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7 November 2016

James Altucher on Simplifying Your Life & Reinventing Yourself

Jairek Robbins

If you had to choose only 15 of your personal items to keep, and give the rest away, which would you choose?


How would you feel if you had only 15 personal items in your possession?


Would you feel lighter? More free? Less weighed down?

Or would you feel deprived? Lacking? Like you need more?


For James Altucher, it’s been one of the more liberating things he’s ever done and he’s not looking back. After giving away, throwing away, or selling nearly all his possessions James now lives a life that allows him to move freely, travel light, and have far less “stuff” to worry about.


Of course he shares all the pros and cons he’s experienced in life and business since simplifying his life.


Of course that’s not all we talk about. Tune in for Altucher’s tips on how to reinvent yourself and to stay in a creative space so you’ll never run into mental roadblocks when it comes to growing your business, improving your life, or maximizing your performance.


Always a great guest and host, I think you’ll really enjoy this week’s JRCtv podcast. Enjoy!


To Your Success,


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Show notes below:


Jairek: Welcome to our learn to live it podcast and Facebook live conversation. We’re chatting with some wonderful guest; this is James Altucher you’re looking at right now if you’re viewing live on Facebook. We’re going to talk to James a little bit about what’s going on. But I’d love to start with for those people who may not be familiar, which I’m sure there are very select few in the world who might not have crossed paths with your amazing podcast or read your book yet. But if they haven’t yet, let’s give them a little.


James: I would say 99.999% of the world has not yet, so we’re good.


Jairek: I just met the uber driver who’s driving us up here, he’s like “oh where are you guys going?” we’re like, “We’re late for a podcast.” He’s like, “oh what show?” I said, “James Atlucher’s.” “Oh, that’s a great show!” So trust me.


James: He was lying to you. He just wanted to get a higher tip or something.


Jairek: I don’t think so. The reciprocity might have been emotion. But they do know. We were excited. I have lots of friends who when we recorded for your show the first time, 2 years ago in Miami, a lot of friends who were listening were like, “Whoa, you’re on James’ show! That’s amazing!” And they were so excited to reach out to me.


James: That’s funny. Thank you for telling me that.


Jairek: Yeah! I was excited too! I had to find out that lots of friends listen. But let’s do a kind of background. How’d you get into podcasting? You have a successful podcast; you have awesome books out there.

James: Sure. So I’ve been on a lot of different fields. Part of my whole thing, and we’re talked about this before, is I never feel like I have a purpose in life. So I’m constantly exploring new and different things like whatever is interesting to me. I tend to get like obsessed with and fascinated by and try to learn everything about and then create like almost a mini career in that field before moving on to the next thing. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just what I do. So I’ve been in everything from, you know I’ve started a bunch of businesses. Let’s say I’ve started 20 businesses, 18 have failed, maybe 2 have succeeded, 3 have succeeded. I do a lot of investing. I write a lot of books, both in let’s say kind of a personal improvement category and in a business category and entrepreneurship category. I work for a television company – HBO – so I’ve run hedge funds. I’ve done all sorts of stuff.


Jairek: question to start with, just to throw us out there. You said started let’s say 20 companies then 18 have failed. How do you keep going when stuff seems to fall apart? The whole thought process, you’re going to have to keep reinventing yourself but how do you get through that moment? Because there’re lots of people that were talking about before we go on your show where they’re young, they’ve gone out, maybe they’re 22 years old, there are young guys, they’ve started their own business and went well for a while and then it just flat fell apart. And now they’ve labeled themselves a failure, they’ve labeled themselves that they could never do it, it won’t work. They don’t know what to do with their life now that their 1 business failed. I mean you’ve done it 18 times and kept going.


