Nine Unusual Ways to Get Yourself Off the Floor


What does it mean, “Your divorce was amicable.” ? When someone tells me that, I think: liar. How does that happen? And don’t think I don’t ask.

I ask.

“Was it just, you guys woke up and looked at each other and said, ‘ok, that’s it’ “and then it was all good after that? You just moved out and started having sex with other people?”

“Well, no, but…”

(I never thought J Lo and Marc A would get divorce)

And I never get an answer. You never hear about the car tearing into the street, the spouse screaming and running after it, the lights going on in the houses up and down the street, the kids nervous in their beds, the police, the aftermath, the sun, the dawn, the burn, the hole in the wall, the door, the mothership landing, the blaze of lights, the feeling, ‘am I ever going to see my kids again’, the feeling: ‘are their lives ruined now because of this?’ “

“It was amicable.” What is amicable? Friendly? Your stuff here, my stuff there. You can have that scented candle. I’m going to take this book about baseball. You can have that painting with the sunrise. I’ll take this painting of the rain.

It’s like breakups. When are breakups amicable. If you’ve gone on a date or two , sure. I’ve had that. Where you go on a date or two, everyone is kissing, and then someone calls and nobody answers. And then someone calls 20 times in a half hour period and nobody answers (that would be me…calling) and then some more calls and finally, “was that you calling?” Yeah, I’ve had those “breakups” but they don’t count.

I ask.

“No man, we were just too young.”

Doesn’t that make it bloodier? Like, you’re less mature so you actually start beating on each other.

And it doesn’t just apply to marriages. It applies to business breakups. Like, “we were partners but we didn’t really see eye to eye so we went our own ways.”

No you didn’t!

It’s not like one of you was on a ladder and the other on the floor so you didn’t see “eye to eye” and now one of you had to leave and the other stuck around to build a business. What happened?

People lie to me all the time. They lie, lie, lie.

Well, you can say, it’s none of your business.

But it is!

I’m human. I want to know. There’s only so many experiences I can have that can teach me about life. I want to know how you guys broke up and ended things. I want to know how that business didn’t work out. I want to know about when you cried because you thought the world was going to come crashing down on you.

We’re so used to thinking about the past and the future but never the present. But what if suddenly the past and the future are stripped from you. The past because it’s too painful. The future because all of the dreams and expectations you had no longer exist. You’re no longer going to grow older with that person, you’re no longer going to tuck your kid into bed after she wakes up with a scary nightmare, you’re no longer going to build that business even though it was your idea, you’re no longer going to count that money

I count future money when I’m in the shower. Other people masturbate. Other people sing. But counting money I make in the future is a beautiful thing. What if that money is no longer there?

In your worst moments you have to forget about the past and the future. You have to suddenly take a survey of what you have RIGHT NOW.

People always write me, “but how do you take that first step when you are lying on the floor.” They don’t add: in the fetal position, crying, drunk, poor, and so on. It’s assumed.

Here’s what you do. Requires: Pen and waiter pad on the floor with you. Can you get that? I’ll wait.

The past is dead. The future has now shifted. You’re going to an alternate universe and we don’t know which one it is yet. So thank god…you no longer have that glazed shiftless expression in your eyes. You know –  the one you see when everyone is walking around the street, stuck in their futures or their past. You are unique for this blissful moment. You are stuck right now. This is a gift to be in the PRESENT. So use it.

(which alternate universe will you end up in?)

Let’s take stock:

A)     Who are your friends.  List them. If you don’t have any then now you have a goal: be nice to people until you make a friend.  List who you can be nice to, Maybe do something nice for them right now. Send them a note. Ask their advice. Introduce them to someone.  If you have some friends, reach out to them. Tell them why they’ve been good friends to you. You’re on the floor. Don’t be embarrassed. If I took a picture of you right now it would be just as bad as any sex tape you could muster up.

B)      Who have you worked with in the past. We’ve all worked with someone. Reach out to one, two, or three of them in an email (oh, maybe you have a small computer on the floor with you also) and tell them what a great experience it was and why. Everyone you speak to: don’t be afraid to ask “what do I do next?” If you ask 30 people this question one or two of them will have the right answer. Or more. But it also means you have to do these eight other things to be in shape to handle the answer.

