How I’ve Lived Off My Ideas (sort of) For 20 Years

lived off my ideas

[The picture is of me, this past Monday, going over my list of joke ideas right before going on stage to do some standup comedy at StandupNY on 78th and Broadway. 10 ideas a day works for anything.]

Since 1997, I have 100% lived off of my ideas.

Some years I was rich. Some years I was dirt poor, depressed suicidal, and greatly in debt to banks and IRS and family.

If you type “I want to die” in Google, I’m the second or third result. I’m the “I want to die” guy.

One Father’s Day my daughters bought me a scooter. My first ride I flipped over and flew ten feet. My kids yelled, “Daddy!” and started running towards me. I didn’t move.

I wanted to be dead. I wanted the worry in my stomach to just stop for one, please ONE, second. That worry ate my stomach alive.

I wanted my daughters to love me. To miss me if I were dead.

But I didn’t die. And each time I was stuck and on the ground, only ideas saved me.

Ideas, then good ideas, then execution, then Do-ing, then networking, then idea sex, then turning an idea into a future vision, then monetizing the idea. Then more ideas.

It took me a long time to learn how to not self-sabotage on the last two steps.

Before really hitting the accelerator on monetization so the value that was created continued into a much larger picture.

Ugh. What a long and ugly time! For an ugly person who never forgave himself.

A company, Highbrow, just approached me about doing a 10 part course. I said, “How about on becoming an Idea Machine. From beginning to monetization and beyond!”

Here’s my outline.

Please tell me: Would you take a course like this? Yes or No.

People lie and say “ideas are a dime a dozen and execution is everything?”

This is the biggest lie told in “business self help”. It divides the amateurs from the pros.

Why? I sort of explain in the outline below. But anyone who says that has never truly executed.

I have a fun idea I’m going to do today. It involves a subway, AJ Jacobs, hugging people, and a lot of laughter. And I WILL monetize it.

It’s an idea and we’ll execute.

But I’m never going to ride a scooter again. I don’t want to die anymore.

Course Idea. It would be free. 10 emails. Tell me if you would sign up:


Ten classes, delivered via email. One a week.

a. What is creativity?
b. How the idea muscle atrophies?
c. What is passion and purpose?
d. Why ideas are not “a dime a dozen”
e. Execution is everything BUT execution ideas are a SUBSET of ideas. You still have to be an idea machine to execute

a. How to do it.
b. Homework assignment
c. Ten days of ten ideas
d. The benefits of a waiter’s pad
e. Why you should throw out all the ideas.
f. Personal story of how I started this.

a. Examples of idea sex
b. Homework assignment
c. What is a “comfort zone”?
d. How idea sex breaks you out of the comfort zone

a. 3 exercises for finding your passion.
b. Is there such a thing as passion
c. Why it’s important to focus on passion.
d. What “focus” really means – the Umbrella technique

a. The real value of a network
b. How to use ideas to build your network
c. How to reverse network
d. Permission networking.
e. Seed networking.

a. How to use ideas to DO
b. Why content marketing is the wrong approach for brands

a. How to know if you have a good idea?
b. Examples of coming up with execution ideas.
c. The value of testing execution ideas.
d. Fail fast to succeed forward (i.e. the value of having a strong execution idea muscle).

a. How to use ideas to build the resources to skip the 10,000 hour rule in any area of life
b. Homework assignment

Bringing it all together:
a. Identify a good idea
b. Basic execution
c. Idea sex.
d. DO IT Marketing
e.. Idea networking
f. Turning an idea into a motivational vision
g. How to share the vision to build a tribe
h. Turning that into money.
i. Personal stories.
j. Homework assignment

a. Ideas don’t exist in a vacuum.
b. Histories of ideas and creatives
c. Futurism and its role in idea generation
d. How to escape the beaten path and wander safely into the jungle of creativity
e. How to learn from everything you read and experience
f. Next steps for turning into a super idea machine
g. The complete resource guide for everything you need to be a permanent idea super hero.

Thinking of this outline brought back memories from 15 years ago. Writing down my a list of ideas when I was so scared I could barely breathe.

For the first time in years I felt a tiny bit of hope. I felt it in my chest. I am still alive.

  • Christian

    I want in

  • Gareth

    Yes I’d subscribe

  • V B

    Yes please James, sounds great.

  • Sounds interesting. I think I would give it a whirl. ;)

  • Max Kimmel

    I might be willing to give it a try

  • Sharmin

    Count me in! Thank you!

  • jeffcalloway

    James – Count me in! I will take the course.

  • Adrian B. Dean

    Yes, I want in

  • learningguy

    Count me in.

  • Hell yeah!

  • Mandy Mason

    I would definitely go for it!