James: Well, first off I want to get rid of the kind of failure myth. There’s this whole failure pornography where I like “oh if I fail, that’s just a badge of honor I failed so now I’m going to go on and succeed.” It sucks super bad to fail at a business. Life’s the worst; It’s one of the worst feelings in the world because when you put all this time and energy into a business, I don’t want to make this direct comparison but it’s almost like this is your baby, this is where you’ve put all your energy into. And to watch it fail, maybe you’ve wasted one or two years of your life, it’s hard at this moment to see what you’ve gained from experience. I mean of course, it’s easy to say “Oh, I’m going to learn from failure now.” You can’t say that the second after you failed. When you’re actually on the floor, you’re on the floor. But the only thing I could say is, I mean the very first time I felt at something where I lost millions of millions of dollars and went completely broke, I was upset, and I thought “that’s it, I’m dead’. Like I won the lottery, and now I’m never going to make this kind of money again. I don’t have the skillset, I’m stupid, I’m an idiot as evidenced by the fact that I lost all these money because we correlate intelligence and talent with money in our society. And so I’m just never going to have a chance again. And so I felt really bad for a long, long time. So that’s the first time. I’ll tell you on a more recent time; this has happened over a year and a half ago, a friend of mine was making a TV show. And I was on the set, you know watching him film this great TV show with all these great stars in it, and a great director and the show has been on the air with my favorite shows out there. Anyway, in the middle of the day, I got a phone call from another business I’m involved in, a billion revenue business and I had a significant stake in this business, and there’s a special emergency board meeting. And I had to leave the set for like an hour to go on this board call. And we’re essentially notified that something had happened that nobody knew about. And we’re going to be out of business within 3 days. So basically in that lunchtime on the set of this TV show, I lost $9 million. And then everybody on the TV set was looking for me; they were going to start shooting more episodes. It’s like go back out there, and I spend the rest of the day. And then I told my friend, the writer of the show what had happened in the middle of the day. He’s like, “Oh I thought you just went to the bathroom and when you came back you were just as happy and curious and asked questions, and you stayed all the way to the end of shooting at like 9 pm that night, and we had no idea that anything was going on”. And so what happens is you get better and better at realizing, you switch into a mindset and realize something bad just happened which means something good is about to happen in my life as well. It’s not like a karmic thing; it’s just that the end of something if you use it correctly, does mean that there’s going to be some beginning. So the beginning might simply be that I don’t have to spend as much time like this, I can now spend more time on something I enjoy more. So for instance, yes I lost these millions of dollars, but I did not enjoy being involved in that company. Unenjoyed, it made me unhappy to be involved in that company. So now I didn’t necessarily do something that the very next day made that money back, but I was able the very next day to read more or spend more time with kids or family or work on podcasting more. Like I was able to eliminate something from my life that I didn’t enjoy and replaced that with something I enjoy. So in a weird way, I replaced that one kind of failure with a different kind of success. And so you learn that skill, that’s skill. So you learn that skill more and more as you fail more and more. Again, not that failure is good, but you just learn the skillset of what to do with it. I will always be upset at what happened. Like I do this or that. And why do this company do this or why do people react like that way. I wasn’t going to let it take away this enjoyment of being on the set of this amazing TV show, and b) I had to figure out ok I didn’t enjoy it anyway so yeah I’m not going to get that money back but what can I do tomorrow that I enjoy now. So that’s what happened.


Jairek: very cool. Now what’s interesting is, you didn’t always start off with a ton of money.


James: No no I had, nothing, I came out of nothing. I paid for all of my colleges. I had to graduate a year early, which is a whole story in itself so that I could afford it. Ah, moved to New York, lived in the worst place in the world. Worked in HBO for a while and then just gradually built up.


Jairek: And there’s a way you’ve built up that was really interesting. I know you’ve told this to me personally before. But it was your way of opening the door to different relationships and places. I remember you told me about this TV show where you had written in it, and you identified like “Hey I’m a subscriber, I’m a reader, I wish you would do these things.” And you’re the same with Amazon too and how that open doors there.


James: Yeah so one of the times when I had failed I had, it’s like all these times I failed I had to remember which times specifically. So one time I was losing a home, losing everything once again, and I got interested in investing. I had never been interested in investing before, which was probably why I lost so much money because I had never really made a study out of it. But I made a study of it, I got obsessed with it, I read hundreds of books, I wrote all these stuff where I’m modeling the stock markets and then I decided you know what, I’m going to write to all my favorite investors and say hey I’d love to meet you and take you out for coffee and blah blah blah. And I wrote like 30 or 40 emails to all my heroes in the investing space, and I got zero replies. Because it’s not like Warren Buffett’s going to say “Dolores hold everything, James Altucher just wrote me and he’s going to buy me a free cup of coffee. I have to go downstairs and meet him immediately. Or fly to New York and meet him immediately”. No billionaire is thinking like that. So that’s the wrong way to meet people. And I get these emails, you probably get these emails too, like people say, “is there something I can do for you?” Yeah, don’t give me more homework. Like, don’t ask me to think of ideas for you to do for me. You come to me with the ideas. So what I started doing, and this is so critically important for everything, is I started writing down 10 ideas a day. And that does 2 things – one is, you start exercising this idea muscle. And just like any muscle, like you go to the gym and if you didn’t go to the gym for 2 or 3 weeks, your muscles would deflate and you would notice it physically, like you would look in the mirror and you’d say, “Oh my I didn’t work out for the past 2 weeks”. It’s the same thing with the idea muscle. The idea muscle deflates or atrophies if you don’t use it. The way to use it is to pick a topic if it was 10 books I want to write, which 10 things I’m grateful for that I’ve never been grateful for all my life, and write them down. So that’s exercising the idea muscle. One step further is ok I want to meet Warren Buffett. Here’re 10 ideas for how Warren Buffett could improve his business. And then I would send those to Warren Buffett.


Jairek: Which is wild because that’s a big claim. I mean to look at someone like Warren Buffett or I think it was Jim Kramer?