C)      How can you improve your health today: Start with this list: no alcohol, no junk food, sleep eight hours at least, do 50 pushups. It doesn’t matter if you do one, then rest, then wait fifteen minutes, then do the second, etc. Just do 50 pushups in some random order.

D)     Read a spiritual text of some sort. If the Bible suits you,then fine. For some reason, whenever a girlfriend cheated on me, since I was 18, I’d read a single page of the Tao Te Ching. Who knows why? To each his own.  I’ve by now read the whole thing as a result. I hope the computer on the floor with you has a kindle app. Most religious texts are free.

E)      Write down all the people in your life right now: the ones you can call right now who will say hello and be happy to hear from you. Don’t say “there is nobody”. That’s not true. Even if your mom is mad at you she’ll be happy to hear from you. Or your kids, or your best friend from childhood. And you’re not calling them. That would be superhuman at this point. You’re just listing them. List.

F)      Don’t be in a rush. If you were just dumped, don’t be in a rush to find the next one. If you just lost your job, don’t take the first job you see in the papers. How often do you get a chance to be in the present like this. Give it a few moments. You have one month of income left in the bank or you will go broke? Ok, listen to me because this is very important: if you do all of the things on this list you will not go broke. Guaranteed. GUARANTEED. So just relax a second. We’re very busy making lists.

G)     Who NEEDS you right now? Kids? They will always need you. They are leeches and live off of your blood. So put them down on the list. Your parents? Your colleagues? I’m not saying you have to do anything for these people right now. What are you crazy? You’re in the fetal position on the floor. What can you do for them? But it’s important to list them. Thinking of them will ultimately help you take the next step when you decide to get up. This is different from “E”. These are the people who have a gun to your head. They NEED you not to fail them right NOW.

H)     List your alternative futures. When the future disappears on you just like that it’s a great thing. You used to be a linear computer, one calculation at a time. Now, for a brief moment, you’re a quantum computer: all alternative universes are possible for you.  Just for a brief moment play with the idea that anything is possible. You can date Paris Hilton if you want. You can become a comic book writer. You can become an actress. You can make websites freelance. List everything you’ve ever wanted. Have fun with it. You can be a sculptor. Or a nude model. Or a psychic. Whatever. Have fun.

I)        Breathe. Whoah. Isn’t that obvious? Not really. Most of the time you breathe a-rhythmically. Is she cheating on me? You breathe fast. Am I about to get fired? You breathe faster. I just got fired … you breathe very slow. So slow you almost leave your body and die. But take five minutes to do something the universe has never really wanted you to do before: breathe in rhythm. Take a deep breath, count to five while you are inhaling, hold for five, breathe out for five, hold for five. If you get out of breath doing this, then stop. Try again. See if you can do it ten times.

Why do this? Your past hasn’t worked out for you. At all. That’s why you are on the floor. Everything you have done since birth has worked out to this one moment. The universe has let you down. So this is a big middle finger to the universe – I’m going to take control of something – my own breath, even if it’s just for a few minutes. And when I finally fall asleep, I hope to god that when I wake up I’m still in the present. The past forgotten. The future, a mistress, seductively waiting for me. Then repeat everything above. Then do it again tomorrow. You’ll get off the floor. And eventually you’ll fly.

See also, “10 Things You Need To Do If You Were Fired Today”

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  • Andreas Moser

    As a divorce lawyer, I know the only amicable divorces are those where there was no love from the beginning. Those that married only for money or immigration status and where both partners were in agreement about this. But even these divorces get messy sometimes.
    But there is an even better reason NOT to get married:

    • Sooz

      My divorce lawyer walked out..flat out quit..the day of arbitration. WHAT??
      Starting from scratch and cutting him a check were to very unamicable things.
      Divorce is horrible even in most amicable conditions!

      As the ‘Punk’ sister of sibs who celebrated 30~27~23..etc years together respectfully this year, breaking most statistcal  studies , I  believe in matrimony .

