How to Be the Luckiest Person Alive, Again

I am mentally ill. And I’m in a mid-life crisis. I’m dishonest. And I’m a horrible father. And I think with my dick.

Thanks to all the kind strangers these past few days who wrote me these insightful facts about myself.

Here is the evidence: I don’t spend all my money on useless things.
I don’t believe in college, or voting. I have never had credit card.

A lot of people didn’t like my article the other day about minimalism.

About the fact that I have two bags of ALL of my possessions in the world and I have no steady address. [see attached photo]

Comments ranged from what I said above to, “This douchebag should get a haircut” to “He is probably screwing crack whores”.

I hope none of these things are true. But if I am mentally ill I probably can’t tell. That’s the sad problem with mental illness.

I am not sleeping in the street, by the way, I just don’t feel like ever signing a lease or buying a home again. And yes, getting a haircut today.

America has a negative savings rate.

That means the average American spends more than they earn so they have to borrow money to buy the rest of the things they spend on.

Which means if you do the reverse of spending (throwing 99.9% of your things away), you are practically the opposite of average.

And what happens when you go the other way while everyone is running to catch the train leaving the station behind you?

People think you are crazy. People think you are missing the train. The train they rushed to get to.

People think you are having a crisis or you are depressed. People think you are less than them because you are not living their lifestyle.

If you stretch beyond what is normal, then you find out who you are.

I have never owned a credit card. So when I had to find an apartment recently and potentially sign a lease, I had a problem. I had no credit history.

My accountant had to write a letter. My lawyer had to write a letter. I had to show my bank statements. And I had to meet every other resident of the building.

I still had to explain why it was that unlike everyone else in America, I have never gotten into credit card debt.

By the way, debt is not a bad thing. Debt is what fuels almost all small businesses. And small businesses are responsible for more than 50% of all job creation in the United States.

For me, though, I have mental problems when it comes to debt. I really am mentally ill.

When I saw my parents lose all of their money and then get severely depressed because of debt I decided never to have any debt.

It’s ok to have money in the bank and not spend it. I value my freedom more than anything. I value being able to create things. Being able to spend time with people I love.

People with debt can do those things as well. No judgment. But I can’t do it. I get anxious.

For me, this helps with freedom. If I lose all my money, as I have many times before (and written about in detail), I go back to what I always do.

I wrote several years ago about something called “The Daily Practice” that I do to bounce off bottom.

One time, I had lost all of my money for maybe the third time in a row. I asked myself, “What am I doing wrong ALL of the time? And what am I doing right when things are going well??”

And then I cried and pretended to be a psychic on Craigslist to meet women.

Bad idea.

But the then I figured out what I was doing on the way up. And I started doing it. Every day. Every single day.

It’s worked for me. I don’t know if it works for others. But I do it.

I wrote about it in great detail in my book, “Choose Yourself!” but in the past few years I’ve modified it a little.

I called the chapter, “How to be the Luckiest Person Alive.” And I really feel that way. Just like people in a mental institution think they are Jesus, I think I am the luckiest person alive.

My New Daily Practice

For context here is the old daily practice:

Every day, work on physical health, emotional health (strengthening your relationships), mental health (creativity), spiritual health (solving “difficult gratitude problems” and cultivating compassion).

If I just do this every day, I know I will bounce back very fast from any hardship.

It used to take me years to bounce back from a hardship. Like losing all my money. Or a ruined relationship.

Now I bounce back so fast people almost think I’m a sociopath about it. I guess better that than being depressed all the time.

When I’m depressed I end up face down in the gutter with cars heading in my direction.

But I have new things that I do that have helped me to bounce back and thrive even faster.

And the new daily practice:

The 1% Rule 

In each of the areas above try to improve 1% a day.

It turns out if you don’t improve, you decline. This is based on research in almost every area of life where there are peak performers: sports, music, chess, art, etc. I like to apply it to life in general.

My podcast with Anders Ericsson, who is the worlds greatest expert on peak performance (discoverer of the famous “10,000 hour rule” of world class performance), discusses this.

I want to be world class at life. But I’ll settle with better than yesterday.

Don’t Ask “Why?”

Every year, people will do things that seem irrationally bad. They will do those things TO us.

