How to Have the FORCE

I don't know if I'll ever be able to really tell the truth. I think it's very hard. On this blog, for the past 400 days, I've told the truth. And that's probably the only time in my life. I would say every other part of my life I've mostly lied, either to myself or others. I'm really sorry if one of you are reading this. If you even know.

It doesn't mean I've said everything I thought (so-called "radical honesty"where there is no filter between brain and mouth) and it doesn't mean I've revealed everything possible although as one person once put it, "reading James Altucher's blog is like watching an ongoing train wreck". Believe me, it could be a lot more of a wreck.


I've also taken down or changed posts when other people informed me they were hurt by them. A recent example is my Wikipedia post where I took out the specific emails and just summarized some of them. I don't want to hurt anyone. And an older example is this post where it was pointed out to me I crossed a boundary.

But I've lied a lot.  And, in doing so, I created a lot of temporary pleasures, 100% of which I lost. I started and sold companies based on lies. I’ve met women based on lies. I lied to my parents as a kid. I’ve lied to my kids to keep them in line. I've lied to keep out of trouble in various ways.

I’ve written before about the seven things that happen to honest people. The seven items were mostly negative items. For instance, various people start to hate you when you are honest. Some sort of dissonance forms in their mind about who you are and they can't handle it. So they hate you.

But there’s many positive things that happen with honesty.

Honest with yourself - i’m an XYZ addict. You can replace “XYZ” with every single thing that has been used before the word “addict”. The worst is when the addictions combine. Even two addictions combining is enough to kill someone and I’ve probably combined 4 or 5 at the same time. Why am I not being more specific? As much of an unfolding train wreck that I am, some things are still hard for me to write.

What’s the benefit of being honest with yourself? Recognizing my weaknesses, working on them, recognizing the liberating benefits of not having those weaknesses, using the experience of that liberation to help others - these are all benefits of being honest with yourself.

How to be honest with yourself? This is hard. But a good start, surprisingly, is always being grateful for what you have. And add to that list every day.

A second start is for everything you do, always ask - why do I am doing this? Why do I need this? Did I go to India this week because I wanted to learn Yoga? Or did I go because I didn’t want to miss Claudia for a whole month? Or did I go because I was afraid I would be jealous with Claudia gone and if so, why? Who knows? But I need to ask so I’m not BS-ing myself on my reasons.

Honest with others -

If people know that you are above and beyond honest with others, they will listen to you. They will know that your words are weighed out carefully.

What you say about the past, to make a point about the present, will bring you benefits in the future. Because people will believe and return your trust with affection. Affection going in your direction will have rewards.

The Force. But it’s more than that. When you are honest with others to a fault then your words have more than just the power of description.

Each word gets loaded with its truth. You become so experienced and knowledgable about what telling the truth means that your words take on a different character than the people who even slip for a second, even in telling a white lie.


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Without describing the details, Claudia and I had a discussion where she had an opportunity to tell a white lie today to get some small gain. Instead, she didn’t, and it was noticed, and she ended up with a huge gain.

People notice extreme (not “radical” but “extreme”) honesty. They reward it. The world rewards it.

Then what happens? Then your honest words are not only about the past but about the future. If you say, “you’re going to be ok” people believe you. And when they believe you, it often happens.

Because your words allow people to relax, to reduce their anxieties and stresses, to follow in the direction you’ve pointed them because they know you would not have said it if it weren’t true. If anxieties and stresses go away because of the confidence you instilled in them, then events are more likely to go the way they want. You will have helped create the future.

This doesn’t just happen in one day. But this “power” comes with constant honesty. Every day in a row you are completely honest, the power builds. Slip up once, even with a white lie, and then you start from scratch. I’ve seen this power in action many times.

“These are not the droids you are looking for”. So I’m going to take this to a geeky level: Star Wars. Claudia asked me, “so if honesty creates The Force, wasn’t Obi-Wan lying when he said ‘these are not the droids you are looking for?’ “

(the scene in question)

The real answer is, “its just a movie”. But lets look at it deeper. Obi-wan was speaking with honesty about what he felt was best for everyone involved. Again, this is not “radical honesty” where you have no filter between your head and your mouth. That could lead to hurt, pain,  dissonance, immaturity. Nor is this “revealing honesty” where you just tell people everything about yourself. If I did that I’d probably be in jail five times over. And then my kids would miss their father. Nor was Obi-Wan saying a "white lie" to get some small-term advantage or avoid some small disharmony.

But sometimes there are two truths. And if you have 50 years experience, then you pick the right truth to tell. He felt deep down his words were SAVING THE GALAXY. So in that sense, those really weren't the droids that were going to help those soldiers.

Every second you say to yourself: are my words honest, and not hurtful to anyone? Are these the exact words that are best for everyone and no other words would do. Then those are the words you use. That is honesty.

