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4 Things to Do Everyday If You Want to Be Happy, Healthy & Wealthy | James Altucher on Impact Theory | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "4 Things to Do Everyday If You Want to Be Happy, Healthy & Wealthy | James Altucher on Impact Theory".
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There's lots of things you could be interested in, but it all boils down to not, am I gonna do this today? But if I really wanna be good at it, am I willing to put in the 1,000, 3,000, 10,000 hours that we'll take to get to that level? - Hey everybody, welcome to Impact Theory. Our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams.
Discussion On Creative And Emotional Development
All right, today's guest is one of the most fascinating entrepreneurs and podcasters in the world. A multi-hyphenate indie extreme. He's also a best-selling author whose book, "Choose Yourself," was named by Business Week as one of the top 12 business books of all time. Not too surprising, given that the book is chock full of wisdom gleaned from one of the most expansive and volatile careers ever. He's been an investor, running venture capital funds, hedge funds and angel funds. He's been a board member sitting on the boards of a diverse array of companies, but most importantly, he's also founded 20 companies of his own, several of them notable successes, and most useful to all of us, several of them spectacular failures. He's made multiple fortunes and squandered a couple as well, but through it all, he's taken us along for the ride with absolute transparency, even during the times when he was considering suicide. He's penned nearly 20 books, written countless articles and conducted some of the most revealing interviews ever captured. He's interviewed such luminaries as Mark Cuban, Peter Thiel and Tony Robbins, and written for some of the most prestigious publications on the planet, including "The Financial Times," "The Wall Street Journal" and "TechCrunch," his gripping style of total candor and unflinching willingness to rake himself over the coals for the reader's benefit, has placed him firmly in the pantheon of truly great writers and earned him a fan base on his own blog that rings in at over 25 million people and counting. So please, help me in welcoming the ranked chessmaster, stand up comic, and the Michael Jordan of Self-Reinvention himself, James Altucher. - Thanks, I'm gonna go. - I'm gonna go. - I'm gonna go. - I'm gonna go. - I'm getting so good. It is so good to have you here. - I wish every time I walked into a room, somebody would do an intro like that for me. - We can work on that. - We can make that happen. - Like if I'm walking into like a board meeting and say, someone can just say that. Hey everybody, quiet down. Like, you've seen him on his podcast. He's written 20 books. He's like, I want that intro everywhere I go. - I dig it. I can respect that. - Then let me ask you a question. - Yeah. - And then we'll-- - The usual way to start an interview, I like it. - Okay, this is just like a naive question. - Yeah. - But like, I get the bro hug thing. But it wasn't around when I was a kid, men didn't do the bro hug. - Right.
I'm confused (03:08)
- And, nothing does anything wrong with it, but I'm confused. Like I'm a shy person. And so, sometimes people do the fist bump, which just, it feels a little weird. Like you're about to like punch somebody and then it turns into a handshake. And then, like for me, handshake is a handshake. That's how I'm used to it. And then the bro hug sort of evolved. And we had a podcast cast on, it was a basketball player, I won't name him, name who was, who's seven foot two. I'm going in for the handshake. He's then going for the bro hug. I don't know when to switch. And he's seven foot two. So I end up kissing his elbow. And I just sometimes don't know what to do. - That's amazing. - So there are rare people that I meet in life that are this truly beautiful and fascinating combination of a few traits. And you have this self awareness that is so palpable and the ability to explain what you're going through and have been through. But you also have this volatility to the way that you've lived your life where it's like you'll make the fortune and then you spend the fortune. But the part that fascinates me is that you're then able to walk us through exactly what was going on. - I think it's because I lacked self awareness or lack it still, who knows.
