Choose Yourself- Book Summary

Choose Yourself- by James Altucher

James Altucher is an interesting character: he talks very candidly about his many failures and shortcomings in life. He has started 20 businesses, 18 of them failed. He has made millions and lost it all several times. He seems to have the kind of mad brilliance that you are not sure if you should fear or admire. Choose Yourself was created on the premise that this day in age we need to choose ourselves. We are living in an unsustainable present world where we need to make a cognitive decision to ‘Choose ourselves’ because our employers no longer have our backs. The middle class has caved in, jobs are disappearing, industries are transforming and we need to transform ourselves. The only option is to Choose Yourself. While this sounds extremely pessimistic on the world but the reality is that you need to choose yourself, nobody will do it for you.

The Economic History of the Choose Yourself Era- pages 7-19 in the book provide an interesting historical outline of what has happened over the last 100 years from an economic standpoint. To briefly summarize: after WWII, two-income households became a thing, this allowed for things like home-ownership, the ‘American Dream’ which as Altucher brutally points out is a marketing ploy- things like ‘the great society’, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ etc. are all marketing constructs that tell us that we need more, and more is not enough, there is always the mysterious Jones family with more… so we need more as well. The problem is that this model is not sustainable and we have seen a couple doses of reality: especially the 2008 economic crisis which sent shock waves through the American economy. Shock waves we are still feeling today- almost ten years later. The point of this section is that nothing is permanent, nothing is ‘right’, you cannot have faith in a rigged economic/governmental system. You need to choose yourself: “have faith and confidence in yourself instead of a jury-rigged system, and define success by your own terms.”

This book is pretty fragmented, anecdotal, and somewhat poorly organized. Nothing against the ideas of the books since there is a ton of good stuff in there. I am trying to pare down these books, but it is difficult when there is so much content!

  • Zero sectors in the economy are moving toward more full-time workers: hiring temp workers, outsourcing, automation, cutting back. we do not need to need to hire as much to get the same amount done.
  • Rejection and the fear of rejection are the biggest impediment we have to choosing ourselves.
    • What if  you never try?
    • What you need to do is build the house you will live in. Do this by laying a solid foundation of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health
    • The only safe thing you can do is to try over and over again: go for it, get rejected, repeat, strive, wish.
      • Without rejection there is no frontier, no passion, no magic
    • Reduce anxiety by increasing you natural levels of Oxytocin
      • Meditate- 10 minutes, 2X per day
      • Get a massage
      • Eat food: odd omega’s (3 from salmon, 9 from olive oil), fiber- and nutrient-rich veggies, fruit and grains and plenty of water
      • Exercise
    • Milgram Experiment to ask people on a busy subway to give up their seats “can i have your seat?” – two major interesting things:
      • 70% of people that were asked got up- they simply did as they were told
      • It was surprising how reluctant the students conducting the experiment were to even do the experiment to begin with.
  • Do not let your entire happiness depend on the decisions of one person. Do not give power to one person to make or break your life.
    • “The goal is to be the ocean- the central force in our existence that moves mountains, creates all life, shakes continents, and is repeated by everyone. This book is about becoming the ocean.” that is what it means to ‘choose yourself’
  • The only real fire to cultivate is the fire inside you. The greater your internal fire is, the more people will want it. Every time you say yes to something you don’t want, your fire starts to die away
  • The Daily Practice- page 46+
    • The best way to fill the ’emptiness’ inside is not to seek external motivations to fill the emptiness, but to ignite the internal fire that will never go out. How do you do this? you need to feed your 4 bodies: (similar to the 4 dimensions of personal renewal in the 7 habits of highly effective people – sharpen the saw)
      • Physical body: exercise daily, take walks, eat well
      • Emotional body- do not spend emotional capital on things that are not valuable, or people that are not worth your time
      • mental body- Come up with ideas, focus on creativity to work that muscle: 10 ideas per day! Work your brain to make it sweat- keep working it until you are exhausted
      • Spiritual body – Most people obsess on regrets in their past or anxieties of their future: time traveling. the practice is to live in the present . Time traveling will do nothing for you. When you tame the mind, when you keep healthy, there is zero chance of burnout
    • You cannot help others if you look in the mirror and hate what you see.
