What I want for myself in 2011




New Year’s Resolutions are often sad (they are often about what we hope for but can never get) and are often lies. I don’t want to lie to myself this year. So this year: practical, easy to do, resolutions in several important areas of life.

Emotional: I’ve had some bleeding the past few years. I’ve bled all over the place. I’ll bleed more in this blog. So there’s a couple of things I’d like to improve this year:

–          Friends. I don’t have that many of them. I’d like to have more. To spend time with more friends. I don’t even really know what that’s like. All I’ve done the past 15 years is work. Maybe once every two weeks at least, I’d like to have lunch or dinner with a friend. Just hang out. Talk about something other than business. Maybe play games (and not online) . I have a good ongoing backgammon match with Stephen Dubner which has been fun. We’ve been doing that since 2002 when he was writing a book on “The Psychology of Money” but he then got diverted to writing a book with minimal sales called “Freakonomics”. I’d like to have more outings playing games with friends.

–          No Clutter. I’m not moving (I moved four times last year). I’m not getting married (did that last year). Everytime I buy a book I’m giving one away.  STOP EATING AT THE DESK. I want for nothing (except the Ipad2 when it comes out. Oh, and I’m getting the Macbook Air 13” by the time I go to India).

–          Meditation. I put this under the category of “emotional” rather than “mental” or “spiritual”. Practicing meditation is good for those moments where you catch yourself in regular life getting angry, or stressed, or anxious. The “practice” gets practical when you can stop yourself and say “wait a second, there’s that anxiety again. Hello anxiety.” Just acknowledging an unpleasant emotion or stress (like acknowledging an itch), helps it disappear.

In reality, its not possible for everyone to sit still for 20 minutes, which is why I also like these 60 second meditations described in “Naked Girls, Astral Projection, and achieving Nirvana in 60 seconds or less”.

–          Family: Finally. A lot more time with my kids. Ideally, I home school them. But I don’t think that’s practical for me right now. But more time on a weekly basis. Enough to do the advice described in “Is it bad I originally wished my first kid was aborted?”


–          Morning routine: I want to get my morning routine back in shape:

  • Read at least one good piece of writing each morning: a short story, a literary essay, good non-fiction
  • Study at least one game in the morning. Choose from: chess, Go, backgammon, scrabble, checkers, bridge
  • Ideas. Get my handy waiter’s pad out and jot down 10 ideas. Ideas can be about anything: new businesses, article ideas, people I want to meet, ideas for other people (with the intent of communicating those ideas). Just keep exercising the idea muscle.

–          During the day. At least 20% less screen time. More walking-around-just-thinking time. I spent 10 hours a day in front of a screen typically. What a waste of life.

–          Memorize a list of 2500 Spanish words. I don’t want to read a “Learn Spanish” book. I just want to get the 2500 most used words in the language and memorize them. If I do 8 a day I should be good within a year.


–          Transition: I’m still going to write (and trade) about stocks for WSJ, Business Insider, CNBC.com, AOL, and wherever BUT I’m going to scale out of that into doing other things. I’m not sure what the writing has really done for me, career-wise. All I get it a ton of grief on message boards, people calling me a “psycho idiot” all the time.  I have another book coming out February 1 (“The WSJ Guide to investing for the apocalypse (Harper Collins)”) but its going to be my last finance book (and my fifth. I don’t ever want to do another).

–          TWO BOOKS: I’m self-publishing two new books in the next three months: “The White Book” and “The Black Book”. The White Book is basically a guide to living a better life, with different definitions of success, health, happiness, than anyone’s seen before.

The problem with the self-help industry out there is that I feel 99.99% of the authors in the space haven’t really lived at all. They all talk about “being optimistic” or “the secret” but have no idea how to really execute on an idea, appreciate a simpler life, or even understand when optimism bleeds into stupidity.

Nobody knows how to have ideas or really make the most of opportunities. Also, people confuse investing with happiness. Not a single article about stocks has anything to do with actually having a better life.  I’m sick of the vapidness of the self-help industry and all of its sub-genres in personal finance, health, spirituality, etc.

“The Black Book” is, well, a little darker.

–          Speaking: This past year I did some fun speaking engagement that weren’t all finance related. I want to do more of those. A lot more. Colleges, conferences, random bars in the middle of the night, etc.

