Here’s How I Win The Day…

What has life taught you recently?


Every day is an uphill battle for me. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I need a spark to start the ignition.

To win the day, you must PLAY:

That was yesterday.

When I was a kid I loved 80s style games. The simple graphics but, for me, incredibly hard skills to master to just be as good as my friends.

For a brief moment yesterday, I was a kid again. And even now, thinking about it, I have the whims and wishes of a child. The hope and anticipation of the future.


I hold all of my business meetings while playing ping-pong. It’s fun, people relax, and it creates a memory.

A meeting in an office is cold. You forget it. It’s meaningless as opposed to living a life with meaning.

The above photo is a business meeting. For ten years I’ve been doing business with the incredible Jami Stout and about to speak at a conference she is organizing. We always meet over ping pong.


This was on my birthday last week.

Aim (archery, basketball, shooting, pool, etc) is an important skill. It’s hard to learn a craft, increase a sense, and improve aim.

Plus it was physically exhausting to shoot arrows for two hours.

There’s no arrow in the bow because I just shot it. I hope this one was a bulls-eye but I forget.


James Altucher - WHAT I LEARNED FROM TIM FERRISS'S 'TOOLS...

Click on the above link, scroll to the bottom, watch the video.

Podcasts are serious business. To prepare for Tim Ferriss I probably spent 50 hours reading and taking notes on his latest book.

BUT, I wanted to have fun. So we made the above video.


Playing chess is like religion for me.

One time I was in Argentina and I showed up at the chess club in Buenos Aires. It’s where Bobby Fisher played Tigran Petrosian in 1971. Where Alekhine defeated Capablanca in the 20s.

They wouldn’t let me.

But then my guest told them what my rating was. They ushered me right upstairs, gave me a tour, and introduced me to the Argentina Junior Champion. We played two games. He won one and I won one.

I can go anywhere in the world and fit right in. And I learn and have fun and meet new people.

The picture above was taken on a first date last July. And, of course, there was a second date.


My daughters won’t listen to my advice.

But often I can hide life advice in the way I teach them games and sports.

So I taught them tennis. In school they always get A+ on tests or they get upset. But you can’t do a perfect serve every time or you aren’t taking enough risks.

They learn this by seeing the score at the end. When they take more risks, they lose more points but win more games.

Games and play is how you can best teach. Not with lectures.


Stephen Dubner wrote “Freakonomics” in, if I remember correctly, 2004.

But ever since 2002 we’ve been in one ongoing backgammon match. We play every week or so.

In that time, between the two of us we’ve written over a dozen books. We’ve both switched careers several times.

We’ve even worked together on two projects that didn’t really work out. A business idea and a podcast that was doing well but just not growing how we wanted it to.

But through it all we’ve maintained a close friendship. One that is, in part, glued together by play. Backgammon has become the backbone of our friendship.


40,000 years ago, humans made musical instruments.

How come? Do they help promote survival? How do they fit into evolution.

Who knows? But one theory is that we used instruments to communicate over long distances. This allowed us to adapt to new domains by conquering bigger predators that were stronger but didn’t have “musical ability”.

It’s also fun. Here I am playing, “Don’t Stop Believing’” on the piano in an Airbnb I stayed at many years ago.


I can’t learn from a textbook. I can’t learn from a lecture. I can’t learn from someone shouting at me.

But I learn from play. And it’s fun. And it makes my happy chemicals spike up.

It also improves my social life. Keeps me active, forces me to be creative. And I’m happy when I learn and I try to learn when I fail.

I measure my life not in years, but in the moments of play.

Which means the more I play, the longer I hope to live.

The longer I hope to love.


(tell me what you like to play to get your day going).

  • Rondo

    Have you heard this commencement speech James?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI

    17:30 onward get very interesting

  • Dorian Gray

    I do the Filipino martial arts, mainly fighting with sticks and plays. While other styles call it sparring, we call it “play.”

    • SupremeTeam

      Kali sticks! OSU!

  • Tony Mangione

    Vinyls. Classic rock. ELO. Fleetwood Mac. Music in the key of G usually. Play em first thing in the morning play them at night they always inject me with energy and positivity

  • Elena

    Badminton! Love this game!

  • Nicole Strong

    I need to start playing something!!

  • mike legrice

    Ping pong is consistently the most fun & laughter I have experienced from any sport, definitely my favourite.

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  • Laur-ie For-bes

    I play in a volleyball league twice a week. I want to start playing drums again so if anyone has a drum set they’re trying to giveaway for free (James?), then I’ll gladly take them off your hands!

  • Alekosescu

    I mainly play online poker and online chess. Miss playing chess face to face on an actual board… :-(

  • Valerie Hunting

    Bass Guitar, Yachtzee with my mum, card games. Missing backgammom and Miss Pac Man. :)

  • Ian Martinez

    I enjoy golf, but don’t make the time. I’d love to swim laps, but never learned how. I don’t play, I just work, and think about work, and work on what I think about. Not enough play. What a Peter Panning I’ve become. That has to change. Let the games begin!

  • Dean Soukeras

    I stopped playing awhile ago. Time to restart and find something that I enjoy doing.

  • melvina’s cat ranch

    this is a beautiful approach, and one that I practice as well. I foster and rescue animals, so my “play” begins with boisterous games of fetch with the kits – yes, cats that play like dogs >^..^<. A very wise man once told me to start my day with "truly something for yourself", and this became my ritual each day. I get my juices flowing, I get to spend time with beautiful furry creatures and experience love and play at its best first thing in the morning. Great advice – thank you for sharing :)

  • Linda Sand

    In the last month, I bought myself four sets of Lego bricks. I’m relearning to play something besides computer games.

  • I love it. I need to play more, myself. All work and no play makes ANYONE a dull boy (or girl). Making time to play is probably one of the most important parts of my life that I’ve been trying to reclaim since the birth of my son. It’s amazing how a child can make you want to work harder, but less. Working SMARTER and playing more is probably where I would find the best balance, though.

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  • Alisha Peck

    I used to play chess all of the time. It’s been years now . I could only ever find one other player , My Dad. He totally ditch me so I write now .I do have a pretty boring life. Oh well another reason for me to go do something different . I like the arcade idea but I’m going to play pinball .
    Thanks .

  • Sharondakis

    Check out Squash. You would like it: it’s like racquet ball and chess had a baby. Agility, strategy, sweat.