Lack of self awareness (04:22)
And that's the problem, is that I would make all this money and I would think, oh, that's it. I finished. I'm done with being, everything I had to do would be a good human. And now I could just do whatever I want. And of course then you crash and burn very quickly. And I think it was because I lacked self awareness. I thought money was the goal and not just the means towards other goals. And when things crash and burn, it would be very painful. And then I would ask myself, like, oh, how could this happen to me again? Like, it just didn't just happen once. It happened twice in a third time. And it would be so depressing. Like, why I think I'm smart. What am I doing wrong? And then I had to really kind of analyze what was going right on the way up. What was I doing wrong on the way down? Is it possible to start over again? And I was getting older and older each time and I had kids to raise. You know, and of course I would analyze like every possibility and some possibilities weren't pleasant. Some were a little bit more hopeful. But, you know, it's a scary thing to get to that point where you're either going to, you know, keep on failing miserably or, you know, try again. Like that's scary too. So you get stressed. Every time you get stressed, cortisol, of course, spikes in your brain, you know, this stress hormone. And there's two ways to resolve it. You could give up because that solves all your problems. Just say, you know, blaming somebody. Like just giving up in some ways. One way to resolve the stress. And the other way to resolve the stress is to kind of go through it and try to succeed again and push through it and figure out what went wrong and realize, okay, it might take me another two, three, five years to really work at it to get to that level again financially or in career or whatever. But, you know, both, those are the only two ways to relieve stress. Unfortunately, for me, most of the time, I took that persistent side, you know, where I'm going to learn what I did wrong. I'm going to try to figure this out and hope for the best. Because the other side, giving up, you know, is hard when you have kids to raise and when giving up might mean, you know, thinking about suicide or thinking about, I don't know, getting a job at Burger King or whatever. I don't know. So nothing wrong with getting a job at Burger King, by the way. But I didn't want to work there.
Act of writing (07:00)
That's interesting. First, the writing about the time where you were contemplating suicide, the difficulty emotionally of dealing with the money loss and all that, was that a hopeful act? Did you want other people to learn something? You were just so raw and so candid and I want to understand what motivated that. - The suicidal ideation? - No, talking about it. - Oh, talking about it. It's funny because I started writing about it in 2009 or 2010 and all, you know, previously I'd written about, you know, other things. I've been a writer for, since like 1991. And I've been professionally writing about, let's say, the economy or companies or whatever. I was wrote for the Wall Street Journal. I had a column for the Financial Times. But then suddenly, I just stopped all that and I started writing this more raw, honest stuff. Because I got, I mean, it's a whole story. So people would call me up and say, do you have cancer or something? Everything okay? Are you about to die? Like now you're just, these are confinial confessions. Like friends would take me out to lunch or dinner. Like are you okay? Everyone was calling me like, are you okay? And I'm like, I'm better than ever. But it was funny, just the reaction from friends, how surprised they were at someone being honest. But I would get tons of emails from people saying, oh, I'm like going through the same thing. What should I do? And I didn't know what they should do. I'm not a therapist or anything. I would just say, this is my story. And if you can get something out of my story that is helpful to you, that's great. But I can't, I never give advice in my writing. I just say what's worked for me. And then if it's worked for others, that's great. So I will, I'll be bold in a way that either you can't for yourself or don't want to be, but choose yourself is extraordinary in the advice that it gives. Which read is advice to me. And maybe that wasn't your intention, but it's so powerful. So if people read it as advice, their life will be better because of it. That's the ultimate barometer by which I'll judge books. If you take somebody's advice, will your life be better? And unquestionably, that's true. And I wanna get to some of those specifics. But before I do that, I really wanna understand the act of writing in such a candid way. Is it an act of hope for you? Or is it meaning, I hope that in my pain, someone will get something powerful and positive. And that makes having gone through it worth it. Or is it that the more sort of mechanical of I know that I'll earn my credibility just by being truthful. 'Cause you've said that writing your blog specifically, you don't make money off of it, but you earn your reputation. - Well, also writing is difficult. It's a skill. You're communicating some story, an image that is clear in your head, and you're trying to teleport that image into the heads of all these, maybe thousands of strangers you don't know. And the way humans have done it for 70,000 years, you know Yvall, Harari, and Sapiens, obviously, is through stories, not through lectures, not through, here's the 10 steps to do this. Let's say I'm writing about public speaking. I won't say here's the 10 ways to be better at public speaking. I'll say here's a couple of times where I was scared out of my mind to go on stage. And I literally, I was about to go up on stage and I left the building and I was just gonna take a plane home and not ever return any phone calls again from these people who invited me to speak at their conference. And here's how I went, I solved the problem for myself. And so that could be construed as advice, but it's really just how I solved it for me. It's like, you know, I had an ordinary person, sold a business, lost everything, so now there's a call to action. And I meet people who could help me once I was aware of what was happening. And I had bigger and bigger problems to solve to try to get success or happiness again. And then I returned to tell the story. And it's like the traditional mythology. You know, Joseph Campbell calls it the hero's journey, but I could call it also the loser's journey, you know, and it's the same thing. - Yeah. It's very fascinating to hear you tell that retelling and to see your own story as a hero's journey. The fact that you share it and allow other people to learn from it is, from my perspective, it's like, I don't know, an active salvation somehow. I'll say this, for me to not try to be cool, to own up to people that I don't know things or that I consider myself average, it was an act of salvation for myself. It removed fear out of the equation. I didn't have to worry about whether I won or lost at something because I wasn't faking anything. And I was just telling people this is really how I see myself. And so the reason that I wanted to put such a fine point on that is I want people to understand that the life that you've built, at least in this act of your life, has been based on the credibility you've earned by writing just the really raw truth about who you are. And that the fact that you write like that is precisely why I listened to your podcast.
