Ten Unusual Ways to Get in the Top 1%

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At midnight my door opened and I saw the shadow of someone about 4 feet tall walk into my room and stand by my side of the bed. “I can’t sleep,” she said and she was smart enough to also say, “my mind is racing”. Over the nine years of her life so far she has probably heard me say that many times. Like when I was losing a home and I threw a chair and the police were called. The third time police had to be called on me in life (out of five).

mollie

(she was 7 when this was painted)

So I took her hand and we walked downstairs and she gave me a lecture on what was going on in each one of her classes and she concluded with a discussion of the various Greek gods (“Athena is my favorite,” she said. “Who is yours. Hermes?”) And  then I saw her yawn and I said maybe now she can try to go back to sleep, which she did.

I’m scared for her. My mind races also. How many times has my mind woken me up at midnight to remind me of how little money was in my bank account, or how many bills I had to pay, or how much I hated my job, or even hated being an entrepreneur with customers, clients, people screwing me, people hating me. I don’t want her mind to wake her like that when she’s older. It’s the worst pain. And I might not be there then for her to talk to.

Will she kill herself? Will she wake up her husband or girlfriend or whatever and say, “my mind is racing. Talk to me.”

One time some bad business things were happening to me. Something was shutting down, other things were going down. Some people were cheating me. Whatever. My mind was racing. I woke up Claudia. “Breathe like this,” she said. It was two in the morning but she wanted to help. She had me do a breathing exercise that involved quickly exhaling but I forget the rest of it. Then I fell asleep.

One investor of mine told me I had a “scarcity complex” –  that I always had a strong feeling that I had nothing even when I had many things to be happy about. This was about eight years ago. I agreed with him. He wanted to be my mentor. I wanted him to sell his business and then let me invest the money. So I agreed to everything he said. I did that back then. But in this case maybe he was right. Unless I’m at optimal health in every way I constantly feel like I have less than nothing. It’s post-traumatic stress from losing everything several times and watching my father lose everything twenty years earlier.

(half empty)

No toys will ever patch that bleeding.

The country now has a scarcity complex. “The banks took everything.” “The government took everything.” “There are no jobs.” “There is no money”.  Everyone is in despair. Everyone is scared about feeding their family. Scared and scarred. Greece, Japan, China, Libya, terrorism, Jamie Dimon, Obama, Rich Perry. These are the monsters in the closet at night.

I’m tired of monsters in my closet. Anger won’t change anything. Complaining won’t change anything.

I want to be consistently in the “1%”. Not of money. Money comes and goes, talking of Michelangelo.

I want to be in the 1% of  the happiest people on Earth.

My only goal is to be in the 1% of happiness. Else, if I’m in the 99%, then all of my other goals will also fall short of the 1%. You can’t meet the love of your life, for instance, if you’re in the botton 99%. At least, from my experience it will be harder. It’s like taking out the garbage and expecting to meet the love of your life in the garbage can.

My life is like a laboratory and happiness has been the experiment. Only when I’ve been in the 1% of happiness have my other goals been satisfactorily achieved.

So I know what I have to do when I slip into the 99%. This might not work for everyone. Maybe some people have to protest with signs to be in the top 1% of happiness. That doesn’t work for me.

But these ten things work for me:

A)     Lately, exercise has worked for me to stay in shape and sweat out toxins. Bad stuff builds up in the body. You have the usual disgusting methods to get out bad toxins that go into the digestion system. But what about bad stuff that builds up in every pore of your body. You have to sweat it out. Sometimes just 100 pushups a day will do it. For me, I like doing yoga.

B)      I don’t have a lot of friends. But I do know enough people that I can do this: every day I make sure I don’t talk to people who bring me down. And I try to meet new people who bring me up. I won’t do business with anyone who brings me down. The last time I tried that, my body told me, “Bad James!” On the second day on the job I fell straight to the ground and sprained my ankle for no obvious reason. If you let it, the reactions in your body (any part of your body) will tell you if you are with good people or bad people. When I get an email from someone who is bad for me, I usually get a quick stomach ache. So I delete the mail and put the emailer in Spam. Its’s the only solution if I want to be in the 1%. I don’t engage at all with anyone who is going to bring me down. Why should I? [See. “How to Deal with Crappy People“]

C)      I like to be creative. Whether it’s through this blog or writing down a list of ideas or even drawing. It makes my brain come to life in ways that it’s not used to. It’s important here, to never expect results from your creativity. When I was working on the pilot of a TV show, for instance, it made me very anxious to know whether or not it was going to get accepted. I was too attached to the results of the creativity. Just like now I might be too attached to blog traffic.

D)     I like to avoid these nine obstacles to my success. Any one of these nine will make me unhappy.

E)      I try to avoid all leaks. For instance, I’m happily married. Cheating on my wife would make me unhappily married. BAM! That would put me in the 99%.

