Why I Write Ideas Every Day

The last time I used a phone booth I ended up with shit all over my head. I had to get tampons or diapers or some other family-related product that in 33 years of living I had never had to get before. So in the three minutes it took for me to walk from my house to the drugstore I forgot completely what it was.

When you are dead broke and scared, a consequence (a symptom? A cause? A superpower?) is that you forget things. Tampons? Diapers? I had two kids, a rapidly depleting bank account, ongoing depression that I wasn’t treating in any way at that particular moment – no medication, no therapy (other than couple’s), no daily practice (I mistakenly thought I had no time, because I was too busy worrying about everything), so I would forget everything.

Earlier that day Savio called me my  home phone. In the early 21st century they called that “the land line”.

“You haven’t shown up for the last three board meetings for Vaultus,” he said.

I mumbled something about 9/11.

“We all had 9/11!” he said sharply. I can say “sharply” because that’s how he spoke. Almost staccato. His voice was like a pencil snapping in half over the phone line.

So I got kicked off the board of Vaultus. I wouldn’t speak to Savio again for 2 years when he called me and asked me if I would give them a recommendation. Calpers was looking at investing in Investcorp’s venture fund. I gave a glowing recommendation and they invested.

After Savio kicked me off the board I had to go to the drugstore. Somebody’s genitals needed to be plugged by something. That’s all I could remember. There was a leakage happening and it had to be plugged so if I could please brave my depression, the weather, and the complexities of drugstore aisles (you  ever have that experience where “Feminine hygiene” is clearly labeled for aisle six but nothing on aisle six seems to have anything to do with hygiene or “feminine”. And now you’re in drugstore twilight zone, where every aisle contains an assortment of different sizes of licorice, pens, toothbrushes, XXL condoms (right next to a rack with licorice) and thousands of other items (drugstore lipstick) that you will never in your life buy but you wander all around and the words “Femnine hygiene” never come to mind).

But what was it? What leak had to be plugged. I needed to call home to find the answer. I needed to call “the land line”. The bat phone.

I didn’t have a cell phone then. Who needed one? It was 2002. I had no job. I had no friends. I had no mistresses on the side. I had nobody anxiously calling me to do a deal. I had nobody I was calling back and forth and saying, “I’ve got an idea for a deal.” I had no ideas. My last big idea occurred the day Intel crapped the bed on their earnings numbers. I panicked and thought, "this is is it. The world is over." My brilliant idea was to borrow as much as possible off of the equity of the apartment I was destined to lose and then move to South Dakota, which, for all I knew, had no extradition treaty with New York City. Nobody would find me in South Dakota. That was my last idea.  The bank turned down my request for a loan.

All of this is to say, I had to use the payphone outside the drugstore to call my land line to find what hole in whose body exactly I had to plug and what aisle it might be found in. Could they deliver maybe?

So I picked up the phone and immediately started to dial. I had hit about five digits when I realized there was no dial tone. Since 1958, by order of the standards board of the Federal Communications Commission, there had been dialtones on phones. This is why phone calls sound so bad now and Skype sounds so clear. Phone calls all run along protocols designed 53 years ago. Skype just depends on how fast your Internet connection is. I can’t even hear when people talk on the phone anymore.

Personally, I think phones are dead. Even cellphones. Even “Smart” phones. Anything that uses the 1958 protocol is dead because people like me can’t even hear. It sounds like a séance when you talk on the phone. Someone is mumbling while their voices traverse antique protocols.

So I’m at the payphone, dialing five digits, and I realize there’s no dial tone. I immediately suspected foul play. I removed the phone from ear but it was sticky and the phone was having trouble becoming detached from my face, ear, and hair.

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Why is that? Because there was, literally, shit all over the phone. A lot of it. Someone must’ve taken a bag of shit and completely covered the phone with it. Human? Dog? Dinosaur? I have no idea. But it was somewhat fresh and now all over one side of my head. I hung the phone back up and walked home.

Why didn’t I notice this when I first picked up the phone? A Zen Buddhist might say I wasn’t being “mindful” and this is certainly true. I had just been kicked off the board of a company I had started. There was smoke still coming out of the ground three blocks away where the first foreign attack on US soil in 200 years occurred. I was losing money every day just by breathing and I had two babies to feed.

(the smoke lasted forever)

I went home. There was shit all over me now because it was dripping down. So now I was leaking also. “Who would do that?” I thought. Who would put shit on the phone like that? I was sort of half crying but only half because the other half felt dead inside. How much worse can this get?

