Check out an excerpt from the transcript for The Social Capitalist interview featuring James Altucher. Access the audio recording here. Click here for the full transcript: Social Capitalist Transcript – James Altucher. Enjoy!
Tahl Raz: You know this is why I think it’s fascinating on the context of social capital. So often, we interview these smooth, connected players with the right pedigree and the right suits who always say the right thing, and you’re not that at all; which makes the social capital you’ve acquired over the year which is substantial and the doors you’ve opened, which are many, and the relationships you’ve made all the more impressive and perhaps more instructive for a kind of a general audience because you’ve done it as an outsider with an unorthodox style. And I want to pull that style apart for a moment. Several critical elements of that style is illustrated by the story of how you’ve got a meeting with the notoriously private hedge fund master, Steve Cowen. Can you tell that story?
James Altucher: Yeah, so here’s a case where persistence plays off. And this technique I’ve used in many different examples where you put yourself in front of a person and they might say no or they won’t respond. So for instance, my very first company, and I’ll get to the Stevie Cowen example, but my very first company that I sold, I wanted to sell it to Omnicom. So I got in front of the Omnicom head of acquisitions, and she liked the business but we were too small at the time. And so fine, I was disappointed but every month then, I had the connection open. I was able to send her an update; and eventually, after a year of updates, she called me again and said, “OK, we’re interested.” And things like that happen all the time. When you get in front of somebody, you might not get the response that you want, but suddenly they become aware of you. And then the more you send them updates and hopefully the updates are positive, the more likely they are to respond positively. So Stevie Cowen, I started sending him e-mails, and he wasn’t responding at all. I will send, oh, OK, last month, I was up two percent. Then the next month, I was up three percent. The next month, I was up one percent. Finally, he wrote back and he said, “What’s your IM?” And I was surprised. It was the first time he ever wrote back to me. And so I sent him my instant message and we started IM-ing and then the next thing you know, I’m visiting him and I’m pitching him on why I should work for him. In fact, he was almost pitching me on why I should work for him. And so eventually, it didn’t work out. I didn’t end up working for him, but we were able to build up an e-mail relationship and potentially good things could have happen from that.
Tahl Raz: I know a little bit about Steve Cowen and how protected he is and how private he is. And I think it’s kind of exceptional that you went through variations of e-mails to actually get it e-mailed then you actually kind of found your way inside. Has that happened – is that kind of a theme of your career that you find these people who were connected to what you want to do and you just go for it?
James Altucher: Yeah, yes, and I think, yes. And I think it’s a very important thing to remember, you can’t just call someone and say, “Hey, I would like to meet you,” because they’re never going to respond. And, in fact, that’s actually kind of rude. So if I call the CEO of Goldman Sachs and say, “Hey, Lloyd, I want to meet you.” It’s almost rude to him. He’s a busy guy. So now in addition to feeling like he has to respond to my e-mail and say no, I’m trying to impose upon his time. What you have to do and this is very important and this has worked for me many times, is you have to give. You have to give something. So for instance, when I met Jim Cramer, I didn’t just write Jim Cramer and say, “Oh, Jim, here’s 10 things I’m having” – I didn’t say, “Jim, I’d like to meet you. I’ll be here for breakfast at 6 a.m.” Instead, I had to actually give him, “Jim, here’s 10 ideas for articles you should write. I don’t want to write them. You should write them. They’re ideas I’m giving you for free.” And Jim wrote back and said, “No, why don’t you write them?” And then I started writing for thestreet.com. Or another case, I wanted to work for a hedge fund manager. Instead of me just saying, “Hey, I want to work for you.” I said to him, “Here’s 10 trading systems that I’ve written in the software for. I will give you all the codes for free. You could just have them and enjoy yourself.” And he wrote back and said, “No, these are great trading systems. Why haven’t we met?” And he ended up allocating some of his own personal money for me to start trading every day. So when you give, you’ll receive and that’s the only way you’ll receive. People only want to make you money when you want to make them money. And again, that’s part of honesty as well. People are always worried, oh, well, I can’t give my ideas away. Listen, you’ll have more ideas. If you practice your idea muscle every day, if you practice coming up with 10 good ideas a day, then your idea muscle starts to build in a way the way money compounds. It builds exponentially. So you’ll have a flood of ideas you can give to other people. And if you just start giving ideas everyday to people, they’ll respond. Some people respond, not everyone. You can’t expect 20 out of 20 to respond. One out of 20 is good enough if you’re constantly coming up with ideas.