Your credibility (12:28)
That's why I wanted to have you on the show. There's so much wisdom when somebody's not posturing. And so reading, choose yourself. I was literally, I started feeling badly about myself because your advice was so fucking good. It's the awesome advice to the person that had to climb that hill themselves. And I want people to understand that first 'cause I think that the main premise of a lot of your writing is a lot of people wanna die. And like that really scares me in a way that I can't tell you. And it drives me in a way that I can't tell you. So when I started all of this being impact theory, it never once occurred to me that one of the top questions I would get asked is a easier variation than the very direct question people were asking you which is I wanna die and what do I do about that? And that was the biggest surprise of doing impact theory. And I've never seen anybody address that concern as profoundly as you have. - Yeah, and thank you for saying that by the way. And thank you for saying all these things about, about choose yourself, like I bow your opinion highly. And the thing about failing, whether it's, you fell at a career thing or you fell at a relationship thing or you fell at, you lose money and you feel like, oh my God, I was set and now I'm not. I bought literally probably one of the biggest apartments in New York City. I was just stupid almost every single day. I would invest. I actually thought I was at the poverty line at 10 million. Previously, I would have been like, oh, give me $100 and I'll be happy. But then suddenly as soon as there was something wrong with my brain, as soon as I had like 10 million and this is just a stupid way to think, but I had like a disease. Like I would think I need 100 million. So how do you get 100 million from 10? You have to invest huge ridiculous amounts of money in potentially stupid companies. And turns out all of my companies I invested in were stupid and I lost everything. You know, it was forced out of my home. I couldn't afford, you know, the mortgage or anything. And, you know, I remember thinking that, okay, my kids are young enough. They won't remember me. Like I, you know, I had a zero year old and a three year old. I don't remember being three. So I figured, okay, this is the exact right time. I had a $4 million life insurance policy, which should be enough to set them up. This is the exact right time to kill myself if I want them to be okay. 'Cause I'm never gonna be smart enough to make this money again. And so I would start altavista-ing 'cause people weren't googling them. There was altavista was a search. And how do you do this without the life insurance company knowing? And I couldn't figure out how to do it. So the only other alternative was to start figuring out how to make my life better. It wasn't like just one day suicide the next day. Oh, everything's great. A lot of things happened along the way. Like you try lots of things to figure out what will work. Some work and some don't. And it's not easy. How in the depths of your despair, did you become okay with trying something that you knew might fail? Like how did you build yourself back up? You know, the daily practice was that the answer. Like in your book, choose yourself. You do this extraordinary walkthrough of a kid reaches out to you. And he's like at that place where he's just on the floor. There's no getting up. There's even you said, even asking him to floss a single tooth would have been asking too much. And how do you build back from that? How did you build back from that? Yeah, so I mean, it's happened more than once to me. Sometimes I would do things right. And I'd get back up and I'd be disciplined. And I would find opportunities and some success again and then lose it again, lose everything to zero after making millions again. And I remember one time I had built and sold a second company, or maybe this was the third company. And I was lying in a hammock and I realized I just had lost everything again. And the hammock was in between these two houses. I had bought on this nice piece of property overlooking the Hudson River and it was raining and I just didn't feel like getting up. It was just where was I gonna go? I had no nothing to do, nothing going on, nothing to hope for. And I was just like, why did this happen again? And I started to just bit by bit piece it together. Like where did I feel pleasure on the way up in such a way that, oh, if I keep doing this, if I keep hitting the accelerator on this activity, good things will happen. And that's what I call, and choose yourself, I call it this daily practice that now, just every day I make sure I factor in these four things. I'll say the four things, but then I'll say how from the beginning you can do it. So the four things that I started doing, and again, this was just me, I mean, my work for others might not. Am I getting a little better in terms of physical health? Now, as you age, your physical health changes is different, but I'm at least attempting to understand and essentially eat, move, sleep better every day. Emotional health. So many times I thought, I have a business opportunity with this guy. Not such a great person. I could see there's some toxicity around him, but this opportunity seems really huge. So I better ignore the bad sides of this person and focus on the opportunity. That low situation is never like zero of those situations worked out. And so, you know, every day, I think am I eliminating toxic people from my life and focusing on positive people who I love and want to support and they love and want to support me. And then every day you could tweak that like a bonsai tree. There's