  • The Simple Daily practice- do one of these things every day… there are 26 listed but I will include the ones I starred when I read the book. The full list is on page 57
    • No TV
    • No Junk Food
    • No complaining for one whole day
    • No Gossip
    • Express thanks to a friend
    • Write down a list of ideas, the list can be about anything
    • Say to yourself when you wake up, “I’m going to save a life today.” keep an eye out for th life you are going to say
    • Write your entire daily schedule, cross off one thing you do not need to do anymore
    • forgive someone. you do not have to tell them. just write it down on a piece of paper and burn the paper (this releases oxytocin as actually forgiving someone in person.
    • Tell someone every day that you love them
    • Make plans to spend time with a friend
    • Deep breathing
  • Crisis management advice on pages 61-64
  • Finding your purpose in life
    • He doesn’t like the word ‘purpose’ because it implies that somewhere in the future you will find something that will make you happy and until then you will be unhappy. Altucher goes on to show many examples of people not really hitting their stride until their 40’s, 50’s ++++. This is also a point that was brought up in Think and Grow Rich
    • The quest for a single purpose has ruined many lives. It is okay to be happy without one. The point here is that you do not want to get so caught up in finding this purpose, or the secret of life and miss out on living it.
  • How to disappear completely
    • Altucher goes on a bit of a rant in this chapter about how to completely go off the grid, how you could quite conceivably create a new identity for yourself. Kind of a fun exercise to go through. The point of the chapter is not how to become James Bond, but rather how you unlock yourself from the leashes of your current location: namely home and/or education.
    • Whoever sits in a cubicle will become replaceable
    • “as we move toward the employee-less society, where ideas become currency and innovation gets rewarded more than manual or managerial services, you will have the opportunity to live a life you want to.”
  • Altucher’s working goals
    • make his own hours
    • Help people
      • Employees- genuinely wants to grow them and help them in any way he can
      • Clients- do what they say, on time, do a little extra, give them ideas for how their jobs can be better, make their lives better listen to them.
    • Deal with clients he likes
    • Be artistic- being an entrepreneur means you’re going to create something in a way that a customer can’t get anywhere else
    • Make a lot of money- There is a lot of money floating around the world right now: there are $50 trillion in transaction in the global economy each year- get yourself a slice of it..
    • Deal only with colleagues he likes- only hire someone you wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a plane ride across the country
    • Come up with ideas- when you have your own company, it never stops. unlike a large corporation where you are limited to the areas in your job.
    • Not being at the whim of one decision maker
    • Be around like-minded people- Get to know your competition learn from them. Build your tribe and include competitors
    • Be an expert
    • One last thing… There is a major paradigm shift occurring. As he has mentioned before, this is due to several factors:
      • The middle class is dead
      • you have been replaced: technology, outsourcing, temp staffing, productivity efficiencies
      • corporations don’t like you- they want to take advantage of cheap labor
      • Money is not happiness
        • Only imagination, creativity and an ability to disappear will help you deliver value that nobody ever delivered before in the history of mankind
      • Count right now how many people can make a major decision that can ruin your life. Build a list of the 20 people who independently can help you achieve the success you need. Build this list by helping THEM: the only way to create value for yourself is to create value for others.
        • Exercise: two people in your network who don’t know each other but you think can add value to each other’s lives. Introduce them, do this every day.
      • Is your job satisfying your needs? The four needs of the daily practice
      • Your retirement plan is for shit – inflation will carve out the bulk of your 401(k) and in order to cash out on your retirement plan you have to live for a really long time doing stuff you don’t like to do.
      • The only skills you need to be an entrepreneur are the ability to fail, to have ideas, to sell those ideas, to execute on them, and to be persistent.
      • Page 103 has the clearest paragraph to describe what the entire chapter is. i copied it here:
        • “what is your other choice? to stay at a job where the boss is trying to keep you down, will eventually replace you, will pay you only enough for you to survive, will rotate between compliments and insults so you stay like a fish caught on the bate as he reels you one. is that your best other choice? You and I have the same twenty-four hours each day. Is that how you will spend yours?”
