Tag Archives: James Altucher

How to Feel Successful, Increase Self-Esteem and Eliminate Envy

all-i-do-is-win-win-win-no-matter-what

I know a guy who almost never loses a game of pool.

He’s one of my dad’s closest friends. He’s awesome in all of the ways which matter, and I love him like family.

But if you didn’t know him and love him like family, he might seem to you like just another guy. He manages a hospital maintenance staff. I’m not super-familiar with his financial status, but I’m not under the impression people who care about net worth would be overly impressed.

My father’s social circle has a lot of three kinds of guys: Guys with really nice cars who race as a hobby, guys who are awesome golfers, and guys with—at least by Midwestern terms—kind of a lot of money.

But the hospital maintenance manager isn’t really any of those things.

I don’t know whether he sits around thinking about this. As if he’s somehow deficient because he isn’t up to the same standards in those super-specific silos as most of his friends. I hope not, and doubt it.

When I was younger, I—objectively speaking in the context of 1980s Americans—didn’t have money in my family. My parents were young, divorced, and at best, lower middle-class. I ate a lot of free school lunches in my early years.

Some of my friends did come from families with—at least from my narrow perspective and life experience—a lot of money. Big, awesome houses I’d visit and sleep in on weekends, and nice, expensive cars.

Maybe feelings of inadequacy and insecurity started back then. I’m an only child and didn’t have a big brother or sister to help prepare me for The Things That Happen Next in your growing years, and I did a crappy job being transparent with my parents, choosing to live inside my own head rather than talk things out with people who loved me and probably knew Things.

But I don’t remember feeling particularly inadequate or insecure back then. In fact, I feel as if I had a charmed childhood and social life through my school years. Whatever my neurotic hang ups might have been, I can’t recall a time I felt intentionally excluded from anything that mattered to me. I felt well-liked and reasonably popular, which are fun things to feel.

It was during the slow death of my marriage where I developed some insecurities and self-confidence issues which are very un-fun things to feel.

Some combination of failing to rise to the level of Very Successful, Special and Unique Snowflake I’d always imagined for myself, and losing my job with a new baby at home, and feeling my wife pull further and further away while seeming to like, respect and want me less with each passing day, turned me into someone else.

Every Facebook or Instagram update from someone I knew with their smiling and happy family on another vacation or in their super-nice home proved to be another reminder of what a loser I’d really turned out to be.

Must be this tall to ride.

Before the hospital maintenance manager and family friend I know was someone who I knew and loved, he was a total stranger. Several years ago when I met him, he was a new addition to my father’s vibrant social circle.

I didn’t know a thing about him, except what a few guys in the room were telling me: “See that guy? He never loses at pool. He’s an absolute badass. One of the best I’ve ever seen or heard of.”

I’m not a particularly skilled pool shooter. I’m okay. I’m kind of okay at everything. I tend to be average at most things, and great at none. But if there’s an impromptu pool tournament, sure, I’m in.

My dad has a couple tables. He’s good, as are many of his friends. They all have their own, expensive cue sticks, rarely miss shots, and never take them unless they know where the cue ball needs to be to make the next one or two. They’re high-level players.

But none of them are like our friend, The Badass. The unassuming hospital employee. When he’s on, he’ll make other awesome players look average, and average players look weak and pathetic.

Generally, if you miss even one shot against him, you’re finished.

Ignoring that material and superficial things lack meaning and rarely move the Happiness needle on our lives, he can’t hang with the other guys on the golf course, nor can he buy a bunch of expensive cars, nor is he going to elicit financial envy from any of them.

Compared to them in those very specific areas, he might appear or even feel lacking.

But at a billiards table? You’re in his world.

A world where he’s king.

Who Would You Trade Places With if You Had to Take All Their Baggage, Too?

James Altucher, one of my favorite writers, was having dinner with another excellent writer, Ryan Holiday.

Holiday asked Altucher whether he ever feels envious of others.

“Yes,” Altucher said, “I’m envious of people.”

Holiday shared his mental strategy for eliminating feelings of jealousy or envy, and Altucher wrote about it in his recent post, The One Cure For All Envy and Jealousy:

“Here’s what you do, Ryan said. If you are envious of someone, you can’t just pick one or two things about them. Because it’s their entire history that has got them the one thing you are envious about.

“So, he said, picture that you can change places in every way with them. But then it’s forever.

He said: Would you do it?

“While he asked that, the hostess of the restaurant came up to us, She looked at me and asked, are you on TV?

“No.

“You’re Ted Mosby, right? From the show ‘How I Met Your Mother.’

“No, I said, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

“She kept staring and then walked away.

“Let me think, I said to Ryan. What about X, would you change places with him? – And I named someone we both admired.

“No way, he said, look at A, B, and C with him. Would you want those?

“Hmm, no.

“Who else do you admire? he asked.

“I had to think for a long time. There’s a lot of people I admire but which among them do I envy.

“I named some more people I envied but for each one, he named some attributes that I would definitely not want to have for myself if I switched places for that person.

“I guess you’re right, I said. I’m happy being me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be having such a fun dinner right now with you!”

I often wonder why it feels like I know several people in real life who would make AMAZING political leaders, but I often find the people I actually have to choose from to be deficient in several areas. I know people who you’d want to run through walls for in an effort to elect them President of the United States. People with unquestionable leadership skills, charisma, and as much integrity as you’d require from a public figure.

But they’ll never be president. There are a TON of brilliant and amazing people out there. Entrepreneurs, doctors, educators, business leaders, etc. But nobody like them ever runs for president.

Why?

I figured it out several years ago: Because none of the really smart people want the job.

It’s shitty! Have you ever studied the gray-hair quotient of presidents entering office versus leaving it? It’s a stressful, shitty job where half the world hates you, where you’re headline news almost every day, where your private life is almost always on display, where people don’t believe good things which are true about you, where people believe bad things which aren’t true about you, where you receive death threats all the time, and aren’t even paid particularly well in the context of being that famous and powerful.

In many ways, being President of the United States is one of the best jobs in the world.

In many ways, it’s also one of the worst.

Would you trade places with someone else? Even if you had to take on all the bad parts, too?

Bring Others Into a Place Where You are Master

Another of my favorite writers and thinkers, Tim Ferriss, taught me how to stop comparing my life to the highlights of other people’s lives I might see on social media, and feel more gratitude and pride about the things which make me, me.

This is The Secret to Feeling Successful, and you can start RIGHT NOW, and all you have to do is ask yourself a better question.

Ferriss’ focus was on business success, but it won’t take a business degree to understand how this mental trick can apply to ANYTHING in your life, and essentially be summarized as Enjoy Being the Big Fish in a Small Pond.