You can’t ask “Why?” If someone fires you from a job and you ask “Why?” They are not going to give you a good answer.

If someone lies to you or cheats on you or leaves you and you ask “Why? they will not give you an honest answer. Often there is no answer.

If a lion chases you, humans for four million years never asked “Why?” Actually, that’s totally not true. YOUR ANCESTORS never asked why.

Losers who died asked “Why?” But they don’t have living descendants.

Only in the past 100 years we have the luxury of “Why?” It’s a luxury we abuse.

Only ask “WHY?” when you can gain. Never ask it when you know there is no answer.


Always Be Reinventing. Reinvention never ends. Once we fall into a routine, we fall in a rut.

I appreciate articles like, “routines of successful people.” But life is too big to be stuck in a cage at the zoo.

A lion in the zoo has the same routine every day. But he is no longer king of the jungle.

It’s ok to experiment with your routine to see what works better.

I don’t mean have sex with crack whores. I mean, miss a bus because you performed an act of kindness.

Do it every day.

Its ok to say, I want to wander. I’m not a young person but I still want to wander in life. To experiment. To enjoy things. This is how I stay young.

I write these types of posts every day. I need to do other things also. I am trying to reinvent myself.

I don’t know. Shit in your pants once in awhile and learn what it’s like to be alone.

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  • Michael Gallardo

    James, I’ve been searching for happiness for a long time. I FINALLY came across your blog. I read love yourself like your life depends on it. Because of YOUR blog. And I FINALLY starting to see what happiness is all about. Such a beautiful, weird, awesome thing. I am going to read Chose yourself next! And anything you write. Forever and ever. Thank you so much for your writing. You have helped me more than you could ever know.

  • Rocky

    James, are you still with Claudia?

  • Stephen Hunt

    As a wise man once said, ‘What’s the point of having ^%^& you money if you can’t say ^%$^& you to everyone else once in a while.’

  • Thomas Dotson

    James, You seem like my brother, actually we are all brothers and sisters, but you seem so much like what I think I am. At 63 I finally have gained enough insight to give up on many of the illusions that have been forced upon me by society and friends. There is nothing to be gained or lost…only an adventure to be lived…so thankful that I stumbled upon your blogsite a few weeks ago.

  • Don’t ask “Why”. I like the reasoning. No one is going to tell us the truth. In fact when you start speaking truth most of the times you would get into trouble. Because it is bitter. Very hard to hear. We are living in parallel universe of our own. Each one of us believing something that no body else believes in. And then we hide that belief to adapt with the norm. Great article as always.

    Do you edit any of your articles? This question has been going on in my mind. What process do you follow for your blog writing? Since you spin out such wonderful articles in such a disciplined fashion. Like you have a blog writing factory.

    May be you just write the truth and that’s your secret. Truth does not need editing it has to be read as it has been written without any modification.

  • Laureene Reeves Ndagire

    Isn’t it sad that we usually come to these realisations that less is more in life when we get older?
    All my life, i try to be a minimalist, and this is received with frowns from individuals, ‘but what happens when this, but what happens when that?’ what happened to us being curios and ABR? and if minimalism isn’t for you, why do we see others living an alternative life as ‘mad, off with their heads?
    Even as a minimalist, i still haven’t quite learned the art of travelling light, you will always see me with the heavy backpack weighing me down, because i always think ‘while this might not benefit me, another person might like this’
    Once an artist in a Nairobi market tried to sell me a painting, i told him i had no home to hang it in and i got that ‘off with her head’ look

  • Mike Kimble

    This makes me angry. Why in tarnation would someone suggest you get a haircut? When I look at the picture of you with your belongings I think to myself, “I love James’ hair. It’s his iconic attribute.” Given that mine is a bald head, I’m envious of yours. All joking aside, much love and gratitude for all the wonderful content you put out there James. Every time I read or listen to you I feel inspired. We are lucky to have you in our lives!

  • Caroline Gerardo

    James: Thank you. Artist as entrepreneur is courageous.

  • adokastone

    The only question I had but figured is and was none of my business was if you and Claudia were still together because in my mind you were one of the “cool couples” that one wants to have the storybook happily ever after amen. I agree with most everything else. Hell, if I had a head of hair like yours I would let that grow too, lol. As always, people can be dickheads and you just have to shine them on and keep moving. You have to do you and let everyone else do whomever. Stay James.

