20 Careers in a Row Didn’t Work Out For Me

SaturnGirl

Don’t be so disappointed in yourself. It didn’t work out. Lots of things don’t.

Ist grade: I ONLY wanted to be a member of the “Legion of Super Heroes”, a team of 30th century teenage comic book heroes all from different planets. I felt bad for them. Often they felt lonely because they were all from different planets and even looked funny but they stuck together as a team of friends and some of them (Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad) even got married. It wouldn’t be so bad to be part of their team. I was only six so I figured there must be some way I could apply myself and be a part of their team.

(Saturn Girl. I would save her)

2nd Grade – 3rd Grade – No question about it: an astronaut. Like Major Nelson from “I Dream of Jeannie”. Not only could you go into space but you could also have Barbara Eden as an obsessive wife. This was more like “James’s Dream” than “I Dream of Jeannie”. I occasionally also wanted to be an aquanaut, figuring it might be as good as being an astronaut and I had all of Jacques Cousteau’s books.

4th Grade – Senator. I wanted to be just like Sam Ervin, the Senator from North Carolina who prosecuted Nixon. I read everything I could about Watergate. I asked my dad, “what if I wrote Nixon (he was retired in NJ) and asked him if he could tell me, a 4th grader, the truth about what happened. My dad, “Don’t be stupid.” I wondered if being a Senator might be a stepping stone for…bigger things.

5th Grade – A gossip columnist. Or Dear Abby. I was reading enough Judy Blume and “Harriet the Spy”. I thought that gave me enough insight to recognize all the gossip in my grade and also give advice on it. I kept a notebook of “who liked who” and everyone wanted to see it. The teacher banned me from bringing it into school because it was causing too much fuss. But to this day I still stand by that David Pakenham liked Joanne Arico. I could recite all the pages in “Forever” where there were sex scenes.

(Everything I knew about life I learned from Judy Blume)

6th Grade – I had it all planned out: 18 years old I’d be a juror, Then by 25, Congressman. 30, Senator or Governor. 35. Vice-President. 40. President. Easy. I started pretending to be a reporter so I could call up Senators and Congressmen all day long to interview them. Maybe build up allies for eventual campaign. I would have to pretend to be sick so I could say home and get all these people during office hours. My parents even let me visit DC to visit the White House.  The Presidency was going to be A LOCK for me.

7th GradeProfessional breakdancer. “The vanilla popper”. DON’T LAUGH!  Don’t tell me I don’t have the moves til you see me in action. I could pop, lock, moonwalk (or whatever planet you want me to walk on), spin on back, I had the linoleum, the Puma slick jacket, the Puma shoes (the kind with the hard toes so easier to moonwalk), etc. DON’T EVEN LAUGH AT THIS.

8th GradeMaster of the Occult. Doctor Strange. Potential Satanist. Then Buddhist. Then member of various cults that I was going to rise up through and lead. This continued through 9th grade.

10th grade Girls, girls, girls. More girls. I liked every girl. I would steal porn magazines from the pharmacy. What about the one with the letter where the girl sneaks up on the guy who fell asleep drunk at the party and he wakes up and she’s having her way with him. Does stuff like that happen, I wondered? Could it happen to me? I couldn’t wait to be an adult. Because it wasn’t happening to me in 10th grade. I called Steve Giacalona: “do you think any girl would like me?” And he was honest, “no” but maybe when your acne clears, you get rid of your glasses, your braces go away, you dress better, and you do something about your hair.” That gave me some hope. He had a girlfriend who even wanted to have sex with him when he had a broken leg.

11th grade: Professional chessplayer. It was already too late for me. I should’ve started when I was six years old. I started playing in December of 11th grade. I was the 4th slot on my team because Alan Bergman couldn’t make it. I had no idea what to do. On the way to the match with Matewan I got a book by Fred Reinfeld which recommended “The Stonewall” opening. I still remember the moves right from the book. David Bender said on the way, “Why are chessplayers always so ugly” because we we were looking at the cover of Chess Life Magazine which had Tony Miles (RIP) on the cover. I won my game.

12th grade: Still professional chessplayer. I knew I could do it. If I won every game I ever played. I became NJ Junior champ. I was ready. But,alas:

(Tony Miles, professional chessplayer. Ugly?)

