16 Failures out of 17 Attempts

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What a weird thing. Its only 8am and so far today I’ve already seen three different, young, pretty women, each with the same distracting physical feature. They all had only one hand. And it’s distracting me from the real issue I wanted to write about. It makes me wonder: will someone brand new love them? If I weren’t already married would I have enough love to share for all three of them?

STOP distracting me, girls.  You’re all dealing with it!  Two of you were even laughing. I don’t know what happened. They all lost a hand. Let’s move on. In other news,  this morning I’ve finally looked at my personal statistics: Sixteen out of the past seventeen businesses I’ve tried didn’t work out.

I didn’t realize the stats were so ugly. I was talking to a friend who is an entrepreneur and he was telling me he was discouraged after his last two failed attempts. So I finally sat back and figured out my last batch of statistics. 16 out of 17. Huh! I’ve written about some of the sixteen here: the crowdsourced ad play I did with the Freakonomics guys, the dating service for twitter users. Some of the ideas are like from a mental institution so no wonder they didn’t work out (smartorstupid.com where my six year old at the time asked me if it was “too mean”) then there was keauty.com so just like Donald Trump I had to try celebritykeauty.com.

There were a few that worked out well enough for me to make a living out of them.

That’s not so bad. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is suicide then those situations are about a 6 or 7. It means I had at least a customer (I never raised a dime of money on any business ever since this nuclear fiasco). Remember the easiest way to succeed as an entrepreneur is to do this. But making a living is no good if you are dying slowly in all the spare moments. The stress is too much.  Raising a household (or two), raising kids, trying to deal with mortgages, school payments, all the amenities that Americans think they now deserve even though we still shit and live like animals pretending to be robots.

It’s a new world now. The corporations where we were pretending that we had conquered the animal kingdom was just a myth. [See, 10 Reasons to Quit Your Job].

I’m so afraid to fail. I see men in suits, tired, sweating, limping, having to sell one more time that vacuum cleaner, that genetics test, that internet cloud, that strategy assessment, just one more time, please pretty please one more time, to escape death. I’ve had to sell so many things in the past twenty years. I don’t want to be like them, mommy. I want to grow up and be an astronaut. With the huge visor that reflects the entire Earth while I float free, an Atlas in outer space, holding back the Sun from crashing into the planet.

(this Japanese robot never needs to go to the bathroom)

In the long run, stress wears you down and kills you. I’m afraid to end up in a hospital because of stress. Because of a stroke or a heart attack where you can’t move and you can’t pull the tubes out of your body. Then you see what happens in hospitals and how they treat people who really are dying. Doctors kill you!  The 70 to 90 years we put in here of hard work trying to do something with our hands, with our minds.  The sounds of a ventilator filling up an entire room with its robotic monotonic echoing breath. [See, About the time I was a respiratory therapist].

I woke up a little too early today (3am) and had my usual email from John Mauldin along with the other two million people he sends to. I love John but there’s a reason he was the first UNREAD email in my inbox of 115,618 unread emails. He’s like the Angel of Darkness with a southern accent. I’m sunny and optimistic on my dayjob. I don’t like to read the news. I think you can find happiness not in a headline or a stock price but from the core inside.

But next week I’ll go on CNBC and guest host with Nicole Lapin for an hour where undoubtedly I will say controversial things. Controversial only because I’ll be an optimist while all the other people watching TV at 5 in the morning want to run for their lives because they’ve been trained by the media to believe that the worst events of our lives are yet to come. Maybe even later today.

Forget that Google is making cars that drive around without drivers, or that ipads didn’t even exist 2 years ago and nobody ever heard of one, or that personalized cancer medicine is finally becoming a reality. Forget all of that. Everyone is an anonymous pessimist. What good is this Internet for anyway? Its just for people to anonymously bash each other all long while they clog their ear lobes with “itunes”. Forget that wars now are stopped because information is a commodity. Forget that you can find love on a website. People have forgotten the innovation economy that’s driven us forward for the past 200 years. They only remember yesterday’s lying headlines.

Because at 3 in the morning today in my hotel room, I’m reading Mauldin’s epistolary missives about how the dollar will be worth zero, the banks will be in crisis, Mad Max is going to kill everything in his path in the search for a single barrel of $10 million oil, the walls are closing in, and the zombies outside are trying to bang on my hotel door.

(Don Draper can sell pencils)

16 failures out of 17 tries. What a huge amount of work that is to fail so much. How many walls dented from my head banging against it. How many emails have I sent trying to convince people of yet another bad idea. Where’s Rich A when I need him, telling me, “if you ever want to manage money again you need to learn how to communicate with people”. Where’s my little daughter at the age of one and I had fifteen million in the bank and I thought of that piece of shit one year old was now set for life. What a cocky bastard.

