can watch the river in the morning and not worry about money. Money doesn’t solve all your problems but it solves your money problems.
More important to buy memories than materials.
Q: Can you explain, in a nutshell, how to go about becoming internally healthy? I feel I’m on the bottom right now and really want to get out.
yes. i call it “the daily practice” but really its my practice. What works for you might be different. In the book I also describe a “simple daily practice” to ease into it.
I eat well
i sleep well. I used to never sleep. Sleeping is the key to ALL health
i dont drink. Drinking is a depressant and has a lot of sugar.
i dont eat junk food. junk food has jealousy in it, as weird as that sounds.
i NEVER gossip
i only engage with positive people. Even on this AMA i don’t engage with people trying to bring me down.
i read every day. 2 hours. Books. not web.
i write 10 ideas a day. Doesn’t matter what kind of ideas. The key is to get the idea muscle going.
I am every day grateful. if i start to slip into thinking about scarcity, i change to think about abundance. It is such a pleasure to do this.
Do all of the above for six months. I guarantee its like magic what happens then. Please try it. I dont care if you buy my book or not. Try the above.
Q: Hi James, can you give a quick tl;dr about how you started your most successful business (capital requirement, type of business, length of business) and what are the most important things you’ve learned business wise since finding all the other 19 companies?
what worked, what failed, etc…..
yes: my 2 most successful businesses I will tell you the common attributes:
A) I never raised a dime B) I had a customer from the first day C) I never put the company in jeopardy D) I was always willing to sell the business. I was never foolish enough to think I could be a billion dollar company. 99.99% of successful companies sell eventually.
that’s it. Oh, and also, if you arent getting customers and revenues, shut down the biz immediately or turn it around quickly.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice in getting initial (angel) investment?
A: Get a customer first. Your cheapest money is revenues.
Q: You said one of your best skills is reaching out to people (sometimes ones you’ve never met before). What’s your best tactic on cold calling and your best intro?
I can’t cold call very well. But what I can do is one of two things:
A) idea networking. Introduce a person to ten good ideas they can use to improve their business. Give the ideas totally for free and in great detail.
B) permission networking. Think of two people who can help each other and why. Get their permission to introduce each other. Then introduce.
Just cold calling rarely works. You have to give. Or as Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say, “you have to give give give”.
Q: Where is the legal profession heading and what is the best idea to profit from it?
Lawyers are glorified secretaries who try to scare you into paying them high fees.
3 ways to profit:
A) never use lawyers. be your own lawyer. B) create more sites like legalzoom. Look at that site and see what you can improve. Create sites that are like “quora for lawyers”. C) study bitcoin. Bitcoin is NOT a currency. It’s actually a digital replacement for contract law. Study how bitcoin can be used for everything from wills to escrow agreements, etc. Make a business out of that.
And the shortest and funniest question/answer:
Q: Does money actually get you a lot of girls?
A: I hate to say it: but yes it does.
My latest tech interests are node.js/mongo on Heroku stack, and over the last summer I built an app that monitors popularity of topics and displays daily charts for a selected group. A group can be anything: a demographic audience (teens, moms), geographic group (NYC), topical interests (fashion), followers of certain brands – whatever you want.
I’m hoping to put it into a good demo soon and share on my blog, and meanwhile, I’m posting a couple of introductory presentations I did on my node/mongo/heroku stack:
The post from yesterday had some great highlights, most from a cartoonist life/career perspective, but I think some apply to anyone who is creative and wants to find that unique path of doing something fun/meaningful/hopefully profitable.
I wanted to share a few quotes that made me nod in agreement and think more:
Constantly setting new goals, artistic or otherwise, is harder than it looks.
Everything I own would easily fit in the back of a small pickup truck. I’ve never been into possessions.
One of the smartest moves I ever made was to figure out that making money indirectly off the cartoons was far easier than trying to make the money directly. If I could teach gapingvoid readers just one thing, that would be it.
