Choose Yourself! - by James Altucher

There's a saying, "The learned man aims for more. But the wise man decreases. And then decreases again."

In this new era, you have two choices: become a temp staffer (not a horrible choice) or become an artist-entrepreneur. Choose to commoditize your labor or choose yourself to be a creator, an innovator, an artist, an investor, a marketer, and an entrepreneur. I say "and" rather than "or" because now you have to be all of the above. Not just one. An artist must also be an entrepreneur. That's it. Those ARE your choices.

Rejection--and the fear of rejection--is the biggest impediment we face to choosing ourselves. You can't hate the people who reject you. You can't let them get the best of you. Nor can you bless the people who love you. Everyone is acting out of his or her own self-interest. What you need to do is build the house you will live in. You build that house by laying a solid foundation: by building physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. The only truly safe thing you can do is to try over and over again. To go for it, to get rejected, to repeat, to strive, to wish. Without rejection there is no frontier, there is no passion, and there is no magic.

How can you take rejection and use it to push forward?











Success comes from continually expanding your frontiers in every direction--creatively, financially, spiritually, and physically. Always ask yourself, what can I improve? Who else can I talk to? Where else can I look?

Only think about the people you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human. Only go to the events that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with the people who love you back, who are winners and want you to win too. Every time you say yes to something you don't want to do, this will happen: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be used up, burned up, a smoke signal to the future saying, "I did it again." The only real fire to cultivate is the fire inside of you. Nothing external will cultivate it. The greater your internal fire is, the more people will want it.

It's important to avoid people who bring you down. Not in a cruel way. But avoid engaging or overly dwelling on people who are constantly draining you of energy.

Most people obsess on regrets in their past or anxieties in their future. I call this "time traveling." The past and future don't exist. They are memories and speculation, neither of which you have any control over. You don't need to time travel anymore. You can live right now. One exercise I try: look at the roofs of buildings. Finding the art in the city around me is a good technique to keep me right here, when everyone else is in the time machine. This doesn't mean you will never be in a bad mood. Of course you will! That's what the body and mind does for a living: it goes back and forth between good moods and bad moods. The trick is to recognize a bad mood, say, "I'm in a bad mood," and wait it out. So you can get back to enjoying things. So you can get back to making decisions and making choices, but only when you are in a good mood--a mood where you are fully present and not time traveling.

Don't worry about satisfying anybody else's preconceived notion of what spirituality is. Some people say, "Oh! You have to meditate!" You have to sit in the lotus position! Blah blah blah. No, you don't. All you have to do is stay in the present. When you catch yourself upset about the past or worried about the future, say to yourself, "Ah, I'm time traveling," then STOP. That's what meditation is. That's what being "spiritual" means: not time traveling. Don't believe anyone who says it isn't. And you can practice it all day. Still unsure? Do this every day: wake up and think of five people you are grateful for in your life right now. Not people who you were grateful for in the past. And not people you hope to be grateful for in the future if they do what you want them to do. Five people RIGHT NOW. That's all you have to do. Want to take it further? Surrender to the fact that you can't control ALL of the events in your life. Those people you hope to be grateful for probably aren't going to do exactly what you want them to. All you can do is the preparation. The food will taste how it will. Finally, try to label your thoughts: "future" or "past." If you can do that, you stand a pretty good chance of remaining in the present.

  • No complaining for one whole day.

  • No gossip.

  • Express thanks to a friend.

  • Write down a list of ideas. The ideas can be about anything.

  • Take up a hobby. Don't say you don't have time. Learn the piano. Take chess lessons. Do stand-up comedy. Write a novel. Do something that takes you out of your current rhythm.

  • Write down your entire schedule. The schedule you do every day. Cross out one item and don't do that anymore.

  • Surprise someone.

  • Think of ten people you are grateful for.

With each obstacle, turn it into a moment where you can reflect on the bounty that is in your life.

I don't like the word purpose. It implies that somewhere in the future I will find something that will make me happy, and that until then, I will be unhappy. People fool themselves into thinking that the currency of unhappiness will buy them happiness. That we have to "pay our dues," go on some sort of ride, and then get dropped off at a big location called our "purpose," where now we can be happy. It doesn't work that way. You can find the tools to be happy right now. I still don't know what my purpose is. I'm afraid I will never know. That makes me very happy. Maybe I can have lots of adventures between today and the day I die. Maybe I can do lots of different things. And if I don't--if I die even tomorrow--that's fine also. What does purpose mean when we are dead? We might as well choose to be happy now.

I hate to beg. I hate to look at someone and think to myself, "If only they say ‘yes' my entire life will be better." I hate to be nice to someone just so they like me and say yes to me and whatever I'm offering. I bet there are some prostitutes out there who like their job. I don't know. But I'm not one of them. I hate having sex with people I don't love. And that's what happens when one decision maker has control over your financial future at any moment in time.

The only real retirement plan is to Choose Yourself. To start a business or a platform or a lifestyle where you can put big chunks of money away.

Abundance will never come from your job. Only stepping out of the prison imposed on you from your factory will allow you to achieve abundance. You can't see it now. It's hard to see the gardens when you are locked in jail. Abundance only comes when you are moving along your themes. When you are truly enhancing the lives of the people around you. When every day you wake up with that motive of enhancement. Enhance your family, your friends, your colleagues, your clients, potential customers, readers, people who you don't even know yet but you would like to know. Become a beacon of enhancement, and then when the night is gray, all of the boats will move toward you, bringing their bountiful riches.

