When I was in 7th grade, I got a letter asking me if I wanted to go to an experimental summer program for 13 year olds at Duke University after I took the SATs.

Everyone there was smarter than me. The first day there, one person told me he was building a computer in his dorm room. Another kid was one of the youngest chessmasters in the country.

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The idea of the program was that people only really learn when they are immersed in something.

My subject was “Math.” So in a three week period I passed through all of high school math and one year of Calculus.

From 8am until about 5pm you sat in a room and went at your own pace. Teaching assistants stood around and would help you if you needed it. Then you would take tests to advance to the next level whenever you wanted.

I ended up last in the class.

The second summer I went back I took Statistics. We figured out all the statistics for Monopoly.

I have three words for you: St. James. Place. Then build as many hotels as you can on the Orange group and CHEAPER. Forget about the expensive stuff.

(Oh, and buy all of the railroads. Trust me.)

That third summer I ruined my life.

I liked a girl. Marcy.

Statistics were obliterated when she spoke to me. The odds never went in my favor. She wouldn’t let me own her St. James Place.

For the rest of high school I was obsessed with a girl liking me. Any girl.

So I tried to get good at things. I tried to get good at tricks. At gimmicks.

Maybe if I were special, if I had a gift I could give, then a girl would bless me her special gift back. People would like me.

Chess is probably the wrong thing to get good at if you want a girl to like you.

Breakdancing was slightly better. But if you’re Jewish, with glasses, and braces, then it sort of looks funny when you try to breakdance.

And what completely failed was trying to learn hypnosis so you could command girls to undress in front of you. That NEVER worked.

These were all gimmicks.

The only way to get good at something is to completely immerse yourself in it — to the outside world, immersion is the same as magic.

You can only immerse yourself in something you love.

Else you won’t be able to get good. The 10,000 hour rule will fail.

With immersion + love you can get great in much less than 10,000 hours.

Lesson: Only do the things you love. Otherwise, you’re running on a treadmill. And the treadmill will stop when you least expect it, cracking happiness into pieces.

I still try to do too many gimmicks to get people to love me. But I think I’m getting better at avoiding doing the things I don’t love with people I don’t love. It’s a daily practice.

Right now, all I want to do is immerse myself in these Facebook status updates. That sounds stupid but it’s true.

I love stringing words together. How to connect them so they tick-tock like a clock. I love to read writers who really know how to WRITE. That’s what obliterates me now.

Or maybe I’ll learn to just enjoy a good book. Take a walk by the river with Claudia. Watch the sun set. And learn to love looking at the mountains without always having to climb them.

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  • Karolis Ramanauskas

    I started programming not because I thought I would love it but rather earn shit loads of money if I build something like Facebook. At first I hated it but didn’t quit because I tried too many things in the past and quit all of them too. Two years later of not quitting, I can genuinely say I have started to love it. Now when I look back I always liked it but was just not confident enough and thought I am not smart enough. So I guess 10,000 hour rule not always fails, sometimes you have to wait. But what do I know, I’m barely 20.

    • Sam

      here’s some programming advice for you now that you actually enjoy it. Don’t try to build the next “Facebook”. The odds are stacked against you because those things only come along under the absolute most perfect conditions that are practically impossible to replicate.
      Instead, look for a specific pain point for people and laser focus onto that. It may require more thinking, however there are literally tens of thousands of ideas out there that you could focus on. Find one that you really enjoy and are passionate about and then go after it. If you do, chances are you could become the market leader in that and eventually make a decent living from it – or more!

  • Js

    Thanks for telling me how to win at Monopoly, though I never play. One day I might and then Bam! I like stringing words together too and reading great writers. For awhile there I was disappointed with most writers and they couldn’t hold my attention. I recently rediscovered short stories because somebody (you) introduced me to Denis Johnson. That kick started my motor and now I’m reading everyday. Did you know reading mimics the have while dreaming and helps you process emotions? There’s a whole school of therapy out there and it’s very effective for getting rid of trauma. We’re on our way to obtaining superpowers.

    • James Altucher

      Whoah, JS. I didn’t know that. Do you have a reference? I’m going to look it up.

      Incidentally, I’m planning on updating my “reading list” on my email newsletter.

      • JS

        Looking forward to the reading list. I know there’s lots of information out there about it. Way back when the internet was new and AOL was king, I used to be on a list with a psychiatrist who was writing a work book on it. I learned a lot from her but I don’t have any reference’s because that group no longer exists. I might have to go archive hunting.

        • Js

 That’s her site. I found it with no digging in archives.

