Everything is Too Hard For Me

6JUN

I was lying on the floor with my back in pain. Claudia was trying to massage the right point but either she would get it wrong or she would dig her elbow in too much and it would hurt. OOWWW!!!

“Ok, stop,” I said. “It’s all good now.”

“No, it isn’t. I know that ‘stop’. You just don’t want me to massage you anymore.”

I turned over, “no , its ok.” My back was in excruciating pain as I turned over. “What should I write about today?” Changing the subject usually works.

My nine year old Mollie said, “why do you always write about ‘Life is so hard, blah blah blah”.

“How do you know what I write about? Do you even read my blog?”

“No, but that’s all you talk about. Blah blah blah, life is so hard blah blah.”

I got up, “you just gave me a great idea to write about. I’m going to write about what you just said.”

“No,” she said, “please don’t. Please please please! I hate when you write about me!” I thought she was about to start crying like a nine year old baby. She is nine years old.

“Ok,” I said, “I promise I won’t mention you at all.”

“And don’t even put my picture. Promise?”

“Ok,” I said, “Promise. I definitely won’t. You little punk.”

But then I wonder, are things hard all the time?

I ran down a list:

–          Health is hard. To stay healthy involves good eating, exercise, sleeping many hours, avoiding alcohol, waking up early. And still we get sick and eventually die: [See, “How to Live Forever”]

–          Money is hard. You have to work for it. You have to sometime do things you don’t want to do. You have to work hard to figure out first what your passion is and then how to make money off of it. Not every passion is as easy to make money off of.

–          Relationships are hard. I don’t want Claudia to be upset I didn’t like her massage. I need to make sure I spend time with her this weekend despite the work I have to do. {See, “How I Met Claudia”]

–          Anger is hard. Being able to dodge all the daggers sent your way and disciplining yourself to not waste time throwing daggers back. Rule of life: nobody wins in a dagger fight. [See, “the FAQ on How To Deal With Crappy People”]

–          Honesty is hard. Most people lie all day long. I can’t turn on the TV without seeing lies. I can’t look at my kids without them telling me lies. And so on. [See, “7 Things Happen To you When You Are Completely Honest’]

–          Failure is hard. We’ve already gone over how Money (or “making a living”) is hard but dealing with failure is hard also. When I failed at Vaultus I was ashamed, embarrassed, afraid to face the people whose money I lost, afraid to face my ex colleagues who thought I was incompetent and fired me from my own board, upset because I could no longer count on how much money I was going to make from the company (I made $0). And that was just one failure. I maybe had another twenty. Failure sucks. [See, “How I lost $2 million for Yasser Arafat“]

–          Kids are hard. Every day is a challenge. Yesterday, Mollie slammed a door. The day before Josie needed to know a month in advance what her Christmas present was. The day before that they were both arguing and I couldn’t figure out who was right or who was wrong? I don’t know what I’m doing with kids. By the time I put in my 10,000 hours to try and be a good parent, they will be adults and not kids anymore. [See. “Why I Wanted My First Kid to Be Aborted“]

–          Meeting new people is hard. It’s important to keep building your network of connections. A network is a collection of nodes and lines connecting the nodes. You have to make sure the nodes closest to you are all good connectors and good people. You also have to make sure the lines are strong. You do that by providing value of some sort across these nodes. This all takes time and commitment. [See, “the Nine Skills of Super Connectors”]

–          Creativity is hard. I write a post every day. I don’t post every day but I write at least 2000 words a day. Coming up with ideas are hard. I can usually pull it off.  Nevertheless, this morning I was on the floor with my back in pain and my nine year old gave me a devastating critique of my blog posts. [See, “Nine Ways to Light Your Creativity on Fire”] Which brings me to:

–          Criticism is hard. Someone wrote me the following email the other day about a talk I gave: “ Was impressed with
your creativity and perspectives, but not with your delivery and coherence.” Two things about this: A) hearing criticism is hard if it’s not constructive. He didn’t give me any examples about my ‘coherence’ and everyone else had sent me nice emails about the talk. Nevertheless, I always want to improve so I wanted examples. B) Constructive criticism is always welcome but most people don’t know how to deliver it. [See, “11 Unusual Methods to Be a Great Speaker”] Which leads me to:

–          Communication is hard. No man is an island, but we all seem to learn different forms of English and somewhere in the middle of this language soup that is spiced with emotional baggage and history, we all need to communicate ideas to each other.