–          Private investing: I have another post coming out soon about what investments I currently have. Of my dozen or so investments only one requires me to be hands-on. Ideally I keep it that way and just ride out the rest without sweating them. My checklist on a private investment remains the same and I won’t waver from this in 2011:

  • CEO who has built and sold before
  • Good co-investors (let them do the handholding, the background checks, the term sheets, etc. I don’t want hard work)
  • Good demographic trend (facebook marketing, personalized medicine, cloud storage, disintermediated commerce, etc)
  • Cheap valuation. This is subjective. But most people know “dirt cheap” when they see it.
  • Clear path to profitability and good revenues. I’m tired of seeing the crooked smile on business plans which start at 0 and end up at $1 trillion in profits in 10 years. Only invest in reality and not the fad of the day. I’ve been guilty of that also many times.


I’m going to follow EXACTLY what I prescribe in How To Live Forever


–          My whole life I’ve wanted to do standup comedy. THIS IS THE YEAR I’m going work out a routine, get up on stage, and do it.

You’re all invited.


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  • Speaking: “random bars in the middle of the night”

    Looking forward to that lecture! =)

  • Next thing you know this guy is going to show up at poetry readings! Altucher, just save us the wait and write the screenplay. :)

  • James Altucher

    Well, I do have a novel idea. But do people read fiction anymore? Or books for that matter?

    • Some people still read books. Some people even still buy them in bookstores. But those people are few and far between. Sometimes you have to fly over to find them.

      • James Altucher

        I feel like even bookstores don’t have any books in them. The first floor of the B&N on 54th and 3rd for instance is all taken up with tables with Nooks on them. And upstairs they cleverly moved around the shelves for the fiction section so its harder to tell they’ve eliminated about 5 shelves.

        I’m hoping the ebook starts a comeback in reading.

        • An e-book is not the same thing. But then you already know that. Big chain bookstores are rarely repositories of any books I’d like to read that I have not read already. Fortunately I travel to enough places that still have smaller literary bookstores – NYC, SF, DC, BA, Mex, Paris, Boston. And we have them where I live. Best bet is to buy the ones you want at the book signings. Double karma.

    • You probably won’t find a bigger techno-nerd than me, but for any meaningful reading I still prefer a real book in my hands. I spend enough time looking at a computer monitor. I think the experience of reading a real book is almost as important as the content of it.

  • James, you are a walking movie, a legend, I cant wait to see the black and white book, and the stand up comedy act!

  • Steven Goff

    “I’m not sure what the writing has really done for me, career-wise. All I get it a ton of grief on message boards, people calling me a “psycho idiot” all the time.”
    Are ya kidding me???? …you’re pretty much as smart as as sharp as they come.
    And for someone(s) to utter a reply to you like that???…..well I would like to meet/talk to them and see what they’re all about > brain pan wise….lol
    Don’t ever pay them any mind James and toughen up your skin a bit. In most cases that is peoples jealously of your success talking.

    With regards to why people dont like ya and what you write>

    “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” -Arthur Schopenhauer

    I was also glad to read that you home school your children. I think that is an awsome and wise move for a multitude of reasons. Mostly, for I am a believer in holistic eduction. Learning is way more than a test score in life.

  • Rich

    James, I really like this list and, more generally, your perspective. I look forward to the books and I’ll be there for your standup routine – I’ve been setting that same goal for myself for years…

  • Quite a list! I wish you the best for 2011. I have rolled a short novel idea around for a long time but I never seem to really get to it. Write about how you attack it if you do.

    I am going to grab my travel chess board and go out and play a real live game this year, great idea!

  • sooz

    I’m already booked to NYC in late June(not for a gig..but for my ‘MOMs’ birthday gathering. Everyone genetically connected to me(inclding spouses) will be in NYC in late June..
    I believe it could be the absolute ‘PERFECT’ audience!!
    Can’t wait..
    Happy New Year..it will be so good!!

  • barbacoa666

    Only a small fraction of those who view your posts at BI provide comments. The negative posts primarily take you to issue because you don’t adhere too the views of the herd. Because you don’t conform. you are singled out for abuse. It’s sort of a variant on the famous Stanford prison experiment.

    But, I think that it is important to voice your opinions. Whether you realize it or not, going against the grain provokes thought, and people to change their minds.

    Maybe a more constructive approach would be to learn better techniques for responding to hostile posters.

    • Steven Goff

      The Stanford Prison Experiment……fascinating reading/research!

      Thanks barbacoa666


    • James Altucher

      @barbacoa666, you are really like. I really need better ways to deal with hostile posters. There are two types of hostile posters:
      A) ones who just spew insults. I tend to get hurt occasionally but overall I blow them off.
      B) ones who create spurious arguments as to why I’m wrong. For instance, there’s a comment right now on one of the boards how wrong i’ve been on gold versus stocks. The reality is, stocks have gone up more than gold since I first made the recommendation. Do I argue with the guy who refuses to look at the facts? Or do I just ignore. I always argue but thats probably not the best use of my time.

