My Last Will and Testament
- Posted by James Altucher
“I Want to Die” is still the most popular search term that takes people to this blog.
First off, it’s a lie. “James Altucher” is the most popular. “Altucher” might be the second most popular. But for phrases that don’t include “Altucher” then “I want to die” is first. By a factor of 4:1 over “Mark Cuban” and “alternatives to college”. And then, surprisingly, “magic” and for some reason, “pearl harbor”.
Next, the word “popular” is weird. It’s true. The phrase “I want to die” is popular. But not in the way “Britney Spears” was at one time “popular” or that Andy Warhol does “pop art”. It’s a twisted version of popular. Where numbers are used to define popularity, as they often are in our society. How much money do you have? What are your traffic numbers? How many touchdowns did you make last year? How much square footage in your house? How many delegates does Mitt Romney have? We are defined by the numbers around us. Try to spend a day without thinking about numbers. It’s hard. Nevertheless, “I want to die” is very popular on my blog.
Finally, why does that search term take people to my blog. I offer no techniques for killing oneself.
They don’t really want to die. The real person inside is a little boy or girl who wants to play outside with her friends, who wants to be kissed and touched, who wants to feel relaxed from the many problems that plague them. We all have the seeds of a little mental illness around us. The mental illness is a wall without windows and we feel trapped inside the room. Death seems the only exit.
We need techniques to open a window. Look outside. At the snow. At the beach. At the sun. At the birds.
I’m going to die. If I had to predict, it will be of heart disease in about forty years. That’s a guess. But why not guess. I know I won’t die in a car crash. Or a plane crash. I am hardly ever in those two vehicles. I won’t die of smoking related diseases. Perhaps I will die of some form of liver failure since whenever I have a toothache I take pain killers which affect the liver. I’m on the lookout for stroke since that’s how my father died. But heart disease seems like a natural killer for me.
So it’s about time I write my last will and testament to my kids. They already will have everything materially from me. That stuff doesn’t matter to me.
But here are some other things I hope I can give them:
- Be kind. In thought, action, and speech. Action is obvious (e.g. don’t hit someone). Speech is a little harder (e.g. don’t gossip about someone behind their back). Thought is even harder but protects you from the other two.
- Be honest. All the time. Not even a white lie. This is really hard. For instance, if I can’t go to meet with someone, it’s very hard to tell the truth but I do. I don’t say, “I don’t want to meet you”. Nor do I lie by saying the universally accepted lie, “I’m sick.” Usually I want to meet people. I like having friends. But I’m a bit of a shut-in. So I need to say what’s really on my mind, “I have to write today.” Or, “I have to prepare for XYZ project today.” And then it’s up to them to accept it. There’s other ways we lie. Sometimes there are big ways. But bit by bit I’ve been eliminating those big ways from my life.
- Don’t be possessive. I think I’m possessive. I don’t think I would like it if Claudia were to leave me, for instance. I’d probably try to force her to stay with me. I’m trying to practice not being possessive. Every day I throw something out, even things that for years I have loved. Like a good comic book or a book of stories I loved but can now easily get on Kindle. Or a shirt with holes that has easily passed its time. Gone.
- Be content. I don’t have a billion dollars. And I don’t have zero. Sometimes I give up on opportunities to make a lot more money. I debate with myself: should I do it for my kids. Should I do it because…that’s what one does – make money in our society. But sometimes it’s good to stop for a bit. To be happy with exactly what you have today and nothing more or nothing less.
- Surrender. You can’t control everything. You might get fired. You might get cheated on. You might win the lottery. You might not be an Olympic athlete. You might not have any good choices for lunch today. Sometimes you just need to surrender, “this is it. I trust that my subconscious/superconscious/the universe/spirit/whatever will take care of me like it always has.” What happens when you can’t surrender? It’s that wall again. It needs a window if you want to see the world outside. Surrender builds the window. A sense of surrender to all the things in the world we don’t understand or can’t control is the highest form of good you can do. One way to practice surrender is by being grateful for what you do have. Every thought of gratitude opens a window.
- Daily Practice. Do it.
Everything else is a fight. If you want money, you have to fight to get it. Then you have to fight to keep it. If you want people to talk about you, then don’t forget that they will also talk bad about you. If you want love forever, then don’t forget that love can be lost. And just like I am going to die, so will you, and whatever children you end up having.
But I lied again. I can’t give you the above six things, the way I leave you a chair, or a plant, or a book. I don’t think I really have them to give. I can just leave you those words. Nor can I control you to follow them. If you want to be mean, who am I to stop you?
But I don’t want you to worry like I have worried. I don’t want you wake up in the middle of the night, with all the thoughts bouncing around your head while you think, “I am mentally ill. I can’t get out of the pain in my head.” I don’t want people to hate you. I don’t want you to hate people or be angry at people who may have wronged you. If you follow the above six things it will lessen your chances of having a night like that. I can promise that.
I’m asking for a lot. I know. Maybe most of all I don’t want you to find this post by searching “I Want to Die” in Google.blog comments powered by Disqus