Choose Yourself - James Altucher Book Takeaways
I first heard of James Altucher via Twitter. I wasn't really sure who he was, probably a quack – he's into cryptocurrency and has crazy hair.
A few weeks ago, I listened to James' interview on the My First Million podcast and was blown away by his ability to sell businesses for millions and blow it all.
James worked in the 90's for HBO's IT department and then later started a web design firm before web design firms were really a thing. He made websites for Hollywood directors, movies and even rap labels. James found immense success here and later sold his company at the peak of the dot-com bubble for around $15 million.
Within a 2 year period, he had went bust and blew most of his money. Between this time and 2006, James went on to write for Jim Cramer (yeah, the mad money guy) and trade for Hedge Funds. I have no idea how the f&$k a Comp Sci grad and web designer makes that transition, but it's impressive. James would again create and sell a website called StockPickr to The Street in just under a year. Nice. 😎
Someone in the Trends Facebook group recommended James' Book Choose Yourself, so I amazon Primed it and devoured it in only a few days.
In Choose Yourself, James Altucher gives self-helpy advice (James would probably hate that people think his book is self-help) and commentary on throwing away excuses and choosing yourself in a new economy.
James writes about a wide variety of topics – self publishing, entrepreneurship, customer service, health, failure, self-doubt. He presents principles and ideas that he believes has led him to success after failing in a big way.
Here are my key takeaways, although the book covers much more.
Be an Artist-Entrepreneur
James wrote Choose Yourself in 2013 in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and his own failures.
The American dream is a debt-treadmill powered by inflation. Employers hate you and corporations exist to legally exploit cheap labor. Productivity is continuing to increase while wages stay flat or stagnant. The middle-class is disappearing and robots are taking their place. Jobs are disappearing. Our economy is transforming. These statements are presented as fact without a call for government intervention or blaming any external entities.
James say the future will be populated by temp-staffers and artist-entrepreneurs. The latter group will find financial success in the rapidly hanging economy of the future.
The early Gutenberg press was one of the first technologies that began to spread ideas far and wide and free people from mental imprisonment. James never says, but alludes that the internet is the natural successor that we all have access to.
The only choice is to "Choose Yourself".
Rejection is a recurring theme in Choose Yourself. Employers, lovers, financiers, markets and internet armchair experts are among the few groups that have rejected us.
Rejection – and the fear of rejection – is the biggest impediment we face to choosing ourselves
I originally titled this section Embrace Rejection, but James argues that books that say that are bullshit. Unlearn rejection altogether.
Don't Let 1 Person Hold the Power
This is one idea I've definitely been guilty of. I've had job offers and interviews in limbo that at the moment feel like they will make or break me. In the moment, it's the greatest opportunity I've ever had. What happens when it doesn't work out? I feel like crap. And usually, there's a better opportunity around the corner.
Don't let one person or decision hold immense power over your emotions.
Build a Personal Foundation via the "Daily Practice"
James presents four "bodies" that he believes all need regular exercise every day in order to build a proper foundation. If we are able to do one thing from each of these categories, we can begin to build our foundation internally and find fulfillment in our lives and businesses.
💪 The Physical Body
This one's pretty simple – live a healthy life. Don't get drunk all day, smoke crack, sleep 2 hours, or eat garbage. simple enough (in theory).
🎭 The Emotional Body
Surround yourself with positive people, don't engage in gossip and express gratitude to others.
🧠 The Mental Body –
This was my favorite "body" that Jame's talked about in his book. He'd mentioned his exercise of having 10 thoughts a day and that really intrigued me. More ideas on this below.
🕊 The Spiritual Body
James rejects "new-age bullshit" and I tend to agree with him. His idea of spirituality is not yoga and meditation, but living in the present and expressing gratitude for it. Sounds good to me.
Become an Idea Machine by Exercising the Mental Body
Many people have bad ideas but James thinks that good ideas can be engineered by reading books and regularly having ideas. Few people exercise their "idea muscle" like they exercise. Being healthy in the other "bodies" mentioned above can make sure that the idea muscle is sharp.
Becoming an idea machine can lead to the ability to quickly solve problems in front of yourself and others.
Write Down 10 Ideas a Day
James constantly says that the brain should be made "to sweat". A great way to do this is to have 10 ideas a day. It doesn't matter what they are about, just that you work on thinking of them and do it every day. Makes sense to me!
I did this exercise for a few days but I've yet to do it consistently. I wrote down a few ideas, mostly in the business idea category. I typically generate these by asking what problems did I or someone I know deal with that day and how they could be feasibly solved. I have also had a Trello for business-ideas for a while which I sort by Promising, Building and Failed – a habit I copied from Pieter Levels.
Here's some free ideas, not all good
- Couples meal planning app. Compile some healthy recipes with common foods and send them to the couple. They can swipe left or right on meals and the winners get picked as the week's meals. Maybe you could even have it plan leftovers for lunch the next day.
- Blog about how to deal with a tiny kitchen. Space saving tools, techniques and layouts. I'm not a tiny house person but I am disadvantaged as someone who loves to cook and has a tiny kitchen.
- monthly dog grooming box
- Accountability Buddy as a Service. Random match making on Zoom between 2 people who want to wake up at the same time. They'll ask each other what they intend to do with the day. If someone doesn't attend, the person gets mean texts and encouraged to wake up. This could work well for remote workers.
- Pre-mixed Tikka Masala / Indian spice mixes. I spend way too much on indian food and it's to make and too expensive to keep buying
- Pay all of your neighbors to cut their grass on the same day for some f*cking peace and quiet
I really enjoyed reading Choose Yourself. It gave me a window into James Altucher's head and how he handles some of the struggles all humans do. I did find it to ramble in parts. Despite that, I found some big ideas about having big ideas. For that, it was a worthwhile read!