Five Things I’ve Learned from Superman


I jumped off the bed, flew into the air, and landed the wrong way on my foot, breaking it.  I was six and there was every indication I was from the planet Krypton, whose sun exploded when I was a baby, leaving me an orphan on a planet filled with people who would never fully understand me

I had a cape on (my Superman blanket). The weak gravity of Earth would not hold me down. Nothing could hold me down. My mother claims she heard the crack of bone from the other side of our suburban house. Crack! I landed. It could’ve happened. She might’ve heard it.

(Alex Ross was the best artist ever for Superman)

I had to wear a cast. On the first day of first grade, in a brand new school, I was “that kid”. The one who limped. The one who had a cast. You know, the one you probably would’ve hung out with because clearly I was destined to be the coolest kid in first grade. At the end of the day I had an itch inside my cast. It was excruciating. And it was raining. The teacher, Mrs. Klecor, wouldn’t let us leave to catch our bus at the end of the day unless we could spell our names. I have a bad name for such a task. “Altucher”. I was sure I was going to miss my bus. I was the last one left. I started to cry. Because after school I was getting the cast off. But not if I couldn’t spell my name and miss my bus.

Almost  30 years later I’m still Superman.

I’m clumsy like Clark Kent. I have glasses. Black hair. I’m often shy in public. People often laugh at me. And, like many people, I have a secret identity that I’m hiding. One that I reveal bit by bit in this blog. But nevertheless, if I were to reveal everything I’d end up in jail or a hospital or an institution or more people would hate me than normally do or Claudia would leave me or other people would be badly hurt by those who would take advantage of the real truth. It’s my secret identity.

From the age of 4 to the age of 44 I’ve been reading Superman. If I weren’t writing this blog I could sit down today and write 50 sample scripts to submit to DC Comics.

So, of course, I have 5 things I learned from Superman:

A)     I still am Superman. It wasn’t just when I was six. I have a secret identity disguised as the socially and physically awkward James Altucher that everyone sees but I know is not the real me. Meanwhile, if everyone knew who I really was they would be blown away by my powers. I know deep down how special I am. I’m originally from another planet, Krypton. Superman’s Kryptonian name was Kal-El. Coincidentally, that is my Kryptonian name. I’m misunderstood by the people of Earth. But I don’t care. Everyday I wake up knowing I’m Superman and it makes me feel good.

B)      Superman had no useful powers. People always say Batman had no powers and Superman did. But it’s actually the reverse. Think about it: when would you ever need super strength?  Are you really picking up a car anytime soon? No, of  course not. Heat vision? What for? I have a microwave. X-ray vision? I can see the most beautiful woman in the world naked anytime I want. All of my neighbors are hideous even with clothes on. And we all know that women in general are sexier with skimpy clothes than totally naked.  And super hearing? I already know what everyone thinks about me. I think I would be horrified to hear them say those things.

(when do you ever really need to do this?)

What else? Oh yeah, flying. Where would you fly? And people would see you. And you’d eat flies and run into birds. Ewww. Forget it. I’m not flying. I don’t even have a driver’s license.  I’ll walk. Or take a train and watch a movie on my ipad. Oh, and bullets don’t affect Superman. To be honest, nobody has ever shot at me so this doesn’t seem like a useful power to me.

But just knowing I’m Superman, with secret powers, is enough to make me happy. I AM Superman. I’m above the worries of Earthlings. And I believe that with everything inside of me. That’s my secret. The secret has power.

C)      Every day I wake up and say, “I’m going to save a life”. All day long I look for situations where I can save a life. And I do it. Every day I save at least one life. Today I probably saved five lives. And I feel good about it. Try it. Wake up tomorrow and say, “I’m going to save at least one life today”. Even helping an old woman across the street counts. Even responding to an email and helping someone make an important decision saves a life. Even reaching out to a distant friend and asking “how are you doing” can save their life. You can save a life today. Don’t let the sun set without doing that. You are Superman.

(do you ever really need heat vision?)

D)     Yoga. Superman is the ultimate yogi. Not because of any flexibility. He’s probably not very flexible actually because his joints and muscles are super tough. But he follows very well the basic precepts of yoga. He doesn’t harm anyone, despite his capability of easily doing so. He doesn’t lie (other than his secret identity, which he holds onto so others aren’t harmed).

