LIT & CRIT : FINANCE : CULTURE
JAMES ALTUCHER
Cryptogenius Guru or
Just A Nice Guy?

Continued from Page 6

 

This time, instead of short replies he really took some time to sincerely respond with a little righteousness of his own: "You realize I don't get paid a dime for anything I do. I even say on the first page of "Choose Yourself" that I donate to  redacted  [a charity for those hurt because of the wars we've fought].

   "So I think the tone of your post comes off as slightly angry and tries to be a bit hurtful to me or people who like my writing.

   "Also, a 99 cent book (all of my books are 99 cents) don't really generate a lot in sales. And, if you read my posts, they hardly ever refer to "rich and famous" people.

 

   "So, I have to say, you of course can write what you want. But about once a year someone writes something that appears so angry at me it just does not come across well.

 

   "Why be angry at me? I've been homeless as well. I've been divorced and my kids taken from me. I've lost my home to the bank. I've been in the hospital for suicide watch. I'm not so great.  I just try to honestly say what happened to me. And you saw the gratitude messages.  --James Altucher"

I felt bad when I got that reply from him.

 

I was really in admiration of his style more than anything, and I thought he might find it clever for someone to nail it so perfectly. Like a tribute. But I guess looking back at it now, I can see why anyone would feel defensive when they are accused of manipulating people's wealth envy for profit.

I wrote back: "Ok, I'll hold off publishing it.  I'm not angry at you at all, just don't like gurus in general. I note in the piece that you probably don't want to be a guru yourself. I tried to say over and over in it that I liked your work, that you were better than most, that you do in fact have practical advice and you do actually help people, but that understanding a writer's technique might be good for readers.

   "That's why I added I hoped you'd get something out of my critique. If I'm generalizing your work that way (of course, every article is not the same, but the formula jumped out at me when I seemed to notice it) perhaps other people see it too.

 

   "If that's not your gig then perhaps it might be useful to you as you tailor your work to do what you want it to do. So, hopefully, it was useful. Also, I'm probably just jealous you have access to so many rich and powerful people, so if it's really more personally motivated than lit crit then --as I said--  I'm not going to put it out there. 

 

   "Still, I am angry when Tucker gets fawned over, I admit that. When does jealousy that an asshat gets rewarded become justified criticism? When he really is an asshat.

 

   "That's not you, tho, James. Anyway, I'm off to the library to read the Singer books today. I won't bother you with the result unless I'm truly amazed.  Then I'll come back to this convo just to thank you for setting me straight.

 

   "If I'm not that impressed you won't hear from me. I've already said my peace on gurus generally and again, thanks for taking your time to reply. Not sure how that appears I'm angry at you, but like I said I won't publish it in that case because I was not out to shit on you. Thanks again for the dialogue!  Take care and sorry to drag you into this! Good luck, James, and all the best to you and your family!"

His last response was this: "Good luck also. Believe me, I'm as anti-guru as you. Which is why the theme of my work is that people should 'Choose Themselves.'

Some day I'll share all the testimonials I get, but then it will seem too "guru-like" so I probably won't.

 

   "But people are helped by this message. If anything, I've helped many many people avoid the guru trap. My hope is that people read my stuff and then find new ways to find well-being in their lives. I don't make a dime off any of this. I'm in London right now at my own expense to give a talk to 1500 people (I paid for the venue and the ticket is free) and everyone gets a free book and nobody gets sold anything.

 

   "And it's not like I'm super-wealthy. But I know it's a good thing to do so I do it when I have the opportunity. It's the style of thinking of "give first and then the rest will follow" that I live by and I hope others live by as well.

   "In terms of having access to wealthy people, it's because I have a podcast, perhaps. But for every one person that says "yes" to go on my podcast, about 50 say no. it's hard work that, also, I do for free. How come? Because I know from evidence that it helps people. People get inspired and learn from the questions I ask on my podcasts. I don't know if you've listened to any but they are helpful to people. I know I learn from them as I attempt to be a better person in life.

   "Sometimes it surprises people that someone can be helpful without having an agenda. To be honest, it's too much work, particularly when others are critical for no reason or without doing their research.

 

   "Sometimes I want to give up. But I know that charities* and other people benefit. So, for now, I do it. But it's painful often." (*He again named some charities that he specified were "off the record" so I left them out.)

