Ep. 34 James Altucher's Life Story
Male: This isn’t your average business podcast and he’s not your average host. This is the James Altucher Show on the Stansberry Radio Network.James Altucher: This is James Altucher and I always say it’s a very special James Altucher Show, because all of them are really special to me, but this one actually is special, because my guest – and I’ll introduce her in a second – my guest is Claudia – actually, I’ll say hi. Claudia, how are you doing?Claudia Altucher: Hi, James. Happy to be here.James Altucher: Claudia is my wife and instead of having like the normal guests that I usually have – Claudia, not that you’re abnormal or anything –Claudia Altucher: I think I am actually.James Altucher: Maybe you are, because you married me, but maybe most people can say that about their husbands and wives –Claudia Altucher: Maybe they can.James Altucher: But I kind of wanted to describe a little bit more – I wanted the tables turned on me, so Claudia, who knows me better than some people, is going to interview me and basically, you know, talk about –Claudia Altucher: Dig in.James Altucher: Yes, dig in and how I chose myself and why I’m really doing this podcast and why I think it can help people, why I want to help people, and why I think you can choose yourselves too and what benefits there are. That’s a big list of things, Claudia. You’re going to have a –Claudia Altucher: That’s a very big list and no pressure on me or anything like that –James Altucher: You have a big responsibility here.Claudia Altucher: Not that you’re making an outline or anything or I’m totally free to interview you, but of course, what I’m going to do is just listen to you say yeah and then just do whatever I want.James Altucher: Yes. Go for it.Claudia Altucher: So let’s just start with – there is this sentence that I’ve heard a lot of times in your talks and you say, “I was going to die.” This is a very – it’s something that I’ve heard you say many times and I want to know why were you going to die?James Altucher: It sounds like you’re laughing there, like, are you laughing at the thought of me dying?Claudia Altucher: I am laughing. I am laughing, actually. Yes. Because I don’t believe you’re going to die now, but I do believe –James Altucher: I promise in my will I’ve left you all of my two-dollar bills, so –Claudia Altucher: Yeah. You better. I like those.James Altucher: If I die you can have all of them. I think I have like 3,000 two-dollar bills. So I kind of think that even if the dollar goes down, the $2.00 bill will retain its value just for like collectible sake. But, okay, so I wrote that because – and it comes up a lot – I mean it’s happened to me a couple of times and maybe other people can relate to this: You know, like I’ll talk about one situation specifically. You know, in 2001 I essentially lost all of my money and it wasn’t like how you lose money in the .com crash, like you had money on paper and then now, suddenly, it was worth nothing. Like, I had millions and millions of dollars, cash –Claudia Altucher: How many? How many millions did you have?James Altucher: Well, are you like a gold digger, trying to –Claudia Altucher: I am actually. Yes. I’m very interested in the number.James Altucher: Well, the good thing for me is, and I’m not bragging, is that it went to total zero. But I started this period with about $15 million in cash and I ended this period of my life with literally – there was $143.00 in the ATM machine. Like, I could not get any money out of the bank – and I’ll get to that in a second, but there came a point when I realized you know what? I really screwed up and there was no way out – like I couldn’t figure out a way out, so I – and you might wonder how did I lose all of this money.You don’t really lose money by spending it, although I certainly did a lot of that. Like I bought a big house, I was traveling a lot, I bought artwork, but I was also just investing in a lot of bad companies. So I had sold a company that I had worked really, really hard on, like I mean – it was 100 hours a week that I worked on this company and I sold it and I wanted – and I sold it for a good amount of money and I thought, “Okay, this is great. I’m a really smart genius now.”Claudia Altucher: I’m done.James Altucher: Yeah. I’m done as a human being. But you know, but I still wanted more. Like I felt like, you know what, $15 million is not enough. I want $100 million. I don’t know why I thought that, but I was like –Claudia Altucher: Let me get this straight, because here I need to stop you for a minute. You had – you sold this company. You wanted more, but you had $15 million in cash?James Altucher: Yes. Cash in the bank.Claudia Altucher: And then you ended up – you remember seeing $143.00 in your ATM machine, that number?James Altucher: Yeah.Claudia Altucher: You remember that number?James Altucher: Yeah. So that number I saw in 2002, because –Claudia Altucher: And how long did it take you, between the time you had $15 million to go to $143.00?James Altucher: That was about a year and a half, but the bulk of the money I lost in the summer of 2001. I lost about $1 million a week. Essentially, I thought I was like a stock market genius, even though I had zero experience in the stock market at that time.Claudia Altucher: But what did you do? What did you do to lose that kind of money? Did you fly private jets?James Altucher: I did fly private jets occasionally.Claudia Altucher: Did you gamble?James Altucher: I did gamble.Claudia Altucher: Did you go to prostitutes?James Altucher: No, I didn’t go to any prostitutes, but I did, for a while, separate from my wife, who’s now my ex-wife. You’re my current wife.Claudia Altucher: I’m glad you clarified that.James Altucher: And so I started moving around in like different hotels and, you know –Claudia Altucher: What kind of hotels were you going to? Were you going to like the YMCA?James Altucher: No. I was going to very nice hotels.Claudia Altucher: Like which ones?James Altucher: But you know what? That’s not how you lose money. Like it doesn’t matter. If you spend $1,000.00 a night you’re not going to lose $15 million that way. So what you’re going to do is –Claudia Altucher: So how do you lose money?James Altucher: So, you know, what happened was that I ended up thinking I was a genius. I figured, “Oh, my gosh. I made $15 million. I’m in New York City,” and you know, there’s that Frank Sinatra song, If I Can Make It Here I Can Make It Anywhere.Claudia Altucher: In the blue world.James Altucher: Yeah. So I started investing in companies, in stocks, and of course, the .com crash did happen, so I did what’s – I don’t know why it’s called this. It’s called the Texas Hedge. So I hedged all of my stock that I had, so I made all this cash, and then I threw it right back into internet stocks and started to lose everything. I built a huge house and I couldn’t afford that anymore, so I was losing my –Claudia Altucher: Is this your Tribecca place?James Altucher: Yeah. So it was a huge –Claudia Altucher: How big was that?James Altucher: It was a 4,500 square foot or 5,000 square foot penthouse apartment in, you know, the best area of New York.Claudia Altucher: Did it have one floor or two floors?James Altucher: Well, one floor, but it was the whole floor of a building, so the elevator opened up into it. You know, it’s not – again, that was bad. What was bad about that was that once I had lost all my money is that I then had to keep up this lifestyle, so after I’d lost like 95 percent of my money, the final 5 percent, it was already too late for me, because you know, 9/11 happened. I couldn’t sell my house, so it was just like almost like a guarantee that I was going to lose my house, because I had no job. I had no money and my expenses were about $50,000.00 or $60,000.00 a month. So there’s no reason to feel sorry for me, because this was all ridiculous, like I was a total idiot.Claudia Altucher: And in the middle of all of this you are like broke. You have this incredible place in Tribecca. You need to come up with $60,000.00 a month and 9/11 happens?James Altucher: Yeah. So it was even worse. Like I had moved out. I had separated from my ex and, I mean, I don’t want to say it was worse than 9/11, because that was obviously very horrible and I lived right next to The World Trade Center, and that’s a whole story. But I moved out of my ex. I actually fell in love with somebody else, which I had never revealed before. Claudia, I never even revealed that before to you, so this –Claudia Altucher: I am actually quite shocked. I just went silent and I’m not sure I can breathe here. Who is this person you fell in love with?James Altucher: It doesn’t matter for the purpose of this podcast.Claudia Altucher: Is it an actress? Is it someone famous?James Altucher: No. No-one famous. So –Claudia Altucher: Is it somebody I know?James Altucher: No. No. No. So, but the whole thing is is that then I was going broke and I couldn’t support my family and I couldn’t support this house that I had moved in, so I basically had to end everything and move back in after six months leaving. I had to move back into my house.Claudia Altucher: But wait – wait – wait – wait – you’re going way to fast here. You just told me you fell in love with another woman. What happened there? You can’t just leave me hanging. What did you do with the woman? I mean I know everything was chaos, but what happened with the woman?James Altucher: First, let me just say I separated before that happened.Claudia Altucher: You did say that you separated before that happened. That’s true.James Altucher: So, and then I had to end it, because I had no money and my whole sense of self worth, my worthiness as a human being at that time was so tied up in my net worth, and not only that, I didn’t want – you know, I had a family that I thought was set for life, but I didn’t want them to go bankrupt, so I had to end it and I moved back into my house and I lost everything, so I continued to lose everything. 