James: Yeah, so just to add to that, it is a big claim. So Warren Buffett still won’t respond to me. Not yet, eventually. But Jim Kramer, I wrote him 10 ideas for articles he should write. So it’s not about me at all. It’s about him. 10 articles he should write that would make me subscribe to his service. So I’m busy giving something for free. I’m not asking for coffee. I’m not saying, “hey I will be up at 6 in the morning, I’ll meet you wherever you are” because he’s famous for meeting people at 6 in the morning. I’m not doing anything; I’m just saying – and I thought about it – here’re 10 ideas right now on articles you could write that I would love to read if someone of your caliber wrote it. He wrote back instantly, I’ve never had contact with him before, he wrote back and said “These are great ideas. Why don’t you write these”. And that started me writing for thestreet.com. My editor at thestreet.com went to the Financials Times and suddenly I was writing for the Financial Times. Then I started writing for Fortune, Forbes, Yahoo Finance. And then book publishers started contacting me. I’ve written 18 books since then. So that one email started the whole kind of career of writing. I don’t even write about finance anymore. I’ve zero interests about writing about finance. But I’ve started this whole career of writing. I framed . Actually, I got a $200 check for the first article I wrote for thestreet.com, I framed it. I had Jim Kramer sign it. About 6 months ago, I threw that out, but that’s a whole other story. But that started me out. So I would send 20 emails like that. Here’re 10 ideas for you to improve your business that I think would be good. 2 people responded: one was Jim Kramer, one was the hedge fund manager where I gave my entire software package of modeling the markets. And I said, “Here’s how it works, here’s how your employees could use it to figure out what patterns are happening in the markets right now and go for it. Knock yourselves out; I don’t care”. And he allocated his personal money to me to invest in the markets. And then I started a hedge fund off that. And that ended, that was like a 5-year career for me was or even more because of a few times, my other financial activities were like an 8- to 9-year career for me.


Jairek: An 8- or 9-year career off of a couple of emails to people saying “Hey, I’ve done my work. I’ve learned about you. I’ve learned how you could improve and here’s legitimately 10 reasons or 10 things you can do to improve whatever you’re doing. And 2 out of 10 or 20% return or came back.


James: And that was then by the way. That was 2002. I do that every week. So I send out emails constantly like that all the time. That’s why I’m meeting Amazon this week over something similar, and I’m just constantly meeting people. I just got asked to be an advisor for a medical company, which by the way we were by coincidence discussing at lunch based in San Francisco where I’m probably going to be an advisor for them. So these things happen to me all the time now because – serendipity, you create it. Like you have to create the luck in your life. And you do get lucky, people get lucky. It was all luck when Jim Kramer wrote back to me, but he would never have written back to me if I didn’t do this particular technique.


Jairek: And it does work when you try to add value. And it’s not just like hey here’s my 10 things, if you can make yourself better, you’re welcome.


James: Right. And I wasn’t asking for reciprocity. Reciprocity is built into the universe. You don’t have to ask for it. So if people are good people that you should be doing business with, you’re going to have reciprocity automatically.


Jairek: That’s awesome. I love that. And I love that for people who are tuning in life with us right now. I would throw it their way and say like you said, you can start your idea training that muscle each day. So each day if they want to listen in and say what’s 10 books you want to write. And they could put those things, what are 10 things you’re grateful that you’ve never been grateful for.


James: Well what they’ve never been grateful for is important. Like I heard you mention at the beginning of Facebook live that list thing you’re grateful for – which is great. I think that is showing to make people happier. But what I try to do is like everyday I can be grateful for my children for instance. Oh, I’m so grateful for having children. But that is easy. So I try to solve for what I call difficult gratitude problems. So if something bad is happening in my life, how can I dig through that to find what to be grateful for because that will exercise that idea muscle a little more. You want to sweat, right? So just like in the gym, it’s not working if you’re not sweating a little bit. So you want to make sure that idea muscle, or that gratitude muscle, in this case, is sweating a little bit. So yeah, of course, I’m grateful for my kids. But how can I be grateful for losing that $9 million in one day? Oh, I had some business issue last week where somebody was real, just inappropriately angry at me. And instead of just concentrating I’m going to write back to him and say this, where can I find the opportunities in how this person is treating me? And of course I did find the opportunities, and I’m working on them now and everybody, including him, is happy. So that’s how things work in life.


Jairek: Nice. I love that. You mentioned this a little bit – minimalism, cutting things down. I know there was a big article that I read about you.


James: I was on the cover of the fashion section of the New York Times about this article. It was like why James Altucher.


Jairek: Fashion week?


James: No, fashion week was like last week. It was the week before maybe. So I drive my kids crazy now, they’re 2 teenage girls, daughters. So I tell them you have to listen to my fashion advice because I was on the cover of the fashion section. And they’re like, “I don’t think so daddy. We’re not listening to your fashion advice”. But I think they thought about it for a quick second. I don’t know.


Jairek: Did they get you?


Pamela: I’ll totally revamp my wardrobe. I’m down to 10 things.


Jairek: This is a new style. This is where we’re going for. If you’ve read the New York Times, you’ve seen the fashion section; this man has been on the cover of the fashion section. And he’s about to share how he did it.


James: Not to be a fashion icon. You can tell I’m not a fashion icon.


Jairek: What were you there for? Why were you on the cover?


James: In general, over the past few years, I’ve written a lot of books detailing my failures and how I bounced back from them. I always say advice is an autobiography. So I never say this is what you should do, I just say this is what I did to kind of bounce back.


