Why Gratitude is the Ultimate Miracle

41x1asFJQ4L._SL500_AA300_

“Why am I totally dead broke again?” that’s what I thought the last time I had started a business that failed. I had no income. I had just lost a bunch of money investing in my own business. I was in danger of losing my home. I was in danger of losing a marriage I eventually lost. And I was bitter: “Why, once again, am I here?” I had made and lost millions. Couldn’t I have held onto one goddamn dime? Just once? How many times do I have to repeat this cycle?

People say, “oh go play with your kids. they will cheer you up.” No they won’t. I would look at my kids in these moments and think, “how the am I going to pay for them, let alone play with them.”

It starts with the question: how did I get here in the first place? I know the answer, at least for me:

I wasn’t grateful for what I had. Else I would’ve treated these ephemeral things (money, love, health, happiness) with better respect and worked harder to hold onto them.

So to peel myself off the floor I have to do the exact  opposite of what made me lose everything. But its hard. It’s like when you don’t walk for a month. You can’t walk because your leg muscles just atrophied. Now you have to rebuild them again through agonizing physical therapy.

I had to rebuild my Gratitude Muscle. Each and every time. This is the spiritual leg of what I call “The Daily Practice” which I describe here and, in much greater detail, in my recent book.

51bX-Nf2nwL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_[1]

I can see in my emails: people don’t want to hear it. They get the need for an idea muscle, the need to have an emotionally healthy life and a strong physical presence. Everyone wants to look like a rock star.  Nobody would deny that.

But then you say the word “spiritual” and everyone is like, “What? Are you talking about a god? Because that’s science fiction. Are you talking about crystals or kaballah or new age?”
But, UGH. “Spiritual”? What are “spirits” anyway?

People think it means an old man with a beard who created the world 5000 years ago and now we pray to him. Or they think it means new age magic and kaballah rubber bands or crystals or whatever.

(is this spirituality?)

 

So what is spiritual?

HOW TO EXERCISE THE GRATITUDE MUSCLE:

(and after this, see my suggestion on going on a Gratitude Diet)

List on a paper all the problems in your life:

for example:

  1.           I lost my job with a bad boss
  2.           I can’t get a job.
  3.           Every creative act I do is rejected
  4.            my girlfrend/boyfriend cheated
  5.           My house is in foreclosure
  6.           I’m working as a bartender even though I really want to be acting or writing a novel or working for a hedge fund.
  7.           I work as a janitor when in my old country I used to be a doctor
  8.           My neighbor is too loud!
  9.           The IRS is after me

And so on.

(I would love this t-shirt)

You’re not going to  love these situations. That’s a false spirituality. That’s ego. As if you have the power to love (and control) something that you really, deep down, hate. And to try and fill those situations with love can damage the spiritual muscle rather than build it.

So let’s meet somewhere in the middle, somewhere where you can build that spiritual muscle. I love my wife and two daughters. That’s probably about it. I don’t love anything else in the entire world.

HERE’S HOW TO EXERCISE THE GRATITUDE MUSCLE:

  1.           List all the negative situations in your life. Think of at least one reason why you are grateful you are going through each experience. There’s always one reason or you are lying to yourself. For instance, you can be grateful that overcoming this challenge will make you a better person. If you can’t think of one good reason, then come back tomorrow and try again. At the very least you can say “thank god I’m alive and can try again.” I hate the fact that Claudia is sick from Lyme disease. But I’m grateful she’s  with me and so many kind people have given advice and ideas for treatment.
  2.           List the good situations in your life, else you take them for granted. I’m very grateful for my children, for instance. (See, “is it bad I originally wanted my first daughter to be aborted“)
  3.           Try this (hard): be grateful, all day, for everything you look at, no matter how small. They are all there with you right now. It’s ok to be thankful for the small things in life also. RESPECT!
  4.           Try this: every day write 5 emails to people you are thankful for. Tell them why! This will always remind you to be grateful. Don’t forget! It feels good. And after five emails, at least for me, it feels GREAT.
  5.           Try this: keep a gratitude journal. Write down throughout the day the things you are grateful for. The more you do things like this, the more the super-power inside of you will get unleashed. You won’t be able to stop it. You will completely transform whether you want to or not. Do it in a small pad so it’s easy to pull out and list things.

(this was my last big WIN. From 4.5 years ago!)

REMEMBER THE DOWNSIDE OF NOT BEING GRATEFUL

If all you do is hang out with criminals then eventually you’ll become a criminal. It’s natural. If all you do Is hang out with people who are wealthy, then eventually you will be wealthy.

What does this have to do with the spiritual muscle? The gratitude muscle?

It’s the same thing with thoughts. If all of your thoughts are about poverty and anger, then that’s where you will find yourself – there’s no way to avoid it. You’re subliminal wish for poverty will be automatically granted. This is not some “Law of Attraction” or “Secret”. Unless you win the lottery there’s no way to be rich if all you think about is your impending poverty and your anger towards it.

I’ve never met a successful wealthy person who was constantly angry and bitter about how poor they were. Never. Whenever I meet an older person who has built up their wealth and stayed that way, usually what they talk about are the people they are grateful for, grateful for the people who gave them a chance, grateful for the lifestyle they are now living, and so on. I have met MANY wealthy people who lost it all by not being grateful for what they had. They started cheating: on their wives, on the IRS, on their partners – and they trivially lost it all.