–          Computers are hard. They invented this damn thing 7 decades go. How come when I plug in my headset so I can hear the Hawaiian guy singing “Somewhere over the rainbow” on YouTube I get no sound. I did everything right. Why are there buttons I still need to click to figure this out. I give up. But the headset is now covering my head for no reason.

Ahh, see, Mollie is right – there’s so many things that are hard and that are so easy to fail at that it could take a lifetime of thinking, writing, meditating, improving, crying, screaming, to overcome all of these hard things. This could be why both my sisters don’t talk to me anymore. Everything got so hard nobody wanted to speak about it. And you can’t really deal with these things one at a time every day. It would take too much time.

There’s two things TO DO to get around all of the hard things. Both techniques bring about instant Nirvana, success, and happiness. But you have to do them at the same time.

A)     LIVE LIFE LIKE IT’S YOUR LAST DAY. This gives you the gratitude and thankfulness to appreciate every moment. If you think tomorrow you won’t be around you’ll infuse each moment with optimism. Why? Because when you say something is “hard” you are comparing it with something. You are saying it’s “hard” relative to “X”. But there’s no more X. You’re dead tomorrow. But you can’t do JUST this, else you’ll stop doing anything. In reality, you have responsibilities tomorrow so….

B)     LIVE LIFE LIKE IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY. Now you don’t know any better. Everything, as the expression goes in the Zen community, “is beginner’s mind” only you have to sort of say with a Japanese accent. Try it. “Beginner’s mind!” Everything you experience becomes like a butterfly that lands in your hand and you study the intricate and unique pattern on its wings. Beautiful and original at the same time before it flies off and you watch it with wonder. Nothing you’ve ever experienced to compare it to.

Wait a second, one might say. How can you live life like it’s your first day AND live life like it’s your last day?? Take just two minutes to picture both. Try it.

It’s hard. But I’m optimistic that I can do it.

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  • http://wholelivingtoday.com/blog Tania Tyler

    Hmmm… if we live each day as our last and first, that puts us living in the present.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, exactly. You can’t do just one without the other really. If you always live life as if it’s your last, you might miss the mortgage payment. If you always live life as if it’s your first day, you might miss the experience and wisdom you’ve gained. but holding onto both meditative steps at the same time wipes the HARD stuff away.

    • Richard Dudley

      We used to sing a hymn at school which had the lines ‘Redeem thy mis-spent time that’s past and live each day as if thy last’. I’d be thinking ‘whyever would I be in a school assembly singing a hymn if it were my last day?’

    • Anonymous

      “Yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift…that’s why it is called the “present”!
                                         -Kung-Fu Panda

      I love that line!  -JB

  • http://www.TheAcsMan.com TheAcsMan

    Probably the best advice I ever recieved was from someone who I was ordained to go into partnership with, but never did. .

    In fact, I learned two great things from him.

    The first, but not what I originally wanted to point out was that “business is business and friendship is friendship. Don’t confuse the two.”

    In fact, that’s why we never went into business together. Despite everything being perfectly lined up, it wasn’t meant to be and it wasn’t worth sacrificing one aspect of the relationship for another.

    But the really memorable one was that if people thought rationally, nothing would ever get done. Our rational minds would never take risks. We’d never go for the “stretch goals” in life.

    No one would ever take out a nortgage, no one would ever get married, have kids, etc. (By the way, cute kid!)

    The cons of all of those choices in life, while making out the obligatory pros and cons list, all point to the fact that it’s just too hard to succeed.

    How am I ever going to make those monthly house payments? How am I going to be a good parent?

    How could I possibly write a daily blog that woulkd capture people’s attention and keep them coming back for more?