He’s never possessive (why be possessive of anything if he can have anything he wants anytime he wants – like me). He practices “brahmacharya” – a form of celibacy or self-control, outside of his relationship with the beautiful Lois Lane. Even Napoleon Hill in his classic, “Think and Grow Rich” has an entire chapter on this. Superman also seems to have “santosha” / contentment. He never seems obsessed with grudges from his past. I’ve never seen him worry about his future.  I haven’t always been Superman in this respect. But now I am. And NOW is all I care about.

E)      All of his friends are superheroes. The Flash. Black Canary. Wonder Woman. Batman, etc. They all have secret identities. They all see a world totally out of balance. They all have powers they use for good, that they use to bring balance back to the world. All of my friends are superheroes also. Each one of my friends has a different power. But they are all amazing powers and I’m blessed when I see those powers in action. And once someone joins the bad guys they are no longer my friend. I’m busy saving lives. I don’t need bad friends.

I’m 44 now. I no longer need to jump off a bed to prove I can fly. I know I’m going to save a life today. And nobody’s going to figure out who I really am. But I will tell you this. I’m Kal-El  and I’m from the long dead planet Krypton.

(escaping my home planet as it blows up. But I can be happy in my fortress of solitude. My real home that nobody can get to)

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  • RogueTraderette

    Love it James.  And thanks to you I just sent my brother who I haven’t spoken to for ages an email to tell him I love him.  One life saved for today. 

  • Amit

    No Comments!

  • Jay Zalowitz

    Its simple, we kill the batman.

    • Sahil

      If its easy why you haven’t done it yet!

      • Kevin Biomech

         He didn’t say it was easy. He said it was simple.

  • 736hundred

    Does Superman know some days he has to save his own life?

  • Ahmed Shreef

    See, I’m not that kind of person who will put a comment on every article he read. still after reading what your write for months, I had to tell you that your writings are more than awesome and I wish I can write my thoughts like that on my blog.

    Keep writing like that. I’m watching you .. Mr.Superman.

  • Murali

    Would never have equated superman to a YOGI. It makes sense!

  • Samudra Neelam Bhuyan

    You are crazy.

    I like crazy.

  • Todd_Andelin

    Really great post James.  Funny, I think you have powers to steal ideas from my head.  Non local consciousness or something.  Last week this essence of this post was already in my head.  And just a few minutes before reading this, I put an ad on Craigslist for a free lunch/ me listen to someone else’s problems.  No joke.  
    The superman self-image is really interesting.  Yesterday I told myself I was an amazing business consultant. While I drove past a small airport where corporate jets from Jack Henry (software company) routinely land, I told myself that CEOs and their companies should be landing here to talk to me.  My phone would be ringing constantly.  Wouldn’t it be great if my phone was filled with CEO’s who were anxious to talk to me…..”We want to pick you up”…”Hi, Todd, This is Frank Blake from Home Depot…How are you?  Can I stop by and discuss some ideas with you.  WE NEED YOUR INPUT!!!”
    Home Depot, Google, Facebook, Ford, Filson, Ferrari, Coleman, Wal Mart, Old Navy, Tandy Leather, Family Video, Broan, See’s….all these companies need my expertise.  
    I am a superconsultant.  They are waiting for me to help them.

    What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

  • Sooz

    I am beyond grateful to have you as a  friend..

  • mike

    James, you have no idea how many lives you saved.

    It feels so good to quit a job (just did it twice in a row). On the other side, I love the college and feel terrible when I neglect it (it is free for all age in my socialist European debt-sinking country, hahaha)

    I have also found a sufficient alternative to yoga… but waking up at 5am is still a mystery if I am not paid for it :-)

    I’m starting my own very small business again (involves waking up at 5am :-)), and I am one inch from writing a blog.

    One question; is it any good if I train “the idea muscle” by also stealing other peoples ideas and writing them up besides mine, or is that just nurturing my laziness?

    P.S.: I’ts great that your planet blew up, so you came here. Sorry for the inhabitants though… they probably had bad karma :-P

    • Priscilla P. Wood

      haha, love this!

  • mike

    James, you have no idea how many lives you saved.

