9 Things I Learned From Woody Allen

manhattan2

I hate Woody Allen. Here’s why. Because if you’re Jewish and a little neurotic then it has become a cliché that nerdy neurotic Jewish people describe themselves as “Woody Allen-esque” thinking it will attract women. They do this on dating services. The idea is that they will then attract some waif-like Mia Farrow-ish  (or the 17-year-old Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan) blonde who will love all of their neuroses and want to have sex all the time and will, in the ideal case (the 17-year-old Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, the 21-year-old Juliette Lewis in Husbands & Wives), be the most mature  in the movie and yet still be madly in love with the 30-year-older Allen.

This only happens in Woody Allen movies. And power to him. He made the movies. He can do whatever the hell he wants in them. If Mariel Hemingway wants to have sex with him all the time then no problem. He wrote the movie! It’s up to you whether you believe it or not.

And people believed it. Manhattan is considered one of his greats – shot in black and white, skyscapes of Manhattan in every direction which are actually shot from Allen’s penthouse apartment. It was beautiful and makes you fall in love with Manhattan.

(Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan when Woody Allen is breaking up with her)

Allen puts out a new movie or two every year. None of them will compete with Star Wars or Harry Potter in terms of gross dollars. But it seems like his studio gives him $10 million, his movie will make $20 million, and everyone is happy and he gets to keep doing what he’s doing.

So he’s built up a substantial body of work that we can learn from. Why learn? Because clearly he is a genius, regardless of what other opinions anyone might have of him (and I only know him through his work. I don’t know his personal life at all). It is interesting to see how he, as an artist and creator, has evolved. To see how his idiosyncratic humor has changed,  how he twists reality further to stretch our imagination. He always stands out and stays ahead of the other innovators. And for other people who seek the same, he is worth observing.

(Juliette Lewis in Husbands & Wives)

Here’s some of the things I’ve learned from him:

1. Failure. Some of his movies are just awful. He admits it. In a 1976 interview in Rolling Stone he says, “I would like to fail a little for the public…What I want to do is go onto some areas that I’m insecure about and not so good at.”

He elaborates further. He admits he could be like the Marx Brothers and make the same comic film every year. But he didn’t want to do it. It was important for him to evolve. To risk failure. To risk failure in front of everyone. And his movies did that, going from the early slapstick humor of Sleeper to the darker Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point.

One of my earliest memories is having a babysitter while my parents went to a movie. Then when they got home I asked them what they saw and they described a movie where a man falls asleep and wakes up in the future where a giant Nose ruled the world. Woody Allen has been there since the beginning for me. And just the other day I watched Midnight in Paris with Owen Wilson (who, despite looking very un-Woody Allen-esque, plays the virtual “Woody Allen” role very well. The movie explores the history of art and how no art form exists by itself but is always influenced by generation after generation of artists before it, dating back hundreds if not thousands of years).

(Scarlett Johansson in Match Point, one of Allen’s best movies)

Woody Allen has also failed spectacularly, in every way we can imagine – personally, professionally, etc. And yet he’s always pushed forward, trying to surprise us again and again, and largely succeeding rather than giving up.

2. Prophetic. In a Washington Post interview in 1977 he states, “We’re probably living at the end of an era. I think it’s only a matter of time until home viewing is as easy and economical as desirable.” In the past three days I’ve watched three Woody Allen movies on my ipad. I don’t know if this changed the way he made his movies. But it’s clear he never got himself stuck in one particular form or style that would eventually fail to cater to the tastes of the average audience.

3. Flexible. We admire the entrepreneurs who quickly recognize mistakes and then transition their business accordingly (the catch-phrase lately is that these entrepreneurs know how to “pivot”). Allen typically starts off with a broad outline, a sort of script, but it changes throughout the movie. Specifically he states, “To me a film grows organically. I write the script and then it changes organically.I see people come in and then I decide…it changes here. It changes if Keaton doesn’t want to do these lines and I don’t want to do these- we shift around. It changes for a million reasons.”

(Winona Ryder in Allen’s “Celebrity”)

The entrepreneur, the entre-ployee. Relationships in general, all shift and change. You set out in life wanting certain things – the college degree, the house with the white fence, the promotions, the family – but things become different. You have to adapt and be flexible. To say only the lines you are comfortable with and evolve into.