F)      I try to be as grateful as possible. When I remind someone what they’ve done for me and how happy it made me it not only brings back memories of that happiness it also makes me happy that I’m helping them be happy by being grateful for them.

G)     I try to “surrender”. I say to myself, “I can’t do everything. I can’t take this pain.  I can’t  have everything I want. Sometimes I’m helpless in the face of my material goals. So YOU figure it out.” I don’t even know who I’m talking to. Who YOU is. I might be talking to my teddy bear when I say that. But having a sense of surrender and humility will help me reduce my needs (I don’t need a yacht for instance) and help me to feel humility. There’s a physical exercise that’s good to practice surrender if you are not good at it. In America we’re not really good at surrender. We never give up. We want to win every war. The exercise is to reach down and touch your toes. It obscures your vision (because you are staring at your knees), its almost impossible (you have to be flexible, both physically and mentally), and it looks like your bowing, which is an unusual thing for Americans to do. So it teaches surrender if you are uncomfortable with it.

(Claudia touching her toes)

H)     I try not to lie to anyone or harm anyone. Because then you have to keep track of which lie was told to who. Or you feel bad about who you harmed, which was usually as a result of either anger or greed. If I never harm anyone I never have to deal with anyone’s anger (unless it’s irrational anger). Anger makes me unhappy.

I)        Sometimes you can’t avoid work that you don’t want to do. We all have to feed our families. But, in general, if I move every day towards staying away from corporate America (fluorescent lights and bosses make me less happy) then I’ll be more happy.

J)       I need a tenth thing so that I can call this post, “Ten Ways to be in the Top 1%” so hold on a second while I think of something…coffee? No, sometimes it spills on me. A lot of sex? Makes me VERY happy but sometimes makes me jealous or anxious. Ahh, sleeping 8-9 hours a day. Because then I know I’m in the top 1% for at least 1/3 of the day. And I also know I won’t be tired the other 2/3, which would put me in the bottom 99%.

And if I’m consistently in the top 1% of happiness, maybe there’s a slight chance my two daughters , and maybe others I interact with, will be in the top 1% when they’re older. Happiness is both contagious and hereditary. And so on.

 

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  • http://www.szelhamos.com TheAcsMan

    These days I’m very happy. I’m not certain I want to be in the Top !% though, as I don’t want my suburban tranquilty invaded by protestors from the other 99%.

    I start off most mornings reading the New York Times obituaries and rejoice in not seeing my name.

    I then read Dilbert and rejoice in my early semi-retirement.

    I read both son’s Tweets and know that they’re in good humor and spirits.

    While nursing coffee, I read the Altucher Confidential, when a new post is available early in the AM and that makes me grateful for any number of reasons

    Mostly, my Sugar Momma makes me happy. Especially when I think about How my WIfe’s Bra Saved Us Money

  • http://www.facebook.com/billytarter Billy Tarter

    The title and focus of this post is so very American, but I’m American so I can say that.  We’re always trying to keep up with the Joneses.  I think that perhaps #10 should be: “Stop trying to outdo the other 99%”.  Always being dissatisfied with your lot in life leaves you, well, dissatisfied.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Or, you can be striving for improvement. If you feel yourself consistently unhappy, then try things that can make you happier.

    • Mark Koschwitz

      When I read this piece I found it less having to do with being ahead of the other 99% and more about just making your own life better.  Being able to “surrender” and being grateful don’t seem to go, at least for me, with an attitude that you’re somehow better than 99% of people.

      It was a clever title for all the protests going on right now.  I don’t mean to bring a religion into this (although I think it’s more just a set of values), but I learned a lot of this from reading about Buddhism.  I don’t anymore, but I still practice the positive values of happiness seeking happiness (“end suffering”) for myself and being courteous and grateful for others… and it got me started on yoga which I continue to do.

      Great article James

    • Christian T.

      Billy, I agree… as much as enjoy James’ blog and insights, I think that ‘being in the top 1% of the happiest people on earth’ is a flawed goal. To me, happiness is not a competition. It would imply that a lot of people ‘have’ to be unhappier than me just so that I’m in the top 1%. Maybe if you were to aim for ‘achieving 99% of the happiness potential’ (whatever that may be) it would make more sense to me.

    • Julian

       I agree with Billy and Christian. My grain of salt:

      > I want to be in the 1% of  the happiest people on Earth.
      > My only goal is to be in the 1% of happiness.

      Heh. Where was that talk about scarcity complex again?

      Also, that quote from Joseph Heller: “Yes, but I have something he will never have: Enough.” I think I read it in another post of yours, and I’m pretty sure it applies to happiness too. It’s definitely related anyway.

      If you set yourself a happiness goal you make it a performance issue. Not being happy enough will make you even less happy (or more sad). Which is not what you want. Even worse, if you compare your happiness to others, as in “I want to be in the top 1% champions of happiness”, then you make it a competition. The mere idea of a “happiness race” is definitely not a happy one.