The most important word in cartooning is “continuity”. Drawing a good cartoon isn’t difficult. Doing it repeatedly, day-in, day-out is far, far harder. (this one resonates with my conversation with Mike yesterday, where he said “Every day, it’s a chisel strike. In the end, you’ll get a beautiful sculpture”)
The longer it takes you to become successful, the harder it will be for somebody else to take it away from you.
I was meeting a friend yesterday at 23rd street, and as I was exiting the F subway station, someone stole my wallet. I could actually feel my little bag get lighter as I was walking up the steps (or perhaps during the turnstile exit). And of course – it was unzipped open with the wallet nowhere to be found. Silly me, I started to look on the ground thinking I dropped it, instead of looking at people – I’m 95% sure it was a person actually pulling it out of the bag, and not me just dropping it. In any case – it was lost and gone.
My second thought was “Thank goodness it was only a wallet, not the phone!” (first thought was a long train of expletives). Then I thought it was interesting – in today’s world it’s more annoying to lose a phone. Whatever is in the wallet – cards, ID, cash, is totally and quickly replaceable. I called banks within minutes and cancelled my cards (only carry 1 debit and 1 credit card). Then I happily went on my way to meet my friend and enjoy the rest of the evening. She had to treat me, poor money-less person, to dinner – yay :)
Then it also got me thinking about iOS’s Passbook feature, and how it would really be helpful to have everything from your wallet in the Passbook, in my example store gift cards. I had a couple in the wallet (no biggie), but instead of carrying them around, it would be so much better to have them on your phone. If you could have an Apple gift card in your Passbook – why not others? Looks like Starbucks started first to offer it, and now thanks to the app Gyft you can put almost any gift card on your phone. And how soon will we be having everything on our phone, without needing cards or anything else physical on us, at any given time?
One more note of kudos to the New York State DMV site – you can order a duplicate driver’s license online without any hassle! It made me so happy – no need to go anywhere or wait in lines; just pay and submit your info online, and done! I did it lying on my couch from my phone – very cool.
Would you be more upset if you lost your phone or your wallet?
I just started reading the book about Richard Branson (thanks Sean for the epub file!), and thought I’d list similar books by great people that really stuck with me. The books that make you want to do stuff, or grab your life and live it to its fullest, or both. The list is short, that’s why it’s good – only the best books (in my humble opinion), made it.
Ignore Everybody by Hugh McLeod
This book is not only witty and full of great life stories from the author and advice on how to stay creative and make a business out of it, but also has great hilarious cartoons sprinkled throughout. You can just read one chapter at a time, all of them are humorous, insightful and inspirational.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
I forgot how I stumbled upon this book, but it’s by a very technical guy, who worked at some very innovative companies, and then was teaching CS at Carnegie Mellon. It’s a great, very inspiring read, and includes not only thoughts on technology and career but life in general and priorities and decisions one has to make before death. Highly recommended.
If you don’t have big breasts, put ribbons in your pigtails by Barbara Corcoran
Sean got me this e-book after we watched a few episodes of the first season of Shark Tank. We really like the show, and Barbara Corcoran is one of the “sharks” (multimillionaire businessmen and women who successfully made it, and have enough time, money and influence to help entrepreneurs achieve their business goals).
The title of the book is funny, but the content is great. Barbara writes about her life from childhood (being one of many kids in a blue-collar family in NJ), to her first business venture, to running a successful real estate firm in Manhattan. The chapters are short and each one illustrates a point, and I especially appreciate her perspective from a woman who doesn’t talk about beaten women-in-business related cliches, but rather describes her experience straight and to the point. Loved it.
I’m always, always on a lookout for great books, so feel free to send suggestions in the comments.
… I wanna become Richard Branson. For the ability to speak with British accent, working on awesomest projects, having an actual life, family and fun outside of work, and owning islands in the Caribbean. And to top that off, a few billions of net worth.
The news of Virgin Galactic successful rocket-powered flight from a couple of days ago are just tremendous!! You gotta watch the video and agree that this is insanely awesome, and huge for all of us. And the fact that Richard Branson and his teams made this happen absolutely deserves admiration and applause.