9/11 happened –Claudia Altucher: How did that feel? How were you feeling then? Were you depressed?James Altucher: Oh, my God. I was so depressed. I mean –Claudia Altucher: Were you crying?James Altucher: Let me just explain. I was just – crying was like the least of it. Like I lost about 40 pounds and so I think I went from about 150 pounds to about, I don’t know, 120 pounds. Like even my mother, who weighs like 80 pounds, was like, “Oh, my gosh. You look like you’re from a concentration camp.” So I couldn’t eat. I was feeling really suicidal, because every aspect of my life I felt was over and I thought to myself, “You know, my kids would be better off with my life insurance policy than they would be with a dad.” So they weren’t really old enough to have formed a strong kind of bond with me. Like, you know, kids, you know, they don’t really care about anything. I mean we don’t know, but they don’t really care about anything until a certain age. It’s not like I was playing checkers and giving life advice to my kids at this point. They were little kids.Claudia Altucher: How old were your kids then?James Altucher: Well, you know, my oldest was about three and my youngest had yet to be born, so – because I –Claudia Altucher: Right. So they didn’t know any better. They _______ -James Altucher: You know, fortunately, I got back together with my ex so my youngest could be born. I love both of my kids. But you know, but I really thought that it would be better for me to kill myself and they could benefit. Then my ex, who, you know, we didn’t really have such a great relationship anyway, she could marry somebody else, hopefully someone much better than me, because I was such a lousy person, and again, because I was tying my self worth with my net worth, and she could – you know, this great, new husband she would have could be the father of these kids and they would have – I had a $4 million life insurance policy at the time and they could benefit from that. You know, I was able to get such a good life insurance policy because I had so much money then. So before anyone realized I was totally broke I could just kill myself, trigger the suicide clause – you know the suicide clause – every life insurance policy you can’t commit suicide for the first year, but I had already gotten past that year, so no problem.Claudia Altucher: You were safe.James Altucher: Yeah. I was safe. So I would Google how can I kill myself and I would even talk to people about it and it turns out, you know, there’s no real, safe way to kill yourself.Claudia Altucher: Are you sure of that?James Altucher: Yeah. Well, like tell me a method you would use to kill yourself.Claudia Altucher: I don’t know. I would think there has to be a method where you can take some cocktail of some sort that slowly puts you to sleep and eventually kicks in.James Altucher: Okay. You would think that, but that totally 100 percent depends on your body chemistry, your genetics, your metabolism, and so the likely outcome of doing some sort of cocktail that you make up in your Kevorkian nightmares, the likely outcome is that you end up waking up brain damaged in the hospital and never able to move again.Claudia Altucher: You really thought this out.James Altucher: Yeah.Claudia Altucher: You really researched this.James Altucher: I looked up every possible cocktail you could take. Now, of course, many people kill themselves this way, but also, you don’t really see the full numbers. Many people end up ODing and in the hospital and sick for many, many years, if not the rest of their life, or paralyzed or whatever. You Google paralyzed from taking a bad cocktail of drugs.The same thing with shooting yourself in the head. You know, shooting yourself in the head – I know one guy – I literally know this guy. He shot himself – he put the gun in the mouth the same way Ernest Hemmingway did it. He put the gun in his mouth. He shot out his left eye and half his brain and he was paralyzed and he ended up living. So he has –Claudia Altucher: Basically he was an idiot. He aimed wrong.James Altucher: No. He aimed the way he thought. It’s not like you can practice this. So it’s – you know, he ended up marrying his nurse, so his life is like – you know, I don’t know if you’d call that okay or whatever, but it’s –Claudia Altucher: A blessing in disguise or sorts, I guess?James Altucher: I’d rather not have that blessing. The other thing you could do is you could jump off a bridge that’s really high and many people do that. Claudia, you and I know somebody recently who has done that very tragically, but you know what? First off –Claudia Altucher: What about – I mean if you had –James Altucher: Let me just talk about the bridge thing, because that’s how a lot of people do try to kill themselves is that you could – what I was afraid of is, A, I’m afraid of heights, so I was really afraid of that final few – you still have to live those final few seconds –Claudia Altucher: You do.James Altucher: And I was terrified of being afraid of heights. But also, what if you change your mind on the way down? Like you’re like jumping off this bridge and you’re thinking –Claudia Altucher: Oh, my God.James Altucher: Yeah.Claudia Altucher: What can I hold onto?James Altucher: Yeah. This is not good anymore. So there’s really no way to do it. So I’m on the floor and crying and depressed. Like I couldn’t get out of bed and I –Claudia Altucher: Did you actually attempt something?James Altucher: No, because I had a child and, you know, there was no – and I was really – I was almost too depressed to do anything, like I couldn’t move out of bed, like I was just depressed. I had really kind of – it just sucked, everything.And again, this is like – I almost want to call this like white people problems. Like, “Oh, poor him, he lost $15 million and now he’s feeling bad and he was a lousy person.” But you know, okay, this is what happened to me and I had started a really good business. A lot of people actually made money because of this business and I created some value because of this business and I was proud of it, and I squandered it.You know, one thing that happened was, so I lost my home and on the weekend before I lost my home, you know, I had to move out. I had to move 75 miles north to a place, you know, one-fifth the size. Like it’s practically a shack –Claudia Altucher: In the town where we live now?James Altucher: Yes, but in a different part of the town.Claudia Altucher: Yes.James Altucher: So now we live here because we’re close to my kids. I’m divorced and my kids still live here. They don’t live in the shack. They live in a different house too.But you know, the weekend before I realized I had absolutely no money, like I had zero money and I was honestly scared I wouldn’t be able to afford – there could be a chance I wouldn’t be able to afford food or diapers or anything. Now, I knew I was going to have a little bit of money come my way the next week and so I called up my parents and said, “Hey, can I borrow – I’ll drive down, you know, 100 miles where you are and can I borrow a few hundred dollars for the weekend? And then on Monday, just three or four days later, I’m going to drive back down and will return a few hundred dollars to you. No problem.”Claudia Altucher: How much money did you ask them for?James Altucher: I asked them for $1,000.00 actually. So I don’t know why I needed – felt like I needed $1,000.00 for diapers and food, but that was, again, still the mentality I was living. Oh, my gosh. Like I just – all I need is $1,000.00. That still could be considered a lot of money, but that’s what I felt I needed to borrow to survive the weekend, so like $1,000.00 for diapers and baby food.Claudia Altucher: You were flying high. Yeah. You were still flying high –James Altucher: My brain was, yeah.Claudia Altucher: Right.James Altucher: So, but my parents said no and they said, “You know, we put you through college,” which was actually not true. I paid for my own college, but that’s another story. But they said no for whatever reason. You know, they were – I don’t know what their plan was or what their thinking was, but I got upset and I hung up the phone and I figured, you know what? I’ve got really serious things to deal with. I can’t deal with arguing with them. They called me back and they tried to talk to me, but I wouldn’t pick up and over –Claudia Altucher: Did they offer you less money?James Altucher: No. No. They said not a dime. Over the next six months I think my dad felt