Hitting Bottom, Idea Sex, How Not To Pay Student Loans, and More
- Posted by James Altucher
WHEN I HIT BOTTOM
Corey Mays @coreyisamaysing: What was one of the most important things you learned from failing at a start up?
I called my parents to borrow a few hundred dollars. Two years earlier I had $15 milllion cash in the bank. Now I had $0 in the bank. ZERO. I had started and sold a company. I had been a venture capitalist. Now, in my mind, I was the worst loser possible. I didn’t have enough money to feed my kids. I was 34 years old and had to go back to mommy and daddy for some money.
For their own reasons, they said “no”. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to buy diapers for my two daughters. They said “no”. I was worried I would run out and not be able to buy food for my family. They said “no”.
I didn’t want to argue. I hung up the phone. They tried to call back. I yelled out, “don’t pick up”. They tried sending me email messages over the next few months. During that time I moved into financial exile 70 miles north of the city. I barely left my house. I gained 20 pounds. I asked one store owner, randomly why the world always felt like it was going to end and she just stared at me.
I started a new career, having nothing to do with older careers I was in. I had to. I had to make some money or still my family would die. Not just me, but my whole family. After a few months of exile I started to leave my house a little. I would swing on a swingset at five in the morning. Or shoot baskets by the river while the sun rose. I never slept. I would say to myself, “this is what it feels like to disappear”. When I remember it now it felt like it was always snowing. That I couldn’t move because there was nothing but gray and snow.
My dad sent me emails. I never answered them. I went on TV once. He sent me an email, “you looked good on TV”. I didn’t answer him. I was trying to start a new career. I was in a permanent state of fear.
After eight months,I got a call from my sister, “Dad had a stroke”. “When?” “Two days ago”. I drove to see him. He had tubes and the usual sticking out of every place in him. Over two years later he died without ever speaking again. So when I hung up on him eight months before his stroke, it was the last time I spoke to him.
This isn’t a story about loving the people around you, even in your worst moment. Nor is it a story about talking to your parents or about regrets. It’s a story that even when things feel like they are at their worst, even when emotion hits bottoms you never even knew existed, you will come back if you persist through them.
If you stay healthy, if you love yourself, if you are grateful for the tiniest things that push you forward, if you keep the past in the past, if you close off the fears of the future, if right now you live live LIVE.
I am here now. I survived.
[NOTE: I did a video with bestselling author of “I Will Teach You To be Rich”, Ramit Sethi” about “overcoming your fear of failure”. The link to the video can be found here. ]
WHERE WAS I WHEN I HAD MY BEST IDEAS?
Stress Addressed @StressAddressed: where/what were you doing when you got your best ideas? (stocktwits, reset, your blog) coffeeshop? walking? lying in bed? shower?
I get my best ideas when I am having sex. And when I’m having sex like that, its the best thing I can do to improve the world. Better than charity, better than giving money.
Ideas compound via idea sex. They love each other. They see each other in the street and within minutes they are kissing, feeling, smelling each other. How do we best fit together? How can we build a long-term relationship? Or is this just a one-night stand? Or will this be fun but not really work out in the long run. On and on.
So the key is to expose yourself to many ideas. So they can have as much pleasure as possible. This is not just about ideas but about creativity. Creativity multiplies until the entire world around you is humming from your busy children. How to increase the compounding:
A) Aggregate. List your ideas every day. Do this every day. After six months, maybe a year, of listing 10-20 ideas a day you might have one or two good ideas. Do you ever have to look back at them? Maybe yes, maybe no. Don’t pressure yourself on that. If you come up with one good idea this month, you’ll come up with two next month, regardless of whether or not you looked back on the good ideas. The key is to analyze.
B) Books. Read two hours a day at least. I try to read at least one non-fiction, one fiction, one spiritual book, one book about games. Everything gets the brain going. The non-fiction gets you a lifetime’s worth of someone else’s ideas in just a few pages. The fiction helps you see your own life through a filter of art. The spiritual book reminds you that you can’t control the world and that you must be grateful for the sliver of existence that has been sliced off for you and you alone. The book about games is for fun. The brain must have fun to prepare itself for sex.
C) Connection. The other day I met several people at a conference that I had been corresponding with for years. It’s one thing when you send people emails and learn over time to respect each other’s answers, writings, personality. It’s another thing when you meet and talk and see each other. Then you become friends. Ideas from smart friends are worth 100x the ideas you read. Figure out who you’re going to meet. Figure out how you are going to meet them. One tip: don’t say, “I want to meet”. Give them something. Make them feel they will have just as much value from you as you get from them.
