How to Get Off of Bottom Once and FOR ALL

One time I was so lonely I wrote an ad in Craigslist telling people I had psychic powers.

The ad was a lie. I wrote, “I had a big headache and when I woke up I had psychic powers. I will tell anyone’s future if they just write to me.”

Several of the women who responded are now my Facebook friends. I only responded to the women who wrote me.

I had just gotten separated from my ex. I was suicidal. I had lost a lot of money. I had no job. Nobody in my family spoke to me. I didn’t have any friends to call. It was Thanksgiving.

In other words, all the qualifications of a psychic.

A girl invited me over for Thanksgiving but then she had to take back the invitation.

“How come?” I said

“My daughter Googled you and saw you were married. She said, “mom! Why are you always going out with married men.’?”

“But I’m separated!”

“I’m sorry.”

And then I had a turkey sandwich on white toast at the Red Flame Diner. I wanted to ask out the waitress but I was too shy to talk to her. Then I went back up to my hotel room where there was a bunch of emails waiting for me.

I hit bottom. Worse than bottom. Needless to say, I was psychic for a day. The best way to be psychic is to start off telling people that one day in the distant past they had a haircut they didn’t like and they were very upset about that.

That had happened to me when I was 12. To his credit, my dad then called the girl I liked and told her not to make fun of my haircut. 33 years later, that girl and I are now Facebook friends.


I explored bottom a little bit.

In my anthropological study of bottom here’s what I’ve discovered:

– everybody has stopped choosing you: wife, boss, money, publishers, newspapers, people who hand out opportunities, girlfriends. You get unchosen by everyone. Maybe even your health unchooses you. You’ve become the opposite of “The Chosen”. You are now “the Chosen-less”. Welcome to BOTTOM, bitch.

The definition of “bottom” is that you’ve now been unchosen by everyone.

How To Get Off Of Bottom Once And For All

– at the bottom we desperately try to figure out ways to be chosen. We want just one person to pick us for their team!

But these things don’t work. Everyone else is trying to be chosen also. They don’t care about the bag of shit that’s weighing us down. If anything, one characteristic of bottom is that we smell in some primal way. When you smell, it’s evolution’s way of warning everyone else away from you.

People write me every day. Every hour. “I’ve hit bottom. I’m stuck. What can I do?”

I will tell you right now. First off, don’t try to please anyone else. They can’t choose you anymore. You’ve hit bottom. You’re a loser.

Follow this checklist one at a time. They are in order. Then you will get out of bottom.

Trust me.

1) Acknowledge that you’ve been trying to be chosen by other people or things. Stop that.

2) Take a shower. You smell like bottom. Scrub hard. Wash your hair. Shave. Brush your teeth. Oh, go to the bathroom before you shower. Stand outside the shower naked, wet, take a picture of yourself and post it on facebook (kidding).

3) Sleep 8-10 hours. Sleeping is rejuvenating. You won’t care if you go broke while you sleep. You also can’t obsess on loneliness while you sleep. In general, sleeping is pretty good. If you are having trouble sleeping, take some natural remedy or take some anti-anxiety medicine. Whatever it takes – you need to sleep. I was addicted to Klonopin for quite some time when I had to learn to sleep.

4) Bed Yoga. For ten minutes before you go to sleep and for ten minutes when you wake up, just be quiet and stretch.

Stretch more. Breathe deep. Look for the light that’s peeking out of the window, listen to the sounds. Stretch some more. Think of the things you are grateful for, even if they are few. I’m going to start a nationwide craze for Bed Yoga.

5) Exercise. Take a walk for ten minutes. That’s it. We’re trying to get off of bottom here. You don’t need to go to the gym for an hour.

When you walk try to look at the rooftops. Find the prettiest rooftop.

Look at the people who pass you. Each one is absorbed in their world. They are all time traveling to their regrets or their fears. Just for a little bit you can walk and you don’t have to time travel.

6) Protein. Don’t load up on carbs today. Eat eggs. Then eat fish for a late lunch, early dinner. No carbs. Just try it. It can’t hurt. I promise you you won’t starve. People eat well in the United States. And don’t eat a lot. Late breakfast, early dinner. That’s it.

7) No alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and causes cancer and stomach troubles. Why add that to your misery? I get it – you lose inhibitions on alcohol and that helps you to be more courageous. But you don’t need it today. There’s nothing to be courageous for.

8) Don’t talk to people who will put you down. If you have to be around them ( a boss, a child, a parent, a spouse, etc) then just don’t engage. Don’t gossip with them. Don’t try to please them. Don’t call them back. Don’t say to yourself, “well, I have to call them back.” You don’t. Do you think 100 years from now it will matter if you call them back today? 100 years from now nobody will care at all what you did today.