You won’t get rich if you are not grateful well before then:

Benefits of being grateful:

  •           You turn a negative thought into a positive thought. This “grateful alchemy” will save your life. Instead of being angry and poverty-stricken (e.g. “I can’t do this”, “I’m going to run out of money”) you will start to figure out how to execute on your positive thoughts.
  •           You actually release dopamine into your brain when you are feeling grateful. This makes you feel uplifted and acts as an anti-depressant.
  •           You’re able to see that your current problems are potential sources of creativity. If you are about to be unemployed and you are grateful for that then you will begin to be creative on where your next job can be. This is not to say you are happy about being unemployed. That would be stupid. But just thinking “I’m unemployed. Damnit!” will not find you a job. Being grateful for an opportunity for new experiences will force you to be creative.
  •           Your stomach will stop hurting. My stomach hurts whenever a situation doesn’t work out for me. Its gets tense. Its like when you roll a bowling bowl down the lane and your body twists almost the way you want the bowling bowl to go. It doesn’t work. When I want to control a situation, my stomach hurts. When I’m grateful for the situation I’m in, RIGHT NOW, this very second, my stomach stops hurting. My body stops twisting. I stop trying to control the world. When you let the world do what it wants to do, and you are grateful for that world this second, then the world will bend to your gratitude.

    (I’d be grateful being this guy)

  •           Creative energy. You can’t control the world. Being grateful for what you have, this second, allows you to start planning the next step in a more creative way as opposed to languishing in depression.
  •           You’ll treat with better respect the positive things you do have.
  •           MOST IMPORTANT: All of the other legs in the “The Daily Practice” get UNLEASHED. It’s automatic. Don’t believe me on this. I’ve seen it for myself. It’s only when I took it for granted that I lost it all. There’s also been many scientific studies on the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of being grateful. So why be grateful for just 5 minutes. Try to do it all day today. In fact…

TRY THIS:
Go on a GRATEFUL DIET – be grateful non-stop for the next 21 days. What could it hurt? Be grateful for every object, person, thought, situation, that enters your mind. All of these are deserving of your gratitude. Do all of the above things for 21 days. Your life will be completely transformed. You’ll be fully active in the Daily Practice that I recommend.

One might say, why the hell should I be grateful my girlfriend left me and I lost my job?

I have no clue why it works! But the ONLY way I’ve been able to pick myself off the floor is start with building the gratitude muscle. Try it for yourself. Don’t believe anything you read on a blog. Even this one. . Maybe I want you to be grateful for my own selfish reasons. Experiment on yourself and give it a try. This part of the Daily Practice (the spiritual muscle) is equally , or more, important I could be lying to youthan coming up with ideas (the mental muscle), having a healthy emotional muscle (not dealing with crappy people, for instance), and being physically in shape.

Life is a game. And failing to exercise the gratitude muscle is a losing strategy.

I hate to quote someone else. Because then it feels like I’m not “writing”. But if you have gratitude for the things around you, then the last lines of “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” (the Gene Wilder version please) will apply to you:

Willy Wonka: Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who got everything he ever wanted.

Charlie: What happened to him?

Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after.

(the real “Willy Wonka”)

—–

Follow me on Twitter and I will be infinitely grateful.

Enjoyed This Post? Get Free Updates

  • kara rane

    Yes James,  all we really are, are our thoughts…let them begin with gratitude for our Life (in any situation), and increase to kindness, for ourselves and others.  There is nothing more, and it does feel so good..that is true wealth.
    http://www.lucky2bu.com/2011/04/kind-being.html

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks Kara. And its true that it takes awhile to build wth that. Its hard to be grateful when you’re on the floor. But thats why we’re on the floor in those times.

  • Nfamous365

    Brilliant post, thank you so much!!!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks! Music to my ears.

  • Anonymous

    You really lay it all out there don’t you James? Kudos to you for your candor. I think my biggest takeaway from this post is your suggestion to write (and send) 5 letters of gratitude a day. 
    Wow! I can only imagine what my world would look like if I did that! World change for $0 a day.
    Thank you James – I’m grateful for your post :)

    Gabrielle

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yeah, just that one trick alone is enough to set the world on fire. It really works. My biggest challenge is trying to be grateful for everything I’m looking at. That’s hard to keep reminding myself to do thoughout the day.

      • Anonymous

        … consider yourself reminded! :)

  • Seana0325

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Im going to use some of your ideas today! Off subject question. Lets say your right about the market going crazy higher from here.
     
    I know you are saying 20K Dow, and I think you think it’ll get there by early 2013 but then what? Are you looking for a crash? What happens after that? In what kind of time frame and how low do we go?
     
    Is it the fed fighting inflation that you think will bring us down or is the goverment or combo? Just curious how you think it’ll play out…

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Don’t worry so much.

      • Seana0325

        Dude, Im just wondering what your Big Picture theme is? If you have a link (other then your Aug 4ish-blog about crazy markets) that more specifically outlines your ideas, than I’d be feelin some serious gratitude towards you.  To be honest I like your self help stuff but I want to understand how you think when it comes to the economy and equities. I’d really enjoy a blog journal on a ‘bottoms up’ review of where you think the US and the global economy is going. Just curious…

      • Christopher Parker

        First, thanks for this post.  Really important.  Really good.  I am thankful you wrote it, in fact, because it’s lodged in my thoughts and is making me rethink my own spirit of often taking things for granted. 

        I wanted to say that although in this blog you are usually writing very personally (and thus you have written stuff that is very valuable and good), I too would be interested in Seana’s request of what your economic big picture is.

        Like you, I am thinking it’s time to get on the bandwagon of hope.  When everyone is doing one thing, that’s when the smart money does the other.  There have been a lot of fundamental economic issues — but now we are working them out.  After winter comes spring.

  • http://twitter.com/alyosha19 Al Cadena

    Thanks James.  This post made me buy your book…

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I am glad!

  • 1000zahia

    James, I love everything you write. Your blog is the only blog that I check everyday to see if a new post came out. I just have two questions. What would you suggest to the people who want to master a foreign language, especially English? Should college graduates go to a grad school if what they ultimately want is to do their own business?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Question 1: There are night school classes for english-as-a-second language. i would also spend time reading books in english, watching American TV and doing everything you can, including in your house, in English. If you are not married, then marrying an English person is a great way.

