I was completely lost, four years old, running around the department store looking for my parents who I was afraid had abandoned me. I saw one pair of pants legs that looked like my dad’s: brown, dark shoes, the business uniform. I ran straight into them, crying with relief. Then I looked up, I saw two elderly faces looking down at me and laughing. Wrong faces! Wrong pants!

I screamed and kept running, finally finding my parents about to enter an elevator. I’m still wondering why they were thinking of entering the elevator without me.

I felt lost when I was thrown out of graduate school. The dream of a PhD, of academia, of people thinking I was somehow intelligent was gone. What next? Or lost when the first girlfriend I felt I was really in love with left me to marry (almost immediately) someone else. We would get together later (“just friends”) and everything she felt for me had been lost somewhere and I couldn’t force her to find them.

Lost when I first moved to New York, wandering the city, unsure if I would get fired or not. Nowhere to live. Lost and lonely when I found somewhere to live and I could hear my roommate with his girlfriend pushing up against the wall of the bathroom when they thought I was sleeping. The wall that bordered my bed.

When I started my business and my first wave of clients were finally disgusted with my services, I lost them. And when the business was sold, and its name folded into the name of the acquirer, I lost the business.

Horribly sad and terrified when I lost all my money. How would I ever find that money again when I was so lucky to get it in the first place. And with the money I lost all of its accouterments – a big house, false friends, that feeling of immortality when everything in the world can be bought, found, lost, licensed.

Lost when I couldn’t find love anymore in all the places I used to look for it. A horrible feeling of emptiness when my father died, when my family closed up around me, a myriad of different excuses of why people wouldn’t speak to me, how something inside me had been lost to them.

Lost when I had a bad day in the stock market. I’d invest and companies would lose their value – markets and hence the world losing a tiny bit of optimism that had driven it forward just the day before.

A marriage lost much later and moving into a hotel where other vanishing people were trying to be found until finally they were all ghosts. All pride abandoned when I’d cry and beg to find whatever it was I was missing. Sending out darts in the night to try and Find.

In 2001 I was kicked out of my own company, as about $100 million in investor money was about to be lost. Or later, in 2009 when I couldn’t accept investor money because I lost interest in the idea and I was afraid to lose other people’s money.

I had a dream at night with an idea for a business, a story, a blog post, a talk, but by morning it was gone in a haze. What was that idea again?  I had a moment by the river, where everything shimmered in fog and lights and the sound of a train and my daughter sitting right next to me. Another moment later and it had vanished. Did I use that time wisely with her?

Right now I feel a bit of fear. I might start new ventures, I want my books to do well, I want my blog to do well, I want to do more talks, make more friends, make more money, take care of the people around me, not lose anymore in life than I already have, although every moment passed is a moment lost.  I can feel the fears in my body, little snakes crawling up a leg, around my stomach, up my back, fireflies beating their wings inside my head. Get lost!

Sometimes I’m lost in my thoughts, trapped in my dreams, filled with my wants to the brim where I wish they would just spill out so I can be an empty container again.

Now I have no pants legs to clasp onto. I know now that as easily as money or love can be found it can be lost. But everything that was lost was yesterday. And everything I have yet to find is tomorrow. And everything that I have ever picked up along the way, like missing fabrics found on the floor, has become woven into my thoughts, my body, my emotions, clothes hiding the soul.

What if today I choose to take those woven fabrics off? Each thought: the desire for money, the thought that success equals happiness, that happiness can happen if X, Y, and Z occur, the shame if A, B, or C were to happen, the pride I have in E, F, and G. Those thoughts that were never me but simply bound and woven into me. What if I take them all off, leaving all those clothes to burn in the eventual apocalypse?

Would I go from being constantly lost to being found? Would I lose my mind? Would I be standing there naked?

Or would something new and mysterious happen?

Instead of clinging to the old pair of pants would I fly into a brand new world, eager to explore. With nothing to lose.


  • If you truly believe that the government is right and the news is accurate, you might as well give up now.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s not easy sometimes. I think losing the manufactured mind that was bound and woven into you would definitely be finding yourself. Be free.

  • Zean Qin

    Don’t hire people who cry to you because they can let you feel down, don’t recall all those losts because they can make you feel down as well. Just write down all problems, and then proactively solve them one by one: confidence comes from the process of building it. 