From Ferriss’ New Research and a Dirty Truth: Read This Before Chasing the Dollar:

“What to do? There are a few ways to use the currency of time, and awareness of positional economics, to your advantage to beat the Joneses on new terms:

  1. Focus on “relative income” — defined as hourly income — instead of “absolute income,” misleading annual income that doesn’t factor in time. If you assume a 40-hour work week and 2 weeks of vacation per year, estimate per-hour income by cutting off the last three zeros and dividing in half. Thus: $50,000 per year –> $50 divided by 2 = $25 per hour. Relative income can be increased by increasing total income for the same hours, getting the same income for fewer hours, or some combination thereof. More options with more life.
  2. Determine your precise Target Monthly Income (TMI) for your ideal lifestyle — the goal of most rat-race income competition — and focus on structuring mini-retirements to redistribute retirement throughout life. There’s an excellent Excel spreadsheet here for calculations.
  3. Determine your “where” of happiness. It’s not necessary to permanently move to a country with depressed currency, but even temporary relocation to a domestic (check out Forbes’ publisher Rich Karlgaard’s Life 2.0) or international location with a lower cost-of-living resets your peer group and positional economics barometer. Being perceived as rich often translates into perceiving yourself as rich. Neat trick and a hell of a lot of fun. Two of my top picks for positional resets are Argentina (see “How to Live Like a Rock Star (or Tango Star) in Buenos Aires”) and Thailand.
  4. Develop appreciation in tandem with achievement. Subjective happiness depends on appreciating what you get as much as getting what you want. The first step to true appreciation is perception: cultivating present-awareness. I recommend experimenting with lucid dreaming as tested at Stanford University, in particular the “reality check” exercises of Dr. Stephen Laberge.
  5. Develop competitive social groups outside of work. Participate in games outside of income mongering. Train or compete in a sport where income is a non-factor. That dude makes $1,000,000 a day as a hedge fund manager? I don’t care–his golf swing sucks and he has love handles. Here, it counts for nothing. Oh, and her? I know she just got promoted to national manager for IBM, but so what? I just scored 5 goals on her. In this world, I rule.

“Don’t let rat racing be the only game you play against the Joneses,” Ferriss wrote. “There is always someone willing to sacrifice it all to earn more, so let them. Just remember: it is entirely possible — in fact, common — to be a success in business and a failure in life. Take the red pill and think different.”

I’d like to believe that how we feel doesn’t really matter, since our feelings wax and wane all the time, and it’s hard to trust our own emotional swings.

But the truth is, how we feel DOES matter. Our feelings affect pretty much all of our decision making, and our decision making affects pretty much everything that happens to us.

Some people might roll their eyes at the idea of using Jedi mind tricks to feel better about their life. Like it’s fake. Like they actually have to do something more or different or better to ACTUALLY be better.

And I’m saying that’s bullshit.

Go chase whatever sets your heart on fire. I’m not suggesting we all sit on the couch, do nothing, and celebrate it.

The truth is true no matter what we believe: We’re already tall enough to be Jedi.

We already win. And we might as well enjoy it.

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How to Get Unstuck and Solve Problems

light bulb

The most valuable thing in the world is a good idea.

Sometimes we think up something fantastic and find out it’s already been done and feel discouraged. But so what? Now we know we can think of really good ideas.

Many years before Apple invented the iPod and before the internet was commonplace, I thought of MP3 players.

I didn’t think of portable ones, though, so my idea would have never worked. But I did think of a large stereo amplifier where you could buy songs and they would be stored there (just in that one place!) like a jukebox. Essentially, a really crappy version of iTunes.

I always liked that something I thought up one day became an awesome thing. I like the real version so much better than my idea, so I’m glad Steve Jobs was on the case.

I’m getting obsessed with idea generation. As someone who works in marketing, writes stories and aspires to write books, I can’t think of a skill I’d rather have than the ability to generate solid, actionable ideas anytime I want or need to.

My favorite writer James Altucher has been writing about this over and over and over again. He writes down 10 ideas every day. For what? For whatever. Anything. Everything.

Ten ways to improve a cable company’s customer service.

Ten ways I could lose weight.

Ten ideas for getting a better night’s sleep.

Ten things for which to feel grateful.

Ten local businesses I could help with my skillset and knowledge base.

Ten places I can visit this year.

Ten people I could introduce to one another for business or social reasons.

Ten things I could do today to have more fun and feel happy.

There is no subject too big or too small. The reason Altucher writes down 10 ideas a day is to exercise what he calls the Idea Muscle. He insists whatever parts of our brain (I’m not a neurologist) are responsible for idea generation can be flexed and pushed and strengthened through repetitious exercise.

I believe him.

But, It’s Too Hard

My son says that about tying his shoes or reading advanced books or accurately throwing a frisbee or about any number of things he’s still learning how to do. He’s 6.

I know what he means.

There are so many things I used to be terrible at doing, but now I’m really good because I’ve done them thousands of times.

I still forget that lesson even though I’m 36 and am supposed to be an adult now.

I couldn’t write 10 ideas every day because when I have a million things to choose from I can never make a choice.

I do much better with prompts or with parameters. Constraints, if you will. Creative constraints are a valuable thing, and Twitter and it’s 140-character limit is probably the best modern-day example of it.

I would talk about this 10-idea-a-day concept with friends and associates. But I never really had any personal experience to back it up because I found it so difficult to do.

But then me and a couple partners started a side business, and one of the first things we do with prospective clients is thoroughly go over their business and come up with a list of 10 things we think we could do to improve it. It’s a fantastic exercise, and I’m pretty good at it.

My problem isn’t that I’m not capable of generating 10 ideas. I’m actually decent at it. I just have a lot of trouble honing in on specifics. Once I learned the value of artificial constraints on my ability to generate new ideas, the shackles came off. And now I’m getting better.

Enter James Altucher’s wife—Claudia Altucher. She wrote a book recently called “Become an Idea Machine,” based on this very idea. And in the book, she provides 180 idea prompts because if you come up with 10 ideas every day for 180 days, you will be an idea machine, she writes—someone capable of brainstorming viable, actionable ideas for any problem you might face.

I can’t think of one thing I’d rather be good at than the ability to come up with creative solutions on demand—in business meetings, in helping my son learn to think and problem-solve, in my personal life to help others and myself.

I’ve been writing 10 ideas a day based on Claudia Altucher’s prompts. Ten online courses (with curriculum) that I’d like to take. Ten mobile apps that would improve my life. Ten things that would improve commercial airline travel. Ten new recipes.