    Somehow, it all comes together. All that needs to be done is to suspend disbelief and rational thought. Ultimately, I use the WWCD? approach What Would Cash Do? , except nobody has to die.

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

      I love that! 

      Nobody would ever do anything above average if we all were perfectly rational creatures.  We’ve got to be a little irrational to do anything extra-ordinary. 

      So true.  Hah!  . 

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

    Mollie is very smart. :)

    I think you should give her, her own domain name a WordPress blog. She’d be great !

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      She does! mangamollie.com

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

    I actually like that you wrote about a “current” situation in your life.  Life is hard, even when you think you are doing everything “right.”  I have a post idea, primarily for myself, but I wonder if you ever feel this way – those who can tell others what to do, but can’t seem to do it themselves.

    ????

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Absolutely. I think EVERYONE falls under that category. I give advice in these blog posts. But I never say anything that I haven’t tried (and seen it work) or anything I wouldn’t be willing to try. That said, sometimes I try something, it works, but then I have to/need to do it again. To keep things working.

  • http://www.facebook.com/priteshdesai Pritesh Desai

    I’m sure you can!

  • Kevin Faul
  • Anne

    Hi James — I have read that the founder/guru of Ashtanga Yoga, Sri K Pattabhi Jois, once told a student who was complaining about injuries and soreness:   “Having body is hard”.   So simple, yet explains so much!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Interesting. In the yoga sutras there is the point to maintain “cleanliness”. The idea is not so that it’s easier to meditate, etc when the body is clean. But that the process of cleaning yourself (consistently) demonstrates each time how truly disgusting the body is. This helps when you try to separate your sense of “who am I?” from the body. I suspect that is what Jois is referring to.

  • Ccfaille

    Yes,meeting new people is very hard.  That’s why Facebook is both a great thing and a trap.  It’s a way to ‘meet’ without meeting, to call someone a ‘friend’; without the hardship involved in actually befriending. Better than nothing, but less satisfactory than doing the harder work of establishing a real connection.

  • Tuzo

    > By the time I put in my 10,000 hours to try and be a good parent, they will be adults and not kids anymore.

    I really struggle with this.  It’s painfully obvious all my failings as I try to figure out how to raise my children but they just seem to absorb all of my bad qualities and reflect them back at me. Even if I manage to improve myself it will be probably be too late to instil that into my children.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.rachmany Rebecca Rachmany

      Tuzo, consider you are already the perfect parent for your children. It’s impossible to be the ideal parent, but whatever you are doing is surely enough.

    • Richard Dudley

      The ‘10,000’ hours thing comes from Malcolm Gladwell but gets bandied about as if 10,000 hours was the recipe for excellence at anything. Really what Gladwell found was  a correlation between excellence and having put in the 10,000 hours. Not that 10,000 hours put in means a person is great at something. The greats will have put in 10,000 hours with focus and dedication, others may have put in the same time but half-heartedly. But ‘being a good parent’ is not like ‘being great at golf’ – being a good parent means being a consistent person and the 10k hours towards that can be put in before even becoming a parent.

    • ErrolWayne

      My usual response to new parents is, “Don’t say no, unless you mean “no”. And don’t say it’s time to go, unless it’s time to “go”. Just be consistant.

  • Richard Dudley

    It seems to me what you’re saying here is what Buddha said ‘Life is suffering’. But then, as the eminent psychologist M Scott Peck points out in the first paragraph of ‘The Road Less Travelled’, acceptance is key. Accepting life as suffering dissolves the hardness. Not that it becomes easy – life is a challenge but its not a difficult one when acceptance flows. If everything seems hard, try turning down your resistance a notch.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, its the “life is suffering” but I break it up into sub-categories.

      But , there is a little misconception in how most people view Buddha’s quote. He says there is suffering but the says there is a cure for it. I break up his cure into sub-categories at the end of the post.

  • busybee2

    If something is easy, then everyone would be able to do it.  It’s the hard that makes us try. Unfortunately, it seems that the things we want the most are the hardest to achieve.