I took a shower.  I took a bath. I put my face in the sink. I took another shower. I called my couple’s therapist even though it was just me. She said, “are you sure you took a shower. There could be disease on that poop.” Couples therapists don't curse.

When I was clean enough I took a walk. I went over to the Bowery where there’s a few block stretch where, out of the stench of homeless, drugs, rats, prostitutes, and run down hostels and hotels that scour the Bowery, there’s a three block stretch of stores where every restaurant in the city shops for all of their supplies. I bought 100 waiter’s pads for $10.

I found a coffee shop and ordered up non-stop coffee to get my brain out of it's perpetual fog. Whipped out a waiter’s pad and a new pen. And started writing down any ideas I had on the pad. Ideas for new businesses, ideas for trading systems, ideas for people I wanted to meet. Ideas for books I wanted to write. Ideas for software I could write, websites I could make, movies I could draft, connections maybe I still had, jobs I could apply for, inventions I could develop.

I wrote all afternoon. None of my ideas were any good. My idea muscle had atrophied too much. Every single thing I wrote was useless and I forget what they were (except for maybe one I still have yet to execute on). But I got excited. Something sparked. I finally felt clean. I felt excited. I stopped adding up negative numbers in my head for those few moments I was working on new ideas.

The next day I woke up early and I did it again. More ideas. Bit by bit I came back. And now ten years later I still write ideas every day. And, like the Mighty Underdog after he retired, I never used a phone booth again.


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C) And finally, what was the  first thing you did in a situation where you hit bottom or close to bottom?


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  • I am afraid to declare a bottom, that’s way too optimistic for me.

    • this is almost better than the article :)

  • Things are never so bad they can’t get worse, and never so good they can’t get better.

    Of the bazillion bottoms I’ve hit my response is consistantly just crying.

  • Robert Torres

    I’ve hit rock bottom three times, all after divorces. The first time I just took the first crappy job I could find and worked 16 hour days. I was too busy to worry about being depressed. The second time, I just went nuts,…slept around, drank, just plain sorry sap stuff,..then I got a dog. That dog  made me feel happy and I met a nice girl. The third time, which is recent, I swear I’ll never marry again. :) Broke again, lost my house. Wrote a lousy novel. Exercised like crazy,…kept looking for work,…can’t find it,..so I’m now looking to start a business. My imaginary plan was too run away to some island in the South Pacific,…but figured that wouldn’t solve anything. Diving and eating blue fin tuna would eventually get boring. Funny you mentioned South Dakota,…I lived in North Dakota for awhile in the 80s. Good people there,..but the winters make you stir crazy.

  • Coyote64

    Have you actually been to the Dakotas? I drove cross country about 10 years ago and loved South Dakota so much. When I was at rock bottom I would also dream about how I could move there.

    Instead of talking about rock bottom I will instead tell you that I have been doing more and more of the daily practice. even though it is something i have read about in 15 different ways the lack of new age woo-woo around your arrangement of it is helping me. I have been fighting writer’s block for two months now and I broke 7k words yesterday and felt good about it.

    I wanted to ask James if he had ever read Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way and if he’d ever tried her morning pages. Because those are key to my daily practice – if i don’t do them i get writer’s block. So i am doing the pages and everything else in the practice as much as I can. The only problem I have is taking the ideas off of the idea lists and doing them. I stare at them overwhelmed and don’t know where to start first. They are mostly ideas for articles or stories or blog posts and i don’t know where to start. James, how do you know what article or blog post to start with?

  • Anonymous

    Its funny how your story and your ending question come together in this article.

    Last year I quit my “secure” office job to go into business for myself, relying on my savings til the biz picked up.

    Eight months later I was broke. I borrowed from family and pounded the pavement for a job. I even interviewed to sell vacuum cleaners door to door! Just before I started there, though, I received a call from another company I had interviewed with.

    For the last two months I  have been pumping out septic tanks in rural Michigan. Not exactly what I planned- but not welfare. I can appreciate the emotion of giving up that you’ve mentioned in other posts.

    A little poop in the ear? Boo Hoo! 

  • Anonymous

    Bottom is relative of course. We still live in a First World country. Some kind of job, even if it’s minimum wage, is generally obtainable. You may not like it, the hours may suck, but it might just get you by on mac and cheese for a while. Stop paying rent/mortgage and you still generally have months before you can be legally booted out. All in all, American “bottom” isn’t too bad.

  • John Taddeo

    Phones are super annoying because they are so intrusive.  Aside from the rare emergency, phone calls do nothing but interrupt my train of thought.  

