by James Altucher
in its Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged!
“Altucher has turned his misfortune into a source of wisdom and comfort for the despondent.” – (Business Week)
I was going to die. The market had crashed. The Internet had crashed. Nobody would return my calls. I had no friends. Either I would have a heart attack or I would simply kill myself. I had a $4 million life insurance policy. I wanted my kids to have a good life. I figured the only way that could happen was if I killed myself. My expenses were out of control. I’d made some money and amped up my lifestyle to drunken-rock-star status. Then I promptly lost it, my bank account bumping along zero during the worst economy in maybe twenty years. I’m talking about 2002, but I could also have been talking about 2008: the year I lost my home, my family, my friends, money, jobs.
The excruciating downward spiral began in 1998 when I sold a company right as the dot-com bubble was really starting to swell. I was one of the smart ones, I thought. I was cashing out. Then I did everything wrong. I bought a house I couldn’t afford. I had expensive habits I couldn’t maintain. I gambled, and squandered, and gave, and lent to everyone I knew. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then millions of dollars.
I started another company. I put millions into that. I felt like I needed to buy love. And if I didn’t have an enormous amount of money to buy it, nobody would love me. That failed.
I lost my house. I lost all my money. I lost any self-esteem I had. I lost my friends. I had no idea what I was going to do. I failed at every attempt to right the ship, to succeed.
I would look at my daughters and cry because I felt like I had ruined their lives. I wasn’t just a personal failure, or a failure in business, I was a failure as a father, as well. I didn’t even have enough money every month to pay the mortgage that kept the roof over their heads.
I was officially lost. I had nothing left. Zero. Less than zero, actually, because I had debts. Millions in debts.
By 2002 there was nothing left in the ATM machine. I thought running out of money would be my worst moment. Worse than death. I was wrong.
At the end of 2002 I had a conversation with my parents. I was angry and depressed. We got into an argument. Over what – it doesn’t matter anymore.
I hung up the phone and cut them off.
Over the next several months my father tried to reach out to me. I was starting to come back. I was writing. I was appearing on TV. He congratulated me. His final congratulations were about six months after I last spoke to him.
I didn’t respond.
A week later he had a stroke. He never spoke again. He died without me ever speaking to him again.
And I was still broke, hungry, despairing, and depressed. I was in a constant state of panic. Nobody was helping me. Nobody was giving me any chances. Nobody was giving me an outlet to prove how talented I was. I knew I had to hustle to make it, but the world was upside down and I didn’t know how to straighten things out. To make things right.
For all intents and purposes, 2008 was a carbon copy of 2002. I managed to get myself back on my feet. I built and sold another company. I made a lot of money and then, through mindless squandering, I pissed it all away. Again. Except this time I was getting a divorce, losing even more friends, failing at two other companies at the same time, and I had no clue what I was going to do to climb out of the hole I’d dug for myself.
This kind of thing hasn’t just happened to me once. Or twice. But many times. In the past twenty years I’ve failed at about eighteen of the twenty businesses I’ve started. I’ve probably switched careers five or six times in various sectors ranging from software to finance to media. I’ve written ten books. I’ve lost multiple jobs. I’ve been crushed, on the floor, suicidal, desperate, anxious, depressed. And each time, I’ve had to reinvent myself, reinvent my goals and my career. On most occasions, I didn’t realize what steps I was repeating over and over, both positive and negative. Once I achieved success I would inevitably return to my negative habits and start squandering my good fortune.
Something about this last time in 2008 was different, though. The world was changing. Money was leaving the system. Everyone was getting fired. It felt like the opportunities were disappearing as fast as the money. Now it wasn’t just me who was failing, it was the entire world, and there was no way out.
My stomach hurt all day thinking about it. There is no way out. There is no way out. I kept repeating it in my head. I felt like I could will myself to death with those words. But I couldn’t. I had kids. I had to get better. I had to. I had to take care of myself. To take care of my children. I had to figure out, once and for all, how to get out of the hole, how to get off the floor, and stay there. I had to figure out, from the inside out, what was going to transform me into someone who would not just succeed, but thrive.
That’s when it clicked. When everything changed. When I realized that nobody else was going to do it for me. If I was going to thrive, to survive, I had to choose myself. In every way. The stakes have risen too high not to.
We can no longer afford to rely on others and repeat the same mistakes from our pasts. The tide has come in and with it has come dramatic change to the landscape of our lives. As we will see in the next few chapters, the middle class has caved in, jobs are disappearing and every industry is in the process of transformation. In order to keep up, individuals have to transform also.
That means every second, you have to choose yourself to succeed. For me, I had to look back at my life and figure out (finally!) what I did every time I got off the floor, dusted myself off, went back out there and did it again. Because now there is no room to fall back down. I used to knock on wood every morning, literally and figuratively, praying I didn’t fall back into my addictive behaviors. Choosing myself has changed that thought process.
Now, every day when I wake up I am grateful. I have to be. And I have to count the things that are abundant in my life. Literally count them. If I don’t they will begin to disappear. I’ve watched them disappear before. I don’t want it to happen again.
In some cultures, like Buddhism, you want things in your life to disappear, to reduce your needs and desires. To achieve some form of enlightenment. I believe in this brand of spirituality as well. I don’t think it and abundance are mutually exclusive at all. If you lower your expectations, for instance, your expectations are easy to exceed.
Plus—and I hate to say it—first you have to pay the bills. The bills are expensive. And it’s getting harder to find the opportunities to pay those bills. It’s one thing to know “The Secret” or take whatever life-affirming steps you’ve read about in order to bring positivity into your life, but it’s something else altogether to actually create opportunities for yourself.
You’re definitely not going to find them reading a book. It’s a moment by moment effort in your daily life. It’s a practice that interweaves health with the tools of financial experts and a macro-level understanding of this economic shitstorm we find ourselves in today.
In the past four years I’ve begun writing about this practice and the steps I took on my journey back from the grave. In the process, my life has changed so much for the positive it’s like magic. It’s beyond magic, because I never would have dreamed this was possible. I’ve made millions in various businesses and investments (and not lost or squandered them), I’ve met and married the love of my life, I’ve gotten in shape, and every day I wake up and do exactly what I want to do. Not only have I seen the results for myself, I’ve seen them for countless of my readers who successfully applied the same principles I applied to my own life.
I write about it in this book. I chose myself. And you will also.
(This is a sponsored post.)