The One Thing That Changed My Entire Life

james altucher with a cup

I needed to figure out how to change my entire life. Because the current one was going badly.

It was 2002. A lot of people had it bad. But sadly I didn’t care about them. I was really depressed. My entire career at that point had added up to zero.

There were some successes. But I squandered them. I decided to lose everything. And then I needed to figure out how to get off the floor but that’s when depression hit.

Here’s what depression isn’t: it’s not sadness. It’s not being upset at yourself or another person.

It’s “I can’t get out of bed.” And once you get out of bed, it’s “Why is everyone else even making an effort when things are so bad.” It’s “Why don’t I care about anything. I don’t care about myself. I don’t care about anyone else.”

And then it’s back to bed. If you even make it far enough to hit the street.

I started taking anti-depressants but they didn’t work. Years later, the man from the depression company told me that on average it “takes 8 years to correctly diagnose depression.”

I don’t know. I don’t know what it takes. But it didn’t work.

I describe what works in my book, “Choose Yourself!” Actually, I can’t say that. I don’t know what works. I just know what works for me.

But even before I did what I described, I had to do something else.

I had to borrow a life. I had to borrow many lives. Maybe I borrowed your life.

I had to read books. When you read a book you are taking someone’s entire life that they have nicely curated for you into a 200-400 page book that you can read in a week.

What! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have to live their life. I could just absorb it by reading it.

If they are good writers then that means I can emotionally connect with the words they are saying as well as intellectually connect by reading. I don’t just gain knowledge, I gain know-how.

I learn what they did to survive. I learned what they did to take action. To get off the floor. To laugh. To survive. To thrive.

Books were my anti-depressant. Then books gave me know-how to get off the floor. Then books gave me ideas. Then ideas gave me actions and actions gave me people and opportunities and a new life.

I am “what you see is what you get.” I don’t care about learning new things. I care about DOING new things. Facts are forgotten. But feelings give me excitement to do.

So when I read a book I like I get excited. Maybe I want to meet the author. I have a great excuse…”Hey, can you come on my podcast?” And now I get to meet the author and ask him or her all of the questions to help me save my life again and again.

I like to give away books. Maybe if they saved my life, they can save someone else’s. I hope so. We all need a little bit of saving every once in awhile.

All of the books on the list have most of these criteria:

  • they helped me save my life. In at least one case, very literally (thank you Amy!)
  • they are fun and easy to read. I’m not going to tell people they should read James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Boring!
  • they are all well-written. If you can’t emotionally connect to the book, non-fiction or fiction, then they will be a drag to read and you won’t be able to feel the effect on your life.
  • most are non-fiction. But non-fiction or fiction, they tell stories and give information that make my life better. In some cases, much better.

After I read any of these books, I felt my life was actually better than before I read them.

And again, they are all written by great story-tellers. I love these people. All of them came on my podcast. All of them have been very generous with their time and their lives.

I borrowed all of their lives. And now I want to give those lives to you.

I’m currently giving away over 20 of some of the best books I read over the past year. Books written by some of the most successful entrepreneurs, celebrities, and all around choose-yourselfers. Click here to claim your entry.
  • Can you please provide the complete list? I am not being pessimistic, but I really don’t care about winning. I’d save money and would buy them. Relating to your post, I want to buy those lives.

    • Adil Elias

      Ayush, here’s the list, but are you sure you don’t wanna play? Maybe you can try to win all these lives before buying them ;) Or you can share the link and some of your friends can win them.. Anyways, whatever makes you feel comfortable man, Here’s the list:

      Tommorowland by Steven Kotler

      Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

      The Truth by Neil Strauss

      Cold Hard Truth by Kevin O’Leary

      Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppelman

      Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

      School of Greatness by Lewis Howes

      Thrown Under the Omnibus by PJ O’Rourke

      Moonwalking With Einstein by Josh Foer

      Finding Ultra by Rich Roll

      The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer

      Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson

      Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

      Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

      Traction by Gabriel Weinberg

      Bulletproof: The Cookbook by Dave Asprey

      The Rich Employee by James Altucher

      SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal

      Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

      Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling

      How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne

      • Burcu

        cool thanks

    • Troy Swezey

      Yeah, it is a cool list and James is so awesome too. By entering you just have to provide an email address and answer one question. The question was a little tricky. You MAY have to think about it for a second as I did. I thought it may be a trick question but then the answer hit me as I think it will for you. Give it a shot Mate.

  • You are ME .. only younger, and male, and a much quicker learner! I laughed and cried and was surprised. I will create my life this year, and do it well. BTW ~ I have been characters from books since the age of 6. I have a marvelous book in me.

  • Bob Lyle

    Love your writing James.