    The only way I can be productive is to turn off my phone and email.  There’s no other way.

  • Each of us has what we believe to be our own personal bottom.  It changes over a lifetime and is intertwined with the things we fear most. 

    We can recalibrate our perspective of the bottom by challenging those fears.  Actively engaging the things that makes us uncomfortable – and adapting to the resulting discomfort – is key.

  • Raj

    Over the last week, I have read a ton of your writing. There is very little I agree with you. I will specify:
    1. Your whole writing centers around – lessons from a huge fall, a fall in personal life, professional life, social life and finances. To your followers, it sounds too heroic… but it seems to me that you are making a huge deal about your failures. Let me tell you this… you and only you can learn from your mistakes. Others won’t. 
    2. I have seen many posts were you show how you effed up, but not too many how you are not going to eff it up again. You definitely are working on it a lot, but can analysis change the fundamental instincts or insecurities?
    3. You talk about money, money, money.. how to make it and how you lost it all and then how you made it again…and how going to college is a waste of time and money and how you are better off with starting a business. That is a load of bull. The foundation of America is not only the business, but the skills and creativity. How are you going to learn how to design or engineer a high performance computer chip if you dont go to college, how are you going to acquire skills to understand the mathematical fundamentals, how are you going to learn the intricacies of economic theory if you dont go to college? Public library? Internet? You will be lost without any direction. College provides that direction to common people like us, who are not geniuses.

    The things I agree with you – The daily practice.

    I am sure you will take my comments the right way.


    P.S: I have never lost money in stock market and in all the 3 major downturns since 2000, I have  been able to cash out just a a few months before the shit hit the fan.I have the discipline.

    • Well, I should add, and I’ve mentioned this, I’ve hadenormous success by following what I call the daily practice:

      but just saying “this is great” wont really get the message across.

      I also talk a lot about honesty and gratitude and how important they are for eventual success and I have posts about how to bootstrap your creativity, your success, how to plug leaks amd and how to use discernment in your thinking. So there are many posts that are not about failure. but I think failure is something we can all relateo. You are a rare individual who has been able to jump from success to success even in stock market downturns so I give you congratulations.

      • Raj

        Did I paint myself as a super-successful person that you are congratulating me for jumping from “success to success in stock market downturns”? I hope not. It’s all relative. You win in millions and lose in millions. I win in thousands and lose in hundreds. So, the frame of reference is different :)

        Luckily, I haven’t had major failures in professional life (maybe I don’t have the balls as you do), but I have had my fair share of it in personal life. It is easy to bounce back from career/financial failures but very difficult from personal ones. The point I was trying to make was – I dont want to make a big deal about my failures. I was a mess when I was analyzing it to death, but now I am at peace when I just accept it.


        • P Jaunne

          There are failures and then there are FAILUREs–ones that shake you to the very core of your being, one that put you in such darkness and depth of despair that you never thought existed, one that broke the very core of your thought system that have your operate your life on up to that point–like having a computer with operating system that hang and fail and need total reinstall from scratch.  I am really glad James has the honesty and courage to write about his failures. 

          I met and worked with too many people who wanted to do startups without having the slightest idea how brutal it can be when it failed, and most fail. I am one of those guys too. Oh sure I read about failures here and there, just like I watched scary movies once in a while. They were just entertainment.  They grab you while you read or watch them (with our without popcorn).  When it’s over you just get up from your couch and life goes on.  No big deal, you may even recommend the article or movie to your friends.  Or not recommend them because they are crappy.  It’s not a big deal until I fall into the abyss myself, hanging on to dear life, and groping around in panic trying to hold on to something, anything, that can help me stop falling.   The way I see it James’ blog is a good resource for entrepreneurs on how to cope with not just minor setback/failures but the major ones. 

          Having said all that, I do thing you have a point.  When i read the life and teaching of many enlightened people.  Most went through horrifying setbacks in their life, some went near death experience once, or more.  In the end when they came out of the abyss and reached “nirvana.” They seem to come to a similar conclusion that life is actually rather simple.  It is our head (i.e. our operating systems) that seemed to be innately programmed to make such a big deal mostly about nothing.  But for most of us who are not there yet, emotionally, or psychologically, writings such as James’ are awesome and serve as great resource in our journey.  Besides, not all of his writing is about failures.  There are some good parenting tips too.  And, most of them are funny. I wished I found this blog sooner.

          Thank you James, and Raj.