4. Productivity. To put out a movie every year or so, plus plays, magazine stories, books. you would think Woody Allen works around the clock. From a 1980 interview, “If you work only three to five hours a day you become very productive. It’s the steadiness of it that counts. Getting to the typewriter every day is what makes productivity.”

He states later in the interview that when he was younger he liked to get things out in one impulsive burst but he learned that was a “bad habit” and that he likes to wake up early, do his work, and then set it aside for the next day.

Probably the most productive schedule is to wake up early – do your work before people stop showing up at your doorstep, on your phone, in your inbox, etc, and leave off at the point right when you are most excited to continue. Then you know it will be easy to start off the next day.

I read in a recent interview that it takes Allen a month to write a comedy and three months to write a drama. On three to five hours a day it shows me he writes every day, he’s consistent, and he doesn’t waste time with distractions (going to parties, staying out late, etc)

5. Avoid outside stimulus. Every day right now I make a huge mistake. I start off with the loop: email, twitter, facebook, my amazon rank, my blog stats, my blog comments. My wife Claudia asks me: “did you finish the loop yet?” And I think it will only take a few seconds but it actually takes about twenty minutes. I probably do it ten times a day. That’s 200 minutes! 3 hours and 20 minutes! Ugh.

Here’s Allen’s description of when he won an Oscar for Annie Hall. First off, he didn’t go to the Oscars. Why get on a plane (8 hours door to door), and go to a party where he would feel uncomfortable, to win an award he probably didn’t care much about (although it magnified his prestige in Hollywood, the city that paid his bills):

In a 1982 interview with the Washington Post he states that he went to Michael’s Pub to do his weekly jazz clarinet playing although he says “I probably would not have watched anyway” just to see everyone he knows hunched down in the audience waiting for hours to see who would win. He states that he had “a very nice time” at Michael’s. So for him his pleasure came first. Rather than the anxious watching and waiting.

But then, when he got home, he didn’t even care. He went out the back way of Michael’s so he skipped all the photographers, went home by midnight, had “milk and cookies,”  went to sleep. And then he TOOK THE PHONE OFF THE HOOK. Who even does that now? In an age where we (or, I should say, “I”) literally sleep with my iPad and phone in the bed. He took the phone off the hook on Oscar’s night, went to sleep. In the morning made his coffee and toast. Got the NY Times, and then finally opened it up to the entertainment section where he saw he won the Oscar. It’s in this way that his productivity (compared with the lack of productivity many of us suffer now because of the constant influx of outstide social stimulants) was kept at a very high point.

(Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristy Barcelona)

6. Imperfection. Allen has stated many times that none of his films were exactly what he wanted. That they were constantly imperfect. It’s almost like he’s the imperfect perfectionist. He wants things just right and he tries very hard to get it that way. But he knows it will never happen.

That said, he doesn’t give up. He states in 1986, “we go out and shoot…again…and again…and again if necessary. And even at that rate, all the pictures come up imperfect. Even at that meticulous rate of shooting them over and over again, they still come out flawed. None of them is close to being perfect.” Ultimately, he says, all his movies prove to be “great disappointments”.

And yet, knowing that he will always experience the same thing, he goes out, stretches his boundaries of where he’s comfortable failing, and does it again. And again. Knowing nothing he will do will be the masterpiece he initially conceived.

Nothing comes out exactly how we want it. But we have to learn to roll with it and move to the next work.

7. Confidence. I watched Husbands & Wives the other day. It wasn’t a funny movie. It wasn’t a pretty movie. I watched it with Claudia and by the end we were thinking, ugh, I hope that doesn’t happen to us in ten years. Meanwhile, the movie itself was jarring. Instead of being shot traditionally it was shot with a hand-held camera. It was edited with lots of jump-edits, where you’re looking at a character and suddenly she’s an inch over because some small piece of film was cut out. The editing itself became part of the jolting and jarring in the story. It was as if the story was not just being told with the acting and the writing but with the way it was shot and edited.

It reminded me of something Kurt Vonnegut once said. He’s usually considered an experimental author. But, he said, to be experimental, first you have to know how to use all the rules of grammar. You have to be an expert first in tradition. It also reminds me of Andy Warhol, who was a highly paid, very straightforward, commercial artist, before he went experimental and started the pop art phenomenon.

Allen says about Husbands and Wives in a 1994 interview (note: Husbands and Wives was his 20th movie): “Confidence that comes with experience enables you to do many things that you wouldn’t have done in earlier films. You tend to become bolder…you let your instincts operate more freely and you don’t worry about the niceties.”

