129: TZ Interview – James Altucher / Almost Everything You Ever Believed is a Total Scam

Entrepreneur, investor and writer, James Altucher, is back for more and this time to talk about why you shouldn’t go to college, own a house, buy stocks or follow the news. He also talks about his new book, How to Be the Luckiest Person Alive, and how it’s easier now than ever to be the master of your own destiny as long as you’re willing to own it.

  1. joenorton says:

    Great podcast guys. James is an interesting guy, I will definitely be reading his blog.

  2. masseffect says:

    College: In the end, you only take away from college what you teach yourself. The professor can lecture all day, but you only hear what you want to hear, you only read what your want to read, and you only retain what you want to retain. Solution: Go to the bookstore at your college of choice, and write down the names of the books that might improve your life. You can save lots of dough, even on the purchase of just the books, by shopping at the online discount college bookstore sites, thus saving even more. Then go home and burn the midnight oil. If what you want from college are the skills that might help you succeed in business or creative endeavors, then teach them to yourself. Professors are just overpaid pot smokers. Gates and Zuckerberg both dropped out of college because they were self motivated.

  3. Usually I’m a couple of episodes behind but I just made a long drive across 3 states and back by myself and had the opportunity to catch up on the podcast. I’d rather be a few weeks behind instead of skipping episodes but that means any comments I would have are usually irrelevant in that they are already a couple of months old. For once I listened to a recent episode.

    Even though James espouses happiness on his blog he only seemed to be concerned with the finances of owning a home. I know I personally get a lot of joy and sense of accomplishment from making improvements to my house and enjoy making a better living environment for myself. If I were renting I would have never been able to do the construction projects (flooring, carpeting, walls, closets, doors, etc) and improved other parts of the house that make our lives easier and more enjoyable.

    I think as long as you can afford it, the reason owning a home is the “American Dream” is because it is pretty awesome to have a place to call your own where you get to call the shots.

    On the other hand, doing all that work myself has saved me a ton of money but has probably delayed launching my startup (fortask.com) quite a bit. The generic work around the house will be the first things I will outsource when I can justify it to the wife with solid revenue.

    Another great episode. I’m Looking forward to seeing you both at MicroConf.

  4. Constant says:

    @jaltucher: On March 3, 2011, you wrote a blog posting titled,”33 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer.”

    Why did you pick or settle on 33? Are you a Mason?


  5. William says:

    I for one got a great deal out of going to college. Sure, self learning is extremely important–but having like minded people around was extremely helpful. I enjoyed classroom debates and study groups and learned a lot by testing my ideas out against other people. In high school, I took a lot of AP courses (my plan was to save money because I wasn’t sure if my parents could afford to send me to college–if you cost out $/credit for AP exams compared to the cost of a class, then it’s worthwhile). I took my first graduate courses in physics and mathematics at 18 and found the professors for those courses to provide a lot of “value added”. Sure, you only truly learn something when you fight your way though the problem sets, but it is also useful to have a spirit guide (or professor) around to help point you towards what’s interesting and help you out when you hit rough patches. Then, there’s the atmosphere–I was very fortunate to be able to participate in research while at the university and to learn about what I liked and more importantly, what I didn’t like. It also informed what courses I chose to take. Not to mention that there are a lot of cool “toys” at large universities that many people will not have access to at home. Finally, there are number of clubs to join–solar car teams, society of physics students, etc.

    Now, for fields where there is not so much direct value added from the faculty, college degrees also serve as a signalling mechanism. While there are a number of jobs which do not require college level skills, many will require a college degree. Also, for some fields, the network of people you are introduced to in college can be extremely important–for example, if you want to work for McKinsey, it would be very helpful to have a degree from certain institutions. I’d like to believe that on average technical fields act more as a meritocracy than others where it matters more how good you are–but even for us, I see the positions that some people have and can only figure that it’s related more to their social network than their actual abilities.

    Also, if you read Outliers, you’ll see that while Gates dropped out of college, he had a number of advantages that a number of other people didn’t (for example, rich parents and access to computers at an earlier age than most). Zuckerberg was able to test out his ideas at Harvard–do you think that had no effect on his success?

    Despite the price tag, I think that for many people college is still a useful investment–especially if they put the work in to truly take advantage of it.

  6. Matt says:

    I think the whole ‘college is a waste of money’ thing is largely non-applicable to engineering/computer science degrees.

    The real crisis is people that go $80-100k in debt getting a generic liberal arts or business degree and then end up unable to find work that justifies the skills they learned. The large majority of engineering students are able to find jobs with a good salary right out of school and often have paid internships/co-ops throughout school to help offset the costs.

    For someone who ends up working as an executive assistant for $30k/year, it is becoming increasingly hard to justify the expenses of a 4 year business degree.

    I am looking forward to listening to another episode with James, he is really interesting and makes me think about my own life and financial situation in a different way than I typically would.

  7. William says:

    @matt you make a good point–Even for lawyers, the salary distribution out of law school is bimodal and it’s hard to justify the expense of the program for some people who go to some schools to practice some types of law given their likely future earning potential…Another example is sadly journalism–a friend’s daughter just graduated–out of state–huge tuition, and now my friend and his wife are helping to support her at an underpaid internship…I guess it was the general college===worthless meme that I was railing against.

    Interesting show though…

  8. Janko M. says:

    On your debate on “Evil”. IMHO evilness doesn’t exist on it’s own. It’s just a form of stupidity. It’s about not seeing the whole picture.