bad and he tried to contact me. Like I had gone on TV at one point. He wrote me an e-mail saying I did a nice job. He tried calling me. He tried e-mailing me. And then he died. So that hang up –Claudia Altucher: He died suddenly?James Altucher: No. That hang up was the last time I spoke to him, so what happened was he then had a stroke and I sort of feel like if I had the money, if I had just been smart and just simply put the money in the bank and been like a normal human being I could have maybe cured him of what afflicted him when he had the stroke. You know, there’s all sorts of different types of strokes. There’s all sorts of different types of treatment. He ultimately got off insurance and essentially ended up on some kind of Medicare and I couldn’t help him at all. I had no money and all I could do was just sit there and he was in a sort of semi-coma, where he would just stare at the ceiling. So I remember he was really into chess, just like I am. He had taught me when I was a kid, so I hung up on his ceiling – I blew up a poster-sized image of a chess position that he could like figure out, like a problem that he could figure out. I put on the ceiling. I put one on the door. I put them on the walls. But he mostly just lying in bed staring at the ceiling, but he never spoke. He never moved. Nothing. I just figured I would put these up there so maybe he could at least think about things. That was the only thing I could do for him.Claudia Altucher: Did you ever get a sense that maybe he was, at some point, trying to communicate with you? Did you ever get any feeling from him or was he really gone?James Altucher: I honestly don’t know. The doctors and nurses said he was completely gone. I felt like maybe there was something there, but maybe it was just wishful thinking. I don’t know. I don’t know. So –Claudia Altucher: Do you think – do you blame yourself a bit? Do you feel guilty about the situation?James Altucher: Yeah. I did, because I felt like if I had the money in the bank – you know, there’s like these weird strategies where you could put them in a spinning machine and that kind of wakes up some of their neurons and reconnects some of the synapses. You know, I wasn’t researching all these different kind of alternative strategies, but ultimately, I couldn’t do anything for him and they were mistreating him. Like they lost his glasses and they would drop him on the floor. Then he would have bed sores, and you know a bed sore is where they don’t move you on the bed, so you’re skin essentially rots away to the bone. It just wasn’t good and then eventually he just had a heart attack and died, because you can’t just function like that.Claudia Altucher: But do you think you can – I mean because all of this that you’re telling me really is horrible, so if you were feeling guilty at the time or maybe you could have had the possibility to “save him” –James Altucher: I was really –Claudia Altucher: Do you find that you’ve been able to forgive yourself?James Altucher: Yes, because there was nothing I could do. And you know what I realized too? I’ll get to more of this, but the problem that happened to me, and this doesn’t excuse me, but look, this is just life. Like I can’t – nobody can be everyone’s hero. And so, you know, my dad also was a drinker. He was an eater. He had his stroke while he was arguing with somebody. He was getting himself into massive amounts of debt. So I can’t take responsibility for everything that happens to everybody around me, even the people I love. I can do the best I can do and now I try every day to do the best I can do.The only thing that can make me a success now is if I have a successful day today. So that means I’m healthy today and doing the best I can do for the people around me today, not yesterday, and not tomorrow. The best indicator of a successful tomorrow is a successful today. That’s the only indicator –Claudia Altucher: That’s very true.James Altucher: Because I don’t even know if I’m going to be alive tomorrow. Like anything that we’re doing today is something that somebody in the course of history has died while doing. So if you and I are having a conversation, certainly, people have died while having a conversation. They’ve had a heart attack and died. I just ate lunch. Certainly, many people my age have died – many healthy people my age have died while having lunch.Claudia Altucher: What is your age, by the way?James Altucher: My age is 46, the same as your age. You’re one month younger than me.Claudia Altucher: Well, thanks for saying that ______ opened it up, insulting or anything.James Altucher: I’m going to call you out now –Claudia Altucher: Just go ahead, you know? Do that to any woman. They’re going to love you for it.James Altucher: Okay. But anybody looking at your picture knows that you look like you’re 25.Claudia Altucher: Yeah. Yeah. Now, let me ask you a question. You say your father was actually doing some practices in his own life that weren’t very healthy. Do you think that in a way you were perhaps repeating the pattern a little bit in your own life?James Altucher: Yeah. So I felt like – you know, so my dad, when he was – you know, he had a software company, just like I did. His company went public, just like mine sort of did. I sold to a public company. And then he went broke and then he got depressed and he had a nervous breakdown actually where he was just crying all the time. You know, it was really sad to see it happen to him and then he got divorced from his first wife. He had a child with his first wife. You know, I felt very much like I was repeating his pattern and I thought I was doomed to, you know, have a stroke and die or, you know, get depressed and spend the rest of my life sitting in a chair listening to music until I had a stroke, so –Claudia Altucher: But I know for a fact, by having lived with you, that that is not the case today for you, as a 46, healthy –James Altucher: No. No. Everything is great.Claudia Altucher: But what changed? What was it that you – what was it then?James Altucher: So it’s really interesting, because the exact same situation didn’t happen to me just once. I described to you just one situation where I made a lot of money and then I lost it all and so on. The exact same situation happened to me again. So actually, it happened to me two more times. One was sort of a mini time where I made a good chunk of money, but then lost it all, and then I built up another business, StockPicker.com. Sold it to TheStreet.com, you know, I sold it for $10 million to TheStreet.com. I bought a new house. I bought a big house and the next thing you know, I was –Claudia Altucher: So you had $10 million in the bank again and you went ahead and bought another huge house again?James Altucher: No. I had partners on the $10 million business, so I had a few million dollars, but yes, then I bought a big house. I thought I was – oh, there it goes. I’m slapping my hands again like –Claudia Altucher: King of the world. Did you start gambling again, private planes, hotels?James Altucher: No. Yes. So not quite in the same way; I didn’t have as much, but I definitely became like much more arrogant. I definitely – you know, so again, let’s just put it this way: Again I found myself on the floor contemplating suicide, losing my house, and this time I really was losing my family, so I separated from my ex-wife and never got back together with her after that, which, of course, has worked out for the best. Like I fell in love with a lovely young lady named Claudia –Claudia Altucher: Thank you.James Altucher: And we got married.Claudia Altucher: Thank you.James Altucher: And everything is great. We’re now doing this podcast together, but you know, this happened to me I want to say either big or small, it happened to me on about four or five occasions where I made a lot, I felt like, “Wow! This is great. I’m done as a human being,” like I achieved my “goal.” And then, bam, right from that point I lost it all. So I did it so many times it was almost like statistically significant.Claudia Altucher: I guess if it happens three times in your life you’re beyond the third time is a charm. You were on the path to complete disaster. You were a train wreck.James Altucher: Yeah. I was a train wreck and I thought like, “Oh, my God. I’m getting older too, like how am I going to figure this out?” I was –Claudia Altucher: Were you drinking?James Altucher: I was drinking every night. I was a total alcoholic.Claudia Altucher: How alcoholic? Like alcoholic like seriously? Like sleeping on the street?James Altucher: Yeah. Like one time, a situation, I was on a date with someone I had just met and I got so drunk I was practically unconscious at the bar and then I remember it was – we were like walking past the intersection of Third Avenue and Fiftieth Street towards the hotel I was staying at and I just fell down and I fell asleep in the middle of the intersection and it’s raining and cars were swerving all around –Claudia Altucher: Oh, dear. Was she with you?James Altucher: Yeah. This girl literally had to like pull me out of the street before a car would hit me.Claudia Altucher: Did she take you to the hotel?James Altucher: No. I was just – I think she was disgusted with me, so I literally