James Altucher

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(I contemplated titling this post “James Altucher: Criminal” or “James Altucher: Entitled Prick”, but the former observation is banal and, in my eyes, not necessarily damning, and the latter is kind of petty)

Last weekend I scooped “Zuko” on the Berlusconi profile, and so he didn’t publish his post on how we oughtn’t feel shame for our misdeeds considering the more serious misdeeds of others. There were many people whom the lack of such a post did not affect, since many people do not read this blog. It also did not affect James Altucher, because clearly he already subscribes to that mantra to the fullest.

Now, a big reason for the genesis of this blog is an e-mail conversation “Zuko” and I had about James Altucher. So, if you don’t like reading it, you know who to blame. But, luckily, even if you don’t count that against him, Altucher’s still a criminal – and a huge asshole. At the risk of turning this fledgling blog into a place where we just diss those more famous and successful than us (I swear, my next post will be constructive!), I will quote what we said (below the fold).

It all started when “Zuko” sent this Altucher post on engaging in fraud.

“Zoltan”:

Okay, but what gets me is it seems like this guy thinks this anecdote is somehow quirky and lovable because his listed reasons for wanting 100 million aren’t hookers and blow, and also because he doesn’t end up making the 100 million.
If I were a pharmacist, and I said that to make some money I’d sell a drug that I had no idea what the fuck it did and then I pretended it was hot shit and I got someone to buy my company, no one would be going “aw golly gee, that’s so cute” – I’d be in fucking jail. This guy engaged in massive fraud and somehow thinks it’s a nice story. And then to hear bankers talk about fucking meritocracy and low taxes for high earners because they’ve “earned it” in some sense?
I realise that bankers have this thinking that this isn’t real money or at the very least it’s money owned by other asshole bankers who are just like them and so it’s okay to defraud them. But at some point, it’s somebody’s money, and there are real consequences to this bullshit, right?
In other words, “this is why we can’t have nice things”.

“Zuko”:

oh [“Zoltan”], it’s so cute when you’re having an epiphany

“Zoltan” again:

umm… I never claimed that bankers cared about the real world or about morals or something. But in this case I have the distinct sensation Altucher thinks of himself as a pretty decent guy. So it’s not that some bankers don’t care what they’re doing (which, granted, they may also not), it’s that they just don’t know what they’re doing. That’s not a very useful revelation, but it sure is infuriating.  Kinda explains all the hurt feelings editorials about how Obama is mean to bankers, though…

“Zuko”:

Regarding your first email, I didn’t disagree on any particular point. I wouldn’t be surprised if Altucher does think of himself as a pretty decent guy. Most people think they’re decent people and everyone else is not. People with massive egos (and every banker falls in this category) can engage in pretty weird mental gymnastics that warp their perceptions and really think “We’re decent; like wtf is wrong with everyone else?” What I do think is that probably Altucher’s ego has been taken down a few pegs over the past decade and he’s learnt humility as a result. At least some… Although, I get the feeling that put him in a similar situation today, and of course he’ll repeat his actions. Bankers, of course, know nothing. Bankers know that they know nothing but I’m beginning to think the point is more subtle than that. I think people have this expectation of what a banker should know and what his concerns, motivations and incentives should be. But it’s a bit of a motherhood-and-pie thing, without any basis in practicality or reality. This is not really an apt metaphor but it’s kind of like the stories my Uncle, whose a doctor, tells of families of persons dying of terminal disease who walk into his office expecting cures of cancer. One guy even threatened to kill him if his father didn’t survive another year. The father was on his fourth round of chemo or something and it would have been a miracle if he lived another 2 months. Yes doctors save lives, but you know, they actually can’t. My Uncle’s reaction in that situation is very similar to bankers today, “Like WTF dude! Calm the hell down.” Once, when I was expressing my frustration in my usual colorful language when we were going through the shitstorm of legal battles over our restaurant, our lawyer said to me point-blank, “What you need to understand is that it’s not a justice system, it’s a legal system.” That shut me up. I’m trying to think of a similar expression that can be applied to banking but all I can come up with is a weak one that doesn’t get the point across by itself (a testament to my lack of wit, I guess). What you need to understand is that it’s not a financial system, it’s a banking system. So calm hell down, [“Zoltan”]

Which brings us to two weeks ago, when Altucher posted and then took down a list of 10 confessions which prompted Felix Salmon to write this, which I think has a bunch of excellent points. This causes Altucher to take down his post, call the discussion “grossly inappropriate and unprofessional” and basically pout and threaten to withhold sex backgammon.

Why I am posting this is because I am pretty gratified to learn that the “rated zed” team analysis of James Altucher turns out to have been pretty spot on. Except about the potentially learning humility part.

