Are You a Wanderer?

Are You A Wanderer?

It started when I lost millions of dollars in a day. It ended when my marriage ended.

This year. What an f-ed up year.

I was lost. I was gone. I was destroyed. It was the best year of my life.

First, in February, I lost an enormous amount of money and then got sued. Then my marriage ended. And all in between bad stuff happened.

In a lot of ways, I had to start all over. Just like in 1994. In 2000. In 2004. In 2008. 2010. And 2012. I wasn’t broke. But starting over is not about money.

It’s about finally saying, once again, “Ok, I have to make sure I’m doing my X, Y, and Z.” It’s about following my own advice.

I was ready. I had been through it before. I know the stages I go through every time.

I had to wander again.


Something is off. Something cracked.

The first time I left a job I loved, I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed.

So I knew I had to quit. Something was broken inside of me. I quit, I went to start a business, my life changed forever.

I think it’s important to recognize that restlessness. To give permission for it. To even welcome it.

The Search

What the hell do I do now?

The search begins. It’s scary and confusing.

If a relationship ends…will anyone love me again? When I lose a job…will I ever make money again. When I lose all my money…will I go broke and kill myself?

I kept cutting out all the “extra” in my life.

Bad friends, bad people (who are contagious and viral), bad jobs, bad investments. All my belongings and addresses and homes. I cleaned up.

Was ready for the search. Was ready to wander.


Some things won’t work.

Last February, when a company I was on the board of told me they were falling apart I tried everything I could do to save them.

But it didn’t work. Thousands lost jobs. Many lost a lot of money. There was nothing I could do.

I started a novel in early November. But life got in the way. My life turned upside down. I had to stop.

No matter what your routine: a daily practice, a miracle morning, a lot of money, love, family, fun – life happens.

90% of happiness comes from choice, only 10% comes from circumstance.

The wanderer surrenders to the 90%, not the 10%.


People say, “time is money.”

What a pitiful way to look at time.

I took advantage of a friend of mine recently. I’m sorry. She was going to charge me to do some illustrations.

I said, “Ok, tell me what you will charge.”

She sent me a number. I could see what she did. She came up with an hourly rate and figured out how many hours it would take and added it together.

She didn’t have enough confidence in herself.

I agreed and I wired her the money.

Then I told her the truth. I told her she forgot to charge me for the fact that I had chosen her because of her skill. Her creativity. Her brilliance.

I can get “hours” from anyone. I can only get her creativity from her.

She should have charged me a premium for the 13 years of effort she had put into becoming the best in her industry.

She looked down and said, “damn, I didn’t think of that.” I wasn’t going to adjust it either. Next project.

Not that I was such a great teacher here.

I was happy to pay less than I thought she deserved. But I am happy knowing there will be more projects. And I trust who I am. I know things will work out.


When I first lean in to kiss the girl, I’m terrified. 99% of the time I’ve been rejected.

When I start a job, I know it’s going to end in blood. When I start a book, only a 10% chance it will get finished.

Is it the correct decision? It’s so hard to know.

When I started my first company, I gave up all hopes of doing a TV show. Something I had put 100 hours a week into.

When I first got married, I bought the engagement ring and I went to a bar.

I thought to myself, looking at the ring over a drink, I can give this ring to anyone. But I’m about to give it to my soon-to-be wife. Would it be a mistake?

Two daughters and one divorce later, I am so very happy I gave the ring to her. But I think I had a panic attack and died that night.

Every decision is packaged with anxiety. Else your ancestors would have been eaten by lions. Complacency killed the cavemen who had no children.

The key is to make today’s anxiety work for you. And then say goodbye.


Eventually it’s all over. It didn’t work. I got divorced. I lost the job. I lost my money. I make it back.

Every year, no matter what is going on in your life, no matter how “great” you are, bad things will happen. These things don’t make you a wanderer. How you deal with them makes you a wanderer.

Most recently, I gave away everything I owned. When the bank asks for address now I have to give a fake address because I have none.

I’m in California right now. For the next few days, I live here. Then I will live somewhere else.

I’m not starting from scratch. But in my mind every day starts at zero. I’m doing an experiment. I’m surrendering to the moment.


