Can a mutant douchebag change his life?

Here’s some comments I got on some of my articles in the past week:

  • “why do they keep letting this homely looking jew open his mouth”
  • “lets find this douche and LYNCH him”
  • “OMG what a LOSER”
  • “what grade is little jimmy in”
  • “he’s like a deformed mutant clone of The Elephant Man”
  • “this guy reminds me of the 4th Doctor Who” (that one was a compliment).

And then one guy made a video “11 reasons James Altucher is a dumbass” and another guy, trying to up his friend I guess, made a video, “11 Reasons James Altucher is a douchebag”.

This is about 1% of the comments overall I’ve gotten this week. People say to me, “oh, screw it, don’t let it bother you. The more negative comments you get, the more it means you’re dead on.” And I sort of believe this but I’m kind of tired of it anyway. Life is short.  So what if I wanted to, for the third or fourth time in my life, completely reinvent my career from scratch? What would I do?

So let me brain storm out loud for a second on things I could want to do if the whole wide world was open to me:

  • I like doing standup comedy
  • I don’t mind giving advice to businesses on how they can improve their traffic, make more money and earnings, hire better people, etc. I’m good at that, having built and sold a few Internet businesses
  • I like writing scripts for comic books
  • I’m a good public speaker. I’d like to do more of that.
  • I enjoy investing in venture capital deals as an angel investor. But I don’t like to work too hard. I don’t want to travel to look at a deal. Traveling is for people who like pretzels.
  • I’m pretty sure I could do a good job running the New York Times. How hard could that be?
  • I’d like to have an advice column like “Dear Abby”. I like talking to people about their problems.

I can come up with more things but the bottom line is: how do you do it? How do you go from scratch to sitting on top of the world in a brand new career.

I’ve switched careers a few times myself, each time with some success. I went from being a computer programmer to working in the entertainment industry (I shot a TV pilot for HBO). I then started and sold a company making websites for entertainment companies. And then, initially knowing nothing about stocks or finance, I built up a career managing money for others, daytrading sucessfully for myself, and writing about stocks and finance. I even built and sold a website completely devoted to stocks, Stockpickr.com.

Here are the techniques from beginning to end if you want to completely 100% reinvent yourself and your career. .

The 4 Steps to Reinventing Yourself

1) Read It – read everything you can on the topic. When I got into the investing space I had to start from scratch. I had no education or experience in the area. Reading allows you to begin your education process. Start with the biographies of other people in the space. (e.g. in the finance space: Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn, Jessie Livermore, Jim Cramer, Bernard Baruch, George Soros, Michael Steinhardt, etc). You have to read every biography. There’s no excuse for missing one. Then you have to read every book on technique you can find. Again, using investing as an example: read books on arbitrage, daytrading, value investing, trend following, pattern recognition, quant trading, hedge fund investing, fixed income trading, etc. Then books on the economy, books on the history of the financial markets (the South Sea Bubble, tulip-mania, Long Term Capital, Michael Milken, pop finance books from the 70s like books by Adam Smith, Paul Erdmann, etc). Read it, memorize it. If you don’t love it at this point then stop everything you are doing and look for another career. This one isn’t for you.

2) Do it – Start doing your new career. If its trading, open an account and start buying and selling stocks. If its writing a novel, start writing as much as you can. You need to do it to know where your gaps in knowledge are, what your psychological weaknesses are, what’s your ability to sit down and execute and analyze your mistakes. In chess, the only way to get better is to look at your losing games, not your winning games, because if you can just fix up where you are weak, you’re going to be better than 99.9% of the people out there. Lets not forget that if there’s a career you find attractive then chances are a zillion other people find it attractive and thats who your competition is. Your competition hates you and if they see you in a dark alley then one of you is going to remain in that alley with a knife in your back. Don’t get disappointed by your failures, of which there will be many, but you have have to keep a positive mental attitude and keep persistent.

3) Interact with it – Join the community of people interested in your activity. there are websites, conferences, seminars, etc you can go to. Learn who the main people are in your community and what they’ve done to achieve their success or notoriety. Study their backgrounds. Never speak badly about anyone behind their back (to their face is another story and I do that all the time). I started writing for thestreet.com and met tons of other writers, readers, etc which opened up an entire community for me. I then began trading money for various hedge funds, which opened up another part of the community, and then finally I ended up investing in hedge funds, which, of course, exposed me to every criminal in the business and somehow I survived.

4) Meld with it – Begin meeting or communicating with the leaders in the space, the individuals who are the decision makers who can bring you into your new career, whether its people you want to work for, or people whose recommendation you need, or people whose advice you would want, etc. How do you meet them? Why would they want to meet you? They hate you. You have to pitch them ideas so that they like you. I gave advice recently to someone who wanted to work for a top tier one hedge fund. He wrote the guy and the guy didn’t respond. I said, “Send him five stock ideas.” He did. A week went buy. He sent five more. Most of his stocks went up. He got a call for an interview. I think it went well because I haven’t heard from him since. He’s probably managing a billion now.

How long does it take?

From the time you make the decision to reinvent yourself to the time it takes to achieve the first levels of success, figure 3 years. For great success, figure five years. For world level success, figure seven to ten years. For world level success, as Malcom Gladwell pointed out in Outliers, you need to devote 10,000 hours to your chosen new field. But most people don’t need world-level success to make a living at their new endeavor. About 4,000-5,000 hours of work is needed for that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some comic books to read.

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