      ===

      About the list:

      A. Definitely.

      B. I’m also working on that now (which includes never ever be bothered by a ringing phone again, and I don’t even have voicemail). There is the “friends of my friends are my friends” issue though, not easy to keep some while avoiding some others.

      C. “Just like now I might be too attached to blog traffic.” You make an excellent job cross-linking your past posts. It’s nice for your new readers (and SEO), a bit repetitive for your regular audience, but it’s OK (it has its virtues too). So, as long as you avoid the kind of self-censorship or content filling that generated by fear of losing traffic…

      D. Recursion spotted. Now we have (at least?) 18 items in the 10-item list. I’m pretty sure that some day you will achieve to publish 2 lists that cross-reference each other as a list item. If it’s not already done.

      E. “Metrics.” in that “leaks” list. See above!

      F. Definitely. Be polite, smile, talk to people as if you were talking to a person and not a machine, look at them too, and think “yes!!! I won again!” when that grumpy old clerk fails to keep her sad face for a subsecond (and if she doesn’t, you don’t lose anyway). Even though she doesn’t know where in the store your favorite chocolate brand is now.

      G. see also: “enough”.

      H. Can conflict with avoiding people that bring you down (see B. above): this is rejection. Rejection harms. I would make B. the priority though, don’t know about you.

      I. So true about corporate fluorescent lighting. Most bosses weren’t an issue for me (some were extremely nice and appreciated by their staff). What irked me beyond sad lighting that hurts eyes: bureaucracy (worked for companies that were more bureaucratic than state agencies) and security (of the obnoxious stupid useless theater sort). Sometimes I wonder how some large companies manage to ever ship a product. And why they don’t have competitors.

      J. Definitely.

      ===

      Now that I think about it. Instead of aiming for the 1%, why not try to stay in the 99%? That is, 99% of “good” time. You can still be sad/angry/down/other bad mood at times, but never more than exactly 14 minutes and 24 seconds in any 24 hours period. What about that?

      (a Buddha-grade folk would aim for nothing less than 5 nines uptime, but averaged over years).

  • Kevin

    I have the scarcity complex too, I had never heard it described that way, but it really does fit. I have a great family, pretty much anything I want or need and still feel like something is missing. (The news diet has helped somewhat.) Thanks for these tips James, I need to get off my butt and get more exercise. I used to go every morning before work and remember feeling great.

  • http://www.preemptiveplacebo.com Preemptive Placebo

    The 1% being protested by Occupy Wall Street got into that 1% by taking action.  They or their ancestors did things that made them rich.  Often the things they did were not very nice.

    Contrast that with the 1% happiest people on earth.  They keep themselves out of the bottom 99% by REFRAINING from action.

    They avoid the self-imposed slavery of debt.
    They avoid the self-imposed misery of obesity.
    They avoid the self-imposed destructiveness of addiction.
    They avoid the self-imposed evil of meanness and violence.

    Happiness is our default setting.  The happiest 1% refrain from doing things that change that default setting. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, great points.

    • Steve Orr

      I suppose debt is a symptom to an addiction to stuff. And obesity may be an addiction to too much food. And meanness is just a habit of bad behavior we’ve fallen into. All habitual behavior needs to be brought into the light of day, good and bad. Too many times we do stuff without thinking and wonder how we got into our current mess. We need an intentional lifestyle. Go with the flow but don’t get swept up in the current.

    • Anonymous

      Happiness is not the default setting for an individual who is alone. A happy baby left alone will not remain happy. Unhappy behavior begins when our need for connection can’t be properly fulfilled. This continues throughout life. To stay happy we must create and maintain positive connections. This does often require work on the self as a prerequisite, and in this sense, James is correct that it all starts with self-improvement. But it doesn’t end there.

      • http://www.preemptiveplacebo.com Preemptive Placebo

        We must be aware that there is a concerted effort to redefine normal.  This is done in many insidious ways.  Framing is one of the most subtle and most successful ways to change how we view normal and natural. 

        How many times have you read an article about how exercise cures depression?  Nothing is further from the truth.  Exercise does not cure depression.  Depression is CAUSED by a lack of exercise. 

        Our natural state is to be active.  When we fail to be active we are acting in an abnormal way.  But when it is framed as exercise-cures-depression it makes us believe that we must do something extra and unusual – exercise – to cure our depression. 

        Happiness is indeed the human default setting.  Being alone is not. 

    • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

      Do you think avoiding debt, obesity, addiction and meanness really comes from INaction? All of those things require action and commitment. Inaction lends itself easily to all of the above. 

      Especially and most obviously obesity. 

      • http://www.preemptiveplacebo.com Preemptive Placebo

        Hi Brooke,

        We are an action-biased culture.  It is our greatest strength.  When faced with a problem we automatically seek out what we can DO to solve it. 