In the latest catastrophe that happened to me, the first thing I did was call five people.

One person gave me a place to live. I didn’t need it. I could’ve gotten my own place.

Don’t worry about it. Here are the keys. Stay as long as you want. You need to be around people.

The second person I called checked in with me every hour on the hour to make sure I was ok. She invited me to be with her friends. To spend time with me. To cheer me up.

The third person I called kept checking in to make sure I was following my daily practice. “Tell me,” and he would count one finger at a time: “Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual.”

The fourth person I called told me he would make sure all my business stuff would keep going as exactly as planned.

And so on.

You don’t seek out mentors. You spend decades building good will with people. Then there is pent up demand of people who want to do good will towards you.

How do you do good will towards people? Start being kind to them. Start coming up with ideas for them. Ten ideas a day.

Start introducing them to others. Start giving constructive advice on their projects.

Offer them a place to live. Offer them a place to rest their hat emotionally, or creatively.

Do it for a year. Do it for 10 years. 20 years. And see what happens.

These become your most valuable mentors. Just like you were for them.


Eventually reinvention kicks in.

You’ve done the search. You’ve had the restlessness. You’ve had the teachers. You’ve had the feedback of what’s wrong or right.

You’ve put in your practice. You’ve rebuilt your energy. You are healthy again. You’ve dealt with the anxiety.

You look out one day and the light is coming through your room and you suddenly have an idea you want to try.

Nobody has ever done it before.

You wrote 10 ideas a day for 20 years to finally come up with something nobody has done before.

I’m excited right now about three or four projects I have. A few months ago I had lost that excitement. Now I’m ready.

The Source

Eventually, you connect with the source again. You are physically healthy, emotionally connecting with people, creative every day, grateful every day for the the magic around you.

You have chosen yourself. You are working on your ideas. They are helping people. They are giving and others are receiving.

You are a still just a drop in the ocean. But it doesn’t matter.

The single drop that is you begins to ripple.

The ripples go out to every shore.

Your search has led you to help the entire world, even in a microcosmic way.

Every day the search begins anew.

But every day I want to be that drop of water. To drift. To float. To bathe in the sun.

Knowing that once again, a storm will come. I will know how to survive it.

A friend told me, “don’t live life like you are going to die tomorrow, live life like you are going to die in a year.”

Ok then. This is the year I’m going to wander.

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  • Felipe Souza Elias

    i really hope everything goes well to you. this can seen not much but in a live time you enriched the live of people like me all around the world and i know that you will get on track because you choose yourself.

  • I’ve had the song “The Wanderer” (by Dion) in the playlist in my car this week. I’ve probably listened to it 10 times in the past three or so days. But the hard thing about that song for myself is that I don’t feel like a wanderer (especially in the sense of that particular song. I am a one woman man.) I haven’t had much reason to wander in any part of my life. I’ve had a fairly lucky one. With the exception of most of my childhood years (which I now realize were crazy), I can’t relate to a lot of this post.

    But then I got to the last part “The Source”, and it just makes sense. I think no matter the size of the slumps in your life, there are definitely those times when you have more energy, optimism, and creativity and you have to draw from it and take advantage of it.

  • Matt

    I subscribe to a lot of email lists. I believe this is the only one I truly read. Thanks James.

  • DrCarter007

    Ten ideas a day…I’ve got to get back to that, got to get back to the mastermind meetings. Thanks for the reminder, James. Happy wandering.

  • The Clearing

    James, you have been so open about the past times where you lost quite a bit and had to recover. And you left the blueprint on how to stand back up. Glad to see that you are practicing what you preach!