was in the lobby of the Waldorf Historia, like, projectile vomiting –Claudia Altucher: Oh, my God.James Altucher: And guards were like, “Holy ____.” Sorry. You could bleep that. And I was laughing and vomiting and just like making my way up to my room.Claudia Altucher: Did you poo on yourself too or just vomiting?James Altucher: No, just – I did not, you know –Claudia Altucher: You did not. Okay. No, just vomiting. How did you get to your room? Did people grab you and –James Altucher: No. No. I had the room number on the key, so the Waldorf Historia was my hotel of choice then. They all knew me and then I never went back there again, because I was too humiliated, like it was years later you and I finally went back. We went back for your birthday last year, which was nice.Claudia Altucher: Yeah, and nobody recognized you, which was a good thing.James Altucher: No one recognized me, probably a whole change in staff, because I definitely repulsed. They had my photograph up on the wall next to Conrad Hilton or whoever.Claudia Altucher: Unwanted person.James Altucher: But, you know, what I saw though was very, very important. Through all of this there was a common pattern of when I was successful, and there was a common pattern of when I lost everything. So I’ll just get right to it. The common pattern when I lost – when I was most successful and I’m 46 now, I’ve been doing this since I was 40 or 41, and it’s amazing. Literally, my life changes almost 100 percent every six months, and you’ve seen it, Claudia. You’re like the only common thing that has been around every six months.Claudia Altucher: That’s right.James Altucher: Everything else has changed every six months for the better.Claudia Altucher: And your daughters have been around too.James Altucher: And my daughters. Of course, they change –Claudia Altucher: They have been growing, yes.James Altucher: But my relationship with them gets better, not that it was ever bad, and but, you know, it evolves and improves and I love them very much. But the critical thing that I started doing was I started being healthy, and that doesn’t mean I was going to the gym and like lifting weights and suddenly being healthy, because that’s not real health. That’s like gym health, and I don’t want to put that down. Like a lot of people love going to the gym and it’s useful, but really what I meant was I was sleeping well, so instead of sleeping three hours a night and being real anxious the other like eight hours a night or whatever, I would make sure I would sleep at least eight or nine hours a night. One third of your life, at least, should be spent sleeping, because –Claudia Altucher: How did you do that? Did you drink before you went to sleep or did you just –James Altucher: No. No. No.Claudia Altucher: Were you not sleeping before or –James Altucher: Yeah. I was not sleeping before. I was too anxious and drinking is really bad for sleep, because it puts you to sleep, but then you have so much sugar in you from the alcohol that you pop awake at like 2:00 in the morning, which is the worst time, because that’s when you’re incredibly anxious. So I not only would wake up from this like sugar high, but I would be incredibly anxious. So I stopped alcohol, because alcohol also is a depressant, so I was already depressed and I was drinking alcohol to numb the depression, but then I’d end up waking up even more anxious and depressed. So I stopped drinking.Sleep is the most important thing for rejuvenating brain cells, so if you want to be creative and have new ideas and so on, you have to make sure you sleep eight or nine hours. Anybody who tells me, “Oh, I only need five hours a sleep a night,” or, “I only need three hours of sleep a night,” they’re either lying or they have some kind of disability that hasn’t surfaced yet, but will surface, because sleep hygiene is very important. No screen time after 6:00PM. I usually try – you and I both, we usually try to avoid eating after 6:00PM –Claudia Altucher: Well, I will say that that was a little bit of a battle to get you to not turn on the iPad ever in the bedroom.James Altucher: Yeah, and it’s really –Claudia Altucher: Let’s acknowledge that.James Altucher: Yeah.Claudia Altucher: It wasn’t easy.James Altucher: It wasn’t easy, right. Because it’s very important to like – look, and this is no joke, like this is your life. Before you’re born there was like infinity. There was a huge amount of – there was 13 billion years before you were born and I guarantee you, after you die, there’s even more than 13 billion years where you’re dead. So you’re only alive for this tiny, short amount of time and so you want to make sure it’s the highest possible quality amount of time you could find.Claudia Altucher: You do. Yes. Yes.James Altucher: So, okay, physically healthy really means sleep well, eat well – and everybody knows what that means. I don’t have to describe it. Like you know what it is. When you’re about to eat like five donuts you know you’re not eating well and that’s an extreme. I’m sure you know in other cases when you’re not eating well, but everybody’s diet’s different. I’m not going to try to dictate anyone’s diet. My own personal diet is, you and I both, we try to go as paleo as possible, so essentially all that means is as few carbs as possible, but –Claudia Altucher: Mm-hmm. And that has worked very well for us, by the way.James Altucher: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve lost a ton of weight. I feel good. My metabolism is better, but again, diets are different for everybody. The key thing is, you know, eat well. So sleep well, eat well, and some amount of exercise. And again, that doesn’t mean run a marathon. It might mean take a 20-minute walk three times a week. On my blog I even posted a picture – or I think in my newsletter I posted a picture of what the brain activity looks like before and after a 20-minute walk. The brain just lights up, like neurons are talking to each other, synapses are forming, serotonin is bursting through you, and life is just better when you’re exercised.Claudia Altucher: What is your current routine of – what do you do daily now as a physical part?James Altucher: Well, I do a lot of walking and I do a lot of pushups. So I keep – you know, muscle building is good for metabolism. When you do pushups, again, it’s not like lifting weights in a gym, but you are lifting a good chunk of body weight.Claudia Altucher: How many pushups do you do?James Altucher: I don’t know. As much as I can – I don’t really –Claudia Altucher: You do look good. I have to say I like your muscles.James Altucher: There you go. So that’s physical health. Then I’m going to talk about emotional health, mental health, and spiritual health. It’s these four things I try to check the box on every single day without fail. I will not –Claudia Altucher: This is what you call the daily practice, isn’t it?James Altucher: Right. Right. I call it not like the daily – I call it not the cure or the secret or anything like that, because for me it’s a practice. If I don’t do it for, let’s say, two days in a row, I start feeling worse. And let me finish describing what it is. So emotionally I hang out with – I eliminated anybody in my life who I felt was draining energy from me, so it’s not as if I was callous and that I’m going to be callous if a friend needs help. I’m going to help them, because you know, that’s part of being a good friend and being emotionally healthy. But if someone in general is like draining on me they’re out of my life. It’s a one strike and you’re out, because again, life’s too short. You know, I want to be around people who I love and respect and who love and respect and support me, like in my ideas and so on.Mental health: I don’t mean sanity, but I mean – and I’ve talked about this before, I’ve written about this before so, Claudia, feel free to ask questions on this stuff, but everybody’s got an idea muscle –Claudia Altucher: Thank you, by the way, for giving me the freedom to ask questions.James Altucher: Yes. You’re welcome. So everybody’s got an idea muscle and this muscle will atrophy as fast as any other muscle. So if you’re in a bicycle accident and you’re in a hospital bed for two weeks you’re going to actually need physical therapy to walk again because your leg muscles have atrophied so much, and the idea muscle is the same way.So what I do is I write down, without fail, 10 to 20 ideas a day. It could be ideas about anything. It doesn’t have to be business ideas. It could be book ideas. It could just be ideas of, you know, things I want to do to improve my life. It could be anything. Just make sure, you know, the first five ideas are easy. But then to get to ten you’re going to actually feel your brain sweating, and after six months of doing this you’re going to be an idea machine, like no matter where you look, no matter who’s talking to you, no matter what you’re reading, you’re going to have a non-stop, flowing of ideas. It’s amazing what happens.Claudia Altucher: I’ve actually – I have to say I’ve actually experienced the idea machine and I don’t have a specific case in point right now, but whereby, say, for example, we were on the way to the airport and the flight gets cancelled and because my idea