I am so astonished at how smart some of the people I meet are. I steal all of their ideas. In subtle ways. I don’t directly copy them. I take their ideas and throw them into the fish net with the thousand other ideas I’ve collected while fishing. Then they all get to whisper and flirt with each other. And before I know it, baby ideas are born and I start writing them down.
D) Dance. Step outside your “zone”. For me, taking a water color class. A tango class. Doing yoga. Surprising someone. Listening to standup comedy. Playing music. Maybe most important: practicing (becuase it takes lots of practice for me) being present and not worrying about the past or the future. These are ways to play. When you play your mind travels outside of the normal three dimensions and five senses it’s carved out for itself in this world. It goes extradimensional and extrasensory. Are you reading this and thinking, “this guy is an idiot?” That’s fine. We won’t compete with each other.
E) Experience. Don’t judge yourself if you are not coming up with ideas that you like or if your ideas are failing or whatever. The key is to keep coming up with ideas, to keep doing them, to keep participating, to keep executing, to keep selling others on the benefits of your visions. How come? Else you are a lonely person sitting in a room writing down ideas. Eventually your ideas have to have sex with other people’s ideas, with other people’s experiences, with your experiences. Over time, you get a filter: what are good ideas and what are bad ideas. The best filter is experience. Don’t judge yourself harshly. You have many years to come up with many more experiences. I hope I do also.
F) Failure. Write down your ideas but assume that they suck. Assume everyone else’s ideas are better than yours. See what you can learn from everyone around you today. Imagine they are all better than you. You are a simple one year old, just stretching out in the world of success and experience. “But,” you might say, “I am a Yale graduate! I have started ten businesses! I have read 1000 books! I have 10,000 Twitter followers! I have 100,000 facebook fans! I have 1,000,000 dollars!”
Doesn’t matter. You are a gnat. And nobody cares. Look around at everyone you see today and humbly think to youself, “this is my teacher for the next moment. The ONE to lead me out of failure.” See what you learn from them. Write it down.
And when you have all the ideas you can possibly fill your head with, erase them all. Start fresh tomorrow.
[Challenge: if you can come up with G-Z, please put in comments]
HOW TO NOT PAY YOUR STUDENT LOANS
Michael Sherman @itsmikesherman: what advice wound you give to graduates that worry about paying off their student loans??
The other day I went to walk around the NYU campus. My sister went to NYU. Both my parents went there for graduate school. I considered going there but went elsewhere. In any case, I’ve been hanging around that campus since I was a kid and playing chess in the SW corner of Washington Square Park.
There’s much less drugs and prostitution there now than when I was a kid. And probably less violence. But at any given moment, the combined debt of the young men and women in the park at any given moment is probably over one hundred million dollars. It’s one thing for billion dollar corporations to have that kind of debt. Debt is the grease that keep the wheels of capitalism moving. But individual and irrational debt is also the cement that keeps our young men and women from becoming creators, inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
People say to me, “well you went to college.” Or “I went to college” Or, “why shouldn’t kids have debt?” The problem is not that we all went to college and kids today shouldn’t. It’s that kids and parents have been scammed into taking on more debt than ever before. And for what? Very few people bring up, “well they read the classics”. I don’t even know what the classics are but presumably they could read those same classics for free on the Kindle and also read as much analysis of those classics as they want. Most people bring up, “they will get a job”.
I will upload this video in a few weeks and we’ll see the real answer to that last question. Suffice to say, it’s pretty scary what actual students at NYU think in terms of how they will pay back this debt and what kind of jobs they are getting right now.
The problem is this: not only are there no jobs…there never will be jobs again. Technology has improved so much that companies are more efficient than ever. They don’t need to hire people. Combine that with globalization where not only unskilled labor but skilled labor can be outsourced for cheap and you are left with a tiny sliver of jobs compared with what used to be out there. Throw in increased managerial efficiency and there is also less jobs for a declining middle management population.
Suffice to say, we’re screwed. And the more student loan debt you have, the more screwed you are.
So what is the solution?
Simple: don’t pay back the debt.
But how do you do that? Even in bankruptcy, the government can still garnish wages to seize your student loan debt. Isn’t that funny? They were perfectly willing to lend you the money so they can make money on your interest payments before you even make enough money to pay them taxes. But when you are struggling, they go after their money first rather than help young citizens, the hope for our future, out.
That’s ok. Everyone needs to make money. Even the government. But I just told you above: there’s no new jobs coming. So what wages will they garnish if you stop paying down the debt?
