James is an entrepreneur, angel investor, writer and aspiring stand-up comedian. He has achieved the rank of chess master and is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book “Choose Yourself.” He has started 20 companies, 17 of which have failed. We had the pleasure of interviewing James for The TR Talk Podcast. Here is what I learned:
1) Don’t associate self-worth with net-worth
James kicked off the interview by telling us a story from years back when he sold his company for $15M.
“I took helicopters to Atlantic City and would gamble for 48 hours straight while drunk. And then, I lost it all. There was a time I was losing a million dollars a week… In just a few months, my bank account went from $15 million to $143. Also I was in the middle of a divorce. I had to sell my apartment. I had nowhere to live, no job, no friends to turn to. I had nothing. I became horribly depressed. Most days, I couldn’t pull myself off the floor.”
2) Follow the 4 Principles at all times
James talks frequently about his 4 Principles: physical, emotional, creative, spiritual. When he tends to these major areas in his life consistently, he succeeds. When he ignores one or more areas, things seem to fall apart.
3) Emotions have 100% to do with business
Be around good people that you love and that love you back.
This doesn’t just mean your friends and family, he applies it to his businesses. If he doesn’t like the person, whether it’s an employee, customer or investor, he lets them go.
“In order to sell, you have to be able to deal with people.”
4) Become An Idea Machine
Write down 10 bad ideas a day. James says that if you practice this for 6 months, it becomes a superpower.
I’ve been doing this for about a month now and it has positively impacted my creativity. I have a “daily question” and I’ll notice throughout the day that random ideas pop into my head.
Today’s question? You’re reading it right now.
5) What is success?
Success doesn’t come from having a good product & selling it and selling your company… Success comes from knowing what it takes to become a peak performer, to learn a hard skill and achieve peak performance at it
What micro-skills can you get better at to help with your job and your passion?
6) +, -, =
This is James’ take on mentorship, which I like a lot.
The “+” is having a role model or mentor to look up to. This could be someone you meet with or even a virtual mentor. Ideally, they have accomplished some of the things you are aspiring towards and can help guide you there.
The “=” is having a community of people all working to improve a similar skill. A few ideas of this are a group class at your gym or a LinkedIn Sales Group.
The “-“ is a challenge to yourself to reflect on your experiences and pass them on to people that are younger and less experienced than you are. Pay it forward.
7) Get 1% better every day
Becoming a billionaire with a 6-pack and a perfect marriage is a daunting task to accomplish in one day.
But getting 1% better isn’t.
1% better at the skill that will make you wealthy, or 1% healthier or 1% closer to your significant other.
So often our long-term goals are so mighty that it causes us to take no action at all.
Take action and improve step by step.
Read the book, put down the French fries and do something unexpected for someone you care about.
8) Be vulnerable
The reason that I love James’ writing so much is the level of vulnerability he expresses.
He talks about making and losing millions of dollars, becoming distant from his family and his suicidal thoughts. As he says in his Medium bio, “For some reason, I’ve turned myself inside out and all my guts have spilled onto my blog.”
This is something I’m especially working on with my writing and the podcast.
1% a day.
He mentions in the podcast, that when you Google “I want to die”, he is the #2 organic result, below the Suicide Prevention Hotline. He’s not lying.
9) How to (not) spend money
James is a minimalist and, at one point, only owned 15 possessions.
Every dollar not spent on self can be spent on an amazing experience or helping people.
What can you cut out your budget this month?
10) Practice gratitude every day
Virtually every podcast guest that we’ve had has said this is crucial. It really does change your perspective when you show gratitude instead of complaining.
The gratitude you show equals the grace you exude — Annie Matthews
11) There are no rules
James dances to the beat of his own drum and we love him for that. I’d suggest trying some of what he suggests but, at the end of the day, you have to Choose Yourself.
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist — Pablo Picasso
How did I break the rules today? Well, this post was supposed to stop at number 10, but here we are…
Listen to our interview with James below and let me know anything else you’ve learned from him over the years.