The point isn’t necessarily to generate phenomenal ideas (though you might!).

The point is simply to exercise the muscle. To get better at the part where you come up with creative solutions to problems.

At work. At home. In your social life. In your spiritual life. Financially. Physically. Et cetera.

The first few ideas are always easy. Then it gets hard and you make your mind sweat a little. That’s when the growth happens.

At some point, I’m pretty sure the prompts will ask me to come up with 10 new ideas by combining ideas that have already been thought of.

Endless possibilities.

Rad.

Someone who reads this blog wrote me. They’re sad. And they feel stuck. And I don’t want them to feel stuck.

And they don’t have to.

There are 10 groups or clubs or gyms or hobbies or classes they could join today to learn a new skill and meet new people.

There are 10 new careers they could pursue.

There are 10 things they could do that might make a spouse or partner feel more loved and appreciated.

There are 10 things they know more about than most people and could write books or make videos or teach an online course about.

There are 10 ways to laugh more.

There are 10 people to call or email or text RIGHT now because you love them and they need to know in case someone doesn’t wake up tomorrow or the world ends.

There are 10 people to hug. And 10 people to help. And 10 people to forgive.

There are always 10 things you can do this week, and tomorrow, and later tonight, and right now.

Things that might change the whole world. Or things that might only change you.

Sometimes, there isn’t any difference.

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Bring the Target Closer

Shooting-Target

When life coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins was 24, he wanted to train U.S. soldiers to shoot better, despite having never fired a gun.

How can I—a guy who has never shot a gun—teach someone else to improve their shooting?, he wondered.

The first thing he did was find five sharpshooting experts and interview them extensively. He then cross-referenced his notes from all five interviews and found commonalities among them.

From those conversations he formulated his strategy for improving the accuracy of soldiers’ shooting: Bring the target closer.

He brought the targets only a few feet away for each student. Of course, everyone shot bullseyes. Then he moved them back one foot. Everyone shot perfectly again. Then he moved them another foot. More success. And so on.

This incremental and confidence-building improvement strategy increased shooting accuracy in the school by 50 percent.

All from the mind of a guy who had never before fired a gun.

I read about this yesterday in James Altucher’s excellent “10 Things I Learned While Interviewing Tony Robbins About His New Book ‘Money’.”

Altucher added one more anecdote from Robbins that really resonated with me. 

Look at Goals Differently

Altucher wrote:

“Tony told us of one time he asked people what their goals were. One guy said, ‘I want to make a billion dollars!’ At first this would seem like an admirable goal—set it high! There’s that horrible saying, “Aim for the moon, because even if you miss it you’ll find yourself among the stars.

“But Tony said, this guy didn’t really understand his goal.

He broke it down. ‘Why do you want a billion?’ And the first answer was, ‘I want my own plane.’ Tony told him, ‘Well a plane costs $100 million and you might only be flying 12 times a year. If you charter a jet for $30,000 an hour then it will take you forever to spend $100 million.’ So suddenly the guy didn’t need $1 billion anymore. He needed $900 million.

“By the end of that session,” Tony said, “it turns out to achieve the exact lifestyle he thought he needed a billion for, he needed $10 million.” This is still a lot of money but this was Tony’s way of bringing the target closer.

“When I read that in his book, I did the exercise with Claudia (James’ wife). Her numbers went down by 90% when we really went through it. What happens then? You feel relief. You don’t have to be on the hamster wheel of money for your whole life. What you want is freedom, not money.”

The Five Steps to Succeed at Anything

In the interview with Robbins, Altucher said, “Ok, I figured it out. You use ‘the Tony Robbins Method’”. Which he defined as:

1. At first you don’t know anything.

2. You find five people who are the experts in the world.

3. You extensively interview them.

4. You figure out the most simple things they have in common with each other.

5. You do that simple thing over and over and over and over (repetition).

And that’s how you succeed at anything.

Elegant, it’s simplicity.

Discovering Shortcuts Usually Requires Knowing the Long Way

Whenever I move to a new city, I find I’m always travelling the main streets and busiest thoroughfares at first because they’re the easiest to remember and the first ones you get to know as you’re learning your way around.

Inevitably, as I drive around, over and over and over and over again, I hone my sense of direction and increase my comfort and familiarity with my surroundings.

After a year or two in a place? I learn all the side streets and back roads. The ones that help me avoid busy, annoying intersections, or help me efficiently navigate obstacles, or shave minutes off my work commute.

I learn the shortcuts and become a proficient driver only after learning the long way first.

We’re always looking for shortcuts.

To riches.

To physical fitness or attractiveness.

To expertise.

To love or sex or friends or success.

And maybe that’s a bad plan. Maybe if we accidentally find ways to improve speed and efficiency, it’s great or fortunate or because we’re fast learners.

But maybe most of the time the best way to get really good at something is to really embrace that incremental improvement mentality.

Maybe the best way to improve our lives is to always make sure we’re looking at goals differently.

You want to have a happy marriage?

Practice communicating with kindness and patience, no matter what. Love without expecting or demanding anything in return.

Never say mean things. Ever. And if you can never say something mean to your spouse for one day, maybe you can do it for two. And three. And four. And maybe after a month of kindness you realize you can do it every day and that it’s worth it because you feel peace and happiness you’ve never felt before.

If I did 50 pushups today, couldn’t I do 51 tomorrow? And 52 the next day? And 53 the day after that?

How long before I’d be the strongest I’d ever been?

We have these small successes. And we know we can improve upon them the next time. We can ALWAYS improve. Just 1%.

Just one measly percent.

And then we’re a little better. A little smarter. A little stronger. A little kinder. A little richer. A little happier.

And then someone asks you how you are.

“I’m great. Really great,” you say.

And you smile.

Because it’s true.

You are great.

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Doing What We Don’t Want To

kid doesn't want to

I sometimes want to punt my six-year-old when he says: “No. I’m not doing that.”

I’m a curious person. Always have been. If you’re asking me to do something, and I don’t want to do it, I want to know why I’m being forced to.

Why? Why am I doing this?

I really want reasons. Even if I think they’re bad ones, I like to understand why I’m being asked or told to do something.

Sometimes my parents or other authority figures would say: “Because I said so,” which is the biggest bullshit reason to do anything ever, said every enslaved human being in the history of the universe, and me.

I always try to give my son a reason for everything I ask of him. I’m accidentally a hypocrite sometimes, but I’m never intentionally one.

The house isn’t democratic. He gets his way the vast majority of the time because I don’t like to fight with him, but sometimes I need him to simply follow directions. He needs to learn to respect and obey the instructions of his parents, teachers, coaches, etc.

