Can a mutant douchebag change his life?

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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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  • http://thepuppets.tv mao_junior

    I’ve always enjoyed your work at realmoney.com where I first starting reading your articles. You have always been a great read and filled with idea generation. To question your calls or picks is valid if done in a respectful manner. Racist or over the top insults are uncalled for, and hopefully swarms of locusts will set upon those people.

    -mao-

  • http://www.stockrake.com StockRake

    This is a very good post. True and inspirational. I’ve done this myself as an internet entrepreneur turned stock trader. Its the ultimate game.

    I don’t follow every pick you make or anything like that, but I do enjoy that you like to go where nobody is looking and for reasons a stock might move based on outside the norm theories. Like the CPB call based on Hurricane season and STEC undervalued when nobody wanted to touch it.

    Those comments above your post bother me, some people just cheer for others to fail.

    One thing I’ll say though is this post is in the “uncategorized” category.

  • Pingback: Hot Links: Only in New York, Kids The Reformed Broker()

  • Bill Waddell

    James,
    your look seems to not get over-looked. I suspect your wife is stylish enough to guide you in wardrobe and hair decisions, and you have come a long way baby since theStreet interviews with Cramer, but what you are doing works great: while I suspect your genius/nerd persona is partially cultivated (the look) if you are a fake then you have fooled me. I think you are totally genuine.

    Don’t want to travel for ideas? Funny you seem to have coffee all over the place. Fortunately in Calgary we have some people from Italy who make great coffee — and sandwiches. If you ever come to town I won’t just buy you a coffee I’ll pick you up at the airport. You are probably having tea next week. Enjoy India. On your suggestion but also because it is a smart thing to do I have been starting my day with yoga.

    Bill

  • Kent Stoaks

    Whenever I see one of your columns, I read it. You have a more positive view going forward than I do, and that’s the most value-added thing you can find in commentary: the opposing case. Particularly, if you’re contemplating a short.

    As far as the cutting comments, its part of being famous, man. Try to be delighted that so many — such as myself, have realized that its never too late for a happy childhood. All these years, I had no idea if you were rich, poor, crazy, or whatever. My only question was did you add value? For me, you do. Please keep doing it.

    This particular piece reminds me of how Steve Jobs handled an unflattering movie about him. (By having Noah Wylie open MacWorld). Well played.

    k

  • http://Pixeldusters.com Ryan

    Ignore the haters, James and keep sharing!

  • http://www.theclientdrivenpractice.com Steve Wershing

    I love reading your blog, and appreciate the many good ideas I pick up here. This post is a good example – reminding me of, if nothing else, the importance of practicing and doing your homework if you want to be good at something.

    As someone who writes and provides advice, I understand how negative comments can sting, even if you know the writer has no credibility. Though some rules of thumb can make it a little more palatable, like “disregard any criticism that contains the word ‘douchebag’…”

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.lawrencereport.com Steve Lawrence

    As a 60 year old that is neck deep in reinventing himself, all I can say to this post is Amen. After a few false starts I have figured out that this is the road.
    Amen Brother, Amen

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Steve, thanks. Good luck with the reinventing. Hopefully you are doing it again at 80.

  • pjc

    James – people jump on you because they’re jealous. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

  • KJP712

    There are two groups of people.One talks but has nothing to say and few to listen.The other talks with something to say with many listeners.You are in the latter category.Most businesses or ventures fail because owners do not allow enough time for success.Three to five years is the minimum to evaluate anything worthwhile.Great article.

  • Bill Waddell

    reinventing oneself stephanie Flanders BBC beautiful piece on her father’s reinvention of himself from a 6’4″ stage actor to a radio personality in a wheelchair recovered from polio

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/stephanieflanders/2009/01/about_stephanie_flanders.html

  • James Altucher

    Great link, bill. Thanks for leaving it.

    @KJP, I wonder about that 3-5 years. Thats a long time. 5% of one’s life. Maybe my problem is I sometimes don’t give things that amount of time. As soon as I start something, I want to sell it.

  • Hi

    not a bad article, even for a douchebag mutant.

  • http://twitter.com/dfstone32 David Stone

    i like your blog keep it going. its great you write the stuff that many people think but don’t say even if it makes you come across as a…well…douche! Also the way you describe Jobs makes him look like a douche, even if he is a Buddhist

  • QEMFnD

    Nil carborundum illegitemi.

  • QEMFnD

    Nil carborundum illegitemi.

  • http://anyessays.com/writing/essays essays online

    This article is really good. As always! Thank you for this interesting info!

  • Mandy

    Just now read ” Rich dad Poor dad” and it has ripped my head off …i am bored with my current job and want a challenging role ahead , definitely loaded with money…s i am going to dig in “all Warren Buffets ” i can find and start taking some  risk….but the proposition of zillion hours sound devastating..
    what the heck.!i will try…
    good heaven thanks for your post…it rings as straight from the gut ..with all due respect to Jack Welch..

  • http://www.facebook.com/joehenriod Joe Henriod

    Really liked the last line on this one!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks joe! And they were good comics. 

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations on your first year, James! I think your experiment with brutal frankness is a success. Your blog belies the fear that if we are honest and open about ourselves, everyone will rightfully despise us. I’m very grateful for your willingness to expose and analyze your own weaknesses and mistakes. It benefits me not only by affording me the opportunity to recognize and perhaps bypass some pitfalls in my own life, but also allows me to see and know another human being on a very honest, personal level. Being privileged with knowing someone like that is a very rare gift. Thank you for giving that in your blog. I look forward to your posts in year two! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/P4MN Performance Design

    Yes, the first step is to realize you own your life in fee simple absolute. Your life is a series of games where your wife is your queen, your children are your rooks, your business associates are your bishops, your family are your knights, and your work and ideas are your pawns. 

    Your life becomes whatever you think about and focus on the most. The 3 keys to success are practice, practice, and practice. 

    As you are already a national master, continue on until you become a life master and even a Kasparov on your own terms according to your personal values and ego.

    I am at 1475 rating and extremely happy, since I struggled most of my life to attain even a 1200 rating.

     

  • Julian Frundt

    Hi I have a question. I find it hard to learn from reading things. How do you go about memorising and learning the stuff you read in the more technical books? 

  • Subramanian G

    I found your blog just now and I daresay at a time i need it the most. This is not a comment for this post alone. This is a comment for a series of posts that I have been reading over the past 1 hr or so. 

  • http://aboutlifting.com/ Ironthumb

    Kiyosaki even gave 5 years only for changing the mindset from employee to B quadrant.
    At that point he must not even expect income.
    I say your 5k hrs is even conservative

  • Phil Bolsta

    HI, James. I think you’ll be able to relate to my blog post, “Spitting Into the Wind”: http://bolstablog.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/spitting-into-the-wind/