      Question 2: College graduates should IMMEDIATELY start a business, or work in a business to get experience, rather than go to grad school if their true dream is to start their own business. Business schools teach less than nothing. They are grade factories so they can show off how well their students did. And they put you in enormous debt.

      • Kevin Faul

        James, I like your writing, but I am disagreeing with you on your categorical criticism of grad schools.

        I wrote in your blog a few months ago my story and how I skipped 2 years of high school, graduated college in 3 years and had my graduate school paid for by a graduate teaching fellowship (GTF entrepreneurship) as well as other work I did while in school

        For me, BSchool was an excellent transition to a new career, but I did it in a unique way that did not undertake debt while also enabling me to build a strong business career. 

        time is a luxury. UO gave me time transitioning from a career I hated (trading derivatives at CBOT/CBOE) into learning how to build businesses, while getting paid to go to school.

        I propose that people consider the various programs out there and what they have to offer. I attended the University of Oregon focusing on Entrepreneurial Finance and Sports Marketing. It’s the only program I know of that literally will give you money** for your ideas and reward you for pursuing experiential education. 

        I helped raise over $90M for a new venture (which is now public) after grad school using skills learned in these programs. It’s not much, but it’s a first step in what I hope is a long, happy, successful career.

        Focus on ROI. After all, it’s the return on investment that really counts, isn’t it? What you give and what you get?

        that said, I agree with your general criticism of just spending a bunch of money with blind faith that the end (MBA) will justify the means (Cost). 

        truth is, most people can’t even read financial statements and most people don’t know where to start. people need help. they don’t need to be taken advantage of by expensive programs, so if someone needs help email me and I will help you consider alternatives. kevincfaul@gmail.com

        Cite:
        **https://lcb.uoregon.edu/forms/tep_application/
        *http://nvc.uoregon.edu/
        These programs literally give you money to develop your own business while going through a MBA curriculum. Many new ventures have been founded through this program with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in these business plans. One of the top entrepreneurial programs in the world.

        respectfully. again, love your blog. not all of it, but much of it. cheers & hope Claudia is feeling better.

        • pjc

          Kevin –

          Are you still in Oregon? I would be interesting in hearing more about your experience at UO. I have a connection with a faculty there and want to learn more about the program.

          • Kevin Faul

            Hi pjc. 

            have been in LA for 4+ years now, though still have friends at UO and around Oregon. email me and I’ll be happy to email back.

          • pjc

            Hi Kevin

            Can you drop a note to pjc dot madoff at gmail dot com ?

            (Inside joke email I feel comfortable posting on a forum.)

            Thanks so much!

      • Kevin Faul

        James, I like your writing, but I am disagreeing with you on your categorical criticism of grad schools.

        I wrote in your blog a few months ago my story and how I skipped 2 years of high school, graduated college in 3 years and had my graduate school paid for by a graduate teaching fellowship (GTF entrepreneurship) as well as other work I did while in school

        For me, BSchool was an excellent transition to a new career, but I did it in a unique way that did not undertake debt while also enabling me to build a strong business career. 

        time is a luxury. UO gave me time transitioning from a career I hated (trading derivatives at CBOT/CBOE) into learning how to build businesses, while getting paid to go to school.

        I propose that people consider the various programs out there and what they have to offer. I attended the University of Oregon focusing on Entrepreneurial Finance and Sports Marketing. It’s the only program I know of that literally will give you money** for your ideas and reward you for pursuing experiential education. 

        I helped raise over $90M for a new venture (which is now public) after grad school using skills learned in these programs. It’s not much, but it’s a first step in what I hope is a long, happy, successful career.

        Focus on ROI. After all, it’s the return on investment that really counts, isn’t it? What you give and what you get?

        that said, I agree with your general criticism of just spending a bunch of money with blind faith that the end (MBA) will justify the means (Cost). 

        truth is, most people can’t even read financial statements and most people don’t know where to start. people need help. they don’t need to be taken advantage of by expensive programs, so if someone needs help email me and I will help you consider alternatives. kevincfaul@gmail.com

        Cite:
        **https://lcb.uoregon.edu/forms/tep_application/
        *http://nvc.uoregon.edu/
        These programs literally give you money to develop your own business while going through a MBA curriculum. Many new ventures have been founded through this program with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in these business plans. One of the top entrepreneurial programs in the world.

        respectfully. again, love your blog. not all of it, but much of it. cheers & hope Claudia is feeling better.

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

    I used to be one of those people who would get hung up on the “spirituality” side of things.  Now, I am super spiritual with my own interpretation of what I believe.  I first took noticed of all creativity in nature that is entirely undeniable, and then in life in general.  The sheer existence of color alone, for me, is mind-blowing.

    I do not have the need to explain or defend what I believe, it’s all mine, and no one can take that away.  And I don’t really concern myself with those who want to believe in different types of spirituality – or whatever. 

    I am grateful.  My down days and moments are fewer and getting less frequent every week. 
    _____
    James, I owe much of my success in scraping myself up off the floor to your honesty in your writing.  I was so sad when I first started reading your blog, and even bitter.  My perspective was a bad-habit that became a machine intent on keeping me down. ( Claudia’s blog helped me too)
    So thank you both.

    With gratitude,
    736H

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      736, your comments have kept us going. We both have really appreciated them. Its really funny how the word “spiritual”  is perceived. it’s almost anti-american in some ways. And yet, it’s intensely personal and once people realize that it’s ok to have a personal spiritual life, it’s easier for them to come to grips with it. Gratitude to what’s around you and what’s good in your life is one simple way to do that.