  • Alisha Peck

    In a heart beat ! I think the outline is great! I like that it’s clear and to the point . I will most defiantly do and how about this if there is something not working for myself I’ll let you know since my learning style is well, different hahah .
    Thanks James that’s really neat!

  • Andy Tillman

    Yes, I’d take that course.

  • Esther Molenaar

    Yes! I would sign up.

  • David


  • pranav sood

    Yes would definitely sign up , have been trying to introduce the ten ideas a day concept in my life and I feel this might be just the boost required

  • Paul Canty

    Yes! I would do it… I like your idea flow and see it in how you write and express yourself. This is visible in your blog, your emails and your podcast all of which I am a fan of.

  • Olga Yarovan

    Yes yes yes yes
    Dear Mr. Altucher:), I would love to take this course!!! Whoohoo!!!! I am crazy exited about it!!! I desperately need it. everything from you is alive and extremspiring!!!! I need to train my idea muscle. It’s like water in Arabian desert. It’s like a breath of a fresh air in a Space suit. It’s like a fresh coffee on a spacecraft:)!!!This is not JUST about monetizing ideas, (however I’m hoping for this luxurious side effect, I’m poor as a church mouse…rich already in my head;). I despise powerty, where I came from. I can’t go back there.) But more important IDEAS, becoming idea machine, being actively alive in idea economy makes me feel really ALIVE and real myself! I feel like finally I am not afraid I just enjoy everything so much!!! I just fell in love with today’s idea economy times. I’m very exited!!! looking forward for this course and for anything from you.
    Love Olga

  • Buffie Rogers LaRocca

    Yes.. I need this right now.

  • Sensitive RAB Guy

    I’m in. When do we start?

  • Heather Keller

    yes I love new ideas!

  • Mike McCormick

    Brilliant idea, I’m in!

  • Kim Noble

    James, I would love to do that course!

  • Sibo


  • Dimitra

    I’m so in!! How do I sign up???!!! :-)

  • Jason Serapiglia

    In for sure

  • Scott Worthington

    Hellz Yeah.

  • Lyle Foxman

    I probably would, but find that I wouldn’t finish it. Fact…Most don’t finish online courses that are free or low cost. Successful online education happens when we think “Lifelong Kindergarten” a spiraling process in which children imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, reflect on their experiences – all of which leads them to imagine new ideas and new projects.
    Here’s 10 ideas on creating a successful online education program:
    – Real world problem solving to achieve rigorous goals
    – Curate your information and make it more useful
    – Create a curated group of peer learners who help each other perform at their highest level
    – Think Lifelong Kindergarten
    – Autonomy, mastery and purpose
    – Projects that move fast and help build momentum
    – Project based learning featuring challenges that invite activity and discovery
    – Group Challenge (do it together)
    – Let students debate
    – Create intentional conditions for innovation and creativity.


    • Jeanne Birnkrant

      Yes, sounds like a great idea! :)

  • Steve

    Yes!!! – Especially the exercises to find what you are passionate about!

  • You have to do this — or I am going to send you a scooter.

  • Kate Jeffries

    I think I would, yes. Depending on cost being ‘reasonable’ (and that changes subjectively as much as the wind direction :-))

  • Kevin Morris

    Yes, I want this

  • Stephen Matheis

    Yes, please!

  • TLeah Edwards

    I’m thinking, cause I know I like to start things, projects, whatever and don’t ever really finish them. Sooo I can’t say for sure…

  • Brad Brady


  • Don Kern

    Yes. I’d take this course

  • Patti Carnahan

    I’m all in. Please. Soon. I am so in, I am printing your outline list to read every day until you start the course. :)

  • Paul Brian

    Sign me up! Maybe one day you could record your standup for those of us not in the NY area :)

  • Patrick Cunningham

    Yes, I’d sign up. Gladly.

  • David Warren

    Would love to get that coarse! Sign me up!!

  • Enid Karpeh

    Sure, I’m interested in taking the course. I love your work!

  • Undoubtedly. I’ve been practicing my daily ideation, but this can only help. Thanks for conceiving and sharing!

  • Sergio Chavez

    Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

  • Abhishek Agrawal
  • Scott

    Yes sign me up please. I’ve been doing the 10 ideas a day exercise for months but want to monetise one of them

  • carlonavato

    I’m in James:

  • Matthew Whyatt

    I’m in

  • Майк Рам

    Yes, count me in

  • David Rudko

    I’ll be a part of this, count me in.

  • Steve Eunpu

    Yes but this needs a magic wrapper that monetizes the content and delivers compliance for the reader. My 30 day test almost complete. Details soon…

  • Mārtiņš Zutis

    Yes, I am interested

  • Thomas Walborn

    You sold me on it after the third week. I confess I skipped ahead to read week ten. Does that make me a bad student? Please sign me up.