How do you know what are the exact words that are best for everyone? 

You don’t.

It takes practice. I don't think I can do it, for instance. I'm just practicing.

I know when I was outright dishonest with people I hurt a lot of people. And then it becomes like plugging a boat where every lie is a leak. Eventually you can’t plug all the leaks and you sink.

I know this and I think about the below list every day:

  • I don’t want to hurt people anymore.
  • I want to be honest with myself because that will be the fastest route to liberating myself from my anxieties
  • I want to be honest with others because I think when I am constructive with either criticism or suggestions then it helps the people I am talking to.
  • I selfishly want to control the future. The more honest I am about the past, the more the future will bend to my words. If I can discern the BS in the past, I can wade my way through the BS that hits us every day as we get propelled into the future.
  • The more honest I am, the more experienced I am with honesty, the more I will be able to tell when other people are being honest with me. 
  • There’s an expression, “his word is worth shit”. I want the exact opposite of that. I want every letter I say to be worth gold. Then gold is created.
  • I’ve seen my boat sink over and over because I couldn’t plug all the leaks. I’ve barely left the port. I want to cross the ocean now.

Honesty will get me across that ocean. And when I finally hit new land, I can't wait to explore, and I can't wait for the adventures I will have.

  • Andrew_Ferri

    How to be a Jedi.  Thanks James, amazing work. Honest.  This will help carry me through this week.

    • Thanks Andrew. One thing I didn’t mention in the post which I figure I will mention in this comment: many people think they have to jump through all sorts of hoops to be happy and calm: meditation, etc. But sometimes just being strictly honest every day is all that is needed. Then the world bends to you. Then your mind is relaxed (i iknow when I was lying a lot it was very stressful to keep track – even white lies). Then your mind can focus on things that make you happy. 

      •  One indeed needs no hoops to loop through in order to feel happy or at least at ease. Yet doubt speaking the truth – i.e. not lying- makes the world bend to me, and am ok with that too. But I know what you mean/are saying :)

  • People often talk about compassion and empathy when speaking of honesty.  As if they are somehow donating a higher-goodness to others, especially if that honesty is to their own detriment.  As you pointed out in a round-about way, there is dishonesty to that form of honesty. 

    I find your pragmatic-honesty approach more appealing. When we are honest we get something in return.  Maybe we feel more relaxed than if we had told a lie.  We don’t have to be on guard.  And maybe we just feel right, as if we are being true to ourselves.  And often those benefits are not always immediate.  Over time we may earn respect for our honesty.  The honesty can somehow push or pull us in the direction we are naturally more inclined to go, and away from the direction we should naturally avoid.  Most importantly, we don’t have a bellyful of lies eating holes in our guts and causing cancer in our cells.

    There is a huge dishonesty in believing that we are spreading universal good with honesty.  We aren’t.  If we are honest with ourselves we must acknowledge that honesty benefits the honest person first and foremost. 

  • Honesty is temporal, in that sutuations change, yet the words uttered in the past aren’t able to transform themselves accordingly.

    In hindsight, so many things seem to be lies as our perspectives change in response to the environment around us.

    There is a place for lies in our lives and often they’re the vehicle to make dreams come true. Delusion and denial are lies often necessary to reach beyond what seems reasonable.

    If you didn’t hear the re-assuring lie “of course you can do it” you would never have even tried. Think of all of the stepping stone accomplishments in life that can be traced back to a simple, well-meaning exhortation, which may in fact have been a lie.

    Where would you be now if hpnesty ruled?

    • Anonymous

      I just returned from a weekend trip to NYC to see Wicked! The idea of perceptions defining realities and propelling dreams is passionately made in that show.

      • Or you could have waited to see if anything showed up in the Altucher Confidential or in its comments section and then selected a different show.

        For example, there’s a good chance that you’d always be safe with Billy Elliot, as I doubt that many parallels would be drawn on these virtual pages to that play.

        Funny how I lived more than half my life in the Bronx and Westchester, yet rarely went to NYC. In fact, hated going. Now, about 4 hours away by car, I look for every opportunity.Go figure.

  • Anonymous

    When I hear the word “honesty” I Always think of Oscar Wilde’s assertion that “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”  I think maybe the internet is the best mask ever. 

    Simple honesty also means no more self-delusions. That road can be rough sledding too.  Sometimes we support our delusions, sometimes they support us.

  • This is another great post James! I think as a child, we all start out as “radical honest”. The question is at what point and for what reason we all start to change from “radical honest” to a “something different than radical honest” person.

  • Keep up the great work James – I just finished two of your books “How to be the Luckiest Person Alive” and “I was Blind, but now I see”.  I just got out of a 3yr relationship and am taking a step back to look at things and your words have been very helpful during this process. 