Why doesn’t he understand that all of these instructions are for his well being!?!?

I wonder how many times he has to drop food on his shirt or lap before my incessant reminders to eat over his plate or bowl will finally sink in.

He probably thinks I’m full of shit just like I thought my parents were full of shit because we all think we’re geniuses until we become adults and realize that we actually don’t know anything, never did, and that even really smart and successful people are part-time dumbasses too.

‘I Don’t Want to Go to School’

My son hasn’t said this yet. But he probably will.

Because school is sometimes stupid.

It is.

Not this early part my son is in. First grade is great. He’s really starting to figure out many things related to reading, writing and math, and I beam with pride every time I see his very capable little mind grasp a new concept or retain knowledge from a previous lesson.

But later? High school? College?

Let’s just say if you’re not doing something super-specific that requires specialty training and certification (Education, Law, Medical, Engineering, etc.) I feel like you learn very little of lasting value in school, academically.

I’m not saying EDUCATION is stupid. Education is amazing, and one of my many life regrets is not caring about learning when I was surrounded by academic resources and so many thought leaders, like I was in college.

For a guy like me? School is something you have to do in order to get a decent job. That’s it.

In fact, that’s REALLY the lesson of school: Learning how to complete projects you don’t want to complete and are not interested in by a certain deadline and to the judgement of others.

I didn’t crave knowledge when I was a student. I went to school because that’s what everyone else did! I wasn’t doing any thinking for myself back then.

Later, I craved a piece of paper that would tell hiring managers I graduated college, so they would think I was smart even though my diploma doesn’t prove my competence.

It’s more than possible I’m not giving my school years enough credit, but it really does seem as if everything valuable I’ve learned has been learned in the “real world” on subjects in which I am naturally interested.

Street smarts, if you will.

When I got divorced last year, my entire life fell apart, and I learned that falling apart emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically, financially is something that’s really important for human beings to not do.

But I never learned anything like that in school. I didn’t legitimately crave knowledge until after turning 30.

Because I read a lot about marketing principles, I know that if you give people reasons (even totally bogus ones!) for doing something, they are much more likely to comply with your request.

So when my son finally gets around to fighting us on going to school (hopefully he never does!) I want to be able to give him the reason why we make him go. The reason why it’s important for him to go.

What are the reasons why it’s important to go to school?

To learn how to get along with others? To follow directions? To learn a few basic things?

I’m sure a better advocate for the American education system could better answer that question. Near as I can tell, we send our children to school because we need them to be in a safe environment, and learning socialization skills and government-approved curriculum so us parents can go to work and help finance the government by earning money at a job and paying taxes.

I think they want our kids to learn enough to grow up and want to get a job so that they can help finance the government also, and have children that will also go to school and learn how to get a job they can pay taxes with.

It’s a little cynical. But it’s my most-honest answer.

I wonder how much of that I will ever say to my son. I’ll probably lie and say it’s to learn even though you really don’t learn much academically until you organically want to, and even though I never want to lie.

‘I Don’t Want to Go to Work’

I haven’t wanted to go to work dozens, maybe even hundreds of times.

But I almost always do go, even when I don’t feel like it. I have to pay for food and shelter. I have to pay for transportation. So my son and I can eat and sleep safely. So I can drive to and from my job that I need to pay for those three things.

People do things they don’t want to all the time.

We do it for our jobs.

We do it for our friends.

We do it for our children.

We do it for our spouses, partners, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc.

There’s nobility in sacrifice. In generosity. In inconvenience in the name of compromise, or serving others.

And those are important lessons I want to instill in my son. That I want to focus on when I’m muttering because I have to do something else I don’t feel like doing.

My favorite writer is James Altucher, and he writes so much about how he tries to never do things he doesn’t want to do.

It sucks? He doesn’t do it.

It makes him feel bad or uncomfortable? He doesn’t do it.

If people bring bad feelings or negativity into his life? He cuts them out.

It’s a little bit radical. But his point is easy enough to understand and get behind: Life is too short to spend most of it doing things we hate with people who make us feel bad.

Are these ideas irreconcilable?

Is it possible to live a life mostly doing things we want to with people who lift us up and make us feel good?

Or is this it?

Is the human experience always going to include inconvenience?

Living in cold, snowy places even when you don’t like the cold and snow?

Going to work in a cubicle, feeling unfulfilled, and financially limited by meager 3.7-percent raises once a year?

Always with chores and taxes and appointments and obligations we’d have no part of if real choice was involved?

I think maybe it is.

But then I think back to being a kid. Like my little man. So young still. So much to learn.

“No. I’m not doing that!”

Why doesn’t he realize it’s for his own good?

Maybe. Just maybe. There is more to life than this.

Maybe. Just maybe. We are where we’re supposed to be for reasons we can’t possibly understand right now.

Maybe. Just maybe. We’re being prepared for something greater.

Because we’re more than just water and bone.

Because we don’t have all the answers.

Because we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to.

But it’s really for our own good.

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The Belt Notches

Graphic courtesy of jamesclear.com

Graphic courtesy of jamesclear.com

I was dressing for work the other day when it happened. While buckling my belt, I noticed it needed to be pulled a notch tighter.

You notice because your belt develops this funny little hump where it gets settled into being buckled in the same notch over and over and over again. And then—bam. It needs a new home. Strange. Different. Uncomfortable, but not in a bad way.

My belt got tighter because I’ve been making good lifestyle choices, both in terms of physical fitness and eating habits.

You don’t really notice the changes day to day. The improvements are so incremental that they would seem nearly immeasurable. But, added up over weeks and months, they are not only noticeable, but in some cases—drastic.

Most of the time, I drive right by my ex-wife’s office on my way to and from work each day.

For many months, I noticed myself always looking back to see whether I could see her vehicle parked outside. I don’t know why. Old habits die hard?

What I do know is that it never made me feel good. There were even times I saw my little son hop out of the car with her right at the moment I was driving by.

That made me cry once.

A brutal reminder of all that had been lost.

Lisa Arends at Lessons From the End of a Marriage (who everyone dealing with divorce-related matters should read) once talked to me about emotional triggers. And she said something I’ll never forget. She said they’re going to sting. And it’s going to surprise you. But then, over time, you’ll notice they don’t sting anymore, she said. That you’ll drive by and you won’t feel horrible. You won’t cry.

And that will surprise you, too.

And then you’ll know. Like passing a test of sorts. That you’re stronger now. Braver now.

That you’re actually you again.

I can’t be sure when it happened. But I caught myself once jamming to something awesome on the radio. Smiling because that day was going to be a good day. Just, feeling good.

