Falling in Love for the First Time

I almost killed both my kids yesterday by accident. Then, later, I had no money to pay for a meal we had already eaten.

On the way to my oldest daughter’s singing performance, my tire blew out. It didn’t go flat. It blew out. It was as if it had been shot from a gunman in a grassy knoll. And maybe from another gunman in a building 10 stories high. The tire was shredded and gone by the time I looked at it.

And I had no license so I was afraid a cop would see the tire and arrest me, take my car, arrest my kids, etc and people were honking at me that I shouldn’t be driving like that with kids in the car. At every red light people were rolling down their windows and yelling, “get those kids out of there!” But whatever.

Then, later that night, when nobody died, we went out to dinner. We had a huge dinner. And when I got the bill and reached to pay I realized I had no money or credit cards. I only had Indian rupees in my pocket.

Mollie, my youngest, turned to me and say, “Why do bad things always happen to us?”

“What do you mean?” I asked her and I felt bad because it was the first time I had seen her in three weeks and it seemed to her like everything was going wrong.

“The flat tire, the boring tire place, and now you can’t even pay this restaurant.”

“It looks to me like we’ve had a great day,” I said. “Despite a flat tire, it was only a mile form the performance so we made it [going ten miles an hour to play it safe] and the police didn’t stop me and realize I had a suspended license and we didn’t roll over into a ditch or anything.

“Then, during the parts of the performance Josie wasn’t in I managed to finish a great novel on my kindle.

“Then, it turns out a tire store was less than a half mile from the performance. And while we were waiting for the tire to be changed we watched some great ice skating on TV and you’re a big fan of ice skating so how lucky was that?

“Then, when we had no money at dinner, they told us they would just send me a bill and I can pay whenever so how lucky was that for us? We didn’t have to wash dishes all night and we still had a great dinner without any money in our pockets. How often does that happen?”

She was skeptical. “Maybe,” she said. But it was a start.

I’m not trying to say I always look at the positive side of things. Often when a deal falls through (as 19 out of 20 do) I think to myself, “Why haven’t I had a big deal come through in almost six years!?” And I get down on myself. Or when I think about people who treat me bad or backstab me or talk down about me I think, “Why can’t people ever treat me well?”

I get irrational. I get angry. I get scared. Then I can’t sleep. Then my stomach starts to hurt. Then I consider sending emails saying things like, “after all I’ve done for you BLAH BLAH BLAH…”

Fortunately I stop myself.

When I was thinking about writing this article I got to this point and I didn’t know what I would say next. So this is how list posts start. I figured I’d make a list and put down everything, even stuff that might seem corny, and figure it out later.

A) in every bad experience there’s some good. I haven’t watched ice skating in years. The performances were beautiful when we were waiting in the tire place. I stopped thinking of how annoying the flat tire was and tried to think of all the opposites I could. The ice skating, the reading of a good book, watching Josie sing (we were late but made it just in time). Then the good meal that I didn’t pay for.

B) Self-analysis. Any game player or competitor at all knows that the only way to learn is to learn from your mistakes. When you study your wins it doesn’t help you that much. You already won! You don’t need to win it again. But when you fail and you study why you failed then you know (hopefully) you won’t fail that way again. In fact, the next time, you’ll have a much greater chance of winning.

C) Positive thinking. I hate to go New Agey on this. But when I first had a flat. Or when a deal failed to go through a few weeks ago. Or when I’ve gone totally broke several times. Or when a girl cheated on me 20 years ago and I caught her naked with the other guy. Or when I was beaten silly repeatedly when I was a kid, I could’ve said, “that’s it. I failed. Nothing will ever work!”

Instead, taking it slowly, building back up, problem-solving, being creative, being honest, good things will happen. Don’t believe on this. Never believe me. Just try it.

If I hadn’t spent time “practicing” honesty in the past then perhaps the restaurant would never believe that I would send them a check to cover the cost of the meal. Without problem-solving I might’ve just waited for a tow truck and missed the performance. Or Stockpickr could’ve gone out of business if I hadn’t thought of the one way out of my problem.

A plant can be watered by clean water or dirty water. If it’s dirty water it will eventually die. If it’s clean water it will eventually grow and blossom. Dirty water is “I always fail. Life is no good.” Clean water is “How can I solve this problem.” Or…”how can I turn this into a good thing. Or an adventure.”

The problem is, if your fountain only has dirty water in it, how do you clean it?