        Trouble is, our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.  We are highly biased toward solutions that require action even if they are not the best method of bringing about a solution.

        As you say, obesity is the most obvious. 
        The obese person is failing to exercise self-control over what they eat. 
        The indebted person is failing to exercise self-control over their spending. 
        The addicted person is failing to exercise self-control over their craving. 
        The mean person is failing to exercise self-control over their temper. 

        As a nation we are distracted by action-solutions.

        The obese person believes that if they spend more time at the gym they can counteract their over-eating.  The indebted person believes that if they go to Costco and stock up on less-expensive packages they can counteract their indebtedness.  The addicted person believes that if they go to a meeting, smoke five cigarettes and gulp five cups of coffee they can counteract their cravings.  The mean person believes that they can be really nice the next day to counteract their meanness. 

        Look at healthcare.  75% of all healthcare costs in the U.S. are the result of chronic conditions.  Almost 100% of chronic conditions are preventable.  We are literally killing ourselves with the things we do.  People are DOING things they should be refraining from doing.  Drug companies know this and offer pills as solutions for problems that require refraining from action.  Virtually every new drug treats a chronic condition.

  • Shayne

    Point G – if you try to use your muscles to force your fingers to reach your toes it’s hard, but if you totally relax and let gravity do the work it’s usually pretty easy, like life in general I think.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think that’s why its 50% mental. It’s hard to realize that the body can actually do it. It stiffens up along the way.

      • Shayne

        Perhaps it’s just trust in the end – trusting your body and trusting life to meet you halfway.  Is trust the opposite of a scarcity complex?

  • http://over40innovator.blogspot.com Roger Toennis

    James,
    Thank you for this blog post. I like to talk a lot about having an attitude of abundance verus an attitude of scarcity. I believe this is the key to life, happiness and success as you outline here in your post. But too often I don’t follow my own advice.

    Thanks for the reminder to “do” and not just “say”. 

  • wsc

    hi james, hope all is well.  started writing but jeez! realized (remembered) that finding happiness is such a deep and complex topic…like many other things it’s a journey…good luck with yours.  btw, appreciate your sharing so much of your personal journey.  think your daughters will look back someday and appreciate the things you’ve done to make their lives interesting…

  • wsc
  • http://twitter.com/debmcalister Deb McAlister

    Wow — what a great blog post!  The “scarcity complex” you describe is all too true — I see it in political movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, and in way too many job applicants who show me in their cover letters or initial telephone interviews that they’re depressed and unhappy.  (And then wonder why I’d rather hire someone who’s already working — it’s because depression and discontent are contagious.  I can’t afford to catch either one, so I’d rather work with people who are excited and engaged in what we do.)  You really nailed it — thanks for writing this. 

  • http://www.kararane.com kara rane

    11. Looking at ART —->>
    http://www.lucky2bu.com/2011/05/from-my-art-collection.html
    makes Y♡U happy, balanced, transformed.

  • Andrew_Ferri

    This post was much needed, thank you again.  Free therapy is the best kind.  I’ve been worried all week about a late bill I didn’t even know I had, that I’ve been being charged 200.00 a month late fees on.  It made me mad, made me feel poor and made me hate my school for abusing me financially like this.  It made me feel like the institution I trusted for my education and for work, really took advantage of me.  But I can’t control it, so I will just pay the bill and move on, I want to be in the 1%.  Abigail and I talk about your posts a lot.  We discuss how they can apply to our daily lives.  The other day we were talking, and for no particular reason, I said, “I bet you’re tall.”  Abigail bet that you weren’t.  Please put an end to this once and for all, how tall are you Mr.Atlucher? 

  • Heyitsminic

    Very good post James. I do not have scarcity complex though :) I seriously have nothing! Depression sucks.

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

    I not unhappy (right now) and I don’t think I could never claim to be in a 1% group of anything.  I am no different than other people, no better or worse. 
    _____
    Since this is a blatant play on OWS and the 99%  – I just want to put it
    out there I am the 99%.  And I am not ashamed of that.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      It is a blatant play. But I forgot who said it but when you want to walk the whole world comfortably is it easier to cover the world with leather or…to wear sneakers. My view is, people need to one at a time put on their sneakers. then they can go out and play.  The only way I’vebeen able to every now and then get out of my own troubles (e.g. money, dating, etc) is by focusing on my own health first. But, as I say above, that might not be right for everyone. but I do deep down feel its the right way to make change in the world.

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

        I agree with you that real change a person can knowingly control themselves begins within themselves.

        But that isn’t to say that people aren’t changing themselves just because they collectively have join with a social movement. 

        We have no way of knowing what they do in their personal lives.  For all we know being involved in something they believe in is part of them being true to themselves.

