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Ideas Post

James Altucher


10 Scams We Encounter Every Day

    1. Advertising

    I spoke to a guy who used to run a TV network. He said,”I would never in a million years buy a TV ad. They are useless.” I repeat: He RAN a TV network. His whole job was to sell ads to all the losers who would listen to his lies. All advertising is like that. We’ve evolved into an age where content creates branding.

    If you don’t stand out through valuable content, you’re useless.

    Advertising seems like a small scam. Does it equal the level of these other scams?

    And yet, we’re exposed to something like 10,000 impressions of ads per day.

    And the companies that pay for those ads are even being scammed because they don’t have people who understand the value of creating real content.

    Now we’re fooled into thinking that personal branding is important. When people talk to me about “personal branding” the first thing I think is, “ok, so you’re a liar.”

    Why do I need a personal brand? Why should that be any different than the honest me? Are people afraid to show their real selves (rhetorical question because the obvious answer is “yes”).

    2. Housing

    I’ve said it in a million articles so I’ll be concise here as to why it’s a scam: Banks borrow from the people with checking accounts. They pay 0.5% or whatever.

    That’s a loan you give the bank and you can call it back anytime you want by writing a check or withdrawing the money. They then take that money and lend it out at 6% to people who want to buy a house.

    The multi-trillion dollar banking industry makes almost all of its money that way. Multi-TRILLION.

    So they have to keep making you think that you don’t have “roots” (a Neanderthal call back to our Mother Earth mysticism) unless you own a white picket fence, a house that can’t be moved, a home for your children, etc.

    Trillions of dollars are at stake if you don’t believe in this scam. For all the other reasons, check out my articles.

    3. Education

    I know, I know, I’ve written about this a million times. But think about it: why is it that just about everything single thing you learned in history class has to be relearned when you are an adult just so you get the reality of what happened. And when I was growing up we somehow ran out of time to learn about the Vietnam War. Surprise.
    The reality is, society needs your parents to work.

    So what the hell are they going to do with you? Well, they really should just let you play in the mud all day. But municipalities justify exorbitant taxes by saying, “no,no, no, that’s illegal!

    They have to go to school and get tested and standardized and we will love them from nine to three so you don’t need to feel guilty.

    4. Happiness

    The entire modern concept of happiness was re-created with commercial images to fool you in various ways.

    So that people can advertise to you (“if you buy this, you’ll be happier than if you buy that”), so that companies can convince you to work (“if you make this amount of money and we treat you vaguely nicely then you will be happy”).

    So that self-help gurus can sell you everything from food to exercises to positive thinking to make you think you will be a little bit happier.

    I do think there is such a thing as “happiness” but it takes a very different form than the one usually shown at surprise birthday parties.

    5. Politics (almost too obvious to put this)

    6. News

    I once visited with a news producer while he was producing his show. On the news that night there were elections, earthquakes, wars, economics, smart pundits (e.g. me), etc.

    All things to scare the hell out of you.

    In the middle of the show the producer told me, “100% of our job is filling up the spaces in between advertisements.” So here I had it: a guy whose entire job is to create the primetime news for YOU was telling me it was a scam. That’s the news.

    Tell me a single thing you saw on the news today that was either not a lie or was in some way relevant to your life.

    7. The Middle man

    There are lots of people in the middle trying to separate you from happiness.

    They are greedy and want the happiness for themselves because they foolishly think there is a finite amount of it.

    Venture Capitalists separating investors from their money and giving it to young entrepreneurs.

    Agents (literary, movie, etc). Real estate agents. Gurus (the middle man between God/happiness and you). Lawyers (the middle men between an overly complex legal system and you when most documents are just printed off the printer in five seconds, your name filled in, and then they charge you $10,000). Doctors (the middle man between the FDA (which controls all prescriptions and is, itself, a horrible scam) and sick people who need the medicine).

    Damn, I should’ve saved this one for an entire post.

    8. Money

    All of the markets are a scam. Stocks, gold, oil, the debt of every country, our currencies.

    The scam is so large it could take centuries to unravel. People spend their lives trying to go on TV telling us how the world could be better if somebody please could just do this, that, and this other thing.

    Corporations pay you just enough so you can live but not enough so that you can escape their leash. Anything else that entices you out of your hard-earned money (gambling, the lottery, education to “better yourself”, savings accounts that don’t beat inflation, etc) are all cleverly planned scams to enrich others but not you. Having a low-paying job (and, with inflation, almost all jobs are low-paying), is no better than an addiction to heroin.

    Something you have to go back to every day to satisfy short-term needs but will ultimately kill you.

    9. Art

    Art has value, art has beauty, art is an expression of creativity. BUT, the business of art relies on the people who are clever enough to “brand” themselves, who gets the right representation, who can combine their creativity with enough business acumen to get noticed and ride the right trends.

    Two pieces of art can express equal creativity and insight but one could be worth $100,000,000 and the other could be worth $0. It’s always interesting to me that Beethoven is considered art, for instance, but if someone wrote and performed Beethoven’s 5th Symphony right now (and assuming Beethoven never wrote it) he would be laughed off the stage.

    Why? This is an unknown question to me. Although, personally, I’m a fan of “A Fifth of Beethoven” from the 70s classic movie “Saturday Night Fever”.

    10. Books

    I walk into a bookstore and there’s maybe 10,000 books. 9,995 of them are probably unreadable and intended that way.

    Most books break even for publishers and are losses for the authors. And are horribly written (it takes 10-20 years of practice to write a good book and most people have not put in the time. My first five books are awful, for instance).

    So why do people write books? For pedigree (“I wrote a book about that!”) To get speaking gigs (itself a scam industry. Companies spend $15,000 for an hour of someone’s time so fat, lazy executives eating a fancy steak dinner can be entertained at a corporate outing before they call up escort services to help them get to sleep, drunk, bloated, and spent), to get clients (“I wrote the book on this so you should hire me to give you advice” – and most of the advice industry is a scam. If you can’t figure something out for yourself and you are neck deep in it, then chances are someone else isn’t going to figure it out for you).

    People also write books for freedom. There’s the illusion that writers make their own hours, it’s fun, and then you make millions. Which very rarely happens.

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