Jairek: Just to throw this thought out there real quick, I’m a huge proponent of that. Because in the past, if you live in the 80’s or 90’s or 2000’s, there’re lots of people who will tell you here’s my 5-step formula for success. Follow these steps, and you too will be successful. I think that’s a dated way to go about it because what we’re learning now is everyone’s different. Now I think those steps are radically and totally useful as a model of where to start. And you have to be able to use them to get yourself going and understanding the basics. Then as an individual we have to say, “ok that’s what works but how do I massage it in a way that works for me?” And so I don’t believe in preaching like here’re my 5 golden pillars to success. I will say hey; these are 5 pillars that work for me like you, and take them for what they are. Use what works out of it for you. Then make it your own and do something great with it and hopefully pay it forward.


James: Exactly. I think that’s very important because it’s like I’m going to quote the great personal improvement guru Mike Tyson. And he says you can have all the plans in the world, but once you’re hit in the face, the plans are out the window. So like if I’m taking someone else’s advice and thinking oh my life’s going to be great now, it won’t work. I have to build up what works for me and what I know works for me and what I’m confident in and so on. So I’d written all these books and a lot of it enforces the idea – you know talks about personal growth, personal achievements and so on. But a lot of it is that experiences are greater than goods at the end of the day. And I have been for years throwing out more and more of my belongings. But finally, I still had like an entire house of belongings, an apartment full of belongings. And so I hired somebody just to go to both places and throw everything out, don’t call me. Like no furniture, computers, books – either throw out, keep, sell or donate. So that was her mandate. So we can’t just throw out everything. But some things you can’t donate.


Jairek: your trash can’s somewhere with lots of valuables.


James: there were 80 trash cans. It wasn’t one trash can. But you know like her family took the bed. Her cousins took the computer. Then I had iPads, I had old phones, I had TVs.. you know, the things you accumulate. Also things from childhood, just the things you accumulate over life. And she said, are you sure you don’t want me to call you during this? What if there’s something of sentimental value like photographs? And I said don’t even talk to me. She did call me once; she said look you have a framed college diploma. And I’m like nobody has asked me about that diploma in 25 years. Just burn that, it’s a wooden diploma, like burn the diploma. So I ended up with one bag, it’s like a small carry-on, like a small pouch with 2 or 3 outfits in it. And then one bag that’s like a backpack that I have a computer, an iPad and a phone in. And that’s it; that was all my belongings. And I didn’t have any apartment anymore. So I gave up the 2 leases that I had. And so now I’ve just been doing Air BnB’s where it’s all furnished, and I don’t have to think about contracts or this or that. I’m able to move around. And again, that’s just for me; I’m not recommending it to anybody. It was just a direction I’ve been going in for a long time and allowed me and the people I’m with to focus more on the experiences of my life instead of any accumulation of goods.


Jairek: Speaking of people you’re with, Pamela what’s your experience with it? When we were talking over lunch, you said listen 50 thing’s great but I’m a lady, and I need a little bit more options. I’ll give you an interesting story; we were travelling the world. We’re going to move to Florida. We were going to buy our house in South Florida. The week of closing, the bank decided to try to change the offer, so the deal’s off. We decided not to go through with it. We’ve 15 business flights out of Ft Lauderdale for the rest of the year already booked. And we went on like shit what are we going to do? So we took a compass, we drew a big circle of flights to figure out where our flights go from Ft Lauderdale, hopefully, to find a cool place to live or an apartment for a while in a cheap flight zone so we can get in quick. We drew a circle; we ended up in Costa Rica living on the beach in Tamarindo for 2 ½ months. Then from there, we came back up. We taught on a cruise ship from Florida, 14 days, 7 countries, back in San Diego. From there, hopped on an RV with 3 friends and into a 20-day volunteer road trip back across the southern route, back in Tampa. Landed in Tampa, we’re going to wait there until it warmed up and then move up to Vancouver for this summer. Now we just kept going; we love that stuff. And when we got to Tampa, we had been almost about 4 ½, almost 5 months without a suitcase. And we just had 2 bags with us.


James: And you realize you didn’t miss any of that? Like where did you keep stuff in storage at the time? I’m assuming you had stuff on storage. So you had like a shit pile of stuff somewhere.


Jairek: And what was interesting was at one point, I remember the sweetest look on my wife who’s filming space. She looked at me, and she say listen, I’m a lady. We’ve gone from beach to business event to formal affair to volunteer road trip to building a house without habitat from humanity in New Orleans so like construction workers, to weeding out a meditation garden for the children’s hospital in Austin, to Polarthandra just freezing driving through. And also, your bathroom tick freezes if you’re in an RV and it gets too cold. So you had frozen stuff. As we went through all of these and she’s like all I had is one big double bed. She said can I please get my dress out of storage and at least get a couple more options? I think like a guy when life has a different experience compared to a lady, so I want to know your experience with the 15 things like combing all the way down. I know you’ve also kind of jumped into an extent


Pamela: I was a bit of a minimalist. But I think it’s very freeing to have fewer items. You know you just take the best, forget the rest. And you can apply that even to like learning from other people.