    It feels so good to quit a job (just did it twice in a row). On the other side, I love the college and feel terrible when I neglect it (it is free for all age in my socialist European debt-sinking country, hahaha)

    I have also found a sufficient alternative to yoga… but waking up at 5am is still a mystery if I am not paid for it :-)

    I’m starting my own very small business again (involves waking up at 5am :-)), and I am one inch from writing a blog.

    One question; is it any good if I train “the idea muscle” by also stealing other peoples ideas and writing them up besides mine, or is that just nurturing my laziness?

    P.S.: I’ts great that your planet blew up, so you came here. Sorry for the inhabitants though… they probably had bad karma :-P

  • JimMay

    Bill summed up Superman in the most unique way ever.  Thank you Quentin Tarantino…

    Bill: As you know, l’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well-drawn. But the mythology… The mythology is not only great, it’s unique. The Bride: [who still has a needle in her leg] How long does this shit take to go into effect? Bill: About two minutes, just long enough for me to finish my point. Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race. Sorta like Beatrix Kiddo and Mrs. Tommy Plimpton. The Bride: Aso. The point emerges. Bill: You would’ve worn the costume of Arlene Plimpton. But you were born Beatrix Kiddo. And every morning when you woke up, you’d still be Beatrix Kiddo. Oh, you can take the needle out. The Bride: [does so] Are you calling me a superhero? Bill: I’m calling you a killer. A natural born killer. You always have been, and you always will be. Moving to El Paso, working in a used record store, goin’ to the movies with Tommy, clipping coupons. That’s you, trying to disguise yourself as a worker bee That’s you tryin’ to blend in with the hive. But you’re not a worker bee. You’re a renegade killer bee. And no matter how much beer you drank or barbecue you ate or how fat your ass got, nothing in the world would ever change that. Share this quote

    • GT

       I had forgotten how awesome that piece of dialogue was. The stuff about how Superman was born Superman is interesting, but for me the distillation – the key point – is the observation that Clark Kent is Superman’s critique of the human race.

      I’m not a Tarantino fan – he’s derivative, and typically shallow faux-profound (i.e., American) – but that one piece of dialogue represents a genuine contribution to the understanding of that peculiarly-American aspect of popular culture: the prancing leotarded do-gooder.

      The whole ‘super-hero’ thing is so imbued with latent homo-eroticism that Freud would lose a load in his own pants thinking about it: these ‘roided out guys flouncing about in skin-tight Spandex… seems more than a little FABULOUS in a very Mardi Gras sort of way. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, so long as all those sidekicks are above the age of consent).

      Anyhow – back from my little digression. As I say: not a fan of Tarantino. BUT (and it’s a big but)… that one observation (Clark Kent as critique of humanity), if original, represents a genuine insight, and those are rare as fuck.

  • Marc Mullen

    Since I started reading your blog, I feel like I have grown as a person and I wanted to thank you for that.

  • Alom Mohammed

    I am not a big fan of superman at all – but that was probably the most interesting pieces I have read on his character!!
    I loved the “Superman had no useful powers” paragraph

  • Jlcollinsnh

    I dunno, James….

    Personally, I love my super strength.  It’s not that I’m picking up cars all the time it’s just nice to know I can.

    People are taking pot shots at me all the time.  Don’t know where I’d be if those bullets didn’t bounce right off.

    Xray vision is essential for seeing what’s really there, just below the surface, and super hearing allows me to really listen if only to the early morning birds.

    Flying is the best of all.  No airports or traffic jams getting to them.  No TSA pat downs.  No cramped middle seat with the skinny wretches on either side complaining that I take up too much room.

    And heat vision?  You don’t see the value in heat vision?  Well maybe you eat in better diners than I, but after having my cold coffee “warmed up” with luke warm refills too many times, heat vision might be the most valuable power of all.

    • James Altucher

       Haha. Ok, you’ve convinced me.

      • Francisco González-Soldevilla

        James, you bring out the best in people. You’re truly blessed. Thanks for sharing. Keep writing. I promise to continue reading.

  • Gonzalo Gandia

    The other day I dreamt I was flying…I wonder what that means?

    Flying would always be cool, I don’t see any downside whatsoever!!

    • James Altucher

      Flies and bees that go in your mouth. Or crashing into birds. 