always people moving in and out of your life and you could always tweak it. And so that's emotional health. Then creative or mental health, I call it creative health, not because mental health means something else, but this is really critical. You know, people have ideas all the time or they want to escape the traps that they've set for themselves all the time and they don't know how. And it's difficult because your mind, your only every moment in your life has only added up to where you are right now. So if you don't feel like you're a success, everything you've done before is added up to right here. So you've got to do something a little different, but you don't know what to do different because you've never done it before. So I always, this started happening for me in 2002, 100 waiters pads, 'cause they're 10 cents a pad, and I would write down 10 ideas a day. And then sometimes I would say, oh, I'm gonna write down 10 ideas for Tom Billieu today on how maybe impact theory, I think, could be even bigger than it is. And I might, you know, or maybe I'll write down 10 ways to, you know, 10 ideas for books I could write or 10 ideas for articles that I could write, 10 ideas for Amazon and so on. I write 10 ideas every day, not to have good ideas, but to exercise this idea muscle.
Idea for a muscle (19:58)
You know, if you get into, let's say, a bicycle accident and you can't walk for two weeks, this happened to Stephen King in his book on writing, he talks about this, after a few weeks, your leg muscles of an atrophyd so quickly, you can't walk, you need physical therapy to walk again. So it's the same thing, most people walking around or working in their jobs, and they haven't been exercising their idea muscle. So if you exercise your idea muscle every day, within six months, it's literally you've rewired your brain, and I've seen it happen to me, like suddenly you can come up with ideas for people all the time and for yourself, and suddenly you start to realize, okay, and you get used to having bad ideas, but you'll never come up with a good idea. If you haven't, you never be able to like power lift, 300 pounds, if you haven't like built up, you know, for me, 10 pounds, 30 pounds, and 50 pounds, then whatever, you have to build up.
Build Your Creative Idea Muscle - James Altucher (20:41)
So you have to build up your idea muscle, and then people say ideas are a dime a dozen, they finish with execution is everything. Execution is execution ideas are just a subset of ideas. So if I come up with a good idea, a good idea, the next day, all right, here's 10 ways. I can execute on this idea. Here's 10 more ways how I can execute on this idea in the next day, and then you start executing. And then you find out very quickly if that was a good idea or not. But I think that really is such an important thing, like to get a good, strong, creative idea muscle going. And as a result, I've just sometimes, I just send my ideas to people. So I visited, I sent my ideas to Amazon, I visited Amazon, they invited me to visit. Sent my ideas to LinkedIn, I visited LinkedIn. I started writing for different magazines because I sent 10 ideas of articles I could write for them. I bet you get this, hey, Tom, I really love your podcast. Can I be your intern? I'll do whatever you need help in. And you know, you wanna respond because this person's being sincere, they wanna help you, but they just gave you a homework assignment. Like now you have to come up with a way for them to help you. Now the onus is on you to come up with an idea for them to help you. I always say to people, if you really wanna help me, come up with an idea I haven't thought of, that will help me. And then figure out how you're going to do it. Then you could be my intern or whatever. And the fourth thing is spiritual health. And really, spiritual health is not about praying to God or meditating or bowing down to Allah. All those things are fine. Really, all it means is acknowledging that, for me it meant acknowledging that I'm pretty much an idiot about everything. There's nothing I can control in my world and I can do the best I can and let the world take care of itself. And if I'm doing the best I can, things will be fine. So that's what I mean by spiritual health. So just those four things a day. - So do you remember the kid that you featured in the book? That was basically I can't, I don't know how to get started. I just feel completely dejected. Something horrible had happened, I forget exactly what. And then you walk him through the power of having a daily practice and you said to just start with one thing instead of all four. - Right, so this is extremely important. So I do remember that and I called it this simple daily practice just to give it a name, to give it a people respond to something that's like branded almost. So this is a daily practice and then there's the simple daily practice. Just do one thing and ask yourself at the end of the day that I do that one thing. It's like if you need to get better at shooting a target with a bow and arrow, you don't start shooting a target that's 100 yards away. I could hit a bull's eye if the target is one yard away and then okay I'll get good at that. Then three yards away and then five yards away. So then maybe a hundred yards away a year from now or a hundred years from now, I don't know. But physically, let's say you focus on, or let's say you focus on the creative. Don't come up with 10 ideas a day. Come up with just one idea a day and pick something, pick a category that's easy. What's one book I can write? Like those are pretty cool sneakers. How do you identify, I'm gonna write a book. How do I identify what a cool sneaker