My first interaction with James Altucher was several years ago when a friend and I interview him for my old blog. I actually don’t really remember what exactly the interview was about – likely something about his book How to Trade Like Warren Buffett, which is one of my favorites. But, I have probably read his Buffett book more than seven times (which is a lot for a finance book) and the transition he has made since he was strictly writing finance is fairly startling.
Now, Altucher mostly writes about self-improvement with some entrepreneurship mixed in. His writing used to focus on unique ways investors could profit, whether that was through some kind of special situation investing or some random trend he identified that everyone was undervaluing. These concepts are still layered into his writing every once in a while, but he likes to write more about taking responsibility for your own livelihood and ignoring common sense for good sense – usually explaining all of this from his never-ending supply of embarrassing stories.
Anyway, on to the main concepts I gleaned from the book.
As the title of his most popular book, and partial title of this book it’s not surprising that this is Altucher’s main theme. Throughout his several cycles of getting rich and going broke and getting rich again Altucher found that the only way to break out of the cycles and just create one general uptrend by choosing yourself and following his daily practice.
By choosing yourself Altucher means not choosing to live an idle life working 9-5 for some random fortune 500 company, putting some money into a 401k, and waiting for tiered promotions and a 2% annual raise. Instead, find your passions and monetize them. If you’re an expert, a semi-expert or really just have interest in some random field there’s nothing stopping you from creating a website, writing eBooks and starting a newsletter. If possible start a business that allows you to quit your job. If not become an ‘entreployee’ finding innovations at work and using this to move up more quickly and become more valuable.
The daily practice was created to make a habit of doing the things that allow you to choose yourself and become the, ‘luckiest guy on the planet.’ The practice is centered around physical (staying in shape), emotional (cutting out bad people and being honest), mental (becoming an idea machine) and spiritual (meditating and learning to deal with and overcome anxiety).
Altucher, is without a doubt, the best ‘idea man,’ I’ve ever read. In his endless embarrassing stories he always starts nonchalantly with some idea he had to get him into trouble – like starting a dating website to meet girls or cold-emailing a billionaire hedge fund manager with software he wrote to pick stocks.
I think Altucher has this strength intrinsically, but I do believe his method for developing it can work. Altucher carries around a waiter’s pad where he writes ten ideas daily from a prompt. The ideas don’t have to be good, he claims most aren’t, and the prompt doesn’t have to be relevant to anything in reality. The point is to strengthen your ‘idea muscle,’ after ten months of this he believes you will become an idea machine, making it even easier to come up with monetization ideas and even having idea sex where two ideas create a third interrelated idea that can become a niche business.
I’ve been doing this for the past elevenish days, so far I have cheated a little by focusing on ideas having to do with the site – things I’ve been thinking about for months.
Investing in Yourself
The main part of this book that separates it from Choose Yourself is the second section where Altucher shows readers how to start a business. He starts with seven trends, mostly having to do with technology or the shrinking long-term workforce. Moves into his cheat sheet on starting a business. Then finishes by hammering in his position that you should invest only in yourself – going as far as not buying a house or going to college so all the debt that incurred can be avoided and the opportunity cost invested in a business.