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Authors: James Altucher

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

Choose Yourself! (6 page)

BOOK: Choose Yourself!
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I’ll tell you what I did today. An online education company asked me to come up with an online course. Maybe I’ll do a course on “The Daily Practice,” but I made a list of ten other courses I could maybe teach. It was hard! I didn’t even know if I knew enough about ten different topics to be able to teach them. I still don’t know. But I made the list. My mind sweated like a pig. And then you know what I instantly did afterward?

I fell asleep.

After sleeping about ten hours the night before. Sleeping is fun. I love to sleep. It’s a Saturday. It was 1 p.m. I took a half-hour nap. My mind was tired. Then I woke up and wrote this. Come up with ten ideas a day.

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.

When I walk around New York City, everyone seems to have glazed eyes. They are walking around in the past or the future. They are time traveling. 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.

I have money worries. I have relationship fears. I have insecurity. Will they like me, hate me, love me? Will I ever go broke? Will Claudia ever leave me, like so many others have? All fears from the past, all worries of the future. I have regrets. Maybe if I had been a better parent…maybe if I had been a better son…maybe if I hadn’t lost all that money I could’ve saved lives…maybe, maybe, maybe.

All of that doesn’t exist. It’s my mind pretending they exist.

I give up. I can’t control the past or the future. They are empty, just like I am. All there is is now.


When you surrender and accept the beautiful stillness around you, when you give up all thoughts of the past, all worries and anxieties of the future, when you surround yourself with similarly positive people, when you tame the mind, when you keep healthy, there is zero chance of burnout.

How do you surrender? By trusting that you’ve done the right preparation. You’ve done all you can do. All that is within your power, your control. Now, give up the results. The right thing will happen.

This is the ONLY way I’ve ever ignited the fire and avoided burnout. Think about the things we worry about. How, almost 100 percent of the time when we look back on a particular fear, we realize how useless worrying about it was.

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.

Devoting yourself to a Daily Practice helps to build incremental improvements in our lives, even if you only notice the tiniest increments at a time. Today they will build up. Every moment they will build up. Every moment they will shed the extra garbage that you carry with you on every level, the garbage that weighs you down, the external garbage that eventually catches on fire, burning you OUT, on the outside.

Instead, igniting the fire on the inside burns a light so fierce it can’t be burned out. Instead, you will brighten the galaxy. You will add brilliance to the lives around you. You will become a beacon, a light that attracts abundance, instead of a flickering fame that is eventually smothered.


(or Why Do So Many People Want to Die)

A lot of people want to die. And I don’t blame them. The most dreadful thing in life is not dying. It’s being born. Once you are born, you’re screwed. Now you have to actually survive. You have to grow from someone who craps their pants, can’t speak to anyone without crying, and can’t walk or feed themselves, to a full-grown adult who can barely do all of that while also juggling a mortgage, a marriage, kids, career, whatever, to finally being an old man who can’t do any of those baby-like things again.

Then you die. No worries after that.

How do I know a lot of people want to die? Because Google tells me. The search phrase that is most likely to take people to my blog is, “I want to die.” The number-two search phrase is “I hope to die.” Number three is “How can I disappear,” which is a little more hopeful than dying but expresses no less similar a sentiment (it’s sort of like saying “How can I kill this life I have and start another”). My e-mail is slightly more uplifting. The most popular question I get via e-mail is “I’m stuck. How can I move forward in life?”

Each of those last people is not quite at the “I want to die” point, but somehow their lives have stalled. The reason they’re stalled is because the axis of the world has changed. We can’t rely on the job, the marriage, the relationship, the house with the white-picket fence, the college degree, the anything external for that matter. Nothing counts. Everything we dreamed for was an illusion.

So people find themselves on the floor. Without “a life,” as they put it. They obviously have a life. They are breathing. But they don’t know how to choose life for themselves. The masses rely on others to do it for them. They have given up their Life to live a smaller “life,” ruled by others.

I get that. It’s happened to me over and over again.

But this reliance on others has to come to an end. It was always a myth. Everything we hoped for. The society that we were told would be here, waiting for us, is completely gone and is never coming back. You can either take the blue pill (become depressed about an artificial reality that is never going to return) or take the red pill (fully enter the Choose Yourself era and take advantage of its opportunities).

And it’s not as if our bosses will help us. They hate us. No matter how nice they are to you, they actually hate you. The head of a major news organization asked me to breakfast a few months ago. He wanted advice on how to build up the traffic for his company’s website. When I say a major news organization, I mean MAJOR. You read his newspaper every day.

We started off with his version of idle chitchat. “I’m having a problem with my reporters. They all get Twitter accounts and then the ones with a lot of followers suddenly want raises and promotions.”

“Why is that a problem?” I said. “Don’t you want your reporters to be widely liked and respected?”

He gave the typical BS response. “We’re about the news. Nobody is a star.”

That’s the problem. A corporation wants identity to go away. He wanted his best and his brightest to be mediocre so that the corporation, not the individuals inside of it, would burn bright. What’s going to happen is that his company will lose, and all of his “stars” will go supernova on their own.

