Do You Have to Be Rich to Be Honest?
- Posted by James Altucher
I got this email a few months ago: “you must be TOTALLY LOADED to write the kind of stuff you do.”
Another person wrote me, “I’m not rich enough to be as honest as you are. I’d lose my job and customers.”
Finally, after I got several emails like this I asked someone back, “Why do you think I’m rich? Do you think someone needs to be wealthy in order to be honest?”
And the guy wrote back: “If you’re rich you don’t have to worry about what clients or customers or investors think about you. Or even what friends think about you. So you can say whatever you want.”
By implication it must mean that everyone who thinks they are “poor” is lying to his friends, customers, bosses, etc. This is a horrible way to live, when the ego tightens around you like a straitjacket. Eventually it doesn’t end well. All of these friends will backstab you. Its happened to me. Repeatedly.
Honesty actually creates Wealth.
Henry Blodget asked me a few months ago, what happened in your writing? Why did it change all of a sudden?
I told him, “I decided to stop lying.”
He gave a nervous laugh (it has to be nervous. Was I lying to him? Was I committing crimes?). He asked, “what were you lying about?”
And I was stumped. I don’t really know what I was lying about. I had been lying about everything. To everyone. Forever. I couldn’t remember telling the truth.
I had basically been broken to the ground. I had 16 out of 17 businesses fail. I survived divorce, losing a home, depression, people dying on me, not seeing my kids for long periods of time, investments fail, I was fired from about eight jobs simultaneously. What was the point? I was just going to write how I saw it. Screw it. It couldn’t get worse for me.
(I was broken. For just one example, see: “What It Feels Like to Be Rich”)
For 15 years I’ve been lying. Ralph (not his real name) used to call me up at 4 in the morning. He was a client of my first business. He needed advice about his job. I couldn’t stand him. In fact, at one point he borrowed a lot of money from me he never paid back. And he never paid his bills on time. I had to worry about payroll every month. So at 4 in the morning he’d call for advice and ask, “is now an ok time? I couldn’t sleep.” And I would always say, “of course it is.” When of course, it wasn’t. I was lying to him. And it made me hate him even more. And it made me hate myself even more.
You lose yourself when your ego takes charge like that.
I’ve lied quite a bit. To customers, to bosses, to employees, to girlfriends. It doesn’t work. It shows less pride in your work, less pride in yourself. It makes people hate you in the long run. It makes you less money. You have sex less. You die earlier.
You’re better than that. You don’t need to blog all your failures and confess all your sins. Let me do that. I have fun with it. Just start small by exercising the honesty muscle.
How to exercise the Honesty Muscle:
Every now and then someone writes me and says “I broke the rules” on the Daily Practice. It’s ok to break the rules. It’s just a guideline really. But here’s an alternative. A simplified version. And it uses the four legs of the Daily Practice to build the Honesty Muscle so you can slowly stop all of your lying. Because don’t BS me – you lie also.
If you ask these core honest questions (see below) to yourself every day then two things will happen:
A) It will lead to great honesty and conﬁdence in every aspect of your life. And the more you ask the below questions, the more this honesty will increase. It will lower your center of gravity on the planet. So that wherever you stand, nobody can knock you over.
B) Your life will be completely different within six months and that difference will be measured in degrees of success.
Important: You don’t have to answer these questions, “yes!”. You just have to be aware when you are saying “No.” The more you are aware, ultimately the less “Nos”.
A) Are you eating healthy? And you know what I mean! I eat that ice cream at 11pm at night also. No good!
B) Are you exercising? Are you keeping clean? Are you sleeping 7-8 hours a night?
C) Are you doing everything you can do so you don’t die an early death from liver or kidney or lung cancer? If you aren’t, then you are lying to yourself. If you lie to yourself, you’re going to lie to others. It’s a horrible spiral down a death trap. Why die earlier and with a lower quality of life than you have to?
This doesn’t mean you have to change everything today. Make one change a day. Pick the biggest lie. And make it honest. That’s all. But don’t BULLSHIT yourself here. It’s ok if you’re not perfect, if you break the rules here and there. But don’t BULLSHIT. Be aware. Be AWAKE. If you aren’t the master of your thoughts then you are the slave.
And if you don’t want to change anything then at least you’re aware of where you are lying. That’s not a bad start. But make sure the start has a good End.
A) Are you cheating on wife/partner/friends? Are you being good to your family? To your friends? Not in a way that drains energy from you but are you genuinely giving all you can without doing any draining?
B) Is anyone being abusive to you in any way? Very important to ask this every day so you can quickly begin the process of dealing with a crappy person.