        Some of them may even have a daily practice. ;)

  • Steve Orr

    I may be wrong but I get the sense that you could be in the top 1% one minute and in the bottom 50% the next. And maybe this happens way too often hence your focus on the daily practice. Sometimes we just need to be tougher, less sensitive. Oh wait, that’s what the daily practice is for. And sometimes stuff just happens, for which no amount of training (AKA daily practice) will prepare you. Nevertheless, when stuff happens, with daily training we have a better chance of getting thru without becoming jaundiced and losing our sensitivity to the things/people that really matter most.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, I agree

  • http://twitter.com/ajaxjones ajax jones

    I made a list of 99 people who are dead. I stop there and I’m mr 1% :@)

    • Kepeneter

      Are you assuming that you are in a better place than the dead?

  • http://www.facebook.com/joehenriod Joe Henriod

    “It’s like taking out the garbage and expecting to meet the love of your life in the garbage can.” – One of my favorite lines ever. 

    • Lori

      i have a family member who is incredibly talented, but in order to be successful as an artist, someone is going to have to come into her house and find her and her work.

      to achieve anything, you have to put yourself out there, physically and emotionally.

  • http://jimgrey.wordpress.com/ jim

    Your children will inherit some of your challenging personality traits. The great thing about that is that you get to teach them the ways you’ve learned to overcome them.  My youngest son is like me in that small problems can cause him to come unglued.  I’ve had to teach myself how to soothe myself, and live in the present (as the unglued is about how the current small problem derails the future I’m already living in, at least in my mind).  But I’m able to try to teach this stuff to my son now, hopefully helping him avoid 20+ years of misery that I had to go through.  You have the opportunity to offer the same for your daughter so she can self-regulate.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I hope I can teach them that. Otherwise they’re in for a load of hell.

      • Lori

        you should write about this. i am on the same road; one son inherited my good traits right along with my bad. i do feel like we are at a distinct advantage because i’ve already been there and i can share coping strategies with him, but it’s hard knowing he’ll eventually have to figure it out for himself.

  • Anonymous

    Gratitude journal – yeah baby!

    Roz and Benjamin Zander talk about the detriments of “scarity thinking” in The Art of Possiblity, suggesting instead that we change our perception to one of abundance.  Great read.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I never heard of that book. Thanks. I’ll check it out.

  • jimh

    Most happy people seem to have a dumb hobby or some other preoccupation (Occupy Wall Street?; Tea Party?; Barbie doll club?; I like rockhounding myself).
    I think the first step is to eliminate your personal fear; what you do is your business. And if your the only one doing it, then your already a 1%-er. I have a question though: why is it we can’t teach about a modern valid/non-dead religion in school (other than secularism) and we can teach paganism, hedonism, and heathenism? These were pre-empted by numerous schools of thought, but we still treat them as though they had some current validity to our cultural paradigm. (And no, I’m not a participant in any organized religion; just curious)? It seems that this affected your little friend. My gut instinct tells me that in the past these “gods” had all the concern over mortals that today’s celebrities have with the rest of us bungled and botched. As such it seems that we are more or less left to our rational-based inferences which, by definition, have to contain errors. This reverts us back to those glorious days of rationalism in Rome et al; and that ended fairly disasterously. Maybe we instinctually understand this and it drives our fear. But truth is revealed to us constantly–we are faced with our mistakes all of the time. We suffer these error tidbids constantly. Even we learn from them and deal with them they remain manageable. If we ignore them or build on them, they become massive to the point we are threatened with some form of personal devastation. It’s like the sand grain model for avalanches.  The trick is to have small sufferings; try not to let it accumulate to the point where your whole underlying being is in a state of crisis waiting for the big disaster. 
    Well that was cathartic. Thanks. And thank you to any of you who point out my mistakes before I travel too far down this tangent.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Totally agreed. One of the reasons why I don’t like the idea of sending my kids to college.

  • http://www.3q2u.com Corbett

    That last tenth thing should be to stop measuring happiness. If you can no longer worry if you are in the top 1% or not and just accept that you are 100% in that 1%, then you’re there. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yeah ,thats probably true.

  • Anonymous

    “Some of the happiest people in the world live in a single wide”

    I used to drive a Schwan’s route in rural Idaho and that was something the guy who trained me said on the first day. Great job in some ways. But yes, its true, some people who have no right to be happy (by generally accepted standards) walk around pretty damned ecstatic. I always thought a book by that title might be interesting. Finding out how people achieve happiness without all the materialistic tchochkee is probably one of the most important and understudied subjects in America.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I agree. And they don’t teach it in college.

    • Lori

      beginning lesson might be — you can’t live one way and teach your children something else. so parents need to embrace a life that isn’t based on consumption and materialism so their children can experience it. i truly believe my kids won’t get caught up in the “must have X” syndrome because they have a grounding in strong values.