 D) Trust. I’ve been broke. And I’ve come out of it. I’ve been lonely. And I’ve met better people than ever. I’ve had businesses on the brink of failure and they turned out to be great. You don’t have to believe in God to Trust a “higher power”. I hate the word “higher power” or even “God”. But maybe think of it this way:

There’s big parts of you that you dont know yet. It’s only been 44 years (for me). Maybe it takes 500 years to “meet” me. I can trust those parts of myself I don’t know yet to help me out of bad situations. When I’m in a bad situation I can spend some time assuming the worst-case will definitely happen. Or I can trust that after 5000 bad experiences in a row, that if I’m creative, positive, and problem solve I can turn a wish, into an action, into reality.

I know this from my own experience. And before I had the experiences, I learned this through practice (often painful practice).

E) Practice. This is the hard part. So I have a short cut: When a bad thing happens, When you’re in the middle of it, When you catch yourself thinking, “Shit. Why does bad stuff always happen to me?” STOP! Try to think of the opposite. Try to think of the good things that are happening right then. Or find something to be grateful for. Anything. This is hard if you’re not used to it. But it works. Don’t believe me on this. Try it for yourself. Give it time.

Crappy situations are often the exact same thing as dealing with crappy people. Your life will be better and happier if you avoid the crappy people and spend more time with people who inspire you. This is totally obvious.

Same thing with thoughts. Life will be better if you avoid crappy thoughts (which will help you avoid crappy situations) and you cultivate good thoughts. We get into a habit of being around crappy people and having crappy thoughts.

So it takes practice. You have to stop in the middle and say, “this is a bad thought” and replace it with clean water.

When I was really little, my dad and I were driving and the front of our car went on fire. I don’t even know what happened. I just remember we were in some suburb, it was raining, and the front of our car went on fire.

So we went to some random house so my dad could call my mom, a tow truck, etc. At the random house there was a little girl with brown curly hair down to her shoulders. My age (three or four).

Starting a pattern that lasted the next 40 years, I fell in love with her instantly. She was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen until that point. I think I talked marriage with her. We played all afternoon.

And that’s the thing I remember the most about the situation. Not the fire, or the rain, or my dad screaming, or the fear. But the most beautiful girl ever. And falling in love for the first time.

  • Your writings never cease to amaze me James.  Thanks for sharing the story. I sometimes wonder if your ideas are lucid dreams you have or actual events.  I get caught up thinking “why is he … how did he…” and I realize what a great writer you are, because you evoke emotional response that effectively in your writing style.  Its art.

    • Thanks Fred! I always get worried I will run out of things to say. But fortunately I get plenty of flat tires. 

  • We know some people who constantly put themselves in really terrible situations, question “why me” and then simply pray about it.

    It’s been astounding to witness, even after I offer constructive advice to them they simply say “Nope. God has this one.” So far that hasn’t worked out for them very well, but they are tenacious.

    I try to understand that mentality, but they have two things right. They see the silver lining and surrender to a higher power.

    • I think the trick there is they have the “wish” and the “trust” but they have to learn also how to take the wish and turn it into “action”. Its the classic saying, “god helps those who help themselves.” Good things will happen, but they still have to make it happen. 

  • James, I am glad the events of the day worked out well, flat tires suck! I can really relate with the being in love pattern…I believe I am in love with being in love

  • Bob

    How’d you pay for the new tire if you had no cash/credit cards on you that day?

    • For some reason it was free. I had the spare tire under my car (a fact I didn’t know until they checked). It was Mavis Discount Car. The guy came in after a half or so and said, “$300” and I was like “what?” and he said, “just kidding. It was free. Don’t worry about it.” Which was amazing because at that point I didn’t even know I had no money on me. 

      But they won a customer from it. 

  • Hi James. What novel were you reading? I just finished Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac and started The Heart Of The Matter by Graham Green and Journey To The End Of The Night – enjoying both. 

    • Loved “Journey to the End of the NIght”. Gosh, “Dharma Bums” I read 20 years ago and remember liking it but brings back memories. I haven’t read any Graham Greene. Should I?

      The book was “Hard Cold Whisper” by Michael Hemmingson. 

      • James, I’ll be quick: I avoided reading Greene because a pretentious person 20 years ago liked his writing (lame but true). I didn’t care for it (Heart Of The Matter) in the first 15 pages but then later in the book something happened under the cover of a little station in the rain, and I was hooked. I don’t love the book but I can’t stop reading it. You know what that’s like. 

