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Ideas Post

James Altucher


10 Components of My Upcoming TED Talk

I have to deliver a TED talk this weekend at TEDxBocaRotan (all are welcome to come). I find the "10 ideas" concept a great way to outline a talk.


    55 Million people were laid off in the pandemic. Out of 100 million jobs. Everybody suddenly was at home asking, "What do I want to do with my life?" We are always told, "Don't do what you love. Do what makes money." But it's important to do what you love and monetize it. But, by and large, people are afraid to do this, others tell them they "can't" and they don't know how.


    In 1936 there was a young man who loved drawing and telling stories. He thought he could make simple cartoons that could be the little commercials before movies. His first company went bankrupt. His second company, despite critical success of his first two moves, was going bankrupt. HE COULD NOT MAKE A PROFIT. He was about to go bankrupt again in the middle of the Great Depression. Instead, he did a little trick I call idea sex. He put one of his brands, a small mouse, on a wristwatch - which were the latest fad in society. The next year, he sold 1,000,000 watches and became the biggest watchseller in the world.

    This is how Walt Disney Co made its very first profit and now it's the largest media company in the world.

    3. MY STORY

    I've been broke many times. Often I can't get a job or find some way to make money unless I change interests and pursue what I love. But first I have to get good at it and then learn to monetize it. In 2002 people told me I couldn't be a hedge fund manager. In 1995 people told me I coulldn't do a TV show. In the 2000s people told me I couldn't write. Or invest. Or podcast. or be a comedian. But with each one I had to figure out how to do it and how to monetize it. Or I would die broke. It was hard because everyone was telling me /advising me to do other things. But if you love something and are competing with someone who doesn't love it, you will win. The energy required to sit down and do something you hate is better used in actually doing the thing. Otherwise you have to use your energy to convince yourself to do it.

    4. 10,000 Hours vs 100 experiments

    The 10,000 hour rule is for how to be the BEST in the world at something. But look at it differently. If you are in the top 1% then that might mean you are in the top 1,000,000 (if 100,000,000 are in the domain you love). e.g. Mathew .. loved fantasy sports. He wasn't an athlete but he came an expert on fantasy football. he experimented with blogs, writing for other sites, writing for his own sites, makign a site where fantasy football leagues could run. he wasn't in the top 10 but he was in the top 1%. Now quit his job writing for movies in Hollywood. now he's the first ESPN anchor for Fantasy sports.

    5. The 100 Experiment Rule

    An experiment has low downside, is very cheap, and has massive upside.

    Thomas Edison experimented with 10,000 filaments for lighting a lightbulb. A reporter asked him, "How did it feel to FAIL 10,000 times." Edison said, "My good sir, I did not fail 10,000 times, I learned 10,000 ways to not make a lightbulb."

    When I was trying to learn to be a good comedian I needed more practice and it's hard to get stagetime. I went down to the subway to experiment on facing a hostile audience. There is no audience more hostile.

    I did standup on the subway and switched every stop to a different car. I learned how to deal with a hostile audience and deal with my fears. I got a few laughs but only a few. I then tried to have on a "guest" (AJ Jacobs) and a musical guest (a busker drumming on garbage cans) and I shot it as a mini late night show on a subway.

    Did it work? I learned a lot. I had a TV show to pitch, and most importantly, it gave me a story to tell at this TED talk. And it cost $0. Great experiment!

    6. The Idea Sex strategy

    In the 90s I made websites for a living. In the 00s I ran a hedge fund. I also appeared on a lot of news shows about finance adn realized they were BS. One producer even told me, "We're just trying to fill up the time between ads".

    Idea Sex: Make a great finance website with NO NEWS. I made Stockpickr which allowed people to post their portfolios and and ask and answer questions. We quickly grew to a million users a month, made money on the ads and sold the company.

    And don't forget Walt Disney: Mickey Mouse + the latest fad (watches) == the biggest media company in the world. THAT is skipping the line.


    8. CALLBACK: In every case, someone said, "You can't do that". But remember that the person who says that is the one who "can't." Their advice, even if well intentioned never applies to you.

    9. CALL BACK: 55 Million people


    In July, 2002 I was not only dead broke, but I was losing my home, and I was suicidally depressed. i couldn't understand how people could use their facial muscles to smile. It seemed like science fiction to me.

    I wandered into a restaurant supply store and for some reason, bought a supply of 100 waiter's pads for $10.

    I started writing down 10 ideas every day. People often let their idea muscles atrophy. It's a muscle like any other. Within 2 weeks I hadn't come up with any good ideas, but I was excited for the first time in a year. I imagined opportunities in my future instead of just regrets in my past.

    Within 2-3 months I was actually starting to implement ideas. I was writing articles based on my idea lists and getting paid for it. I was investing in strategies based on my idea lists and it was working. I started writing ideas for OTHER people and I got invited to speak about these ideas at Google, Amazon, LinkedIN, and others.

    Writing 10 ideas a day gave me experiments to try. Spokes to apply. And opportunities to pursue. It saved my life. It let me skip the line.

    Most importantly, I realized: never do more of the things you hate at the expense of the things you love. And that is the true way to skip the line in life.

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