  • Edward

    I hope that you are right, that you’re just reinventing and living life on your terms, but…(and I mean this in the nicest, most supportive way possible)..are you sure you’re not cracking up? As a listener to your podcast I know you are (were?) married to a woman named Claudia and seemingly very happy with that. Is…she in the bag? Not my business, I know, but when you develop a fan base online and tell them how happily married you are on a regular basis, then suddenly announce you’re homeless with no place to lie down…it does not sound good. And don’t give me the “I don’t care what you think” nonsense. Only sociopaths don’t care what people think. People who don’t care what people think also do not bother to respond to those thoughts in a blog post. I hope you are NOT in a crisis is all I am saying. Although if you are…perhaps you could use some of your (everyone seems to assume) internet fortune to spend a month or two lying in the Waldorf or something? Whatever the truth is I hope it goes well for you.

  • Very insightful and incisive thoughts.

  • Captain Mike Rides

    James, I am truly sorry that you have gone through a breakup with Claudia. And I’m glad the daily practice has helped you get through it. I cannot imagine breaking up with the love of my life, but many of my friends have and I know it’s devastating. All the best to you.

  • Martin Miller

    I remember you saved my life. I remember that feeling the first time I read you’re stuff, the google Angels who have your back took me to your page when I felt life was having a dump on me. You taught me how to see that getting perspective is everything. These days I try to be grateful and remember that whatever I’m doing is someone else’s idea of heaven and I picture how they feel and I feel it.

    You taught me to appreciate and embrace change instead of dreading it.

    I know you couldn’t give two shits about what people think and I know it means everything at the same time so from all of us who got your help.

    Thanks James

  • DavidELippman

    James, you don’t know it, but you’re my guru!! Be as well as you can be, I’m rooting for you! If I lived in New York, I’d offer you my couch and make you some Bulletproof Coffee in the morning!

  • Mar162016.Hq

    Hi, James, my friend, no matter who said you have mentally ill, or you are dishonest, or horrible father. basically they don’t know you. so when you get to hear it, just smile at them. Please look, the sky is so high, the ground is so vast, the space is so illimitable, but who is not just a point or a moment from the birth to the death? so believe what we believe, trust what we trust although anything is being changed with time. Hold your hands in my heart. Have a good weekend. :-)

  • Ted Scarborough

    Hey James, put some of your comments from assholes on here and let your fans rag on them. You can resist the urge to listen or respond to them. You’ll feel better.

  • Ignore that haters. What you’re doing is great.

  • Tom Metsa

    Absolutely love this post. Yet I’m a little insane and had a really great/bad month all at the same time. Love your writing….can’t let others dictate my future….or maybe I can. Just a conscious choice I guess….yet if I’m crazy…I don’t know that…

  • Ann Price

    Nothing wrong with your choices, if they work for you.

  • Laurie Baggio

    James – the last line is gold… so very true! Enjoy your next phase…

  • You are a freaking wild man (shit in your pants?) I was with you till then.
    You are not crazy you are the inspiration to thousands…thanks

  • Adam

    James, i look forward to seeing an email from you every day. I know that when things are tough i can just go into my inbox and get a spark of inspiration from you that will help me keep going. Haters will hate, don’t drink the haterade.
    Know that with your advice and books i have begun to really choose my self.
    Thank you for that James!

  • David Harbour

    James, the ones that complained about the article, are probably in debt and hate their jobs, and maybe even their lives.

  • Isabel

    Well… I think you are fantastic.

  • A. B. Landis

    What did I miss? What happened to Claudia?

    • Jesse

      I think he told us in the first paragraph.

  • Mel

    Don’t listen to them James. You do what makes you happy. I respect you for that!

  • Cathie Tufnail

    Thanks for your article James. Your timing is perfect! I’m not a young person like you, I’m 50 in a couple of months and I can confidently say routine is a killer. Ignore the idiots, keep doing what your doing, I love reading your blog! Here’s to making changes. I’m keeping my pants clean though :-)

  • Tim Maxwell

    Yeah, you’re a nut. And, if I’m being honest, I disagree with a lot of what you say. But you’re my still my favorite influencer. And your book practically saved my life.