Why do I put so much emphasis on the Daily Practice? Am I trying to sell a religion or something?

No, I put emphasis on it because it’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me. Following that practice is the only thing that “unstuck” me, pulled me off the floor, saved my life, and actually propelled me to success.

And since I’ve been writing about it, I’ve seen it with thousands of others who have written me e-mails about it. I’ve collected testimonials, some of which you’ll find at the back of the book. Those weren’t tweets or e-mails I got over a period of a year. Those were tweets and e-mails I got over a period of the past hour as I wrote this.

I’m not selling anything (well, this book in your hands, but if you know someone who can’t afford it, then please let me know and I will send it to them for free). In fact, I encourage people to not believe me. All of the people who are stuck or frustrated or scared or anxious or filled with regret, please try these ideas so you can see for yourself.

This is how we form a better society. First we become better as individuals. You can’t help others if you look in the mirror and hate what you see. And it’s very easy to hate what is there. We live most of our lives hating the mirror. Heck, I’m pretty gruesome to look at in the morning. It’s a daily challenge!

Many people say, “The Daily Practice is too much work for me. I can’t do it all every day.”

No problem. Let’s first define the “Simple Daily Practice,” then we can go into more of the subtleties.

Why the need for a simple daily practice?

I went to a talk given by my friend Ramit Sethi who wrote the bestselling book
I Will Teach You to Be Rich
. Ramit and I have gone to each other’s talks several times and we’ve also done a few videos together. He takes a behavioral psychology approach to personal finance that I think is very unique. It’s not the simple “save an extra $1,000 a month and you will be rich.” In fact, he took a survey of personal finance authors who recommend that people keep budgets, and he found that none of them actually kept budgets themselves.

In his talk he made a point that was near and dear to me. Claudia, my wife, had been trying to get me to floss my teeth. I get lazy and I try it for a few days but then get tired of trying to dig into all the little areas in between my teeth. It’s like a half-hour process, so after a while I stop and then after a few days I give up. When Ramit started talking about flossing, I saw Claudia’s ears practically twitch.

He said the way you get people to floss is to just ask them to floss one tooth. That’s it.

Suddenly, they are “flossing.” Their brains say, “I’m the type of person who likes to floss.” Maybe after a day or two they start flossing two teeth. “And why stop there?” Ramit said. “After a few weeks, they’re flossing all of their teeth because their brain sees it wasn’t as hard a habit as they thought.”

The Simple Daily Practice is the same. All you really need to do to get off the floor is acknowledge that it’s not your external life that needs to change (you have little control over that), but that external changes flow from the inside.

External changes in your life are like the final ripples of the ocean that lap onto distant shores. A promotion, a raise, a new job offer, a new relationship. These are the final ripples. The ocean is inside you. Becoming aware of that infinite presence doesn’t require meditation in a cave for fifty years. It involves simply being healthy. Healthy not just physically but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

For now, the Simple Daily Practice means doing ONE thing every day.

Try any one of these things each day:

Sleep eight hours.
Eat two meals instead of three.
No TV.
No junk food.
No complaining for one whole day.
No gossip.
Return an e-mail from five years ago.
Express thanks to a friend.
Watch a funny movie or a stand-up comic.
Write down a list of ideas. The ideas can be about anything.
Read a spiritual text. Any one that is inspirational to you. The Bible, The Tao te Ching, anything you want.
Say to yourself when you wake up, “I’m going to save a life today.” Keep an eye out for that life you can save.
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.
Forgive someone. You don’t have to tell them. Just write it down on a piece of paper and burn the paper. It turns out this has the same effect in terms of releasing oxytocin in the brain as actually forgiving them in person.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
I’m going to steal this next one from the 1970s pop psychology book
Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No:
when you find yourself thinking of that special someone who is causing you grief, think very quietly, “No.” If you think of him and (or?) her again, think loudly, “No!” Again? Whisper, “No!” Again, say it. Louder. Yell it. Louder. And so on.
Tell someone every day that you love them.
Don’t have sex with someone you don’t love.
Shower. Scrub. Clean the toxins off your body.
Read a chapter in a biography about someone who is an inspiration to you.
Make plans to spend time with a friend.
If you think, “Everything would be better off if I were dead,” then think, “That’s really cool. Now I can do anything I want and I can postpone this thought for a while, maybe even a few months.” Because what does it matter now? The planet might not even be around in a few months. Who knows what could happen with all these solar flares. You know the ones I’m talking about.
Deep breathing. When the vagus nerve is inflamed, your breathing becomes shallower. Your breath becomes quick. It’s fight-or-flight time! You are panicking. Stop it! Breathe deep. Let me tell you something: most people think “yoga” is all those exercises where people are standing upside down and doing weird things. In the
Yoga Sutras,
written in 300 B.C., there are 196 lines divided into four chapters. In all those lines, ONLY THREE OF THEM refer to physical exercise. It basically reads, “Be able to sit up straight.” That’s it. That’s the only reference in the
Yoga Sutras
to physical exercise. Claudia always tells me that yogis measure their lives in breaths, not years. Deep breathing is what keeps those breaths going.
BOOK: Choose Yourself!
12.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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