machine is not as exercised perhaps as yours – I’ve seen you solve problems like book us in another flight, redirect, within the same cost, without having to pay extra money, and going to the same destination at the same time. I’ve seen you do magic because of it. I just want to say I’m a witness to the magic of the power of the idea machine and how, as you say, the ideas have sex too.James Altucher: Yeah. So often people ask me – and first of all, I’ll comment on that plane thing. So it’s not just ideas for businesses. If you’re stuck – let’s say your car breaks down in the middle of the highway in a desert. Okay. Suddenly you’ll have ideas instantly how to get yourself out of this situation. So ideas come all the time and it works. But on business ideas or book ideas or creative ideas, you know, people ask me, “Well, do you look back on your ideas or how do you execute on your ideas?”So what often happens is that I always throw out the old ideas, because the idea of this practice is not to have great ideas. You could have many bad ideas. You should have mostly bad ideas, or else you’re not taking enough risks, but often when you combine two ideas, that’s when you get a phenomenal idea. So as a great example, Google wasn’t the first search engine. It was like the twelfth search engine, but they combined normal search engines with the same method used, that academics use to rank papers based on how many people are citing a paper. That paper ranks higher. So they combined that idea with search and they created Google.You know, Scotch tape is a combination between adhesive paper and, you know, some kind of gluey substance. So it’s really the combination –Claudia Altucher: So that’s idea sex?James Altucher: Yes, that’s idea sex, and one will always – you should always, you know, take old ideas and combine them with new to come up with the most unique ideas on the planet. That’s a really great exercise. So it’s a really great exercise to make your list of ideas yesterday, and then make your list of ideas today, and then tomorrow see how they combine in idea sex. So that’s one particular idea.The other question is when do you – how do you execute on the ideas? Well, execution itself is an idea. People always say ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is everything. That’s totally not true, because most ideas are really bad and even most ideas I come up with are really bad, so execution itself is, you know, coming up with ideas how to get things done. And so often what I’ll do is make two columns. The first column is an idea. The second column will be what’s the very next step, and if it’s –Claudia Altucher: Can you give an example of that?James Altucher: Yeah. So when I was making StockPicker.com, for instance, I had the idea and then the very next step was I specked it out, like here is the list of things, here’s the list of ten ideas of what will be on the front page. And then the very next idea after that, here’s how I can get this done. Like I’m not going to program it myself, but here’s all the ways I can outsource it to get this idea done. And then suddenly, within a week, I had sketches of the site. I didn’t have the site done, but I had sketches of the site. It looked good and then about three weeks after that I had the first draft of the site, and six months after that I sold the business for $10 million.Claudia Altucher: You know, but I will call you on this here, because this is very interesting. You just told me a situation in which you went down the line into one idea and I remember one time me coming up with an idea and trying to go profoundly and you stopping me cold and going, “Oh, no. No. No. No. No. That’s not the way you think. First you must list all of your options.” How is that different?James Altucher: It’s the same thing and what you’re referring to, actually, is there’s a classic book called Think Like a Grandmaster, written in the 1950s by a Russian Chest Grandmaster, and he said, “When you’re looking at a chess position don’t get obsessed with one particular six moves ahead line that you have to analyze. First just identify what all of your possible moves are.” That’s what I do. So when I was making StockPicker.com I actually was making ten sites, ten websites simultaneously –Claudia Altucher: I see.James Altucher: Because there’s no way to know in advance what business is going to work. It’s really hard and businesses, every business does what’s called pivoting, so every business changes. You have to be very flexible about changing your ideas when you’re running a business. And so I did the same thing. I came up with many ideas for businesses and I came up with many first steps. I actually created about ten different websites and StockPicker.com was the one that really took off and then I kept adding ideas for more and more features for it and it built into a great site with millions of users.Claudia Altucher: And you sold StockPicker.com the day you specked it, didn’t you?James Altucher: In my mind I did, yes. I knew. I kind of had an idea how it was going to happen, but I will save that for another story. But that is the idea muscle and I think it’s – some people I think focus on that as the most important part, but it’s not. Like if you had a –Claudia Altucher: That is the most exciting part?James Altucher: It’s the most exciting part, because you say to yourself, “Ah, I can come up with that idea that I’m going to sell for $10 million.”Claudia Altucher: But some people say, “I can’t. I can’t do that.” I’ve told you I can’t come up with ten and sometimes you tell me – what do you say to that?James Altucher: Well, you know, you’ll be at the five point and like, “Oh, I can’t come up with another idea,” and then I’ll say, “Okay, you have to come up with 20 ideas.”Claudia Altucher: Yeah. What’s up with that?James Altucher: Because the problem is people think every idea has to be good, so you have to give yourself permission to come up with lots of bad ideas. Like the key is exercising the idea muscle. It’s not – it’s not coming up with the idea that’s going to make $10 million. The key is just exercising that idea muscle.And again, it is the most exciting part and it’s the one that people ask me the most questions about, but this is a four-legged chair of health: Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. And if you lose one leg on a four-legged chair then any burst of wind, your chair is going to fall over. If you lose two legs on that chair you’re going to just fall over, so the idea muscle is the mental portion of this. It’s just one leg of a four-legged chair.The spiritual part, which is the last part, a lot of people hate that word spiritual.Claudia Altucher: ___________.James Altucher: I hated it actually, you know, because I think it’s like – I know you don’t. You’re a yoga instructor. It’s more common in the language there, but I think in the business world people think the word spiritual is like, oh, I don’t need to be spiritual. I’m a good guy. But all it really means is be deeply grateful everyday. Be creatively grateful everyday. So everyday, all day long, if I’m ever feeling anxious, and I get anxious all the time, whenever I’m feeling anxious I catch myself – oh, I’m feeling anxiety. And then I take a step back and I say to myself, “Think ten things that I’m grateful for that I haven’t thought about before.”So for instance, the very first time I did this I was grateful for you, Claudia, and I was grateful for my kids, and so on. But after that I always have to think of new things to be grateful for, and it really – gratitude and anxiety –Claudia Altucher: Wait. What’s an obscure thing you’ve found to be grateful for you in your explorations of gratitude?James Altucher: I might be grateful if I’m stuck in traffic, because this is fantastic. I’m stuck in traffic, so I have an excuse if I’m late for a meeting and I get to sit here by myself, which is wonderful, and listen to whatever music I want. Like you hate all my music, so I get to listen to whatever music I want.Claudia Altucher: So you’re grateful I’m not there, basically.James Altucher: Yeah, and – well, not only that. I’m grateful there’s no police there, because I don’t even have a driver’s license. So I’d get thrown in jail instantly if the police stop me.Claudia Altucher: Great idea to announce that to the world, by the way.James Altucher: No, I write about that all the time. No police men listen to my podcast I think, fortunately. So gratitude is almost like the idea muscle, like any other muscle, like you have to be grateful every day and, you know, here’s the other thing that people don’t realize. Claudia, we encounter this. We were going to give a workshop at a spiritual retreat. I won’t name which one. And I wanted the title to be From Spirit to Success.Claudia Altucher: Yeah.James Altucher: And they wouldn’t let me use that title. They said, “Our audience doesn’t like the word success.”I’m like, “What?”They said, “Yeah. You can’t use the word success.”I said, “That’s BS, because people who are spiritual have to pay their bills. We live in a country where money – you have to support yourself and everybody’s losing their jobs right now. This is a crazy economy.” This is – you know, we live in an economy that is