Having a Bad Number Day

Today is a really bad day. I almost can’t talk about it. I’m sort of choked up.

My Klout score went down.

The second derivative of the rate of change of my number of twitter followers went negative.

My Amazon score for my last book went up (better for it to go down, which in the perverse world of “up/downs” on Amazon, would mean that things are looking “up” for my book).

My last article got fewer Facebook likes than I would’ve hoped.

My online chess rating went down.

The deal I had hoped would close last week didn’t close. So the number in my back account stayed the same. Or probably went down. Who knows. I avoid looking at it.

And worse yet, I’m having a mini mid-life crisis. Two days ago my daughter turned 13. Today my wife turns 44. I’m the father of a teenager and the husband of a 44 year old. Even worse for her, she’s the wife of a 44 year old. I’m the husband of someone who is married to a 44 year old. (As an aside, I was almost finished writing this article when my wife told me her ex-boyfriend’s birthday is today also. I said, “I bet that was very important to you when you two first met” She said, “yes, it was TOO important. And it’s not fair that you know me that well to know that.”)

Then I looked at Paulo Coelho’s blog. He got 10,000 or so facebook likes on his last post, which I don’t even think he wrote. It was about kangaroos. That Paulo Coelho! He could write about two Martians who come to some spiritual catharsis while trying to cross a crater and he’d get 70,000 facebook likes and 20,000 new twitter followers.

To top it off, I got 7.5 hours of sleep. I aim  for 8+. Ideally I get 11 hours of sleep.

I’m having a bad numbers day. Did you ever have a bad numbers day?

This is totally “first world problems”. Whoever coined that phrase is a genius. I wish I could be him. He’s probably in his 20s. I could be his father. I might be his father.

I wish I was one of those people who donated to 50 sperm banks 20 years ago. Now I could be a grandfather. I could have 30 children in their 20s. But I didn’t.

(first world problem)

I preserved my sperm like it was gold. My advice to all 20 year olds: Donate every week to a sperm bank.

Now I have a 13 year old.

When I was 13 I had acne, braces, glasses, my hair was so thick and wild I couldn’t comb it, and I played dungeons and dragons and tried various incantations from the Satanic Bible in order to get girls in my class to take their clothes off in front of me. It didn’t work. (In retrospect, probably better I did not donate to sperm banks).

Poor honey. Thirteen is a long way from 44. My new 13 year old said to me, “16 is a probably an ok age to have a boyfriend. And maybe 14 for a Facebook account.” She wants to figure out the world around her. She wants to know all the right numbers.

It’s a harsh world, filled with numbers that will rate you, rank you, measure your breast size, calibrate your beauty, strengthen your bank account, count your winkles, guesstimate your wisdom, measure your “influence”, determine your likeability.

But honey, you’re always my little baby. And Claudia,  I have been 44 for 32 days longer than you so I can show you the ropes the next time all the ”44s” have a meeting.

We already have an agreement that when she turns 81 we can decide if we still want to stay together. Another number to worry about. One year closer. Maybe tomorrow I’m going to take one day off from numbers. Hopefully then I will have zero problems.



  • My 11-year-old niece asked if the Whitney Houston thing was hard because “She was from the 1900s, just like you.”


    • That is classic! 

      • Robinheinen

        Classic it is, but it even makes ME feel old and I am halfway through my twenties… Incredible, 12 year-olds were born in this millenium… time flies. I guess that means I’m having fun.

        Your writing reminds me of my mom’s behaviour, she’s in her late fourties, and seriously thinks she is about to die in the next few years. I always tell her to start new things, apply for new jobs (because she’s always complaining about this one), her excuse for not doing it: I’m probably too old for that!

        What’s the problem with people and complaining about their age, some people don’t even have the possibilities to make it to that age… I think I’ll be one of those persons that one day forgets his age and all other useless numbers.

        Nice post though ;-)

  • Greg

    11 hours of sleep?! 44?!  You kids today  I’ve got underwear older than that.  Great writing and I hope your metrics improve. (I am reading this on Netscape btw)

  • Whenever I have a bad day like this (although I try to be less obsessed about numbers), I have ONE cigar and everything looks brighter again: 

    • Of course you should then not look at your cigar supply and say “oh damn, I have one cigar less than yesterday”.

  • He does get thousands of likes – annoying.

    Well I donated 1 for this post. Now you only need 19995 to catch up. 

  • Well James, just three days ago you shared with me during you Q&A that not looking at your stats was an ingredient to your fulfillment. Backslider!  Hugs to you, Claudia and your teenager! Best advice to your young teen, when it comes to boys: Take everything he says and throw it out. Look only at what he does. (Advice to Randy Pausch for his daughter.)

  • Robinheinen

    James, I have been thinking about this for a while. You tell all your readers to write books/blogs/etc. Don’t find excuses, just do it. You made me start a blog (it’s in Dutch though) and get back to my writing (I used to blog weekly in the past). One thing that has been following me since forever is Repetetive Strain Injury. I dislike it, to say the least. You probably write a lot more than I do, so did you ever have RSI signs, and how do you keep on writing if so? Thanks!

    • You can get an assistant to whom you dictate.

    •  One time someone hired me to ghostwrite a novel. I came up with a great plot. He then wanted me to do a completely different plot. It was really important to him because he had a fatal disease and was going to die soon. I instantly got severe RSI. I did everything for it but it wouldn’t got away.

      When he died, it went away the next day. It was psychosomatic. i didn’t want to write the novel. Or i wasn’t ready for it. Or something.