  • modernmind

    This was a crap post. Sorry. I’m sure you know it. Don’t need to go into details. Not trying to be negative, just realistic. At least I know it’s not your last. A good post for someone who hasn’t red you before, though. You should have probably listened to Mollie.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.rachmany Rebecca Rachmany

    James, I started reading your stuff a few weeks ago and I think you are awesome! I totally have a crush on you. Your skepticism gives you a unique voice and an insightful perspective on things most people take for granted. At the same time, when I look at this post, I think, what are we teaching Mollie? That life is hard? 

    The word “hard” is just a word, a concept, an ontological construct. It’s not an object, like “apple” or “chair”. It’s 100% your opinion and nothing else. Just to give an example, you do not hear a baby complaining that learning to walk is “hard”, no matter how many times they fall down. They don’t have the ontological construct yet. They fall, sometimes it hurts, and they get back up and friggin learn to walk. They don’t say “Oh, man! I failed again! Failure is hard! I’m going to stick with crawling and riding that stroller.” We TAUGHT them (or ourselves) that failure is a bad thing and it means something about our value as a human being, etc. We taught them that all those things listed above are hard. Before we learned “hard”, doing stuff was just doing stuff.

    You and I are much alike. I have sports injuries and pregnancies that have blown my back for good; I am a professional writer; I work in high-tech, and I’m divorced with 2 kids. So I totally relate to every one of those categories. But I don’t necessarily say any of those things is hard. I would say that health can be expensive and time-consuming, but “hard”, I don’t know. 

    I like to do yoga. I like to go to that professional massage or acupuncture or whatever the thing is I’m currently experimenting with to cure my chronic pain. If I didn’t choose to make money, and contribute to society, I think I would enjoy spending all day every day going to the gym, floating about in the Dead Sea, and getting massages. Nothing hard about that — it just doesn’t fit in with my current schedule. You get the idea. I could go through the whole list and look at each item in that same way. 

    Finally, a thought on “kids are hard”. I was absentmindedly speaking to one of my offspring while doing some dishes and I said something like “Having kids is a lot of work.” Maybe I even said “Taking care of kids is hard.” Maybe she was talking about how much another sister or brother would be great, I don’t recall, but I was definitely doing the martyr thing with the “kids are a lot of work” statement. Without thinking, she answered “I know, but it seems like you really like it.” I did a double-take. 

    You know what? Yes. I really do. 

    http://www.rebeccarachmany.com

    • Richard Dudley

      I always like people who know how to use the word ‘ontological’ :) ‘Hard’ begins as an opinion, but becomes our experience too when we hold it. So your ‘and nothing else’ is wrong here – opinions held become our experience. So I might hold the opinion ‘I have not enough time’ and hey presto, that becomes my experience –  I feel rushed.

      Other than that minor nitpick, great post. Kids are much more perceptive than we normally give them credit for.

  • Gregd

    love that over the rainbow song

  • Michael Sync

    you just broke your promise to your baby girl..

    • http://profiles.google.com/akselsoft Andrew MacNeill

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed.

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        She didn’t mind.

        • Anonymous

          I thought it was hilarious and obviously purposeful in correlation with the post reflecting personality and i have 2 kids and would have done the same. All parents give thier kids a hard time one way or another.

  • Gonzalo Gandia

    My experience has been, “Fixing things is easy, PREVENTION is hard”

  • Guy

    A few random thoughts. 

    — Maybe think about giving up coffee. I have personally never liked the stuff, so I don’t get much caffeine, but once, many years ago, I had a hectic deadline and took some caffeine booster pills to keep me going … my eyes went out of focus and I had to buy a cheap pair of reading glasses just to get the work done. The Optician warned that caffeine was basically a poison.– Being the father of a 4 year old that I love, I also realise that being a parent takes up a huge amount of ones time. It is hard to be entrepreneurial AND a hands on father. My relationship with my wife certainly takes the strain. I also notice that in my kid’s year at school there at least 5 marriages looking very dodgy. It seems you struggled being a full time father and your marriage took the strain. Now you are now in a kind of kid free relationship, with your 2 kids from your previous marriage living with you every second weekend, it seems things are easier for you and your relationship with your new spouse. The point being, having full time kids is really really tough on relationships and careers.