      • Alfie

        Dear 736hundred

        Your words really strike a nerve. They  describe exactly
        (especially the last paragraph) the place I have been of late, ie ‘the bad habit perspective’. This blog
        has had a strangely magical effect on my life also. I dont even agree with all of it. But it has made me consider things differently.
        This probably makes me some kind of lame follower but I dont care. I am just grateful to have stumbled on to it. (Thanks James.)

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

          Alfie, Thanks for your comment. It makes me feel less alone.  :)

          I find James blog amazingly powerful by way of simplicity and honesty – which works out perfectly for me because I have trouble staying focused.

          Take care

          • Alfie

            Hi 736
            I just saw this…. You know I found this blog because I have followed JA’s writing on various investor sites . … But  this blog showed up at a perfect time. A dark time personally. Lots of trouble in the air….I read most of the comments, they a very interesting. Yours included. And no, you are not alone.
            very best to dear one

          • Alfie

            Hi 736
            I just saw this…. You know I found this blog because I have followed JA’s writing on various investor sites . … But  this blog showed up at a perfect time. A dark time personally. Lots of trouble in the air….I read most of the comments, they a very interesting. Yours included. And no, you are not alone.
            very best to dear one

      • Alfie

        Dear 736hundred

        Your words really strike a nerve. They  describe exactly
        (especially the last paragraph) the place I have been of late, ie ‘the bad habit perspective’. This blog
        has had a strangely magical effect on my life also. I dont even agree with all of it. But it has made me consider things differently.
        This probably makes me some kind of lame follower but I dont care. I am just grateful to have stumbled on to it. (Thanks James.)

  • xo .

    You are the smart, wayward brother who finally figured stuff out and is now teaching it to others to save them a couple of decades of heartache.
    Thank you James.
    Your writing really speaks to me.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thank you, xo. Iwish I had saved all the heartache but now I’m hopeful I can for the years I have ahead and I hope can as well.

  • Jim Howard

    Insightful

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    I sent out four emails of thanks:
    1. One person replied w/ a beautiful and sweet encouragement.
    2. One person thought I was getting my house in order and called me in a panic.
    3. One guy just sent back: ‘Thanks dude.’
    4. My mom doesn’t answer email that often, so it’ll be a while.
    5. The one business related recipient hasn’t responded. I owe him a couple referrals, I think.

    Upshot: Put me in a pleasant frame of mind.

    • Anthony

      “One person thought I was getting my house in order and called me in a panic.”
      Thats classic.

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    I forgot to add.. This gratitude thing has been top of mind tons recently. I have a selfish streak and I believe that not only does it help my frame of mind, but I think it might help unlock more generosity in me. Thanks for this! 

  • http://anembarassinglife.wordpress.com/ Jake

    I’m just  ungrateful.  But why does the word bastard always have to come after the word ungrateful.  I don’t agree with that.

    • BrianBalk

      How about wretch; louse; pig; worm?
      I’m kidding!  Just trying to have fun with it.
      For a more surreal experience, try some of these:
      angel; genious; leader; friend; lover; survivor; hero

  • Caromusa

    Sometimes my problem is that I am so grateful for the good things in my life (material and emotional), that I feel guilty of having them and have the strong feeling that something terrible is going to happen, just to bring some balance.
    That’s silly I know, but can’t stop. What would you do?

  • Anonymous

    Greetings from Viet Nam! Would like to thank you for your excellent blog, the reading of which has become part of my own ‘daily practice’ since I stumbled across it some months ago. Today I am grateful because it is the 1 year anniversary of the day I was pick-pocketed! Keep up the great flow of ideas….. !

  • berta

    i am grateful for YOU, james. thanks for writing this most appropriate reminder… just what i needed today. thank you.

  • LB

    Hi James – I love the idea of going on a grateful diet. I had dinner with friends last night who have lost 70+ pounds each recently by following a rigid physical diet. They looked like different people. Why not the same thing for spiritual/mental well being? Just like my friends may have a pre-disposition to being overweight, I am pre-disposed towards being negative and playing the victim. They followed a rigid, disciplined system to improve their condition (following a specific schedule and consciously sacrificing/forcing themselves to eat certain foods at certain times,etc.); the logic should translate to spiritual improvement too (following a routine that forces me to focus on being grateful, see the positive in things, etc.). There are a million fad diets on the market that get tons of attention. Why doesn’t the same phenomenon exist for a grateful/clear mind diet?
    Thanks for helping me to stay gratefully fit J

    • Anonymous

      A friend of mine follows a strict paleo diet we were talking about it the other day, I said to him that despite being over weight for a good period of my life that i’d never been ill, his answer was ‘how do you know?’, it really made me think about how and what I’d considered ‘normal’ in my life and how my lifestyle may effect me, your post and James’ original have just had the same reaction with my ‘spiritual normal’, refining my spiritual diet is something I’d like to do…

  • lynn hasselberger

    So grateful to know about your writing, James! You inspire me in so many ways and the one I’m most grateful for–you inspire me to write more. Cheers to you!

  • Judy

    James, As always I enjoy reading your blogs. This one got me to comment for two reasons. #1 Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. That happens to still be my favorite movie of all time and I still refuse to watch the Depp one. #2 Gratitude for the small things, this is so true. We seem to take for granted the small things because we have bigger issues in life that seem to consume our every thought. The little things can make bigger issues not to bad at all. Not to realize that those little things, if they were eventually gone, we really would miss them (the leaves changing colors, the smell of your kid sitting on your lap or next to you after they have been playing outside all day, the wag of your dogs tail when you come in the door for the 5th time in a hour, whatever it may be) and they really weren’t so small at all seems normal in the society. If the average person wasn’t so interested in what their neighbor, brother, sister, BOSS,….has that they don’t have there would be alot more time to be grateful for what just may be right in front of them. I personally am grateful for the things(big and small) and the people I have in my life. I may not express it to them enough but I truly am.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      You make a great point about the difference between being grateful for the bigger and the smaller things. For instance, I’m grateful for my kids. 