  • Mike

    I thought of one thing that might be missed. The photo of the glass “half empty”. I wonder, maybe it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty. To be in the 1%, maybe what matters most is WHAT is in the actual glass. Volume has no bearing. A 1/2 glass of crap pretty much sucks. Just being honest.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ok, but here it’s water and it’s the classic metaphor.

      • Anonymous

        I actually moved to Munich because of that metaphor: there is more beer in an half empty glass in Munich than there is in a full glass everywhere else. 
        Sometimes you are lucky enough and can find something that makes you happy notwithstanding your rather gloomy outlook on life … (Admitted: that move was by instinct, not by design, it took me a year or two to understand.) In other words: don’t play into your weaknesses, try to keep to your strengths. As you said: avoid corporate life at all cost, because there you might not have a choice.

  • Matt

    I am much better off being content.  I don’t think happiness is really that attainable.  Honestly, happiness is a distraction a lot of the time.  I can be in constant pain, which I am currently, and still be content.  I sure can’t be happy while in constant pain though.  Anyway, not sure of everyone else’s feelings on this.  

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think content = happiness.

  • Mary

    Is this about “being” happy – or “feeling” happy?  Because those are two totally different things. You can only feel happy for a short while. You have to be not happy in between episodes of feeling happy to feel happy, because that sort of happiness is a relative thing.  

    Being happy is about being satisfied with your life. For that, you cannot focus on expectations, because you will NEVER be satisfied. You have to let go of wanting so much and just enjoy. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Its about “being happy”. Ultimately, a discipline of following the advice above, or other ways of being happy and reducing wants, will result in a permanent state of happiness. Or as pemanent as can possibly be in a constantly changing world.

  • Eric St-Cyr

    Jame, the quality of the writing in the first paragraphs is superb, you made me shiver as it brought so much memory to me, however, you destroy all the emotion by moving into another list. Don’t take me wrong, I like your list usually, however when you go deep and share your inner fear, just stay on the subject, I believe it would have much more impact. YOu have have stop the article at “No toys will ever patch that bleeding”.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I find my “best written” posts get the least traffic and that when I provide solid advice with a list, the traffic on the post is up considerably. I agree with you on when the post could’ve ended. It’s just I know that the best-written posts somehow seem to fall short in terms of traffic.

      • Eric St-Cyr

        Then do two blogs… or split the blog into week and week end. The week for the daily list and the week end where you publish a well thought and written idea. You realize that bastardizing the quality stuff to get traffic may not be a winning solution long term… 

        • Wcurl25

          Why does your blog have to be result oriented? I think you are trying to fulfill two roles; qualit control and outcome results. Focus on the first and the second one follows. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your work inspires and uplifts in ways you’ll never fully comprehend.

          • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

            @dda57c022524f16e5a177d456cca8d03:disqus, I think we’re thinking about this too complicated. The reality is, this blog post deals with my own attempts at being happy (the first half) and then what I did about it (the second half). If one half is well-written and the other is a list, I just can’t help it.

            @495136179289e36e1a787143dc1e2cf5:disqus I agree. I’m hard on myself sometimes and I tend to be too result-oriented.

          • Tom Launder

            Are you really in the 1% happy when you write for “readership numbers” instead of what’s in your soul? Is it better to have 10,000 hits to a page with 1% depth, or 10 hits to page with 100% depth?

      • Gitcha123

        James, Great article. It was like you looked inside my brain and wrote what you saw. I read somewhere a little while ago that the new economy will no longer be about bigger but about being better. I had a heart to heart with my staff the other day about it. We need to be less concerned with growth and more concered with taking care of each other and our customers. Everything else will follow if we are creative, helpful and happy. Thanks for writing.

        Scott

  • Antoine Carriere

    THANK YOU __
    I found the first half of your post amazingly profound.  Thank you for writing and publishing such a beautiful, deep piece.
    __IF YOU ARE OPEN TO CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM, read on, else stop here and thanks again.
    __Your list pales in comparison.  Or rather, being very tactical, it feels weak although your 10 pieces of advice are good…  SUGGESTION >> I would split this post in 2.  I think each half has value, but associating them is detrimental to each.
    __I found the title of your post is false advertising and contradicts the rest of the post.These are “typical” not “unusual” ways to be happy.  These don’t result in you being happier than others.  The only reason why you would end up in that 1% is that human beings (especially in your part of the world) are so bad at being happy…  Assume everyone follows your advice, a good portion would be reasonably happy
    SUGGESTION >> change the title, OR warn the reader with something like “the purpose of this title was to bring you here…  what you are about to read is worth your reading on though”

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Antoine thanks. Perhaps you are right about the word “unusual”. the key is most people do not want to be happy, so simply following the “usual” ways to be happy will put them in the top 1%.

      Maybe I should’ve split this in 2. I have a hard time doing that. I Like telling stories and mixing in the advice. I think those are the most powerful posts.