is to buy? Okay, that's a bad idea. That's a horrible idea. Nobody will buy that book. But at least you just started with something and you don't have to judge whether it's a good idea or not. And you know, or let's say emotionally, okay there's talks of people in your life. Maybe you have a sibling that is always putting you down. Okay, don't think about what am I gonna respond to the sibling the next time I talk to him or her. Just don't call him that day and you've just eliminated that toxic person from your life for that day. Whether spiritually, like what's one thing you're always trying to control? Whether it's how a kid is acting or how a spouse is treating you or how a boss is treating you, you can't control that. They're going through their own hardships and hard times in life. I can't control how someone treats me and I'm just gonna focus on what I can do to improve myself. So everything is just practice. That's why I'd say, that's why I call it a daily practice. It's not like a daily habit. It's a daily practice because it's practice for how you live your entire life. Not, it's not like the cure, it's just practice. So you could be open to the cures in life. So make it as simple as possible. You're just practicing and you make the practice better and better. - I think the A to Z examples that you gave to people, like you said to him, okay, here are some potential things that you can do. And it was literally A to Z. They're worth the price of admission for that book alone.
The Practice and The Daily Habit (26:02)
I thought they were so powerful. I don't know how many you remember of them, but some that really jumped out at me, one was reply to an email from 10 years ago. Another was call somebody up that really influenced you. Doesn't matter who they are and tell them that you're grateful for them and why you're grateful for them. And there was just something like as you went through and you were going through all these relatively simple things, but they would put you in a certain mindset. Was that the idea to get people practicing something that sort of... - Yes, and because it's fun. So all those things A to Z, I did. So for instance, one time I thought to myself, I didn't own JamesAlthisher.com 'cause I was writing for all these other publications. Who's gonna come to my website? And so one time a reader of mine in 2004 wrote me and said, "Hey, I know it's your birthday. "I bought you JamesAlthisher.com. "Just send me an email and I'll send it over." I'll send it over to you. And I never replied to him. And in 2009, I looked back at that email. I was just going through all my old emails and I hit reply and I said, "Okay, thanks." And that's it. And then he wrote back right away. He's like, "Whoa, no one's ever taken "like five years to respond to an email before." And I made it seem as if I was just responding instantly to him. And he still fortunately kept re-registering JamesAlthisher.com. He still had it and he sent it over to me. And we're still friends like nine years later. And so this, why that's on this list is because of the last part is because we're still friends. So this was a way to reach out to somebody who had reached out to me with a nice gesture and say, "Okay, I'll reach out back." And if he's still, you know, if he's a good person, you know, maybe this person now has been a friend for nine years. So again, that's on the emotional side of this daily practice.
Jim talks about the benefits of forgiving and forgetting (27:58)
It's like a backdoor way into the emotional side of this daily practice. And also to forgive and forget, like let's say someone wrong me five years ago and I find some email, they sent, you know, "Hey, you wanna grab a cup of coffee "that I never responded to?" And I'm like, "Okay, how about tomorrow at 9 a.m." And you know, it's a way to test the waters to see if emotionally things are different. And what was the other one you said? Gratitude. Gratitude, yeah. I, it's funny enough, I did this podcast recently with AJ Jacobs who wrote a book about gratitude. And in the middle of the podcast, we live called the professor who threw me out of graduate school in 1991. I basically failed every course in graduate school and this person was the dean and he sent me a letter, a formal letter saying, "Look, you're gonna, "you're not mature enough to be in graduate school, "we're gonna have to ask you to leave. "If at some point you wanna come back, "we can have a conversation." But you have to pack up your stuff and leave now. And we called him alive in the podcast and now he's like the dean at Georgia Tech or whatever. And we had this great conversation where I thanked him for throwing me out of graduate school in 1991 and everything that's happened since. You know, and that's again part of this, a backdoor into the emotional. And also the spiritual side of things 'cause you realize what you think might be a bad event, a soul crushing event might actually be the best thing that ever happened to you. You have no control over the future. You have no idea what these events might mean to your later life if you kind of make the best of it. - You talked about forgiving and forgetting a minute ago. One of the most powerful stories that I took away from your writing is your father passing, well you guys were in the middle of a fight. And that just in terms of somebody that has I think some pretty unique insights into that. How did that impact you? What did you take away from that? How would you suggest somebody that's in that same situation? And the temptation is to get locked in that moment forever and not be able to find a way out of that grief. How do you help them process through that?
