I Miss Nothing…

They fired me as CEO because I was so bad. A few months later they kicked me off the board of directors. I lost a ton of money and all my friends.

I wish I had just done nothing. I wish I had read books. I wish I had written that novel. I wish I had played more games.

People get up and say, “OK, today is the day of MAGIC!” I have to do DO something.


I turn on Facebook and there’s all of this “DO” porn. If you aren’t hustling you’re a failure. This is BS.

There’s nothing really to do. The world doesn’t need more DO-ers. A lot of people DO things that are meaningless and then they die.


Almost every passion I have has been kickstarted by reading a book. Or watching a good movie.

When you read, you absorb the entire life of another person.

Every time I read a good book, it inspires me with ideas. Most of the ideas are really bad. If I did them, it would be stupid. I’d miss out on the next book to read.

But still…one idea out of 10,000 might be worth pursuing. But you have to read a lot by yourself, doing nothing.


I like to walk around and look at people. People are ugly and gross and disgusting. That’s fascinating to me.

I like to play ping pong. Or hang out with my kids. Or make jokes with my friends. Or play chess with homeless people in the park.

Or watch videos of comedy. And laugh.

The opposite of doing. The opposite of loneliness.


Sometimes I feel this pressure, “If I don’t do something then people will forget about me”. It’s anxiety. I hate it.

I asked Ice T once, “if you do nothing, how long will it take for people to forget about you”.

He responded almost instantly, “six months”.

So that’s it: if you don’t DO for six months, you’re forgotten.

But that’s OK with me. I can do nothing forever, and if I decide to do something, I’ll try to make it have enough value that it will have impact.

24 years ago I wrote novels that never got published. Now I write other things. I planted a seed all those years ago and now it grew into something I never would have expected.

Plant seeds. It takes a long time to grow.


If you can’t inject your soul into something, it’s not worth doing.

When you do anything, you’re competing against the other 7 billion people on the planet who want to do things.

Who wins: the one who injects soul and experience into a project, or the one who is just DOING(!!!) it?


I failed at a company once. And I had to rest afterwards. At first I thought, well I better start another company.

But then I ended up doing nothing for awhile. No writing. No company-starting. Just back off. Just learn. I ended up meeting someone I was in love with.

I ended up writing random things without caring what people thought.

A lot of people said, “this is like watching a train wreck in real time”.

Doing nothing and not caring made me a train wreck. The book based on that writing has sold 600,000 copies so far.

I made some money doing consulting and speaking. I traveled a bit. I made friends. I kept afloat.

And then things started happening again. I started DOING.

But first I had to be still. You can’t appreciate the light until you are sitting completely quiet in a room filled with dark.

I’d walk by the Hudson River. I’d throw walks in. Sometimes I’d wade in until I was underwater, floating, thinking of nothing.


Related reading: How to be THE LUCKIEST GUY ON THE PLANET in 4 Easy Steps


The world is re-creating itself. It’s changing. It’s automating.

The things people used to be excited to do are now being done by robots.

Sleep a little later now.

Some days I feel I have to go on call after call, meeting after meeting, too many things to do. And then I’m tired because what was the result?

Then I miss what I truly love. I miss the reading, the enjoying, the people, the stillness.

Stillness ultimately creates, Doing often destroys.

Out of silence, the universe was created. Out of two people in love, in the dark, you were created.



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  • Lil Peck

    “If you can’t inject your soul into something, it’s not worth doing.” Actor Jack Lemmon’s father, a baker, said that when the day came that he didn’t find romance in a loaf of bread, he would quit.

    A similar motto I go by is, “If it isn’t fun, quit.” I think a lot of people get stuck doing stuff they hate, forever, because they don’t want to be “quitters.” I’m one of the best quitters there are, because when it stops being fun, I give it up. Of course, my idea of fun might look an awful lot like very hard work to someone else.

  • Rebecca Frankel

    This is My G-d by Herman Wouk – I highly recommend it – especially for someone who seems somewhat disenfranchised with our religion. In fact, I imagine that you must have at least a grudging respect for the person who wrote such classics as The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War, etc. Not the same radical style as Pynchon, but good, dependably good, reading.