  • Donna McGovern

    YES YES I am IN for this course!! When and Where!!

  • Divyansh Khattak

    Definitely in on this one!

  • Laurie Jerris


  • Tracy Ricks

    Yes I am in

  • Yes!

  • Steve Wilcox

    This would be terrific

  • KarlMealor

    I’m in

  • Rishi Bhatia

    YESSSSSS !!!!!

  • Chace


  • Mike Cardwell

    Yes please! Probably learn more than in 4 years of college.

  • HopeInParis

    Yes, I would sign up for 10-mail free course! When do we start? Thank you!

  • Dawn Larkin

    I would love to go through the course. Its very exciting! Thank you for lending us your brain/ideas!

  • John Kainik

    I’m in. You might want to charge something for the course.

  • Carla Kavinta

    Yes – would definitely sign up.

  • Bryan Nelson

    sign me up!

  • Stimpy

    I’d sooner be buried alive than attempt standup. I think that your course might be of more interest and value than the Thermodynamics course they made me take in college.

  • Chris Peden

    I have enjoyed your Choose Yourself books, and have completed the Idea Machine book. I look forward to taking this course!

  • Beryl

    I would like to join in.

  • James Husum

    I’d take a course like that.

  • Peppino Zappulla


  • Kent Hickey

    Yes, please! Can it start yesterday?

  • Kuda Regi Nyatsambo

    You’ve slipped to 8 on the “I want to die” google search ;-). Love your content. Thanks

  • Tiffany Herring

    I’d totally sign up.

  • Sean Brison

    Sounds awesome James. I’d sign up

  • Sharleen Herz

    sign me up! I could use the structure to get me started….

  • Sign me up!

  • Heather Hobbs

    I’m in!

    • Gonzaga Moris

      Wow glory to the Lord

  • Steve Richmond

    I’ll be your Huckleberry

  • ashley kujan


  • ashley kujan

    I do so love being an idea beast in the creative jungle, swinging from imagination vines all day long, but I guess it would be nice to actually make some income off of such a lifestyle…would I have to interact with “decent” society, start wearing clothes, etc.?

  • Nick

    I’m all in!

  • David L.


  • Alex Peterson

    Sign me up.

  • cleonard1971

    Though I’ve read about your techniques in Tools of Titans and Reinvent Yourself, I still struggle with all of this. Would be enthusiastic about the course.

  • Bruno Solís


  • SashaHaidei

    Thank you James for todays e-mail, especially with the phrase “People lie and say “ideas are a dime a dozen and execution is everything?”” this is what I’ve been thinking about lately, because I get so many ideas it’s crazy and sometimes they are so good that I call one of my friends whose business I think will benefit from one of them and good thing I haven’t been beat up or hung up on yet, because I do it pretty often. However, I would love to learn how to profit from the crazy amount of ideas that I have so your course would be priceless!

  • Jennifer Alwood

    Yes. I would be very interested in taking this course.

  • airheart

    I’d take that course. And I’m glad you didn’t die. By the way, I saw a really cool dude in Tucson last Friday – listening to Ozzy, driving a Jeep, and looking rather like you. We said hi, no matter who he was, because he was an interesting person.

  • Findlay Muir

    Yes! I’d take this in a heartbeat….and please look after yourself.

  • Paul Robson

    Yes definitely!

  • IMPACTfull Life


  • Kuok Jein


  • Sparky59

    Yes, please, anxious to take that course!

  • Dan Lagronio

    Yeah, I would take this course

  • Jorge Andrés Amo


  • Arno Stander


  • Kimpressions

    Yup! Sign me up.

  • Simeon Ayanlade

    Yes, I am in.

  • Rijul Bajaj

    Yes, I am in.

  • Jamie Robinson

    Sign me up, please.

  • CY Lai

    Sure. Count me in :)

  • Tejas

    Yes, I am In.

  • Farhaan Khodai

    Sign me up!

  • Beth perrou

    Even though I have read almost 100% of what you have written about being an idea machine I would still definitely sign-up for this.

    Taking everything you have advised and condensing it into a nice dripped email course would be awesome! Please do.

  • Gabrielle Ritchie

    Yes, I would DEFINITELY sign up!

  • Benjamin Spring

    Hell yeah !

  • Jo Ann Johnson

    Are you serious? Of course I would take the course. You are brilliant James!

  • Tim Houghton

    I’m in!

  • Jeff Peacock

    Definitely, sounds like a dream, count me in!

  • Joe Ruiz

    YES, I’d take the course! A “no-brainer”, for me… and thanks for doing this.

