The Crappy Person Checklist

When I was 40 I completely gave up. I wanted to disappear. Screw passion and purpose. I was done.

I had no friends. Or I was scared of my friends. Or I was ashamed of myself. I forget. Lots of bad things were happening.

I remember talking to a friend and crying on the phone, ‘why is this happening to me again?’

At my 40th birthday party there was me, one person I knew, and all his friends. That was the extent of my close friendships.

That one person who was my friend – he’s no longer friends with me.

What was I doing that was so bad? Why would my friends, family, peers, all stop talking to me. Hadn’t I helped them whenever they needed help? What had I done wrong?

Doesn’t matter.

Never ask why? There is never an answer to why? if you ask the negative people in your life.

There are many posts that will tell you The Habits of Millionaires. Or How to Find Your Passion In Life.

I don’t know. Life is pretty hard. I don’t want more homework.


Here is what I was doing bad:

I was spending time with people who were bad for me.

How do you know if someone is bad for you?

Try this checklist:

  • Do you feel bad or anxious after you spend time with them?
  • Are you more often than not, arguing with them?
  • Do they put you down in a way that is destructive and not constructive?
  • Do they try to limit your opportunities?
  • Do they try to isolate you from your friends?
  • Do they resent your successes in any way – or try to compete with your successes?
  • Do they not listen to you as much as you listen to them?
  • Do they add drama to your life instead of remove drama? And what is drama? It took me a long time to realize what “drama” meant. Drama is for the theater and not for your life. In a good drama, often the hero dies. Don’t be the hero of a drama.
  • Do you get so busy with their life you forget about your own health, your own creativity, your own ability to change and better the world? Remember: if you are not making the choices in your life, someone else is – and the results won’t be good. You need to choose yourself. 
  • Do you sometimes cry after an interaction with them.

If you say yes to any of the above, then even if they are sitting at the table across from you right this second, stand up and go sit at another table.

When I was 40 I had many people in life where I could check the box on all of the above. Even the crying.

Finally, I gave up. I dropped out. I lost touch with everyone for awhile. I moved 70 miles north. I hid.

And I started to write. I was writing about all the bad stuff. Someone even said, “this is like watching a train wreck in action.”

But I wasn’t afraid anymore. And I started to find others like me.

Others who were no longer “civilians.”

Reverse the checklist above.

Those are the people you want in your life. There are very few of them. There should be very few of them.

That is the secret of all success in life. There isn’t anything else.

The other day I was meeting a new friend for the first time. I said to another friend of mine, “I’m always nervous meeting someone new.”
He said, “Why?”

I said, “I don’t know. Maybe I don’t have enough confidence in myself that I’m a good person. Someone worth meeting.”

“Of course you are,” he said. “Look at what you have even done for me in the short time we’ve known each other.”

Listen, he said, just do this. When you meet the new person, lean back and think inside your head, impress me. And then see what happens.

People will quickly show you who they are.

So I did. And now my life is a little better than it was a week ago. And I hope next week… even better.

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  • infocyde

    Great advice, thanks.

  • Joan Marie Wildman

    This topic is my favorite of your posts, James. You wrote a post at one point that literally said “Eliminate them from your life” (referring to “bad people”). Your posts gave me a lot of strength to do just that — eliminate them from MY life. Best advice ever! For some reason, I kept thinking I had to tolerate them or “fix them.” Not!!! Worse, their bad behavior also brought me down – I wasn’t being true to myself.

    A few other toxic signs to watch for: Do they keep their word? Do they tell the truth? Do they respect your boundaries? How do they treat wait staff or anyone who can’t do something for them?

    Love your writing, James. Thank you!!! Hugs from San Francisco!!

  • Angela Coronel Fernando

    I really like this. :) Thanks.

  • Wonderful thoughts. No matter what, there are always some people who will piss you off! Here are some more thoughts on this –

  • Season

    This is exactly where I feel I am. I want to go to a concert but not alone. Then I thought I have no friends to go with. :( But then realized why and that in actuality I do have friends just not one’s who want to go see Beyonce with me. LOL But they are very good friends and no checks on that list when I think of them, so I will go alone to concert and keep them on my friendlist, the ones that would have gone I won’t feel bad about severing ties with them. Thanks for the post!