Jim's story of the regretful loss of his father (30:08)
- Yeah, so what happened was, I feel like I start off every other paragraph. So I lost all my money and then so I had this apartment in New York City but I was losing it. And I called up my parents and I had two kids and I'm like, I don't even know if I could get diapers. This is how cool as I was about money. Even though I had $143, I thought maybe diapers would cost more than $143. So I said to my parents, I didn't know. I don't know if I can afford to live the weekend. Can I drive down to where you are, pick up a couple hundred dollars. I think I said $1,000 and they started saying just no. They gave their reasons, whatever. And I was really frantic about how little money I had, how I was gonna support feeding my kids for the weekend. So I hung up the phone and they tried calling me back. I wouldn't pick up. And I said, okay, I need to just deal with getting my life back together and they were not good for me. But I stopped talking to them and my dad would reach out a couple of times and I was building back up again. I was starting to write. I started to make small little pieces of income from different places. And my dad would reach out, oh, I saw you on CNBC, but I wouldn't respond. And then suddenly he had a stroke and he passed away. And so I had never talked to him after that time when I hung up on him. And of course, the first thing I would think was, if I had the money still, I would have been able to find all sorts of procedures, innovative technologies to kind of help him. And after he had his stroke, I was pretty sure he was still there, but just not moving. But the doctors didn't agree. I felt like if I had the money, I could have proven it. So I felt bad about that. I felt like I missed him because, of course, 'cause he was very different from me in a lot of ways and I missed his advice and his love for me and all of that. But at the end of the day, you can't be a victim all the time. Like I had to move forward or else I was gonna be a victim and always dwell on victimhood instead of, okay, how can I physically be better? How can I be emotionally better? So this doesn't happen again. How can I be creatively better?
The powerful message behind Howes' rule of Don't Ask Why (32:33)
How can I be spiritually better? That's interesting. You have a pretty powerful rule that I will be immediately employing, which is don't ask why. Explain to people what you mean by that and what you get from that. Let's say you're friends with somebody and they suddenly stop talking to you and you call them, they don't pick up, you email, they don't respond. You start to wonder, did I do something? You know, they're wrong. They think they probably think I did this, but I know that they're wrong. I wanna tell them that they're wrong. You don't know what's going on in their life. You've sent the message that you're there. You've kind of sent the smoke signal out. You can't ask why they're not responding. It's hard enough to figure out why you're doing the things you're doing, let alone figure out what people who are bad to you or why they're doing what they're doing. That's too complicated. Life's hard enough. So that's a simple example. Another example might be you had a partner who you suddenly realized had committed a crime, say, and now the business is going out of business. You can't really ask why did they commit that crime. You have to more ask about yourself, okay, how am I gonna recognize in the future not to partner with people who are nuts, who I should have recognized in some way, they were not emotionally all there, that they were gonna be able to do this. So I don't get myself in that situation again. So this is a business way of looking at it. Or, you know, there's thousands of ways to look at it, but you can never ask why about why someone else is doing something to you. Like, they're not really doing it to you. They're doing it about themselves. And then you have to decide, it's your choice completely how you're going to react. And that's why I say this daily practice is practice for those moments when you're starting to ask why. Like, because you've been doing this daily practice, or because I was doing this daily practice, I'm able to survive that moment, not ask why and just move on. Just flesh that out for people. What difficult gratitude is?
