The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself


Here are the rules: I’ve been at zero a few times, come back a few times, and done it over and over. I’ve started entire new careers. People who knew me then, don’t me now. And so on.

I’ve had to change careers several times. Sometimes because my interests changed. Sometimes because all bridges have been burned beyond recognition, sometimes because I desperately needed money. And sometimes just because I hated everyone in my old career or they hated me.

There are other ways to reinvent yourself, so take what I say with a grain of salt. This is what worked for me.

I’ve seen it work for maybe a few hundred other people. Through interviews, through people writing me letters, through the course of the past 20 years. You can try it or not.


A) Reinvention never stops.

Every day you reinvent yourself. You’re always in motion. But you decide every day: forward or backward.


B) You start from scratch.

Every label you claim you have from before is just vanity. You were a doctor? You were Ivy League? You had millions? You had a family? Nobody cares. You lost everything. You’re a zero. Don’t try to say you’re anything else.


C) You need a mentor.

Else, you’ll sink to the bottom. Someone has to show you how to move and breathe. But don’t worry about finding a mentor (see below).


D) Three types of mentors

  1. Direct. Someone who is in front of you who will show you how they did it. What is “it”? Wait. By the way, mentors aren’t like that old Japanese guy in “The Karate Kid.” Ultimately most mentors will hate you.
  2. Indirect. Books. {See More On How Books Can Be Better Mentors Than People… And My New Solution To Help You Find Your Mentor – Click Here}. You can outsource 90 percent of mentorship to books and other materials. 200-500 books equals one good mentor. People ask me, “What is a good book to read?” I never know the answer. There are 200-500 good books to read. I would throw in inspirational books. Whatever are your beliefs, underline them through reading every day.
  3. Everything is a mentor. If you are a zero, and have passion for reinvention, then everything you look at will be a metaphor for what you want to do. The tree you see, with roots you don’t, with underground water that feeds it, is a metaphor for computer programming if you connect the dots. And everything you look at, you will connect the dots.



E) Don’t worry if you don’t have passion for anything.

You have passion for your health. Start there. Take baby steps. You don’t need a passion to succeed. Do what you do with love and success is a natural symptom.


F) Time it takes to reinvent yourself: five years.

Here’s a description of the five years:

  • Year One: you’re flailing and reading everything and just starting to DO.
  • Year Two: you know who you need to talk to and network with. You’re Doing every day. You finally know what the monopoly board looks like in your new endeavors.
  • Year Three: you’re good enough to start making money. It might not be a living yet.
  • Year Four: you’re making a good living
  • Year Five: you’re making wealth

Sometimes I get frustrated in years 1-4. I say, “why isn’t it happening yet?” and I punch the floor and hurt my hand and throw a coconut on the floor in a weird ritual. That’s okay. Just keep going. Or stop and pick a new field. It doesn’t matter. Eventually you’re dead and then it’s hard to reinvent yourself.


G) If you do this faster or slower then you are doing something wrong.

Google is a good example.


H) It’s not about the money. But money is a decent measuring stick.

When people say “it’s not about the money” they should make sure they have a different measuring stick.

“What about just doing what you love?” There will be many days when you don’t love what you are doing. If you are doing it just for love then it will take much much longer than five years.

Happiness is just a positive perception from our brain. Some days you will be unhappy. Our brain is a tool we use. It’s not who we are.


I) When can you say, “I do X!” where X is your new career?



J) When can I start doing X?

Today. If you want to paint, then buy a canvas and paints today, start buying 500 books one at a time, and start painting. If you want to write do these three things:

  • Read
  • Write
  • Take your favorite author and type your favorite story of his word for word. Wonder to yourself why he wrote each word. He’s your mentor today.

If you want to start a business, start spec-ing out the idea for your business. Reinvention starts today. Every day.


K) How do I make money?

By year three you’ve put in 5,000-7,000 hours. That’s good enough to be in the top 200-300 in the world in anything. The top 200 in almost any field makes a living.

By year three you will know how to make money. By year four you will scale that up and make a living. Some people stop at year four.


L) By year five you’re in the top 30-50 so you can make wealth.


M) What is “it”? How do I know what I should do?

Whatever area you feel like reading 500 books about. Go to the bookstore and find it. If you get bored three months later go back to the bookstore.

It’s okay to get disillusioned. That’s what failure is about. Success is better than failure but the biggest lessons are found in failure.

Very important: There’s no rush. You will reinvent yourself many times in an interesting life. You will fail to reinvent many times. That’s fun also.