  • This is the one post I can’t say I relate to very much… It’s just not that hard to avoid crappy people.

  • CathleenY

    I watched the Janis Joplin biography on Netflix last night (Janis: Little Girl Blue). It just hit me: James, you are the Janis Joplin of writing; spilling your soul and the essence of what you really are into the written word (Janis, obviously, did it through song). I think we all have a little James in us screaming (like Janis) to be let loose.

  • Haha I love that the image on this article is Basque people.

  • Jackson Hammer

    Great post, James Altucher! As for hiding away at 40; not there yet! In my own life, it came to cutting out actual family members. As difficult as it was to do so, I found peace afterwards. I did find myself asking ‘why?’ of these people – why treat me this way, what did I do to you, etc. In all, I live by the golden rule (or whatever precious metal you choose): treat others as you wish to be treated. For those that do not reciprocate, I cut the line. It is fast and painless and no blood is lost. One more aspect that I have learned from my wife on sharing time with friends is that when it comes to meeting new people and possibly new friends, make an assessment. Are you ready to take on a new friend application?

  • I don’t know how James writes this much – I’ve been extremely unproductive these last couple of weeks –

  • Richard Jacobs


    Just shaved with the oneblade tonight. Closest shave ever! I think my wife is going to steal it to shave her legs though. Thanks James! Love you

  • Michael Carr

    You are MAGIC James! You are an artist and writer with a HUGE HEART. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a beacon in my life!

  • The star

    James, read your How to treat crappy people post ages ago and your advice is to IGNORE the idiots..Have a question. If the idiot is a boss who made you look bad because a) coworkers spread bad rumors about you which werent true b) nobody liked the idiot boss only the coworkers who reported directly to him/her c) the idiot boss just played politics with you because you are a star performer and ignored him/her. How do you deal with such an idiot? If he went behind your back and create false rumors about you to the same industry, do you stand up and fight or just plain ignore? Will karma eventually come true? Will be glad to hear ideas and lessons from anyone.

  • kanjimanji

    I can’t switch tables now, I’m still reading this!

  • Reverse the checklist and voila! The crappy checklist becomes the awesome one.
    Thanks as always James.

    Carl Kruse

  • The list is true for family members, too…

  • MillenialMayHymn

    I answered yes to all of the checklist, turns out bourbon was using me.

  • Steve

    Help! I live at home with my mom until I go back to school this fall. She crosses a lot of checks on this list.

    I was feeling happy one day last week and being a productive person while preparing for school (fixing my financial aid) and trying to set deals up to get money for a car then she walked in and I felt terrible (cold sweats), insecure, and I wasn’t productive anymore.

    It makes it so no matter how much daily practice I do I always reach a setback the moment I return home. I’ve also cut people because I realized they were terrible for me. Meaning staying at their place it not an option.

    I’m going to be here for another couple of months, but what should I do to keep sane in the mean time?

    • Diana Matic

      In that environment it may help to have a space where it is just yours. This means you know she won’t walk in and you know noone will bother you in that room unless you leave it. It is harder if you live in a one story home but there may be a room in your home that is yours.
      Every day in the morning, can you go somewhere close and walk to have your own space? A park, a beach?
      Will it help to rehearse what you will feel when your mum walks in?
      When I was in this situation, I had to work very hard to change my perception on where I had to live for a while, and every single day write down 10 things that are great about being at home. When you live at home, these are endless (great things) (rent free, no bills, etc).
      Im the kind of person that would rather pay bills and rent than live back at home, but sometimes we find ourselves in situations and we have to creatively make it comfortable.
      It’s been a while since you posted this.. how did you go? :)

  • Abigail Smith

    Love this. It turns out for me that it was my abusive family of origin that was the problem…Now I am no contact going on 2 years, and now life is better than I ever imagined. I was not the problem……..If you do some research on Narcissists, you’ll find that your checklist applies to them

  • Ann Sammon

    Thanks man, good stuff here!