  • Gina

    To be lost with nothing but your most basic form of self is a frightening concept. Being alone is horrible. If I am not talking to someone, my brain fills up with a nonsensical song lyric or something else repeated over and over to keep the ever present non-useful thoughts at bay. But even the worst non-useful thought is nothing compared to the question of what if this is all we get and the endgame is the loss of self and all those you love. What brings you peace, beyond just “live like you’re dying”, so that you happily soar?

  • The Peak Oil Poet

    how months and years can pass me by and leave me yet unchangedthe pain an open wounded heart unburied still remainsand all the feelings flooding back that sweep and let me fallamid the ruin of my grief a closed and empty halli pace the room and think of you then try and try to sleepmy wearied eyes and aching hands no task that calls can keepand when i shake the tempest off and finally look ’rounda week or month has passed again but nothing have i foundi hate these little deaths that come without the dreams of sleepwithout the end that calls to me for which i sometimes weepthe waking from them leaves me cold and lost and deep in dreadthat years of this may come and go – much better to be deadbut it is not God’ way i’m told and all the sages sayand so i wash my face and try to face another daythe mirror shows me growing old an empty room behindan empty house an empty heart a closed and empty mindthese lines are all i find to lance and let my feelings outto let my grief and ageless loss become a silent shoutthis scream perhaps will echo from some distant valley walland find a way to break into a closed and empty hallpophttp://thepeakoilpoet.blogspot.com/2011/07/closed-and-empty-hall.html

  • I never intend to pretend like I’m something I am not. Some Christians pretend to be Christian as if there was a specific way a Christian ought to be. Sure there are traits and things that we, as Christians, constantly pursue. But there isn’t a specific way a Christian should dress, talk, or be.

    I became a follower only after being a skeptic. Since then, I’ve noticed a lot of dishonesty with fellow Christians who want to pretend to be something they’re not. It’s easy to talk about dogma, theology, and the latest controversial topic in the church. It keeps us busy and entertained. I walk into Church on Sundays and I see everybody walking in change their demeanor. Suddenly they become careful. They’re eyes stay close to them and in passing conversation they never speak their mind. The sermon is about “emptiness” and the pastor says that the emptiness is felt because of the temporal things that cannot satisfy our eternal nature.

    I believe it. I don’t feel empty when I am filled with faith. Sometimes my faith isn’t fed and I go through a desert. That desert is barren and I don’t know if I’ll ever get out. But then I do and I find that I never come out of that empty feeling because I suddenly have something to occupy my flesh, like money or a new car. Rather, I have a feeling that I’m working with an empty canvass and suddenly I feel peace. People never believe it because they see Christians who lie to themselves. But you have to forgive them because most of them feel like they’re the only Christian with serious problems and feelings of sadness. Our faith isn’t one of perpetual happiness and hugs. It’s a hard faith. It’s one that doesn’t make us impervious to the world. It’s one that makes us persevere when things get tough.

    “…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

    I’m not preaching. Just saying that when the emptiness shows up, for me it’s usually because I’m not in line with my faith. Maybe that’s different for other people. I don’t know. I just know that through those valleys I always feel like someone is there with me and the loneliness goes away.

    • Steve

      Judas was sent out by Jesus with the other disciples to preach the word. Judas also died a lost soul after betraying the Lord. Not everyone who claims Christianity is a true believer. I’m a Christian, sinner and hypocrit just like anyone else, but I believe Christ has forgiven me. I find fulfillment in following Him and reading and studying the Bible. A truly amazing book if you take the time to understand it.

      Be encouraged and cling to Christ. He will set you free.

  • Jeff

    I love this blog and I can often find some real gems of wisdom in the comments section.  Thanks. 

  • Kevin Faul

    This is my new favorite post. Thanks J.

  • The Reporter

    Your goal should not be to quell your fear of losing everything.  You’re focusing on the wrong things.

    Your focus should be feeling content and accomplished.  Focus on feelings of achievement and accomplishment.  You are what you think you are.  These feelings will perpetuate and grow, and you will cultivate an achievement mindset.  Fear will no longer be your guide in life. 

    Whenever I make decisions based on fear, especially fear of loss, my fears always come true.  That will continue to happen until you finally realize you’re focusing on the wrong feelings.  Once you shift your mindset and focus on feelings of achievement, even when you haven’t accomplished anything, wake feeling emotions of achievement.  Go through your day feeling accomplished, even if you aren’t.  You must change your way of thinking, and believe in yourself, and that reality will manifest itself. 

    Successful people wake up feeling and being successful.

    • That would be the result of what I suggest at the end

      • The Reporter

        Yes.  You’ll start living with a desirable end result in mind…always…and you won’t expect anything less.

