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Authors: James Altucher

Tags: #BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS / Entrepreneurship, #SELF-HELP / Personal Growth / Success

Choose Yourself! (13 page)

BOOK: Choose Yourself!
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So let’s just move away from all that. 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:
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
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.

When you start to question and practice in these four areas—when you get all four of these bodies healthy—the quality of your ideas will get better, you will have more energy and time, and you will build the basic foundation that will later turn into the house you want to live in.

The global financial crisis was the only recession in history during which corporate cash actually went UP quarter over quarter every single quarter. The result is that there is a massive amount of money out there. Trillions of dollars. Meanwhile, millions of people went unemployed (or underemployed) and into financial stress. Is that you? Are you one of those millions in distress, in need of help, looking for your freedom? This chapter about specific choices was written specifically for you.

I’m not trying to throw crap on the wall here. I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’m not recommending any one of you try any one of the specific brainstorm ideas I laid out above. What I am trying to do though, is to get you to do
. Something that can increase your chances of making $1 million. Something specific that can get you healthy, and be the first concrete step on the path toward choosing yourself.


Nobody chooses themselves to make $1 billion. You don’t wake up and say, “I’m going to do whatever it takes to make a lot of money.” You wake up and you say, “I have a big problem. And a lot of people have the same problem. And nobody is going to solve this problem except for me.”

Even better, can you say “A million people have this problem?”

Corporate America doesn’t solve problems. These companies are machines that keep churning out the same product, with minor tweaks, forever.

With new technology, new methods of marketing, and a healthy, balanced life that helps you come up with ideas and execute on them, you can become the sort of person who solves problems that help millions of people.

It’s the external manifestation of if you better yourself, you better the lives of the people around you.

Sara Blakely decided she had a problem. A big one. She wanted to look better when she wore panty hose.

Specifically, she didn’t want the unsightly bulge that occurs at the end of panty hose underneath the skirt. She solved the problem by creating a seamless panty hose. You may have heard of it. It’s called Spanx, Sounds easy? Sounds trivial? It is. Even she will admit it. And now she’s worth $1 billion.

Am I glorifying the billion dollars? Sure I am. That’s what people notice. Nobody cares about someone who made a new panty hose. But that’s the problem she solved that led to everything else. She simply wanted to look better. And then her friends wanted to look better. And so on.

Here are my takeaways from Sara’s story:

Stay motivated.
She had been reading self-help books (specifically Wayne Dyer’s earlier books) and motivational books since she was sixteen years old. What’s a self-help book do? It tells you that part of the world around you exists because you “think” it to exist. Extreme example: if you are lying on the floor depressed all the time, you won’t seize opportunities. If every day you wake up and say, “What adventure will happen to me today?” then adventures will happen to you. So from an early age she trained herself to look for the opportunities in life. She trained herself for ten years thinking that way before the idea for Spanx hit her. Without thinking about it, she was bringing about the Daily Practice in her life, from spirituality, to mental health, to emotional health, to physical health.

She was amazingly good at sales.
Sara had to sell fax machines for Danka as one of her first jobs. Within a few years, by the time she was twenty-five, she was the national sales trainer. People shy away from the word
. They think the process of selling is “dirty” in some way. But the only way to get anywhere is to come up with ideas and then have a strong ability to sell them. Sara had that ability.

She solved a huge problem for women.
If you want to create $1 billion in value, you need to find a problem that nobody has solved. Right now, this second, there are about 1 million problems that, if you solved one, someone else would say, “Holy shit! That’s so easy. Why didn’t I think of that?” And yet, these problems, right now, remain unsolved.

So what was the problem she “solved”? Ninety-nine percent of women complain about the “muffin top” that forms after the panty hose ends and their stomach takes over. No problem, said Sara, here’s an idea for panty hose that solves it. They’re panty hose that don’t have feet and also smooth out a woman’s body underneath her dress. Then she went out and did it. Now woman look sexier. Not only was this a huge problem for women, it solved a pretty big issue for men as well! We like looking at sexy women.

How did she do it? Sara had never done anything in fashion before. So she spent every day at the library and the hosiery stores. She had a full-time job but at night she researched every patent. She bought every type of panty hose. She knew the entire industry. To succeed at something:

  • Know every product in the industry
  • Know every patent
  • Try out all the products
  • Understand how the products are made
  • Make a product that YOU would use every single day. You can’t sell it if you personally don’t LOVE it

When I was trying to get people to use Stockpickr .com—a site I built from 2006 to 2007—I cold-called AOL, Yahoo, Google, Reuters, Forbes, etc. Guess what? Everyone responded, because I knew it was something they all needed. I had at least two to five meetings with each group and did deals of some sort or another with all of them. If you have something that’s worthwhile, you can’t be afraid to cold-call. They need you more than you need them.

What does this have to do with Sara Blakely and Spanx? She cold-called the number-one place to sell her stuff—Neiman Marcus—and they loved her product and took it right away.