      But I get frustrated.

  • James – there are a couple board games that we stumbled upon over the past couple years that we really like and I thought you might too. One is Dominion and the other is Carcassonne. Check em out if you get a chance.

  • James Altucher

    @David, I will check those out. Thanks. Also, Blokus is not so bad.

  • James Altucher

    Just for the heck of it, I started:


    I’m going to track my 8 words a day and difficulties learning spanish. I have til June basically to solidly learn 1000 words (going to Argentina then and 1000 words allows you to understand about 90% any spoken language).

    I started the blog to force myself to do it every day. Hopefully I don’t let this resolution flounder. But it might also be a fun way for others to learn alongside of me.

    • Sooz

      I’d say without hesitation you are getting right to resolution..

      My kids have been learning/speaking Spanish since they were in third grade. Part of curriculum here. I took a class at the university (children at the time were 1st,2nd 3rd graders)so I could help if needed and thought it would be cool to learn along with them. I can’t speak a lick of Spanish but do remember many words..:)
      The kids gave me this site link to share with you..

      have fun!!

  • i will open for you at a comedy place.

    • Sooz

      ;)..how good would that be!!
      Happy New Year,H.L..

  • Gladys Knight & the PIPS? Thanks again for making me “GOBS OF MOOLAH” on your June 30,2010 WSJ-PIP article. Now fasten your seatbealts it will be a bumby ride with the SIGA trial. My New Years resolution is: “To use YOUR imagination”.

  • James Altucher

    @Bill, I decided to go long both. Will prob do an article shortly on it. My guess is: trial goes well for PIP, SIGA settles, both stocks double. That said, my NY’s resolution is to write less about stocks despite this comment.

  • Steven Goff

    “my NY’s resolution is to write less about stocks despite this comment.”

    lol….you’re writing LESS about stocks and I am writing more……Go figure!

  • James Altucher

    @Steve, ultimately stocks are like mathematical equations. It feels good to look at them and “solve” an equation. But people want stocks to make them happy and they can’t.

  • I have seen you make stocks funny. Let me know where and when you do your standup. I’m there.

  • I’ll be your friend James. Your friend, FA

  • Steven Goff

    Stocks can be funny and edgy! old post below

    Church & Dwight Co. Inc. (CHD) @62..Owner and maker of Trojan Brand Condoms.
    …..I feel so good every time I buy rubbers (MAGNUM size of course…;)…in the stock I own :) For real….I smile at that even before I put them to use that night….he he
    They also make that over the counter finger vibrator for women.
    Not to mention condoms could see major WORLD GOVT subsidy in the future.

  • Pat Danielson

    You are tugging very close at my heartstrings
    Stand Up Comedy has always been a closet desire of mine…so I will gladly live vicariously through you…:)

    hope you meet and find MANY new friends…
    if nothing else …they will make for great comedy material..

    Think….Larry David….:)

  • Coming up with my new years resolution list as we speak.

  • James Altucher

    @Stocks, let us know! Lets keep track if we succeed at these by the end of the year.

    @Pat, it must be the hardest thing in the world (doing standup). I’ve given talks where I make people laugh but I can’t quite picture yet giving a talk with the specific purpose of making people laugh. I have to figure out how to even think about it. And yes, Larry David is one of my favorites. he has a line in his standup that just makes no sense but it makes me laugh – “What’s up with Hitler and magicians?”

    @Steve, its definitely a Buffett stock. You KNOW that company will be here in 20 years.

    @FA, you’re on! Lets grab coffee next time you are in city.

    @Jamie, you’re on also. Where’s the best breakfast place in the city, btw (people should click on your name to get to your excellent blog).

  • On the games front – love boardgamegeek.com. If you have young children (2 1/2 and 4 in my case) check out Chicken Cha Cha Cha


    Have a great New Year,

  • BS

    Altucher, You are the man! How does that guy Mish even have any clients?

  • BS

    Altucher, You are the man! How does that guy Mish even have any clients?

  • Kjp712

    Prospero Ano Nuevo.Make a Waiter’s pad with your image on top to sell to the masses.Those who will realize their future lies in self-employment and need to write down ideas.As for the Hecklers,picture them in a dark,gray room with no windows and crumpled up lottery tickets on the floor

    • Funny, I’ve actually been thinking I should do something with waiters pads. I should re-light that idea.

  • Siddhartha Herdegen

    How are you doing on your resolutions?

    • Was just checking. I think I’m about a “4” on a scale of  1 to 10.

  • Where did you get the list of 2,500 Spanish words from? A dictionary? Just curious about which words you wanted to learn.