In other words: master the form you want to operate in, get experience, be willing to be imperfect, and then develop the confidence to play within that form, to develop your own style. You see this in Kurt Vonnegut too as he transformed from the more traditional “Player Piano” in the early 50s to “Slaughterhouse Five” a novel about World War II that includes aliens who can time travel.

8. Showing up. As Allen famously stated: 80% of success is “showing up”. Nothing more really needs to be added there except it might be changed to “99% of success for the entrepreneur is showing up”. What do you have to show up for: you have to find the investors, you have to manage development, you have to find the first customers, You have to find the buyers. They don’t show up at your door. You show up at their door. Otherwise your business will just not work out. Let’s take Microsoft as one example among many: Bill Gates tracked down the guy in New Mexico to build BASIC. Bill Gates put himself in the middle when IBM wanted to license an operating system. He just kept showing up while everyone else was skiing. 

9. The medium becomes the message. I mentioned this in the point above but it deserves further elaboration. The jump-cutting, the hand-held camera, every aspect of the film became woven in with the story. Allen states: “I wanted it to be more dissonant, because the internal emotional and mental states of the characters are more dissonant. I wanted the audience to feel there was a jagged and nervous feeling.” In this he shows not only his own evolution as a filmmaker but what he’s borrowed from the artists before him – not only Godard and Bergman who did their own experimentations, but musicians like Profokiev where the dissonance itself is so tightly wound with the music it becomes a part of the music, as opposed to just the notes being played. This is underlined in his latest movie, Midnight in Paris, very highly where Owen Wilson, the main character, pinpoints the roots of his own art by going back further and further in time.

My takeaway – study the history of the form you want to master. Study every nuance. If you want to write – read not only all of your contemporaries, but the influences of those contemporaries, and their influences. Additionally, draw inspiration from other art forms. From music, art, and again, go back to the influences of your inspirations, and go back to their influences, and so on. (See also, “Steal and Get Rich”)

The facets that resonate with time, even if it’s hundreds of years old, will resonate with your work as well. It’s like a law of the universe.

(Rachel McAdams in Midnight in Paris)

In today’s day and age, we want to transform decades of work into years or even months. Allen built up his career over five decades and kept at it persistently, even when scandal, or a bad movie, or a bad article, would cast gloom over his entire career. But he shrugged it off.

So what can we learn from Woody Allen?

  • Wake up early
  • Avoid distractions
  • Work three to five hours a day and then enjoy the rest of the day
  • Be as perfectionist as you can, knowing that imperfection will still rule
  • Have the confidence to be magical and stretch the boundaries of your medium.
  • Combine the tools of the medium itself with the message you want to convey
  • Don’t get stuck in the same rut – move forward, experiment, but with the confidence built up over experience.

The same can be said for successful entrepreneurs. Or for people who are successful in any aspect of life. Is Woody Allen a happy man? Who knows? But he’s done what he set out to do. He’s made movies. He’s told stories. He’s lived the dream, even when it bordered on nightmare.  I can only be so lucky.

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  • Anonymous

    I can’t get past the dating/marrying/having nude pictures of his teenaged stepdaughter. I can’t compartmentalize him…I lack that sophistication I guess. My guess is that your fans will split in favor of him…

    • http://wanabvc.tumblr.com/ J wright

      Not once while reading this did I consider woody allens flaws, there were too many lessons being learned. Great hook title and topic. Inspiration for doing the small things daily that will help you achieve your goals. Ignore the traps of society, media, external influence. Uncover your passions and feed your heart & mind.

    • Mmbay

      Learning to hold ambiguity…an essential step to flow more functionally forward in life… aid in getting over this part of Allen’s tainted history. Martin Luther King was a player; he’s received accolades and a national holiday for his civil rights work.  Viewing current photos of Woody as a frail, old person gives perspective too. His genius seen in his accomplishments, especially given society’s closed gates to nebish men, cannot be denied just because his values differ from mine. Nice review here of Woody Allen, Mr. Altucher.