College: Girls. Chessplaying ended. I met one girl who I instantly fell in love with. I said  to my friend, Jude, “if she only knew I would be her willing slave. I would do everything for her.” Jude said, “she would get bored of you instantly.” Thanks Jude. Hey Jude.

College, Sophomore Year: Entrepreneur. I started a company, College Card, with two other people including Wende Biggs, daughter of Barton Biggs. We offered a debit card to college students plus we delivered, among other things, pizza from one place and gyros from another. Anyone using our card got free delivery. Plus anyone using our card got discounts. I had 5% of the company. Easily worth $10 million in my mind. I had no clue. We were out of business within six months. Wende left for business school. Our other partner, Rick, left for Mastercard. And another partner, Jeff, became a tennis pro. But I was an entrepreneur.

College Senior Year (skipped Junior year to avoid getting into more debt. Who the hell wants to go to college for four years and spend all that money): Computers computers computers. Its all I thought about. On the weekends there was a combination lock to the CS department. I went in it. Then a combination lock to get down the research hallway. Then a combination lock to get to the library where all the research reports were. I’d settle down with a bag of chips and read every research report, safely knowing that my girlfriend of two years at the time had no way of finding me or reaching me. Heaven.

Graduate school: should’ve been computers. That’s what they were paying me to go to graduate school for (“They” being indirectly the “Department of Defense”). But now I wanted to be a professional Go player. I spent 10 hours a day playing Go. Then I spent ten hours a day writing novels. [See, “I’m Guilty of Torturing Women”] All I did was write fiction. Day and night. I got thrown out of grad school because of this and in every job I had in Pittsburgh I would work as little as possible so I could write ten pages a day (3000 words). I wrote 4 or 5 novels, dozens of short stories. I sent them out to publishers, magazines, agents, and got rejected 100% of the time. So I figured I needed connections and I moved to…

NYC: HBO. I was working in the IT department but secretly wanted a TV show. Documented all that here.

(from my III:am project (see link above). if you can't see the images, go to jamesaltucher.com)

I am such a loser. NOTHING I ever wanted to be worked out for me. I’ve switched careers 12 times since I graduated college.  And since my time at HBO I’ve switched careers another 9 times (website developer, wireless software guy, venture capitalist, daytrader, trader for hedge funds, started a fund of hedge funds, writer for financial media, public speaker, online dating service creator, and I’m sure there are a few that were borderline legal that I’ll leave off of this list.)

Now, I’m none of these things.

Now, I want to be “Dear Abby” again. Back to my 5th grade dream. Oh, and I want to write novels again. Back to my graduate school (in Computer Science) dream.

Who knows what it will be 10 years from now, or even 10 days from now? It changes a lot. What I want to do for the rest of my life is always going to change. Sometimes I wonder, “am I too much of a dilettante? Why can’t something work out and I just stick with it? Like how it did with Larry Page” Some days I have no idea what I want to do and I spend the day wondering, “what should I do?”  But I don’t sweat it.

And whatever it is I want to do today, I’m just going to go ahead and do it.

 

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Related Posts:

In the comments, please post what you wanted to do that didn’t work out. It feels cathartic to do it.

Follow me on Twitter, to see what I will be up to next.

See Also:

 Most Things Don’t Work Out

 

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  • http://twitter.com/kullar pardeep kullar

    a/b testing life

  • http://twitter.com/kullar pardeep kullar

    er… also known as living life

  • http://www.adanlerma.com adan

    as you say, “don’t sweat it…And whatever it is I want to do today, I’m just going to go ahead and do it.”

    in re to larry king, he had the same job, yes, the same job of interviewing someone and something different, every day!

    hmmmm ;-)

  • Mmoorebs

    Thank James have been through many transformations and my ex’s always wanted me to be in a stable (boring) job. Now alone and feel change is what is right for me.

  • http://www.dinosaurtrader.com dinosaurtrader

    You just couldn’t have known in grade school, or high school, or even college, what a blogger was.

    And Jesus, Saturn Girl is a hottie…

    -DT

  • gR

    Thanks for the blog James. I wanted to be a professional musician, but upon entering college, I realized that I liked to eat, so I’m now a financial analyst and CPA. I still miss playing and being the loud, outgoing person on stage that I’m not able to make myself be off of it.