    • Anon

      Raj –

      I would say that there are many people like myself who find James’ writing on how to come back from failing to be both inspirational and inspiring. You know the expression that to succeed you can get knocked down 19 times and get up 20 times. Sometimes when you’re on the ground, crying, feeling like a loser and a failure, ashamed and thinking everyone is laughing at you, you can’t ever imagine getting up again. You think that your best days are behind you instead of ahead of you.

      James’ stories of coming back from failure again and again make me believe it is possible. His gritty, graphic and cringeworthy tales make us think if this dumbs can come back from that, surely I can too. Of course, he’s no dumbass. I think he knows that being completely naked on this blog. he lets the rest of us know that we’re not failures and losers, only normal human beings with undiscovered potential.

      He does write about poo too much though. Enough with the poo fer chrissakes!

      • Raj

        You should never have to feel like a loser. Just accept it and get up. The easier you accept it, the easier you will get up. Dont measure yourself by others gauges.

        • Jim

          Dear Raj,

          You seem to have the discipline to dust yourself off and keep going… Not everyone is like that though…..

          For me personally…reading James posts…is educational….inspiring and motivates me as well

          I can relate because I have alot of the same traits as James does…we all do….we are human.

          To me, James writing is more real than the other blogs out there….because I can relate to it

        • Jonathan

          Also…. James has a way of expressing and putting into words what so many of us are feeling…it gives us mental clarity…

          When I know other people are feeling the same or experiencing teh same difficulties as me…..it motivates me…it makes me feel like less of a failure

        • Priscilla136

          I have felt like a loser many times in my life, when I read James and realize that I’m not the only one in deep shit I get the courage to get up and keep going, it gives clarity to my mind. Good for you if you have never had to experience these human feelings. 

    • I strongly disagree in your assertion that only the person experiencing can learn from mistakes. We always say greatness is standing on the shoulders of giants. It seems naive to think we can only learn from their successes and not failure. I believe that most successes and breakthroughs come from studying failures.

      I also don’t believe you need to go to college. MIT, Kahn Academy and many other sources all teach what you need. For free and outside of the confines of a classroom. Some people need the validation that a professor judging them provides.

      I would argue that college and the pursuit of judgement from a higher authority kills creativity more than enriches it. Skills could be harder to obtain without college, but like I said above it is still easily accessible.

      I don’t believe that any of this is related “common people” who are not geniuses. It’s simply motivation. The thing that separates the common person from those who create great things is not IQ but motivation.

      The Daily Practice is a method for maintaining motivation and reducing or removing friction. Hearing about the trials and tribulations of James’ life helps people maintain their own motivation.

      So, Raj, if you don’t mind answering me (and I’m genuinely curious) why do you think you can’t learn from other mistakes? Also, why do you find that analysis cannot change instincts?

    • herb

      Marx on Failure
      “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.”
      GROUCHO Marx, comedian

      from Investor’s Business Daily, Nov. 7, 2011, top of page A5

      •  I never did. Went home and called them (its the corner of Reade and Hudson. And it turns out they deliver.

    • Anonymous

      “College provides that direction to common people like us, who are not geniuses.”….. Wo ho.. I really beg to differ on that one bro.. People are born geniuses… College (more often than not) just misguides them into thinking they aren’t and allows them to chose a mediocre life instead (if you are an Indian, you might probably be knowing how many “engineers” india produces every year, and what work they do.. Half of them are sitting on bench in bangalore IT companies..) if you think they got direction, i think you should help them see that, too)

      Although, i think leaving college in the first year is better than not going at all.. It brings some discipline which a lot if kids (like me) dont have when they are young..

      And, btw, i can relate to a lot if his failures.. Sometimes, i even wonder, how the f* could this happen to someone else, too!! ;)

      Have an amazing life! :)

  • Bobobrian

    Coffee –  a deep breathe –  then one thing at a time

  • Bobobrian

    I LOVE Sydney.. ( was there for the olympics). One of my all time favorite cities. I need to go back and just hang out..

  • Rich Horny

    When I hit rock bottom in 2002, I quit my job and travelled for a year and a half. I cried all the time for the first year, over a broken heart and failed dreams. Then I went to a big muckety muck university, got a fancy MBA and made $3 million in 4 years thanks to an acquisition and later getting fired from a job I hated.  Getting fired was bottom again. I travelled for two year, cried all the time, tried to start a business but couldn’t get an entrepreneur visa and got kicked out the US. I moved back to my home country and bought a business. I cried some more. Then I started following the daily practice and now I feel better and life is getting better in every way. I hardly cry anymore. Of course, it helps to have money in the bank.  I hope there are no more bottoms to hit. I also would like to have sex again. It’s been years.