      • Anonymous

        I’m not saying the writing is bad…it is great and I’m sure it will inspire a bunch. And yes, MLK had flaws just like any human has flaws, and I can wonder in amazement and awe of him.
        But there is something so basically wrong, to me anyway, with Woody Allen’s behavior with a child he was helping raise. I get that he’s old, and decrepit, and human. So what? Getting old isn’t a choice. It’s what happens if we don’t die.
        For me, I can’t/won’t/don’t care to overlook the mortal sin to see genius. You are able to see and appreciate his work in film. And I get that you are probably better for it. I haven’t gotten to that point in life. I see predator, regardless of accomplishment or age.

        • Stewart

          and their subsequent 20 year relationship means nothing i guess?

          • Anonymous

            Yep. Means nothing. The end doesn’t justify it.

          • http://eattheyolk.blogspot.com/ Eat the Yolk

            I agree 100%, Betmo. Folks, let’s be careful about sending the message that it’s OK to bang a minor 30 years your junior.

            At the same time, can we not compare MLK to Woody Allen? Pedophilia and philandering are not even in the same sin league. It’s not even the same game.

            I hate to play the role of the conservative nutjob here, but the shoe seems to fit tonight…

          • Mmbay

            Despite the vulgarity of his actions in this last and most likely final relationship, Woody Allen acted within the law according to the given facts.  Soonj-Yi reports being a legal 20 years old when their relationship began before marring a year later. There are those who remain uncomfortable with the film Harold & Maude with its May to December relationship. Consensual relationships are consensual relationships despite ages, sexual preferences, past appearances of relationship with significant others, and so on…  They can be messy too, but that is life at it “fullest catastrophe”– in living color. [Luckily we can express our opinions free of reprisal or censorship.]  http://www.ontheredcarpet.com/Woody-Allen-on-marriage-to-Soon-Yi:–What-was-the-scandal-/8209443

          • Mmbay

            “marrying”

          • Nemo

            “Libido ergo sum” – Woody Descartes

    • Jquick99

      Betmo – you are NOT alone. I too can’t get over that.

    • Frank Rizzo

      1. She wasn’t his stepdaughter.

      2. Genetically you can’t get much further apart than a New York Jew and a Korean.

      • Anonymous

        1. No. But he was intimate with the mother, had a child with mother, and knew the girl continuously. 2. Yes. But what’s that got to do with the price of tea? He slept with his partner’s adolescent child. Creepy to say the least.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707282403 Éric Martín Ruiz

    Brilliant read. I need to cut my loop.But what if the “loop” is necessary? Sometimes I feel like I need to go out and be seen. How do you know if it’s excessive?

  • Robert Torres

    Great article!

  • BBH


    Work three to five hours a day and then enjoy the rest of the day”

    That’s probably one of the best suggestions from that particular post. I know for a fact that working less hours actually produces better results. I’m an entrepreneur in the investing/finance business, and I used to work 12-15h per day. I was constantly researching something, following the markets, reading something, thinking about something, etc. It sucked – I was always tired, emotionally beaten down and my results weren’t that great. But then I made a huge change in my life. I now only work until about noon. During the summer days I start around 8 AM (although I wake up at 5 AM) and during the winter days I start around 9 AM (still wake up at 5). So I only work about 3-4 hours per day. And my results are amazing!!! 

    Well okay, every now and then I may open up the Bloomberg app on my iPhone / iPad out of curiosity, but that doesn’t happen more than once an hour (and it only takes like 5 seconds). 

    So you are definitely correct here. Less is more in this case. If your work doesn’t produce enough income (or whatever result you are looking for), the answer is to work less, not more. Working less allows you to meditate, do sports, and just think. You’ll end up being sharper, which leads you to only make the necessary (and right) moves. Work doesn’t take a lot of time, IF you know what to do. Most people spend 95% of their time doing useless things. I only do those 5% necessary things. 

    • Seb Latapie

      First off, James, this was one of my favorite articles you have ever posted. The lessons backed up by such interesting facts and information on people I look up too really struck a chord. Keep it up!

      As for BBH, thank you for the additional insight and personal experience. What it all boils down to is becoming more efficient in your work allowing you to enjoy the remainder of the day how you see fit. I wonder if there’s a business/company model in there somewhere. Instead of having the traditional 9-5, your company culture is set up to enable your employees to productively work for 3-4 hours and allowing them to pursue other interest the remainder of the day.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Raj-Singh/556330625 Raj Singh

        that is a fantastic idea, if only!