  • george-catalin mihalache

    I would like a course like this.

  • PC

    Yes, but should include one optional live in person seminar.

  • Nelson

    Yes! Definitely interested!

  • Hugo

    Definitely yes!

  • Sign me up!

  • James Briscall

    It’s a great idea! My view is that the course will expand on various concepts which you has discussed in your work. Accountability is always a powerful motivator; would there be a FB group page as many people find that ‘supportive’ during courses. I wrote 10 ideas/day for 2 months but the last 2 months i’ve let slip; so for people similar to me this would a ‘shoehorn’ back into the mindset. For me the most attractive part would be ‘where to take’ this material. Thank you James for ‘gathering the ideas tribe’!

  • Jim Ruppel

    When do we start?

  • Wahab

    Yes sure
    Sign me up, please :)

  • Brendon

    I’d like to join as well. Let’s start!

  • Dennis

    Yes. I would like to take this course.

  • Marvin

    Yes, I would definitely be interested in this course..

  • Kelly Myles

    I would definitely take this course!

  • Anuj

    Yes, of course!

  • Yep

  • ftaghnify

    Yes. How do I sign up

  • Juan Antonio Velez

    Yes! When will the companion book be available?

  • Amber Camille Liggon

    Absolutely! I have being trying to explain this to my friends without any success so if you could take over that would be stupendous!

  • tomassteele

    Yes please!

  • Kim Luedtke

    Sounds great. I would sign up.

  • Troubled Water

    Of course your course
    would bring
    many horses to water

  • Tom Gray

    I’m in!

  • Marjorie Florestal

    The outline looks amazing. Yes, count me in!

  • Anthony Ogley

    Absolutely fabulous outline I can’t wait for it to start

  • Snir Koppelman

    I’m in, for sure!

  • Mykal Hall


  • David Whitesides Jr

    I’ll sign up

  • Gary Foster

    I’ll sign up.

  • Mayowa Ajisafe

    I’m in James!

  • afternooncruze

    A great idea – I’d love it

  • Robby Brayton

    Yes, I would.

  • Fabien

    Yes I would

  • Dani W.

    great course idea! pun intended..

  • Rick Wedding

    I’m in!

  • Tom Henderson

    Yes, please sign me up. My waiter’s pad is getting lonely.

  • Robert Staufert

    Where have you been all my life?! Please sign me up.

  • Stephen Beaudoin

    I’m interested… where do you sign up?

  • Liufang Lucius Tseng

    give me your 2 cents!

  • Beverly Tiding

    Yes, sounds great

  • Eric VB

    Yes I will take it!

  • Life Tutor

    Yes, I’d love to have that information!

    Please go along with this idea :)

    Thank you,


  • Florencia Renedo

    Yes! :)

  • Diego Simioni


  • SoCalSienna


  • keysmank


  • alex gross

    Yes I would join

  • Nagaraj

    Yes, I am interested.

  • Daniel Rusu

    Yes 100% when…

  • Scott Kipers


  • Preston Witt

    Sign me up!

  • Yes. It was the bibliography section which sold me – see, you sold this already!

  • Yes! Absolutely.

  • Nurit Kleinberger

    Yes. I would be very interested.

  • Nestor Carvajal

    Please sign me up,

  • Jeremy

    Sign me up James!

  • Absolutely I would take this course!

  • Andrew Biagioni


  • Kali

    I would sign up!

  • Johnny Heo

    Sign me up please!

  • Kenneth Hunter

    Sounds exciting!

  • John Moseley

    Yes. Something exeptional can come of this.

  • harry

    I would certainly take this course. Please sign me up !!

  • Larry McInnes

    I’m in!

  • Scott White

    I would definitely sign up for this!

  • Ryan Murray

    This is better than any college course! Please do this! I would sign my whole family up!

  • JoeThomsett

    Yes please

  • Connie

    Sign me up, I want it!

  • Andrea Ferrante

    I would sign up for this for sure <3

  • juan carlos belair

    i would

  • Abram Boosinger


  • Brian Simon

    Hi James, I’m interested in the ten-week course! Please sign me up. Thanks! :)

  • Peihsun


  • Elias Tavsan

    Yes please

  • Bertie


  • Robert Cole

    So when does the course start and how to get registered?

  • Derik Young

    I would definitely do the course

  • I’d be all in.

  • Great idea. Now execute.

  • Fascinating… I’d sign up!

  • Rich Tran Tanaka

    Hello James, I would like to sign up.

  • Stephanie Peterson

    Yes, I’d love to take this course.

  • Jesse Rusinski

    When can I start?

  • I’m pretty sure I’m currently taking that course, reading your book… So yes! xD