  • Koorosh


    Perhaps you need to have a a unique website done…but why would you spend so much time learning something that can be done so easily either by outsourcing…or by customising free existing templates

    I hope you dont mind me saying….but it could be an inability to let things go….I was in a place too where I had to do EVERYTHING myself…..it was loooong and my motivation would run out

    There are faster ways….Im sure whatever you are looking to build, it can be done much faster

    I have experience in this…if you would like…leave me your email or skype or whatever you feel comfortable…and I will give you free advice and resources and tools

    I am not selling anything….

    i wish you the best

    • Priscilla136

      This pretty much summarizes me, the inability to let go has me doing everything, which in return will take longer to move forward. Working on that but in the meantime frustration can overpower will. Thanks for this reply, it took it to me.

      • Koorosh

        Hi Priscilla,

        If you would like some advice…I would be happy sharing what I know…it may point you in the right direction and make things easier.

        at the very least, you will get less expensive tools that can make your business journey faster and easier.

    • Anonymous

      Koorosh, you are quite right about what was the problem.  It was a website that was way beyond my level, and I didn’t want to outsource.  I wanted to do as much as possible myself, but it was also because of budget.  My living money mixed with my start up money, so it makes you afraid to spend.

      Even with free open source software (Drupal) there is still a considerable learning curve.  So yeah, it did cause a challenge to motivation.  In the end though, what made me quit that idea was because I tried writing a business plan, and realized I couldn’t even sell the idea to myself.  It’s a chicken/egg problem, and I simply don’t have the funding to last it out.

      Now, I’m trying to make a Facebook app to make money.  I don’t want to outsource because it’s easier, and I might have to make many before I get a hit.  If you have resources on Facebook apps, I would appreciate it.  The documentation online is very very sparse.

      Thank you for your kind words and offer.  I would be happy to hear whatever you have to share about your experiences.


    • charity

      I am interested in your ideas, free advice and resources and tools.  You can reach me at Skype at arrianna2

  • PC

    Hmm, well the truth is, I can’t relate to your low. When I was at my lowest I called a therapist office from the phone book. I began seeing the therapist and we worked on me trying to find a girlfriend. After 2 years I got my 1st real GF at the age of 29, she btw was my tenent in a studio apt I was renting. In all I did about a dozen years of therapy with medication for the latter five years. I’m no longer in therapy or on meds.

    So the answer to c) is “I called a therapist from the phone book” but the point is being able to rebound at the idea generation point with a new set waiter pads(and I don’t doubt your despair), seems kind of romantic compared to my battle with depression.

  • Mr. Green

    Cried a little. Run away because I was suddenly afraid of people and then went to bed. 

  • Anonymous

    I called my best friend

  • CT

    I hit rock bottom beginning of the year.
    Had a bad breakup, no money to pay the rent. No job, bailliffs at the door every day, so I fled my house and sat at a gas station in my suit everyday.
    What I did was: I began to read this blog, drink less in the evenings, exercise more, moved in with my mum, email everyone I knew with ideas, projects.
    And now, instead of sitting around depressed all day and drinking in the evening, I rarely drink, lost 10 lbs of weight, am doing a lot of projects, make some money, am thinking that I need to get up earlier because I have so much to do. It’s still a work in progress, but getting there.
     – CT

    • James Altucher

      CT, that’s great to hear. Sometimes when things shake, the right things get snapped into place.

      • CT

        I’ll save a seat on the board for you of my next succesfull company, James.

  • Anonymous

    Been there.

    No question: go for a run. Or one of many equivalent activities.
    Self confidence is found in self reliance and the basis for it all is physical fitness. If your body is capable, you can do anything: mow lawns, paint houses, pick up garbage, hammer nails, whatever. You may not want to do any of those things, but you begin to realize that there is a floor on your descent. And that realization makes a big difference.

    Great post btw. Thanks.

  • JamesforPres.

    I feel bad for some people who give it all up to be an entrepreneur. One thing i truly believe is you are selfish if you have no experience as one and quit it all to go independent if you have a family and obligations.