Someone asked me yesterday if I had any connections at a major children’s company so she could sell an excellent set of children’s travel books to them. I think it’s a great idea. Why? Because I see my kids buy every book from this children’s company. It’s a doll company but they also put out books like, “How to be a child of divorce” as an example (which both my kids, being children of divorce, have read thoroughly). So why not travel books? This woman has already made a dozen travel books for kids ages eight to twelve, the exact age group for this children’s doll company. I know she’s a good writer because my kid even did a book report on one of her books and loved it. So I know kids would love her travel books.

She wanted a connection in because she was afraid to cold-call. But almost all sales are done through cold calling. If there’s a need, people will love to meet you. Cold-call right now!

It doesn’t cost much to make a billion.
Sara started with $5,000. That’s it. She never took investors. She never borrowed money. Now her revenues are hundreds of millions a year. Facebook spent a few thousand to get to the point where they had 1 million users a day. Google hardly spent any money at first. Not that I’m in the billion-dollar league, but I can tell you that cost me less than $5,000 to build and was sold for $10 million a few months later. And the first company I sold cost
than $0 to build. We had profitable clients from day one.

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.

Sara didn’t quit her job until she was already well on her way to selling her first million in orders. Most entrepreneurs write me before they have a product even built. They have “an idea” and they want to quit their job to pursue it so they need to raise money right now. Are you crazy? Anyone who would give you money might as well get really good with a plunger because they are going to need it after the money gets flushed down the toilet.

Never ask permission, ask for forgiveness later.
Sara didn’t like how Spanx were being displayed at Neiman Marcus. So she bought samples of her own product at Target and displayed them right next to the cash register at Neiman Marcus. She knew innately that nobody would question her. Nobody questions anything if you have confidence, intelligence, and you are proud of your product. This is like the Stanley Milgram experiment mentioned in the chapter “And Then They All Laughed.” You just ASK for the subway seat and people give it to you.

Sara just did it. To hell with the ramifications. What else did she do? She sent Spanx to Oprah Winfrey’s stylist. Who was more perfect to wear Spanx than Oprah Winfrey?

Take advantage of all publicity.
I’m bad at this. I say no to almost everything. CNBC used to call me all the time and I wouldn’t even return their calls. Finally Jim Cramer said to me, “Why are you embarrassing me like this. Return their calls.” He made the very good point that if you don’t promote yourself, nobody else will.

I first heard about Spanx when Sara Blakely was on the Donnie Deutsch show. But
heard about it through Oprah, an opportunity that Sara created for herself. She also spent a season on Richard Branson’s reality show, defying every fear she ever had. She promoted herself down every avenue. That’s what you have to do to succeed. You can’t have any shame. I have a lot of shame in promoting myself, which I have to get over. She had no shame. Not to over-repeat a catchphrase, but Sara didn’t wait for anyone to choose her. She chose herself in every way.

I’m not saying good looks or bad looks. But YOU are the best promoter of your product. So if your product is something in the fashion industry, you should make sure you are the best model for it. A good friend of mine is about to launch a skin cream for Latina women. The cream smooths out wrinkles and also smooths out the different shades of color on the face that many Latinas have. She’s about forty years old. I can tell you this: she doesn’t have a single wrinkle and her skin glows. She will be the best model for her product.

Remember, you don’t have to be great looking. I’m a weird, geeky-looking guy. Who better to sell a website? Or website services in the ’90s like I used to. If I looked like a J. Crew model, I might’ve failed. Instead, I had the look of a dirty computer genius (even though I was thrown out of computer science grad school) and I can tell you, that look worked for me.

Good for her.
Don’t be a hater! Ninety-nine percent of people are haters. Bless that which you want.

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. I can tell right away that when someone is so envious and jealous, they will never get the freedom they want but will spend the rest of their life trying.

It’s not about the money.
Sara had to tell her fiancé a few weeks before their wedding that Spanx wasn’t just selling a few million dollars’ worth a year but hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth a year.

That’s a big difference, right? And it was only a few weeks before their wedding.

As he put it in a later interview: “She said to me, ‘I’m not sure you really know how successful Spanx is—[and] I am.’” After she told him, her fiancé started crying. “I was just so happy for her.” He had already sold a successful, private-plane rentals company to Berkshire Hathaway and wasn’t doing badly himself. But it shows how little money played a role in how she defined herself.

In an interview with
she said, “I feel like money makes you more of who you already are. If you’re an asshole, you become a bigger asshole. If you’re nice, you become nicer. Money is fun to make, fun to spend, and fun to give away.”

In the past fifteen years, the only time I didn’t look at my bank account every day was when I was doing something I was passionate about. Sara was clearly passionate about Spanx. The money quickly became an afterthought.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about money. But it does mean if YOU ARE thinking too much about money while building your business, then either you are not very passionate about the business or you aren’t helping people with your business. Those two thoughts alone will crowd out the thoughts of your own personal bank account.

BOOK: Choose Yourself!
11.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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