And I realized: I didn’t look back. I didn’t look to see whether her car was there.

Then I realized I didn’t know when I stopped doing that. Weeks ago?

Because it just happened. Slowly. Unnoticeably. Incrementally.

My mind will continue to process all of the many changes these past few years have brought.

My body will continue to get leaner, harder, stronger.

And my spirit will soar because of it. Taking me to places I’ve never been.

One little bit at a time.

1% a Day

My favorite writer James Altucher writes often about improving just one percent each day.

I like it because it makes sense to me. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post of his:

I have a friend who is feeling down. He doesn’t like his job. He’s uncomfortable with the people he is working with. He’s had this job for ten years so he’s afraid to bail now after putting in so much time.

He wants to make a fast change.

Every day, though, is a new day. The past is just a photograph. The present is everything we can see and feel and hear and touch and love and live. The future is a fantasy.

So today improve just 1%.

That sounds trite. What is “one percent”?

Maybe I’ll write a list of ideas today. Maybe I’ll take a walk. Maybe I’ll call someone I love. Or maybe I will shower twice and do pushups. (or, ahem, maybe shower once).

Maybe you can tell me: what are all the ways someone can improve their lives 1%?

Maybe I’ll eat 1% less junk food. Or read a book instead of some stupid news article that is filling up the inane news cycle of the week before it’s forgotten when the next news cycle hits.

Maybe I won’t argue about a stupid issue. Or maybe I will spend time with my kids.

Someone wrote a completely insane comment on my wall the other day. I delete it and move on. No need to argue.

Another person wrote a blog post accusing me of trying to control him with “Neuro-weaponry,” apparently developed by the U.S.Navy. I ignore it and move on. I don’t even like to swim.

What are some other ideas? I hope you can tell me.

1% seems like a small amount.

And it is a small amount. It’s tiny. It’s easy. It’s doable. Today.

But 1% compounds. If you improve 1% a day you will improve 3800% in a year. I don’t even know what that means. Life is not a number.

But it means your life will be COMPLETELY different.

I know this is true. My life is completely different than it was a year ago. And a year before that. And I can barely recognize the year before that. I can’t even remember two years ago actually.

Sometimes just a kiss improves my life 1%.”

Technically, it’s 3,753 percent. If you improve one percent every day for one year, you improve 3,753 percent. That’s a lot.

James is right. Our lives are not numbers. And I don’t know what it means either.

But I know I can get one percent better at something today. Probably more.

Everything changed. And sure, I’m still scared.

But not very much.

And not very often.

I’m alive. More than just surviving. Living. Progressing. And striving for achievement more than I ever have before.

Instead of worrying about tomorrow, and way down the road about things I can’t possibly control, I’m mostly concentrating on getting a little bit better today.

A slightly smaller stomach.

Slightly stronger arms.

A more-courageous heart.

A calm, capable, clear mind.

An unbreakable spirit.

I wasn’t strong enough before.

And maybe I’m not today.

But I will be. One percent at a time. 3,753 percent more one year from now. And a nearly incomprehensible amount, five years down the road.

“So, Matt. What’s your five-year plan?”

Oh, nothing much.

Just improve 7.85 billion percent.

Rad.

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The Gray Area

gray area

I prefer things to be black and white.

Good or bad.

Right or wrong.

When there are choices to be made, life is much easier when common sense dictates the best course of action.

I believe I have a good sense of what to do in those situations. Sometimes I choose the wrong thing because of selfishness or fear or pleasure or impatience or a full moon.

But it tends to be me knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway. I can live with that.

Something is often black. Or white. And I can usually tell the difference.

Then there is all the stuff in between.

The gray area.

All Bottled Up

I am firmly entrenched in the gray area.

For several months, I was publishing a thousand words a day here. I almost never missed.

I always had something to say because I wasn’t afraid to write exactly what was happening and how I felt about it.

It mattered because other people got it. Other people have shitty, broken relationships and feel hopeless, too.

It’s important to know you’re not alone.

It’s important to see how other people deal with things so you can copy them when they get it right, and do the opposite when they don’t.

I felt a strong calling to do just that.

To do stuff. To feel. And write it all down.

To write mostly fearlessly. So what, I’m scared? So what, I was having trouble dating? So what, I don’t know what to do with my life?

My wife left and my life exploded into chaos that affected me emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially.

I was fucking pissed. You know, when I wasn’t crying or drinking. And I told you all about it.

And it felt good.

Because I’m so damn scared all the time. Here in my real life. In this body. When I can’t sleep at night. When I’m indulging in self-loathing. And doubt.

What am I doing? Why?

I’m trying so hard to determine what it is that really matters to me. And what doesn’t.

I’ve spent the past 13 years living for other people. Poorly, at times. But for other people.

And so much of that purpose went away when my family broke.

It’s just my son now.

What’s best for him?

Is it ultimately a well-balanced and happy father?

Is that the best gift I can give him?

What does that even look like?

I haven’t been able to write because I can’t write honestly without hurting or exposing people.

The truth affects my personal life in profound ways.

I’m dying to tell you.

All of it. Everything.

And not even for you. But for me. Because this is the best way I know how to work through things. To find myself hiding amidst all the shit and chaos swirling around inside me.

What matters most?

My personal, social, professional and spiritual life is at stake as I sort through the mess. Picking up the things I need to keep close to me. And tossing aside the things I need to protect myself from.

The Search for Black and White

I don’t have a preference. Things can just be whatever they are.

Black.

White.

No judgment.

I just want to be able to see them. Identify them. Know what I’m dealing with. So I can move forward with confidence and choose the right path.

It doesn’t have to look safe.

It doesn’t have to look familiar.

It doesn’t have to look easy.

But they can’t all look the same.

Maybe there are clues.

Perhaps little things hidden among all the gray.

The universe tends to be constantly balancing both sides of the equals sign in our lives.

I was so sad and angry and broken a year ago.

And now I’m not.

Now I’m not really anything.

The opposite of sad is happy. I’m not that.

The opposite of angry is peaceful. I’m not that.

The opposite of broken is whole. And I’m not that either.

I’m somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the gray area facing major decisions that have no obvious answers.

No blacks or whites or colors of any kind.

Just gray.

Just uncertainty.

What Do I Know?

I know finding spiritual peace, emotional balance, overall good physical and financial health and social connectivity would seem to be the obvious pillars on which to rebuild the foundation of my life.

So with every choice, I need to ask myself what moves me closer to those things.

I read something from my favorite writer James Altucher yesterday.

Sometimes you read or hear things that speak to your soul. That make you feel like the words were meant just for you. Altucher often does that for me.