        Im in my mid 20’s and ive had so many businesses since i was 18, most of them sucked, and i was mad at myself for failing. I did not realize until recently without all of those failures i would know nothing about business. Ive given up relationships, friendships to try to make it, i cant sleep at night, i know 99.9 % fail so what can i do? lock myself away and learn, start businesses, see what works and what doesn’t, its called TRUE SACRIFICE, and there’s almost no other way to do it.
       If i had a family i would have never put them through it, i was a loser you could say through my learning curve but i knew id have to be a “dreamer” when everyone said get a job in order to become what i am today. BTW i am successful now, it was hard, i didn’t even realize how miserable my life was but i had something pushing me i don’t know what it was, fear of death without true enjoyment of life, fear of not helping family, fear of everyone being right who said id fail… it really is hard out there and many do fail, i to this day do not have an answer on why become successful and why some dont but i can tell you what helps…. never ever stop, settle, or pat yourself on the back until you are where you want to be.
          Don’t write down 5 things to do and because you completed them early that means its play time… keep working, there are sharks out there doing what you are doing with massive capital and resources.. 1 guy from his room trying to compete better be a sick SOB in order to win.

    • Tennessee CPA

      In work, it’s difficult to ever grow up until you are in charge of the company.  When you have the responsibility and motivation, a small (not large) business forces you to do things that are ultimately good for you.  Marty Seligman says that well-being is made up of positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment.  Well, four fifths of well-being is there for the asking when you have your own business.  Find a problem that enough people have and give them a way to fix it.  Like Dropbox, or 5-minute oil change, or the little claws that remove staples.

      When I was 9 or 10 years old, my brothers and I saw that there were a lot of old people in our neighborhood.  So we thought, “Hmm, what would these old people buy?”  One of us, probably not me, got the idea of going to the store and buying paint-by-number kits.  Y’know the kind where you paint the color that correlates to the number in the space and when you’re finished it looks like a picture.  We made an effort to buy picture kits that senior citizens would enjoy, not the ones that we would like.  Bought ’em, painted ’em, then looked around for sticks out of trees that we could make frames with.  Framed ’em, stacked them in a red wagon and went throught the neighborhood ringing doorbells asking the folks to buy them.  We sold all six of the pictures (no accounting for sympathy) and felt rich for two weeks.

      That was in 1963 or so.  Now I’m as old as one of those neighbors must have been but what I’ve learned has made me want to strive, to try to get ahead, and I’ve been blessed every day.

  • Cat

    Hmm… Rock bottom for me was when I told my bosses boss I wanted to leave. It was my first job out of college and signaled the end of a roughly three month period where I thought I was going crazy. After that I left NYC for the weekend where I went hone and the sheer irrationality hit me like a bucket of ice water and jolted me back to myself. So I started taking my vitamin D supplements again, found a counselor, called friends, and took a painting class – 8 hours every Saturday for a month. Rediscovered I was an artist, and thus, who I am. My boss didn’t fire me. And though the next month to come will be fairly demanding… And yes, I worry that the rug could still be pulled out from under me, but for now, I am holding on with all my might.

  • Anonymous

    The mental piece of the Daily Practice is the one I am having the most resistance to.  I am definitely in a place where I need more creativity to get out of my rut.  Exercising the idea muscle would probably help but I am having a difficult time getting moving on it.  I am suffering with a sports injury right now that is derailing my physical exercise.  Maybe that will free up some motivation to get going on the mental.  This post may help to push me to just do it. To date, consistently getting physical activity and formally practicing gratitude have been a great start.

    • ama

      Wonder if there’s something to be gleaned from which part of the Daily Practice you have the most resistance to…I love the mental part but can’t seem to make time for the spiritual, though I know it would be helpful.

  • At some point in time, I really would like the roller coaster to end. I don’t know how to get there.

    Personally, I can find peace for fleeting moments and can be happy most of the time.  But the outside forces never stop no matter how I choose to interpret them.  There are times I think the more sh*t I handle the more I will get. 

    Again this isn’t to say I am not grateful for the good in my life, I just want the “bad” to quit knocking at my door, and inviting itself in.

  • Alan

    The “Daily Practice” WORKS!!!!

    But why?

    I’ve been doing my version of the daily practice and that has helped me immensely over the years – in good times and during the depths of the dark times.

    I would add one addition. “Ask for help”. There are times and things that you will not be able to overcome yourself and you will need help to see and resolve. Without asking for help or getting help, there is a good chance that you will become stuck even with the daily practice. By asking for help, you can overcome some of the root causes of why you are in the situation you are currently in.

