I’ve been reading his work for over a year. More than anyone else, he inspires me to be real in my writing – to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s hard enough to acknowledge the bad, but seeking the ugly, writing it down, and dealing with it can be excruciating. But there’s really no other option, I’m learning.
For one, you can’t be fake forever. It eventually stops your writing dead in its tracks. Beyond that, if you’re using your real name, your online and offline worlds will collide. Meeting people that already know you is interesting enough. Now imagine if they know another you. That’s a challenge I don’t want to face.
So even though we’ve never met, I’m pretty sure I know the real James Altucher. I know his successes, his failures, his hopes and dreams, and how he’s carved an authentic and fulfilling life out of the rigid defaults most of us blindly accept.
If you’ve been reading these profiles for long, you won’t be surprised by what he relies on to achieve that unique success: a set of habits he calls the Daily Practice.
To really understand their full glory and effectiveness, you’ll need to read his latest book Choose Yourself. I devoured it in one sitting on a travel day, almost missing one of my flights because I had tuned everything else out. If you read anything, read this book. It’s that timely.
As I read it, I imagined interviewing James, highlighting the parts where I felt like he was talking directly to me. Here’s how that would go:
James, why do we need to do this? It sounds like an awful lot of work.
People build up a life, it becomes unsatisfactory, and they want to figure out how to change it like an outfit on a doll.
But you can’t change life from the outside. We all know this now. In the Choose Yourself era, it is only possible to give up the normal contraptions of externalized identity and live a life more free than you can imagine if you start from the inside out.
Why do we have to choose ourselves? Can’t we just wait on another economic recovery?
This is not a classist or communist argument. This is not about optimism or pessimism. More people are finding financial success then ever before while unemployment or “underemployment” (where people are employed, but at jobs paying less than they are accustomed to, that they are massively overqualified for) has reached upwards of 20 percent.
Human beings are born pioneers. The rise of corporatism (as opposed to capitalism) forced people into cubicles instead of out into the world, exploring and inventing and manifesting. The ethic of the Choose Yourself era is to not depend on those stifling trends that are defeating you. Instead, build your own platform, have faith and confidence in yourself instead of a jury-rigged system, and define success by your own terms.
It’s time to get back to our roots. It’s time to ride the surf as the ocean crashes into the beach. Fight it, and the undertow of the fallen median earnings and a shrinking middle class will pull you down and drown you.
Many of us are already being pulled under. How can start getting ourselves out? Is there a first step?
The way you get back to basics is by doing your Daily Practice and focusing on the Four Bodies.
The Physical Body: Am I eating well? Am I exercising? Am I flossing? Am I sleeping enough? There really are no shortcuts.
The Emotional Body: Am I surrounding myself with people who love me? Am I not engaging with the people who put me down, even if they are coworkers? Am I not gossiping? Am I expressing gratitude to the people who are good to me?
The Mental Body: People have lots of ideas but they are mostly bad ones. The way you get good ideas is to do two things: 1) Read two hours a day. 2) Write ten ideas a day. By the end of a year, you will have read for almost one thousand hours and written down 3,600 ideas. One of these ideas will be a home run.
The Spiritual Body: 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: not 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 were 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 do. 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.
Even though I’d been stumbling down this “alternative” path for the last decade, I couldn’t articulate my “why” very well, and my attempts at moving forward were often hit or miss. When I read James’ book, it all made sense. I now have words for my feelings. Better than that, we now have a systematic way to take a small step each day. My absolute favorite chapter is called “How to Become an Idea Machine,” and I’m using it every single day. I’d love to know what your favorite part of the book is.