  • James Hu

    Awesome post James!

    5 things I learned so far from this blog post:
    – balancing one’s life is to be observing and reflecting our thoughts into useful or non-useful
    – giving is the 1st step towards receiving
    – thinking is connected to one’s own awareness
    – intelligent thinking is connected to one’s own actions
    – there are superheroes among us that we’re so afraid to connect with that our secret identities have prevailed to be our chosen skin; why not shine in brilliance all the time. 


  • Robert Hidajat

    Great post James. Big fan of Superman. Your post made me search all over the web to see if Alex Ross had passed away. Fortunately, he’s alive and well. Alex Ross IS the best artist ever for Superman :)
    I also disagree with you on the super powers, they can come in handy, as long as you’re emotionally stable enough to handle them ;) Related to your post the other day about movies, you should watch Chronicles if you haven’t already!
    But, despite all these powers and being an alien, I think his greatest power is his humanity. Props to Ma & Pa Kent. They’re the kind of parents I aspire to be.

  • L’elephant

    That pict of Superman…is just perfect!

  • rollingdancefloor

    Thanks man, love you brother. D.

  • JT DeBolt

    Sweet post, James. We all have greatness inside us, and we share it in ways most congruent with our own “super powers”. Some of us teach, some of us speak, some of us write, some of us run into burning buildings…and so on. The fact is, too few have closed our eyes and our minds to our OWN super powers, looking instead to the greatness of others. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all formed the “Hall of Justice” and lived in our true awesomeness? Yes…that would indeed be “super”.

  • Gil

    “I can see the most beautiful woman in the world naked anytime I want. All of my neighbors are hideous even with clothes on.”

    James Altucher FTW!

  • Dan

    I think only Superman, Jesus and Napoleon Hill can really master sexual transmutation! I know that I sure as hell can’t…can you?

  • James Hamlett

    It is good to look at and recognize your innate and inborn skills and talents that differentiate you from the next human being.  We all have something inside of us that makes us unique and super talented even if that skill is not fully developed yet.  Most people concentrate on their faults and do not even look at the talents that could make them a super hero in the sphere of their life. We all have some admirable within us.

  • Mike

     I just paid $4,000 on plane tickets to see my family.  Flying would totally be a useful power.

  • Laura G.

    I’m a Superman freak! This is the best blog I’ve ever read in my life.

    We all have our superpowers, that’s for sure. Sometimes, I feel like mine are going to go away because I don’t use them enough. The “use it or lose it” mentality isn’t lost on me.

    My strengths are in things that don’t earn money, and I need money, so I ignore my passions. People say I should take up hobbies, but I feel like that would be a tease. So, for me, I often avoid things. The problem is that when I avoid doing things I love, I get depressed. Basically, I feel unfulfilled when I do a bit of what I love and depressed when I do none of it. Sorry to sound so fatalistic, but it’s the truth.

    II, I, III, IIII:
    This is the correct awesomeness order of Superman movies. I will, of course, not include the “Superman” movie that came out a few years ago– it was the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter version of Superman. In other words, I could believe it was not Superman.

  • Michael

    I’ve been a big Superman fan ever since ’93 and the Doomsday death and rebirth story arc.  I’m now trying to collect all of the Superman comics from the ’90s.  I couldn’t really get into anything past 2000, so I stopped trying.   But the DC reboot of all of their superheros looks amazing. Have you seen the new 52 book?   Superman reboot is amazing. 

    James, I’ve got a quick question about the idea muscle.  I used to write poetry and I found that help my idea muscle but I want to try the lists thing and I am getting a block on even what to make lists of since I find myself trying to make useful lists but then they just turn into to do lists which doesn’t reflex my idea muscle. 

    Any suggestions for other ways to flex the idea muscle?

    • Robert Hidajat

      Same with me! I came to the US in ’93 as an exchange student, 1st comic I bought was the Death of Superman graphic novel. I’ve been hooked ever since. Sadly the past 10 years it’s been mediocre so I’ve also dropped it. Kingdom Come and the All Stars Superman series are the last good Superman stories I’ve read.
      I had high hopes for the Action Comics and Superman reboot but I’ve been pretty disappointed in both so far :( The JLA reboot, however, is awesome! :)

      • Michael

        haha I bought the White Bag cover where Kal-El and Jonathan Kent fought back to life.  What a great day it was finding that comic. 