    For me the “Daily practice” set up a routine and added predictability to my day. With predictability, you can relax a bit knowing in some way what your day will be like. Once you have a few good days, the crisis ebbs and you are now free to explore other options and can begin to think rationally and stop the panic. When I was in the army, the joke was it was the largest “adult day care center” in the world. And I did find the routine comforting. BTW. I was in the “stripes” army – not the “Black hawk down” army. Once you’ve have adapted to the routine – be in internal or external. You can think and are in a better mindset to be open to creative solutions.

    The daily practice does work – when you free your mind, great things can happen!

  • C) Rock Bottom

    (I actually did move to North Dakota one time when I hit rock bottom) 
    It turns out that taking some kind of lonely sabbatical doesn’t necessarily mean that answers will be found.  Sometimes it simply makes one get deeper in loneliness, debt, and frustration.

    For me rock bottom is the place where I cannot continue my destructive behaviors or to even have the freedom to lie to myself about them.  
    Usually when I have hit rock bottom I have tried to attach myself to some beautiful mysterious woman and think that she will love me out of my own misery.  That has never worked.  

    Maybe certain people have to hit rock bottom multiple times before they know how to carry themselves out of it properly.  


  • Kipper

    always been a jotter-down of ideas  – maybe not appropriate but sharing is good – right?

    So here are two interesting readings (about 10 minutes) 
    1965 publication – “a technique for Producing Ideas” – Bernbach
    Paul Arden – “it’s not how good you are, how good you want to be”

    I don’t know if there is a recipe for creativity – some of us are gifted others we struggle –
    But I know one thing for certain – to be excellent at something – we must practice that something.
    Poo in the ear – what great real life symbolism. 
    so much for subtle tactics if you are a cosmic kismet kind of thinker/believer
    I think I prefer the pigeon poo in the hair – that will wake you up and way less gross.

  • ama

    The comments on your blog are often so wise… when I hit bottom (my mother’s death, getting fired, and infertililty struggles left me unable to do much but sit on my sofa and cry), I used a combination of what Alan and Rich Horny suggest; I asked for help (from a therapist) and traveled a bit to see friends and family around the country. I found both to be very helpful at reminding me that I’d been through some s**t so it was okay that I’d gone a little nuts, and at helping build me back up so I could successfully interview for another job.

  • herb

    Did you ever get to the store?

  • mcarson

    My one thing at the bottom:

    I was seriously ill with depression, unable to string 2 sentences together, bathing and changing my clothes every 3 or 4 days, completely hopeless.  I was also broke, lonely and unable to cope with raising my kids, but had to try to take care of them somehow.
    I decided I could never fix this life, it was hopeless.  I couldn’t kill myself because I had no one to give the kids to, so I tried to find someone to take them and got turned down repeatedly. I know, who would say no to someone who said I can’t cope with my life and I feel like killing myself and I just want a few days alone with the kids in a safe place so I can get my head together? 5 people turned me down, without doing any other follow up.
    I decided to pretend to be someone who was kind and competent and who stopped by to help me.  At first for 5 minutes, then longer as I built up my strength.  I would pretend to have dropped by for 5 minutes while the owner of this disaster was gone and just do a little thing for that poor shlump so she’d know somebody was rooting for her.
    I cleaned up the chair where she sat for hours every day doing nothing.  Cleared off the end table, put a new bulb in the lamp, set a paper and pen there.  Then I walked out the front door to get the mail and came back in and enjoyed the space.  It felt good to think that even if all I could do was sit in a chair all day, somebody cared enough to make that a nicer experience for me.
    This was agonizingly hard to do.  I had to set a timer, just to know the torture would end.  I had to hum or chant “This is what I’d do to help someone like this” non-stop to continue the charade.  I had to leave the house and go back inside to make the illusion work, and I hadn’t gone outside for a couple weeks.  I had to not think about how stupid this was by getting irritated at the idea I was doing something stupid by saying “I wouldn’t have to do this myself if just one person would be willing to spend 5 minutes helping me”
    My depression is not really treatable, and I still have bad times, but I can always go back to this.

    The other one that helped was to completely disconnect from the past.  No matter how much I’ve screwed up, right now there is only one choice – light a candle or curse the darkness.  So I can do a small thing that might not matter much, and will in no way make up for anything, as long as I don’t think about anything but this single 5 minute or 15 minute period of time. I have to set a timer, and I go back to it repeatedly to see if it’s gone off yet, but I keep going.

    Somebody once told me motivation follows action, and that thought works for me.  I don’t decide how I feel about something until after I’ve done it for a while.  If it doesn’t work, that’s not a problem, I wasn’t going to be doing anything useful with those 5 minutes, anyways.