And I think I’m going to take his advice on this one.

From “How To Go Out At The Top”:

“At every fork in the road you have a choice. This is what I try to do now: I ask, ‘which choice makes me feel better?’

“Then I don’t think about it. Thoughts are too biased by evolution, society, our past, our neuroses. My only job is to ask the question.

“Then I take a breath. Maybe more. What’s my heart say? What’s my stomach say? Eventually, if I’m healthy in other ways, my body will tell me the answer. (maybe this sounds corny, but it’s what I do)…

“Choose the path at the fork where your heart goes on fire. Go down that path.

“Don’t look back.”

Okay, James.

We’ll try it your way.

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How James Altucher Saved My Life

This guy is my writing hero. Not because of how he tells you. Because of what he tells you.

This guy is my writing hero. Not because of how he tells you. Because of what he tells you.

James Altucher lied to get on television because he was afraid to fly on airplanes following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, where he lived.

His boss wanted him to fly south for a business meeting. Altucher needed a way out of it. So he lied to Jim Cramer—an investment advisor and TV personality—about how much investment money he managed in order to get on Cramer’s TV show.

I was reading this story last summer in the first post I ever saw by Altucher. I was struck by the honesty in the words. It seemed almost a little messy, like his unkempt hair. But the writing was still somehow more pure than anything I’d ever read before.

“Once Jim asked me to go on I couldn’t stop shaking,” he wrote. “I knew I was a fraud and I was finally going to prove it to everyone I went to high school with.

“I assumed they would all be gathered at the same place, eating popcorn and laughing at me.”

I laughed out loud when I read that. This guy’s awesome. He really gets it. He really understands how to communicate what it’s like to be a person!, I thought.

Altucher finished recounting his experience being on television with this:

“Afterwards two things happened.

“My dad wrote me an email congratulating me. Since we were in a fight and I tend to avoid people I’m fighting, I didn’t respond to him. Then he had a stroke and died.”

It took my breath away.

It was the first time I had ever seen someone express something like this. It’s as if he’s giving you permission to laugh at the tragedy. Of every paragraph I have read by any writer—ever—that is the one that stays with me.

That’s when I knew I loved Altucher.

That’s when I knew if I had any chance at all of being a legitimate writer, I had to choose bravery as he does. I had to bleed a little onto the page. I had to take off the mask. The one I wear out of habit and fear. The one I wear to appear smarter or more confident or more accomplished than I am. The one I wear to appear less fearful, less neurotic or less damaged than I am.

Why Don’t I Feel Brave?

Here’s a sample of what people write to me on my About page.

“Your bravery in laying yourself bare for all to see is commendable.”

“Your writing here requires some serious balls, and I gotta admire you for that.”

“Your ups and downs, your words of hope (even when stuff gets really bad), your honest words and struggles shared with us, they are priceless. Really priceless.”

“Have to say, your honesty is awesome.”

Nothing about what I write here feels particularly special or honest or courageous to me. But I also know my opinions are mostly irrelevant.

Sometimes I write things I like, but no one else does, and sometimes I write things I think are just mehhhhhhh and people seem to love it.

One time I wrote a post about how all the typos I was writing and publishing were getting emailed to people. I was mortified. The post was me apologizing to you for shoddy work.

At the time I hit the Publish button, I considered it just about the most-pointless thing I’d ever written. WordPress editors chose it for Freshly Pressed—a part of WordPress where blog posts are shared with thousands of readers. I think I tripled my daily traffic overnight with the post I was most embarrassed about. Fitting.

It makes me feel like a fraud. You think I bare MY soul? A James Altucher post often feels like voyeurism. Like the police just let you behind the yellow Caution tape to check out a murder scene.

Altucher says he studies great writing so he can write things 1/10th as well as the people he’s reading. Which is funny, because I set out to write things 1/10th as well as he does.

With each thing he writes, he has three goals: Entertain. Be honest. Help people.

For my money, no one has ever been more successful doing those things with a keyboard.

What Honesty Looks Like

Here are excerpts from a bunch of Altucher posts. Out of context, they might lack the impact they do reading them within his stories. But I want to share anyway.

“I was afraid this was my one shot and I was blowing it. I was even crying in my car. I was going broke and I felt this was my one chance. What a loser.” (from How to Get an MBA from Eminem)

“One time I bored Dave Chapelle to death. I kept talking and talking and finally he said, ‘Excuse me, I have to get out of here and find me a girl for tonight!’

“Another time there I asked Al Franken if I could interview him. He looked me up and down and said, ‘No’ and walked on. Fair enough. Now he’s a U.S. senator, and I just write random stuff on my Facebook wall.” (from Louis CK and the Hare Krishnas Used This ONE Trick for Success)

“One time I was at a funeral of a relative. There was a woman there I had a crush on. Everybody was hugging each other because it was a funeral. So I hugged her more than once. Every time I passed her I would hug her. Finally I got the sense that she thought it was weird and then simply because she thought it, it did become weird. Actually, it was weird. I can’t blame it on her. I was weird.” (from How to Hug)

“I’ve done everything to avoid being lonely.

“I pretended to be a psychic on Craigslist.

“I’ve spent ten hours a day on dating sites.

“I asked out girls in elevators, girls in laundromats, girls at ATM machines, waitresses, more waitresses, thousands of waitresses. Only one said yes. And then she didn’t show up.” (from How to Cure Loneliness)

You get the idea.

He’s the best.

I don’t know James Altucher. And he sure as shit doesn’t know me. He follows me on Twitter along with more than 10,000 other people, but I bet he doesn’t know it.

But I get to feel like I know him because he lets us in. We all do. Because he takes off that mask and lets us see all the messy human stuff that lies beneath the surface.

And now I get to try to write bravely like he does, and some people think it is brave and that it helps them somehow. I still think it’s a miracle that people read anything I write.

Thank You, James

Because almost half of all married people get divorced I sometimes think I’m being particularly lame whining all the time about my divorce last year.

I’m afraid people will think I’m weak.

I’m afraid men will think I’m a douchebag.

I’m afraid women will think I’m pathetic and never want to have sex with me.

I’m afraid my ex-wife reads every one of my posts with a satisfied smirk on her face, thinking: Now everyone can see why I left this coward!, just before jumping into bed with some hard-bodied guy she met at the gym.

All of this negative energy was building up inside me, and it continues to if I don’t take action.

But I do take action.

I write little stories here. And I’m able to take all of that ugly trying to grow inside me all the time and rid my body of it one sentence at time.

I don’t know how or why it helps. I just know that it does.

And maybe if I didn’t do that, I’d be dead.