      But looking around my room right now I have to be grateful for this computer and even the light switch which allows me, for almost no cost (as opposed to buying dozens of candles) to have light while I write. Every day we encounter thousands of these small things but forget about being grateful for them, or take them for granted. Your comment is a good reminder to not do that. 

      And yes, Gene Wilder IS Willy Wonka. 

  • Cindyluwho

    Thank you for this very timely post. I did not sleep a wink last night thinking about all the bills I have to pay and no money to pay them. I am going to flip my feelings about this and try to find a way to be grateful for having no money. You are very right about the kids part. Being broke when you have kids depending on you is soul crushing…to say the least.

    The 21 day diet is an excellent suggestion. I am starting today. Once again my most sincere thanks for sharing your insights in such an honest and entertainning way. You Rock:)

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      Cindy, it’s a hard spot to be in and I’ve been there many times. Particularly when you have kids and you know, for their sake, you can’t run from those bills. It’s hard them to go on the 21 day diet but that’s why this is the EXACT time to do it. Your opportunities will increase exponentially almost every day if you stick to the diet. 

      • BrianBalk

        In the deepest darkness, even a little light shines brightly.  The less you have, or the greater your challenges, the more you can gain from even small improvements.

        Unfortunate, though, that the more you have, the harder it becomes to maintain healthy practices.  Self-limiting for most people.

  • Anonymous

    Could you offer any synonyms to replace the concept, “gratitude” ? Somehow that word doesn’t work for me.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      “Surrender” is another good word. But my guess is that might not work either. We have, almost as a species, a hard time with giving up control. Words like “gratitude”, “surrender” almost imply a certain servitude – that we owe part of some good fortune to the efforts of others. And this is painful. On a deeper level, “spiritual” is another such word. 

      So rather than replace the word, one helpful thing might be to play around with that uncomfortable feeling you have when confronted with the word. 

      I read an interesting thing yesterday about “stretching”. That when we sit down on the floor, put our legs straight out, and reach to touch our toes, that its a way to learn “surrender”. 

      It works on many levels. I can’t touch my toes, for instance. So there’s a certain humility that’s involved. Second, our vision becomes incomplete in that moment (because if you keep your neck and back straight you are now staring at your knees). So we deliberately weaken our senses. And third, because it’s almost like a bow, which is a form of humility. In some Buddhist practices, for instance, meditation is replaced by repeated bowing. I guess the idea being to learn through thousands of repititions that you are not YOU. That there;s always something greater, or something we don’t understand, or something we are, in fact, grateful for, even if we don’t know what it is yet. 

      • Anonymous

        I once had a boss whose business mantram was, “there are no problems – only opportunities.” It strikes me… this mantram is consonant with the attitude you are describing in this post.

        btw, I can easily be grateful.. when answered at length by such a thoughtful reply.

        Cheers !

  • BrianBalk

    You might like the de-motivational (and hilarious) posters and slogans from despair.com.  The slogan on that IRS t-shirt is very similar to one of theirs, probably ripped it off.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      Funny stuff there. 

  • BrianBalk

    I’m grateful to you for turning me on to Charles Bukowski.  I’m halfway through Portions From a Wine-Stained Notebook and am very moved.  (‘Loving it’ just doesn’t sound right.)

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      I know what you mean (about “lovin it”) but that is a great book. 

  • BrianBalk

    I’m grateful to you for turning me on to Charles Bukowski.  I’m halfway through Portions From a Wine-Stained Notebook and am very moved.  (‘Loving it’ just doesn’t sound right.)

  • Mark Anthem

    Thanks for suggesting Bukowski, Ham on Rye & Women are amazing reads. In regards to Lyme treatment, get your own copy of medical records and labs. Look at tests to find out Claudia’s progression. Probably you already know Borreliosis is a spirochete bacteria that worsens in stages, Doxy/antibiotics should arrest the progression of infection. There were 2 vaccines available previously, now hard to find. High pressure pure oxygen treatment gets additional results in 95% of cases its been tried. 
    Valley Health & Hyperbarics
    28A Indian Rock Route 59
     Suffern, New York 10901
     (845) 208.3624s
    Millions suffer from Malaria due to DDT demonization and misinformation, I wouldn’t be surprised if criminal zombiethink undertreatment is likewise at play here.

  • Mark Anthem

    Thanks for suggesting Bukowski, Ham on Rye & Women are amazing reads. In regards to Lyme treatment, get your own copy of medical records and labs. Look at tests to find out Claudia’s progression. Probably you already know Borreliosis is a spirochete bacteria that worsens in stages, Doxy/antibiotics should arrest the progression of infection. There were 2 vaccines available previously, now hard to find. High pressure pure oxygen treatment gets additional results in 95% of cases its been tried. 
    Valley Health & Hyperbarics
    28A Indian Rock Route 59
     Suffern, New York 10901
     (845) 208.3624s
    Millions suffer from Malaria due to DDT demonization and misinformation, I wouldn’t be surprised if criminal zombiethink undertreatment is likewise at play here.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      I’m glad you had a chance to read those. Those are probably my 2 favorites from Bukowski although “Post Office” and “Factotum” up there as well. 

      Also, thanks for the hyperbaric suggestion. Suffern not too far from me. We might have to check that out. 

  • Mark Anthem

    Also, I wonder why replacement of infected blood through a bltransfusions wouldn’t be helpful, at least temporarily?

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      That might be overtreatment I think, a danger in medicine. What do you think?