Many reinventions make your life a book of stories instead of a textbook.

Some people want the story of their life to be a textbook. For better or worse, mine is a book of stories.

That’s why reinvention happens every day.


N) The choices you make today will be in your biography tomorrow.

Make interesting choices and you will have an interesting biography.


N1) The choices you make today will be in your biography tomorrow.


O) What if I like something obscure? Like biblical archaeology or 11th-century warfare?

Repeat all of the steps above, and then in year five you will make wealth. We have no idea how. Don’t look to find the end of the road when you are still at the very first step.


P) What if my family wants me to be an accountant?

How many years of your life did you promise your family? Ten years? Your whole life? Then wait until the next life. The good thing is: you get to choose.

Choose freedom over family. Freedom over preconceptions. Freedom over government. Freedom over people-pleasing. Then you will be pleased.


Q) My mentor wants me to do it HIS way.

That’s fine. Learn HIS way. Then do it YOUR way. With respect.

Hopefully nobody has a gun to your head. Then you have to do it their way until the gun is put down.


R) My spouse is worried about who will support/take care of kids?

Then after you work 16 hours a day, seven days a week being a janitor, use your spare time to reinvent.

Someone who is reinventing ALWAYS has spare time. Part of reinvention is collecting little bits and pieces of time and re-carving them the way you want them to be.


S) What if my friends think I’m crazy?

What friends?


T) What if I want to be an astronaut?

That’s not a reinvention. That’s a specific job. If you like “outer space” there are many careers. Richard Branson wanted to be an astronaut and started Virgin Galactic.


U) What if I like to go out drinking and partying?

Read this post again in a year.


V) What if I’m busy cheating on my husband or wife or betraying a partner?

Read this post again in two or three years when you are broke and jobless and nobody likes you.


W) What if I have no skills at all?

Read “B” again.


X) What if I have no degree or I have a useless degree?

Read “B” again.


Y) What if I have to focus on paying down my debt and mortgage?

Read “R” again.


Z) How come I always feel like I’m on the outside looking in?

Albert Einstein was on the outside looking in. Nobody in the establishment would even hire him.

Everyone feels like a fraud at some point. The highest form of creativity is born out of skepticism.


AA) I can’t read 500 books. What one book should I read for inspiration?

Give up.


BB) What if I’m too sick to reinvent?

Reinvention will boost every healthy chemical in your body: serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin. Keep moving forward and you might not get healthy but you will get healthier. Don’t use health as an excuse.

Finally, reinvent your health first. Sleep more hours. Eat better. Exercise. These are key steps to reinvention.


CC) What if my last partner screwed me and I’m still suing him?

Stop litigating and never think about him again. Half the problem was you, not him.


DD) What if I’m going to jail?

Perfect. Reread “B.” Read a lot of books in jail.


EE) What if I’m shy?

Make your weaknesses your strengths. Introverts listen better, focus better, and have ways of being more endearing.


FF) What if I can’t wait five years?

If you plan on being alive in five years then you might as well start today.


GG) How should I network?

Make concentric circles. You’re at the middle.

The next circle is friends and family.

The next circle is online communities.

The circle after that is meetups and coffees.

The circle after that is conferences and thought leaders.

The circle after that is mentors.

The circle after that is customers and wealth-creators.

Start making your way through the circles.


HH) What happens when I have ego about what I do?

In 6-12 months you’ll be back at “B.”


II) What if I’m passionate about two things? What if I can’t decide?

Combine them and you’ll be the best in the world at the combination.


JJ) What if I’m so excited I want to teach what I’m learning?

Start teaching on YouTube. Start with an audience of one and see if it builds up.


KK) What if I want to make money while I sleep?

In year four, start outsourcing what you do.


LL) How do I meet mentors and thought leaders?

Once you have enough knowledge (after 100-200 books), write down 10 ideas for 20 different potential mentors.

None of them will respond. Write down 10 more ideas for 20 new mentors. Repeat every week.

Put together a newsletter for everyone who doesn’t respond. Keep repeating until someone responds. Blog about your learning efforts. Build community around you being an expert.


MM) What if I can’t come up with ideas?

Then keep practicing coming up with ideas. The idea muscle atrophies. You have to build it up.

It’s hard for me to touch my toes if I haven’t been doing it every day. I have to do it every day for a while before I can easily touch my toes. Don’t expect to come up with good ideas on day one.


NN) What else should I read?