  • Tony

    James, your work has been transformational for me, and I thank you immensely for it. The daily practice is built into me now (not 100% every day, but enough to know that it’s working). I’ve managed to make your work known to other people as well, and I know it’s helped some of them too, mainly because they’ve told me they wished they knew of it earlier :)

    Just know there’s a hell of a lot of people out there who appreciate your work and care about your well being. Good vibes for you from down under…

    • Justin Murphy

      I echo this. I’ve also been following James for just on a year now. He is compelling because he isn’t perfect, and carries the flaws of being human like we all do. But he has ideas and life strategies we can understand and follow and emulate. This is his appeal.
      A great and inspiring post, especially as I’ve been on the bottom for a couple of years now, clinging on and willing myself to get back up and get in the game again.
      So another warm thanks from ‘Down Under’: Wellington, New Zealand. (In case anyone reading this doesn’t know there are 2 countries down here that are referred to as down under…lol

  • Hi James, I’ve tried twice to sign up for updates but get an error message from lead pages.

    • Hey Ray, at what link are you trying to sign up?

      • Taruna Goel

        Same problem James. I used the link on the top right on the home page called ‘Free Updates’. On clicking the link, I get a new window to enter my email here: After I submit, I get the following error: Oops, something bad happened! It seems that the page is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later. 5f88f118-0306-4a7a-a0ec-f870ddc8896d

      • Same as Taruna. Top link. Tried the bottom opt in and that one works

  • Mercy

    I love this! I started this same thing almost exactly two years ago, the surrendering to the moment part. Nothing had fallen apart, I was just sick of the feeling that I should be doing something more or something different all the time, to make life happen. I hated that niggling feeling that I need to work at being successful. I decided to see what life wanted from me rather than what I wanted from life. It involved a lot of sitting in parks staring at trees and ducks. Following my feelings. Feeling my feelings. Doing what I felt like doing. So far so good. Life is very good at directing you if you let it. The work is really being ok enough with the moment that you can sense what it is that wants to come through. Love to you James, happy I found you. x

    • end

      (these are such great and inspiring observations. thx mercy!!)

    • thanks Mercy. How are things going now?

  • Paul King

    James Altucher just asked if I was a wanderer … I suppose this song I wrote is the answer.

    Wander away my friend. At least until you have to ask Can I Come Home?

  • MikeS

    Been reading you for 5 years so obviously enjoy your content; this is one of your best. Thanks.

  • Danny

    Nailed it as always. I can never resist reading these from J.A. Thanks for that.

  • John

    Great post, James! It occurs to me that what makes you so unique is your combination of strengths and vulnerabilities. Your strengths make you a powerful change agent, and your vulnerabilities make you accessible to everyone. If you need a place to stay in California for a few days, let me know.

  • waynemansfield

    Good morning from Perth Western Australia

    James I got closure from today’s email… I share your thoughts with lots of people on my journey and I felt left our when there was no more Claudia…

    Poof she was gone with no explanation… and I missed her perspective. So today I find that there was an event and that she mightn’t be back… and I can live with that.

    Also I posted on twitter one of your profound statements – from a friend I believe – “don’t live life like you are going to die tomorrow, live life like you are going to die in a year.”

    So, thanks for letting me look over your shoulder as you live life…

  • Julian Clarke

    Great post! The struggle is REAL!

  • DLB

    Dude, I really like this! I think I’m moving into this moment as we speak. I kind of don’t like it right now because I’m not use to this type of direction (use to being in control/conformity), but I’m learning how to deal/maneuver in it. Cheers!

  • Adrienne Rose

    That was an incredibly beautiful and moving post. Thank you for your candor and insights.

  • Dex

    James, thanks for being so open and authentic. Glad to hear you’re keeping up the Daily Practice. Keep up the great job! I’m truly fortunate and grateful to have come across your works, your books, and your blog years ago. It’s changed my mindset and attitude tremendously and made me a better person. Know that you are doing good work that’s creating positive impact in the lives of others. Don’t let these obstacles and setbacks knock you out. There’s always a silver lining, a light at the end of the tunnel.

  • John Brudenell-leech

    hi James, earlier this year something terrible happened to a friend of mine. I was able to share with them a great article from you. it was the one that said every year really bad things happen – that’s life. excuse the bad misquote. It was a real comfort.
    thank you. with best regards and kind thoughts….