And maybe if I wasn’t honest, it wouldn’t work.

And maybe if I never read James Altucher, I wouldn’t know how.

Thank you, James.

And thank you, people who read.

It’s no exaggeration: you saved my life.

Two of the smartest things you can do right now is visit James’ website and sign up for his email list and buy his latest book “Choose Yourself!,” which is currently on sale for Kindle for $0.99. Less than $1 for one of the most-important things published last year. 

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How Writing Brought Me Back to Life

Connect. Breathe. Say thanks. And, love.

Connect. Breathe. Say thanks. And, love.

I died a little the moment my wife told me over dinner she wasn’t sure she loved me anymore.

The world kept spinning. Life kept happening.

But not in my house.

I stopped living. Right then.

At first I was angry. Who the fuck does she think she is?

Then, terrified. What if she leaves? Oh my God. My life. My wife. My son.

Then, introspective. Hopeful. What have I done to cause this? What can I do to save it? How can I be a better husband? A better father? A better man?

But I never shook the fear.

Then I Secret-ed that shit into reality. She walked out.

Exactly 359 days ago. I’ll never forget.

The house was so empty. So quiet.

And then I died even more.

In the beginning, it was pure panic. I could barely move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus.

I started watching The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad on Netflix to fill the hours, but I would have to rewind things over and over again because my mind wouldn’t stay focused on the story.

My favorite fiction writing on television couldn’t mask the enormity of all that real life in my midst—the bare spots on the walls, the messier-than-usual house, and the dead silence that greeted me when I walked in the house or woke up each morning.

I was desperate.

I tried to drink it off with friends, but it was hard for me to engage. Drunken conversations almost always involved me reflecting on the state of my life.

I’d meet a pretty girl at a party or a bar, or I’d be sitting around with my friends with whom I was CERTAIN were tired of me bringing them down when I was around.

Don’t talk about your divorce! Don’t talk about your divorce! DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR STUPID DIVORCE, ASSHOLE!, I would tell myself over and over again.

Within five minutes, I’d have talked about the divorce.

It’s like I couldn’t help myself. It would just spew out of me. The animated corpse. A zombie with a fake smile.

We Need Connection

Like your brain. It’s one big thing. But really it’s a bunch of connected little things. And if those connections disconnect, you die.

Romantic partners require connection. If you become disconnected from your spouse or partner, the relationship will die.

We need—(I think. I don’t know. I just know what happened to me and assume it happens to other people, too.)—to be connected to other people.

I died a little on the inside during the 18-19 months in which my marriage was in limbo.

Life was not being lived. Sleeping in that piece-of-shit guest room. Cut off from damn near everything that mattered to me.

Just sad and angry and crying and scared.

And I was on life support those first few months after she left. Because, literally, every dream I ever had about my future went up in flames. 359 days ago.

And Then There Was You 

I withdrew from friends and family.

Became somewhat reclusive for the social animal I really am.

And I attacked the keyboard. It was awkward telling people at parties and other places how shitty my life was, but dammit, it was cathartic telling you.

It was therapeutic.

It was healing.

Most importantly? It created connection.

We need it so bad. Like oxygen. And water. And love.

The writing connected us. The feedback connected us. The ideas connected us. The emotions connected us.

And it brought me back to life. One published post at a time.

I became reanimated.

Like watching your own child grow, it’s so gradual, you just look at them one day and think: Holy shit! When did they learn how to run and jump and talk and think and teach us about ourselves!?!?

One day, I just didn’t post to the blog.

Not because I didn’t want to. I always want to.

But because I didn’t need to.

Because I’m kind of alive again.

Lazarus, come forth.

Never Stop Connecting 

As soon as I realized what Twitter really was (an amazing place to connect and exchange ideas, as well as a totally customizable real-time breaking news feed) I fell in love with it.

I’ve never had much to say there. But I used to spend much of my free time perusing my feed for breaking news and hilarity.

Of all the social networks that exist today, Twitter in my opinion best reflects humanity.

And I completely vanished from Twitter when I “died.” And like most things you quit, it’s easy to forget why you liked or needed something in the first place when you stay away from it long enough.

I created the @MBTTTR Twitter account a couple months ago, and it’s been such a treat being reminded each day what an amazing place it is.

So much life and laughter and creativity and genius is exchanged there.

My favorite writer on the planet, James Altucher (@jaltucher), follows me thanks to a kind and generous tweet from Michael Maupin, author of Completely in the Dark (@completelydark) who graciously spends more time than I deserve reading things I write here.

I can’t explain to you the depths of the purely heterosexual man-crush I have on Altucher. Him following me on Twitter is the equivalent of a high school basketball player being followed by LeBron James or an aspiring pop star being followed by Justin Timberlake.

Twitter offers a lot of gatekeeper-free access to some of the most-brilliant minds on the planet. Reconnecting with Twitter has breathed even more life into these healing lungs.

Thank you, Life. I’m so grateful for you.

But We’re Not All Writers

Not everyone is going to have the inclination to connect the way I did. To just send little pieces of themselves out to the world and see what comes back.

That way is not for everybody.

But we are all human. And I am right about that whole oxygen, water, love thing. Those are critical to being alive.

Just like connection.

So you must find another way. The way that works best for you.

I need it.

And you need it.

And we can’t spend enough time doing it. (That’s what she said.)

Maybe you feel dead like I did.

And maybe you want to feel alive.

Connect!

With your friends. With your family. With your co-workers. With strangers. With God. And if you’re not into that—with the universe.

Just say “thank you.” Try to mean it. Fake it ‘til you make it.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I borrowed a little bit of life from each person with whom I connected. And I continue to borrow that. But we can’t spend our lives taking and taking and taking.

So, we invite people to connect with us. And then they borrow a little bit of our life force.

Giving and taking. Sharing. Connecting.

Saving lives.

Making miracles.

Rising from the dead.

And then we’re all breathing again.

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How to Get Lucky

A four-leaf clover is easier to find than you think. You just need to be prepared.

A four-leaf clover is easier to find than you think. You just need to be prepared.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur, Dec. 7, 1854

The odds of finding a four-leaf clover are about one in 10,000.

Those are long odds.

But you can give yourself a huge advantage by attacking the mission with a prepared mind.

A four-leaf clover is a mutation of normal three-leaf clover. Geography and time of year contribute to the frequency of the mutation. I don’t have any clue where they are more likely to occur. But I did read the mutation is more likely to happen in late summer than during other times of the year.

I also read that there are several types of clover. But there is one type more susceptible to the mutation than other types. The Trifolium repens—the clover patches you see with the little white flowers that make your lawn look extra shitty—is the variety statistically most likely to have four-leaf clovers within the patch.