        Kingdom Come I thought was really good, enjoyed that.  What didn`t you like about the new Supes reboot?  You preferred him in tights instead of jeans? haha jk. 

        What is All Stars Superman?  

        I am so incredibly nervous for the new superman movie coming out next year.  Amy Adams as Lois Lane?!?!  The only bright spot is that there’s no way it can be as awful as Superman Returns, and at least Chris Nolan has a hand in writing the story, Im okay with that. :)

  • gordonwhite

    This is a bit tangential -and only a bit- because I love you to death James. However I suggest you look at Grant Morrison’s work regarding Superman before you say he has no useful powers.

    As Grant points out, there’s a very good reason that the first time you see him he’s destroying a car -the product of industrial, faceless processes and working for large corporations and squeezing people through education factories.

    It’s a reason you may rather like.

    • James Altucher

       Gordon, very funny – I read Grant’s book on Superman right before I wrote this post. It was basically the inspiration for the post. And his description of why that cover was fascinating. I definitely recommend Grant’s book “Supergods” which is sort of an alternative history of the comic book industry.

  • Ethandt92

    “To be honest, nobody has ever shot at me so this doesn’t seem like a useful power to me.”

    First of all, just because you haven’t been shot yet does not mean it can’t happen in the future. I’d say be prepared for the worst case scenario.
    Second, who said someone had to shoot you? You can use your bulletproof abilities to save others, like your family. Anything can happen.

    All in all, it really is all about uncertainty. You can’t be certain you, your family or some one else close to you will never be shot. So metaphorically speaking, be bulletproof…

  • tjforryan

    You forgot Superman’s superspeed – that’s probably the most useful of all his powers.

    Not to mention, his invulnerability would still be useful for cuts, scrapes and even that broken foot.

    I agree with your self-analysis (not in the sense that it works for you – after all I don’t know you).  We all put on costumes and mask our true selves.  It’s part of trying to fit in and be socially acceptable.

    The real tragedy is that so many people do no try to help people or do what is right (save lives, as you put it).  They simply see other people who have not helped them and so do not wish to help them back.  Not everyone is  a Superman beneath the secret identity.

    If only more people did believe that they could fly… 

  • Terry Smith

    Don’t write up a script and send it to DC – do what Alan Moore did and create a new character who is obviously Superman (Supreme) and map everything over. In stead of Lex Luther he has Darius Dax etc… People will know and that ideas will all still work. Another example is the Invincible book.

  • S1sde103459

    Look down in the loo…  Is it a Bird, is it a Plane…?  No, it looks like Altucher.

  • Ray

    What about ice breath?  Clearly the most useful of Superman’s powers.  And also an infinite number of deus ex machinas to save you from any danger would come in useful, as would never aging in 75 years…

  • Ken

    Good points about Superman not having any useful powers.  

    Something else to consider, if did have those powers, people would always be after you to help them do stuff:  “Oh, Superman, could you move that tree?   Superman, my car is stuck in the mud, can you pull it out for me?  Superman, my steak isn’t done well enough, can you heat it up for me?  Wait!  not that well done!  Oh now you’ve gone and burned it!”


    Believe me, I have a truck and that’s bad enough.  If I had super powers I wouldn’t have a life.

    Laser Guided Loogie

  • Laszlo

    Excellent post, James! I also liked this thought: “Each one of my friends has a different power. But they are all amazing powers and I’m blessed when I see those powers in action. And once someone joins the bad guys they are no longer my friend. I’m busy saving lives. I don’t need bad friends.”

    In my own little world my daughters make me feel like Superman. I can warm their food when they are hungry, answer their questions about any topic, move heavy things they cannot, carry them when they are tired walking, protect them when they are scared…

    Keep it up James! :-)

  • Tracy Lovett

    Each of us needs our own little “Justice League” to realize all of our powers.  For me, that’s key–surrounding myself with the culture of superheroes–and we all ALREADY ARE superheroes.  As I tell my kids–and one son in particular, “Use your powers for good, not evil.”  THAT is the challenge for many.

  • tauslu

    Here is the Ottoman versions of superman and other heroes

    (little late on commentary, so I hope you see it)

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