Three Jews and a Nigerian Walk into a Bar…

James Altucher has no filter. He exposes everything that has ever happened to him to absolute strangers on the Internet. He talks about his first divorce, he talks about his second divorce, and he won’t stop talking about his many financial failures. There was that time he moved into Hotel Chelsea in New York City, with a troupe of colourful characters as neighbours; and that other time he sold all his belongings so he could relocate into a duffle bag. James Altucher is an American businessman and writer who blogs about every single thing. He’s also Jewish.

Then there’s Seth Godin. Intense, perspicacious, austere. Mr Godin talks about things in a way that’ll make you see patterns and probably even make money from those stories he tells. One of his tales involves the alchemy of power and how groups of geeks with a passion for arcane subjects could become strong tribes that may change how the rest of us live our lives. He has interesting thoughts on purple cows, permissions for self fulfilment, cashing in, and how to give up on things. Seth Godin owns a ruminant blog where he writes every single day, without fail. He is Jewish, too.

Thirdly, there’s Malcolm Gladwell. Born in England, raised in Canada, now living in America. Gladwell’s father was a white Briton. His mother, a mixed race Jamaican. He says her race is actually “middle class brown”. Although Gladwell has some distant Jewish relatives, he cannot claim to be Jewish. But he is a Jew wannabe. He refers to himself as Philo-Jewish. Which is good, less for the Jews and more for Gladwell. On his podcast Revisionist History and in his many books, especially Talking to Strangers and Outliers, many of his key actors are of Jewish ancestry. Malcolm Gladwell loves the Jews. Anyway, it is fair to describe Gladwell as a philo-Semite journalist and podcaster who in his spare time writes best-selling pop-economics and pop-philosophy books that have enraptured millions worldwide.

And, finally, there’s me. I’m the Nigerian to whom the title refers. And these three Jewish gentlemen, although I’ve never met them, have been 75% of my best writing teachers of the past 10 years. The Wall Street pundit, the marketing professor, and the famous journalist have taught me three important things about writing.

One, seek to tell a goddamn good story. People are more likely to forget what your book cover looks like, but they won’t ever forget a damn good yarn. 

Two. Keep your sentences short. 

Three. Practitioners are the best teachers. Perhaps it’s time to rest the aphorism that claims that those who can’t, teach. We should make those who can, also teach. Why? They are on top of the innovations. 

While it may take years for a textbook to collate enough data for an update, the practitioner witnesses constant action in his field of expertise. He is updated every day. In other words, a practising journalist should teach journalism. A practising lawyer should teach Law. Et cetera.

Now, what does this Nigerian bring to this story? Only one thing: The presence of mind to know that, for anything to have meaning, he must first adapt the takeaways from the three wise men to his local condition.


E-flat walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve minors.”

Enjoy more Walks-Into-A-Bar jokes here

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I poke at ideas to see what's inside. A lot of times I generate my own. Sometimes, people pay for those ideas. And, obviously, I like to tell stories about creativity.

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