Read Choose Yourself! Online

Authors: James Altucher

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

Choose Yourself! (18 page)

BOOK: Choose Yourself!
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2) Oxytocin is released when a woman is in labor. It helps the cervix stretch so it’s in less pain. Women, that is. For men, when the female cervix starts to expand it’s the beginning of about nine years of agony.

Basically, oxytocin is the hormone there at the critical moments of life creation. It’s the “life hormone.” It also helps reduce cortisol levels (you know that feeling of relaxation you get after sex) and inflammation of the vagus nerve. (I sort of like that word:
. It’s both “vague” and “vaginal.”)

So I’m not going to point to all the research. You can Google it with your glasses. But basically, 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.

Turns out that showing compassion in a visceral way like giving money is linked to higher levels of oxytocin. My guess is that giving to charity is not the way to do it. I prefer my method of being a superhero.

Touching and hugging release oxytocin—with hugging being more powerful than touching, and hugging someone you love being more powerful than both. So a hug is better than a handshake. But almost as good as hugging is imagining yourself being hugged or cuddled by someone you love. Huh. It’s really funny how the brain does that.

I like to browse my Facebook time line and occasionally “Like” a photograph posted by a random friend from thirty years ago. I would never in a million years call that friend and say, “That was a real cute photo of your baby that you posted.” But liking the photo is my way of connecting with someone that I felt close to at some point in my life, even if it was only because her locker was next to mine in junior high school. Guess what? Turns out, using social media in this way releases oxytocin. You know you feel good when you do it. Do it more. In particular, Facebook “like” all of my blog posts. [The funny thing is, someone has actually done this scientific research and demonstrated it. Not the part about liking my blog posts but about Facebook in general. Although liking my blog posts will certainly release oxytocin. You can start now if you want.]

I will tell you my pre-date secret. In the brief period when I was single in between separation and remarriage, I had a technique before every date. I would watch either Michael Cera doing comedy or Louis CK doing stand-up. This would get me laughing, make my oxytocin hormones go on fire, and then I’d go right into the date, with all my sex hormones raging. That’s a plus. I would be temporarily funnier, with a half-life of about two hours. I knew after four hours I would be boring again so the date would have to be over by then. (I do this before talks, too.)

Note, I didn’t say take a run. Running is great for increasing the metabolism but so is eating better. Otherwise, for me at least, running is really hard. I hate it. But I love to walk. Walk in the sun. The sun is a nutrient. And a half hour won’t kill you, despite what global warming people say. Walking outside, as you might guess, is statistically correlated with higher levels of oxytocin. Well, you say, I can’t walk. I have meetings all day. If you can, try to take a walking meeting. This helps you bond more with the person you are meeting with, and you might even have an adventure along the way (guess what—scientific research shows that having an adventure with someone also releases oxytocin. I guess because when you are chasing wolves with someone then you know you will feel safer with them afterward). The last time I had a walking meeting with a friend, a guy started yelling at me from a car and I challenged him (with a smile on my face) to a fight. My friend had to drag me away while the guy was parking his car and getting ready to kill me. It was fun. It was an adventure. I felt thrilled.

It’s good to talk to a friend. I don’t have a lot of friends. I have about three people on my call list. Maybe four if I stretch it. Maybe five. I don’t know. Maybe fifty. I like a lot of people, but I’m too shy to call them. Maybe I should. And just chat for a few minutes. Like we all used to do when we were kids. “Hey, how are you doing? What’s up?” This feels good. It’s like a vocal hug with someone we like. Vocally hug people today.

This is hard. You can’t force people to trust you. And trusting someone doesn’t release oxytocin. But being trusted does. So live your life in such a way that more and more people will trust you. Guess what: you will be viewed in a more charismatic way if people trust you than if people don’t trust you. Why not try this? How can you be more trusted? Oh my god, why so many questions today? My hands are already tired. I’m about 1,497 words already.

Just lying down and listening to music releases oxytocin. That’s why women in labor are encouraged to listen to soothing music. That’s why people having sex listen to soothing music. I don’t even really know what soothing music means. I keep thinking of the ’90s R&B group PM Dawn. But I’m sure there are better examples (Spandau Ballet?).

Here is my oxytocin-rich meal: eggs, mixed with bananas and pepper. Each ingredient is known to release high levels of oxytocin. So why not eat them all together: something sweet, something savory, something spicy, a fruit, and some protein; it’s all good. Eat a big plate of that and nothing else. BAM! You are off for the day on an oxytocin spurt.

And finally:

Deep breathing hypnotizes your body into thinking everything is calm. And, guess what, it’s not like you are being hunted down by wild giraffes right now. Things are calm, relatively speaking. When your body is calm, so is your mind, and oxytocin gets released. Ah, your body is saying when it breathes deep, everything is safe. So now I have time to be happy.

This is all good and bad news.

The good news is that there is a chemical in your brain that when released, makes you feel good for up to two weeks. And if a lot of it is released, you either feel like you are having an orgasm for two weeks or, I don’t know, like your cervix is being expanded for two weeks. I have no idea on that one.

The bad news is exactly the same. A CHEMICAL will make you feel good for two weeks. In other words, our basic, human bodies are no better than Pavlovian dogs—triggered to salivate when the right stimuli hits our two hundred thousand-year-old evolutionary brains. We’re no better than the dogs. No better than the jellyfish that crawled out of the bottom of the ocean and then formed tentacles, then arms, then brains.

Forget all self-help. It’s all garbage. It’s all about this one silly chemical. The news lately is all about the Higgs-Boson, the “god particle.” Well, oxytocin is the “god hormone.”