  • If you need motivational posts to hustle, you’re doing the wrong thing.

  • Anouk

    if winning is just a matter of injecting “soul and experience” in a project, where is the syringe? in your books? which ratio of soul-experience is required?…

    Since “follow your passion” is a cliche that now stinks you say “passion your follow”. Good luck with that message but I am afraid it will start to stink very soon too.

    I don’t know how it feels competing with 7 billion people but it must be horrible. I think that if you are able to let your soul unfold in a particular project you already won no matter what and asking “who wins” is pretty much meaningless

  • Great post. You can’t do if you haven’t taken time to know what it is that you should be doing.
    Most ppl just do and do and do, then they find out they are doing what they really shouldn’t be doing.

  • Anny Smile

    You will be ok, I’m sure!

  • Brian Omv Dane

    To some people work is not work unless you kill yourself doing it, shame on them.

  • Thomas Dotson

    Beautiful and meaningful post my friend.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    As the old saying goes, “Work to live, don’t live to work.”

  • Shane

    I was created in the daylight, in the park under a picnic table… So I’ve been told.

    • Paul_Morphy

      We’ve all been to that park once or twice before.

  • This article is where I’m at right now.

  • Cat Volz

    Like your correlation of “doing” to “loneliness.” That’s why we need a break sometimes– because doing is impossibly lonely. There’s no inspiration in execution.

    • Paul_Morphy

      I can’t say that I agree with you, but it’s a great quote nonetheless : “There’s no inspiration in execution.”

  • “I ended up meeting someone I was in love with.”
    In bold, no less.

  • K3vinF .

    I’ve been doing nothing for 13 years and I highly recommend everyone give it a try when they are ready. I was ready.

  • Really well thought out post, I like…no LOVE it. Funny that we get caught up in “doing” and often our super amazing ice cream sundae type of belly feeling is not around what we are “doing” … what if? What if we did EXACTLY what we loved to do, at whatever pace was our choice, and enjoyed our life more? Hmm….

  • James Buechler

    Lately during the midst of my high pressure day I just sit and it’s wonderful

  • Mony VK

    Awesome Article. Love doing nothing and just being….

  • Matt Miller

    I so love this article.

    “Most ideas are bad…But still…one idea in 10,000 might be worth pusuing.”

    That’s so true!

  • Daniel Osterman

    Great perspective – I’ve found a similar result in my own journey!

  • John Halderman

    Yes . . I too stepped away into Do Nothing, and found my Oneness.

  • Barbara Demmocks

    And this is where I am at right now. A little anxiety is beginning to kick in….

  • Shirley M Nishimoto

    Once upon a time, I got caught up. I feels good to be needed. Then it goes away and you’re alone. Everyone around me is “busy.” They don’t have “time” for me. Busy in this country is synonymous with the work ethic. I got tired and decided to step off the merry-go-round. What do you know, the world didn’t end.

  • Jim Noyes

    I’m s Christian guy who is pretty much a train wreck. But in reading your posts I feel that God is speaking to me through your writings. And I thank you…

  • Good article, James. Nice to pause and be still for a while and just observe life and living and all that it entails. The rat race can wait for another day…

  • Some of the best advice I ever got regarding working with people and staff is “to do nothing, these problems have a way of working themselves out”. It’s insane how much he was right about that. Time and time again the answer js to do nothing. It’s incredible really and yet so hard to remember.

  • Natalie Hillar

    thank you for writing this. I also needed to have a period of nothingness and stillness after suffering a complete breakdown and a couple of attempts to restart. I’m thriving now, and put a lot of it down to my period of doing not much at all, but living.

  • pacman

    It amazes me how so many of the entrepreneur pages are full of pride in working 60 hours a week.

    • Paul_Morphy

      I did roadie work for a Genesis tour back in the 80’s. If I ever work 60 hour weeks again, the artist onstage better be me.