  • So weird. My post for tomorrow is very similar to this in topic. I see the past a bit differently. Who knows?  I was trying to make sense of something that happened today. I wrote it for myself with no intentions of publishing the link – forget that – I have nothing to lose.

    Nothing is lost, it’s just moved.

  • Guest


  • It was Easter Sunday and we were lost in the middle of nowhere in Swaziland.  I stopped for a moment on a dirt road not far from a few grass huts.  When I let out the clutch to pull away, nothing happened.  The engine roared normally but the van refused to budge. 

    Not only where we lost, we were broken down too. 

    A group of kids ran toward the van as my wife and I were squatting beneath the back end.  We could all see that one of the drive shaft had disconnected from the wheel.  Neither of us had any idea how to fix it. 

    A boisterous young girl began arguing with a boy in siSwati while gesturing toward the disconnected part.  At first I ignored her, wondering how we were going to get out of this one.  But her piercing voice penetrated my befuddlement and I began paying attention as she pointed at the other three connections.  It took a moment but I realized that she was saying we could disconnect one bolt from each of the other connections and use them to reconnect the fourth. 

    In real life my mechanical prowess extended to checking the oil.  I would never attempt to reconnect a drive shaft.  Now I had no choice.  I pulled out the wrench and began working as if I knew what I was doing. 

    Once I had things tightened back in place, we climbed back into the van, started the engine and gently let out the clutch.  The van rolled forward.  The kids cheered.  We cheered, thanked them for their help, and said goodbye. 

    It took a few hours of offroad driving over the Saddleback pass through Piggs Peak to the border crossing with South Africa.  A few hours later we were in a campground in Barberon, South Africa.  The next day we bought a few extra bolts from the VW dealership and tightened down all four drive shaft connections.   By ourselves.  Without help from a real mechanic. 

    Sometimes being lost forces us to grow in small but important ways.

  • Concrete Dovetail

    Why Did You Land?

  • Never watched the show, but now read the blog all the time.

    Was driving back home today with 25 year old son from NYC, having appeared on Bloomberg Rewind, Wednesday evening. I’ve already forgotten the reason why your name came up, but I recommended to him that he read your blog, as a great guide to the kinds of things that life throws at you (and better yet, done in a humorous way)

    Like lots of his friends, he’s with a great and fast moving company, but so many things can suddenly happen that disrupt dreams and plans.

    So what I’m asking, James, will you adopt him, at least if he has any questions that need to be answered?

  • Capitalistic

    I know the feeling. We are always lost because what we strive for never materializes as we dreamed. 

    Someone once said that, it’s lonely at the top – because there’s no other place to go but down.
    So the cycle begins – finding new heights to climb and conquer. Build and destroy.

  • hussein ghouleh

    somewhere during the past, I used to always hear about how people would actually reach better self-actualization levels, exactly when they have hit rock-bottom. even saw some who actually invested that new self-actualization level and mold it into something, pure passionate, exiting and overwhelming to them.

    I have always seen those examples, watched them on TV, heard stories about them. I never thought that it could actually happen to me. after all that suffering, craziness, hurting and burning my sole, over a bunch of other lost people. I realized ‘exactly’ as I hit-hard that drained pool ‘face down’, that this was it. Finally, this was the moment where the only way was up. I even hanged out down there for a while, but eventually got bored, I pull my self up. and that was it. money became exactly what it is in reality, PAPER! that’s all what it was, paper used to buy stuff with. It’s a useful kind of paper, exactly how useful toilet-paper would be in different situations.

    After that, all i could think of is how to be good, in anything, good to people, good to nature, good to my self, my wife and my people. then I started to realize their goodness, only then I started to enjoy life, learning new things, thinking positive even when its negative… then it all started to come together, i started to realize more of my potential, I was able to trust my self again, and trust that the fact as long as I do good, I got nothing to worry about.

    If you do good to attain a privilege, the good will end with that privilege. A trend will not be created. However, if you do good, just for the sake of doing good, it will repeat itself just for the sake of being good. when it repeated it self, all I could think of was how great it feels that I made someone feel better, or do better, even when I am not doing so well my self. that sense of satisfaction to me was richer than any billions.

    • Lawrence

      Don’t write your own story in the comments of another writers blog…

    • Anonymous

      Great post Hussein.  I agree with your idea that chasing money only makes you tired.  I like the quote “happiness with a reason for it is another from of misery”.  I suspect you have more happiness in your future.