  • http://waqasaday.wordpress.com Waqas Ali

    When I was in 4th grad, I wanted to build a jungle in Pakistan and wanted to invite all guys from National Geographic.

    Then I wanted to to do work at NASA.

    I wanted to study in US.

    I wanted to be the best chess player in Pakistan. hehe

    Now I’m working at Indo-Pak Peace Media, to bring peace between India and Pakistan, and a Visa free south asia. I don’t know if I’ll accomplish in in life time, but worth to try.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Waqas, I know very little of the tensions. Do you think ultimately the British kept the peace and things fell apart after they left? how could Gandhi have done things differently?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Waqas, I know very little of the tensions. Do you think ultimately the British kept the peace and things fell apart after they left? how could Gandhi have done things differently?

      • http://waqasaday.wordpress.com Waqas Ali

        British used sub-continent for their interests, at the time when they were leaving India, some groups started using religion to build their power, mostly Muslims.

        Gandhi wanted India as a secular state for all people of India, which was fantastic. But this is not what religious people of sub-continent wanted.

        So Jinnah struggled for an other state, now as Pakistan, for the minorities of sub-continent. But after the partition Pakistan is being driven by the people who’re using religion as their primary tool, they’ve made Pakistan a dangerous place not only for non-Muslims but also for other sects within Islam.

        Worst happened when US reached to Pakistan to defeat Russia in cold war. That is the most dark period of Pakistan history. The army general (dictator) who was ruling Pakistan, changed every institute of Pakistan, they changed our books, history of Pakistan and empowered extremists.

        Even today Jihadis are very influenced in Pakistan army, and army rules the country. This is all we got.

        • Vivek

          From across the border (India) I hope for the same, Visa free south asia !!! Wont it be wonderful… Then every government can spend a lil less on army and a lil more on everything else.

  • http://waqasaday.wordpress.com Waqas Ali

    When I was in 4th grad, I wanted to build a jungle in Pakistan and wanted to invite all guys from National Geographic.

    Then I wanted to to do work at NASA.

    I wanted to study in US.

    I wanted to be the best chess player in Pakistan. hehe

    Now I’m working at Indo-Pak Peace Media, to bring peace between India and Pakistan, and a Visa free south asia. I don’t know if I’ll accomplish in in life time, but worth to try.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUHLLWKHKMMEGQCNM3MIFYQXIE Ben Banks

    I wanted to be an archeologist and dig up old bones. 
    I ended up burying my bone instead. (Long story)

  • http://www.pointsandfigures.com pointsnfigures

    As I told you on Twitter, you should have been a porn star.  The second coming of Ron Jeremy.  He was the hedgehog.  You could have been somebody.  

    • Adam

      The hedge-fund hog.

  • Midianite Manna

    Thanks, James, I needed this today. Looking for work, and what the hell, why not go for what I actually want to do instead of what I’m trained in?

  • http://www.parmcharm.com karen parmelee

    For me, since an early early age – 5 years old – I wanted to write for TV and/or be on the TV. It’s worked out, kind of… not the way I’d imagined back then, but that’s a split-hair. Now I focus largely on my writing – all those early years of writing plays, and hand-writing multiple copies for the “actors” (no copiers then), has helped me write really good dialogue. Which is nice. In college and between jobs, I’ve been a waitress or salesperson, which I love, because I like exchanges with people and a need to please them helped too!

  • Anonymous

    I love this post! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Question: How do I get my children to be unafraid of failure?

  • http://manonthestreet.com manonthestreet

    James there is a real trail of ‘books’ whenever you recount the past. You tie periods together by what media you were gobbling up [reading], and these are usually books/written word: comic books, judy blume, porn, etc.

    Would you say that you were more influenced by books/magazines than TV or Film? I would love to see some reading lists from you, maybe books that helped shape James Altucher, book you think everyone should read, etc.

    I have a big laugh whenever you reference ‘porn addict’ all the while giving a visceral reality to the thrill and shame of the addiction.

  • http://www.goldenstateliberty.com GSL

    Let’s see: I wanted to be the greatest hockey player in history (didn’t work out). I wanted to be a competitive alpine skier (didn’t work out). I wanted to write fiction (didn’t work out). I wanted to be a clinical psychologist (didn’t, thank God, work out). I wanted to be an academic economist (again, thank God that didn’t work out).

