How to Save the World from Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)
- Posted by James Altucher
I’m a bad son. That’s what started this line of thinking. I was thinking, “What am I bad at?” and the first thing that occurred to me was I’m a bad son. For the six months before my father had a stroke, I refused to speak to him. He was lying in a coma-like state for three years after he had his stroke. I’d visit. He’d sometimes open his eyes. But he couldn’t speak. Three years looking at a ceiling. I pasted a chessboard to the ceiling but I don’t know if he ever really saw it. The last time we spoke I had hung up in anger. Then six months later he had a stroke. So I feel pretty bad about it. And when you feel guilty about something, sometimes you avoid thinking about it so it doesn’t consume you.
I haven’t always been the best father. Now I’m not so bad. But I’ve written here before how I had been largely absent. When they were little I’d work six days a week sometimes in the city and miss the whole week. Miss plays. Parent-teacher conferences. The whole thing. What was I so focused on? Who knows. Its ancient history. But I still have time. Maybe I’ll make up for it.
The other day I dropped them off at school. And when you see these tiny little creatures with their own thoughts and feelings, trying to get comfortable in their winter jackets and backpacks, going off into the brick school, you get scared for them. Because being a little girl is a lot to have to deal with and I can’t be inside their brains helping them through every step of it.
I haven’t been the best husband (see above about the six days a week), although I suppose it’s all relative. I’m divorced and re-married. Trying to be better.
I haven’t been the best employee. I’ve worked multiple jobs and businesses at the same time to make a good living. I’ve quit without notice. I personally think that just about everyone would be happier if they escaped their cubicles. Although its a scary leap. More on that in a future post.
I haven’t been the best employer. There’s this time when I was founder/CEO, raised $100mm or so. And it didn’t work out so well. One of the problems I had was that I was too shy to run into the other employees in the morning. So I’d sneak into my office and lock the door behind me and if anyone knocked before I was ready to speak, I’d just ignore them. Thank god there was a world wide web to surf around on or I would’ve just hid under the desk. Another problem I had is that I was too much of a salesperson. I would say “yes” very easily to close the sale. Sometimes that put undue pressure on employees.
I wasn’t the best college student. A lot of people think I don’t want to send my kids to college simply because I didn’t like college. That’s not quite true. But I can’t remember even attending a single class in college. I graduated in three years so as to avoid borrowing another $40,000 for a fourth year. But I needed a 3.0 grade point average and I had a 2.999. I had to beg my Fortran professor to upgrade his grade on me from D- to D+ so I could get the 3.0. Thank god he did or…nothing. Nobody’s ever even asked me if I’ve gotten a college degree. For all I know I don’t even have one. I’ve certainly never seen it.
I’m not the best homeowner. I’ve owned twice. Both times its been a miserable experience for me. I actually think owning a home is a scam. We have a trillion dollar banking industry that borrows money from you at 1% (your checking account) and lends to you at 5% (your mortgage) so everything in this country is geared towards hypnotizing you into thinking that owning a home is the American Dream. Otherwise trillions of dollars gets lost. Which is what happened in 2008 when the hypnosis wore off for awhile.
I wasn’t such a great programmer. I was fast. Very fast. But ugly. I was visiting some friends of mine at Forbes the other day. One of them worked at HBO, 15 years ago, when I worked there. He said, “man, your code was famous for being indecipherable. It was like spaghetti had spilled everywhere and we all had to clean it up after you left.”
“Yeah,” I said, “but I was fast, right?” But he wouldn’t confirm that. Fifteen years is a long time. Maybe he forgot.
I wasn’t the best boyfriend. Even from a tender age I would get jealous. I would sometimes be a little obsessive. Dating is a full time job. Its all about making sure you aren’t spending energy in the wrong direction. You have to have goals and every day work towards those goals. And if anything deflects you from those goals, even for short-term gain, you have to avoid it.
I haven’t been the best brother. One of the last times I saw one of my sisters she hit me in the face and I fell to the ground on the corner of 42nd and 5th. I’ll take this line out if she wants me to. But she had her reasons. And she was much stronger than I thought she would be.
I’m a sore loser. I didn’t intend to link to so many things in this blog post. But here it is. Me throwing the pieces all over the floor. Its no good to be a sore loser. But I didn’t quit.
I’m not the best writer. Most of my books have been flops. Probably because I hate writing about investing. Here’s the reality: most people should not buy stocks. Financial media is financial entertainment. If someone tells you should buy a stock you should take that same money and go on a nice vacation instead. As someone who has been involved in every aspect of the financial media community for ten years I can tell you that most people have no clue what they are doing and should not be listened to except in special circumstances. And everyone, no exceptions, should do their own research and due diligence before acting on any financial advice. Most of the big financial pundits I know out there have all of their money in municipal bonds but will never admit to that publically.
But despite all this, I want you to know that no matter what you’ve done, I forgive you.
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