    Thank you!

  • KV

    I hope its ok that I am posting this article here

    James I respect your opinion…what do you think of this? 

    • Finkelstein has The Force! Have you seen the documentary about him (called The Radical, I think)? He has great integrity.

      • KV

        No I have not Ben

        I will try to find it…thanks

  • PC

    “I’ll make you a copy of that”, “we’ll play some golf”, “id like to do this or that”. Treat promises like body parts; you don’t have to dole them out. I know I’ve done it a million times. So if a friend likes something playing on your ipod say ok and change the subject. Now, if you make that person a copy your good intensions are realized. Less chance to lie if you say less and do more.

  • casper

    When a person always speaks the truth, whatever he says will actually happen, however improbable it may be. I dont know much about Bible, but i think that is how for eg, Jesus words simply came true (healings, miracles etc – for other people it looked miraculous). The catch is, it is extremely difficult to be 100% honest.  Also see book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Yogananda Paramahansa where there is a chapter on similar lines. 

    • I agree its extremely difficult. I was thinking this today (after I posted) on just the smallest things even its difficult to make sure you are honest with yourself. Your motives, your background that could compel certain motives, etc. And then, its amazing when you keep an eye out for it how some basic things could actually be the tiniest of white lies. 

  • Anonymous

    I believe you are on the right pursuit and it is possible to keep advancing ONLY by John 8:31-32.

  • I get all philosophical around my birthday, too. (We have the same birthday!) A lot of the people I know born around this time of year get all introspective, maybe because it’s the most depressing time of the year, according to People Who Make S*** Up To Get In The News.

  • Honestly, honesty from what or who’s perpective?

    I think I am an honest person. I never considered it anything but an easier way to live. I have a horrible memory- mostly because I make zero effort to remember so being honest from my pov was the simpler route.

    I get that your post goes deeper than that and appreciate the message.

    Truth is, I never knew so many people lied until I was in my late twenties. Now I think (almost) everyone lies – kind of sad, but I am better prepared.

    • James,
      I put a Bukowski letter on my tumblr, 2 post down. I thought you might find it interesting.

  • Magic.

  • I like your categories of honesty, arranged by degree. Thinking about an abstraction by breaking it down into tangibles is helpful for me. 

    While I don’t particularly enjoy the train wreck aspects of your life as blogged, I do enjoy your attempts at a program of self-improvement. More Ben Franklin than New Age.

    Although I am also a mishmash of approaches.

  • Unfortunately sometimes the ocean is full of sharks and dangerous predators. In the sense of evolution, the ability to lie and deceive is a sign of intelligence, a necessity for survival. Animal lies. Human is the best at it.

    Often I find it’s funny that human society likes to beat the liars to
    death. People like to jump on the good wagon and happily pretend we are
    somehow better than the exposed liars, while in our most private life,
    we are really not that much different than the ones we condemn.

    A lie might get you what you want temporally. Truth might set you free forever. It’s a constant battle. You are right on that it takes practice. By saying that, you acknowledge how difficult it’s  to live a truthful life. My rule is this. When in doubt, always speak the truth. Because I believe truth ultimately has more cosmological value than a lie, even though its value might not be obvious to me at the moment.

    It’s a tough battle.

  • good one tuch!

  • Thanks, James, for this post. I read it just when I need to be reminded of what is really important. 

  • Interesting post.

  • Oh come on – Obiwan told a lie. It was an operational deception and was in the interests of a greater good (as he saw it – the guards might have disagreed).

    I agree with you about not lying. But some times you have to be evasive or just not make a comment in order to avoid lying. And some questions should not be asked (things that are too personal), so you don’t owe everyone an answer to every question they may throw at you.

    Even if you are always honest, I don’t believe that it implies that all of your ‘words are weighed out carefully’. Not everything we say is profound or well crafted. But credibility is key. As is being brutally hones with yourself.

    Cheers James

    • Yes, I agree with the “not make a comment” sometimes. Again, I’m not in favor of so-called radical honesty where you just spit out whatever you think. Hence, the “carefully weighed out” part. 

      Carefully weighed out doesn’t imply profound. It means exactly what it is – that you thought about the answer you are giving and that the answer is intended to provide a greater good somehow. 

  • Great tis is really nice!

  • Raj Create-Appreciate

    In my opinion, honesty is an impossible goal. Only simple minds speak the truth because that is all they can manage. It takes a superior mind to lie creatively and usefully – even if it is to oneself. If we are 100% objective even about our own prospects, we won’t have the motivation to get out of bed every morning. Our hopes, dreams, fears, any positive or negative thought for that matter – they are all embellished and dishonest. To create something that doesn’t already exist, our mind has to start with a lie – that it is entirely possible to create that reality.
     That extends to the lies that we tell other people. You cannot sell an idea to anyone without embellishing it in someway.
     I respect people that can lie creatively to improve their own situation and the ones they love.