      • Excuses…page 103-104
      • Its okay to take baby steps. Make a list of all your dreams: reduce material needs, be healthy, help people around me, start a business… these are not goals- these are THEMES. Every day when you wake up ask “what do I need to do to practice these themes?”
      • Abundance will never come from your job- Abundance only comes when you are moving along your themes. When every day you are waking up with the motive of enhancement
  • 6 Rules for going out on your own- Bryan Johnson, who started Braintree, a credit card transaction and payment service. Here are his rules:
    • Take out the middle man – he cut out the middle man by going straight to the CC processor
    • Pick a boring business- You do not need to come up with the new, new thing, just the old , old thing slightly better than everyone else. And do it when you are nimble and smaller than the large companies that are frozen by bureaucracy
    • Get a customer- most important rule for any entrepreneur. Bryan found 10 initial customers that would switch their CC processing to him. he figured he needed to make $2100 per month to quit his job. With his first 10 customers he was making $6200 per month so he had some cushion if some dropped away.
    • Build trust while you sleep: he started a blog. in a blog you need to be completely transparent. He started blogging about what was happening in the CC industry- then put his posts on top social sites like Digg, reddit, stumbleupon. He became a trusted source in CC processing.
    • Blogging is not about money. It is about trust. You build trust, which leads to opportunities.
    • Say YES! he started by connecting merchants with a CC processor. When OpenTable asked him to develop software he said Yes even though he had no experience. But he make it work and quadrupled his income. This led to word of mouth, and spreading services to Airbnb, uber, etc.
    • Customer Service- Made as little friction as possible between customer contacting them and actually getting a problem solved. When you are a small business there is no excuse for having poor customer service.
  • Brainstorming ideas for businesses
    • Make a service business on whatever the cutting edge of the internet is:
      • Social media management and setup
      • Website design
      • etc…
    • Introduce two people – Help businesses find buyers/sellers
    • Write a book- Make sure you know what you are talking about
    • Write a book – part II – use it to get started with speaking engagements, which gets you credibility, which gets you:
      • consulting
      • speaking
      • other media opportunities
      • other writing opportunites
      • an email list
    • Financial repair
      • Student loans – become an expert that can help people with student loans navigate the loophole-filled landscape
        • start a business that manages renewals for income based salary stuff,  public service reimbursement, etc. make it easy, all they need to do is send you a couple documents, advise them, etc.
          • you could speak at colleges, need to avoid being scummy
      • Credit repair
      • Rent to own
    • How to get good ideas:
      • read 2 hours per day
      • write 10 ideas per day
  • What should you do?—–SOMETHING—— point of the chapter on “what should I do” ending page 121 is that you need to do something. Something that could increase our chances of making $1M something specific that you can get healthy and be the first concrete step on the path toward choosing yourself.
  • It doesn’t cost a lot to make $1 billion- Sara Blakely created Spanx and is now worth $1Billion. Here are the takeaways from her story:
    • Stay motivated – She read a lot of self- help books, which help you see opportunities in life.
    • She was amazingly good at sales
    • She solved a huge problem for women- if you want to create $1B in value, you need to find a problem nobody has solve
    • Prepare- She looked up all the patents, learned a ton about the competition, the industry, the materials, etc. To succeed you need to:
      • know every product in the industry
      • know every patent
      • try out all the products
      • understand how the products are made
      • Make a product YOU would use every single day. You cannot sell it if you do not personally LOVE it
      • Cold call- you will need to do it- She did it with Neiman Marcus and they loved it.
      • It doesn’t cost much to make a billion- Sara started with $5k and never took investors
        • If you have an idea, don’t focus on the money:
          • Build your product
          • sell it to a customer
          • start shipping
          • Then quit your job
      • Never ask permission, ask for forgiveness later. She didn’t like how it was being displayed so she set up her own displays at Neiman Marcus- the moral we learned with the Stanley Milgram experiment is that you just ask and people will do what you say. Nobody questions if you have confidence, intelligence, and are proud of your product. She also sent her product to Oprah.
      • Take advantage of all publicity – create opportunities for yourself. Sara didn’t wait for anyone to choose her, she created the opportunities.
      • Good for her!- “don’t be a hater. If you want to be successful you need to study success, not hate it or be envious of it. If you are envious, then you will distance yourself from success and make it that much harder to get there. Never be jealous. never think someone is ‘lucky’. luck is created by the prepared” !!!!