I long wanted to read his books and downloaded whatever was available for Kindle, and loving it so far. If someone has a copy of “Losing my virginity” – please be so kind and lend it to me (as it’s not Kindle-ized yet for some silly reason). I’m very curious to learn about this great man’s first sexual encounter ;)
It’s been very busy in the office lately, with a variety of projects going on with my accounts, and I really missed posting to my blog. Aside from work, there has been also a ton on things happening in my personal life, which are all awesome. I created a separate personal blog for that which I’m not ready to share yet, but might do at some point in the future. And then also I traveled for fun and business.
So as busy as the past few weeks have been, I feel lucky and fulfilled to be working on a lot of different things, and have so many things happening in life too. Here I wanted to talk about work a bit more.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve been working on 2 large projects, a whole handful of smaller ones, and also new business/strategy. Each of those is so distinctly different, and aside from occasional hassles and mini-annoyances, I enjoy the work. My team completed or just about to complete:
a large site redesign and migration of this site to the new larger “umbrella” domain (aside from development and coding, also everything that follows site migration – preserving SEO, doing correct URL rewrites and redirection, thinking about compatibility on mobile devices, tracking, etc.)
a large new site launch. The site is brand new and optimized for mobile phone screens. One funny thing on this one was having the only developer assigned to it quit 2 weeks before it had to be done, with nothing done, of course
a big bunch of other site updates and enhancements, that even though are small, still require good deal of attention and coordination
IA, wireframes, content audit and specifications for a large multi-language website (prior to redesign)
brainstorming and idea-generating sessions for a new client for a big product launch
day-to-day stuff like answering questions related to any of the above and old projects, helping new hires learn process, managing vendors, etc.
As you can see, this range of work really stretches your potential and makes it very interesting (although creates time challenges). And I love it. Thinking of this made me remember a Show&Tell talk I gave last year about what a typical day in a life of a Technical Director looks like (here’s the link to the deck file). Oh, and I don’t like to brag, but as of January 1st of this year I was promoted to a Sr. Technical Director (I think titles are only somewhat relevant because I kick ass no matter what the job is called :) but still feels awesome, nevertheless!
Recently we went on a 5-day family trip to Puerto Rico, and I wanted to write a quick guide, hopefully useful to anyone who’s considering visiting this beautiful place.
Why Puerto Rico
We initially had a few Caribbean destinations in mind, but chose Puerto Rico because it’s close, affordable, and flying there is less hassle since the flight is a domestic flight with no international passport/customs clearance requirement. A couple of my friends went before, and said they would visit again, which is a good sign it’s worth going and checking out.
It’s a popular destination so getting a non-stop flight for a reasonable price (about 2 weeks in advance), was easy. Plus, there were enough places and things we wanted to see, so it would be a mix of relaxing time on the beach and activities (bioluminiscent bay, snorkeling, rainforest…).
We knew we wanted to definitely visit Vieques island to the east of the main Puerto Rico island, and also spend some time in San Juan area.
We flew JetBlue (our preferred airline to travel with), from JFK to San Juan, non stop. Then we had to get to Vieques, where we were spending first 2 nights.
There are 2 options of getting to Vieques from San Juan:
1) Flying there with one of the regional small airlines. We chose to fly because we were already at the airport and a 25-minute flight definitely seemed better than 3+ hours of alternative. One-way ticket with Cape Air was about $125 per person, but totally, totally worth it!
2) Taking a cab to the town of Fajardo, then taking a ferry to Vieques. Cab ride would be between $75 – $100, and take about 1 hour with no traffic. Then ferry costs $2 per person, and takes 1.5 hours, but note that they run on a schedule, so you might have to wait additional time for the next ferry.
I loved flying a litte Cessna plane to Vieques, the views were amazing, the experience was one-of-a-kind, and I’m not afraid of heights or small spaces, so for me it was a thrill :) Sean was a little concerned, but since it was only 20 minutes he fared well, and also agreed it was a great choice to fly.
