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Ideas Post

James Altucher


Random shortcuts to get better at something

    1. Chess -if you want to last more moves against a grandmaster

    This assumes you know the rules and you are playing white.

    Most books recommend you play "1.e4" (moving the pawn in front of the king two space) if you are a beginner.

    But if you want to last as many moves as possible against a stronger player (you won't win if they are much better but they can get frustrated if you give them no opportunities to win) , do this.

    The London System:

    Your first moves (almost no matter what black does), should be:

    1. d4 ... 2. Bf4....3.e3 ... 4. c3.... 5.h3.... 6.Nf3.... 7.Be2.... 8. O-O ... 9. c3... 10. Nbd2.... 11. Re1....



    - Your dark squared bishop is not stuck behind the dark pawns

    - you do h3 to retreat your bishop to h2 if they ever do Nh5.

    - if they do Bd6 (offering a trade of bishops) then take the bishop . Now you got rid of your bad bishop.

    - c3-d4-e3 makes a solid triangle that is hard to break with ...c5 or ...e5 (let them trade if they do one of those two moves)

    - after Re1, if you can do it without losing a pawn, do 12. e4. Your entire goal this opening is to do e4.

    - your king is super safe.

    Watch a video about the London system to get more ideas.

    And, of course, these moves above are guidelines depending on what they do but often they will let you do these exact moves.

    This is considered passive opening but every great player occasionally plays it so it can't be that bad. It's considered super solid.

    the problem with 1.e4 is that things can go crazy really fast if you don't know what you are doing.

    2. Comedy

    It's considered VERY bad form to steal someone else's jokes and I agree with this.

    BUT let me give a counter-example.

    If you are learning to sing, you don't first write a brand new song and then practice singing it.

    You find a song you like and learn how to sing it. That's how you learn to sing (or play an instrument)

    Same with comedy. Find a comedian you like and some of your favorite jokes that they do.

    Now practice by yourself and videotape yourself and try to do the joke EXACTLY like your favorite comedian does it.

    What will you learn:

    - joke timing

    - body movement

    - stage movement

    - pauses

    - voice inflections

    Do this AGAIN and AGAIN until you get one joke right. Then find another joke and do it again. And do that again. Do that 100 times.

    Only now write your own jokes.

    Try with this one:

    Or this one:

    3. Public speaking

    DO THE ABOVE (i.e. comedy)

    Now you are ready for public speaking where you can also throw in some jokes (even largely steal the jokes from your favorite comedians since this is no longer a comedy setting).

    4. Negotiation

    Remember these words:

    "Can you do a little better?"

    They always can.

    5. The safest investing strategy in a bear market

    I'm curious if @randomroger ) agrees:

    Do this strategy if the market is down more than 20% from its highs. Pick these stocks and hold for at least five years.

    Closed end fund arbitrage

    Go to CEFConnect.

    Search for closed-end funds that invest in fixed income (bonds as opposed to stocks) and look for the ones that:

    a. invest only in investment-grade debt

    b. don't use a lot of leverage

    c. have a high dividend (greater than 6%)

    d. trade at a larger than significant discount to their net asset value ( I won't explain all of these terms now but at a later date I'll do a more extensive post on this). e.g. their discount to NAV is 22% but their 5 yr average discount to NAV might be 3%

    e. go to J3SG.com and look at their last quarter's institutional investors and make sure they have more funds starting new positions than funds closing positions.

    f. get into at least 10-15 positions and diversify by making sure the underlying holdings of each CEF don't overlap.

    All of these points have a lot more details and would take about 20 pages to explain but this is the strategy.

    What can you expect?

    About 20%+ per year returns including the dividend. This strategy won't be a rocket ship but it's very very hard to lose money.

    This is a BORING strategy. In my newsletter business I had this as a product but had no subscribers even though I viewed it as the safest strategy.

    6. When you write an article:

    A) write the first draft fast

    B) take out the first paragraph and last paragraph. How come? Because those are the most awkward and artificial to write and you'll find it will read better if you take those out.

    C) start a story as quickly as possible.

    D) start in the middle. (e.g. don't start, "I was born in Kansas in 1970". Start , "And then he held me at gunpoint and there was blood coming out of his mouth.")

    E) don't publish unless you are afraid to publish (I explain this in other articles)

    7. Speed reading

    I don't really speed read. But I have to read about 100 books a year or more for my podcast.

    Sometimes if I have to do five podcasts in a week it's hard to read every page of every book.

    Read the introduction, the first chapter , and the concluding chapter.

    Read the first few paragraphs and last few paragraphs in each chapter.

    Find a great story/point about 2/3 of the way through

    Write down what you learned.

    IDEA: most people only remember 2-3% of a non-fiction book.

    If you do the above and write down what you learned you will get at least 5-10% from a book plus you can quote great stories that are in the beginning , middle, and end of the book. Enough to sustain a conversation for an hour at least.

    BONUS IDEA: read the acknowledgments. I once asked Adam Grant about something in his acknowledge meets and he said, "Damn, how do you remember everything in the book?" I had read the acknowledgements 5 minutes before the podcast.

    NOTE: I do not recommend doing this for a real podcast interview. Read the whole book if you can.

    But often I read the book 2-4 weeks before a podcast and then I do the above to review. And a few times a year, I admit, I resort to this technique.

    8. Getting celebrities on your podcast

    Get a list, each month, of books that are being published by every publisher and who the PR people are for each author.

    Be the first to reach out to the PR people.

    Use the spoke and wheel approach - say, "I will have XY on my podcast, then YouTube clips, instagram reels, and an article on LinkedIn reviewing the podcast, author, and book.

    9. getting the job you want.

    Apply for a lower job in the same place.

    Want to work in the White House? Apply to be a janitor first.

    Want to work at a TV studio? Apply to work in the IT department

    Want to get into Harvard? Pay to take courses in their adult learning program (which is a scam but will give you Harvard credits)

    10. Want to make a TV series?

    Shoot half hour episodes of whatever you want.

    Upload them to Amazon Prime as a TV series.

    Example: Check out "Choose Yourself" on Amazon. It shows up like any other tv show even though the producer, Nick Nanton (who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars shooting it so it's not quite the same) simply uploaded it to Amazon.


    11. Want to make a top 10 box office movie?

    This is a bonus one and it only works in a pandemic.

    I used the above "Choose Yourself" series and put together the first two episodes and called it a movie. then got into one Southern-based theater chain. This was in June or July of 2020 so nobody was going to movies. It did about $11,000, putting it around 8th in the top 10 movies IN THE UNITED STATES for that weekend.

    12. How to run for President

    Go to FEC.gov.

    Fill out the paperwork.

    Now you are running for President.

    From Ballotpedia:


    13. If you want more details on any of these?

    Write in the comments and I'll make a more detailed version on any of these topics.

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