Starting a Business

  1. Take out the middleman.

  2. Pick a boring business.

  3. Get a customer!

  4. Build trust while you sleep.

  5. Blogging is not about money.

  6. Say YES!

  7. Customer Service.

The way you get good ideas is to do two things: 1) Read two hours a day. 2) Write ten ideas a day.

The idea muscle must be exercised every day. Even if you've come up with ideas every day of your life, it will atrophy if you give it a two-week rest. What are the benefits of having a functional idea muscle? You will become an idea machine. No matter what situation you are in, what problem you see in front of you, what problems your friends and colleagues have, you will have nonstop solutions for them. And when your idea muscle is at its peak performance, your ideas will actually be good, which again means you will be able to create the life you want to lead. To become an idea machine takes about six to twelve months of daily practice with the idea muscle.

So the question is not, when is an idea too big? It's how do I make all ideas smaller and achievable? You do this by developing the idea muscle: Every day, read/skim chapters from books on at least four different topics.

If you have an idea, don't focus on the money. Don't focus on how you will make a living. Do this: Build your product. Sell it to a customer. Start shipping. Then quit your job.

If you want to be successful, you need to study success, not hate it or be envious of it. If you are envious, then you will distance yourself from success and make it that much harder to get there. Never be jealous. Never think someone is "lucky." Luck is created by the prepared. Never think that someone is undeserving of the money they have. That only puts you one more step removed from the freedom you aspire to.

NEGOTIATION IS WORTHLESS. SALES ARE EVERYTHING. Why? Because when someone says "yes" to you, you are in the door. Eventually then, you'll get the girl (or guy, whatever) in bed. If you negotiate right at the door, then you might have to walk away and try the next house. That takes time and energy, and still might not work out.

Ten Keys to Selling

  1. What's the lifetime value of the customer?

  2. What are the ancillary benefits of having this customer?

  3. Learn the entire history of your client, your audience, your readership, and your platform.

  4. Give extra features.

  5. Give away the kitchen sink.

  6. Recommend your competition.

  7. Idea machine.

  8. Show up.

  9. Knowledge.

  10. Love it.

List your childhood passions. We only ever remember the things we are passionate about. Ultimately, these become the fields where ideas bloom and are harvested. Everything else dries up inside and dies. Try to think back to all the things you were ever passionate about from the age of five on. You'll be surprised how many things there were. And how many ways these passions can now be cross-fertilized and mate with each other to provide your next set of passions and ideas.

On Opinions

I'm trying to eliminate things. Not just material belongings I no longer need or never really needed to begin with, but all those things we've been taught from birth are "important" or "our way of life" that have actually become burdens and wastes of time because we cling to them and protect them like they are more precious than the time and energy we waste protecting them. Opinions are a way of clinging to the past. To some belief system our parents instilled in us, our education system "taught" us, our corporate masters forced on us, our peer group shoved down our throats, or some other brainwashing/programming that was implanted into our brain. If I have an opinion, you can gladly take it from me. Here's why:

  • Nobody is ever going to change his mind.

  • One hundred years from now, everyone reading this book will be dead.

  • Us versus Them.

  • Why educate people?

  • I could be reading a book.

  • Loneliness.

  • I'm always wrong.

  • Hold your breath.

  • Less.

  • Bewildered.

There are various ways you can trick the body into releasing oxytocin. The benefits are simple: you feel better and you will live longer, and you will reduce stress and be happier.









  • FOOD.



  1. PROCRASTINATION. Try to figure out why you are procrastinating. Maybe you need to brainstorm more to improve an idea. Maybe the idea is no good as is. Maybe you need to delegate. Maybe you need to learn more. Maybe you don't enjoy what you are doing. Maybe you don't like the client whose project you were just working on. Maybe you need to take a break.







HONESTY COMPOUNDS. It compounds exponentially. No matter what happens in your bank account, in your career, in your promotions, in your startups. Honesty compounds exponentially, not over days or weeks, but years and decades. More people trust your word and spread the news that you are a person to be sought out, sought after, given opportunity, given help, or given money. This is what will build your empire.













I've seen it in action repeatedly: no matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter who your audience is: 30 percent will love it, 30 percent will hate it, and 30 percent won't care. Stick with the people who love you and don't spend a single second on the rest. Life will be better that way.

Society is made up of individuals. The only way to improve society is to come at it from a place of deep, individual satisfaction. The only way to do that is to spend long periods of time just being silent. Find out who the real you is. Ask yourself, "These thoughts that I am thinking, what is generating them?" They are not your thoughts. That is just the biological brain dancing in front of you. Who is the "you" they are dancing in front of? Find that answer, and then you can save the world.

Try this exercise: pretend everyone was sent to this planet to teach you. Famous people, dead people, your neighbors, your relatives, your co-workers. This will give you a strong feeling of humility. And guess what, you will learn from people, you will appreciate them more, and they will actually appreciate you more. Because everyone loves to teach.

What can we learn from Woody Allen?

  • Wake up early.

  • Avoid distractions.

  • Work three to five hours a day and then enjoy the rest of the day.

  • Be as perfectionist as you can, knowing that imperfection will still rule.

  • Have the confidence to be magical and stretch the boundaries of your medium.

  • Combine the tools of the medium itself with the message you want to convey.

  • Don't get stuck in the same rut--move forward, experiment, but with the confidence built up over experience.

  • Change the rules but learn them first.