So, with that information…

How to Find a Four-Leaf Clover

  1. Take advantage of the late-summer weeks and months. The four-leaf clover mutation occurs more frequently then.
  2. Locate a patch of the white-flowered clover. The mutation occurs most often in that type of clover.
  3. Do not sit on the ground going through each, one by one. Stand up for the “birds-eye” view of the patch. You’re not looking at just one then. You’re looking at hundreds. And as your brain adjusts to the visual rhythm of three-leaved clover, your eyes will more easily be able to pick out the four-leaved anomalies.
  4. Clover grows from roots like every other plant. So, when you find one, you’ll be more likely to find others nearby. Because other clover sprouted from the same root system will share the same genetic code, making it EVEN MORE likely to find some. A four-leaf clover “hot spot,” so to speak.

Ta-da! You found a four-leaf clover. Lucky.

Luck is still a factor.

But, going in prepared? You position yourself to get infinitely luckier than everyone who didn’t prepare to get lucky.

How to Be Lucky in Four Steps

James Altucher is my favorite person I have never met. I love him. And I’m going to keep writing about him because I think everyone should be reading him and thinking about the things he thinks about because the world will be a better place if everyone does that.

In his writing, he often includes his personal method for achieving balance in a world that’s out of balance. He calls it The Daily Practice.

There are four components. Think of them like four legs under a table: Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual.

The four quadrants of your life. And if you keep them healthy and steady, your table won’t wobble.

If you neglect one or more of them, your table is going to be shitty and annoying and out of balance.

You owe it to yourself, and to all of the people you love, and to all of the people who love you to make your table awesome. Like an Amish craftsman would.

Be Abram Yoder. Or Miriam Hershberger. Or Jacob Miller. (Those are apparently super-common Amish names. *shrug*)

Altucher is a genius.

And if you’re willing to accept, as I have, that we need to make changes in our lives in order to experience the inner peace and happiness we all crave, then I beg you to spend some time reading and thinking about the following:

How to be THE LUCKIEST GUY ON THE PLANET in 4 Easy Steps

Because you don’t have to feel shitty.

You don’t have to feel weak.

You don’t have to feel scared.

You don’t have to feel unloved.

You don’t have to sit around waiting for the world to deliver you a better option.

You can take it yourself.

There are no guarantees. Even if you do everything right. Even if you’re fully prepared, there’s still no guarantee you’re going to find any four-leaf clover.

But the world isn’t going to do too much of the work for us.

We can sit around letting things happen to us, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad.

Or we can take what’s ours.

Get lucky.

And make shit happen.

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The Vampire Test

Image courtesy of fanpop.com

Image courtesy of fanpop.com

Pablo Picasso was a vampire.

The famed artist had a talent and reputation for sucking energy from the people he spent time with, then using that energy back in his studio to paint all those famous images I don’t like (except for The Old Guitarist. That painting is rad).

I didn’t know this about Picasso. Austin Kleon taught me in his awesome new book Show Your Work! where he wrote that he learned it by reading John Richardson’s biography A Life of Picasso.

Picasso was a taker. And, wrote Kleon, most people would deal with it because they liked hanging out with a famous guy.

But one man was unwilling to tolerate Picasso’s energy-draining behavior—a sculptor named Constantin Brancusi.

“Brancusi hailed from the Carpathian Mountains, and he knew a vampire when he saw one,” Kleon wrote. “He was not going to have his energy or the fruits of his energy juiced by Picasso, so he refused to have anything to do with him.

“Brancusi practiced what I call The Vampire Test.”

But the Blood Tastes Good

Right?

It feels so good to get.

Love. Attention. Sex. Money. Help. Whatever.

We crave these things on a case-by-case basis. I had to stop reading Kleon’s book at that point. I really wanted to think about this. Because it made me nervous.

Am I a vampire?

Two things happened after my wife left:

  1. I reached out to people and latched onto friends and family members because I needed them. But then I went into a reclusive cocoon and disconnected (not permanently!) with so many of those people who were there for me during those preliminary freak-out moments.
  2. I started writing here. And used you. Because so many of you give, give, give.

You read. You care. You provide feedback.

More often than not, it’s the nicest stuff anyone has ever said to me not counting my mom and grandma who are both inexplicably kind and loving to me.

But what do I give you?

There are dozens of you who peek in on what I’m saying here. You read. You “like.” You comment.

You invest.

You give.

You give more than I give. Because I’m such a self-centered person sometimes. You need to know that I feel it. That I know it. The inequity. I know you give more to me than I give to you.

That, sometimes, my behavior amounts to me sucking your blood.

I do it for the same reasons we don’t pick up the phone enough to call our friends and family members. For the same reasons we have those conversations with people over and over again: “We should talk more! Let’s go have a drink sometime! I just get so busy! You know how it is!” And we all nod our heads, because we all do know how it is.

But it doesn’t have to be. We can choose to give more.

I’m such a wretched communicator with people, which is so stupid because I always feel better WHEN I’m connected to others.

And I always feel better when I give more than I take.

Give More Than You Take

I love this idea. I say it a lot. Usually, I’m thinking about it in the context of a marriage as I still spend every day nearly a full year later thinking about all the ways I did marriage wrong.

Give more than you take.

It applies to all of our friendships. It applies to charity. It applies to the energy we give to our families. Our employers. Our various commitments and extracurricular activities and hobbies and passions.

Give more than you take.

You want to make your relationship work with the person you love?

This idea alone can save you. But it will always take both parties.

One half of the couple can grow as an individual learning to give more than he or she takes. But that’s not enough for marriage.

If both partners can give more than they take?

Spend a lifetime out-giving one another?

That’s what the baseline ingredients for Forever look like.

Let the Right Ones In

“It’s a simple way to know who you should let in and out of your life,” Kleon wrote of The Vampire Test. “If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire.”

He continued.

“Of course, The Vampire Test works on many things in our lives, not just people—you can apply it to jobs, hobbies, places, etc.

“Vampires cannot be cured. Should you find yourself in the presence of a vampire, be like Brancusi, and banish it from your life forever.”

James Altucher practices this very same philosophy—surrounding himself with people who lift him up and make him feel loved, and distancing himself from people who do the opposite.

It has been life changing, he said.

I do not want to be a vampire in your life. And I pray that I am not.

I hope you will think about incorporating The Vampire Test, and spending more time with people and doing things that make your life better, and spending less time with people and doing things that make it worse.

Even if one of those things is me. Because you deserve happiness.

And to achieve it we must only let the right ones in.

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