- Yeah, I always find people say, oh yeah, be grateful every day, which is great advice. It should be grateful every day. But it's almost a little too easy. Like, oh, when you wake up in the morning, be grateful for the sun, be grateful you have another day to live your life, be grateful, you know, your kids are healthy and whatever. Those are, that's easy. You know, what about when things are hard? What can you be grateful for? Can you be grateful for losing, you know, nine, like all your money in a day? Can you be grateful for, okay, my, you know, my father died when I didn't speak to him for six months, maybe I should, you know, not that that is anything to be grateful for, but maybe it teaches me a lesson that there's someone I love. This could be the last time I speak to them and I should remember that. And this taught me this valuable lesson. Not that I wanted it to last and taught that way, but I have to reframe the narrative a little bit. Or let's take something simpler or let's, let's say I'm driving into New York City and I have a very important meeting with people who are funding a company or whatever, but there's traffic, so I'm gonna be late and I can be thinking to myself, "Oh, why does this always happen to me? I've got this traffic." Or I could think to myself, "Wow, I live in the busiest, most amazing entrepreneurial city on the planet." And that's why everybody else wants to get into this city. So I'm grateful I live near here to have this opportunity. Then I can call them up and say, "Sorry, there's traffic." And if they're good people to work with anyway, they'll be fine with it. - Yeah, it's interesting how just reframing that puts you in just a different enough mindset that you're able to see something that you might not otherwise see.
Impact Of Work And Concluding Thoughts
Researching you, listening to you, the image that keeps popping into my head is that of an intellectual, no, not at all. It's an intellectual adventurer. Like of days of old, like you've been wealthy, you've been poor, you've built companies, you've written books and articles, you've been a minimalist, even if you don't fit the tradition. I mean, just like there's so many extraordinary stories that you have in all of this. And the question that I wanna know is, do you have a purpose? And do you think that that's important that people have a purpose in life? - Do you have a purpose? - Yes. What's your purpose? - You pull people out of the matrix by giving them an empowering mindset. - Okay, I like that purpose. No problems with that one. In general, you have like a set of values and your values are, part of your values is that most of life, I'm unpacking your purpose. So, correct me if I'm wrong. Part of your values are is that we live in some story that is partly or almost entirely fictional, that most people are rationally playing out their role in this story. College job, white picket fence, promotion promotion promotion, retirement happiness. And that is a largely fictional story taught to us by parents, colleagues, friends, bosses, colleges, professors, teachers and so on. And your purpose you're saying is to show people that there are other narratives that they can live their life by, maybe narratives that are actually more meaningful to them because they were told that story, but one alternative is for them to construct their own narrative about what life is about and they'll be happier and more successful and have more well-being if they live in that narrative. That's a long way of unpacking what you succinctly said in one sentence. And one laughter from the crowd there. His laughter is because it's better the way you said it in one sentence and I'm just unpacking it for myself. And I sort of feel like I don't know how to tell people that they're living in a fictional story.
Like if we're truly living, let's say, I'm gonna take it to an extreme, let's say we are living in a virtual reality. Now, Neo in the Matrix had the benefit of someone literally pulling him out of it and putting him in the real world. There's nobody really like in that science fiction way doing that. So all I can do is for myself understand that I need to choose the narrative I'm gonna live my life by. Like let's say I write a book and let's say every publisher says, "Nope, this is a bad book. "We're not gonna publish it." Okay, there's a narrative that says, "All right, if I'm rational, "these are the smartest people in the publishing world. "I guess my book is no good or I could be disappointed "a little bit 'cause I think it's good, "but I get, they're the experts "and if they say no, they're the gatekeepers "to the outer world of publishing." Fine, I'll follow the narrative I've been taught and agreed to the gatekeepers. Or I can say, I think it's good. I'm gonna choose myself to publish my own book and I will upload it to Amazon. I will make my own little publishing company. I will say to Amazon, look, this is a book and Amazon will put it up. Amazon's where most books are bought and I've just changed the narrative a little bit for myself and then I can document what I've done and people could say, "Hey, that I could do that too. "I just let all these publishers reject me. "I could do what he did and publish my book." Whether it's good or not and let the market decide whether it's good. And so I guess it's a similar to what you're saying but I just, what I do is I, where is my compass pointing me today to sort of choose my own narrative and then I document it so that other people could decide if they like my narrative or if they wanna just stick to kind of the traditional, they wanna sign up for the narrative that everyone else has signed up for, i.e., the matrix. And so I sort of feel like my purpose is to live the life I want to live and not the life anybody else wants me to live which is a different way of saying something similar and where it kind of intersects is like and then I'm gonna document it and maybe that helps people or maybe it doesn't. I don't know 'cause I can't change how someone else thinks I could only write what I did and how I chose myself. So it's similar, it's an overlap in what you're saying but I don't really think of that as my purpose is just what I enjoy doing and I don't like gatekeepers telling me no. So, and whenever someone tells me no, I figure out a backdoor to get what I want. Very smart. Which maybe is selfish of me too, I don't know.