  • Rebecca Rachmany

    I won’t deny being a liar. We all are. But my divorce was amicable. You can ask details if you want, but not on the public forum. 

    This blog post is great, because it really does summarize in many ways why it was amicable. We both owned up to our responsibility in the failure. We each had the support of friends and families. We didn’t rush and thought through what needed to be done, and what the alternative future was. The kids and I maintained a spiritual practice and took care of our bodies. 

    Great list for any failure — I’ve been fired, and several hours later had a former employer simply say “OK, so when can you start back here?” The people who know and love you are out there and waiting for your call.

    • Stochatzo Y Astaminga

      Perfect life in every way may be a clue as per astrological alignment I suppose but when you state ” We each had the support of friends and families” leads me to believe they as well as God felt it justified a mistake you were ever allowed to be married in teh first place is all that statement tells me.

      If both sides agree something is wrong unless enough time has passed for the truth to emerge but we all know ir seldom does where entangled emotions are concerned.

  • Emmanuel Iko Ojotu

    The hungry devotee of yours that i am kept me alert to this.Yes,it’s surely a pathway from the floor to a new future.Highlighting and appreciating all we have left is crucial to rebuilding the foundations for a new life of meaning,progress and joys.Thanks as always,Jim.

  • Fred

    Man , your articles are awesome , I can’t stop reading them one after one .

    • Emenor

      Yeah, and today’s had no links to former ones… for as you start reading one you end up reading 3 or 4.

  • The Buyer’s Mind

    This is incredibly important advice. Most of our lives we are moving down a planned path. When things get shaken up due to causes beyond our control we are forced to make painful reevaluations. These times are very scary. We envision worst case scenarios, panic, and lose sleep. Humans are bred to want stability. Uncertainty strikes us to the core.

    But sometimes uncertainty can lead to much better outcomes and set us up for long-term happiness in different, better endeavors. Things we assumed were good for us, in retrospect, can look very different once we start down a different path.

  • Suresh Murthy

    Awesome post!

  • steve

    thank you

  • Grzegorz Bober

    Actually, counting future money in the shower IS masturbation.

    But better.

    • Sooz

      how much money do you have in the future?


  • P Jaunne

    “You are stuck right now. This is a gift to be in the PRESENT. So use it.

    Funny how it took real messy setbacks to bring my awareness back to be in the present.   For whatever reasons I picked up and read the TaoTeChing as well.  Maybe because it’s short.  At least I could finish several dozen verses before my mind were twisted like pretzel before I had to put the book down. I read the Bible and could never pass the part where A beget B beget C and so on.  Like most  spiritual books, they are replete with lots of truth and wisdom that seem to be beyond reach of the mind that is steeped in this material world.  It’s as if those spiritual stuff is written for different dimensions of reality. 

  • Preemptive Placebo

    A close family member blew his brains out.  Shotgun.  Living room.  Splattered all over the ceiling and a massive stain on the carpet.  We had to call a company that specializes in cleaning up that kind of mess.  Cops recommended them.  At the time I remember sitting there watching the workers as they carefully removed the fragments without damaging the ceiling.  My mind couldn’t wrap itself around the idea that there were people who earn their living doing that. 

    That moment was the bottom.  The absolute bottom.  It was also one of the best moments of my life.  Yes, I said the best.  Of course, I didn’t know it at the time.

    At the suicide-survival group a few weeks later there was a woman who was the walking dead.  Her husband had killed himself.  She found him.  The experience killed her too.  But she didn’t die.  She just curled up in a ball on the floor of their big house overlooking the sea and never got up.  Except, she said, for the once-a-month suicide-survival group meeting.  She did nothing else.  For five years. 

    I remember asking the group, “But life goes on, right?  We still have dreams and adventures and things that make us feel alive after this, don’t we?”  The room became quiet and I realized I had been looking at the woman when I asked the questions.  Everyone else looked away in discomfort.  Even the woman.  But then she shrugged and croaked defensively, “I guess if you want them.”