    — Finally, something for you to look at. A close relative recently got cancer. This motivated me to research the net and in the process was made aware of just how crucial diet is to our wellbeing. This is something that you don’t seem to cover in your quest for the ‘happy formula’. The whole raw food diet in particular intrigued me and seemed to make a lot of sense, to the extent that for breakfast and lunch over the last month or so I have only consumed fruit and vegetable smoothies … interestingly, people have been commenting on how good my skin looks, my sinuses also cleared up so I don’t snore anymore meaning sleep is deeper, and there is a general sense of well being.

    It’s an old cliche but we are what we eat. If you look at the documentary Food Inc you will find a frightening new bunch of people controlling us and what we eat, that I am sure will certainly strike a chord with a rebel like you.

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  • Michaelodea

    Hi James,

    Did you consider using Anatabloc for your back?

  • Anonymous

    Life is a comedy.

  • http://twitter.com/VeehCirra Veeh Waithira

    Living today like is your last day is not as easy as it sounds, but like you say it can certainly make one appreciate every moment in the present, I read somewhere that we should live each day as if it was our last, because one day we will certainly be right! Double Scary!!  :)

    on the bright side of life…Mollie has such beautiful hair!!!

  • http://twitter.com/TommyWcross Tommy Cross

    I call my 8 and 10 year old daughters little punks too. They like it. I read somewhere years ago that it is a parents job to frustrate their children so they are used to it when they enter the real world. Problem is they like the harassment and even dish it back. I’ll never win father of the year, but my kids are gonna be hell on others when they grow up.

  • doug

    I’m having trouble understanding your version of the truthyness thing.

    “I was lying on the floor with my back in pain.
    Claudia was trying to massage the right point but either she would get
    it wrong or she would dig her elbow in too much and it would hurt.
    OOWWW!!!

    “Ok, stop, It’s all good now.” He lied.

    You lied.  Not because Claudia needed to hear the lie. 

    You needed the lie. 

    You had no anxiety about this small deceit in that personal moment between you and Claudia, so you let a lie slip your lips.

    I can’t figure out why.  You were not teasing in the sense of a deliberate and obvious misdirection – as in “all right I’ll never write about you again.” delivered with a big grin and perhaps a wink. And you obviously knew that you were speaking falsely – that makes it a lie.

    When do you begin to tell truths?  Which is another way of asking when do your anxieties about telling lies rise to the point that you stop.

    Do you justify lies by saying something like, “She didn’t mind.”  Or, perhaps you will say that you can lie in these small things that don’t
    really matter?  The huge danger in telling lies based on that judgement is
    that your judgement must always be perfect.  Better not to rely on that I think.

    It seems to me that when the stakes are bigger the lies don’t become less likely. 

    I’m not trying to be nasty.  I really don’t understand this variation on your version of Great Things Happen When You Tell the Truth.

    Truth is a gift we give ourselves.  It is a gift that only we can give.  It is a great gift.  We need to practice it constantly so we can give it when it counts the most.  Call it radical honesty when the act of lying becomes such an anxiety it gives pause.

    That last sentence was me feeling good about instructing other people how to live their lives.  Like those advice givers in the newspaper.  And that’s the truth.

    When people ask my opinion about stuff they have recognized my status.  When people listen to me on a stage telling stories, talking, singing, acting they recognize my status.  The girls in the audience see everyone listening and watching me and because everyone else is watching me they know that I have status.  Women evolved to like men of high status (just like they evolved to breath) because men of high status are more capable of moving their mates’ genes forward in time than men of low status.  That’s why girls lined the stage at the Beatles concerts.  This is me seeking status.  More truth.

    doug

  • Carmen

    There’s a big difference between being a good writer and being a good communicator.   Being both is something I keep striving for.   Sometimes you’re a good and interesting writer.  Sometimes you’re a great communicator getting  your point across, especially in the comments.  Sometimes you’re both in the same post.