  • http://twitter.com/TuriusUSA Kenneth M Shostad

    You know when I was living on the streets I was told by some, “This to shall pass” and they were right “this” whatever it is will pass. However, I thought when someone said that they were saying it would get better. Therefore, I found myself felling better due to the inevitable fact that “This” [my situation] would get better. Well, at the time if I had found a dime on the street things got better.
    It wasn’t till later I came to the understanding that when someone says “This to shall pass” it simply means “This to shall change” as change is the only real constant. And as I found out later things don’t always change for the better no matter how far you think you are down, there is always something worse…
    I say be grateful for what you do have, the joys in life are often how we look at things. Indeed the glass could be half full or half empty but for the person dying in a desert somewhere its the chance at survival.
    There are two ways to think about things, negatively or positively it’s our choice how we think. either A) or B)
    A)   Today I am NOT: thirsty, starving, homeless, under treat of physical harm, unable to speak my mind [so far], imprisoned, etc…
    B)   Today I am: kicked out of my home, separated, going through a divorce, out of work, unable to see my only daughter everyday, physically disabled, in chronic pain, others.

    Although all those things maybe in my mind at any given moment its up to me to dwell on A or B.

    At this moment I choice A….

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ken, that sounds like a great choice. If you see this comment can you tell us more about what happened to you? How did you get off the streets?

  • pjc

    Can you think of a better way to frame these things then “top 1%”?

    Can society think of a better way? 

    The problem with “top 1%” thinking is that, by definition, 99% are experiencing something undesireable.

    This is the complaint with “winner take all” capitalism. Although it is true that “anyone can get to the top”, it’s also true that, “everyone cannot get to the top”. 

    So, can we think of a way to frame goals for ourselves, and for society, that aren’t predicated on a lucky few being superior to nearly everyone else.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think you’re right, the problem is 99% want what the 1% have – whether its a house, money, or just happiness. And that’s fine. Maybe the 99% should strive to be in the top 1% of happiness. And try and experiment on what “happiness” means.

      • pjc

        ” the problem is 99% want what the 1% have” Not sure if 99% are really all that dissatisfied. I think around 1/3 of the population has figured out that they have enough wealth, health and freedom . It help that they don’t think of their life goals in terms of about maximizing those things, but rather, in terms of achieving a reasonable amount of those 3 while enjoying family and fellowship. 

        Family and fellowship are, almost by definition, things that don’t work along the “99 to 1” dichoctomy. It’s hard enough to get yourself into a 1%, getting your family and friends there is literally impossible.

        I like your stuff better when you celebrate how technology has brought nearly all of us such riches, but we often lose track of the ability to appreciate it, and stress over stupid things. This is not really a “99 to 1” challenge, it’s more like a non-competitive, “leave no-one behind” challenge.

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          @pjc I think the 99-1 is sort of artificial. We are all in the 1%, its just we don’t know it.  It’s so simple to follow the ideas of happiness but most chose not to.

  • Ian

    I think you get it.

  • Anonymous

    James  -am grateful for your blog as it is really helping me look at life in a more positive manner – Thank You –

    one thing that you have not spoken on is gardening, the yoga of the earth –
    i never knew why i liked it until i read that “friendly” bacteria commonly found in soil
    activated brain cells to produce the brain chemical serotonin and
    alter behaviour in a similar way to antidepressants.

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/66840.php

  • JennaTalbert

    Arobic activity and staying away from carbohydrates/sugars, caffeine, and alcohol is the foundation of happiness but I contend that it is nearly impossible to remain truely happy in a Democracy or any “collectivist” society. You have to understand that democrats (small “d”…and large “D”) are infantile, violent, and psychotic parasites (thanks in large part to Public Schools and TV) even though they may not always appear so…It is like like trying to be happy whilst living in a tent full of mosquitos. Moving to a place where everyone else does NOT feel entitled to you life and income is also key. You have to avoid violent parasites in all their forms…Pathogens/viruses to human psychopaths…Get away!

    • Toodles

      True. The nastiest people I have ever met are European and (almost universally) Russians. These people are collected Borg and they are very hateful and envious of free, happy, and prosperous people. They are like Zombies or Cockroaches.

      Philosophers Stefan Molyneux and Frank R. Wallace of neo-tech understand the principle.

  • Sasha

    Hi James,

    Have you ever read Harry Browne’s book titled “How I found freedom in an unfree world?”. It’s a lot (if not all) about happiness (free = happy) and the obstacles to it (mind traps, emotional traps, etc.). A mind opener in many ways.

    Regards,

    Sasha

  • mary

    Here is a trick to address the middle of night mind-racing with breath.

    invasive thought—>take a deep slow breath
    2nd invasive thought that comes 2 seconds later—>take a deep slow breath
    32nd invasive thought that comes 42 seconds later——>take a deep slow breath

    The key is to intercept each invasive thought, at the beginning, with taking a deep breath.

