A national hero in Grenada after winning their first Olympic medal in London, the 20-year-old appears to know exactly where he is going and at what pace.
It's a state of grace he attributes to "just being around the right people", coach Harvey Glance and manager Renaldo Nehemiah, successful former sprinter and hurdler respectively, and his self-awareness suggests there is a lot more to come from the man nicknamed "The Jaguar".
"We really don't think about running races just because, we really think about running races for a reason," James told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
"We are always focused on the biggest meets of the year," he said, adding that he did not plan to race indoors in 2013.
"Every time I step on the track it has to be for a reason, for a purpose, not to just get a race in or anything like that.
"I have learned a lot more things from them (Glance and Nehemiah) but that's one of the most important things I have learned from them."
James's thrilling win in London prompted riotous celebrations back home in tiny Grenada and he was honoured by his compatriots when Prime Minister Tillman Thomas gave the entire island the afternoon off to party.
An undergraduate student of business at the University of Alabama, basketball fan James moved to the United States when he was 17, leaving behind his parents, two older brothers and a younger sister.
His mother, to whom he is especially close and speaks to "almost every day", works at a processing plant and his father in the housekeeping department at the university.
As well as defending his title at the world championships in Moscow next August, James also has Michael Johnson's world record of 43.18 seconds, which compares with James's time in London of 43.94, in his sights.
The Grenadan said he was not obsessing over the record, which has stood since 1999.
"It's not something I lose sleep over," James told Reuters.
"If it happens it happens and if it doesn't I'll just have to live with it.
"I don't go into every competition thinking about trying to break the world record because if I don't I'm going to be disappointed about it."
James said there were a couple of flaws in his technique he was working on, although he stressed that he did not want to tinker too much with a running style that was obviously working well already.
"There's no perfect technique but you can always get better at doing something," he said.
"Obviously there are a few things I have to work on, my flailing wrist, bringing my knees up a little bit.
"But not make too many changes because it's already working for me and changing it has a huge possibility of going wrong."
During 2013 he will race a couple of times in the 200 metres, an event he used to run before focusing on the 400.
"Just a couple of fun runs you know," he said.
"It's not going to be serious competition-wise, the world championships or anything like that because I haven't run 200 in so long.
"It'll help me with my speed and on pacing myself for that first 200."
James gave a news conference earlier on Friday with Ato Boldon, a former sprinter from Trinidad and Tobago who also tasted success at a young age.
"When you get into this business there are certain things you want to tick off your list," Boldon said, listing James's triumphs at the world championships, the Olympics and the world junior championships.
"I think he and his coach are probably going to start talking about the world record," added the 38-year-old.
"I gave him some advice last year and I gave the people of Grenada some advice: stop talking about the world record. Allow him to go out and compete freely.
"I feel like he took that advice and the results showed up in London."
James said that outside athletics his family and his studies were his main priorities.
"Other than that I just keep it simple, I like to stay at home, watch TV, play some video games. Just try to stay out of trouble."