Jairek: Take the best, leave the rest. I love that! And we thought about this; we’re looking right now at even packing up all our stuff in our Tampa house. And just going some more, just keep going. We love the part from place to place to place just because we enjoy that. I don’t know if we can do 15 items because we tend to pack at least a couple of duffel bags and some backpacks.


James: But the one thing you can do is view the 15 items as a metaphor also. So ok I’m not going to worry about more than.. as most people worry about a lot of things and they don’t realize it. I’m going to minimize the things I worry about. Or I’m going to minimize the kind of things I try to achieve in life like you don’t have to achieve everything that you set out to achieve. There’re lots of ways in which, you gotta enjoy, you know, as Ryan Holiday who wrote Ego is the Enemy once told me, Alexander the Great doesn’t care that Alexandria was named after him. Like at some point we all die, and it’s a cliché to say of course, but you just got to enjoy every moment.

Jairek: What’s interesting, and I’ll give you a metaphor but also something fascinating in our lives. So I moved out when I was 18, took whatever stuff I wanted and just built everything since kind of my way clothes. I think I do have my college degree, some little stuff I collected. But my mom, specifically, has some old things that she collected. These were your baseball cards when you were young; they should probably worth something.

James: But they always think it’s worth something. The baseball cards, they worth nothing. But they always… you have the thing number 237 comic book is worth nothing.

Jairek: Yeah, but the grandkids need it. And you see what you collected when you were their age. I have my old football helmet from high school, random stuff. So she has collected like a whole storage full of stuff for me in Los Angeles, and it’s sitting there. We pay the bill every month because you don’t want anyone else to. But we keep laughing and thinking like why is there a storage unit full of stuff that we’ve not seen for four years just sitting there, you never know what’s in there. I can’t say that we don’t care because I’m sure it’s part of history but it would be nice to see it and let it go. It’s your family that decides to collect stuff for you.


James: Well I didn’t. So I also had everything in one of my places, and I currently don’t want to outsource to my children the decision to get rid of my stuff. So eventually I’m going to die, and I may get my stuff. So they now have solved the problem which is they don’t have anything to sort through with me. So there’s just nothing.


Jairek: taking care of future generations.


James: yes.


Pamela: It’s clutter. It’s a burden on your mind.


Jairek: it is. I remember watching a TED talk, I forget who it was, they were talking about how much storage space is in the United States and it’s enough storage space that if we empty it all out, just everyone’s extra junk, it would be enough to put housing or roof over every single person in the entire country. And instead, it’s just sitting in storage doing nothing and accumulating money.


James: but we’re a storage culture. We love shows like Hoarders. And these storage companies are great companies; they generate cash forever. So if we stop paying them, they’d sell your stuff on eBay. It’s like a giant pawn shop.


Jairek: it’s crazy. But going down this route, I know you have a book called Reinventing Yourself that’s coming out. And this minimalism route, where is it leading?


James: I don’t know. I mean everything’s an adventure. So I don’t have to know.


Jairek: that’s one of my top values. Love, health, adventure.


James: Yeah, I think it’s an important thing to be curious about the world. Because you don’t know all the answers, but it’s fun to be curious. And I think it’s a big problem in the education system that everybody is focused on memorizing facts without asking questions. When you look at all the great scientific discoveries ever, all started with questions. None of them started with facts. But the educational systems’ in reverse.


Jairek: I just saw a video of Michael Moore, there’s a research about the education system between the United States and Sweden. There’s a short little clip, was it Sweden? No, Finland I think. Right out there. Nordic countries. And so, both of us are like battling for the 34th position or something in the world. And they changed something. And when they changed it, all of a sudden we are still somewhere in 34 and they went all the way to number one for the past several years. When they went to an interview, they were asked: “What did you guys change?” And they said we believe that kids should be playing more. So they took their school day from like 7 or 8 hours all the way down to 3 hours including an hour lunch break and recess break. So they spent 2 hours a day in class, they have zero work, and that’s how they’ve become the best students on Earth.


James: I totally believe it because… and I’m going to ask you a question, and it’s a question I ask a lot of people. I ask the entire audience this question. Every year of high school and college, we learn about Charlemagne – the greatest emperor in European history. But I’m going to ask you when Charlemagne was born? No clue, you just guess. Give me a guess because it doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you the range of guesses.


Jairek: I’m not even connected to Charlemagne. I don’t remember…


James: Ok so I ask one guy, I was on this podcast. He majored in European history, and he told me like 1300 something. And I asked the audiences; they never get it right. They usually say around 1300.


Jairek: Give me half a second. If you’re watching right now live, in the comments section, tell us: When was Charlemagne born? Let’s see what their guesses are. Let’s give them a shot.


James: Alright. They can google it, though; that’s the problem.


Jairek: Oh, don’t google it. Just take your best guess. Just type in the comments section. Charlemagne… where were they?


James: Here in what is now France. Like, Gaul.


Jairek: So what are the answers that popped up? Anyone guessing?


Pamela: Nothing yet.