AFTER books, read websites, forums, magazines. But most of that is garbage.


OO) What if I do everything you say but it still doesn’t seem like it’s working?

It will work. Just wait. Keep reinventing every day.

Don’t try and find the end of the road. You can’t see it in the fog. But you can see the next step and you do know that if you take that next step eventually you get to the end of the road.


PP) What if I get depressed?

Sit in silence for one hour a day. You need to get back to your core.

If you think this sounds stupid then don’t do it. Stay depressed.


QQ) What if I don’t have time to sit in silence?

Then sit in silence for two hours a day. This is not meditation. This is just sitting.


RR) What if I get scared?

Sleep 8-9 hours a day and never gossip. Sleep is the No. 1 key to successful health. It’s not the only key. It’s just No. 1. Some people write to me and say, “I only need four hours of sleep” or “in my country sleeping means laziness.” Well, those people will fail and die young.

What about gossip? The brain biologically wants to have 150 friends. Then when you are with one of your friends you can gossip about any of the other 150. If you don’t have 150 friends then the brain wants to read gossip magazines until it thinks it has 150 friends.

Don’t be as stupid as your brain.


SS) What if I keep feeling like nothing ever works out for me?

Spend 10 minutes a day practicing gratitude. Don’t suppress the fear. Notice the anger.

But also allow yourself to be grateful for the things you do have. Anger is never inspirational but gratitude is. Gratitude is the bridge between your world and the parallel universe where all creative ideas live.


TT) What if I have to deal with personal bullshit all the time?

Find new people to be around.

Someone who is reinventing herself will constantly find people to try and bring her down. The brain is scared of reinvention because it might not be safe.

Biologically, the brain wants you to be safe and reinvention is a risk. So it will throw people in your path who will try to stop you.

Learn how to say “no.”


UU) What if I’m happy at my cubicle job?

Good luck.


VV) Why should I trust you – you’ve failed so many times?

Don’t trust me.


WW) Will you be my mentor?

You’ve just read this post.

  • James Kostohryz

    Amazing idea! Brilliant! “Take your favorite author and type your favorite story of his word for word. Wonder to yourself why he wrote each word. He’s your mentor today.”

    • GTO

      Loved it too! A perfect answer for someone who needs a mentor FAST!

  • Paul

    I really loved what you had to say here. I have worked with people who feel they are stuck in a job. I really thintk they are looking for permission to start a new career. I once had a thirty five year old tell me he didn’t have time to think about his future. WTF. I also worked with Police who felt they were trapped in a job. They didn’t want to start over because they get four weeks vacation. Again really!
    My added two cents is get around the people who are where you want to be and go to events to network your but off.

  • kamaronn

    Why profane? What if he means another guy named Jesus?

  • Riski (Paris)

    Why do you need to be stupid as fuck? Nobody saved u you still in deep shit.

    • Stacey Horne

      If you’re focusing on the profanity??? of a comment you are completely focusing on the wrong bit.

  • Hazza Jay

    Mind blown. Thanks, James.

  • Ls

    I was so lonely and I still am but reading your posts brought me a ray of sunshine. I am totally broke and will be homeless by the end of this year. I try my hardest to reinvent myself but it seems my life came to a holt….it is very true about 5 years plan as life always goes in circles. I am totally lost at the moment…..

    • GTO

      Hang in there, Ls, hope things are better.

  • This post is very motivating post and very accurate.

  • David

    Thanks James, there is serious wisdom and quantified knowledge here. Inspirational while breaking down a concrete path to success.. genius.

  • jc

    AA) I can’t read 500 books. What one book should I read for inspiration?

    Give up.

    I don’t understand this response at all. Some people, like myself, have a difficult time reading, however, we are able to learn visually from youtube videos and instructional seminars. Is that not a viable alternative for some?

    • Guest

      Read picture books. The point is to get away from your computer.

    • Brett

      Also try audio books

    • Delilah

      NO – youtube videos and “instructional seminars” feed you information as you sit passively soaking it up. Someone else’s thoughts, opinions, view. Reading is active; it’s a skill and requires imagination from the reader.
      If you have a difficult time reading, do more reading, and find something interesting to read.