  • Andy

    Hey James. I think one of the main reasons that a lot of folks didn’t like your article on minimalist living is partially because you didn’t really explain how you cope and maneuver with daily living. You didn’t fully explain the freedom of being homeless and having plenty of money to do whatever you want. Like, “how do you decide where to sleep every nite?” “how do you pay for things?” Where and what do you eat?” You left a lot of mystery and unanswered questions with a lot of folks about the joys of minimalist living, so they could’nt wrap their minds around it as an alternative. The style of living that you have adopted to live like now can be compared much to the way Jesus actually lived. Jesus didn’t own a home, rented places daily or for only a short time, lived among the people, was considered a radical by the establishment, didn’t have a full time employer, never went into debt, had very few belongings, etc… Don’t let a comparison to Jesus go to your head. All I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with living the way you do and it can be proven to be a way to great happiness.

  • Elizabeth Ellis

    I just love you. Don’t ask why.

  • Elijah Szasz

    Hey James – I read the first pass of this during a pretty shitty time in my life, and it really made an impression on me. I’ve since made my own version of the Daily Practice using top level categories of health, wealth and relationships. All in, I always keep it to no more than 12 actionable things every day. It’s what I liked about your practice: it’s actionable and binary. You woke up before 5am, or you didn’t. You exercised for an hour, or you didn’t. I like the spirit of your practice additions, but always have a hard time getting my head around rules like “1% better”. I have no idea what 1% better at anything even looks like, unless I’m looking at a financial report or a fitness tracker. That said, I don’t even know what “better” is. All I can come up with is a growing ability to be less reactive to whatever crap gets thrown my way. And even then, it’s hard to measure and often means one step forward and two steps back. By the tone of some of the comments, it sounds like you might be having a couple of those steps back right now. I guess we’re all trying to figure this out – to create an adventure and to keep reinventing ourselves while smiling through it. But during those times when the sailing gets rough, the simplicity of a binary checklist can be your best friend. I’ll leave the pant-shitting to my 2-year-old, who seems to do enough of it for both of us.

  • ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmmm

    i think you are a nut case, but I love to read your inspirational articles…wait! I am a nutter myself ;)

  • You inspire me every time I read your blog. I use to stop by your blog every single day when I worked a corporate job. I couldn’t wait to read your latest post on life. Then I finally took the leap and resigned from my cushion, super secure, well paying job to do what I love and whatever the hell I want. Here I am, two years and two months later, grinding and living an even more amazing life. Your articles definitely helped me get through some fears and doubts. Thank you!

  • karl

    I thought the article was great ,99%of people cant live like that which is strange but inspiring that you are.Dispose of possessions and your left with just the person you are which is a new level of scaryness for near everyone , love your work ,keep going mate and those who are negative fuck em

  • FlyD

    Just awesome as usual!!! :-) xx

  • Jason W

    To those asking..and to my curiosity as well, to my knowledge James has not yet come out (in writing at least) what happened with him and Claudia. Perhaps this is out of respect…mutual agreement.. or maybe even an NDA; but it seems to be a ‘low info’ subject(which is strange in James’s world not much is off limits :). Now before everyone bombards this with its personal life and he has every right not to say anything, I COMPLETELY agree….However, James is a storyteller and Claudia was a bit part to James’s stories and now that she is seemingly out of the picture, his followers are going to want to know why.

    • end

      I appreciate your comments because this whole giant mute elephant, however you say that, is such a challenge to fans and readers..their relationship was a central theme and even like their ‘brand’. So yeah, it’s all very mysterious and kind of weird for it not to be addressed. Then again, I realized my curiosity is nothing compared to what it must be like for what the two of them are going through. My heart really goes out to them both. It must be like the ultimate ‘choose yourself’ undertaking to get to a place of acceptance with the new circumstances, whatever those are. I wish for them all the help they can get, to get through it. Anyways thanks Jason for your post.

  • Newbie

    The “luckiest” Man on Earth; you wake up from sleep healthy everyday, you feel safe, and you have enough food for the day. You got ALL what you need.