undergoing enormous transformation, more than it has ever done in the past century and more than ever you have to do what I call choose yourself. And so you have to follow this daily practice and you have to use it to build the foundation of the house you’re eventually going to build and that you have to build, because the gatekeepers are all going away.If you look at the employment numbers, and I’m going straight from spirituality to government employment numbers, but if you look at the employment numbers, employment is still at a roughly bad number, but what’s happening is part-time employment is shooting up like nothing else, so real unemployment, or under-employment where people have jobs that they don’t like or whether they took demotions, real under-employment is probably around 20 or 30 percent, and part-time is just shooting up and people don’t know how to choose themselves. They don’t know how to get healthy and strike out on their own and have ideas.Claudia Altucher: So if I hear you right what you’re saying is success is spiritual and success is resizing, choosing yourself?James Altucher: Yeah. And again, it’s what I said before. Success means I had a successful day today.Claudia Altucher: Because I followed my daily practice?James Altucher: Yeah. Because if you’re around people who love and support you, if you’re physically healthy, and if you’re grateful, those three things means – what they mean is you’re going to have a ton of great ideas in the long-run. Again, I can say every six months my life has been so much – I don’t want to say better, because my life was good six months ago, but it’s just different and interesting and exciting. I’m not bragging about it like, Claudia, you’ve seen it happen –Claudia Altucher: No. No. I will say when I met you in 2009 and you finally had an apartment, you weren’t living in hotels –James Altucher: By the way, the only reason I moved into an apartment – I was living in a hotel. I was living in the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where I had lived for many years in the ‘90s before I was first married. But then I started going out with this girl before I met you, and she was really disturbed by the Chelsea Hotel, because it’s disgusting. Like it’s a very artistic kind of hotel, but there you could find condoms on the staircase or whatever, and so she was really disturbed by this. She actually was a psychiatrist for a living and she went to psychiatrist and her psychiatrist said, “Oh, he doesn’t know how to have roots, because he lives in a hotel.” I tried to explain to her, no, this was my roots before I got married. I went back to my roots. I’m the most rooted guy you could possibly meet. She’s like, “No, you have to move into an apartment.” So it was – when you met me, Claudia, it was actually the first time I had ever lived in an apartment by myself and I was – how old was I? I was 41-years old.Claudia Altucher: Yes. And I guess I’m grateful for this woman then, because I had an apartment to move into too. I had my own home in New Jersey, but we realized pretty quickly that we wanted to be together, that it was working. I saw from you in the beginning you weren’t really doing that much. I remember you taking a lot of phone calls and being on the computer, playing chess a lot, but there wasn’t that much happening in your life and there were people around you, friends sort of pushing you to start writing and to tell your stories, me included, and saying you’ve got to start writing. You didn’t really want to. What was happening? I mean you were doing your daily practice. What was happening?James Altucher: Well, yeah. I was still thinking, “Oh, I needed to be in the business world or I need to start a hedge fund or start some” – I remember one point I started an online dating service and actually, I had raised about $500,000.00 for it and the day we were going to kind of launch I literally woke up next to you shaking, because I felt to myself this is a really bad idea and two years from now I’m going to have to explain to all of these investors how I lost all their money, because it was a dating service on top of Twitter and the whole idea of online dating is that initially you’re anonymous, but on Twitter, you know, people mostly use their real names. So I actually returned all the money I had raised and I was really depressed after that too, but you know, it was an idea. I was trying different ideas, but then at some point I was running low on money again, and I had no ideas. I was just lost and other than, of course, you in my life, we had just gotten married and so I felt like –Claudia Altucher: We were in a honeymoon sort of period too.James Altucher: Yeah, but you know –Claudia Altucher: We couldn’t un-glue from each other that much at that time.James Altucher: But you know, getting married is anxiety producing, because I felt like now I have to think ahead. Like I want to make sure that this works out, so I had to think how am I going to make money.Claudia Altucher: But I think you may be an anxious kind of person, because I wasn’t anxious. Maybe I was, I don’t know, feeling like you would figure it out, but I mean I had my own job. I was trying to figure out myself. I felt pretty good about all of that.James Altucher: I think am an anxious sort of person and for me what happened was I started doing this daily practice again, which I had done in the past and it had worked, but then I would have stopped doing it and things would fall apart. So I started doing this daily practice again.Well, the first thing that happened was I started being really honest and telling my stories, because I figured I couldn’t be the only one who this economy has totally turned upside down. So I started writing these stories and people were like, “How could you? This is like watching a train wreck in motion.” Like all these people that had known me for years were like, “How could you write all these honest stories? Like how could you admit to all of this?” I was writing it on my blog at JamesAltucher.com and write now mostly on my e-mail newsletter –Claudia Altucher: Which people can sign up for where?James Altucher: At JamesAltucher.com. So I started writing all these stories and people would say on Twitter like, “Oh, my gosh. This is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.” And then secretly they would then e-mail me and say, “You know, don’t worry, dude. I smoked crack. Don’t tell anybody.”Claudia Altucher: What else? What else have some people confessed to you? Tell us those secrets.James Altucher: People confess to everything, like drugs, prostitutes, off-shore bank accounts, you know, bankruptcies, jail sentences. I get –Claudia Altucher: Jail sentences. Jesus.James Altucher: I get it everyday and I don’t make fun of these people. This is serious stuff.Claudia Altucher: But this is especially happening to you when you started getting honest?James Altucher: Right. When I started getting honest it’s really weird what happened. I became a trusted source. Everyone realized, look, the whole business world, and maybe the whole world, everybody just wears – everybody’s in pain and so what they do is they wear the masks that they think they can show the world so that the world won’t see their pain or the world won’t touch their pain. So –Claudia Altucher: Would you say it’s like living a double life, like you present yourself in one way –James Altucher: Yeah. It’s totally like living a double life. Like, you know, you basically hide the things you’re scared about and so you live this double life and it takes a lot of mental energy, like actual calories burnt in your brain. It takes a lot of energy to live a double life. I will tell you most people live triple or quadruple lives. So, you know, to be honest, people suddenly said, “Oh, he could do it. If he could do that, I can do it.” So a lot of other people started being a little bit more honest, being more forthcoming, and they started seeing the results. And then that’s when I wrote about this daily practice. That was four years ago I first wrote about it and now I get, you know, you see the e-mails. I get –Claudia Altucher: That post – that post was called How To Be The Luckiest Person Alive.James Altucher: Yeah. Then I wrote about –Claudia Altucher: You wrote it, I believe, in 2010 –James Altucher: Yeah, or ’11. One of those.Claudia Altucher: Or ’11 and it went viral.James Altucher: Yeah.Claudia Altucher: It was one of those posts that really spread out.James Altucher: It did and I wrote about it in more detail in the book Choose Yourself. We wrote about it together in The Power of No, which I encourage people to buy. Now I will plug our book that we just released, The Power of No.Claudia Altucher: Yes. And also, if you see it in at Barnes and Nobles, please send me a photograph, because I’m making a collage and so that will be wonderful.James Altucher: And so –Claudia Altucher: End of plug.James Altucher: So now also I get all of the e-mails. This is years later, after I first wrote about this and, Claudia, you see how many e-mails I get, because actually, you’ve set up –Claudia Altucher: People actually tell you, “You’ve saved my life.” People actually say those words to you.James Altucher: Yeah. You know, and I’m really