    You may have to do this 40 times, but it will work, you will calm down, and go back to sleep.

    Also, you can flip on a Dharma talk (at least 30 minutes), and listen. It’s like NPR without the news, so it will put you to sleep.

    Works like a charm,

  • http://www.goodfaith.org Herb Moyer

    The lust for comfort murders the passions of the soul.  – Khalil Gibran

    We live in an illusory, temporal existence.  The simple fact is, that even with all of our science, religion and philosophy, we still have absolutely no answers for the most basic questions of life.  We ignore this fact.  We create systems to lull us to sleep.  We seek for comfort instead of happiness.  We build our lives based on failures and compromises, not on dreams and desires.  We tell ourselves that if we could just become successful than the sacrifice would have been well worth it, all of those hours away from friends and family, spent slaving for someone else’s satisfaction, in order to achieve material wealth and meaningless acknowledgement from our equally defunct peers.  Even when we achieve success, often times we still rise and fall on the whims of others or on the regulations of governments, yet we think that we are free.

    But we are not free.  We are slaves to the path of Comfort.  Instead of seeking for truth and happiness, we were content to settle for the systems of complacency, comfort and control.  When we wake up in the middle of the night with “racing thoughts,” or we feel depressed, or that we are not achieving our potential, it is because our minds are trying to warn us that something is terribly wrong, yet we refuse to listen to ourselves.  We even go as far as to take copious amounts of poisonous chemicals to try to calm our minds so that we never have to acknowledge the terrible path we’ve chosen.

    And, as you mentioned, the world is crumbling around us.  It’s a scary time indeed.  What happens when all of these people who have been living their entire lives for comfort wake up to find that the world is a VERY uncomfortable place?

    My approach to happiness is simple.  I actively try to get off the path of comfort and onto the path of happiness.

  • Rlane34

    If happiness was a door it would open inward. You have 100% control of your happiness’ the only thing outside of your own self that is required is a certain level of comfort the less you need to be comfortable the the more time you have to enjoy your happiness

  • http://twitter.com/jhuman James Hu

    Awesome site man!

    I highly recommend vipassana meditation for anyone interested in eradicating pain / suffering and getting back on the path to happiness.  There are a couple of precepts that are a bit strange for me so I adopt the ones that make sense to me but the practice you gain from the daily routine will help you achieve the reality around you as it is. I’ve integrated the practice into my daily life for about a year now and the results are quite noticeable.

  • Anonymous

    Leaving work before Christmas one year I was going out the door when another employee originally from Guyana was leaving. I knew he attended a church in Brooklyn ( from Conn ) but I wasn’t sure if it was a Christian church. I said “Have a Merry Christmas Kenny, oh wait a minute, do you celebrate Christmas ?” He looked at me ( this man from Guyana ) and he said-  “I have a roof over my head, hot and cold running water, and food on my table. EVERY DAY IS CHRISTMAS for me.” It was a real wake up call about how truly blessed we are in this country and rarely even realize or acknowledge it.

  • Matt

    James, I wrote a lame poem about your glass of water but I think it’s on target.  I’ll give you the link if you want it later:

    The Optimist”Half empty, or half full?” he asked.My mind fixed on his glass.I might have merely answered him,And let the moment pass.But this simplistic query hasThat sophomoric hue,And thus my mouth began to speakWhat my mind began to do.”Your glass grows somewhat wider, sir,As t’ward the top you go.I suppose you mean by volume andThis formula you know:One-third pi times r-squared hLess the portion left unseen.And thus your line made halfway upDoes not quite lie ‘between.'”Or if perchance your measurementIs from the table up,A closer look will help you seeThe thick base of your cup.Thus if your half-way line is foundBy simply halving heightYou’ll need the ruler in the glassto get its placement right.”Not amused, he thus reproved,”Don’t trifle with equation.I’m set to learn your view on lifeFrom this interpretation.”I added water, ’til it spilled,And then I poured some more.”My view on life, my kindly friend,Is a cup that runneth o’er.”

  • Anonymous

    You are happy when ____.  Happiness is that feeling that everyone else has access to all of the time and you have access to only once.  I’m talking about the word.   I understand “mind racing”. The only information I can provide from my experience is that when you are out of breath from exercise I find it hard to think enough to visualize and solve equations.  (Haven’t tried playing blind chess with myself, but I suspect it’s equally difficult).  I guess if the mind is racing about good things and not interfering with your life, is that something to be avoided?

  • Baysidem3

    come to the edge he said,
    no I replied I am afraid
    come to the edge he said,
    no I replied I am afraid
    come to the edge he said,
    so I came, and he pushed me,
    and I flew.

  • Baysidem3

    The following 2 quotes… have stuck with me my whole life.  Apollinaire Guillaume and Calvin Coolidge.  Herrman Hess has some good ones as well……..but.

    Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
    Calvin Coolidge