I think the key to James’s success is his genius for building trust.
James doesn’t need to work hard to build rapport with people. He’s naturally self-effacing, funny and insatiably curious.
These qualities mean that people identify with him, and want to be on James’s side. This is a big part of why he’s so good at the comeback.
Like he tells Brian in the episode, he’s always able to get the right people for the right project, and build a network.
James says it took him a long time to figure out how to make that formula sustainable, but being able to galvanise different people round a new project is no small feat.
It takes leadership, and it takes a certain ability to inspire and motivate others.
James has charisma, but it’s not the aggressive kind, the sort of political charisma that gets in your face.
He’s just likeable, a great storyteller and doesn’t take himself seriously at all.
James reminds of me of guys I went to university with. Mad geniuses who are driven, but love having a good time.
He’s is proof that you can be ambitious and high performance without being an a** hole!
Behind the comedy and the one-liners is an astute and ruthless business mind, but the unconventional nature of that mind reveals an intuitive and passionate guy.
James’s concept of Idea Sex seemed to resonate with a lot of people. It’s the formula for how you become a leader in your field.
There’s no point mastering say, how to build a smart phone. That market is already dominated by Apple and Samsung.
But if you combine your experience in a certain industry, with a use for the Iphone, then you are most likely a leader in that industry. That’s why everyone’s trying to hit the App jackpot.
This is really the foundation for great art.
James uses the example of The Fugees sampling the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever. They put two established genres together and immediately it was a hit.
This is true of so many musical innovators. The Beatles took black RnB and mixed it with Indian classical music and English Music Hall.
Bob Dylan took Beat poetry and mixed it with traditional folk music.
Shakespeare’s genius was combining different plot forms from classical and medieval plays, and mixing them with history and fairytales.
The talent lies in the combination, the beautiful friction between once separate forms.
It’s important to note, too, that you don’t need to be an expert in each of the ideas you are combining. You become the expert in the intersection.
It’s a powerful idea, and it’s the game-changing trick to everything from MMA fighting to direct marketing.
And one thing I like about Idea Sex is that no one can take it away from you.
Once you find that intersection, it’s yours, it’s your IP, and like Brad Burton said in the recent #RealTALK, anyone that tries to steal it is going to be known as nothing but an imitator.
A big part of Brian’s discussion with James focuses around the whole idea of what it means to Choose Yourself.
Yes, it’s about upgrading your peer group, eating well, and following your dreams.
But I think there’s something deeper to it than that. It’s about evolving.
James said he realised that his boom and bust cycle of success was characterised by the fact that when the going was good, he would be improving something about himself everyday.
When things were bad, he would let go of that, and lose sight of constant improvement.
Nowadays, James is someone who is completely uncompromising when it comes to his emotional hygiene.
He hangs out with loving people, goes to bed early and doesn’t allow negative stimulation into his life.
But to keep this kind of discipline up, you have to be seeing the benefits in your life every day. I think that’s the key.
When you see that your life is getting better by 1% everyday, it creates more motivation, it feeds off itself. You build momentum naturally and sustainably.
James’s style of communication is very relaxed and amiable, but behind it is a precision-focused attention to his own mental health.
The famous Altucher technique of writing ten new ideas down every day is an example of the simplicity and effectiveness of this approach.
The mind is a muscle, and if it doesn’t push itself everyday, it atrophies, as James points out.
I think the human spirit is a kind of muscle as well, or at least should be treated like one.
If we don’t create new challenges for ourselves, we will lose drive. We’ll become wage slaves and corporate henchmen.
James’s philosophy is very practical, but its implications are deep.
If we keep testing and challenging ourselves, keep moving and developing even when the going is good, then success becomes a lot easier.
Anyone that’s ever trained for a sport knows this. You can’t afford to plateau.
All it takes is 1% every day to keep that frictive and creative momentum going.
You can’t hold onto past success, but you can always keep chasing new successes.
James Altucher is definitely in my top three London Real guests of all time.
I go back to him over and over. Even if I want to just veg and be entertained, I’ll flip on this episode and come away with something new.
I’m interested to know how the concept of Idea Sex has been applied in your life.
In the comments below, give me an example of how combining two forms of expertise has helped you get the advantage in one area of your life.
It could be business, but it might just be fitness or diet. Whatever it is, I look forward to hearing it!