  • Whole Phamilyl

    james, this is great.  We must have been riding the same wavelength, as I recently included Woody in a blog post of my own.   
    http://www.wholephamily.com/2012/01/my-name-is-not-suzy-greenberg-but-oy.html

  • http://jayliew.com Jay Liew

    James, would you elaborate more on the equivalent of studying the “history of the form” for tech entrepreneurs?

  • cowboylogic

    Your
    good at explaining how ya see it

  • Philip Weiss

    Brilliant account and analysis.  Thanks for this – really enjoyed it.

  • Gonzalo Gandia

    James, your writing style has really matured and improved since I started reading you early in 2011…Keep it up!! It makes for great reading, and inspiration for those of us who are too “left brain” in life…

  • http://www.zahndrew.com/ Andrew Zahn

    James…

    While doing my ‘loop’ this morning, I’m glad it took me here and to this article. Fan-damn-tastic food. I might even skip breakfast and just chew on these 9 Woody Goodies. 

  • Anonymous

    He’s an interesting character. I remember reading once that he was actually a jock in high school. Even wrestled I believe. Would have to look that up to verify.

    FWIW, if Match Point wasn’t “perfect” it was damn close. Lots of people didn’t like it – paced too slow for modern audiences and too nuanced. But for me it didn’t lag.  Every scene added to the tension and created an inevitibility that built to the climactic double murder.  The whole film is really a commentary on our materialist, status driven culture and the corresponding decay of morality. Masterfully done.

  • Andrew_Ferri

    Lovely essay showing the appreciation of artists who have come before you, “I have seen so far, because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

  • Tim

    James

    Very good article, an enjoyable read.

    I have a question for you, how long did this article take you to write?

    Regards
    Tim

  • Quietjim

    Home Run. That’s the one I’ve been waiting for.

  • Bbstammis

    Excellent.  One of your best.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article, but you seemed to leave out one important thing from the list of how we can learn from Allen, pick incredibly hot starlets to work for you. I think he was the master of bringing out the sex appeal in his female cast. 

  • http://eattheyolk.blogspot.com/ Eat the Yolk

    Funny. Woody Allen’s movies were part of my childhood, too. My parents were conservative and wouldn’t let me watch anything that wasn’t G or PG and would fast forward anything remotely sexual. But for some reason, it was perfectly acceptable to show their 11 and 12 year-old children Manhattan. Maybe there’s another lesson in there: present yourself as studiously intellectual and you can get away with a lot :-)

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

    For someone who promotes himself as hyper-insecure he has shown a remarkable amount of chutzpah in his personal life. 

    You gotta love that about him. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7FLO6VN6HABKNATTQZ2G7PVFTA jim

    “I hate Woody Allen. Here’s why. Because if you’re Jewish and a little neurotic…”

    – There’s something about your writing style and the fact that you live in New York City – I had you pegged as three things (1) Jewish, (2) intellectual, and (3) neurotic. Sorry for the stereo type.

  • boris

    Thank you for this, amazing. I first watched a Woody Allen film when I was 12 or so, “Sleepers.” I thought it was crazy and stupid and then when I was 17-18 found Annie Hal and more or less have watched every single one that he’s made. 

    Saw Midnight in Paris in theaters and had a huge grin on my face the entire time, because it was just so interesting in the way he wrote the story.

    • boris

      Also an interesting quote about Allen always getting asked about making a sequel to Annie Hall: 
      “….[response about making a sequel to a good film]I don’t think Francis Coppola should have done Godfather III because Godfather II was quite great. When they make a sequel, it’s just a thirst for more money, so I don’t like that idea so much.”

  • Anonymous

    One word- BRILLIANT!
    Now if only i could follow it!!

  • Dan Limbach

    1) How can you intimately learn about all the contemporaries in your field AND their influences, while doing actual work, on only 3-5 hours a day?

    2) You can love Woody Allen’s movies and dislike the man. You don’t have to help him financially by going to his movies in the theater, but you can check them out from your library for free. You are only hurting yourself if you boycott a piece of art because you do not like the artist.  Many of the greatest artists of any age have done some heinous things, the least of which are related to their libido.

    • http://www.jasonloveslife.com/ Jason Love

      From other interviews I got the impression that Woody Allen is constantly “working”, but I guess it depends on the definition of work. It sounds like he dedicates 3 – 5 hours a day to just writing and if he does it 7 days a week it is 21 – 35 hours a week just writing.

