What You Should Talk About When You Talk About Money

Do you talk about money with your friends? James Altucher does. A former hedge fund trader, investor, entrepreneur, podcaster, and author of 22 books, Altucher regularly talks about money with his friends. They discuss how much each of them is worth, whether it’s enough, and ways they can make more. They swap ideas, and they talk about whether the amount would be sufficient to survive and feed a family if something bad were to happen. 

What they don’t do, though, is talk about whether the money will buy them a yacht or a second home or a private island. Because, for Altucher, despite—or perhaps because of—his twelve years in investment management, the money is no more than a means to an end, and focusing on the cash means that you always miss your target.

“Money should never be the goal,” he says, “because then you’ll just lose your creativity. You won’t have the right kind of energy for it. You’ll get disappointed over the wrong things to be disappointed about. And there’s no real pleasure in doing things for the money because you can also lose money—and then it’s very painful.”

It’s a hugely important truth and it’s one that we feel more clearly every day. Altucher has described receiving constant emails from people who haven’t found their passion yet or who are undergoing a mid-life change of direction and are wondering what they should do for their remaining years.

That’s a good question, and one that many people find themselves asking at some point. The answer lies in the question itself. The key word is what they should do—not what they should think or list or consider. The answer lies in the activities they’re already doing because they already enjoy doing them. It’s the things that you do for fun that are the things that you should be doing more often.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that those activities will make you tons of money. They may never make you a lot of money and they’re unlikely to make you any money at all initially. Altucher wrote for eleven years before he made any money out of his own writing, and even then much of the revenue came not from the sales of books but from all of the things that came with the sales of the books: the invitations to speak at conferences and to corporations, teaching, and so on. Nobody ever starts a podcast because they hope to make a lot of money, but many people end up making good money out of podcasting eventually because their podcasting builds an audience. 

That audience arrives because the content is interesting.

The content is interesting because the person who made it is interested in it and that interest shows. 

That’s one of the reasons that businesses often fail after someone else buys them. The new owner lacks the interest and the passion that the founder invested at the beginning of the project to make the business grow. As the business develops, it’s too easy to forget that it’s still powered by that passion—not by the business model or the marketing plan or the giant social media audience. What powers every business is always the passion we feel for the work itself. 

There’s nothing wrong with talking about money with your friends. There’s also nothing wrong with preferring not to talk about money with your friends. What is wrong is putting money at the center of everything you do. Put what you want to do at the center of everything you do. The money will follow—and you’ll have much more interesting conversations with your friends.  

For the complete interview with James Altucher, listen to this episode of The Joel Comm Show.

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