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17 Responses to James Altucher

  1. Zuuko says:

    One way to increase traffic of this site is to do more hit jobs on ppl more famous than us. hmmm…. i should look into this too.

    btw, 3 posts on the weekend? you’re making me look bad

  2. Zuuko says:

    you know, it would be interesting to meet Altucher. It would very amusing to me if the mental image of him in my mind matches reality. I have this view of him as an aimless, no-talent hack who stumbles from one enterprise to the next, leaving god knows what calamities in his wake.

  3. Zuuko says:

    btw, my name is zuuko. not zuko.

    I wanted zuko but it was taken. damn.

  4. zolltan says:

    I dunno, you read this: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/03/hitchhikers-guide-to-the-universe/ and you think – aww, he’s kinda sweet. I’m pretty sure he’s easy to get along with in person.

    The thing that bothers me about him is not that he’s a failure or something, it’s that he’s got this “who, me?” mentality like the system is to blame for his actions rather than himself. I’m not sure how he manages to get that together with being so insecure, but somehow he does.

  5. zolltan says:

    …plus the fact that he should rightfully be in jail.

    • Zuuko says:

      Many that roam free deserve incarceration. Some that are incarcerated deserve freedom. Can you give it to them, Zolltan? Do not be too eager to deal out jail terms in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Altucher has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over.

  6. Zuuko says:

    I know what you mean. About the “who, me?” mentality, I mean. I don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish by brazenly posting about it. If I had done those things, then I wouldn’t dare post, either because I was ashamed or I wouldn’t want anyone to find out. Which leads me to two possible conclusions: 1. He’s an extremely stupid person, has no moral compass, etc., or 2. He’s actually not done any of the things he claims to have done.

  7. Pingback: It’s Not My Fault. Yes, It Is. | ratedzed

  8. Pingback: Altucher: Not Criminal, Just Stupid | Rated Zed

  9. You say: “If I had done those things, then I wouldn’t dare post, either because I was ashamed or I wouldn’t want anyone to find out. ”

    I would never write the above.

    I’m an honest guy and have no fear about what people think of me.

    • Zuuko says:

      I don’t think its a matter of honesty or what other people think. What I was passing was a moral judgment against some of your actions. Had I also acted in the same way, I would be ashamed of what I had done, drawn lessons and moved on.

      For some people, its a cathartic experience to post everything about their life, for good or ill. I’m not one of those people. Maybe you are?

    • zolltan says:

      James, first off, thanks for reading. I want to echo my friend zuuko, though, it’s not honesty that’s got us riled up. To me it seems a pervasive problem that finance types engage in thinking about money as the money of other finance types, who are playing the same game as themselves, and so they have few moral or ethical qualms about doing deceitful, highly legally and ethically questionable things. I took the “I’m-just-recounting-a-bunch-of-funny-shit-that-happened” tone of your posts to mean exactly that unscrupulousness. Basically, you come across as the Tucker Max of finance.

  10. Andrew Hales says:

    I love your blog. Nice job. 🙂
    “Fail Harder” – Mark Zuckerberg

  11. vincepomal says:

    Gentleman thank you. We seem to have a grade A charlatan with JA. Time to discuss the agency problem and confirmation bias.

  12. Noah says:

    I am so glad found this website. I went to JA’s website, after I listened to his podcast with Derek Sivers and Adam Grant, both of which I like. I purchased about $80 worth of his product (books, reports, etc) . After two day’s reading, I found myself typing ” Is James Altucher a fraud and you are only one of few links that challenged who JA really is . (Another one is a Reddit link of JA’s AMA.. Many users there asked challenging questions.)

    JA is a fraud.

    About quitting job
    – His new book (the one about wealth) and newsletter constantly asking you why you haven’t quit your job yet.
    – Later during his interview with Adam Grant, JA agreed with Adam Grant that its better not to quit your job until you tested out your idea of business and he even used himself as evidence (he worked on his own web design client at HBO office and kept the job for 18 months until he got enough clients.)

    JA report, a lack of research, outsourced-work produced low quality POS..
    JA constantly sends out promotional email to ask people to buy his $49 research report subscription. I did and the report sucks!

    One example is what he called Capacity Economy, such as Airbnb and Uber. He encourage people invested or started similar business.
    These are actually called On-demand or Sharing Economy . It’s SO saturated in Silicon Valley and VCs are try to avoid invest in most of them now.
    I can’t believe JA is trying to sell this like something new in his research ..

    Then there is don’t pay your debt, don’t buy a car, don’t pay your tax…

    I can go on and on…

    James Altchure is a fraud!!

  13. mgoussu says:

    At last. I discovered altucher on quora. It was a nice psych-up read. Then I followed his blog. Some great advice, like 10 ideas tip : every day find 10 ideas about any subject, as a mind workout. Then, the offers, with cheap tricks like “only during 2 month”, and “hurry-up” and links to people who mesmerize you into buying their advice to sotck pick. JA seems like an unfaithfull teenager, who wnats to be loved and yet keep on acting like a jerk. I like him in a way, but I wouldn’t buy any of his books. Thanks for the post.

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