        Thanks for the reply and happy Sunday to you

      • Swathi

        Of course you must read Graham Greene. You can laugh out loud reading ‘Travels with my aunt’ or just ponder if you read ‘The quiet American’. Having discovered your blog the last week through linkedin, I have spent about 5 hours reading all your posts starting from day 1. Inspirational would be an understatement. It has been only 5 years since I relocated from India to US but I can see my dream company in front of my eyes already. Thanks for being an inspiration.

        • Anonymous

          Greene is my favorite writer but ‘The Heart of the Matter’ is my least favorite of his books, for what it’s worth!

  • James

    I had a similar experience happen recently. No kids in the car but I blew a tire about 4 miles from home. There was an insane amount of debris in the road, about 7 other cars were on the shoulder with blown tires. It was raining and about 34 degrees outside, completely miserable.
    Of course we can always say “woe is me and think the worst”. $85 for a tow and $100 for a new tire and a waste of 1 and 1/2 hours of my life.
    But the next day my tire was free because they were under warranty, my tow fee was reimbursed by my insurance, and I got to spend a paid half day out of my day job finishing my financials for my start up and getting some solid writing in.
    When you understand that life simply happens and things “don’t happen TO YOU” they simply happen in life, you find ways to power forward.

    Keep the great posts coming. Also, from your advice I’m getting ready to self publish my 1st book and I am getting more and more friends to continuously read your blog.


  • Sooz

    just ‘ BEAUTIFUL’..!!

    as always..Thanks,J.A.

  • There is always something to be grateful for. Some people are really good at gratitude. I try to be one of them but sometimes it’s hard. This past year I’ve been better at it than ever before. Maybe it is because I have taken control of my life this past year in a way I never would have in the past. Or maybe it is the years of practice paying off. But I think I’m getting better at finding the positive in any situation.

    • I agree, its very hard. Its always easy to succumb to the depths and I see it over and over again in people. For me too. I’ve had years where I couldn’t climb out. But now I try very hard. 

  • Anonymous

    Another great story. Glad to hear nothing more severe happened. A blown tire is a scary and dangerous experience!

  • Beautiful!

    Reminds me the line ‘In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make’.

  • Capitalistic

    Your writing always resonates with me. It’s easy to count all the bad things that happen to us, and we tend to forget the amazing simple things that occur to us everyday. 
    I started my business right after b/school…in 2009. My family and some friends never ceased to send me negative energy everyday. Most of my deals fell through. I was homeless for 6 months, living out of my car and crashing at friends apartments. Every time I drove across bridges, I sensed my eyes staring over the ledge of those bridges. I always felt like a loser for not being immediately “successful” (whatever successful means). 
    And then I realized that overnight success takes 10 years, and being happy in who you are, and working towards a better you, one step at a time, is all that matters in life.
    I’ve decided to only focus on positive energy, and eliminated sources of negativity out of my life.

    • Its really true that if you focus TODAY on the positive things and then tomorrow and the next, and so on, that in the long run, good things happen. That’s why I try to make it easy and divide it into 4 categories: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual – just checking the box on each one for the day and success follows. Again, I tell people, this is how I’ve seen it after failing and coming back repeatedly. And I still have to make it a daily practice to keep focused on being positive or I fall right back. 

  • Positive message to families with no cars, who never eat at the restaurants is that none of these let downs could ever happen to them:)… or maybe:( 
    Have a nice weekend everyone!

  • It is amazing in this day and age, a smart phone can’t pay the bill.

  • B Young

    very apropos James.. and I like one of the comments. life doesn’t happen TO you.. given I will be ‘restructured’ tomorrow!!!

  • Leonardo

    Altucher, please listen to me. Don’t keep telling people you’re driving without a license.You told us, in the past, you received death threats; so, it’s not impossible someone might decide to turn you in. Do you know the State could even terminate your parental rights? Openess sometimes is not the best policy. Take care of yourself.


    •  Maybe you’re right. But I always feel safe saying stuff here.

      • Ameen

        “Feeling safe” on the internet can be VERY dangerous these days, given the oversight the government is exercising over blogs….

      • ragtagrebel

        Well, if the feds bust you, you might have gotten away with “I was just kidding when I wrote I didn’t have a license” if you didn’t blurt out all over your site that you’re always honest. But hey, I’m trying to be as honest as you so I wouldn’t care either =D

      • Conductorchris

        What’s done is done, but please don’t drive again.  You’re tempting fate.  Writing about it is one thing; getting caught in the act will be a real problem.  