C) Do you gossip?
D) Do you have any big lies going on that are hurting anyone? If so, stop. Its no good for you. Trust me on this. It’s too stressful.
Important: Before, during, and after you say ANYTHING to anyone think to yourself: am I hurting this person in any way? This goes for employees, employers, customers, clients, friends, family, lovers, haters. This is part of honesty.
A) Are your ideas good or are you delusional and lying to yourself?
B) Do you honestly believe that what you are doing at work is helping people? If not, then quit your job or work activity and get a new one. We just had a very hard decade. Everyone’s been shot through brain, the heart, the stomach. We all need a little help. Make sure what you do helps a little bit. You might not be able to save a live every day but at least wake up in the morning and ask, “can I save a life today?” Who are you asking? Who cares!
C) Are you doing your idea lists each day? This helps build up your bullshit detector so you can answer “A” above more carefully.
D) Are your expectations of yourself too low? Raise them a little each day. It’s not honest with yourself if you keep saying, “I canʼt”. Thats a bullshit line. “I canʼt meet that special someone because I’m too busy right now or I don’t’ live in the right part of the country or I’m too old or I’m too this or too that.”. “I canʼt get a new job.” “I canʼt move right now until I have more money.” Anytime you say “I canʼt” youʼre lying to yourself. This is a $15 trillion dollar economy and most of us live in the US. You know what that means? It means “you can”. It might take time to make things happen. It might means you have to adjust your life in various ways. But for anything you’re saying “I can’t” about say, “I can.”
Again, every day, raise your expectations for yourself a tiny bit higher. As an example, my expectations of myself might be too low right now. Negotiate into this. Doesn’t have to be in one day. Also, use common sense. You can’t be eight feet tall. But you can stand up straighter.
A) Everyone has beliefs of some sort. Some people believe if they have more money they will be happier. Some people believe if they go to church every day they will be happier. Maybe either is true or both are true. Every day, ask yourself, are my beliefs really true? Or am I believing them because someone else believes them? Or because I grew up a certain way? It’s hard to know if you’ve been lying to yourself. But it helps to ask.
B) Hereʼs the simplest spiritual discipline. Every day make a list of new things you are grateful for. And start to only surround yourself with the things you are grateful for. Be grateful only for the things that make you happy. Be honest about what makes you happy and what makes you stressed. Ultimately that will be your whole life. Being around the people and things you are grateful for makes you honest, because these people will appreciate and reward your honesty the most. These are your friends. An example for me: I used to read the newspaper every day. But then I realized it was making me tense. The newspapers are the worst liars of all. And I know because I write for them. So I stopped reading them. They can all fire me after reading this. I don’t care. Now I’m happier. I replaced the newspaper with books that make me happy. Another example: I used to watch whatever bullshit TV was on between 8 and 10pm. Now I go to sleep earlier. I love sleep. I’m grateful to sleep eight hours and wake up early before the sun rises. I used to go to more dinners than I wanted to. Now I turn down more invitations.
Fear is the enemy of honesty. Not lack of wealth. Fear of losing clients. Fear of pissing off family. Fear of going to hell. Fear people won’t like you. Fear of being alone. I very much have these fears. But fear never made anyone money or anyone happier or healthier.
List the things you are afraid will happen if you tell the truth, even if you just tell the truth to yourself. Are these worthwhile things to be afraid of? If you are going to lose a job by being more honest, should you stay in that job? My guess is you’ll be a lot happier in another job. Will you lose your girlfriend if you tell her the truth? My guess is you probably would be happier with someone different if she really would leave you upon hearing the truth. Or maybe you honestly don’t know her (or him) as well as you think you do.
I’m afraid all the time. I tell the truth a lot in this blog but of course there’s lots of things I leave out. Each day I try to be a little bit more honest with myself in the above four areas. If you are honest in these four areas above then you will have fewer things to fear each day. By November 2010, I had reduced my fear enough I started being honest on this blog. And guess what: my traffic went from 100 visits a day to 10,000 visits a day.
One caveat in all this: This is not “radical honesty”. Don’t ever say anything that hurts someone. When you’re honest, people sense it and your words have a lot more power. I even feel it in the body. When I’m saying something honest I feel as if I’m saying it from my stomach. As if the long stale air that was hanging out there finally gets a chance to burst out with full energy. When I’m lying, I feel as if its coming from the top of the throat. The last air I inhaled, going right out to escape my lying body.A wisp of breath to accompany my lying words on their journey.
So you have to be careful with the superpower of honesty. But if you ask the above questions each day, you won’t have the opportunity to hurt others. Just be honest with yourself ﬁrst.
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