grateful for that, because I hope for every one person who sends me an e-mail, and I get a lot of them, there’s probably a lot more on top of that, who don’t send me an e-mail, which is fine also.Claudia Altucher: Now, you also attracted a lot of haters.James Altucher: Yeah. You know, I don’t understand that part, but I don’t think about it either. Like I don’t give any –Claudia Altucher: You put the focus on the positive?James Altucher: Yeah, because I know – I know I have a positive – it’s not like – I always say I’m not giving advice. I’m only saying what’s worked for me, so there’s no BS. I am not recommending anything. I’m only telling you what has worked for me and it’s worked in amazing ways and I’m so – actually thankful. Like I compare even the people in my life now to the people in my life five years ago. It’s 100 percent different. It’s like I have –Claudia Altucher: A reshuffling.James Altucher: Yeah. It’s like I have this brand new loving family of friends and colleagues and family and everything. It’s just amazing and I feel healthier. Obviously, we’re constantly working on new ideas. I mean even this podcast is just a few months old, but it’s been like a huge – you know, it’s been a really wonderful thing for me, like I love it.Claudia Altucher: James, I think it’s pretty clear what your why is, the why behind how this has worked for you and you don’t want to preach anything. You’re just sharing and you are grateful to see it working for whoever it might work and your message – but I want to go back a little bit to your writing, because I was at a dinner not so long ago with you and a bunch of other people and someone at that dinner said, “If it’s James Altucher you’ll recognize the writing, because it’s not just any writing. It’s special. It has that extra umph. It has that first line that you will not be able to resist and you’ll have to keep reading and you’ll always be shocked almost by the last line.” There is something special to your writing. There’s a craft and something you study. Who are your influences? How did you get to that?James Altucher: It’s a funny question, because people ask me, “Like, who did you – what author can you recommend?” I’ll get to an author or two in a second, but the reality is you have to read an enormous amount if you want to be a good writer – if you want to be good at anything you have to study the craft. So I read probably hundreds of books a year and I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 200 minutes a day reading. You know, you wake up early. You stay up late, whatever it takes. You still make sure you get your eight hours of sleep, but any spare moment I have I read and I don’t –Claudia Altucher: I can plug in a little story. Yesterday, for example, you had a very long podcast. We had a radio show. You had business. You wrote three different – no, four different essays or things to publish in different places. You had a lot of phone calls to take. When we finally went to sleep to get our eight hours of sleep, you were reading and I wanted some attention and you couldn’t get – you couldn’t get past the first line, because I kept asking you questions, because I just wanted some James Altucher energy for me, and you had a hard time. You really wanted to read and it took about seven questions for you to finally turn the iPad off and talk to me, yeah?James Altucher: Well, and that – that’s a good example actually where of studying the craft where – so the book was Chang-Rae Lee, the title was Native Speaker, and I think he’s actually from Korea, but I’m not totally sure. I just started this book and the first line, if I remember correctly was, “When my wife left me she left me a list of everything she thought about me,” and so that’s the kind of line where –Claudia Altucher: Or was it, “Everything I needed to change”?James Altucher: No, it wasn’t, “Everything I needed to change,” because she specifically – because then I read later on this morning –Claudia Altucher: Oh. Oh. Oh.James Altucher: It wasn’t _______ - it was just everything she thought about me. It was a list of items she thought about him and –Claudia Altucher: And so you get really intrigued. You want to know what did she think about him?James Altucher: Right. But then what I get intrigued about is the author himself thinking of that first line, like that’s studying the craft. Like why did he pick – and not only that, that first line was the only line in the paragraph, so he wanted to really highlight that line to kind of drag you into the book. Now, it takes more than one line to make someone read 200 pages of a book –Claudia Altucher: What is the first line that you like from your writing? Can you go back to one first line that maybe you like?James Altucher: I don’t remember. You know, maybe – well, I really like this one article about where I was visiting Rikers Island on a bus at 3:00 in the morning and at the bus stop there were all these prostitutes waiting for people to get out of Rikers Island, so that was where their customers were coming from. I think the first line of that was sort of fun.I have another book that I self published that nobody has read really called the Choose Yourself Stories, where I have my more kind of like raw, almost literary style stories, and I think all of the stories there are really – they were really good and fun for me to write, but –Claudia Altucher: I’m reading one here that I like. It says, “Admit it. You were jealous of __________,” and that is kind of an interesting line. I do kind of want to keep reading. Like what do you mean I was – you always have that element of yeah, or as I said in the beginning of the podcast, I wanted to die –James Altucher: Yes. I think that was the first line of Choose Yourself, right?Claudia Altucher: Yes, in the first chapter. Yes.James Altucher: Yeah. And then I think on one of my posts today the first line is, “They fired me.” So here’s the first paragraph: “They fired me. They fired me as CEO. They fired me as a board member. Then they took away my shares and now none of them ever talk to me.”Claudia Altucher: You also put yourself down a lot. So you start sort of like – you’re the underdog.James Altucher: Yeah, but it’s because everybody is the underdog. Like, you know, we all go to movies, like, called Superman or the X-Men, or whatever, but like those things don’t actually – like heroes, superheroes don’t actually exist in real life. We’re all kind of combinations of tragedy and comedy and, you know, we’re all – we all hope for better in our lives and we all also hope for better ways of dealing with our current life. You know, I think too many times pundits, let’s say financial pundits, or political pundits, or self-help gurus or whatever, they come from this pedestal where I don’t know if I should trust them. I don’t know if this worked for them. Maybe they only made money because they’re selling advice. So for me now, I know over the past five years, you know, five years ago I was broke, you know, or around the time actually, Claudia, when we met. And since then, I’ll admit it, I’ve made an enormous amount of money by doing this daily practice.Claudia Altucher: How much money?James Altucher: You know, more than I’ve ever made before by doing this daily practice and I know it’s attributed to this. I haven’t started a business. It’s all through all sorts of different ways. You come up with so many ideas and you get so clever at coming up with different income streams and different possibilities and different deals that it really pays off. So what people want to see is a story. So a story starts off with someone who’s either in an okay situation or a bad situation, and the situation then gets worse, and then you go from worse to better and life itself is like that.Claudia Altucher: Yes.James Altucher: So I was on the floor considering committing suicide at my lowest point and now here I am, so lucky. I’m doing this podcast. I’m doing this podcast with you, who I love. I love the people I work with and it’s really –Claudia Altucher: Because of the daily practice?James Altucher: Yeah. I attribute it to that for me. Maybe other people – I don’t know – maybe other people need to meditate ten hours a day or exercise in the gym ten hours a day. I don’t know. This is what’s worked for me and I know – the only other thing I can say is it’s worked for a lot of other people, because I get the e-mails from them.Claudia Altucher: That’s right.James Altucher: Otherwise I wouldn’t know if it’s worked for anybody else.Claudia Altucher: So it’s a bit like a hero’s journey –James Altucher: Yeah.Claudia Altucher: The going on a quest, the starting from fear, and resistance, and having to figure something out, and failing and, in your case, failing again and again and again.James Altucher: Yeah. I’ve been a huge failure. Well, and like one of the things I write in Choose Yourself is, you know, life is a sentence of failures punctuated only by the briefest of successes –Claudia Altucher: I love that. I was just going to say that, because it’s one of the most beautiful sentences I’ve ever read from you.James Altucher: And for all I know, I think I stole that from somebody, but you know, whatever. If it works, I’ll use it. So –Claudia Altucher: Do