    I wanted them.  So I decided right then and there that it would be one of the best moment of my life.  I decided to use the bottom as a trampoline.  I decided that I would use every ounce of explosive strength to shoot myself upward, higher than I was before hitting bottom. 

    That woman made me realize that I couldn’t control what he did but I could control how it affected me.  I could let it kill me or I could use it to propel me.  The decision was mine.

    It feels just a little bit selfish to admit it now, but If I had access to a time machine and gained the ability to go back and change what happened…. I wouldn’t change a thing. 

    • Sooz

      absolutely nothing selfish about the one thing that most people want..’To Survive’ and to feel strength at a time when you need it most.

    • Christopher Vaccaro

      this is one of the most inspiring comments I have ever read, anywhere.

    • Roy

      I am sorry for your loss and happy that you regained your life back.

      Sometimes i wonder why people would end their life in such a dramatic way. Like using a shotgun…or jumping in front of a subway train…or jumping from a 20 story building?

      (a co-worker’s husband had killed himself via a electric chainsaw placed in such a way that it would drop on his neck while he lay down beneath it)

      is it a last cry for help?

      is it done to punish loved ones?

      or are they not thinking straight due to a chemical imbalance that is caused by alcohol, drugs, pills etc

      thanks for your post

    • Roy

      I went to your blog and you have some amazing posts. i tried to comment but there is something wrong with your “disqus” comment system installation…..just thought you should know

      • Preemptive Placebo

        Thanks Roy.  I’ve got to fix that. 

    • me

      Your comment made me tear up with sadness for the terrible experiences you mention here and also for the hope. Thank you for sharing this, I don’t even know how to tell you how much it means.

    • Brooke Farmer

      Wow. This is an incredible story. I wish more people had the strength to take control of their reactions in this way.

      It illustrates the hazard that I believe is common to support groups. They are great enablers. No one in that group, I am guessing, ever told that woman to get off the floor and move on with her life. No one there reminded her that she was not dead. I experienced a similar mentality in a domestic violence support group years ago. The room was full of people who were content enough with the victim status they had assigned themselves. Many of the women were still with the abuser. No one ever told them to stop complaining and start doing something. No one ever told them that by staying they were, in a sense, giving their tacit consent to be hit again. And again.

      Thank you for this story.

      • Preemptive Placebo

        Yes, the group was good in that it made us realize we were not alone.  Others went through a similar experience and came out the other side alive.  But yes, for many it became a way of life.  Not a good one.

    • Wayne Clingman

      Thank you for posting this.

  • Jason Matias

    Hits awfully close to home. I just got my second waiter pad from the waitress at Chilis. I’m flexing

  • EntrepreneursKorner

    Everyone lies, so you can’t expect them to tell you the truth about a private matter such as a marriage. A great read on the rest of the post once again. You should make a post on a magic formula to financial freedom. Like in; 

  • Meghan Conley

    Amicable divorce is possible, mine was one, but there’s a difference between amicable and pleasant.  We didn’t have rip-roaring fights, we didn’t speak badly of each other, we sat together and calmly discussed how we would divide things up.  We held hands as we waited outside the courtroom for the judge to finalize the document we’d prepared.  We agreed that we would give ourselves a little bit of time before we finished collecting the last items from each other.  In the end we just left them where they were.  That’s amicable.  It was still deeply, crushingly sad for both of us to acknowledge the end of our life together. 

    Whether the rug gets yanked or gently tugged out from under you, you still end up on your ass on the cold, hard floor.

    All of which is to say that, faced with the total dismantling of your life regardless of how it comes about, should probably be met with the treatment you described.  Although I only spent about 50% of my immediately post-divorce time on the floor in agonizing psychic pain, I did most of those things.  And, truthfully, even when I was just flailing around trying to figure out what to do next, a lot of them were revealed to me without making a list.  The people who were friends and the people who needed me were the ones who were still around.  Since people more or less treated me like I was damaged goods anyway, I tried on new identities for hours or days at a time.

    And now, three years later, I’m deliriously happy.  The big take away for me was the realization that there’s nothing that requires me to hit bottom in order to make sweeping changes.  If I’m headed downward, I change course.  I don’t regret the life I lived before, but I’m grateful for everything that came out of ending it.