9) Read. Read books that will make you smarter or that will make you laugh. Or books that will make you feel spiritual. Actually, this morning read all of the above. Every since I hit bottom I try to read all three categories every day. This is not to say, “oh, I’m so great, I read these three types of books every day”. It’s just that if I don’t I can hit bottom again. Gravity works on the soul. If you don’t keep it up, then gravity drags it down to the bottom again. I hate that.

10) Write. I write every day. I’m writing this. Sometimes I write bad stuff. Sometimes I write ok stuff. Sometimes I write things I’m happy with. But everything I write exercises my brain. The brain is constantly forming connections between neurons. if you don’t use those connections they start to freeze and then stagnate.

Repeat 1-10 tomorrow.

11) Surrender. If you do all of the above, then there’s nothing else you can do. You did the prep. There’s no excuses. There’s no reason for you to say, “I can’t enjoy the summer. My bike is broken!” So what? You’ll find other ways to enjoy it. Take the 10 day excuse diet. You don’t need excuses anymore.

Excuses are for people trying to be chosen by others. When you choose yourself there are no more excuses.

If you did #1-10, you did the preparation. You’re still at bottom. You’re still broke and lonely. People are still not choosing you. But you are choosing yourself.

I’m not psychic. I lied to everyone because I thought it would make people like me.

But then I started to choose myself and I came all the way back. For now. This is off topic but today I’m going to Miami for ten days. Yay!


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  • Jhey

    I was at bottom. A very dear friend shared this article with me almost three years ago, and it struck me. For whatever reason the light…finally flipped on. I was in a very dark and desperate place. I have suffered depression on and off since childhood, thought I’d sent it packing, then hit a dark bottom after a really difficult break up. That tipped the first domino sending me spiraling to the bottom and a slew of other tragedies.

    SO, I did #2 first, but deliberated #1 during. I had already been overdoing #3 which is why #2 was so important to tackle first.

    #4 and #5 I already did a lot of oddly enough. I’ve always been acutely aware that the lack of exercise in my life makes depression exponentially worse. TRUTH: The flip side to that statement, is it was also how I cleverly looked “productive” and “confident” to outsiders thus cloaking my horrid despair. This is the first post saying “abs of steel” may be “abs of Sadness”. Oh boy… I digress.

    #6 was really pivotal to #5; protein made that all that exercise way more effective and Yeah… I wasn’t feeling like going right to bed after.

    Sorry, but I have to admit I failed at #7. I drank. I drink. I get it. Moving on to MY POINT of posting…

    #9 I read. I read lots of your posts, and stories, and other people’s stories, and the next thing I knew I was writing.

    #10 changed my life. I’m not a “real” writer. I write songs. Or at least I started to. I taught myself ukulele, and started playing my own songs. It did cause me to fail #3, but as long as I was doing all the rest and remembering to #2 regularly, I figured I was fine.

    SO the point of this post on a three year old article??

    I wrote a song that made me feel better. I played it over and over, until I actually believed the chorus. I played it so much, I started to seek friends out again and even play it for them. People just seemed to like it, and that was motivating. Then awhile later, after I had written a lot of songs (that also made me feel better), I played that little ol’ song for a guy on the back porch of a music festival. He remembered it, found me on facebook, and encouraged me to come play it on stage at his showcase.

    IN SUMATION: I essentially started a band that night, and we have been playing my originals all over town and having a blast. I am stronger, open to defeat and sadness, and haven’t been severely dark since reading this article. Three years, and I refer back to this list whenever I need to.
    I live #11. Surrendering is key. I try to let go of everything and accept it for what it is, EVEN (and to the fun part), making this music video I will link. I wasn’t sure how else to contact you James Altucher, and maybe you never see this, but here is the song that MADE ME FEEL BETTER. It has been QUITE journey. Thank you, and thanks for being the spark of a new life.

    I think it’s easy to be mean to oneself. I remind myself to “STOP THAT” everyday.

    PS I follow you on twitter.

  • Paul Kozar

    Well let’s see… In the past few years, I lost my job, am losing my home, my wife was incarcerated, and I was recently diagnosed with cancer, so I guess you could call that rock bottom even though I’m not quite homeless yet. I’m not suicidal though but I am looking for more practical solutions. I have a lot to be thankful for, especially my kids. It gets more complicated with kids and I can’t just give up. I have to suck it up for them.

    I mean I like your posts James. They’re funny, unique and I agree with a lot of the more practical things you write about AND you remind me of Groucho Marx a little bit. One of my favorites!

  • I was busting out laughing with that intro! You are the man!