16 out of 17 failures. Where’s Neal B throwing a chair at me? Where’s Bank of America laughing in my face when I pitched them to do their website? Where’s Jay K ripping me off one more time while I give him more legal advice than he gives me. Where’s the FBI visiting me about “UBL”. Where’s Mikey A, stealing one more hour of my time so I can throw up all night all over his bathroom and then pretend that he didn’t try to poison me with his wife’s cooking (actually, that one made it 16 out of 18. Recount!).

See, Claudia? This is why it’s no good when I stay overnight in the city by myself.

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Tomorrow’s Post: 12 Ways to Deal with Failure

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  • http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com jlcollinsnh

    what day and what hour on CNBC??

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think next Friday at 5am. Guest hosting with Nicole Lapin.

  • Andrew

    Dude, your on fire lately, keep up the good work.  CNBC needs to give you your own show, or maybe have you co-host with Kudlow or something.  This needs to happen though.

  • Nils

    You seem to have a certain proclivity for “damaged” people. I sometimes think bad of people who haven’t faced adversity in life and sympathy for those who have. And I know a very nice one handed woman ;) 

    Anyways, I’m always enjoying your writing and you actually made me think. 

  • Anonymous

    Serial Entrepreneurs are kinda like that, they crap out hundreds of turds till some point a golden nugget flops out.  Just look at Ray Kroc.

  • 0cathy

    “I think you can find happiness not in a headline or a stock price but from the core inside.”
    This is almost identical to my central belief – “happiness comes from inside”. (Yes, I know it sound simple everyone, but think about it a little more.)
    James, you’re way further along on the road to happiness than most other people ‘cos you’ve already figured this out.

  • get

    James:  Every time I read through one of your blog post I always end up saying to myself: “Damn…  THIS is how the English language is supposed to work.”  Thank you for being such a fine craftsman of words.  And thank you for writing with what is so obviously your own voice (to use a somewhat hackneyed term).  Your style and tone is so personal.  Sometimes, it feels as though your posts are really a collection of eavesdropped private conversations, released to the public by Julian Assange.  Thank you for  allowing us to have such incredible access to your thoughts and ideas.

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t agree more. -When I am away from home, my wife is convinced that I am having great time. Usually I am just waiting for it to be done.

    In the end, it is a great excuse to exercise the gratitude for all we are blessed with when we get home. Despite the traumas and difficulties, home is a 9 letter word; happiness. Bring your lady something uniquely hers back home with you and let her know that you adore her.

  • lee

    ..look at it this way, it’s only really a failure if you didn’t learn anything. Every successful person  I hear about says they learned much more from their failures than any of their successes.

    So in a nutshell, maybe the joy of being entrepreneurial is knowing that you’re likely to fail but will at least become a much better person for trying.

    btw, any thoughts on that new online currency Bitcoin?

  • http://wavetribe.com Derek Dodds

    I don’t have a tv, if I did I would watch.

  • Richard

    Well at least you tried, and you sir embody the American spirit. Many people never fail once, or only once and become so traumatized they curl up in a corner cubicle shaking the rest of their lives. 
    Your ideas dont sound that bad, compared to whats out there. 
    Just remember Steve Jobs was fired for creating the Mac, whatever happened to that guy…

  • Norikonoko

    I love that your blog posts are entertaining and insightful at the same time. Looking forward to tomorrow’s post!

  • Americansadhu

    Where are the raving mad girls and the burbon milk shakes and the spontaneous street performance art episodics and the Faust manifest?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I took them out in the edits/

  • Hugh

    I don’t think the 16 (or 17 – whichever you decide) weren’t failures at all.  Hey, if you hadn’t have messed up so much you’d never have been forced to come up with at least one good idea (Stockpickr), you’d have nothing to write about on this blog, you’d never had been forced to write books (too rich = too lazy = don’t bother to write books, get someone to write them for you), and you’d have never met your beautiful, yoga practicing wife who so clearly has such a great influence on your life as it is now (much better than it was).

    You also managed to screw over Yasser Arafat and managed not to not screw over Denis O’Brien (the Irish guy you mentioned in your $100 million story, I’m Irish and he’s my entrepreneurial hero) so you did pretty well.

    Just please try to do better next time and screw Michael O’Leary of Ryanair out of some cash.  The clever bastard manages to screw over everybody else in the world, but nobody seems to screw him.  Start your new mission today, and please report back some success.

    Love the blog!

  • http://www.janiskrums.com jkrums

    Another wonderful post, just finished your book and have a lot of respect for what you’ve gone through. 

    You mentioned personalized cancer medicine in this post, do you have any links or recommend specific doctors to contact regarding this. I’ve been doing my own research but would like to see if you have information on something I’ve missed. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Check out the company “Cancer Genetics”.