    •  Intense story. The idea of disconnecting from the past is a VERY powerful one. That has worked for as well. Also, at the same time, disconnecting from the future. Doing everything you can be to healthy right now which it sounds like is what you did. Thanks for sharing this. I’m glad you wrote this comment today.

  • Anonymous

    Less than 3 years ago I was having a busy life. Three kids in 3 years and I was preparing for the baby’s baptism (she’ll be 3 in a couple months).
    I ran to the store to get a couple things. I came out to the car and realized I left my baby in the car. I didn’t just forget about her, I didn’t remember until I saw her in the backseat. I completely and totally forgot my baby. She was fine, but I was crazy.
    So right then and there I said f-it. I was sleep deprived from nursing every 2 hours since her birth, struggling to take care of her brothers (1 and 3 years old) at the time, figuring out work and money and the other thousand things that parents do. I went home and wasn’t even going to tell anyone. My daughter was fine, but I felt so much shame. She easilly could have died…
    I told my husband and he said just stop. So I did. I made a list of everything I did…big and little. I stopped everything I didn’t like to do and everything I didn’t need to do. Do I need to make homemade meals everynight (no). Do I need to talk to my crazy cousins? (no) do I have to recycle? (no)
    So when I get overwhelmed, even slightly, I make a list. Then I cut out things I don’t like to do or don’t need to do. And it works.

    • James Altucher

       That’s a great technique.

  • guest

    In the past week I could have potentially hit rock bottom…but I didn’t.  In part it was because of the Practice.  Thank you James.

  • Anonymous

    YES!  As usual, I needed that this morning.  I was walking around thinking of the bills that need to be paid, instead of concentrating on the NEW JOB I got where I will be eating what I kill (100% commission based)… realized I need to focus on the positive  – all my ideas for the new job and the infinite possibilities with no limit on earnings and not limit myself to thinking of a finite number I need to get through the next month.  Like you said – “I stopped adding up negative numbers in my head for those few moments I was working on new ideas.” 

  • Excellent website. Lots of useful information here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious.

  • James,

    Do you use a pen and paper or a computer keyboard to write?

  • Your message is so clear and motivating. James I like the way you know how to laugh at yourself, it’s priceless! I was laughing out loud until half way the post when the mood became a bit sombre! I really appreciate how you show that anyone can go through hard times,and the trick is to never give up! Thanks for this, can’t even imagine how tough those times were…when we hit rock bottom, the only place left to go is up!

  • P Jaunne

    Another simple and great stuff!  Thank you James.

    C) meditate, but like trading I never know the bottom until after the fact. I never know if it’s just temporary consolidation or the real bottom  so, I just meditate, not knowing where the bottom will be.

  • Love this. I’m starting my “Ideas” Google Doc right now. Thanks for letting me learn from your shit experience. ;)

  • It’s amazing how simple it is to write down 10 ideas every day and work out your idea muscle, but it’s ridiculously hard to implement it into your daily practice sometimes.

    I know I need it, I know I want it, yet I only do it once every few weeks..

  • Dr. Binoy Babu

    I just went away and drank beer for three days, then I was back.

  • Lashky

    Your honesty and humility is so touching and inspiring…thank you for sharing…to hear this from someone who isn’t marketing their service or some product on the Internet is refreshing. Good work, sounds like you learned to do the internal work first before the external rewards appeared in your life… your story is that of the hero’s journey, having faced challenges and perils which you either had to overcome or slip away into failure and despair, you persevered and have found the Holy Grail. There are no shortcuts and you can’t buy that kind of treasure…you have to simply have the courage and resilience to go through it.

  • Glen

    This made me lol literally.
    “Why is that? Because there was, literally, shit all over the phone. A lot of it. Someone must’ve taken a bag of shit and completely covered the phone with it. Human? Dog? Dinosaur? I have no idea. But it was somewhat fresh and now all over one side of my head. I hung the phone back up and walked home.”

    Thanks for giving me an idea to write ideas and show its effect.

  • Vanessa de Largie

    I am an avid reader of your blog. I read this post several days ago on my phone as I went for a walk, your ability to tell a yarn and be humorous had me in tears (of laughter). Tonight, (I’m in Australia) I remembered the blog-post and asked my housemate if I could read your post to him — and again when I got to the part where you say ‘a dog, a human, a dinosaur?….I completely lost it…..then we both lost it, my stomach hurts. :-) It’s strange how the shittiest moments can be the funniest in retrospect. Thank you James! You’re an inspiration and a crack up!