          • James Altucher

            Was just talking to Claudia about this. It relates to another idea I’ve been thinking about which is that reading inspirational books often makes me feel the same way as if I’ve been meditating. This starts to explain it.

          • Julie Munro-Physick

            Hi, this is interesting. I’ve just watched Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s got talent, and other similarly empowering stories,. Always works, couldn’t explain why. Now I feel ‘loved-up’. Today is going to be a great day :)

  • MJGottlieb

    Hey James- Great post. I’ve been meaning to comment on your blog for some time. I think you are 100% spot on as it relates to how to get good at something and that, no matter how immersed you are, you won’t last unless you are doing what you love. As the old saying goes, “If you love your work, well, you ain’t working”…

    I enjoy how you talk in your blog posts about writing many ideas down each day and going after them. For me, this is always a challenge as I find it hard to create the right balance or mid-way point between wanting to do the 20 things in my mind, compared to knowing I need to have a singular focus at one thing, in order to eventually get to the other 19… Progress not perfection I guess, right? Thanks again for a great post.- MJ

    • James Altucher

      Hey MJ, first off, thanks so much for commenting and for all your participation on Twitter, etc. Much appreciated.

      Second, in terms of the writing ideas: separate out execution of a single idea from building the idea muscle. When you write down the ideas, take the pressure off that they have to be good or you have to act on them.

      I throw out my ideas every day. All I care about is exercising the idea muscle. I want to be an idea machine. Then, you will just know when to act and what to act on. But the specifics of my list each day are totally unimportant. I put down dumb ideas every day. I just want to exercise that muscle.

      One idea I had a few weeks ago was dumb but I decided to act on it anyway. Any day now I’m getting a shirt that has all 67,000 words of “Choose Yourself” printed in microscopic letters on the shirt. Readable with a microscope.

      Dumb idea! But fun.

  • Rusty

    The last time I played monopoly was this winter, my wife bought all the yellow and green and had hotels. Needless to say she wiped the floor with us. My son actually cried.

    • James Altucher

      Yeah, Monopoly can be brutal for kids. My youngest won’t play anymore. But she’s moved onto “5 in a row” or Gomoku. We have a fun time playing that.

  • Chad Elkins

    Hey James – as a joke I “ordered” my boss to read your book as soon as I finished it. Now she won’t put it down and wants to schedule an informal meeting to talk about your ideas. Pretty cool.

    • James Altucher

      That’s great, Chad. Well, you should order your boss around more often then!


    haha I always buy the cheap properties that’s mainly because I’m stingy BUT I almost always win! Love Monopoly :)

  • George Rodriguez

    I immerse myself in hobbies and then I have to read all I can so I can get better. Golf, poker, Crossfit (yes, I read about Crossfit).

    Then I read about other people getting immersed in other hobbies. Memorization (Moonwalking with Einstein), magic (Fooling Houdini) and yoga (Hell-Bent).

    And then I realize I only list things in three’s.

    But that is OK because now I have a Monopoly strategy. And when it comes down to it that is all that matters, having a dominant board game strategy.

    Thanks for the post. Amazing what 10 ideas a day can do for you. Loved Choose Yourself!

  • Hooty

    I think your idea muscle was already pretty well developed at the age of 13 yrs. old! Forget the glasses and being a Jew – I think those mental POWER workouts were every bit if not more beneficial than anything physical – except for sex!:)

  • Jo M.

    Isn’t it interesting how this summer camp concept/experience was a building block that has stayed with James throughout his entire career. I truly believe that immersion is the only shot I have at learning something. As soon as you introduce more than one subject, my mind gets watered down pretty quick. I graduated college but had a very difficult time of learning/memorizing/testing 5-8 classes per term.

  • ismichie_Edu-Muser

    Such a pleasure to read these posts.

  • Gary

    I learned by experience that the middle priced Monopoly properties – orange and red – seemed to produce more victories when loaded up with hotels. Maybe it’s the same with wanting people to like you. If you want it too badly (the high priced properties) or too little (the cheapies), you minimize your chances of success. And when you keep to the middle ground emotionally, loading up with genuineness and friendliness will bring a fair return, even when Chance cards and a bad roll of the dice set you back occasionally.

  • thomsinger

    These are powerful words to live by….”I’m getting better at avoiding doing the things I don’t love with people I don’t love”. – ahhh, if we could all get better at this.

  • kierkegaard71

    I mean this as a compliment: you strike me as a modern-day Will Rogers.

  • WiJi

    I always thought I could be happy as a porn star…Then the treadmill stopped.