    • GTO

      I have trouble reading also, jc. So I go to the library and borrow audiobooks. (Unabridged, of course.) I think the point of Step AA) is that we must put the time in to help ensure our success. We have to be willing to invest in learning. One book won’t be enough. Five-hundred will be enough. (Plus, don’t forget – “200-500 books equals one good mentor.”) James is a writer; he wants us to read! GTO

  • Tim

    Thanks James. Just thanks. I’ve had had four radically different careers, each started from zero, and might be at the start of a new one, it’s nice to be reminded that I’m not a total freak. :-)

  • jamie Stimpson

    Fantastic! This is exactly where we are, between year one and year two. Things are finally making sense. I cannot wait to see what the next 3 to 5 years bring for my family. Thank You James. I much appreciate your words of wisdom. Cheers!

  • WillWorkWontSettle

    So I love this!

  • Allen Chen

    Its amazing how unpredictable life is. I’ve been struggling internally for the last few months, and this post really hit the nail. All I can say is, gratitude expressed. I don’t know if you’re reading these comments James but thank you for being an excellent mentor.

  • Heidi

    This is awesome. And hilarious. I just quit my job and am in the reinvention whirlwind; you will be one of my mentors in the next few… months? years?

  • Jay Siva

    Thank you. I have already read this more than once.

  • Gregory

    Damn you are good!

  • Annetta

    What if you are not working now and you don’t have 5 years to wait?

  • Brett

    Wow, a diamond in the rough, this is some awesome stuff

  • StellaRay

    This is probably the best article I have ever read! As someone who reinvents herself all the time… I take so much wisdom from this piece! Thank you so much! As an aging Boomer, born with so much unused talent as Mommy and Daddy thought I might make a good receptionist and never lead me in anyway other than the door to depression…I have had so many fulfilling careers/even Emmy nominations at one point…. inspite of them…of course it took running away and a thousand miles between us(jealous mom) I am still reinventing…this year I became a stand-up comic. And guess what I get work! I love the the old Buddha adage “you are what you think having become what you thought” That sentance alone has saved me from many a suicide attempt…GREAT GREAT article I am bookmarking.

    • Bleh

      Rip out that word “aging” and throw it away. Now.

      You are observing, experiencing, and becoming a mentor. By way of further response: the 21 year old behind you is a day older today too. So she’s “aging”, too.

      And a younger person just typed these words to you. Dig that. Stop yer belly achin. Your generation got to see and enjoy everything cool. You guys made glamorous (and not so glamorous lol) mistakes my generation could be PAYING YOU to describe and warn us from making. There’s a new revenue source idea for ya.

      Go gettem, tigress!

      • StellaRay

        I love inspiring others…Oh yes we are becoming mentors one day at a time. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Love on a platter served with humble pie!

  • Pam

    Wow, I feel changed already. I needed this, I don’t feel satisfied with my career anymore. I think I stopped feeling satisfied about 8 years ago, but because I have entered the realm of things it’s hard to let go of my salary. I own house, have a kid in private school, and my husband hates his job too…I feel trapped. I’m going to follow your advice, I’m bookmarking this site so I can read it again to remind me of what I need to do…first I’m gonna start with a cold IPA and deeply consider step B, then I’m going to move forward.

  • Rebecca

    I am 26 and have decided to throw away a dull career in sales and focus on what I love – copywriting, advertising and creative writing. And may I say, this post is one of the best things on reinvention I’ve ever read. I’m going to print it out and keep it near me at all times for when I get anxious, scared or think about jumping back into the sales hellhole.

    It is brilliant. I adore it.

  • Justin

    Wonderful article James… I have printed this out, and this will form the cornerstone of my own re-invention. I had been thinking a lot about what you outline, but never managed to structure & label it in the way you have…. It has inspired me, and I will report my own progress!

  • Kristen Jack

    Amen ^_^

  • Kristen Jack

    I want to change for the better, I know my weaknesses and address them, yet I can’t find the encouragement within myself to do what it is I seek. I can’t find direction or passion to head to, How can you know when to liftoff if you haven’t already found your destination? I want to break this cycle so much, I almost feel as though I’m screaming to break free while the rest of my body refuses to acknowledge this and stays frozen. I just moved to Oregon and have the opportunity to change everything, but how to start? where to go? How can I make me, my first priority and stop putting everyone else first? When do you know it’s the right time? How can I make this fail proof?