  • Whippoorwillorganics

    James, I “discovered” your blog via lewrockwell.com and now I can’t stop seeking out and reading your posts. Your insights, failings, triumphs, fears, frustrations, experiences – all interwoven with sometimes laugh-out-loud humor, are in an odd way, addictive. And I always come away from a few minutes reading your words with something I can use, or pass on to others. YOU ROCK.

  • Gina Catapano-Bentley

    Very poetic.  You never cease to engage my own thoughts and feelings – whether I agree or disagree – it’s like having a conversation with someone who knows how to (many people don’t).  Sorry I missed you TV spot at 5am (!!!!) on 11/11/11

  • not lost now

    Thanks.  Made me feel better about myself.

  • Brett Houle

    you need to read Walden and get off the grid a bit my man.

  • Andrew_Ferri

    Life ends up being these perpetual patterns of ups and downs. We learn the most from the downs, and the ups are moments we just wait to see as how everything will be lost again, so we can have nothing and start searching all over. Then you die. 

  • Anonymous

    Not knowing is closest.

  • that poet in you, you’ll never lose that :)

  • ashish hablani

    Lost in my dreams, hopes, fears….what will I find James. Who will be there on the other side.

  • Russ

    Just spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to explain what your posts mean to me, because I feel I must.  Can’t.

    Got nothing worth words.

  • Feeling all that you voice, and yet knowing that all is well.  Thanks Russ for sharing this, and James for so eloquently sharing what we all feel at times, or if not all of us, at least me. 

  • Awesome prose.. especially at the top. Remember, there is nothing to lose. 

    I forget every day too, but it is worth taking 30 minutes to think about impermanence. 

  • Yo, Bro, when you are lost, find a friend who cares for you for what you are. I so enjoy everything you write. if you ever get to a point of desperation, I and other friends can offer you a hand of friendship, comfort and hospitality.

  • Silver

    My answer to you James, is, yes, you will fly into a brand new world, eager to explore. Nothing to lose. Everything to gain. Shed the pants and all the little pieces of cloth woven around you and walk forward, naked. You will be amazed at the wonderful things that can and will happen.

  • Mamiantj


  • Anonymous

    Hi James, I just have to say, that this is a great post.

  • Embrace that feeling of loneliness. For once, try not to run away from it but get familiar with how it feels, label it, know what triggers it, go deep in detail, you can even put a color and re-shape it. Make friends with loneliness because as with any human emotion/feeling, it will show up again. The more you make friends with it the less aversion you will feel next time it taps on your shoulder and the more you’ll get to know yourself.

  • Rg

    You’ll never get it tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. It is now. Exchange pants legs for what is waiting inside you where it can never be lost. 
    For that you have to turn to you to open the heart. That is the apocalypse of your conditioned self that has not done you any great favors. That loss of your mistaken identity will give you everything. But few can hear that. Most are too busy chasing shadows.
    If you want help you have to ask for it. Then it comes.
    You have a great heart; there is no need to waste it!

  • Anonymous

    Really liked this post – not just because of the content but your writing style was different too.  I can see you are pushing yourself.  Kudos.

  • I lost my mother at the grocery store when I was 8. I was so worried, my words were angry when I found her. Weren’t you worried? Didn’t you wonder where I was? I demanded. We’re only 4 blocks from home, she said. I figured if you were really lost, you’d just walk back to the house. Oh, I said. I never thought of that.

  • Moshkosh

    we create exactly what we dont want. 

  • Alfie

    This post’s timing and content is uncanny. It was written on a day that I discovered that a valuable necklace, something I had a sentimental attachment to was missing. The only person who had been in my house was a “friend” who had come by to let out the dog. This is someone who I had been meaning to cut out of my life, a truly crappy person, however she was also my husband’s friend for the past several decades. But she was one of those really angry people who gets up at 11, wanders around her house, starts drinking early, hates people she doesn’t know. Constantly thinks that others are out to get her….Someone who after reading your post on Crappy People, well I said bingo! she’s got to go.  I guess I couldnt extricate myself ( she kept calling my husband) and now I have to pay the price.
    What is also strange is that since I began reading these posts I have haphazardly followed them. And as a result, have started to experience some dramatic changes. Got a new job at a non profit for the disabled , started getting commissions for portraits, made some great new friends, etc. .   And I suspect that this is the very reason that this person, decided to whittle me down a bit by stealing this memento. Like you said in another post, people dont like others to experience positive change. Anyways, the night I discovered this, I checked my email and got this one from you, subject line :Lost?. 
    And anyone out there who hasnt started to drop those who dont have their best interests at heart, watch out!.