Gorgeous birds-eye view of San Juan
We just flew this little plane!
On the way back we took the ferry, and the line was long, it was packed and slow, and the trip was not pleasant at all – because of the slowness of the boat, you could really feel it rocking side to side. So people prone to motion sickness would not enjoy it one bit. One cool thing thou – on the boat we saw a guy traveling with a pet albino hedgehog:
Vieques is famous for its beaches, quiet charm and the unique bioluminiscent bay (also known as Mosquito bay), where water glows neon-blue in the dark.
I would suggest to spend majority of your time in Vieques, it’s beautiful and the beaches are much better than in San Juan.
A rental car is a must-have, because you’ll want to drive to the beaches, and most rentals are jeeps that are great for getting there. We rented from Island car rental, which is located at the W hotel, they have nice new vehicles and they will pick you up from airport/ferry. We went at a busy time (Easter weekend/spring break), and only managed to get a car for 1 day, but it was so worth it! Our rental was $85/day.
We stayed at Hacienda Tamarindo, a small boutique hotel just outside of the main town of Esperanza. It was really lovely, quiet, with beautiful grounds and views. We really enjoyed our room (2 suite room with hammocks and pool right outside), the library, honor bar, beach umbrella and chair rentals, and of course their great breakfast. Room rates are about $200 and up, and include breakfast.
My cousin Max at Hacienda Tamarindo
We checked out 2 beaches: La Chiva (Blue beach) and La Plata, where we met our snorkeling guide. Both were really nice, bring your umbrellas, chairs, food, etc.
For activities we went snorkeling with the hotel-recommended Little Boat Sailing company. The tour is a ride on a tiny little catamaran with sails, where a maximum of 6 people and the guide, Jorge, go into the ocean, secluded beach, mangroves nearby and to the coral reef off-shore. We had less-than-ideal weather on our tour day, with lots of clouds, then wind and rain at the end, but we still managed to have a great time. Jorge was an excellent guide, the boat ride was a lot of thrill and fun, and snorkeling was awesome, especially because we saw a real big nurse shark sitting at the ocean bottom under a rock! Once we got to the beach, under the pouring rain and wind, we had to run back to the car and warm and dry ourselves up… but looking back it was an amazing experience, highly recommended.
This was the last time anyone saw my Aruba hat, because next minute a gust of wind blew it away. I told Sean now we have to go back to Aruba, so I can get a new one :)
We also planned to go kayaking at night at the bio bay, but due to weather and some of us feeling tired, we didn’t go. Well, it’s a reason to go back someday. I booked with Vieques Island Adventures, who offers clear kayaks and seem very professional, so I’d suggest booking with them.
As far as restaurants, we ate at Trade Winds on the main street in Esperanza, which had good food (albeit very slow service, but I guess it’s part of the “island vibe”). My friend also recommended Next Course (requires driving there), but we didn’t try it. I’d also warn people to stay away from a place called Tin Box, because Sean got stomach flu afterwards (we suspect from there), food was not good at all (raw meat in bbq chicken!) and service was pretty bad.
While eating at Trade Winds we witnessed a reenactment of Jesus’ assassination (it was on a Good Friday)
We spent the last 2 days in San Juan area, and it was more than enough time.
We stayed at Marriott Courtyard Isla Verde, they have the nicest beach, in my opinion, and the hotel is lively (compared to overpriced cold Ritz Carlton next door). Food was decent too, and the staff was very friendly. We had a bit of an emergency requiring a doctor, and the hotel called one up (came right up to our room), and even offered an option to charge it to the room. It was such a great relief, and bell guys were very nice too.
Sunset on the beach at Marriott hotel
Places to see: definitely visit Old San Juan one afternoon, and check out the old Spanish fort El Morro, with cool history, architecture and breathtaking views. I’d suggest going after 4pm, to avoid walking there in the hot sun during the day (it’s open until 6pm). Old San Juan is full of pretty streets, shops and restaurants. Our hotel recommended one called Vaca Brava (we didn’t end up trying it though), friends recommended Raices, both of which offer local cuisine. We had a quick bite at a sandwich shop called El Meson, which was fast, fresh and affordable.