  • Gentlemen Luck

    Hi James, I felt there was some issues a few months back, thanks for sharing another inspiring story. I am recently coming off a problematic year, and because of the inspiration you provided along with some patient, hard & smart work, and surrendering to life’s opportunities, almost exactly 1 year later things are better than ever. I, like you, got rid of all the junk in my life, from an unknown mental disorder that attracted me to destructive people to possessions that just weighed me down. All the physical and mental baggage is gone and I feel free, as if I graduated from the University of Happiness, where you lectured on of the courses, Happiness 101. I’ll share some advice I’ve used for the past decade or so. After accomplishing my life goals around 2006-07, I felt I could die happy. Major problems came and it was ok, because I was ready to “go”, but I stuck around because death comes sooner or later, why not stick around a bit longer? So after sticking around I accomplished more life dreams, and again felt it ok to be fine if I passed. So here I am after another downturn, sticking around, and though nothing’s certain, life seems to be presenting me with more happiness than I ever expected. Point being, you’ve accomplished a lot James, hope sticking around through tough times keeps on giving you happiness. Good luck and thanks for everything, you made a huge difference in my life :)

  • Jacob Lawson

    I am a wanderer. It’s funny how the collective paradigm shift happens. Individually, and yet one can see validation that it is happening to other people simultaneously. Humanity is a beautiful and strange organism.

    I started formal music training when I was ten and by twelve decided that’s what I would do as a career despite foreboding death sentances from loved ones. By 21 I was making more money than I ever have in my life. It was all a slow downhill log roll from there I as I lost interest and became frustrated with compromising until, at 32 and with two young daughters, I decided to go back to college for electrical engineering. I wanted to learn to design and build audio electronics and also wanted the validation of a straight-laced corporate job and heath benefits so I could go to the doctor for the first time in ten years.

    Having to start at the very beginning of “core” classes, and required to take 7 math courses before I could begin taking courses about electronics, I made it my goal to eventually transfer to a prestigious engineering school here in the southeastern U.S. For 3 years I have been going to school full time and maintained a 4.0 GPA. I also finally got divorced, leaving a controlling fascist of “wife” of 13 years who proceeded to sleep with 17 men and several of my friends in the 9 months she wouldn’t sign the papers, while simultaneously libelizing my name on social media. I gave her every consolation in the agreement just too get her to sign and now pay her money and barely get to see my kids. She is still attempting to ruin my life every week.

    I moved in with my mom and spent 16 hours a day doing vector calculus and physics in the basement while my music career dried up from not calling people back. On the day I obtained a decree of divorce I revcieved an acceptance letter from my dream school. I enrolled and begamn attending in January.

  • Vladimir

    Your friend is very much right, because if you know you die tomorrow there is nothing left then except to pray or meditate…
    But if you know you die in a year.
    The life becomes beautiful.
    I guess…

  • Intergarlictic

    We’re on the same life schedule. I’m grateful you are writing about it.

  • A wonderfully honest and insightful post as always, James. “The key is to make today’s anxiety work for you. And then say goodbye.” That bit stuck with me in particularly as a great summation of thriving on our challenges without letting them consume us.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • bella

    thank you for your honesty. You inspire many people including me. Life is never plain sailing. We all go through different struggles in our lifetime. Failure in relationships, failure in business etc etc. As you said life happens. I really like your “make your anxiety work for you and then say goodbye.” I will do just that. James, keep going. I know you will be fine. In failure we learn so much more about ourselves than success.

  • Belinda

    Beautiful Thank You For your Honesty Really Helped me today xDont Stop

  • Sad Days

    The logical side of my brain looks at the time span between your “down” cycles – 6,4,4,2,2,4 … I would say you therefore have until 2020 before your next low (4 years time) … then maybe 6 years after that perhaps. The cycle between bottom and up may have bottomed. I think you will be OK. Just saying.

  • neha deora

    Hello James,

    Its not easy to share your past with someone and you are letting people know indeed and helping them to move on.. Dammn it needs courage to open up and to accept.
    I started reading about you accidentally one day as it popped up in email that you were giving free books on subscribing (:P) and since then every morning the first thing i do after logging in to the system is read your article. I truly love what you write. Every time i read there is a smile on my face wondering whether this guy knows how to read minds or is everyone going through same and think alike. Though I haven’t read any of your books right now but read as many articles as i can in a day and watch your videos. When ever i am free in a day i will be like ok lets read james.. and my day goes well.
    I have even started writing about experiences and places i visit. As its been 16 years i am going different places, enjoying, working and studying. I know you think going college is quite waste of time but, i quite enjoyed it and still doing it.
    I have one nice idea about book. I dont wanna write it or i can say i cant write a book i guess. Can you please share your email. I would be happy to send you . I am sure if you write it ..its gonna be rocking..