      The question becomes what is “work” and what is just personal enjoyment. Learning about contemporaries and other may be considered fun instead of work depending on if you enjoy it.

  • http://www.TheAcsMan.com/ TheAcsMan

    My blog today (January 18, 2012) is based on a Woody Allen line from Annie Hall.

    I was debating using a Woody Allen photo, but couldn’t really find one that fit the mood, so I used a beached and dead shark instead, as befitting the quote and the sentiment behind the quote that ended with “what we have here is a dead shark”

    Like many people who were alive and movie going back then, I pretty muched stopped being interested in Woody Allen after “Interiors,” although occasionally would catch some of his later works. Duringr the years that I lived in Boston, my friends, who were unfamiliar with New York type characters (meaning that they had never met a Jew), yet who felt a need to be up on Woody Allen, would take me along to movies to act as translator.

    One great lesson I learned from Woody Allen was very indirect. Back in the early days of peer to peer file sharing, I downloaded “Match Point” and copied it to a CD for viweing while on a cruise. Unfortunately, I never checked the file and when my then 12 year old borrowed the laptop to watch some movies, he got to see his first hard core porno film.

    Lessons learned. Don’t pirate and when you do, verify.

    The funny thing is that I’m a big believer in re-invention as long as it doesn’t involve Woody Allen. The Marx Brothers were right on that account. Give the people what they want.

  • http://www.TheAcsMan.com/ TheAcsMan

    Almost forgot. Recently recounted story of Woody Allen look alike physician who perfomed my first rectal exam. There was a really good reason he was a lookalike.

    TMI? You bet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emile.jarreau Emile Jarreau

    Great piece brother. And yes Woody is unique and many today wont even know about it. Its like today’s generation missed out on historical cool stuff while being distracted by texting…things like Watergate, Nixon or Black Panthers(yeah kid, the lion kind of thing)

    Emile Jarreau

  • Guest

    This is one of the most important and useful posts I’ve read ever.

  • http://twitter.com/EntreprenKorner EntrepreneursKorner

    Great post again. Its crazy to think how he welcomes failure. i.e by even saying it himself. That he wants to go into areas where he has never been before and risk all his work. Motivational.

    Also Check out this: http://bit.ly/AA9h1B

    Most entrepreneurs seem to be using those types of elements to adapt in todays society.

    -Lee

  • http://twitter.com/JSnyd05 Josh Snyder

    James!

    How do you always find a way to write what is literally in my brain.  I love the Woody quote about experience: “confidence comes from experience.”  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately why experience matters so much. It fits in nicely with your reasons to NOT go to college. I feel the same way, I would have been far better off reading and experiencing for 4 years, rather than being in debt.  Experience allows you to quickly adapt to situations because they will become familiar as time  passes.  I also encourage everyone to read Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, he has some great passages on how our brains are wired to produce this “familiar” feeling due to experience.  

    Also, “Midnight in Paris” is one of my favorite movies.  Everyone wants to be stuck in a different time and no one seems great while you’re around them.  Hopefully, we will all realize that greatness is subjective and it’s actually too late when people are dead to realize how great they truly were to be around.  

    Keep up the great work, as usual.

  • http://twitter.com/JSnyd05 Josh Snyder

    James!

    How do you always find a way to write what is literally in my brain.  I love the Woody quote about experience: “confidence comes from experience.”  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately why experience matters so much. It fits in nicely with your reasons to NOT go to college. I feel the same way, I would have been far better off reading and experiencing for 4 years, rather than being in debt.  Experience allows you to quickly adapt to situations because they will become familiar as time  passes.  I also encourage everyone to read Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, he has some great passages on how our brains are wired to produce this “familiar” feeling due to experience.  

    Also, “Midnight in Paris” is one of my favorite movies.  Everyone wants to be stuck in a different time and no one seems great while you’re around them.  Hopefully, we will all realize that greatness is subjective and it’s actually too late when people are dead to realize how great they truly were to be around.  

    Keep up the great work, as usual.

  • http://twitter.com/JSnyd05 Josh Snyder

    James!

    How do you always find a way to write what is literally in my brain.  I love the Woody quote about experience: “confidence comes from experience.”  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately why experience matters so much. It fits in nicely with your reasons to NOT go to college. I feel the same way, I would have been far better off reading and experiencing for 4 years, rather than being in debt.  Experience allows you to quickly adapt to situations because they will become familiar as time  passes.  I also encourage everyone to read Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, he has some great passages on how our brains are wired to produce this “familiar” feeling due to experience.  