    I was told to write my blog as though I were talking to my best friend.  When I’m talking to my best friend, I’m always putting myself in their shoes.  So, in essence, I’m writing for myself to benefit someone else.  I like your blog because that’s what you sound like. 

  • caveman1

    I get what you’re saying here, but maintaining balance requires us to also be very mindful of how EASY life is. Food, water, shelter, protection, access to information, the ability to communicate globally, the ability to travel great distances, and on and on and on. Easier than ever in the history of our species. 

    So yes, some things are hard. I am very thankful for that fact. Indeed, I make it a point to reject things that are too easy.  We have to manufacture suffering to keep ourselves in shape – did anyone intentionally run 5 miles in the 1500’s? No, life was hard enough to keep people in shape. We do this because having it too easy makes us lazy in every way.

    Who do we least want to spend time with? The people who have everything handed to them. They’re insufferable.

    So I would change the title of this post to, “Everything Is Too Hard For Me…And I’m Thankful Every Day For That.”

  • Billy

    Great blog, James.. 
    I tend to agree with your opinions pretty often, and enjoy your pithy, non-traditional outlook on work & life.

    My personal conviction on this subject would be, “welcome to the human condition.”
    Genesis 3:17
    17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;Cursed is the ground because of you; In [f]toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the [g]plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

  • John

    Delightful. Thanks for the great blog James

  • Kevin Cousins

    “Health is hard….avoid alcohol”
    James I recently read your Live for ever post, and now this statement again. While you touch on the fact that regular alcohol consumption reduces the probability of dying from heart disease, everyone knows it raises the probability of dying from other things eg liver cancer. But the key question is what is the life expectancy impact. The chance of a male dying of heart disease is about 4 in 10. Liver cancer kills less than 1 in a 100. Regular drinking can reduce the probability of dying from heart disease by more than 50%. It can also double the risk of dying from liver cancer.

    Last thought, the studies are based on what people say they drink. They all lie. A lot.

  • Battery

    Live every day like it is your last day – 
    Sorry but you and I know that’s a lie.

    Look at Europe, heck, look at U.S. Years and years of last-day-on-earth-spending has left us way beyond our capacities and now we have to live with the glut that goes along with that advice. Someone who believes (implicit in multiple citings) of the 10,000 hour rule cannot possibly mean it. The real advice is – understand that everything you do today is, not a drop in the bucket, but is the first drop that will compound itself to be the biggest factor days, weeks, and years down the line.

    Live every day like there are ten good years left, which leaves you just enough time to devote yourself to one meaningful project/passion.

  • Sooz

    Please tell that little punk of yours that I think she is so smart.

    (us punks have to stick together..:)
    I take great pride in being the punk in my family(sibs)

  • Dfarant

    Mr Altucher – you need to see Dr. John Sarno about your back pain.  He’s at the NY Rehabilitation Hospital in New York. He cured me in 2 weeks. He also cured Howard Stern. Stern brought him on Larry King and they did a whole show. His little book is titled “Mind over Back pain” – Love your writing on Lew Rockwell.
    Cheers,
    Dave  in Toronto

  • Royce Andrew

    Hi James. Your advice about living each day as though it were your first/last is inspired.

    I’ve been trying it for the last couple of days and it’s really working for me. I would say I’m quite an anxious person – I tend to mull over conversations I’ve had with people – have I offended this person? What did he/she mean by that? That sort of crap. But if you live your life as though today is your last/first this sort of thinking just becomes ludicrous. I’ve actually caught myself having anxious circular thoughts in the past couple of days and then said to myself ‘Yeah, but today is my last day on Earth’ and these thoughts have turned into laughter!

    Nice one.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but this is the first time I’ve commented. I don’t agree with everything you say, but your writing is definitely alive and it’s definitely useful. Thanks very much.

  • Jeff

    James great post – your punk is a cutie! I have a 10 year old punk who thinks
    she knows everything. Sometimes, I’m humbled to find out she actually does.