      Here’s the blog post I did about it. : http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2010/12/564/

      • Robinheinen

        Nice post as well! I recognize it, in some way. For my study in biology, I have written many reports and scientific articles. Those were always stressful situations where sooner or later my hands stopped coöperating. Now that I finished my BSc… it’s different. I still have pains regularly, but different ones. The carpal tunnel area seems to remain relatively pain free. Also my thumbs would go mad while writing exams, I couldn’t even hold a pensil. I hope no one has to die for my syndrom to disappear…
        Thanks for sharing!


  • Anonymous

    Great post.  I know it’s generic to say “puts things in perspective”, but it’s true.   The numbers may tell you thats a bad day but in reality most of those numbers don’t really matter.

  • I could say that there are more fun things than being 44 and having a 13-year-old daughter. But why would I? That’s all I have for now. In a few months, I’ll be 45 and have a 13-year-old daughter. After that, I’ll be 45 and have a 14-year-old daughter.

    My daughter and I bicker all the time. She says, that’s how it is with mothers and daughters. She said, my friend has a mom who always says she’s right and never apologizes. I said “I can’t imagine.” We both laughed, because my daughter knows my mother. 

    We spent the afternoon together. We bickered because she is 4 episodes ahead of me on “Glee”. I walked half an hour across town to realize I’d forgotten both the shirt we were supposed to take to the seamstress and the book her brother needed. She forgot to study for her spelling test. We took the bus half an hour and walked another 20 minutes to go to an activity at our synagogue. We talked about braids and bought cookies. The activity turned out to be totally lame, but at least there were cookies to share. 

    It was truly wonderful. Nothing turned out like we planned, but we were together. I am loving every minute of being 44 and having a daughter who is 13. The numbers don’t mean much. The moments mean everything. I was alive in those moments and I was with one of my two  favorite people on earth. What could be better than that?

  • Required link to first world problems 

  • Gonzalo Gandia

    I’m 46 years old and I have a 30 year old girlfriend. I’m not saying that to gloat. I wasn’t even looking for a girlfriend with that age. it just happened because, long story short, I bought a dog one day. One thing led to another and voila, I’m dating a young girlfirend. I just think it doesn’t matter how old your significant other is. I learned a long time ago that it’s important not to get stressed about the little details of your love life, or as you would say, the numbers. I have enough numbers to worry about in my own life.

  • KB

    Maybe this will help (maybe not…but I hope it does).  You’re inspiring, and due to some of your advice I made my 2 recent books free for today (& worked some Twitter hashtags). Both are in the top 100 kindle free books, one in the top 50 – so I came here to say thanks, and see this post.  I dunno, allow some of my one day numbers accomplishment feed yours in a positive light.  You did some good today and didn’t even know it, thanks.

  • FrankinSC

    James, the last thing I would want is to appear to be a smart@ss, but the cure for such funk that you are suffering from today is your very own “gratitude” protocol. Since first reading your blog six moths ago, I have used it every day and it has become more powerful over time. I have made a number of positive changes in my life in the last few months just using this mindset, because it has made me more optimistic about life and the future- and I am 56!
    As for all those likes on Facebook, remember “quality, not quantity!”

    •  Very true.

      • FrankinSC

        BTW going by her photos, I thought Claudia was around 30.

    • Any chance of a link to the post on gratitude?

      • FrankinSC

        Stuart, it is part of James’ “Daily Practise.”

  • My Amazon rank for my book on First World Problems also went up this week. Oh irony.

    • KB

       That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a while.  That’s great.

  • Shivagirl77

    44 … the master of material and spiritual power … WoW!!! 

  • Anonymous

    Problem: “First-world [neuroses]” 

    Solution: Go to the jungle, take some funky jungle drugs, see “god”, throw your iCrap devices in the fire, dance and sing like some insane paleo caveman thawed from an iceberg, contract malaria (and survive), get some dirt under your lily-white, city-boy fingernails, shit yourself and bathe in the river, fuck under the stars, kill a wild pig and fire grill it, swear at the natives who tease you in an unfamiliar language, sleep all day because it’s too hot to even think, snipe hunt in ernest, miss your flight and have to do it all over again and I guarantee that you’ll stop worrying about your goddamn Klout score or whatever the fuck it is. 

  • double you eye el

    I heard or read once that one should never feel bad about their age (or perhaps is was their birthday) because so many have never gotten the privilege.

  • Vincent au

    i just “discovered you” through an article you wrote “the 9 skills needed to be a super-connector”. because of my work i never have time for leisure reading but i have to say that was one of the most honest and interesting articles i have ever read.
    i hope this makes your day better.
    i would invite you for a drink but a) you probably not return my email. b)it’s way past your curfew and/or c) too busy watching taxicab confessions las vegas

    • Funny. And thanks.

      A) I’m trying to get better at returning emails so try me.
      B) about to go to sleep.
      C) episode one taxicab confessions new york is one of the best tv episodes ever. I know the brothers who make the show. Great guys. Great work. The final scene is beautiful.

  • when my daughter was 12 or so there was something I don’t remember that she wanted to do that I forbade.  what I do remember is exasperated at my unreasonableness she said, “Daddy, you have to understand I’m not your little girl anymore.”

    “Cutie,” I said, “you will always be my little girl.”

  • Enjoyed this! Not that I enjoy other people’s suffering or anything….

  • I was reading about your sperm management, and a word came to my mind, probably because I’m a sailor:
    Semenship   (The important thing in life is to exhibit good semenship).
    I hope it’s new. I’ll sell it to you if it is.
    You guys have a great 45th spin around the sun.

  • Amusing post. And you are right – I think most of our problems are “First World Problems” (minor in the greater scheme of things – and Maslow’s hierarchy) and we should take stock of how good we have it and be thankful.

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