James: I will just say it. So 1752. But we learn it every single year of high school and college. We learned it, we got tested on it, we remembered it, and we answered it. But it just goes to show you how little we retain from just being like force-fed facts. We don’t retain any of it. But, questions you remember. Like you know Einstein would ask the question: What happens if one person’s moving at the speed of light and another person is standing on the ground? From that question, he develops the theory of relativity. He didn’t start with a bunch of equations and said ok let me try to prove this. He asked the question and wondered out loud to himself what happens. And that’s how every discovery happens. So you know art, what happens if we take a soup can and say this is a work of art? And they would ask the question, and now he’s got a $30 million soup can. So that’s how stuff’s created.


Jairek: So the question right now for you is, what happens if I downsize completely to 15 items?


James: Yeah then I just.. for reinvention, it’s like what we were talking earlier. I want to see what gets me excited and then that’s what I’ll pursue. So I’m always in the process of reinventing. Everybody always is. I want to write more. I want to write fiction perhaps, which is completely different for me. I want to you know meet more people, try more things, and also figure out better and better ways to be happy which are an incredibly difficult thing to do in this world.


Jairek: We’ve been talking about in this Facebook live in the podcast The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor from Harvard. And what’s interesting is back in the day, you know people would tell you to be happy. But then they’d tell you a bunch of personal development tactics or tools some guru guy says is the way to happiness. And you don’t know it; it’s all subjective. You can look at case studies, but there’s no real proof. But now things in positive psychology, there’s people studying this and showing you like hey we took 200 studies, 275,000 people. And between all these people across the board, if you do these things everyday – simple little activities – it makes you happier within 21 days according to 275,000 people across 200 studies. That’s like wow, that’s legit! There’s actual proof now coming out in places too. Which is the other part because you have a private company do a study and you’re like ok who are these characters?


James: But it’s still hard to get into the habit of even those 21 days. So I’m going to pitch you an idea for a TV show and tell me what you think. I think we know the same cast of characters, so the show’s called Guru’s Gone Wild. So the whole idea is all these self-help people are trying to build their businesses, trying to live their practices and stuff. But you and I both know they all…when you’re down to having lunch and drinks or whatever with them, they all have their problems like everybody has their issues. You can’t get rid of them. It’s not about getting rid of issues; it’s about how you cope with them. So it’s just kind of like funny kind of, in some cases, the contradictions are extreme with what they recommend and how they live. And I just think it would be a fun idea for a kind of an almost fiction like an entourage style TV show.


Jairek: It would be hilarious. I thought it would be neat. We started making adventure retreats just because, in all honesty, I love adventure and I love giving back through traveling. So I thought how cool it would be to get paid. Actually travel, go on adventures, volunteer and have fun. Like if you get paid, I don’t know what the job description that is. And so I thought about it, and a friend of mine challenged me, and she’s like why do we just do it. And so I was on this little trip, on this sea ship and she was like hey there’s speakers on board. And the speakers were like Sandra Day O’Connor – the first female Supreme Court justice, Julian Bond – the hotshot lawyer from Martin Luther King. These are historical figures of history, they’ve done things like amazing things in history. She’s like why don’t we ask them if you can speak on the next one. I was like that’s sweet, I know you believe in me a lot but I don’t think I necessarily fall into that category of history. Like I don’t think I fit next to Sandra Day O’Connor and Julian Bond. She’s like that’s ok let’s just ask. And we went ahead and asked, they’re like sure we’d love to have you. Am I like really? So first I felt incredibly humbled. And when we introduced ourselves to the community, the average age on the ship was like 70. So I’m like I’m 30 years old, I’m just beyond excited to be here. If I can share something that would help you guys, I’m happy to. I’ll share with you everything I know and hopefully it’s useful to this community. And they’d love it; they round back a bunch of times in a row. But while we were there, what’s interesting – we took people with us into this adventure and what I found was people would sign up for the vacation aspect of it, the adventure side of it. We did like go to an active volcano where you like a hike up a volcano, and you sled down a volcano. Takes about an hour and forty-five minutes to hike up, 45 seconds to get back down to the truck. It’s insane; it’s fun. I never thought sledding would be crazy. But how steep the damn hill is freaking people out. From there, we volunteered with the Merriment in Ecuador. We brought Christmas to 200 families who couldn’t afford it locally. So we brought Santa and elves and like all these school stuff. We helped build the school and a house for like a community in Guatemala. All these beautiful stuff. Now what’s wild is, we took people who most of them were doing ok. I mean good enough to afford inexpensive things, like a hundred bucks a night which is cheap for a vacation that long but it was… you know they can afford it, they went, they have the ability to get time off, so they’re kind of in a privileged position thus far. But not all of them were in the best place mentally and emotionally in life. And we had some people, one lady actually, who joined us and we didn’t notice until afterward. She told us in the very end. She said I got on this ship because my intention was my house just burned down, I lost all my stuff, I took my money, and I invested it to rebuild my home, the insurance money when I got back. The head contractor told me 2 weeks ago that he bailed the money and there isn’t any left, and I’m sorry I’m out, I’m not getting the house back, and he didn’t pay the other workers. So I took the rest of my life savings and gave it to the workers because otherwise, their families won’t eat. I’m going to the gym every morning and taking a shower there and living in my car and reporting to work as if there’s nothing wrong, so no one knows. And I positioned all my belongings in a way so it would be easy for my kids to take care of if I’m no longer here. I plan on getting on this ship and throwing myself off the back at some point and just say it’s over. And she said I happened to have listened to your dad’s stuff so when I saw you on board, I thought you know how cool. It would be fun to poke in and see what he’s going to share. She joined our little class, she sat in everyday with us and went through the whole thing. And she said there were a couple of days on board, one of which that we were working on like getting rid of past stories. Just a simple luxury I learned a few years ago. Two of which is the other time that helped her was volunteering and helping other people in need. She said between those two days; I decided that I should stay on this planet and keep going. At the end of the day, she stood up and told us that story and said thanks for saving my life. The way I was looking at it was like I get paid to take a vacation and share some stuff that seems really valuable and meaningful to others, volunteer and has a lot of fun.