My last reply, after again feeling bad since he went further in defending himself: "Sorry, I did not know that you really aren't in it for the money at all even in some capacity.  I won't get personal in that regard but your site is so professional in its way of doing business I couldn't imagine it isn't profitable for you. You seemed to have it down to a T. That is so awesome that I really feel bad for making you feel bad.

   "From the beginning I was trying in that piece to actually talk you up as the good guy. The second line reads 'there is always wisdom to be had from the best authors.' (Meaning, you). I note that your style is so good that I wanted to "emulate" it.  But it's obviously more than your style. You've got a heart of gold, man. I wish I could get to that place because I believe that giving and charity are a man's way of acknowledging that no one is an Ayn Rand island.

   "Still, as you might imagine, I'm also worried about my mortgage and you seem free of that. So I imagined the only way to be free of it would be to have made the nut already, or to have a site that grew nuts daily for you. Then I go on to say "Altucher is a writer I admire." And then I break down what I found to be some common elements to your style. But not to shit on you. As I put it, "It is my hope that by breaking it down the reader will appreciate even more his technique."  It was kind of a tribute.  Not only is your writing style captivating (and you have a great handle on the hows and whys of style, so much so I thought it was a fantastic formula, down to sometimes not giving us the name of someone just to keep us curious.) But it is also exceptionally brave and honest, which is why I didn't want to shit on you or seem to imply I was superior in my suffering or anything. It's just that when I see a site that is so expert in the way it weaves its pitch into its content I'm so impressed.

   "Still, as I've stressed, I do believe in education uber alles. I do think there are far too many charlatans out there who get the free pass. I do think that we've all become un-trusting and cynical because so many people in this country are really out for number one only and will bend the truth to get there. And they manipulate us using their wealth and power and we (as a nation) don't do enough to call it out. We live in a country where nearly 40% believe that men and dinosaurs shared the same era! 

James, someone has to call us out on that and encourage us to think and question harder even if it offends the Bible belt. 

 

   "That's why I ended with the Guyana reference in my critique of your writing. It's shocking that event happened and shocking in general our media rewards all too often cultish behavior as long as it's tied to wealth.  OMG, did you see Creflo Dollar DID get his Gulfstream after all!  It's so shameful). 

   "When I was a broker one of my clients ran a charity/evangelical church. Yes, he did use a secret radio signal to have his wife feed him information he could claim God gave him, and that's how he built his mail order money empire! It's so hard to not want to fight fire with fire, and I'm a fire-starter by nature, I think. I've constantly tried to temper that impulse, but sometimes it seems right to try and strike some matches. You can fight fire with water or you can fight it with a fire break. 

   "It's the same in China; the way it works there is what's called guanxi, or insider relationship. Their whole culture is built on it, or was. I often wish we really did act more like a meritocracy; but if that's not possible people have to know that connections are often or most often the key to success as a practical matter.

   "I did compare your readers to hamsters who want simple answers, so ok that was a little condescending. But, heck, I feel like a hamster too. I thought we all did and that was part of your appeal to your audience. And I tried to make sure it was clear I don't even begrudge that. I said: 'If you get something out of the writing of someone who is a "guru" then good for you!'

   "But take Jordan Bellhop or whoever, the Canine of Penny Stocks*. Did the fact that he out and out swindled people count when the media or the public assessed his legitimacy? No, he was arrogant about how it didn't matter, and never did, and he was actually sadly pretty right. He got a movie made about his life and he probably thinks it's a puff piece. People too often (clearly not you) don't seem to care about what's right anymore, only the money matters and justifies any offense, from violent drug-dealing rappers to Jamie Dimon. The myth of 'success' whitewashes all the crimes.

 

  "I wish that people could get enough education to see through that kind of wealth envy and celebrity worship even when I acknowledge it is a legit impulse on the part of the reader to want to solve their problems and get some success. But, you're right, I should curtail the cynicism in that regard.

   "Now I have to go even farther and say you've really been awesome to me personally for giving me your time like this, it was more than I deserved given what you're truly all about; and of course thanks for all you do for everyone. P.S.  Sorry for even making you think twice about what you do; don't ever stop doing what you're doing."   And that was that. The shit was vacuumed up!

So where is this article that caused such a riff in the otherwise solid networking relationship I  was meticulously cultivating with James? Below, dear reader, click on the link and your curiosity shall be sated.

* Note now that James Altucher is sending me emails touting actual penny stock guru moneymaking masterclasses now. Literally pushing pennies now, FFS. 

Click here for page 1 of our style critique, if you haven't already fallen asleep >>>

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