Here’s what you do: treat yourself like a corporation (uh-oh, is he about to say “corporations are people” the quote that brought down the Romney campaign? No, I’m saying the opposite: people should turn themselves into corporations). Make a company, and start figuring out what services you can offer people. Be freelance, and collect money through your company. And expense all or most or many of your expenses through that company. This way you can pay your bills, and only take a tiny salary. Let the government garnish what they can (it won’t be a lot) but you don’t let that slow you down on building up your ability to innovate, to offer services, to create a product, and so on.
And, if you are “unemployed”, you can work with the government on forbearance programs or even on cancelling your debt.
You might say, “not everyone can be an entrepreneur”.
And that’s true. But EVERYONE can incoroprate a company (go to incorporate.com), and charge their services in a freelance manner, and obey the tax laws on how to take expenses, etc.
Ultimately, though, everyone will have to be an entrepreneur to an extent. Because the concept of “job” which has only existed for about 150 years or so, is going to disappear. And you will need to build your idea muscle, and stay healthy, and become an entrepreneur to succeed in this new and exciting and transforming (and scary!) world.
And when you finally do well and sell your first company do you know you should do? Pay down your student loan debt. You borrowed it, so you have to pay.
AHHH! – THE FISCAL CLIFF!!
Russell Wood @PieFarmer: are you selling stocks ahead of the tax change?
The newspapers have found a new way to scare the shit out of you. This election was like a gift from god for them. Last year they had “Greece” and “Fukishama”. It turns out nothing radioactive leaked out of Fukishama and Greece, a simple beach resort in the Mediterranean, will have no ramifications on the global financial system. But the newspapers won’t apologize about that. They were simply reporting the “news”. The news wasn’t about Greece. It was about fear. And why was the fear there? Because of the news! It’s a circle jerk.
One time I was behind the scenes at a news show. The producer told me, “we’re just trying to fill up the minutes between commercials”.
Always remember that about news. It’s not about the content. It’s about how to get you to look at ads. They get you to look at ads by first attracting your attention with the scariest headlines possible:
So now the newspaper publishers are calling each other up: “we hit the jackpot Rupert!” “I know, Jeff!” and then they shout in unison: “FISCAL CLIFF!”
I write about financial stuff all the time. But I am also a borderline functional idiot (I hope I am not offending any idiots out there but it’s true so it can’t be offensive if it’s true). I had to finally call someone the other day and ask: “I don’t read the news, so what is this ‘fiscal cliff’ everyone is talking about”? He explained it to me. And I was like, “WHAT! THAT SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF ME!”
Which means this: it’s not going to happen.
I can’t think of the last time the predictions in the scariest headlines ever came true. So I will tell you exactly what will happen.
Obama doesn’t care anymore about elections. He wants to build a lasting legacy. So he doesn’t want the country to plunge into a recession. Clearly if you take money out of people’s pockets, they will spend less money, and the result will be bad for the economy. I’m not saying he should print more money. Just don’t put your hand in my pocket. That’s all I ask. So he won’t do it. Nobody is stupid.
What about the Republicans? They don’t want to be seen as “blocking” a functioning government. Their best hope now is to fight for small changes up and down the system rather than massive changes that have no chance of getting past the Presidential veto. So here’s what will happen: taxes will be raised but in such a way as to create more press releases but won’t really affect too many people. Government spending ultimately won’t be cut but will shift from one bucket to another. Is this good or bad? I have no opinion. But that’s what will happen.
And then what will newspapers do? I don’t know. Because I take pride in the little sanity I have left, I won’t be reading then.
HOW TO PRIORITIZE
Michael Witham @mgwitham: How would you prioritize the following: Self, Family, Money, Success, Spirituality, Health
Nothing. De-prioritize. Start with subtraction. Subtract bad food, bad drinking, bad TV, bad reading (news, gossip sites, emails), bad phone calling, bad meetings (meetings where everyone talks, nobody listens, nothing gets done), bad interactions with people who will bring you down, mindless games (personal, emotional, real), mindless kissing ass (to bosses, relatives, family, friends). Don’t be afraid to sit there doing nothing.
Repeat: Don’t be afraid to sit there doing nothing.
In the comments, please tell me other thing things that can be de-prioritized. The things we spend too much time doing. The gods we spend too much time putting on pedestals.
While I was writing this someone just wrote me from India, “Happy Diwali”. Apparently its a holiday in India starting today. Among other things on this holiday, you clean your house so Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and abundance, feels welcome.
So, in other words, about all the things you need to prioritize. Think of all the crap inside you that you deal with every day. Start getting rid of it. If you take out the garbage, your house will be clean.
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