      • “It’s not about the money- Sara was clearly passionate about Spanx. The money quickly became an afterthought”
    • Becoming a Master Salesman
      • Negotiation is worthless, sales are everything- sometimes a bad negotiation will turn into a great sales opportunity down the road. A bit unconventional, but he gives a few specific examples on page 133
      • 10 Keys to selling- page 134-138 look in the book for the details
        • What is the lifetime value of the customer
        • what are the ancillary benefits of having this customer
        • Learn the entire history of your client, your audience, your readership, and your platform: love your client
        • Give extra features
        • give away the kitchen sink – go the extra mile
        • Recommend your competition – if you become a reliable source, they will come back to you
        • Idea machine: always be thinking of ways you can help
        • Show up – whenever asked
        • Knowledge – more knowledge means more value you are providing
        • love it – you can only make money doing what you love
    • Becoming an idea machine!
      • Develop your idea muscle:
        • every day, read/skim chapters from books on at least 4 different topics
        • Write down 10 ideas
        • Be a transmitter- make sure the other parts of your life are in balance. Stay physically healthy.
        • Activate another part of your brain- do something new
        • Collisions- ideas mate with other ideas to produce other ideas.
        • Don’t pressure yourself
        • Shake things up – get outside of your normal routine: activate your subconscious brain. It will make your subconscious brain say “what the hell just happened”
        • List your childhood passions- we only ever remember the things we are passionate about
        • Surf the internet- good places to start are brain pickings.org, thebrowser.com
        • skim the internet- more ideas on pages 148-149
        • Don’t underestimate the power of being social
      • The ‘secret’ from Think + Grow Rich is that our thought can create our reality.
    • Ten Ideas per day- this is what I believe one of the greatest takeaways from this book was. I have been doing this for over two months already and it is a great outlet and way to encourage creativity. There are two guidelines:
      • Write as many ideas as you can- 10 is a good number to set, if you can’t hit it, go for 20- we are going for quantity, not necessarily quality and you need to stop holding back
      • Share and combine ideas
    • One of the goals is to feel comfortable with creating hofundreds of bad ideas
  • Don’t have opinions- what is the purpose of an opinion? To prove you’re right? Wrong. Opinions are a way we cling to the past. Here are reasons not to get caught up in opinions:
    • nobody is going to change his mind
    • One hundred years from now, everyone reading this will be dead
    • It is an ‘us vs. them’ argument
    • why educate people
    • I could be reading a book – what is the opportunity cost of engaging in pointless opinion arguments
    • Loneliness- he believes people fight because they are alone
    • they are always wrong: no matter how much you think you know, somebody knows more.
    • Less- have fewer things in your life- that includes in your mind, fewer things that bother you. etc.
  • Release the “God Hormone”
    • Oxytocin is the ‘life hormone’ and it helps reduce cortisol levels. there are several ways to trick your body into releasing oxytocin: you will feel better, live longer, reduce stress, and be happier
      • Give money away
      • hugging
      • facebook
      • laughter
      • walking
      • phone call (friends)
      • being trusted
      • listening to music
      • food
      • Deep breathing
  • Seven habits of highly effective mediocre people- aiming for grandiosity is the fastest route to failure
    • Procrastination- your body telling you that you need to back off a bit and think about what you are doing. Should you be delegating it?
    • Zero-Tasking – the idea is not to multi-task, not even single task. Do not feel like you need to be doing something at all times. Why? “out of silence comes the greatest creativity- not when we are rushing and panicking”
    • Failure: we learn two things from failure: Directly how to overcome that particular failure, and how to deal with the psychology of failure. It is good to become good at dealing w/ failure.
    • Not original- all ideas he has had have been rehashed forms of ideas. he has never had an original idea in his life. “The best ideas are when you take two older ideas that have nothing to do with each other and make them have sex w/ each other. Then build a business around the bastard, ugly child that results”
    • Poor networking- Many people network too much. its tough to make money, not at a party.
    • Do anything to get a “yes” – if you really want something. do whatever it takes to get there. he gave up 50% of his stockpickr.com website to thestreet.com. Often the secret poor negotiators keep is that he gets more deals done.