    Also, “Midnight in Paris” is one of my favorite movies.  Everyone wants to be stuck in a different time and no one seems great while you’re around them.  Hopefully, we will all realize that greatness is subjective and it’s actually too late when people are dead to realize how great they truly were to be around.  

    Keep up the great work, as usual.

  • http://twitter.com/JSnyd05 Josh Snyder

    James!

    How do you always find a way to write what is literally in my brain.  I love the Woody quote about experience: “confidence comes from experience.”  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately why experience matters so much. It fits in nicely with your reasons to NOT go to college. I feel the same way, I would have been far better off reading and experiencing for 4 years, rather than being in debt.  Experience allows you to quickly adapt to situations because they will become familiar as time  passes.  I also encourage everyone to read Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, he has some great passages on how our brains are wired to produce this “familiar” feeling due to experience.  

    Also, “Midnight in Paris” is one of my favorite movies.  Everyone wants to be stuck in a different time and no one seems great while you’re around them.  Hopefully, we will all realize that greatness is subjective and it’s actually too late when people are dead to realize how great they truly were to be around.  

    Keep up the great work, as usual.

  • http://www.needmoney.com/ I Need Money

    “and leave off at the point right when you are most excited to continue. Then you know it will be easy to start off the next day.” <– This was Hemingway's answer to writer's block and it's brilliant.

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

    I saw a tribute to George Carlin by Lewis CK where he talked about Carlin’s ability to do one major piece of work each year and how Carlin would then be done with it and on to create new work for the next year (rather than the tradition of repeating the same shtick as long as the market could bear).  It transformed Lewis CK’s career, letting him throw away what worked before, start fresh again and again.  

    Those are great bullet points, James.  Keepers.

  • http://twitter.com/binarymac Mac

    Regarding #6 Imperfection,  I like to go by this:
    Aim for beauty, not perfection.

    We live in an imperfect world, so perfection is impossible,
    but if we lived in a perfect world, nothing would be beautiful.

  • Angrypilot

    Ironic that Manhattan was on HBO tonight. Very timely!

  • http://www.IdeaAgeConsulting.com/ Gogo

    It’s funny now to read this from you because it occurs to me that I’ve felt like there was something very Allen-esque about your writing … at least about your writing on this blog. Interesting insights.

  • http://paramountessays.com/essay essay writers

    Very  great psot very intresting!

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

    no black out ?

  • Nemo

    Hey Mr. Altucher you are not only getting better at advice-giving but you’ve shown that you’re quite an intellectual aesthete.  Inspirational for sure.

  • Anonymous


    Because if you’re Jewish and a little neurotic then it has become a cliché that nerdy neurotic Jewish people describe themselves as “Woody Allen-esque” thinking it will attract women. ”

    No offense, but this cliche fails to apply to James and Claudia how exactly?

    • http://twitter.com/ClaudiaYoga Claudia Azula

      Ha ha, it totally worked for me, although he never described himself that way! :-)

      • Anonymous

        I just thought it was particularly funny that a nerdy somewhaty unkempt Jewish guy dating a hot yoga instructor critiques Woody Allen movies by saying “that business where nerdy somewhat unkempt Jewish guys date super-hot women only happens in movies”

  • MichaelDeathless

     I love the post and have been toying with working 4 hour days for some time, however, there seems to be a contradiction between working 3 – 5 hours a day as in point #4 and the Bill Gates example in #8. Both seem to work or not work as the case may be.

  • Anonymous

    I always thought of Woody Allen as weird and abnormal, but then again most highly accomplished people are by definition abnormal, they are right at the most extreme sides of the bell curve.  Btw, good to see this post back online.  It was gone for a while.  SOPA protest? lol

  • Robbie

    The ability to wrap up a career/lifetime in such succinct and valuable lessons is an incredible skill.  Great tips, perspective, and article. Thank you.

  • Totoro Calabasas

    I went to see Melancholia the other night. I dare you to see it, James. All your hand-wringing over your roller-coaster past, all your ardent attempts at figuring out how to be happy, how to be successful. Meaningless.

  • http://babydoc3.livejournal.com/ babydoc3

    I love the way  you take unlikely role models and find things to learn from them (your Charles Bukowski column comes to mind.)