  • Bizfix1

    James was wondering if you ever took the myers briggs personality test. It sound like you are a INFP type.

  • Bizfix1

    James was wondering if you ever took the myers briggs personality test. It sound like you are a INFP type.

  • Bizfix1

    James was wondering if you ever took the myers briggs personality test. It sound like you are a INFP type.

  • Bizfix1

    James was wondering if you ever took the myers briggs personality test. It sound like you are a INFP type.

  • Bizfix1

    James was wondering if you ever took the myers briggs personality test. It sound like you are a INFP type.

  • Bizfix1

    James was wondering if you ever took the myers briggs personality test. It sound like you are a INFP type.

  • Bizfix1

    James was wondering if you ever took the myers briggs personality test. It sound like you are a INFP type.

  • Adam

    I wanted to be happily married. With someone who actually loved me no matter what. Beyond sex or finances, just being each other’s absolute favorite person.  Does that even exist? 

    • Anonymous

      exists.

      • Syren

        So glad to hear that.  

  • Quaison

    When is your birthday, for curiosity alone?

  • marty

    Another good one, James. 

  • Anonymous

    Awesome post.  I think you should go back through and give each another shot, in order.  Maybe skip the political appointments and space travel, but being a super hero would be fun.  BlogMan and Yoga Girl.  Wear a cape the next time you are on CNBC.  Dare.

  • http://twitter.com/CLAcevedo222 Carlos Acevedo

    My first novel. I spent two years writing it so that I could earn my MFA in creative writing. I completed my degree, but the writing wasn’t progressing well enough. After another six months of trying to make it work, I had to kill my darling. I wrote this post about it. Not sure if putting the link is against some kind of etiquet. If so, I apologize! 

    http://www.clacevedo.com/?p=195

  • http://statspotting.com Statspotting

    How do you apply learnings? thats the missing point in the post.

    http://statspotting.com/2011/04/after-3-reds-on-the-roulette-table-do-you-pick-red-or-black/

  • Moshkosh

    Be careful what you wish for envying other people.  What if Larry page wakes up everyday and just wants to do nothing?  Then he is miserable.  Noone ever shares their misery.  They just keep living the lie, until they die.  Being happy and doing what you want, when you want is THE SECRET!!!

    When can I buy that signed Cramer picture that you took down? hehe

    I want to send you a t-shirt James…answer my email damn-it!

  • Cathy0

    I think we must be about the same age (I’m 42) – cos a lot of the pop culture stuff in this post resonates with me. Judy Blume rocks – and Forever was the first teenage novel I read with a sex scene in it…funny how books punctuate our lives. (is that a pun?)

  • http://isomorphismes.tumblr.com isomorphisms

    I want to build a fantastic hotel in the jungle — in Guatemala, I know just the place — where people will come for conferences and to actually get work done. There may be internet but Facebook and all time-wasting websites will be blocked. If you want to waste time you’ll have to do yoga or go snorkeling.

  • Paul Wheat

    I never could answer the “what do you want to be” question.  I always was interested in many fields but never found a natural inclination to one. For example, I could work really hard or practice often, say at guitar, and be OK, but never as good as the Eddie Van Halen or whoever that had the almost natural ability.  I was a stockbroker for many years, owned my own business, and now enjoy trading for myself.  Basically, I was and am lazy.  What a shame.  Anyways, James, I love your blog…its very healing to me.

  • Steven Bohrer

    Awesome… haven’t seen an LSH reference in forever (I have a ton of those comics from when I was a kid).  Thanks for the nostalgia smile…

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You’ll appreciate this. Was just opening up a box I had in storage I haven’t looked at in probably 9 years. First comic on the top. Superman teaming up with…the Legion of SUBSTITUTE heroes. The ones who weren’t good enough (like, for example, Psycho Kid, who every time he used his  powers of psychokinesis would lose a year of his lifespand). Fun stuff. The cover has Superman holding his head and he’s saying  “why me?”

  • Anonymous

    I wanted to be a pastry chef but ended up getting reactive hypoglycemia from my sugar based diet (my favorite meal was a dozen donuts with a couple of apple fritters for dessert).