  • Juditta Wolf

    I just got up and moved to another table. Outside of the office. ahaha

  • jamboman

    Great post once again James! I have been a people pleaser most of my life and it just makes me miserable and suffer the company of people I dont even like. I dont know why I do that other than it maybe stems from childhood? I read your list and realize I am still doing it. I feel great though to wake up to this self destructive and stressful behaviour. Good to know I am not the only one with this affliction. ( : I am excited to cut the toxic people from my life. thanks so much for your wise words.

  • Love this. Needed to read this exactly now!

  • nikkop

    The other thing which is just as important, if not more so, is that we make sure we don’t tick those boxes forother people when they spend time with us….

  • Kaley

    My question is, how do you know if it’s the other people around you making you feel that way, or if you’re really the problem… Maybe I’m too sensitive or too thin skinned or take things the wrong way. What if I lack confidence so much that it seems that people are putting me down, even if they’re not? That’s what I’m afraid of… what if I really am the problem?

    • B.L. Myers

      To Kaley. I do believe we teach people how to treat us. Your lack of confidence will allow others to mistreat you. It’s good that you decided to “choose yourself”. Not in a selfish way, but a kind and loving way. Give yourself the love you so freely give to others. It’s okay that you aren’t perfect, no one else is either. We are all works in progress. As for those that mistreat you, stop giving them the power to do so. It’s okay to say no, walk away, or draw a boundary. If they don’t respect your boundaries, they don’t respect you. Respect yourself. As for being thin skinned, I always was too. I cared too much. If you know that you are a good person, it doesn’t matter what others say or think. What matters is what you think about yourself. Do you approve? If so, then you don’t need their approval! It has taken me many years to build my own confidence. It’s okay to be confident, that doesn’t mean your a bitch. Saying what you want and deciding things for yourself is healthy, letting everyone else decide for you isn’t. So, get over the expectation that everyone is going to be nice to you if you are nice to them and deal with the truth. Treat them based on how they treat you instead of how you wished they treated you. If you don’t think you are worth it no one else will either. Best wishes!!! (I rarely comment on anything I read, and I read a lot. I know it’s been a month, so you probably won’t get this. I guess it’s for me as much as it is for you!) Props to James, Thanks!!

  • Patricia Cardona

    Impress me. After a couple of years of consciously choosing myself, this is exactly how I think now when meeting people. I’m inviting them into my space, not the other way around. And when they show me who they are, then I believe them. The first time.

  • Sofia Blomman


  • clemdane

    Yes, I identify with a lot of this. I like it. And I dream of running away. I am almost entirely focused on money right now because to me that is freedom, freedom to walk away from my job, to stop playing the game in the last little ways that I still do. My ultimate goal is to go Full Eccentric. And if I do I know I will attract the right people to me. I know it deep in my bones. But I am a loner by nature and I could go on indefinitely relying on myself alone, being an island. But I know that is not our purpose on earth, so once I have completed my financial freedom the next step is to be open to the right people.

  • Hugs. I am beginning to look forward to these messages. Your willingness to address painful topics impresses me. I hope today is everything you need it to be. :)

  • This is an awesome checklist ;-) sometimes i just had one yes there, but otherwise i have all a big NO :), which is good, another great thing to say how gratitude i am :)
    the daily practice helps me a lot.
    Before I forgot, check the email please my friend I have sent you ;D
    awesome post James

  • This is exactly what happened to me last month on my 40th birthday. I was not alone. There were 5 of us but I still felt alone at my birthday table. Never again! I m in process of people cleaning and I feel so alone.

  • hugh travers

    sometimes we are crappy, and sometimes we are just a little fucked up.

  • Kemi Adeyemi – Wilson


  • andres azpilicueta

    Take good care of your wife James! thanks!

  • Virginia

    Perfect timing. I needed to read this tonight. Discovered an exceedingly ‘crappy’ person in my life tonight. Appreciate this post James.

  • abd

    The crappy checklist is exactly what i need to assess myself in. Thanks Altucher

    Abdo H

  • How about taking a little responsibility ? The responsibility that your freinds are only as good as you are. That you’ve attracted them, at least at some level.

    Do not even flinch !