  • pacman

    If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

  • Rachel Nichols

    I have read that after 6 or 8 hours you accomplish so little in a day’s work that it’s counterproductive. Wish my brother’s manager would figure it out. My brother works 12 hour days as a matter of course!

    • Paul_Morphy

      It hits different people at different times in different ways, but work overload still sucks.

  • I was just let go from a firm which I experienced 12 phenomenal years of top sales performance, and one stinker, the last and final year. Go figure, I was eliminated in year 13. Now I know 13 is supposed to be an unlucky number, but it has always been my fav. I know I should be terrified because I live in Toronto and, well, shit’s expensive up here. Interestingly, I’m not. I feel relieved. I feel as if a weight was lifted from my chest. I have rediscovered the luxuriousness of napping. The joy of reading. The kicks of people watching. Am I in shock? Maybe? It has only been a week. All I know is that as a result of the uncanny resonance I feel each time I open an email from Altucher Confidential, I feel as if the message was meant to remind me that I will be okay, perhaps even better.

    I have spent the bulk of my life as a ‘human doing’ I think I may spend one more exquisite week reminding myself what is like to be a human being.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences James,

  • Marta Lucas

    James, keep these coming! I just finished reading it and will print it out for keeps. I almost cried, because I thought that it was strange to just sit and read, or just think and be still. Maybe pray and talk to God every day. Most people are running around doing things that don’t have real value for them. I am not one of those people and probably never will be.

  • John H

    James, I believe I read in one of your recent articles that you were interesting in really learning how to leverage on-line advertising as another stream of income? I have a strong contact for you if you have interest in someone who lives and works in this field daily.

  • TJB

    I do not understand how this piece reconciles with the same ‘Crypto Millionaire’ person who is now pushing a ‘get involved in (e.g., get rich quick in) Bitcoin/Crypotcurrencies’ by buying his ‘program’? ‘Slow down, BUT DO HURRY UP and buy my cryptocurrency program!’ Really, James??

  • Daniel Gefen

    This is pure genius. Really touched me deeply. Thank you

  • Nariman Parker

    I stopped working the end of June, if Ice T’s to be believed, I’m soon to be forgotten.

    • Paul_Morphy

      Not really, but your game is not as tight as T’s is.

  • KiwiWenders

    LOVE this. Thanks. Currently on sabbatical from PhD to restore and re-group. Reminder to VALUE this stillness :)

  • Alex Heifetz

    I am happy James Altucher is able to lead a life of leisure and reading, but I found the following passage puzzling. “I like to walk around and look at people. People are ugly and gross and disgusting. That’s fascinating to me.” Fascinating? I wonder why I never thought of people that way. Not because, supposedly, G-d created mankind in his own image. And yes some people are conspicuously unattractive. I am not sure why. People are… people. Nobody is perfect. But they are not ugly and gross. Plus you cannot experience them just by looking at their physical features. Attitude, body language and actions always come into play. And then every person is lot more that a physical self. Everyone is connected to life in a myriad of ways, by what he/she does, relationships, dreams. Everyone made something if him/herself. Everyone has a story. Doesn’t one have to like people in order to motivate them and teach them how to live? Do all handsome, beautiful and wealthy people feel this way? .

  • Katherine Pickett

    I needed to hear this, now…while mired in the guilt of my analysis-paralysis…I still need to do, but being still is also so important…I need to build that into my routine and give tell the relentless guilt to fuck off. Thank you Mr. Altucher.

  • Mike Ewald


    “Long into that darkness peering,
    long I stood there
    wondering, fearing, doubting,
    dreaming dreams
    no mortal
    ever dared dreaming before.”
    ~Edgar Allan Poe


    ….”And those who were seen dancing
    were thought to be insane
    by those who could not hear
    the music.”
    ~Friedrich Nietzsche


  • Thank you for sharing such a treasure, it’s really made me feel love.

  • Geoarrge

    If you’re going to do nothing, do it properly and take a nap.

    • Paul_Morphy

      You make a good point.

  • Travis Masonheimer

    I loved this article. I want to hear from other creatives who agreed with the way James put it. Travismasonheimer@gmail.com thank you all