The Tim Ferriss Show: James Altucher on How to Say "No," Fail Better, and Build Businesses (#18)

James Altucher
James Altucher

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Ep. 18: James Altucher on Saying No, Failing Better, Business Building, and More

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Now, on to our guest…

James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. He has founded or co-founded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. 17 have failed, and 3 have made him tens of millions. He has published 11 books, the newest of which is The Power of No.

Join us in a conversation about just about everything, including: how to say “no” to requests, how to learn from failure, and how to build businesses.  More in the show notes below.

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For those who enjoy reading, here is the full transcript. You can also read this transcript online here. All transcripts can be found here.

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Show Notes and Select Links from Episode 17…

  • Why James almost ended up homeless after making millions
  • How a daily routine can mitigate risk
  • The “1% goal” that changes his life drastically every 6 months
  • Why he considers news media to be “junk food,” and what he reads instead
  • Why and how his writing exploded in popularity
  • How “being vulnerable” on his blog almost permanently damaged James’s relationship with his daughter
  • The myth of “job security,” and how to chart your own path
  • And much more…


Books Mentioned in the Episode

Other Authors Mentioned in the Episode


For all episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show, including links and show notes, visit this page.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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36 Replies to “The Tim Ferriss Show: James Altucher on How to Say "No," Fail Better, and Build Businesses (#18)”

  1. I just started to listen what looks like a very interesting and fun episode.

    What surprises me already is the good sound of the communication from Thailand. Were you on Skype?

    Also, what equipment did you finally choose for recording Tim? I remember the suggestions in Facebook: mics, soft.


  2. Awesome stuff – I love James’ candor.

    Appreciate the thoughts on writing also!

    I’m trying to get away from blogs and delve into more books because of the reasons James mentioned (but damn are blogs addicting)…

    Thanks for the awesome guests, as usual, Tim!

  3. Wow, the man that I want to see most on Tim Ferriss Show – James Altucher. Can’t wait to go back home and listen it..

  4. Tim the podcast is TIGHT Stylish Clever! Thank you for leading the way. The Power of No is something I fail at far too much. Suffering fools doesn’t make for a fun life.

  5. Tim – lose the two part questions. I gets in your way and the conversation loses it’s natural momentum.

  6. So I was up in the City last weekend, I live in Orange County, and I went to see the Skull exhibit and decided that the planetarium show would be worth watching, it was AWESOME, and lo and behold I was sitting through the credit’s and WAS that you? If so, way cool, you are awesome.

  7. James Altucher is a stud. I”ve been following him for a few years now.

    Great show which I will be listening to at least one more time.

  8. Am I doing something wrong? Download (right click “save as”), points to episode 16… (Joe D Sena)

    Could you fix that? like em in mp3 format. 🙂

  9. Thanks for the transcript, Tim!.. Gold. 🙂 You seem to be walking +10 extra miles every week and in everything you do. Thanks for being AWESOMEST role model:)

  10. James Altucher is super interesting. I just listened to one of his podcasts. Feeling like I should start working on writing a book! Thanks for the great podcasts!

  11. This episode has been inspiring to me on a number of levels, but I didn’t expect to get such useful information at just the right time.

    As a result of embracing the 4HWW principles in the office, albeit without taking the necessary precautions and insurance policies that Tim emphasizes (I’m realizing this now when carefully re-reading the 4HWW after years), I’ve escaped the office one too many times and got fired. But I see that as a good thing. Seriously, it’s an opportunity to focus on my strengths now and experiment more with what excites me. What’s the worst that can happen?

    I agree that the ability to generate sustainable income for oneself – without being employed by a corporation – is not just good for personal fulfillment, but also becoming increasingly necessary from a financial perspective. Now we’ve heard it from some top entrepreneurs: It’s not just a dream, it’s a requirement!

    I’m also glad to hear the confirmation that focusing on health, creativity, and relationships today is the best ingredient for a happy, abundant, and successful (I know that some of these words are over-used) tomorrow.