  • Rebecca Rachmany

    I remember Tal Ben Shahar’s saying that he doesn’t believe the saying “it’s all for the best”, but that he does believe you make the best of every situation. We don’t control all of our situations, or even most of them. We control only our response to the situation. 

    For me, it’s important to remember that our problems do end one day, and the fact we have problems is a sign that, thankfully, we didn’t reach that day yet.

  • Was that really your tire or was it just a representative photo?  I know the car fire had to be representative…

    I pledged here on this blog (in the “self-help book” post) that I would not leave nasty comments on anyone else’s blog (don’t worry, I won’t leave any here.)  I failed once; that blog was taken offline due to other reasons so I get a pass on that one (though it was a good joke I made.)  Then today I threatened to take someone off my blogroll if she made even one more post about “Madonna.”  The mature thing to do would have been to simply quietly amend my blogroll.  (The second post in as many days pushed me over the edge, and I took it as a personal affront, so deep is my dislike for the so-named character.)  As long as you never, ever mention that “entertainer,” I think we will get along.  And I would put money on the probability that you’ll never make mention of that commercial entity which makes me feel like I wasted valuable seconds of my life contemplating anything relating to her name, image, and “music.”

    I wonder if your tires were old or worn.  I do a lot of things wrong, but I learned recently to try to keep good, new-ish tires on the car.  I hope you adopt that habit to avoid future mishaps!

    •  It is just a representative photo. I (or rather, Claudia) has a Honda Fit. I was getting lost and I pulled into a gas station. But I’m not a good driver and I pulled up onto the curb instead and I heard a pop and a hiss. So I caused the tire to burst.

      But now I have to get brand new tires to replace this spare. it only is good for a few miles. or so they tell me.

  • Kate

    i love that you are showing/explaining your positive view to your kids.  as much as you can be born with it (i can’t help it, i am a naturally positive/happy person!) you can also learn it and learn how to deal with situations – from your parents. 

    I always have and still do think my mother is amazing.  If we would get lost driving somewhere, it was an ‘adventure’.  If it was a scary situation, she would get very calm and think for a minute, then tell us exactly what was going to happen next and how we were going to get out of the situation.  Did it always happen? no, did we ALWAYS get out of the situation and learn something from it? YES

    thanks for reminding me how awesome she is, i needed that today. (yes, of course, i am going to call her tonight and tell her it’s all your fault haha)

    •  I’m glad. I hope you don’t interrupt her in the middle of an adventure. I hate to see when my kids get a negative disposition so young. Not that everything is beautiful. But everything isn’t bad either. Things just happen every day and we choose what we want them to be.

  • GreaT!

  • Anonymous

    “When I was thinking about writing this article I got to this point and I
    didn’t know what I would say next. So this is how list posts start. I
    figured I’d make a list and put down everything, even stuff that might
    seem corny, and figure it out later.”

    I hope you go back to this thought and complete it later.

    Excellent post none-the-less

  • Anonymous

    Good post, James. I think it was Buddha who said, “Life is suffering.” I personally believe you can’t have up without down, light without dark, etc. I find balance and acceptance is key in riding out the waves, since “this too shall pass.”

  • Anonymous

    What a great article! It’s so true, either your cup is half empty, half full, or it’s overflowing. It’s scientifically proved that seeing the positive side of things (Polyanna attitude) will attract positive experiences towards your life. Thank you so much James for showing us this in such a great manner.

    • Dyish

      If you ask an engineer if the glass is half empty or half full, he might tell you that the glass is too big…

  • Never gets boring.  Another great post. Hard to be negative when reading your  posts.

  • Mark

    My company is Beverage Brands.
    I will send you our “White Diamond Vodka” brand.
    You can be our advisor when we go public.

  • VodkaImports

    I will send you a bottle of our “White Diamond Vodka”
    from my company Beverage Brands, Inc.
    You can be our advisor when we go public

    • Well, I don’t drink though. Do you have White Diamond Water?

  • I believe you may be removing extremely negative comments, which is a good thing.  I think this because I tried to respond to someone’s notch-taking-down and there was an error and I don’t see their post anymore.  I consider it a healthy maneuver to remove blatant hostility.  Today someone told me that the entire focus of my blog is boring and that I should “move on.”  I was sort of asking for it by being a butt, myself, but they fought a thumbtack with a sledgehammer.  It was not on my blog, but elsewhere, so I just found the humor I could in it and let it go.