you steal? Do you steal? Because you had ________ for writers write whatever you want, start in the middle, and then when you’re finished writing, take off the first paragraph and the last. Do you still do that now that you know the craft and you’ve been writing for three hours a day for five years ______?James Altucher: In 100 percent of my articles. So the rule is you write your article and then you always have to rewrite, so who cares the first rewrite? Take away the first paragraph and take away the last paragraph and I guarantee you your article will be better.Then from there I will rewrite further. I actually – my final post, like today, my final word count was about 60 percent less than my original word count, because that’s how much I rewrite. I try to carve out every single word, sentence, paragraph that is not useful. You know what’s really interesting is that sentences that I tend to take out the most are kind of the poetic ones, because you sort of realize that poetry is mostly BS, and whenever you try too hard to be poetic it usually adds nothing to the content of what you’re trying to say. So you have to be really brutal with yourself and the saying is you have to kill your darlings, so very often that’s where I start now, because I don’t want to waste too much time rewriting. I just like to post and get that feedback.Claudia Altucher: That’s right. Yes.James Altucher: But -Claudia Altucher: Yes. And you also say start in the middle if you’re confused, if you don’t know where to start, then just go for the middle. Go for whatever idea comes to your head.James Altucher: Yeah. Right. So for instance, like in this post today, I didn’t have to start off saying, “Oh, well, I started this business. Here’s what the business did. Here’s what I did poorly.” I started off, “They fired me.”Claudia Altucher: Being fired. Right.James Altucher: Yeah. I started –Claudia Altucher: Because that’s more interesting too.James Altucher: I started at the end, you know? They fired me. I really blew it. Like I –Claudia Altucher: So you get to the meet of it?James Altucher: Yes. And that’s – you know, we live in a world where there’s so many opportunities for people to listen to great content. I want to make sure my content is the best. I want to – you know, not that I’ll be –Claudia Altucher: So why don’t we come up with ten ideas of ten lines that could be really good starters, like I wanted to die, or –James Altucher: Yeah. I wanted to die.Claudia Altucher: I wanted to kiss her.James Altucher: Yeah. I want –Claudia Altucher: Is that a good first line?James Altucher: Well, I wanted to kiss her, but I knew – or I wanted to kiss her, but I didn’t know how, or I leaned in to kiss her and she pushed my face away. That’s a great first line.Claudia Altucher: Oh, I love that one. Yes. That’s a nice one.James Altucher: You know, another one, another one is, you know, on the morning of the worst day of my life I had no idea what was going to happen next.Claudia Altucher: Yeah. Or on the morning of the worst day of my life I – the river flooded my living room.James Altucher: Yeah. Or, you know, the river flooded my living room and I knew then that I was completely ruined, you know? Or – it’s funny – a great line and I – this is why I love reading – I love reading good writers. A great line is the day she left me all she left me with was a list of all of the things she thought about me, like that’s a great first line.Claudia Altucher: Right. So still thinking on the river, the river flooded my house and as the current receded I found my wedding ring.James Altucher: Yeah. That’s good, although –Claudia Altucher: That’s better. That actually happened to you.James Altucher: That happened to me, although you just gave the beginning, middle, and end of the story in one line.Claudia Altucher: Right. So I went too far?James Altucher: You have to be a little careful, but yes, that’s a good line too. But then you have to kind of explain what happened, but –Claudia Altucher: Is there any – I know that you like Dennis Johnson very much as a writer, who I actually – whenever I had a moment to really calm down and read I couldn’t believe the guy and is there a line you have that you like from him?James Altucher: Yes, but I can’t say it, because I’ve stolen it, actually, several times. So I don’t want to say it, but if you read – and most Dennis Johnson books are very good, but he has a collection of short stories called Jesus’ Son and it’s about a drug addict, who’s just trying to kind of get by and all the stories are inter-connected, and you never actually know the real name of the main character. You just know what he’s called. They made a movie about the book. It’s a very thin, small book, but it is by far the most beautiful book of stories ever written.It’s funny; when the book was published I think it was like 1993 or 1994. I specifically went out to the book store to get it, because I had already read many of the stories in magazines and stuff and I read last year – this was just last year, Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club and a lot of other novels. He said that he read the book Jesus’ Son over 300 times.Claudia Altucher: Wow!James Altucher: And that’s probably the same number of times I’ve read the book. I probably read it every couple of days like or at least read stories from it every couple of days. So, you know, if I’m going to recommend any book it’s that, but I also just recommend, you know, try to read at least like a book a week or two books a week or whatever. And don’t be afraid, by the way, to stop reading a book once it gets boring, like I do that all the time too.But, you know, anyway, Claudia, I want to – my voice is getting sore –Claudia Altucher: Yes. I can hear that. I have gotten a lot out of you. I realize I’ve been a tough interviewer perhaps.James Altucher: Do you think I left anything out? Should we talk about anything else?Claudia Altucher: No, I think I pushed. I think it’s okay. Okay.James Altucher: So if this post is useful, here’s what I hope people do. They go to JamesAltucher.com. There’s a Contact button. Well, first, sign up for my e-mail list, because I don’t even put stuff on my blog anymore really; once a week I do, but most of my stories I put on my e-mail list. Please sign up for my e-mail and newsletter, you know, or contact me through my Contact buttons. Tell me you like this podcast.I also want to say I’m really grateful for all the listeners. This is the seventh month of this podcast. It’s grown –Claudia Altucher: Congratulations. This is really good.James Altucher: Every single week has been bigger than the week before. I’ve been really happy with it. And, Claudia, my lovely wife –Claudia Altucher: And you’ve been very happy with all the feedback and how many people have written to you and every e-mail gets read, and the Ask Altucher answer questions. It’s been a good journey.James Altucher: Yes. It’s been fun. And again, six months ago it was totally different, like every six months, so I can’t wait to see what happens six months from now.And also, you can hear Claudia and me every Wednesday at 1:00PM at HeyHouseRadio.com.Claudia Altucher: Yes.James Altucher: We have a live show where we take in call-ins and we have that for the next two months at least I think. So, Claudia, I love you very much.Claudia Altucher: Thank you. I love you too, Honey.James Altucher: I’ve loved you since the first day I seen you, and I’m glad you could join me on this podcast, so thanks very much.Claudia Altucher: Sweet. Thank you. I love you too.Male: For more from James, check out the James Altucher Show on the Stansberry Radio Network at StansberryRadio.com and get yourself on the free insiders list today.[End of Audio]
- James Altucher
- James Altucher
- James Altucher
Today that changes. Today, Claudia turns the tables on James and interviews HIM.
If you know James, you have heard him say that he has lost and made millions back and at times mention that he felt as if he was going to die.
So Claudia jumps right into the questions that so many of us want to know more about.
"Why were you going to die?"
"People lose money every day... how many millions did you lose?"
"How did you lose it? How did you make it back again?"
James reveals all the mistakes that led to his darkest moments... times where he thought he would never see the light again.
Divorced, no job, completely broke, millions have been lost. When you feel that your children would be better off with your life-insurance policy instead of you... how do you come back from something like that?
And... James reveals a HUGE secret that nobody else knows... not even Claudia.
He has always been open and honest with his listeners and followers of his blog, twitter, and Facebook. But today EVERYTHING is revealed... absolutely nothing is off the table.
He was able to completely turn his life around... something that most individuals in the same type of situations would not be fortunate enough to do.
His success, triumph, and passion are truly admirable and could be inspiration to use toward your own life.
It is the ultimate "choose yourself" episode...
This Episode's Guest
- with Mark Ford
- with Seth Godin
- with Dick Yuengling
- with Tucker Max
- with Stephen Dubner