James's Work (41:34)
It's Zoom. Before I ask my last question, tell these guys where they can find you online. Well, two ways. One is I have a podcast that I'm very proud of in part because I have Tom Bill, you wanted and other people like you, it's the James Altar's show. Could also find me at JamesAltar.com 'cause I bought it from that guy and who bought it from me in 2004. The other thing is you could, this is the true story, you could Google, put it in quotes so you get the exact phrase, you could Google, I wanna die. And depending on how our Google search history is, I'm either the number two, the number three, or the number four result. There's 44 million results and I'm either the number two, number three, or number four for you, for the listener of this podcast. If you Google, I want to die and that will take you to my blog or my website. All right, my last question, what's the impact that you wanna have on the world?
Impact on the World (42:20)
You know, impacts a strange thing because what's the world? Does that mean the future? Because let's say, your grandchildren will probably remember who you are. Are your great grandchildren gonna remember? Maybe in the modern world, they could look at your Instagram and they could say, oh my, one of my eight great grandparents had this cool Instagram, but so did its other one. So I'm gonna look at hers and then I'm never gonna look at them again. And then your great, great, great, great grandchildren will just have no clue and no interest and they only care about their own instant VRs or whatever, their self-VRs. And so it's hard to define what impact means. So you can say, okay, I wanna have impact on people living today. And I don't know whether I do or not. It's nice, I'm sure you get this. Oh, you get it in walking around in the street, Tom. I've seen your podcast, you've changed my life that one episode with so and so changed my life. So thankful. So I like it when that happens. My ego likes it when that happens and I feel like, okay, this is a good thing to do. But I really just, I like it when things that are in my five, things that I really enjoy passionately love doing. I love it when those things have immediate impact on people. They say it's good and it's, you know, either made them laugh or they took some insight from it that I didn't even think about. They just thought that the outcome or the process of what I did was something that they thought was interesting. So I could only think about that. Like, am I doing what I enjoy doing? Am I doing my daily practice? Am I following my own core values? 'Cause if I am, then the ancillary effect of that is that I'll probably have some impact. As opposed to when I wasn't doing those things and I would just lose all my money and I didn't, nobody cared and I didn't really care about anyone else and, you know, my life was completely different then. So I just try to do, again, live the life I've been, you know, sticking with discipline to this daily practice and then following wherever my compass that day tells me to go. I don't know if that's impact or not, but it's worked so far. Love that.
Sign off and Final Thoughts (44:44)
James, thank you so much. Thanks so much. Thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it. My pleasure. All right, guys, truly, this is one of the most fascinating intellectual explorers I've ever met in my life. I've been following in Mao for years and I think that the amount of content that he puts out, there is a sincerity to it that is unrivaled and the fact that you can get to his blog by typing in, "I want to die," is bizarre and somehow beautiful because once you start reading the way that he talks about these things and you understand that he is giving people incredibly real tactical advice that they can use that reads like an instruction manual on how to get out of those situations and how to make your life better. And the irony is he doesn't even see it as advice, which is maybe the genesis of all of its beauty is it is just somebody who is talking so raw and completely real about what they went through that you almost can't believe that somebody is able to be that raw and that they can see themselves that well, even if it's only in hindsight, it is one of the most extraordinarily brave and generous acts from my perspective that I've ever seen in my life. That's the only way that I can perceive him and seeing the way that he brings these extraordinary people onto his show and takes him to new places and asks him interesting and intriguing questions and pushes them and sometimes argues back to them on his own show, it's really, really astonishing. And there's so much value to be taken. I've never seen anybody talk as eloquently about how to build your life back as him. And I think even if that were the only gift that he had given that it would be profound enough to warrant such an extraordinary life, but there's so much more than that. And I hope that you guys will dive in. You will be richly rewarded if you do. All right, if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. And until next time, my friends, be legendary. Take care.
End of Podcast (46:36)
- James, thank you, my friend. - Hey everybody, thank you so much for watching and being a part of this community. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. You're gonna get weekly videos on building a growth mindset, cultivating grit and unlocking your full potential.