  • Sooz

    just breathe..

    very good…

  • Feng

    I was thinking about the same thing when I read it.

    What do they mean ‘amicable?’  They still talk? Hangout? Or is it just another way to say that they won’t throw knives at each other?

    Of all the things you listed, I have to say that staying physically healthy is probably the most important thing during times of adversities. Some personal tragedies could be so powerful that it send you to hospital.

    I am not even recommending completely staying away from junk food, alcohol, drugs. It’s not realistic to not do these things during hard times when you need something to take away the pain. 

    But what I am recommending is that during these times when you mind is racing all over the universe you should at least be aware that your physical health is your only boat. Without it, you will be lost in the ocean forever.

  • Andrew_Ferri

    Lots of momentum in this post.  I’m off the floor, used to be on the floor.  Your work has been a big part of that, seriously.  I still struggle, but as long as I use the daily practice I’ll be okay.  This post is great, I wish I would have read it years ago, when I was really on the floor. 

    Its not the universe that’s made YOU this way, its that you try harder than most.  Most don’t try, they get stuck in a rut, and can’t get out.  You lend a hand from a distance, its a great power.  Respect.

  • Anonymous

    Love the breathing advice. I first learned about it from a book called On Combat by Dave Grossman. He calls it combat breathing, and recommend using it to bring your heart beat and hormones down to regain control of your body and mind. Sounds about right.

  • Priscilla Paredes Wood

    Altucher! I need to put my reading you on a schedule, otherwise I’ll end up on the floor -I can’t be reading your blog after midnight again. Excellent post as usual.

  • Torsten Munkov

    Nine Additional Ways

    Struggle against great odds! Meet enemies undaunted!     
    Be entirely alone with them! Find how much you can stand!     
    Know the joys of a manly self-hood! Be your own God!     
    Be servile to no one—Defer to no one—Not any tyrant, seen or unseen,     
    Walk with erect carriage, with steps springy and elastic,     
    Look with calm gaze, or with a flashing eye,
    Confront with your personality all the other personalities of the earth.
    Ask not for good fortune, Rather be yourself good fortune.
    Remain strong and content. As you travel the open road.

  • Anonymous

    Great column. Thank you.
    I think you should have a school where you teach others how to motivate…an online class etc…There are plenty of therapists/life coaches/educators who could benefit from you!

  • Eleni Zoe

    Hi James, I’ve only been reading for a weeks now but I had to jump in and say thank you for this post! Especially the last one on your list. I’ve been dealing with an anxiety disorder for a few years (Talk about being on the floor!) and it was only in the last year that I realized how important it is to really, actually, stop for a minute and just breathe. 

  • TheAcsMan

    The ultimate oxymoron is that one that few see as being an oxymoron and just accept as being an accurately descriptive expression.

    “Amicable Divorce” is one phrase that causes most people to still raise an eyebrow. It hasn’t reached oxymoron Hall of Fame status.

    The issue is that there maybe disagreement over the meaning of the word “amicable.” Not all sources ascribe a friendly tone as being part of the meaning. Instead, all that’s required is agreement.

    By Mirriam-Webster standards, agreeing that you hate one another is in itself amicable, so save the eyebrow raising muscles and revel in the ability to recognize mutual hatred and disgust.

  • Henev11

    my divorce initiated the declaration of war by her..using the kids as soldiers ….that was 15 yrs ago and still goin strong…..sad that my case is par for the course

    • me

      I wish I could “dislike” this. I’m so sorry guy. :( That’s an awful long time to have that much animosity and hate spewed at you. I don’t care what went wrong, you don’t deserve that.

  • PC

    James, superb list. I like it because (if you do the tasks) it makes you forget for a moment how much you hate yourself when you’re on the floor. If we can be open, honest and above all compasionate with ourselves, we can get better. If you are on the floor, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DID, you are still always human and deserve as much compassion as you can give yourself. Compassion and humility can lead you to reconciliation.

  • dissertation online help

    happy holidays!!!!