    • Poor judge of people – try to sympathize with the other party’ position. listen to them
  • How to be less stupid
    • Your mind naturally wants to fill itself with pointless thoughts that will distort your goals: worries, guilt, paranoia, grudges, and resentment. The things that do not move you forward.
      • Subtraction, not addition is what makes the window to the brain more clear.
  • Honesty makes you more money
    • Dishonesty works… until it doesn’t. Everyone messes up, and when you are dishonest, you are only given one chance, and then its over. There are a couple of basic principles that Altucher covers
      • Honesty compounds
      • give people credit
      • be the source- idea source
      • Introduce two people – let them help each other. eventually you will see a benefit in some form.
      • Take the blame: Ghandi said “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
      • Don’t lead a double life – it takes up extra brainpower to work overtime.
      • Don’t be angry- it is a form of dishonesty
      • don’t make excuses
      • make others look good
      • Don’t gossip
      • Do what you say you are going to do
      • Enhance the lives of others- make good things happen for other people
  • Your never too young to Choose Yourself: lessons from Alex Day (successful youtube musician). Pg 203-207
    • I can choose myself to call anyone I want
    • All the conventional methods for making money and distilled. are out the window because the barriers of entry are essentially gone.
    • Everyone will say you CAN’T- if you pick and choose how you will wok with the entrenched system, you CAN
    • The power of the community you build will be felt in ways you cannot predict
    • persistence is more important than industry validation- its not the industry that’s buying what your selling
    • Focus on what you can do for your art/business right now – do not aim for things 10 years from now
    • You need a mentor
    • pick your social media outlet, and master it
    • Talk to your big fans
  • Response to people with negativity, opinions, judgement, etc. Altucher once made a blog post which had yogi with a small bikini on doing an impressive pose. He got a lot of hate on the post, but the actual yogi responded to him with a great letter about drowning out negativity. A few takeaways:
    • everything is possible
    • we rob ourselves of joy and happiness when we stop and check in with what everyone else is thinking and saying – reminds me of the quote: “comparison is the thief of joy”
    • The quote in the letter ‘In life, you will always have 30% of people who love you, 30% who hate you, and 30% who couldn’t care less’ stick with the people who love you and don’t spend a single second on the rest
  • What he learned from Superman
    • “The only superpower you really need is the one to constantly cultivate the attitude that forces you to as, from the minute you wake up to the minute you fall asleep, ‘what life can i save today?'”
    • Superman is the ultimate yogi- see more on page 220
  • Lessons from Ghandi – read on pages 224-226 for more context
    • Nobody can tell you what to do
    • It is only through stillness that one can actively create
    • Don’t give advice on things you don’t know first hand
    • Sugar is bad
    • Nothing is more important than the cultivation of yourself
    • “You must first be the change you want to see in the world” – Ghandi
  • What we can learn from Woody Allen
    • Wake up early
    • Avoid distractions
    • Work 3-5 hours per day and enjoy the rest of the day
    • be as perfectionist as you can, knowing that imperfection will still rule
    • have the confidence to be magical and stretch the boundaries of your medium
    • Combine the tools of the medium itself with the message you want to convey
    • Don’t get stuck in the same rut- move forward, experiment, but with confidence built up over experience
    • Change the rules, but learn them first
  • What to do when you are rejected:pages 241-248
    • improve- improve your offering, what you are doing,
    • expand the universe of decision makers
    • This is the choose yourself era- widen the audience of your product. You can because of the ease of communication to the masses
    • Improve your approach
    • change up, don’t give up
    • improve your authenticity – blogging, amazon, etc. sway over followers and fans to build authenticity and credibility. The point is to be active: build your platform
    • Ask for advice, ask why?
    • Dance w/ failure
    • acknowledgement of the process- it is normal to be rejected
    • He doesn’t like the phrase ‘life is too short’ but its certainly too short to spend any time on hard feelings.
  • One more thing
    • be like a child
    • have a beginners mind
  • There is a ‘circle exercise’ on page 254 where you show your circles of influence. who is affected by you, and who is affected by the people affected by you.. keep going. redo this exercise until you can affect the entire world. Where the world changes because you exist.

RG

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