Condado also seems to be a cool area for going out and restaurants. My friend lives there, and we had dinner at a place called Casa Lola one night, which was excellent.
So to sum it up, we had a great time, and would go back again. Hope the tips help fellow travelers, and please share yours – will be happy to add them here.
Today I had an honor of speaking at the career panel for CS students at Brooklyn College CUNY.
My friend Suzanne invited me to participate a few weeks ago, and I immediately thought it was a great opportunity, especially since the topic of careers in tech is near and dear to my heart, and I loved being in college and wanted to see what students these days are about.
There were quite a few topics discussed today, mostly focussed on students graduating and entering the job market. A few questions were really interesting and related to today’s hot topics, so I wanted to highlight and recap them here.
Q: What is your understanding of the future or trends in the technology field? What direction is the industry heading in and where are opportunities opening up?
It would actually be funny if someone can predict the future – or we would all be rich. Coincidentally, I just re-watched an old Soviet movie really popular with kids during my childhood, it’s called “Guest from the future”. The movie was made in the early 80s, and there’s a time machine that allows people to travel in time, and in the future circa 2080’s people “flip” in flying little cabins instead of using cars, and have devices that can read anyone’s mind. But if these things will actually happen in the future, and when – nobody knows for sure.
The best thing we can do is to get solid fundamental education, stay curious, and know how to adapt quickly. Also find out who the experts are in your area of interest (be it mobile, connecting tech with physical devices, artificial intelligence, etc.) and talk to them. A great discussion with smart people is priceless, and sometimes you can even find yourself thinking about something that addresses needs of people, and seeing it used widely in the near future.
Q: How is the technology industry currently for women and/or minorities? Do you have any particular advice for women and/or minorities interested in technology?
Technology industry is a great place to be for women and minorities! I did not personally face any prejudice or discrimination either in school or my career, and actually feel that the opposite is true – tech is a very welcoming place to be right now, with lots of jobs and openings and developer bootcamp programs encouraging women to apply. Technology field is very fair and based on merit and actual work you do – so being great is the key, regardless of your background and who you are.
My advice for anyone (men or women) would be the same – do your best, learn as much as you can, excel at what you do, be professional and a good communicator, and the rest will fall into place.
Q: Please talk about graduate school. How necessary or important is it for the field?
My answer would be based on my own experience (so might not apply to everyone), and I really didn’t want to spend time in grad school, but rather get as much hands-on, real-world experience as I could. So no grad school for me. Other panelists suggested to consider grad school if you know already you want to focus on a certain area of your field, or if your employer is subsidizing your education in some way. Agreed on both counts.
Q: What skills, training, classes or experience are important for someone interested in the technology career field?
Some panelists provided very focused answers, targeted to web development with technologies at hand (HTML/CSS). I disagree. Technologies du jour may come and go, but your basic fundamental understanding of how things work, and how and why new technologies were created will serve you long term.
For example, Ruby is a very popular language to know today. There are developer schools specializing in teaching Ruby and making you into a web developer in as little as few months. It is great. But just to know Ruby, its syntax and how to create web pages, is only scratching the surface. If you really understand why Ruby was created in the first place, what MVC is and how it was implemented with Rails, what are the limitations of Ruby that are better done in other languages, you’ll go way further than majority of other self-proclaimed developers.
If you know your fundamental stack and principles, you can program anything from a spiffy web app, to a mobile app, to a tiny-sized app that you put into a watch or send to the moon… So don’t limit yourself to one technology, and stay curious and keep learning every day. Skillshare is a great place to learn new stuff, including non-tech subjects like business, project management, art, etc.
Big thanks to Suzanne, Brooklyn College CS society who organized the event, and my fellow panelists, who each offered a unique perspective and shared their experience and advice. It was a great honor!