  • Dora Jenner

    You’re posts keep getting better and better and they were already kick ass to begin with.  Are you planning to take over the world soon?

  • essay writing service

    Thisisireally nice psot!

  • Promo Codes

    Hey James! A friend recommended I start reading your stuff and I haven’t been able to stop going through all your brilliant posts.  You are point on in almost everything you write. I wonder if you’re perhaps in my head like that movie with John Malkovich because you seem to go through things just like I do.  Are you intimidating in person or more of a pushover?

  • Brooke Farmer

    Best. Post. Ever.

    I’m not on the floor right now. I am happy right now. And yet.

    And yet I think I will make all of these lists. Tonight.

    And hopefully, next time I am on the floor in the fetal position (as I have been so many times before) I will remember to re-read this just as I re-read your writing tips whenever I feel as if I’ve nothing left to say.

  • A.J. Angus

    your bottom link says ‘fired’ instead of ‘hired’

    • James Altucher


  • essay help

    Everyone lies, so you can’t expect them to tell you the truth about a private matter such as a marriage.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, James. JUST what I needed to hear, and be reminded of. I stumbled onto your site through Linked In, I think. I was recently laid off one month before Xmas, and my boyfriend broke up with me two weeks later…so yeah, after I get through the !@#% holidays, it’s time for a fresh start. It’s a bit hard NOT to panic and rush into something job-wise–more suggestions, svp? I also wanted to mention volunteering is a great way to help get your butt off floor, feel useful, and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

  • ET


  • brebeuf

    As usual, very provocative article, and helpful.

    If we are so fragile that we will react destructively when our hearts are broken, there is something really wrong with the structure of our lives, too top heavy, too self-centered, too dependent on people, money, and self.   Sounds like we need to take fourth step personal inventories, have sponsors that will be there for us in life’s struggles, and we should also be there for them. 

  • MrBigJim

    Thanks.  Just What The Man Here Needed Right Now.  How Providential That “HE” Led “HIS” Man To This And For “Healing” Just BEFORE Another “52” Arrived!  Thank You Again! “Semper-Fi!”, HAISCH. 1.Cor.13.:11.; Eccl.12.: 13., 14.

  • Vince Daliessio

    Civil breakups are, of course, possible, if you (mostly) resist screaming.

    Great article on what to do instead of screaming. Or worse.

  • Craig Winston

    Great post.  I don’t have any inspiring anecdotes to add really, maybe just a funny quote that this reminds me of…maybe another way to convince yourself you can get off the floor.  

    A friend of mine, who plays lots and lots of Dungeons and Dragons and RPGs…a gamer…says this about life: The age old wisdom of role playing is that abilities always trump gear.  So don’t waste money buying an expensive sword because when you get to a higher level your character will have better ability scores anyway and will find better swords anyway.

    when you hit bottom, I think you get sucked into a mindset that you’re helpless, that you have nothing anymore.  generally speaking, you just lose things…you lose gear…sometimes you lose people and that sucks, but most often you lose gear and then you lose sight of yourself.  You forget that you have abilities, that you have an 18 intelligence with a +3 to charisma, or that you can write or know how to survive in the world, or you have a good business sense, or a 19 dexterity so you’re a really good musician.

    I like a great many of James’ posts, but this one is particularly compelling because it got me thinking about how much I actually have when I have not things.  It’s very monkish or very RPGish, but you can succeed even starting from the bottom once you simply take into account the value of your abilities…the value of you.

  • Michael Liebow

    Love the notion of being awake in the present. When I was a kid I used to enjoy lying on the floor in front of the frig, seemed like a warm spot to hang. Appreciate the reminder of what’s truly important in life and the impact we have on countless others. Lying on the floor in a helpless lump or worse, with your parts splattered on the ceiling, is a selfish act. Getting up, brushing off the past, and taking control, that’s the selfless thing to do. I just dropped 50 lbs and haven’t felt this good in 20 years. I said to myself that there is so much in life you can’t control, at least I can control what I put in my mouth. A friend added “because you really can’t control what comes out.”. Making lists, living in the present, and getting healthy is great advice.