James Altucher: Choose Yourself

This is just the right book to start off 2015. Why? Because it teaches you how to do what YOU really like to do. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Mike Cernovich from Danger and Play had recommended it as one of the three books every man must read. Naturally, that got me curious.

(note that there is also another review on 52in52weeks.com – click here to check it out.)

James Altucher has been a hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, author and podcaster. He has founded or cofounded over 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr.com and says that he has failed at 17 of them.

If you are interested, you can check out his blog here. He also has two weekly podcasts: The James Altucher Show, where he interviews comedians, businessmen and public figures such as Adam Carolla, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Mark Cuban and others. On Ask Altucher, he takes reader’s questions and answers them every day.

He strikes me as a very creative and generous person. For example, at the height of the financial crisis, he handed out chocolate to Wall Street investors on their way to work. The idea was that it would make them instantly happy and thus enable them to make good financial decisions. That might have done the trick and turned the economy around! It is a very interesting idea and beautiful gesture.

He is a very real person, and he talks about how his writing and doing what he wants to do has put him at odds with a lot of people, up to even relatives not talking to him anymore. The whole style of the book is never boisterous or crass though, it is humble and authentic and full of ideas. Your mind will get stimulated when reading this book.

Chose Yourself


What are the core points of the book?

What science fiction novels from the 1930s have predicted is now reality. Robots and computers have essentially replaced human labor. That means if you stay in your corporate cubicle, sooner or later you will become commoditized.

We are born pioneers and won’t be happy doing repetitive tasks for somebody else. We want to go out and explore the world instead. Go back to our roots, become artist, entrepreneur, investor and marketer at the same time. We have to build our own platform, trust in the process and define what success means for us, not someone else.

We have to Chose Ourselves.

We can’t live someone else’s idea of life.

A ripple that laps onto the shore will never be as strong as the ocean that created it. The goal is to be the ocean.


Most controversial/surprising idea

Often we don’t dare doing what we want because we are afraid the others will judge and reject us. Rejection and the fear thereof is our biggest impediment to success when chosing ourselves.

But often it’s easier than we think. Altucher cites an experiment where people simply asked others in a subway car to give up their seats – and the majority of people complied.

That means – we simply need to ASK for our place, and society will give it to us. We don’t need to be perfect. We are good enough the way we are.


What are the key things I have learnt and applied to my life?

To become the person we want to be, we need to be healthy. (a) Physically: by working out, eating right, or simply walking 20 minutes per day. (b) Emotionally: surrounding ourselves with positive people. (c) Spiritually: living in the presence, stop worrying about the past or future. (d) Mentally: engaging the brain by coming up with 10 ideas on any given topic.

Altucher calls this the daily practise. I have started applying this to my life – I am taking the time listening to other people, I work out every day, I have installed the Happiness Habit and I am coming up with 10 ideas per day.

Devoting yourself to a daily practise builds incremental improvement in your life, leading to a strong foundation.

When I feel overwhelmed in my life and don’t know where to start and what to do next, I resort to this one constant: the daily practise. Once I have worked on my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, I am much calmer and trust in myself that I get the task done that is in front of me. Step by step.

Resolving to working on your well-being every day is very similar what Jeff Olson’s Slight Edge suggests. All these steps don’t take a lot of time, but if you do them every day, you will be able to recognize what you really want, because you “clean up” your mind and focus your thoughts.

Altucher gives you ten ideas to start you off, as well as examples from other readers of his blog. For example: cryogenics for depressed people (so they can skip their bad mood); advertising in houses, so you can reduce the mortgage, happiness hotspots – use brain scans to determine of someone is happy or sad and locate it on a map on your phone, so you can gravitate to those areas. An idea can really be anything.


Other noteworthy statements

If you are in a crisis, slow down.

Show people that you are grateful, help them or volunteer, work out, live healthy and get enough sleep. You need to get yourself off the floor first.


Attaching our happiness to external goals will disappoint.

But when you’re in love, you feel better. Therefore learn to love yourself first!


The currency of unhappiness will not buy happiness.

You don’t need to go on a journey and “pay your dues” until you find your purpose and THEN be happy. Don’t wait. Be happy NOW.


Can you “disappear” and start fresh right now?

If you get rid of everything that holds you to one place, then all the tools are there to live your life like you truly want. You can use mobile services such as airbnb and zipcar for housing and transportation. you can truly live a minimalist lifestyle, as long as you have “cleaned up” and worked on your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. Then, you can have an adventure every day!


There is usually enough business right where you are to make you rich.

People – including entrepreneurs – tell themselves all the time they work 24/7, when in reality they just waste a lot of time and resources. Instead, enhance the lives of people around you by doing what YOU like to do.


It doesn’t cost a lot to make $1 billion.

If you can solve a problem millions of people have, you can earn a lot of money.


Honesty is the only way to make money in today’s world.

Dishonesty works, until it doesn’t. You are given one chance and then kicked out. In contrast, honesty compounds over years and decades.

Always give credit, even if the ideas were yours. Be the source of ideas, then, over time, you will become the fountain of ideas and people come back to you.

Be like Google. Connect people and ideas.

Take the blame. Don’t lead a double life. Don’t be angry. Don’t come up with excuses. Make people look good. Don’t gossip.

Do what you say you are going to do. Be that guy.

You will have nobody to run from. Some people will hate you. Some people will doubt your sincerity. But the people who need someone to call, someone to share with, someone to give to, these people will know who to call. They will call you.


30 % will love what you do, 30% will hate it and 30% won’t care.

Just stick with the people who love you.


Nobody can tell you who you are and what to do.

Don’t react to other people’s demands and become “busy”. That’s just actionism. Cultivate who YOU are and do what YOU want.


Be a child again.

Don’t take anything for granted. Decorate the landscape of your live with question marks instead of periods.

You can buy the book here.

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