  • Stein Mandelbrot

    ‘Sixteen out of the past seventeen businesses I’ve tried didn’t work out’ – and that includes trading. In the last post you wrote that you did well while trading. So now I am seriously worried about your mental health, Altoucher. But schizophrenia is curable, really.

  • Churning out my own failures

    Ben Bernanke…Federal Reserve…President Obama…. I would love to hear your thoughts on why the powerful are looked to for answers to joblessness, inflation, deflation, and other ills of society when their solutions are to process through their own litany of failures.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I never think of them.

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    Awe, what a sweet shout out to Claudia…you are blessed to have each other.

    A person once told me the most important issues in life are usually found right on the front of your own refrigerator.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks 736. Thats almost worth of an entire post.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm I’m only on my fourth or fifth failure, perhaps i need to learn to fail quicker!?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      that could be. Some of my “failures” lasted only a few weeks before I eliminated them. Cut losses quickly.

  • Anonymous

    16 of 17 sounds sadomasochistic, but admirable.  Were they all web-based businesses?  If you start out with a customer, how do you “fail quickly”?

  • Anonymous

    16 of 17 sounds sadomasochistic, but admirable.  Were they all web-based businesses?  If you start out with a customer, how do you “fail quickly”?

  • Anonymous

    16 of 17 sounds sadomasochistic, but admirable.  Were they all web-based businesses?  If you start out with a customer, how do you “fail quickly”?

  • Anonymous

    16 of 17 sounds sadomasochistic, but admirable.  Were they all web-based businesses?  If you start out with a customer, how do you “fail quickly”?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      they were not all web-based business. For example, I ran a fund of hedge funds where I was making a decent living but I didn’t quite feel I was building real equity value. We got an offer for the business and they wanted me to sign a six year employment agreement. So we decided to turn it down and then wind down the fund because we realized no equity value was being built. I count this as a “failure” but it was ok in that i made a living from it.

      Another business (140labs, which was combined with 140love, had a customer. The GM Volt line was interested in paying me to discuss twitter strategy.) but I saw the big picture (lots of brands wanting to pay small amounts to fly me everywhere for bullshit discussions) and i felt there was no real business there so shut it down fairly quickly.

  • Anonymous

    16 of 17 sounds sadomasochistic, but admirable.  Were they all web-based businesses?  If you start out with a customer, how do you “fail quickly”?

  • Anonymous

    16 of 17 sounds sadomasochistic, but admirable.  Were they all web-based businesses?  If you start out with a customer, how do you “fail quickly”?

  • Anonymous

    16 of 17 sounds sadomasochistic, but admirable.  Were they all web-based businesses?  If you start out with a customer, how do you “fail quickly”?

  • Kevin M

    John Mauldin…wow, I hadn’t thought about him for awhile. I used to read his newsletter too. Looking back (at least what I remember) he was right on a lot. I remember him saying he rented a home (crazy rare back then) b/c he was convinced housing prices would plummet. I think I unsubscribed for the reason you mention – it was too dark and dreary. I didn’t have enough money to make much difference even I had went all in with his advice. I guess not hearing that bad news over and over was worth more than potential monetary gain.

    PS, I think your definition of failure is a tad too harsh.

  • http://www.swiftkickonline.com tomkrieglstein

    16 failures out of 17(18)!!! Wow, I can only imagine the amazing lessons you’ve learned. Most humans are too scared to fail even once. And you still have both hands :-).

  • Altucher Fan

    I was just going to say that. Claudia is hot! BTW James, I loved your Mixergy interviews. Please do more!

  • James

    Just came across your site for the first time – great content and a great article. Not a nice thing failure – but what i’ve learned is that its better to admit failure earlier than to keep on banging your head against that wall – nothing corageous or heroic there and to be honest most of us will fail at least a few times. Still your post has left me feeling a little miserable – i’ll have to read your entrepreneur one again to cheer me up ;-)

  • Wesley Skorski

    Seriously, what was up with the one-handed ladies? My daughter has only one hand. We belong to a support group called Helping Hands Foundation for Upper Limb Deficiencies in the Boston area.

  • Wesley Skorski

    Seriously, what was up with the one-handed ladies? My daughter has only one hand. We belong to a support group called Helping Hands Foundation for Upper Limb Deficiencies in the Boston area.

  • metropool

    put a timestamp on your comments so we know how many people are reading this at 2am

  • Kjp712

    Although 5 A.M. is early for me,I will make an effort to watch the show next week on CNBC.The pairing with Nicole should work out well.Good luck.

  • Steven Adair

    Thanks James,
    I really enjoy your honesty and philosophy on business and being an entrepreneur. I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life starting with my firewood business at age 13, I’m at about a 2 out of 12-16 ratio myself with a modest million in profit . I have what I feel is a great internet business and would be interested in sharing it with you (with a non disclosure agreement obviusly)

  • http://usb3gvn.com USB 3G

    Well, interesting post,
    thanks!