    It’s true: Money should be looked at as a long-term side effect of being in the flow state and multiplying your strengths (and saying No to the things that prohibit or don’t support that). The same is true for health and good looks, for instance. Focus on the former, and the latter will follow.

    Cheers to all you lifestyle designers reading this blog – never give up, you’ll get to where you want to be if you continue to put the information here into practice and continue to look for or focus on things that fire you up. Remember: Baby steps, and do what works best for you, according to your strengths. I might sound like I’m preaching, but none of these things are a waste of time.

    And Tim, if you’re reading this… I know you don’t want to be put on a pedestal, but you’re an awesome dude who’s constantly outdoing himself and inspiring others. Thanks for bringing on guests like James Altucher, someone I would’ve likely never heard about otherwise (the same goes for Josh Waitzkin and numerous others). Honestly, your blog is pretty much the only one I read because there are more invaluable resources than I could possibly keep up with.

  12. I’m not trolling, and I’m not trying to be rude, but I do not think James should be looked up to or emulated in any way. Don’t outsource you personal correspondence to India. Don’t pat yourself on the back for not helping others. Don’t cut close friends out of your life if they ask you to do something you don’t want to. Act like a human, not like a hermit.

    He actually had to explicitly state that his Indian email contractors had been instructed to forward emails from his own daughters. I’m glad they made the cut.

    I love the podcast, but this episode left me feeling cold.

  13. Making commutes to work enjoyable… Thank you!

    Future Guests?

    1) John Berardi

    2) Paul Chek

    3) Elon Musk

  14. Which equipment does Tim use to record podcasts? I imagine that the devices are different for the inbetween-isode and the real show.

    For example, in Episode 19, the sound is pretty clear, although Tim is outside.

  15. This was a great podcast. I am totally addicted to Tim’s podcast. The information that is shared in the 60 minutes or so is so valuable. I just wanted to say this one inspired me to do more at work and try to grow my company. Thanks Time and James!

  16. Great piece! Tim, is Jonathan Harris on your potential-guest-radar? That could be an interesting interview for sure.

  17. This is my favorite episode of all. I have probably listened to this podcast alteast 3 times over the last month. Everyone talks about their success, but not the failures that also allowed them to get there. Kudos to James Altucher and to the main man Tim!

  18. I have read all three books and listened to every podcast so far (up to episode 19). Very good content and inspiration!

  19. Ahhh – I had no idea that you interviewed James. Thanks so much for sharing this. I read The Power of No a few months ago and really wanted to learn more about James, so this was perfect. Thanks for the taking the time to do these podcasts. I love how you go into detail with the people you interview.

  20. Wow, the man that I want to see most on Tim Ferriss Show – James Altucher. Can’t wait to go back home and listen it..

  21. Good interview!. Just, when he said that if you say yes to help someone, you get his problems as well, but, he didn’t mention that you get his triumphs too. And, that is priceless.

  22. Hi Tim…keep doing what you love because haters will be haters anyway. I really enjoy the order within the disorder of each your podcasts. I do have a future podcast suggestion. How about Daniel Dennett (philosopher/cognitive scientist)? This would be an interesting interview.

  23. Hello all, I’ve read the audiobook several times and am having a hard time trying to figure out when to quit my job as that would seem to be the only way to find the required amount of time to implement my creation of a product.
    I have a few different ideas that I think could be very profitable in the eyewear industry.
    The thing is I’m having to work a ton of overtime 6 days a week and commute to my new job 2 hours per day (zero time for my two boys or wife). The local optical laboratory I worked at for 25 years finally closed due to a competitor. I simply have no time for anything but trying to help my current lab dig out from the increased work in progress due to the Covid-19 backlog.
    Is the book too outdated now to be practical?
    Any suggestions for first steps would be appreciated. 
    Any advice from people in similar scenarios would also be awesome.