  • http://twitter.com/JSnyd05 Josh Snyder

    James!

    How do you always find a way to write what is literally in my brain.  I love the Woody quote about experience: “confidence comes from experience.”  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately why experience matters so much. It fits in nicely with your reasons to NOT go to college. I feel the same way, I would have been far better off reading and experiencing for 4 years, rather than being in debt.  Experience allows you to quickly adapt to situations because they will become familiar as time  passes.  I also encourage everyone to read Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, he has some great passages on how our brains are wired to produce this “familiar” feeling due to experience.  

    Also, “Midnight in Paris” is one of my favorite movies.  Everyone wants to be stuck in a different time and no one seems great while you’re around them.  Hopefully, we will all realize that greatness is subjective and it’s actually too late when people are dead to realize how great they truly were to be around.  

    Keep up the great work, as usual.

  • RPD

    James: I have followed you over the years, and was initially intrigued by the turn the blog had taken.  It is so open, raw, and vulnerable that I found myself recoiling after an initial fascination.  I haven’t been on the page in awhile.  But something about the complete candor and lack of bullshit triggered something in me.

    I realize how it is completely commonplace in our society to have a complete facade and to lack any congruity betwen your public self and your inner self.  This creates tension, anxiety or worse.  Your extreme public vulnerability is an inspiration.

    I just want to thank you for opening my eyes.

  • Tiny

    Small Time Crooks.  My favorite.

  • http://www.upforit.com/ adult dating

    Woody Allen is great and talanted person. Watched allmost all his movies, so thanks for post!!!

  • http://www.swiftkickonline.com tomkrieglstein

    I know you proabably don’t want to hear this, but take it as a compliment. I didn’t know you had written this article until this morning and last night my wife and I were watching Annie Hall and I leaned over and told her, “you know that blogger I talk about to you often? I think he’s kinda like the Woody Allen of the blogging world.” then I wake up and find you had written this and I just laughed.

  • Swathi

    You are an inspiration. I have long been a Woody Allen fan. Having moved to the United States only 5 years from India, I was surprised to see that not many people here like his movies. I want to be all the things you are – publish my mystery novel, start my own company, be a management guru and many more. Thanks to you, I now feel that all that is possible.

  • http://AldinePublications.com/ Sharon Beck

    I also appreciate the variety of movie types he has created. “Crimes & Misdemeanors,” “Matchpoint,” “Radio Days,” “Hannah & Her Sisters,” and “Midnight in Paris” are real gems, but I have enjoyed most of the others and compartmentalize away his personal life.

    I live in Manhattan and was able to see his one-act play “Honeymoon Hotel.”  It was part of a trilogy of one-act plays performed under the collective title “Relatively Speaking,” which appeared on Broadway until it unfortunately closed this past Sunday. It was so enjoyable, I saw it three times, and I rarely do see Broadway shows.  Allen’s play was the best one of the three, although Elaine May’s “George is Dead” (starring Marlo Thomas) was also quite good. My husband and I could not understand why the show was panned by so many critics. We just adored it.

    “Honeymoon Hotel” shows a just-married couple at the hotel for their wedding night. Various relatives and friends join them to try to sort through the problems their marriage poses. I don’t know if it be produced elsewhere so I am avoiding creating spoilers, but let’s just say it had some elements of wish fulfillment for the real Woody Allen.

  • Amira

    It reminds me of the quote on creativity by Ira Glass: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show/309485 
    And the TED talk on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html 

    So as she would say: ‘Ole!’ to you, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.” -Elizabeth Gilbert  ; )

    By the way, I love “Midnight in Paris” possibly the best movie in the last 7 years… :)

  • http://robnonstop.com/ Robnonstop

    Every week someone fights with me over not having batteries in my phone, having unplugged the base or having lost my mobile somewhere. When it happens, I change nothing until I’m forced to. Huge production boost.

    When I lived in Japan on the 10th floor, I had no phone and no doorbell. If someone walked up 10 stories, it had to be important. I loved it.

  • http://danmar.posterous.com/ jmdanmar

    Why do you sleep with your phone if you never answer it?

  • ChiTownGal

    Interesting. I disagree with some of your points, and agree with others. I am a big Woody Allen fan. He’s unrealistic, quirky, weird, the most hated man in Hollywood, makes horrible movies that continue to win awards, and oh yeah, he married his adopted daughter and had two kids with her.