  • hurricanlantern

    Not guilty. I believe you are telling the truth.

  • I’m so glad that you’re acknowledging the difference between upfront honesty and radical honesty! Lot’s of people are scared of honesty from the radical encounters they’ve had. Sometimes it’s easy to get into the trap of delaying honesty, from how you really feel and what you really want. 

    Over the new year you’ve inspired me to take action and to keep that honesty brewing close to the surface. In the space of 2 weeks I’ve quit my job and found a much better one for a start up, went skiing in between, and have come up with a plan to have multiple streams of income within 12 months and to get my girlfriend to do what she really loves. Thanks!

  • Awesome post James. In Yoga (as you may know) the purpose of Satya (truthfulness) is primarily to break through the veil of self-delusion. And in the Raja Yoga Sutras it is written that he who masters Satya is able to make his words come true. Which pretty much is what you’re saying in this post :)
    “The Truth will set you free”.
    My whole life has been a search for truth. I’ve discarded many times things, relationships, lifestyles, places, jobs, etc because deep down they didn’t feel ‘true’. And I can say now that that quest has borne great fruit – I’m happier than I’ve ever been, doing work that I’m passionate about, in a great relationship, beautiful house, land I love, beautiful child. I’d attribute my success (if I had to choose one thing) to truthfulness. Because there is only one truth, but many lies, and if you refuse to compromise with truth, it takes you steadily in one direction.

    The only thing is, truth is a hard taskmaster. It never lets up, and it never gets easier. Or maybe it does. I dunno!

  • If you’re not reading him yet, please spend time over at “The Last Psychiatrist” blog []. He is not only astute, irreverent, and scathing but has a clarity about narcissistic issues like identity. I suppose I’m recommending this because I see a lot of ego protecting in your posts (especially the one about putting a girl in a closet, which is of course the best way to keep one’s objects safe…). He has a sense of humor and a very twisted perspective, which I also see in your posts – which I keep reading PRECISELY because they are so honest.

  • Donotcontactthroughfacebook

    Everything I say is a lie, and that’s the truth!

  • I’ve noticed, for me, that honesty is best applied with good intention.

  • info

    Awesome post James. In Yoga (as you may know) the purpose of Satya (truthfulness) is primarily to break through the veil of self-delusion. And in the Raja Yoga Sutras it is written that he who masters Satya is able to make his words come true. Which pretty much is what you’re saying in this post :)
    “The Truth will set you free”.
    My whole life has been a search for truth. I’ve discarded many things, relationships, lifestyles, places, jobs, etc because deep down they didn’t feel ‘true’. And I can say now that that quest has borne great fruit – I’m happier than I’ve ever been, doing work that I’m passionate about, in a great relationship, beautiful house, land I love, beautiful child. And amongst it all I feel very free. I’d attribute my success (if I had to choose one thing) to truthfulness. Because there is only one truth, but many lies, and if you refuse to compromise with truth, it takes you steadily in one direction.

  • Dave Wood

    This story reminds me of the old saw about President Harry “Give em Hell” Truman.  In reference to his moniker he simply said……”I just told them the truth and they thought it was hell.”  Say what’s right and the rest will fall into line and if you really have to think hard about what to say then that’s a good clue that you are trying to create an “artful” lie.  Some lies are necessary as in when your wife asks “do I look fat in these pants’….you better know your lines after that little setup.  Other than that, let the die be cast.

  • Secondhand Charlie

    The truth is rarely pure and never simple. – Wilde

  • BrianBalk

    I love your blog and your writing.
    But Obi Wan was LYING.  And exerting his mental influence over the storm troopers.  Of course, it was a fiction, a screenplay.  But it mimics real-life situations.  No matter how good I think he was, he did the expedient thing.  He saved time, avoided sneaking or fighting, avoided tipping off the evil empire.  But he LIED.  He’s not perfect.  No person is perfect, and there rarely if ever are perfect solutions.  He picked the best available route to the best available outcome he could imagine.  That’s all anyone can ever do.

    • BrianBalk

      But, on the other hand, does that imply that the end justifies the means?  I’d hate to try to apply that argument to today’s politics or economics!  Are there any good examples (other than Jesus, okay?) in literature or film of a person who is truly and completely honest?  And of what consequences follow?

  • Thank you for writing so honestly, James.

    I’ve come to realize that being honest is a great deal easier, when you realize the unexpected positive implications this has.
    I elaborate more on this in the blog post:

  • Anthony KR

    Thank you.

  • rusty

    Edward Feser, with some pretty deep stuff on the difference between jokes and lies: