Get Rid of Your Bad Habits
- Posted by James Altucher
I went on one date with a girl so of course the next day I called her. We met while I was hitchhiking so I thought this would be a great story for our grandchildren. She said, “we should definitely do this again.” So I called. She wasn’t home. I waited five minutes. I called her again. She wasn’t home. I called her 20 times. I spaced it out every five to seven minutes just to mix it up. Finally she picked up, “was that you calling all those times?” I said, “maybe”. I wanted a second date with her. I thought I was in love with her. I never saw or heard from her again.
Another time I was sure I was going to go broke. I did everything possible to make sure my vision of going broke came true. I invested huge amounts in the stock market and lost it all. I bought a huge loft and lost it. I stopped paying attention to my work until I lost my job and the business I started. Then it came true. I went broke.
My kid just turned into a teenager. Everyone tells me, “WATCH OUT!” as if she’s now going to fall from some horribly huge building. I don’t care. I’m not listening. I’m just going to enjoy her right now.
These are all related to bad habits. We have apocalyptic visions of the future and obsess on them. We give excuses. We blame people. We dwell on past angers. Historical equals hysterical. We blame the world, the President, the rich, the poor. We’re afraid of going broke a year from now. Afraid someone is talking behind our back. Refuse to advance ourselves until…until…and then until again.
That’s why bad habits are so insidious. We actually develop mythologies as to why the bad habits might be good. We confuse self-improvement with bad habits or at least talk ourselves into thinking that.
Here are some:
A) Worrying about obstacles. I have lots of obstacles in front of me. There are many things I worry about. But I know if today I do things to help people, if today I work on what I need to do and nothing else, then instead of worrying I can also enjoy my down time.
When you have an obstacle in the future (you have three months of money left in the bank), you get scared. Or, your girlfriend is cheating, then it’s like being hit by an arrow. But when you then worry or obsess about it, it’s as if you are being hit by a second arrow. It’s the “obsess arrow” that can kill you.
99% of the things I am anxious about never come true. Perhaps I am more anxious than most. But I’m always trying to calculate the future and I’m usually wrong. It’s hard to predict the future, particularly if it’s clouded by your anxieties and worries. And none of those worries will help you make a decision about what you need to do right now, today.
B) Complaining. Saying, “I’m not good enough for X, or Y, or Z” where those things might be a person, or some money, or a job. Complaining never got anyone the job. Or complaining never got anyone love or success. Complaining is scratching an itch. Complaining is riding a dirty subway without any destination.
And yet people do it all the time to make excuses. If you say all the time, “I will never find the love of my life” or “I will never find my passion” or “I will never get a job” then those words will become trapped in your body and mind, taking up the space that the love of your life could’ve taken up.
C) Blaming Others. When I lost millions of dollars in 2000, many people encouraged me to sue my stock broker. Blame him. When I lost my marriage, I could’ve blamed any number of people, including myself, when a company I was involved with didn’t perform as well as I felt it should’ve , I had many people to blame. And many blamed me.
Blaming makes you angry. It brings you down a path that will have no good results (for instance, suing my stockbroker would’ve been a wasteful and expensive effort, or killing a guy who I thought was affecting a relationship I was in would’ve probably put me in jail, or blaming a boss for a company’s bad results would’ve only made my job harder. )
Everyone wants to blame. But Anger only causes wasted energy and tension. Anger never causes success. And even if you blame yourself, it only takes up moments where you could’ve been creative, or relaxed, or enjoying life, or laying down your next plans for the future. When you look in the mirror, saying, “I hate you” won’t make you more handsome.
When I was a kid I was so hideous with acne and messed up hair, and wimpy looks that a friend of mine looked at me and said, “you should smile more. It will make you look better.” And he was right.
D) Time. A girl I used to date called me up crying. She said, “I’m fat. Everyone is ripping me off. I’m getting insomnia. And I’m going to run out of money in two years.” She had been married to someone very successful and had two years left on her alimony payments.
I said to her, “Well, I have the solution that will solve all of your problems.” She wanted to know what it was. I said, “Stop eating at that fancy steak restaurant every night. Stop drinking until two in the morning. Stop hanging out with that same group of people you are always complaining to me about. That’s it. Then come back to me in six months I bet everything will be better.”
She said, “I can’t do that. My whole lifestyle depends on those things you just said.” So now she weighs more, has less friends, less money, and is more scared. She’s considering surgery to help with these things but I’m not sure what surgery will help. Meanwhile, she has three million dollars in the bank and is 100% convinced she is going to go broke within five years and obsessively thinks about it.
Most people have no clue about time management. But the basic idea is: Avoid dinner and TV and you’ve just saved yourself 100s of hours a month. HUNDREDS! And you will lose weight, you will wake up earlier, when you have time to be creative in silence (I’m writing this at 5am). Most Americans eat 3000-4000 calories a day anyway. I can tell you one thing for sure. NOBODY reading this blog is going to starve to death. No matter what you do. Even better if you can avoid alcohol at night. I would say avoid it all the time but, if you must, have alcohol at lunch. At least then the sugar will be out of your system at night so you can sleep well.
