Choose Yourself!

Some of my posts have been written around things I hear on James Altucher’s podcast. I enjoyed his book Choose Yourself!. I like his outlook on life. Altucher has had it all and lost it all and got it back and lost it all again. A few times over. His background is diverse and his time making media websites in the 90s is fascinating. He’ll mention making Mobb Deep’s original website the way I’d say, “Oh I picked up this bag of gummi sour snakes at the corner store on the way here.”

When I say I like Altucher’s outlook on life, a lot of that has to do with his grasp of what’s important for happiness. I liked how he described what he calls the currency of unhappiness:

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.

A lot of times it seems like blocks of unhappiness lead to happiness. There’s an idea that it’s worked in the past, So we can do that again. It’s important to realize it’s not the only way, though. A lot of the factors in life that contribute to happiness are achievable now. Not everything is at the next milestone.

He also has a pretty good sense of what it takes to be great at something. He’s been successful in multiple fields: creating businesses, chess, the stock market, and now writing and podcasting. Here are a few of his tips regarding where to find inspiration for something you’re trying to master:

Study the history of the form you want to master. Study every nuance. If you want to write, read not only all of your contemporaries, but the influences of those contemporaries, and their influences. Additionally, draw inspiration from other art forms. From music, art, and there again, go back to the influences of your inspirations, and go back to their influences, and so on.

This reminds me of Smartcuts. A lot of breakthroughs come from lateral thinking. Normal practices in one field applied to other fields can produce effective results. Meditation principles applied to productivity leads to deep work. It’s focusing on the present.

We might not have wormholes at hand but all of us time travel every day. You can cherish memories and look forward to future plans. If those thoughts are given a negative shade, you might be worried or anxious. Here’s what Altucher recommends for helping that:

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.

I’ve been practicing meditation and am quickly learning how important it is to be able to catch yourself in your thoughts. If something is bugging you then you’re better able to be deliberate about accepting that and putting it out of mind for good. Reading The Obstacle is the Way, things clicked for me in realizing just how much is out of our control. And energy that would be spent worrying about those things can be applied productively somewhere else.

I used to think a lot about what I could have done differently. In college, I didn’t get into the computer science department. That killed me. Then it lingered for a lot longer than it should have. At a certain point I realized how grateful I was for experiences and people in my life. If I went back, I might not have them. Not that I wouldn’t be happy. My major example is that I don’t think I would have ended up in New York. I think I’ve experienced more and learned more living here than I would have if I took a different route.

Everyone also worries about the future to some extent. The key is to recognize that you’re worrying then identify what you have control over. If there aren’t steps you can take to improve the situation, then it’s probably out of your control and, again, that energy can be applied positively elsewhere.

I’ve been better about being present in the past couple years. It’s important and building better relationships and in focusing on work. I haven’t entirely stopped time traveling, but I try to make sure it’s the positive kind. If it’s negative time traveling, I think of what I’m grateful for or I figure out what I can do right now.

I appreciate that Altucher doesn’t proclaim he’s a guru or anything like that. His suggestion is to see other have done, including himself, and take the lessons from that. Then try them out yourself to see what works.