  • Mark Anthem

    Also, I wonder why replacement of infected blood through a bltransfusions wouldn’t be helpful, at least temporarily?

  • http://twitter.com/8020Financial Adam

    An excellent post amongst your many excellent posts James. You might enjoy ‘The Hiding Place’ – the autobiography of Corrie Ten Boom – who found reasons to be grateful in a Nazi concentration camp. 
    But aside from that please keep writing this blog forever – I look forward to every post.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      I’m going ot look it up right now 

  • http://twitter.com/8020Financial Adam

    An excellent post amongst your many excellent posts James. You might enjoy ‘The Hiding Place’ – the autobiography of Corrie Ten Boom – who found reasons to be grateful in a Nazi concentration camp. 
    But aside from that please keep writing this blog forever – I look forward to every post.

  • Already Rich

    James, I am infinitely grateful for your existence and your blog and your humanity across the miles… even when I merely think it, after every blog post of yours I read. And nevertheless am too busy and preoccupied or just plain selfish to write and say “thanks” to you for saying just the right things at the right time to help me, one person in this world, to be happier and feel more…what is it?…connection with human nature and with myself. I doubt I’m one in a million, actually probably one of a million (the potential’s there for you to touch that many people). My rule of thumb is: touch one person’s life every day to make it better, and you’ve got something to be deepy grateful for. That’s the root of all happiness and peace. Thankyou. Thankyou.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      Well, you definitely touched mine this morning. Thanks. 

  • Already Rich

    James, I am infinitely grateful for your existence and your blog and your humanity across the miles… even when I merely think it, after every blog post of yours I read. And nevertheless am too busy and preoccupied or just plain selfish to write and say “thanks” to you for saying just the right things at the right time to help me, one person in this world, to be happier and feel more…what is it?…connection with human nature and with myself. I doubt I’m one in a million, actually probably one of a million (the potential’s there for you to touch that many people). My rule of thumb is: touch one person’s life every day to make it better, and you’ve got something to be deepy grateful for. That’s the root of all happiness and peace. Thankyou. Thankyou.

  • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

    I’m looking forward to your post on “The Secret”

  • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

    I’m looking forward to your post on “The Secret”

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      The real “Secret” is that it’s largely based on a book written in 1900 by a random guy named Wallace Wattles called “the science of getting rich”. He died young (at 51) and sort of disappeared but then the woman who made “the secret” must’ve gotten ahold of his book and (in my opinion) created “the secret” out of it. His books have more recently been republished but still I think he’s largely unknown.

  • MainStreetKate

    Patiently waiting for a Kindle version of I Was Blind but Now I See….Perhaps when I get my Fire? It would probably be more engaging on my Fire than my Kindle anyway, to be honest… even if only because new = exciting… and new book on new device = doubly exciting….

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      I’m hoping for today, Kate, that it will be avail on Kindle. 

  • http://twitter.com/MarketTechLab Market Tech Lab

    James, now you’re really on to something powerful. Thank you for teaching me how to be grateful and for picking me up off of the floor. I think gratitude is the key to life, truly. Thanks again.

  • http://twitter.com/MarketTechLab Market Tech Lab

    James, now you’re really on to something powerful. Thank you for teaching me how to be grateful and for picking me up off of the floor. I think gratitude is the key to life, truly. Thanks again.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RQAESSOTEPQKK6KLYOT4PDB4YM Richie

    Thank you James for reminding us of how simple things really are, things we all forget while traveling through life.

  • http://twitter.com/DEarthenware Digital Earthenware

    What does it mean to be grateful? I want to try this but I’m not sure how. Just thinking of something and mentally putting the label “grateful” on it seems very abstract, like when you repeat a word many times and aren’t sure if it’s a real word anymore.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      I know what you mean. It’s almost as if each person is equipped for one superset of words and words out that become harder to learn, or, through time or misuse, lose their meaning. 

      So what does gratitude mean? It might mean that there were instances in your life when things that are even slightly out of your control happen that are good for you. For instance, your wife wakes up in bed next to you. That’s her choice every day. Gratitude is acknowledging that it’s her choice. 

      Or when someone picks up a five dollar bill that you dropped and gives it back to you. That was his or her choice. And not in your control at all. You would’ve lost those five dollars forever. “Gratitude” is saying thank you to the person who helped you in a situation that was not in your control. 

      Even when you work hard for something, like a job that you love. And your boss says thank you. Your boss could also be a jerk and not say thank you. It’s his choice and out of your control no matter how much you worked. Gratitude is that feeling of pleasure you feel when you also are thanked for work you did. 

      Maybe think of these three instances and then think of other situations throughout your life when you were in similare situations where you did not have total control (since nobdoy is god) and you felt pleasure over someone’s actions, or over the weather, or over a work of art that made you feel pleasure. All of those feelings of pleasure are gratitude. 

      And, as for me, thank you for your comment. It helped me to understand gratitude a little bit more and what it means to me. So thank you. 

      • http://twitter.com/DEarthenware Digital Earthenware

        Wow, James, thank you for the very thoughtful reply.

        Coming on the heels of the past three years, I think three of the biggest things I can be grateful for are that I still have my health, my youth (I’m only 27), and the opportunity to try again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=624412516 Steven Thacker

    One way to think of your money: if you have $1 million you can only spend 30k per year to feel somewhat safe that you won’t lose it all (assuming you are intelligently invested). That’s really not a lot. People with a couple million tend to spend it away quickly because they don’t think in these terms.

  • http://www.szelhamos.com TheAcsMan

    Fortunately, mine is a vengeful God, so I certainly have no problem with your inability to forgive the honking neighbor, grandmother, or their entire “mishpucha”. Not that I like to quote John McCain, but in discussing terrorists, he said “May God have mercy on their souls, because I won’t”

    I think that the atrophy of the “gratitude muscle” begins very early. I may be getting old, but to me it seems that what used to be considered basic “politeness” is in short supply. Merely saying “thank you” to someone who holds a door open for you or in any other way shows you a subtle gesture of kindness or respect, seems to be less often reciprocated with a gentle expression of gratitude.