James: And save a life.


Jairek: I didn’t think that was on the list. I planned it. We’re like wow, this can like to save someone’s life? I just thought this was a random cool idea of how to get paid for doing something I thought was cool. And that thought process when you connect it with how you’re going about life and what you’re doing, and how you’re showing up. I was trying to connect the dot there. I got lost in that.


James: Well the idea of adventure.


Jairek: Yeah the idea of adventure and connecting it.


James: You never know what the outcome is.


Jairek: Oh how to be happy. And what we found was. Oh TV show, I’m sorry. That’s what it was. So in that, I always thought it would be really neat to take someone who’s kind of like down and out and in a really tough place in life, and take them on some type of trip to get them out of their own world in their head and give them a place where they can have a little adventure and see the world. Or at some part of the world, maybe another city, it didn’t have to be anywhere exotic. But like take them a couple of states over or something, or outside of their town. So they see a different perspective. Put them in a place that they’ll realize they have a lot of value to add to another human being’s life because they dig within themselves and have to share with someone else something of value, which makes them feel valuable in that moment. And then to wake them up a little bit. You know, give them an adventure. Give them something fun that’s thrilling.


James: That’s a fun idea.


Jairek: But I thought to go with that TV show if you took people and threw them into that mix. Maybe learning from those gurus is wild and maybe the adventure is going to visit these gurus in different places and doing these things with them. Something like that. I just think it would have a profound effect on people watching because I’ve learned that random act of kindness and doing something kind for others, the person doing it gets a kick of dopamine and serotonin, the people receiving it gets a kick of dopamine and serotonin, and anyone who observes. So on TV they have something like that consistently being done, for the viewers would get a kick of serotonin and dopamine in their mind which is making them happier and feel better and healthier.


James: That’s a good idea. You got me thinking on that.


Jairek: I always thought that’d be a neat thing. Again, I signed up for the cruise because I thought like in my mind how cool it’d be to be able to go on free cruises every year and do cool shit like this. And you could make money doing this? That’s the coolest thing in the world. And then to have someone’s life be saved because of it? I was like… like my mind blew a bomb. I have seen others like that but when you had your first tangible experience with it like it rewires some circuitry in your head like whoa! This is cool.


Pamela: Some people does feel a little bit of inspiration. And they can go to the next level. And they can just carry forward with it.


Jairek: Yeah. Just the right time, the right moment. Just someone to be like hey. Just a little spark and all of a sudden it lights in there and then it go again. The other one I thought would be really neat, and I don’t know why this is catching me right now, and I don’t know why this is in this conversation. I always thought it would be neat, in this space specifically right now in history, the mental health space – it’s struggling. And if you’ve ever gone out and visited any of the mental health facilities, they’re very calm and relaxing. It reminds me of a day’s bomb, like shit, I should check in here just to relax now and then.


James: Yeah I just thought they’re for me.


Jairek: It’s very nice. I’m going to kick back in the garden; I’m going to chill here for a while. It is quite relaxing but the way people are treated ain’t all that well. Because a lot of the times they just met them up on a bunch of stuff just to get them to sleep or relax or something. And then because of the environment that people are dealing with, so many people in a state of mania or like ups and downs or bipolar or all those other stuff, they tend to react towards them instead of care for them and love them through. And there are big-hearted people who are taking care of them but they can only last so long before they kind of snap, and they start treating them badly. I always thought it would be neat specifically for young guys to create a place that isn’t a mental health facility but it’s kind of like a boot camp to build the right habits, rituals, the simple daily things that would build them into young men. And I don’t mean to compliment them at all, I just understand a man’s world better, because I was a young man and I grew up in those place. It might be the same for a young woman to go through this type of thing. But I need a woman to help me design it. For a young guy, there’s certain things to do like face your fears, stand up against obstacles, challenge yourself, build a community, little things – be a contributor to the community. I have a feeling if you can build at a camp like this, you know you check in for a year when you’re in your 20’s, and it just builds the right structure that you can go out and build your life on top of. The military used to do this. I don’t think it does anymore.


Pamela: I think men lack it. I think that’s a good idea. And they lack it. That’s a good space.