  • Economics Institute

    You look at insta-successes like zuckerberg’s facebook, snapchat, instagram, twitter and google guys and you realize that either the 10k hour rule either doesn’t work or produces very uneven outcomes.

  • Kj

    Learn to look at the mountains without having to climb them. Not so easy.

  • Joanne Tombrakos

    “Only do the things you love. Otherwise, you’re running on a treadmill”

    Needed to hear that today. Thank you.

  • Bill Hibbler

    My first visit to your blog, James. I just finished Choose Yourself and really enjoyed it. I’ve been a night owl for years but am on day 4 of waking up between 5 & 6 and starting my day with a gratitude list, meditation and writing down 10 ideas. It’s not always easy but I’m really seeing a difference. Thanks!

  • Hooty

    Lesson: Only do the things you love. Otherwise, you’re running on a treadmill. And the treadmill will stop when you least expect it, cracking happiness into pieces.

    I recently read an article about how some doctors are choosing to work around Insurance and take fair cost payments from their patients. Some are even making house calls! The fact they want to choose themselves to be real Doctors and not be controlled by other agencies/rules/regulations, have to fill out reams of paperwork, or are forced to deny patients due to regulations/politics etc. Maybe there is a “Helathcare Spring” in the makings – but one where Doctors are in more in Control!
    True and Honest Competition is the – Live your truth – Die your lie!

  • d.s.s.

    James, Every time I read your column or listen or watch a youtube video with you in it, I am always uplifted. Always. One of the things you said is to surround yourself with positive people. My spouse is negative and even says that if you think outside of the box, you’re wrong. Every new idea that I come up with is met with, “just stay on the treadmill and do your 9 to 5 grind. Don’t ever think creatively because we will suffer financially if you do.” By the way, I’ve never come up with a losing idea. The few that I’ve come up with have made us money, even if it was only a little bit. What do you do with a spouse who constantly orders me to stay inside the box?

    • Dan Scharch

      I’m far from marriage, d.s.s, although it sounds like a rough situation to me. You’ve proven yourself and your spouse is still concerned about cash. It might be worth it to get to the bottom of why she feels this way instead of what you should do. Then I think you can build up a business pitch to show her you’re worth the risk!

  • Phil


    Thanks for the Monopoly tip, but I won’t be using it. I actually always play Monopoly to lose. The game takes too long. So when we have family games, I play very reckless and go bankrupt very quickly.


    • Jefferson

      When played properly, Monopoly should not be a multi-day game. Play by the rules, not made up house rules like putting all fines into pot to be won by landing on Free Parking or other nonsense. Play aggressively. If you get all of a color, any color, build aggressively. James is right about the strategy people get sent to jail. The go back three spaces chance card between Kentucky and Indiana lands you on New York Ave. You can advance your token to Illinois and St. Charles Place. RR’s can be good steady income earners.

      • Jefferson

        I almost forgot, one of my favorite tactics is to not buy Hotels if this will result in a housing shortage. According to the rules, remember play by the rules, if there are not houses available for sale, the only way to develop a property is to go straight to hotels which can be a pricey proposition on the Boardwalk side.

  • kingdo goodbomber

    It’s true. Orange are cheap to build on, produce the best return and a 6, 8 or 9 from Jail will land people on them as well as a 3/4 or 11/12 from two railroads. Railroads and jail also have cards. No brainer if you put the thought in.

    I once won a game in twenty minutes trading for Orange. My friends figured it out and either started trying to trading for them or just mortgage them so nobody could build and it made the game longer.

  • balemos

    Sometimes what I love (my work) takes up my whole day…literally 14 hours. But its like its timeless because I like getting the work done. Good thing? I think so

  • Jay McIntyre

    Too bad most of us can’t get paid enough money doing the thins we love.

  • MoneyStreetSmart

    Well said. While buying St. James Place may help you win at Monopoly, it won’t help you get Marcy to like you. Marcy now cruises through your mind before every decision you make in the game.

  • Dan Scharch

    New member to the Altucher Community and I just wanted to say howdy on this piece. And big thanks for always shining light on how important and useful it is to join a community for the fun of it and not just write hoping to get rich and famous and loved.

  • Joe

    James, you are just a genius with a Swedish humour! I love your in tears every time laughing!

  • Joe

    James, if you don’t mind i will tweet your post! You rock and everyone needs to know about you and learn from you.Claudia must be a very happy woman laughing all day! :-)

  • Giles Lascelle

    Great post James. Now all I have to do is figure out the British equivalent to St James Place, and I’ll clean up