What I learned from James Altucher’s worst ever interview

I’ve got to the point in the 30 day writing challenge where I’m publishing stuff I wouldn’t normally share. This is a prime example. It’s not that I’m limited by ideas. Coming up with ideas is the easy part. The hard bit is getting excited enough about an idea to write about it.

This morning, I stumbled on an old podcast episode where James Altucher interviews Biz Markie, an American rapper most famous for his hit single “Just a Friend”. After I had listened to the episode, I knew I had to write about it. So here we are.

I’m a big James Altucher fan. I love his raw and honest writing style. And I love the way he interviews his guests. He prepares meticulously, which allows him to dig deeper than most interviewers dare. And because James is so open and honest, his guests often reciprocate by telling stories they don’t usually share.

Anyway, this one particular interview wasn’t good. James said in the intro that “this is the worst interview any podcaster ever did with anybody.” So, instead of serving the interview straight up, James and Aaron Brabham analysed the interview and discussed what James did wrong. It’s really worth a listen (episode 35).

Here’s what I learnt from how James handled the situation:

A) Take the blame. It’s so easy to pass the blame to someone else. But straight up James admits responsibility: “This is the worst interview any podcaster ever did with anybody. And it wasn’t his fault, it was completely my fault.”

B) Don’t hide from bad experiences. James could have deleted the episode. I probably would have. Or he could have tagged the interview onto the end of another podcast. No one would have noticed.

It takes guts to share awkward moments or bad experiences. I usually want to hide from them or pretend they never happen. But by sharing the experience, James was able to learn and move on from it.

C) Admit your faults in public. Most people hide their faults and flaws. We all have them. This is a great example of how James is able to be completely open and honest, with himself and with his audience. And people love this because it’s so rare.

When James interviewed Ramit Sethi, he admitted during the interview that he forgot to read something. He wasn’t totally prepared. Derek Sivers then pointed out: “To me it kind of seems like a brilliant way of asking the world to love you.”

D) There’s something to learn from in every situation. Towards the beginning of the podcast, James says: “In chess, for instance, whenever you lose a game, that’s the best opportunity to learn because you analyse your mistakes.”

And it’s true. When everything goes well, it’s hard to know what you did right. It’s the mistakes we learn from.

Despite the bad interview, James will still keen to learn from Biz Markie. During the analysis, he was extrapolating on points Biz Markie made. Which just goes to show, there’s something to learn from every situation.

E) Be willing to put yourself in awkward situations. James wrote a post about the experience. He said: “I felt so awkward in the interview but learning to be comfortable in awkwardness is a valuable skill to have.”

He could have cut the conversation short. I would have. He even started wrapping up the interview, but still went on asking more questions until Biz Markie hung up on him. He was so eager to make it a good interview. He went longer than he probably should have. But he didn’t just give up. He felt awkward, but he went with it anyway.

I think that’s something we can all learn from.