    When you believe that you deserve to have that door held for you, and that feeling begins early in life, it’s hard to be grateful for anything that comes your way in life.

    There’s really nothing wrong with teaching your child to grow up to be a cowboy, but make it a polite cowboy. They’ll appreciate things in life and will recognize all of the grace that they’ve been showered with, despite the occasional rocky path

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      I agree with you. I found myself telling my daughters this weekend that they needed to say “thank you” to me for driving them to a birthday party. I think they were wondering why since who else would drive them. But I said, “whenever you get something you didn’t directly earn, you need to say ‘thank you’ “. I don’t know if I’m wrong or right in this specific case but I do think its a muscle that needs to be exercised early on or else its harder (like all muscles) to exercise it later in life. 

      In a physical way I’ve learned this in my 40s. I’ve always been in shape but never “exercised”. Now, to keep lean and mean I have to exercise for the first time ever. So for the past 2-3 years I’ve been trying to do so. But its HARD for me because I never developed that skillset or discipline when I was younger. 

  • AGuyNamedJoe

    Thank you James. My father was a senior exec at one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. Got it in his mind that he could do it better and he failed miserably. It’s been 20+ years and he never recovered. He is one of the most bitter people I know. I am haunted by the ghosts of his failures and yet I am grateful for the education his mistakes taught me. I have a great family an fledgling business that pays me a salary and I’m happy.  Don’t be like my dad. It’s a sad, sad life.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      I can heavily relate. It’s important to know (at least it’s important for me to know) that my life won’t parallel my father’s even though all the potential is there to do so. I have to be grateful for the mistakes he made and then know I can move past them. 

  • traderez

    James & Claudia I am grateful for having just enough dollars that
    allows me 1hr or 2 a day to humiliate poliTICKshuns and  lg Banksterz
    thanks for your support lol.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      Ha, how do you go about doing that?

  • Anonymous

    That is a great t-shirt. I am grateful you brought it to my attention. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/fzeng96 Feng Z

    man, i have to say this is by far my most favorite of your articles. what a crazy world we are living in! it’s so easy to be distracted by the negative little things, most of them are little things anyway, we dwell on them, make them bigger than they seem, and forget how lucky we are.

    just imagine what it takes for me to post this comment here, a billion positive things need to stay perfectly aligned in order for it to happen, the earth has to stay in perfect orbit, the gravity has to be exactly 9.8g, i’m not living in a war zone or getting hit by natural disasters, electricity and data communication cannot fail, all my computer equipments cannot fail, the people who spent their life to research and develop these technologies, the fact that i am well fed and my eyes, fingers, muscles and neurons are all healthy, the fact that i am alive this second ….

    i heard someone say that it’s because of our primal survival instinct that we like to focus on negative things. we are genetically attracted to negatives as a survival response. it somewhat makes sense to me.

    i share your experience that often when i fail are the times i forget gratitude, when i allow negative things become bigger than they really are, that’s usually the time i fuck up.

    i am thankful that you write so eloquently to allow me to expand my understanding of the subject.

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      Hi Feng, yes I think the reason why the headlines vary between doom and porn (Kim Kardashian Weds! Radiation might hit San Francisco!) is because of these primal genetic instincts that we will never rid ourselves of (those pesky, mating bacteria we descend from!). 

      But then gratitude allows us to grasp (as a species) on the one thing that can tear us away from the sins of our genes – the hems of something higher, that can drag us up and allow us to live a fuller, richer life than one of an animal. 

  • http://twitter.com/TWEETssmag TWEETss

    My Kids are tiring, but they never Suck! ; I would protect them above all else…

    So glad I found your feed at http://www.TWEETss.com

    While I’m cranky; I enjoy, respect, and share MANY of your ideas.

    Except, I live in Michigan, with 3 kids, and we could never live in an apartment. We have a 4000 sq feet home and we use it, and we need the space. My kids love playing outdoors. They love having their friends over. They love playing table tennis in the game room. Do your regular comments on renting apply to renting a home or specifically to renting an apartment?

    Perhaps apropos in New York or LA or SanFran, but never in Michigan or most other areas.

    So you must be referring to renting and apartment in NY, and a regular home in other places versus buying…. Right?

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      Well, I don’t rent in NY. I rent upstate and there are plenty of homes to rent. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi James, when will your latest book be available in Kindle?

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      Any day. I hope. Createspace should be done today I think. They are owned by Amazon and then they upload to amazon the kindle version. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi James, when will your latest book be available in Kindle?

  • Doc Hawkins

    I am grateful for quiet neighbors. They have barking dogs but they are friendly I am grateful for that as well.

    As far as being a polite cowboy it would give them the pleasure of watching people mistake civility for weakness and use the most powerful weapon known throughout history. Well placed words.

    Could you waited til Thanksgiving for this article?

  • Ben

    I’m gonna beat you to it. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/10-000-free-round-trip-tickets-japan-134142507.html

  • Patricia

    Awesome post, as usual, James. 
    Just a thought though, for me at least, part of being grateful is the ability to differentiate between a ‘problem’ and an ‘inconvenience’.  When you can tell the difference, it helps you decide how much emotional energy you will allow a given situation.  So here goes.. 
    Problems:
    There is famine in your country, and you have 3 days worth of food for your kids, and no ability to get more.  

    A civil war is raging, and any night there is a good chance men will kick in your front door, drag your sons and husband out into the yard and execute them on the spot.

    Someone you love is suffering from a terminal illness, and death is eminent. 