Some people say, “well I have kids, I can’t go to sleep early.” There’s only a short window where you can’t go to sleep earlier than your kids. And you don’t have to eat with them. Gross!
E) Envy. Warren Buffett just said that we need to tax the rich to avoid societal unrest. “Societal unrest”! Isn’t that crazy? He basically is accusing all society of being schizophrenic because we know everyone wants more money, but he’s also saying that everyone wants everyone else to have less money. Or else civil war.
I’ll keep my hand out of your wallet if you keep your hand out of mine. There’s plenty to go around.
F) Talking too much. Do you really have that much to say? At a meeting? Or to friends? Are you trying to justify something? Or sell something that can’t sell itself? Everytime you’re in a meeting, or even just hanging out talking, you’re probably just wasting time you could be thinking, or resting, or learning, or feeling grateful for something, or just enjoying being yourself.
G) Disappointment about Failure. I am so guilty of this. Heck, this entire blog seems to be about all of my disappointments. I had a deal fall through for me the other day. I was trying to sell an investment I had. The deal was all set. Then the other guy backed out. It was the tenth such instance this year. I thought, “why is this always happening to me??” The funny thing is, everytime one of these deals falls through I keep hearing more and more good news about the companies I’m invested in. Thank god (so far) for all my failures this year!
Everytime you fail, use it as an excuse to back up, look at what might not have been ready yet for success, and adjust your mind, emotions, and business, to be ready for the right moment when it comes. And be grateful you failed. Because it’s only going to be better. This sounds corny but it’s true.
Someone asked me yesterday, “what happens if you fail at raising money for your business.” I said, “it’s only a good thing. It’s a message you or your business were not ready. So it gives you a chance to take a step back and make a better business.” When everything is working, raising money is easy.
H) Blaming the World and the Economy. My 10 year old says to me, “why has the economy been bad since I’ve been born?” I feel bad for her. The only reason she’s saying that is from some anxiety she has. That she’s probably gotten from me in some way. We’ve had an internet bust, a housing bust, a financial crisis, 10% unemployment, skyrocketing food prices, oil prices, etc.
Everything always seems pretty bad. And everyone complains about how hard things are. If you look at the news here’s the same headline for the past two years or so: “Greece worries bring down markets!” Who the hell is Greece already?
But in a $50 trillion dollar world economy, the few people who manage to rise above the blaming and the despair and the fear and the anxiety and the envy and the negativity, will get their hands on a piece of that $50 trillion dollars. If you rise above the competitive to become creative then you will win, regardless of the economy.
Think about it. If you don’t engage in the anxieties and panic 99% of the people are engaged in for no good reason then you’ve suddenly eliminated all of your competition. Now you can be creative and succeed. You can take a slice of that $50 trillion cake and eat it while everyone else is vomiting in the bathroom.
I) No advancement. I used to think, “when I get a novel published I’ll finally be happy, or get a girlfriend, or get a job, or get money.” Or “when I get 100 million dollars in the bank, I’ll start to get back in shape.” Or, “when I get a girlfriend, I’ll buy some furniture or I’ll start finally writing that book I always wanted to write.”
Advancement can happen every day. Even in the smallest of ways. Make four new goals today. Make them very simple. Don’t say, “I’m going to lift 200 lbs and then I’ll be in shape.” Just say, “I’m not going to snack today”. Or even, “I’m going to walk around the block today .”
Why 4 goals? Because of what I always say: You can’t just improve with one of your bodies: but all four: physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. They are all connected. If you make one simple goal for each of them, then and only then do they begin to compound. We all know the magic effects of compounding. It adds up to a lot over six months.
Why do I keep pushing this? I’m not selling anything. What is wrong with this guy? All I can say is: it helped me.
And I don’t publish testimonials but maybe I should. It helps a lot of other people. And maybe there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I want to be loved more so I want people to use this trick that I use so people will say, “My God! He’s a genius!” Maybe I need to work on my insecurity. If you have trouble tracking the goals use tdp.me to track. I track my goals there. Sometimes I don’t hit every goal every day. But don’t feel guilty. There’s always the next day. It’s about progress, Progress makes permanent. Not perfection.
I haven’t done a real release of that yet. We’re adding a few more features so you can search and browse other people’s goals (depending on their privacy settings). We’re also adding more features to the Q&A side. I’ll write a full post when it’s released.
In November 2008 I was constantly worried about the financial crisis. I would lie in a hammock and I couldn’t even move if it started to rain. I thought “this is it,” the world is over and I’m going to die. Every business I was trying was going down the tubes. I have vague memories of trying to start a hedge fund then. And a business. And I had a book published that sold 300 copies.
“This is it,” I thought. “I suck.” I was getting a divorce. I was losing my friends. The economy was going to zero. The ATM machines would stop working. At some point in the future I would run out of money. My family hated me. I ate Thanksgiving dinner by myself in an empty diner.
Then I replaced all my negative thoughts with only one: I have to advance each day on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. That will eliminate all my bad habits. But back then I would lie in my hammock, soaking wet, nobody caring, the sky just getting darker and darker, and me praying for god to finally just take me home.blog comments powered by Disqus