The Rich Roll Podcast – James Altucher on The Art of Thinking Differently, Adventures in Minamalism, and Crypto-Currency

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  • Rich has learned that if things are supposed to happen, they happen relatively seamlessly – “If it’s a situation in which you feel you have to force things to move forward, it’s probably not the best repository of your energy anyway”
  • Rich approaches his conversations with no judgement, just curiosity
  • Both James’ and Rich’s podcasts are about improving your performance in different areas of life – How do you become the best in the world at something?
  • How does James prepare for his interviews?
    • “If I’m an improved person by the end of the podcast, so are the listeners”
    • He tries to read anything his guests have written and listen to other podcasts they’ve been on
    • James tries to get to the real story of the guest, which is often different from the story they write/tell
      • “There’s a good story, and there’s a real story”
  • How does he choose his guests?
    • He tries to choose people who have earned the right to tell their own story
    • He wants “doers” with a story
What has the podcasting journey meant for James?
  • He does 3 episodes a week, and loves doing it
  • “It’s almost like a scam that I get to do this. I get to call up anyone in the world to interview them.”
  • The hundred of hours researching and talking to peak performers is going to have an impact on your life, no matter which way you look at it
    • It’s had an effect on James’ thoughts on business, spirituality, nutrition, relationships, etc.
    • You pick up a lot of things subconsciously
  • But most importantly…
    • The quality of the people you surround yourself with makes or breaks you
“In general, I don’t think most 18 year olds should go to college”
  • James’ daughter however, did go
  • He offered to give her the tuition cash, as long as she watched a movie a day with him, and then they discussed it
  • James wrote a book – 40 Alternatives to College
  • James was one of the first people on CNBC to talk about Bitcoin, when he first published Choose Yourself, and he accepted Bitcoin payments for the book
    • “Don’t wait for the gatekeepers to choose you. Don’t wait for someone to allow you to do something magical.”
  • What is Bitcoin?
    • If you look at every single industry, say medicine, and you got sick, you would have (at one point) a “God-based” way of understanding your illness (theism)
    • We evolved into more of a humanism society, and looked to ourselves (or doctors) for the answers
    • Now, data/machines are better at diagnosing us (dataism)
    • Every fortune 500 company in America is being attacked constantly by various people
      • The electric grid of almost every Eastern European country is being attacked every day, because they were built on technology made before cyber security became important
    • Look at money – it’s only as good as you can trust it to store your wealth and serve as a medium for transactions
      • It says “In God we trust” – theism
      • It has George Washington on it – humanism
      • Now, we’re going to a dollar that’s more data based (Bitcoin)
        • This has a variety of positive effects – makes forgery more difficult, it also solves the problem of double spending, eliminates the middle man, get’s rid of differences in currency, adds animosity, and minimizes fees
      • “Every new generation of currency solves the problems of the previous generation”
        • Barter to gold to paper currency (paper solved the problem of how heavy gold was)
  • James thinks the speculation hype is too big
    • There is more demand than supply, the amount of Bitcoin is fixed
    • There are only around 16 million Bitcoins in circulation, and a large amount of those are already owned
  • “There are about 900 cryptocurrencies out there, and probably 890 of them are scams and will go to 0”
    • There are $200 billion worth of cryptocurrencies in total, which was more than the Internet was worth in 1999, so clearly this is not a fad
    • There’s $200 trillion worth of paper currencies
    • “Eventually the price will move up on the $200 billion to match the demand of $200 trilllion”
    • We’re in inning 1 of a very long term investment process
  • James advises playing the long game, and only investing what you can afford to lose
    • Bitcoin is probably going to be one of quite a few of many winning coins
    • Different cryptocurrencies solve different problems
    • There are certain currencies that are even more anonymous than Bitcoin – with Bitcoin you can see the size and time of the transaction, but not who is sending who what
  • Where can people learn more about how cryptocurrencies work?
James’ Experiment with Minimalism
  • James had a friend either throw out, give away, or sell all his possessions while he was away on a trip to California
    • This included photo albums, his comic book collection, art work, and his diploma
  • He had gone on his trip with a carry on bag, and when he came back, all he owned was just what was in the carry on (laptop, phone, kindle, two outfits, a toothbrush and toothpaste, kindle)
  • Why did he do this?
    • “Throughout life, we buy more and more things. We never throw things away.”
    • He decided to get rid of everything to make his life easier
    • James has never had a credit card, he always used debit – this made it hard to rent a place on his own. He doesn’t really technically have a “job” either. To make it easier, he decided to just Airbnb from place to place in NYC.
    • He had a rule, if he bought something new, he had to get rid of something he owned
    • Check out the New York Times article about James and this experience
    • “You can’t write until you do” – Now he was able to write about minimalism/what was happening to him. He was telling his story, and documenting it.
      • “Process is art”
    • Now 49, James has now rented and furnished his first apartment
  • What did James learn from this experience?
    • “I don’t really need anything”
    • It wasn’t all that freeing, there were things he missed, and was sad he no longer had. After all, we’re all human, but this is something James became comfortable with.
      • It made him appreciate the things he missed
    • “Happiness has nothing to do with well-being”
    • Now, he tends to spend money on experience and convenience, rather than items
    • Rich – “We’re in the grips of a mass illusion that the answer to our problems can be found in that next purchase”
  • Rich recommends the Minimalism documentary
Stand-Up Comedy
  • James has been doing stand-up 3-6 nights a week
  • What motivated him to do this?
    • He’s always love stand up comedy, but was always to nervous to actually do it himself. After doing a podcast above a comedy club, the owner noticed how funny James was, and asked him to go on stage for 5 minutes a week later, and things took off from there.
  • Stand-up comedy has improved James public speaking skills 10-fold
  • Humor is not the most important skill in stand up, there are 20-30 separate micro skills that take precedence (like likeability)
    • With public speaking, the crowd most likely already knows or likes you – not the case with stand up at a random comedy club
  • The most important thing is repetition
    • To hack the 10,000 hour rule, surround yourself with great comedians you can go to with question or for advice – this could be applied to any area in life
    • The greater the repetition, the better your questions become
  • James once did stand up on subway cars to tighten up his delivery
  • What’s next for James in comedy?
    • He shot his own stand up special in a comedy club he had invested in (Stand Up NY)
    • He plans to do some live podcasts in the comedy club