Jairek: It’s just a new space. I think it would be something you could go to, you check in for 6 months or a year, you contribute to society like you go do volunteer work, you build some may be building a business on the side or something creative if you want or do whatever you want, you contribute to the community that you’re locally in. You build them into a solid human being, and I think you have a lot of insight on this. The reason I brought it up is that you’ve gone through so many things and a lot of these young guys either give up over, freak out over, quit and throw in the towel over. You’re resilient as hell; you just keep going.


James: Sometimes.


Jairek: 18 out of 20 failed and you just stood up, dust it off. You went through a shit moment, and you get real. You suffered through it for a little while, but then you stood up and kept going. And you’ve helped people do that too through your books and other podcasts and stuff. So you know this. I just.. with the TV show thought, I thought there’d be another thought throughout there.


James: Yeah I know. It’s an interesting thought like all these things are just saying that. Because we’re all looking for ways to… I mean the world’s becoming increasingly complex. The economies are crazily complex which you think doesn’t matter but it does because how we support our family and ourselves and our retirement and so on and how we deal with this complexity is getting more and more difficult. And learning these skills is valuable.


Jairek: And it’s simple stuff. Like we were saying earlier, it’s simple, but not everyone does it consistently.


James: No, it’s simple, but it’s hard. Sometimes simple is hard. People keep wanting to doing the complex because they think that’s… like going to a job everyday. They think even though that’s actually complex and more difficult in our society than ever, that’s their easy way out at the moment. They think.


Jairek: And the wild part is with machines and artificial intelligence, a lot of that stuff’s going to be replaced soon.


James: Well look, driverless cars will eliminate 90% of the auto industry.


Jairek: Driverless cars, factory workers… I mean I saw a robot the other day that cooks and cleans the kitchen like you type in…


James: Oh that was in my house. But no…


Jairek: So now robots do everything else.


James: Lots of robots.


Jairek: It’s wild like this thing cooks and cleans, it chops off the food, cooks it. I saw a robot that gardens for you. You put it in a garden box. It perfectly keeps the temperature of the soil at just the right temperature, gives it just the right amount of water, it de-weeds, it pieces weeds coming and picks them out before they can even sprout. It’s amazing. I mean the future is going to take away jobs from so many people that currently exist. But they have the flexibility like you’ve done to say hey, how will I reinvent myself? I mean if you’ve been a taxi driver for 32 years, and now taxi drivers are no longer needed. Now, what the hell do I do with myself? They are going to have to have that conversation to truly come up with some plan. What… maybe one or two tips when that moment happens to them. Because you’ve had it a handful of times and some people had never had it, I mean they’re going to be 50 years old and the first time in their life they’re going to have to look at a mirror and go, “What the heck do I do with myself now?”


James: I mean a lot of it is being aware that you don’t have to know the answer. So just know that you’re in a state of reinvention, so keeping an eye out for what excites me, what interests me, writing those 10 ideas a day down, reading as much as possible, going on an adventure, so you learn from things outside of your comfort zone. You know the comfort zone looks like this tiny little circle, but the little life zone that you live in is a bigger circle. So finally kind of figure out more and more ways to get outside of that comfort zone and get to the real live zone is important than how people did it. You build on the people who came before you, so you read the biographies o f important people and see how they did it. But then you figure out how to do it yourself; everyone’s got their path.


Jairek: Very very cool. I know you’re little ones are here. It’s 2:25, we might need to start wrapping up. I’d love to know if there’re any questions coming in? Nothing, no questions coming in? Ok.


James: It’s a Saturday afternoon, everyone’s enjoying their day.


Jairek: Oh but they’re all tuning in. That’s not.. they will be tuning in. So if you have questions for James, write them in the comments section. I’ll see if I can pass them for you. But I’d love to know if they’re looking for you and they want to learn more, where do they go? How do we connect everyone with you?


James: You know if you just to go jamesaltucher.com, that’s good. Or buy the book Choose Yourself, that’s like my favorite book that I’ve written. Either one of those.


Jairek: So couple insights about the book, Choose You. What is maybe 2 to 3 lines that they would understand what they’re getting?


James: I mean, just the idea that we’ve outsourced our decision making throughout our lives to parents, peers, bosses, colleges, to government and agents or you know recruiters. And a lot of that we can now pull back. Like we have to choose ourselves for success because no one else is going to choose us for success. We have to start doing it more and more ourselves and me give how I did it for myself through all these ups and downs. And that’s a quick summary of Choose Yourself.


Jairek: I love it! And then the new book comes out?


James: I think November 15th. Aiming for that.


Jairek: So keep your eyes open somewhere around November 15 sort of. So keep your eyes out a new book called Reinvent Yourself after Choose Yourself. Check those out. Check out this man’s podcast; it’s awesome. I’ve been on it. There are amazing other guests there. The James Altucher Show. So check that out. And thank you both for hanging out with us. Pamela thanks you. James, thank you, sir. Amanda thank you so much for filming. Hopefully, everyone is listening in. We look forward to seeing you next week for another amazing episode of learning to live it a podcast. And those on Facebook, we’ll see you tomorrow. See you later.


James: Bye.

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