That said, I’ll do all of the above. I need my body functioning. I need to get rid of mental waste and physical waste and emotional waste. Why not?

But at the end of the day, it’s spiritual waste that I’m after. And how do you get that? How do you get to that peculiar desire of trying to have no desires? Because when you expect nothing, you have the immense satisfaction of getting everything you want.

How do you get there?

It’s not oxytocin. I won’t be fooled into believing it. But if it makes me shit out my mental and emotional waste better then sign me up. Being happy is a good start. But oxytocin is just the flower. And you can’t see the flower without the light. The goal is to be the light.


I’m pretty mediocre. I’m ashamed to admit it. I’m not even being sarcastic or self-deprecating. I’ve never done anything that stands out as, “Whoa! This guy made it into outer space!” Or…“This guy has a bestselling novel!” Or…“If only Google had thought of this!” I’ve had some successes and some (well-documented) failures, but I’ve never reached any of the goals I had initially set. I’ve always slipped off along the way, off the yellow brick road, into the wilderness.

I’ve started a bunch of companies. Sold some. Failed at most of them. I’ve invested in a bunch of startups. Sold some. Failed at some, and the jury is still sequestered on a few others. I’ve written some books, most of which I no longer like. I can tell you overall, though, that everything I have done has been distinguished by its mediocrity, its lack of a grand vision, and any success I’ve had can be just as much put in the luck basket as the effort basket.

That said, all people should be so lucky. We can’t all be grand visionaries. We can’t all be Picassos. We want to grow our business, make our art, sell it, make some money, raise a family, and try to be happy. My feeling, based on my own experience, is that aiming for grandiosity is the fastest route to failure. For every Mark Zuckerberg, there are a thousand Jack Zuckermans. Who is Jack Zuckerman? I have no idea. That’s my point. If you are Jack Zuckerman and are reading this, I apologize. You aimed for the stars and missed. Your reentry into the atmosphere involved a broken heat shield and you burned to a crisp by the time you hit the ocean. Now we have no idea who you are.

If you want to get rich, sell your company, have time for your hobbies, raise a halfway decent family (with mediocre children, etc.), and on occasion enjoy the sunset with your wife, here are some of my highly effective recommendations.

In between the time I wrote the last sentence and the time I wrote this one, I played (and lost) a game of chess. My king and my queen got forked by a knight. But hey, that happens. Fork me once, shame on me, etc.

Procrastination is your body telling you that you need to back off a bit and think more about what you are doing. When you procrastinate as an entrepreneur, it could mean that you need a bit more time to think about what you are pitching a client. It could also mean you are doing work that is not your forte and that you are better off delegating. I find that many entrepreneurs are trying to do everything when it would be cheaper and more time-efficient to delegate, even if there are upfront monetary costs associated with that. In my first business, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head the first time I delegated a programming job to someone. Why did I decide finally to delegate at that particular point? I had a hot date. Which was infinitely better than me sweating all night on some stupid programming bug (thank you, Chet, for solving that issue).

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. There’s only so many seconds in a row you can think about something before you need to take time off and rejuvenate the creative muscles. This is not for everyone. Great people can storm right through. Steve Jobs never needed to take a break. But I do.

Procrastination could also be a strong sign that you are a perfectionist. That you are filled with shame issues. This will block you from building and selling your business. Examine your procrastination from every side. It’s your body trying to tell you something. Listen to it.

There’s a common myth that great people can multitask efficiently. This might be true but I can’t do it. I have statistical proof. I have a serious addiction. If you ever talk on the phone with me, there’s almost a 100 percent chance that I am simultaneously playing chess online. The phone rings, and one hand reaches for the phone and the other hand reaches for the computer to initiate a one-minute game. Chess rankings are based on a statistically generated rating system. I can easily compare how well I do when I’m on the phone compared with when I’m not on the phone. There is a three-point standard deviation difference. Imagine if I were talking on the phone and driving. Or responding to e-mails. It’s the same thing I’m assuming: phone calls cause a three-point standard deviation subtraction in intelligence. And that’s the basic multitasking we all do at some point or other.

So great people can multitask. Wonderful. But since, by definition, most of us are not great (99 percent of us are not in the top 1 percent), it’s much better to single-task. Just do one thing at a time. When you wash your hands, don’t try to brush your teeth. Hear the sound of the water, feel the water on your hands, scrub every part. Be clean. Focus on what you are doing.

Often, the successful mediocre entrepreneur should strive for excellence in ZERO-tasking. Do nothing. We always feel like we have to be “doing something” or we (or, I should say “I”) feel ashamed. Sometimes it’s better to just be quiet, to not think of anything at all. A very successful, self-made businessman once told me, “Never underestimate the power of a long, protracted silence.”

Out of silence comes the greatest creativity.

Not when we are rushing and panicking.

As far as I can tell, Larry Page has never failed. He went straight from graduate school to billions. Ditto for Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and a few others. But again, by definition, most of us are pretty mediocre. We can strive for greatness but we will never hit it. That means we will often fail. Not ALWAYS fail. But often.

My last sixteen out of seventeen business attempts were failures. Ultimately, life is a sentence of failures, punctuated only by the briefest of successes. So the mediocre entrepreneur learns two things from failure: First he learns directly how to overcome that particular failure. He’s highly motivated to not repeat the same mistakes. Second, he learns how to deal with the psychology of failure. Mediocre entrepreneurs fail A LOT. So they get this incredible skill of getting really good at dealing with failure. This translates to monetary success.

The mediocre entrepreneur understands that persistence is not the self-help cliché “Keep going until you hit the finish line!” It’s “Keep failing until you accidentally no longer fail.” That’s persistence.

BOOK: Choose Yourself!
3.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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