    Love Neha

  • robin s

    It is SO, SO ANNOYING the page scrolls automatically every few minutes!! I get lost where I was reading. It’s been like that for more than a year and it’s irritating me so much.
    Please fix this James. You are technical enough to edit the CSS, right?
    Otherwise I would be more than happy to do it. But I doubt you let some stranger mess with your website :p

    Anyways, thanks for all the great stories. It gives me so much motivation to know I can also achieve things as a mediocre person. The time I read your book I was in the best flow of chasing my dreams ever. I’m going to read it again today.

    • Endgame Napoleon

      He can do hardcore programming. If I had those skills, I would have just done that. I do think James should write a novel, though. He has written a bunch of non-fiction. Maybe, he should do a novel, hiring the girl with the underpriced illustration skills to do the book cover. Or, illustrate the book throughout, like 19th century novels. No, do a graphic novel. Many of James’s concepts are visual.

    • Endgame Napoleon

      I do see a little, white text box, covering up my writing as I write and at the bottom after I post.

  • Sonia Garces

    It’s exactly my Life you were talking about James thank You it falls on my birthday

  • James Buechler

    This is great. I love it.

  • Silvia Valdman

    Great piece like most I read from you James…it really speaks to where I am in my own life these days…minus losing millions and minus a divorce..I have my own personal issues but your writings always bring me some comfort and pick me up to get going out of the “bad situation” I imagine myself to be in momentarily..

  • James;

    That ‘drop’ and ‘the ocean’ are both made up of the same thing, ‘water’.

    We are, each of us, avatars for Consciousness at play in the Universe. We, Sparks of Consciousness, use the vehicles named ‘James’, or ‘John’, so that Consciousness can experience physicality and limitation, can play.

    Drop of water, aka Spark of Consciousness = you, and you, and you, and me
    Ocean of water, aka Consciousness = our true essence

    Go play. Yes, it can feel pretty intense at times. Isn’t it great?

  • Noman

    I’m lost. I’m not sure where to go or what to do next. You write “I trust who I am. I know things will work out.” I don’t. I don’t trust who I am. I don’t know things will work out. What then shall I do? Thoughts?

  • Antoinette

    I think James is writing everything I’m going through at this moment in life. I’m destined for greatness and I need to take a real leap of faith. The way I look at it ….. What’s the worst that can happen. The answer is nothing. I personally feel like there is nothing you can go through that you aren’t equiped to get out of.

  • Russell

    Thank you , James. I subscribed to your newsletter due to your expertise in crypto investing and my desire to learn that industry. Today, your encouragement has lifted my spirits and made me believe again. I am facing much uncertainty in my business due to oil industry turndown. In the midst of it all, I have dealt with fear of failure, as well as the pressures of letting down my family as well as myself. This is all I have done for the past 30 years. I’ve been carrying these pressures and fears around while trying to trust that Source will show open the right door for me. I needed encouragement this morning and it came from a most unexpected source. Thank you, James. The load lifted enough for God to wink at me and let me know He’s got my back.

  • Nev

    James, I like your line, “People say, ‘time is money.’ What a pitiful way to look at time.”

  • Shaun Dyler

    Thanks James for being authentic and real- it is refreshing. I have found in my 50 years of existence that it is the Lord that saves, rescues and gives hope. He loves authentic people like you and me who are truly searching for answers, for meaning, for purpose. Money does give comfort and opportunity but it cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our soul. With that said, I would rather have money then be poor and I am thankful to the Lord for your financial wisdom that you are willing to share!

  • Barry Nicholson

    The Joker said it best……Why so Serious?

  • Frostie Weber

    Sooo beautiful <3 Thank you for sharing this, James!!