    Those, are problems.  Stop rolling your eyes and think about it.  Right now there are real people, and lots of them, with these exact problems.

    These are inconveniences:
              I lost my job with a bad boss          I can’t get a job.          Every creative act I do is rejected           my girlfrend/boyfriend cheated          My house is in foreclosure          I’m working as a bartender even though I really want to be acting or writing a novel or working for a hedge fund.          I work as a janitor when in my old country I used to be a doctor          My neighbor is too loud!          The IRS is after me
    Inconveniences are very real. and some are very inconvenient. But an inconvenience can be addressed, and the amount of emotional energy a person chooses to allow an inconvenience has a huge impact on the time it takes to recover from it. 

    Humans were designed for ‘being chased by a lion’ stress (a problem).  When being chased by a lion, everything in your body shuts down that isn’t directly related to outrunning the lion; your immune system, reproductive systems, coping mechanisms, everything.  Because none of those things matter if you can’t outrun the lion.  

    Now, instead of being chased by lions, we’re late picking our kids up from soccer (an inconvenience), but our bodies can’t tell the difference and reacts exactly the same way.   
    The stress response can be controlled with practice.  We can make conscience decisions about our emotional investment in a given situation, and teach our bodies how to react appropriately.  Maybe this seems obvious to everyone else, but it had to be explained to me *really* slowly mid-self-imposed inconvenience.  Thanks, Beatrice.Oh, and James, I hope your lovely wife feels better today, because her illness is most definitely a problem, and our thoughts are will her. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/altucher james altucher

      Thanks for the comment Patricia. It’s true that we have problems of luxury mostly. Even losing a job is nothing compared to worrying about imminent execution. But since I’ve never had to deal with any of the horrific problems you describe I guess I am grateful for that. 

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed your discussion panel yesterday. We talked briefly last night and I then read a chunk of the book. As I mentioned, my path and yours are very different (age): Coast Guard (17-21), Married (19), Undergrad (23-28), Dad x1 (24), Dad x2(29), Grad School (33-39), professor and administrator (39-59) with many jobs (blue- and white-collar) along the way. Since I am the only one in my immediate family to leave my hometown, serve in the military, or go to college the presumptions you fought against – actually, rail against — were different for me (e.g., get a union job, marry a nice girl and start a family). Still, I certainly presumed them to a degree for our two sons. I will send your book to our youngest son, whose has a ton of debt from law school.

    In my experience your point about brainwashing is difficult for many young people. More than security blankets, these ties anchor self-perception. I have seen students physically collapse from the pain of realizing their parents interests and theirs did not line up. Many, many students resist that pain. Personally, I walked away from my religion (Catholic) when I was 18, an uncertain time made easier because I was in the service and not home. Young people today seem to relish the comforts of their parents home for years, and years, and years. Its sad.

  • Martin Schwoerer

    James, I used to read you all the time while you were at The Street / Realmoney, when I thought you were great. I wondered what had happened to you in the mean time. Got here via Kedrosky’s blog, and I am sure glad to see you’re still the tops!

    Back before the recent unpleasantness, I followed some of your ideas and made a lot of money (PAAS), lost plenty on others (IACA), but always found your writing enriching. It’s wonderful that you have this blog.

  • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

    Love the honesty.  Thank you.

  • Michael

    Were you ever in AA? Attitude of gratitude!

  • Anonymous

    Hi James,

    This is really an awesome blog. But it seems very difficult to be grateful to my boss who brings headache to me everyday..

  • Dowdog1

    James,

    It’s in contrast to this post and others like it that parts of “My Lawyer Died Today” felt so out of character.  I’m a big fan, Jame, and hope you are well.

  • Luca Corinaldesi

    Thank you!

  • http://planetoplano.blogspot.com/ Leonardo

    Hi,
    your choice of the portrait of God by Michelangelo, and your caption, (is this spirituality?) got stuck in a corner of my head since you posted it, (it sounds like I have a cubic head, but I don’t). God, regardless of your religious tradition, can only be known by scriptures. Otherwise it’s simply something undefined that you feel. The scriptures are a code, they illustrate concepts by metaphors and Parables, (unless one is a fundamentalist and believes they’re real). But what is a picture if not a code? It uses a different language but its purpose it’s the same.
    So, to answer your question, yes, that is spirituality.    

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      How come God cannot be known internally? Why do I have to read about him to know him? 

      • http://planetoplano.blogspot.com/ Leonardo

        Because what you read gives you the key to interpret what you feel.

  • John E Garver

    Join the illuminati
    brotherhood in the world.
    Kindly contact Sgt Salem the
    illuminati online registrations officer in
    USA through salemity4real@hotmail.co.uk and you shall
    be given an ideal chance to visit the Satan
    and his representative after registrations
    is completed by you, no sacrifice or
    human life needed, illuminati brotherhood
    brings long wealth and makes you famous in life,
    you have a full access to eradicate poverty
    away from from your life now. So contact
    Sgt.. Salem the on-line registrar @:
    salemity4real@hotmail.co.uk…….
    !!!!!TO THE BROTHERHOOD OF ILLUMINATI!!!!

  • Samuel

    Thank you James. I am grateful to have found your blog.

  • Michael Kim

    James, I’ve been following you for more than a year now and you’ve completely changed my outlook on life. I am actually using your book, choos yourself, as a guide for my own life and just in recent weeks i’ve seen for myself that gratitude is the perfect cure for despair. It just seems so obvious now

  • sophya.Alexander

    I’m really tired of not earning enough money.it’s going to make me crazy. I work very much but I don’t have any money and I don’t have any goal for my future. I even don’t know if I have any future.please help me.

    my homepage:

    سایت ترجمه

  • RIshabh

    Thanks Pal!