    • TR2.0

      Kristen, Been there.
      I did this: List your mental or emotional blocks, the things that are weighing heavy on your mind and stopping you. Write the top 3 on 3 small rocks and carry them around. They will wear on your nerves and help you face your mental blocks. Give it a week. They will shrink until the blocks seem small and within your control. When you’ve got control of one, go bury it or throw it in a lake. Repeat for the others.
      Also, I have a HUGE problem trying to meet the expectations of others. It’s like quitting on my wishes and goals and living their wishes and goals. It’s like being possessed by a prison guard who has a big club. You and I need to move on. Yes, others have expectations, so what. Your goals are different! Only you can decide what you want. Express your goals and your wants. Tell others. Tell them often because they forget. Tell them your goals and watch their expectations and goals fade from your memory. Got a goal or idea that sounds silly? Talk it up. Listen to the comments and tweak it as you go. We all do it. Talk it up so others are invested and have a stake. They will become your advocates, just keep them in the loop.
      Be blessed.

      • Kristen Jack

        Thank you so much, that’s an awesome idea, I love it! You nailed it on the expectations of others. Right now, I just moved to Oregon and I’m stuck with figuring out how to make everyone else happy while trying to fight for a way to better my own life, it’s so tiresome! >_< I can't find balance when I'm fighting for everyone… But thank you again for your advice, much appreciated.

  • Stacey Horne

    There is some really great points and simplicity. All of it is things that are things to get you started and thinking and the belief that it will come to you.

  • Bleh

    Not only am I sending this to my awesome boss whose start up I work for, I intend to keep a copy myself! One of the best essays I have ever seen anywhere!

  • FUCK, I love this! Thanks James. I read it first thing in the morning. I keep it next to my desk and read it when I get down, when I get stuck, or just to remind myself not to be so full of myself and keep moving forward. Momentum is 99% of the game.

  • Kimberly Holloway

    This was awesome, thanks!

  • Ratna

    Thanks James.

  • redgrouper

    Jamesis always worth listening to. I think the greatest lesson I have ever learned from him is that if you want to accomplish something then you need to start doing it now, in your own way. Don’t wait until you are perfect or you have all the right tools or certificates- Just start doing it.

  • I recorded a recent podcast inspired by this blog post you can listen back to it here…

    Reinvent Yourself – How To Stay Relevant In A Fast-Changing World

  • پاشا

    thankyou sir

  • Billy Graham

    F) Time it takes to reinvent yourself: five years.

    I’m on day 255 of the 5 year track. I looked this up by the date I became a subscriber. This was the first blog of yours I ever read, and true to form, 2/3 through Year 1 there has been a lot of flailing, a lot of reading and learning, and I’m starting to do. Thanks in no small part to what I’ve learned through your blogs and podcasts. Thanks, James.

    Only 1570 more days to go, I better get back to work.

  • Love this.

  • mn_bee

    Hi James!

    I have been scourging the web for everything and anything that could help me “reinvent” myself. I mean, I knew I had to change for the best, but where do I begin? How do I even start? I ended up with information overload and still at square 1.
    But this post, wow. no bs, no fanfare, no wishy-washy fluff, just the truth. And I truly appreciate you for that. I signed up to your newsletter and will read this post everyday.

    Choosing me,

  • Tena

    Great article James. Even though it was written some time ago, it’s value lives on.

  • Taji Degross

    Love this! I’m in the process right now and I can attest to the fact that it is working. I was a homeless single mom of three with no college degree and no job 3 years ago. I had to let go of my ego and get to work on creating a new life. I chose a career in real estate 2 years ago. I am currently typing this from a $7 million dollar condo in Seattle I represent. It was from doing exactly what you said to do that I got here. This is just the beginning though! Do I have a mentor yet? No. But I am serving the ones that I want to have mentor me. They are watching my actions and now I am their go-to girl on many occasions when they need additional help. I’m learning by watching them in action and it’s given me more confidence to know I can be in their league of business. I wish every kid coming out of high school could read and implement this. Our economy would be vastly different and there would be far more truly happy people. Thanks for your amazing insight Mr. Altucher.

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  • Gecko Theory

    Thanks for this :)

  • Awesome awesome awesome post!

  • Jenny McLaren

    Brilliant !

  • Hi James! Thanks for all your help. i’m OK now :)

  • So good! Just sent to several friends. So many things to work on and do!

  • ???

    mild sarcasm, mild disrespect to Jesus, but I don’t want to see the wrath of God, so I try to be good!

  • Steven Menzer

    Your nonsensical approach inspires me. I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences in the manner that you do. It’s a compilation of arrogant truths… become what you want, accept what you are, humbly receive help, and damn those who aren’t on-board :)

  • OM

    Jesus was the supreme entrepreneur -HE mentored 12 “losers” gave them good advice, encouragement, support and they in turn helped him change the course of humanity. Not bad for a hippie dude.