    I try to find the good in every day, also.  Even though I make lots of mistakes and nothing is ever perfect around here.  Someone on my blogroll is so negative that she takes everyday experiences and makes them sound like disasters.  And she does this every day.  I think if she had to clean up what I cleaned up yesterday she would have been down for the count.  We made jokes out of it here and continued our day.  I am happy with the simplest things.  It takes a lot for a day to be called “bad” in my view.  I love new tires and restaurant meals and my children performing on stage, also. 

    •  Yes, I weed the garden. I never mind when someone disagrees with me. There are plenty of interesting arguments and disagreements on this site and I think that is part of what builds community.

      BUT, I never tolerate when someone is angry in their own life and uses this site as an outlet to take out that anger. They can find another home to vomit in.

  • Turtle

    I saw her for the first time 40 years ago. I will never forget her beauty, her positive energy, and how wonderful she made me feel. Our favorite place was the New Jersey Shore … long before most people knew it even existed. She taught me about fitness, she taught me to respect the environment, and she taught me how to dance. And in the process, she taught me how live.

    A short time later, she told me about another boyfriend she had. One she had dated for years. One who had a Datsun 240Z, and a fancy job. The one she would be enaged to a few months later. I felt lost and alone.

    But then I realized how much she had given me. The freedom to stop living other peoples vision of my life. I got up and lived life like never before. It became my beginning.

    It’s not what you look at that matters … it’s what you see. See the goodness in everything … it’s there even if you don’t initially feel it.

    •  Its a great analogy you are leading to. When the safety net disappears we have to learn to either die or fly without it. Its when we can really start to live.

  • dodge main dan…

    i agree with leonardo: if you drive without a license you could catch lots of trouble. ask a lawyer.
    or, as they pronounce it in new york, “low-ya”. i dig your writing & your bukowski-like self confession that reaches all our hearts. 

  • Jeffersonianideal

    What became of the little brown-haired girl?

    • Alas, I have no idea. We got picked up, left that house, and all the aftenoon discussions of marriage and the future were left for an alternative universe. 

  • Jebstuart

    This is so messed up I’m starting to like you.

  • Ameen

    Excellent!  Well-written!! This is TOTALLY how I approach my life and the events in it, and I completely agree:  it’s how you look at events and how you approach problems that makes all the difference in the world!

    • Ameen, I agree. And the small moments add up to create a day of pleasure and happiness if you choose it. 

  • Kyle P.

    The first thing I do each morning is read lewrockwell.com. Early in the morning the part of my brain that beats me up in the middle of the night is still partially active, and it’s easy to have a bleak outlook on the day and life in general. But when there is a nice article by you my outlook is instantly better, much better. The world just seems less scary, and my presence in it seems like less of a burden.

    • Kyle, thats a good thing. The hardest thing in the world when we still put up “the fight” is trying to sleep. Sleeping should be a huge priority. But I’m glad these articles are also on your list. 

  • Damn you for being a better storyteller than me.

  • Lamont Cranston

    Does the restaurant know you?

    I can’t think of a restaurant that would send you the bill

  • Thomas Geschrey

    Why do you not have a license?

  • Drdjkii

    Sorry, there is not much love in the world. 

    Kinda sucks, but true.

    Romantic love, in my opinion, is a mental illness, and my preference is to keep my distance from that.

    What I would really like is a family, but in this POS culture and the POS wimmin in it…good luck with that, better to move to an Arab country than get hosed by a Western Hoe.


  • great read!

  • Anonymous

    I drove for 20+ years without a license. When i would get busted I would move to another state. Then computers came along and my kids. So i broke down and got the damn thing. It is a hard thing to live free in this day and age, cops would rather shoot you than talk to you and judges are into locking you up and throwing away the key. Best to keep such things to ones self, there are very few good guys left, most are all for “law and order”

  • t’s good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanx now i have the link which i was looking for my research. 

  • Amira

    I like the way you explained things to your daughter, very positive :) I’m glad you remember falling in love for the first time… It’s beautiful! :) By the way, if you haven’t seen it already, I totally recommend this french movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1646974/ There is one moment in particular in the movie where a teenager said we should remember victims of the Holocaust not by their death but rather by the day they had whipped cream for the first time… :) By the way, the movie itself is quite funny about a very wild french-algerian girl who meets a very serious older half-jewish guy and opposites attract (totally unrealistic but love the idea). She’s also completely wacky as in takes the motto of “make love not war” very literally! ;) This movie is definitely not appropriate for children…