How to Stop Being Sad and Start Being Awesome

The story of how James Altucher almost killed himself, and why he didn’t.


August 27, 2015

James Altucher was going to die. The market crashed, his family refused to speak with him, and he had nothing left in his bank account. In fact, less than nothing, because he was millions of dollars in debt. He lost his home, his friends and his job.

When James could barely pay his mortgage, he told himself he was not only a failure in life, but a failure as a father.

This downward spiral didn’t happen just once, or twice, but many times. James figured the only way to escape was to kill himself.

But when he lost everything again in 2008, James finally had his eureka moment:
If he was going to survive in this world, he had to “choose himself.” I know, it sounds cheesy, right? But it worked.

“I was sick of having my happiness being dependent on the decisions and choices of other people. I wanted to help people but other people didn’t let me and they were the gatekeepers in my life.

I also realized something deeper, that I had to come from this place where I built up my own inward energy and confidence.”

James created a daily practice to get healthy in four areas of his life:

Physical

James started controlling his eating habits, got eight hours of sleep, and exercised every day. Being active increased his energy, which allowed him to be more productive.

I took this lesson from James and challenged myself to run a half marathon. Here’s the twist: I’m a terrible runner. I’ve had an inhaler my whole life, I constantly overeat, and my endurance is basically nonexistent.

But with every run, I got faster. Every day, I felt happier. I was more efficient at work, and after five months of training I completed my race (13 miles) in under two hours!

James said it best,

“You can’t be happy if you’re not healthy.”

Emotional

It would be almost impossible for James to generate good ideas, let alone write a book, if he hadn’t cut the crappy people out of his life. Crappy people suck the energy out of you and constantly drag you down.

So I took a walk around a nearby park and asked myself, “Who are the life-sucking demons that constantly hold me back?” Some of these people were ironically my best friends, and I cut them completely out of my life. It’s been a year, and by far the best decision of my life.

“When you get in the mud with a pig, you get dirty and the pig gets happy.”

Mental

James started writing down ten ideas every day, good and bad, to strengthen his “idea muscle.” The “idea muscle” atrophies if you don’t use it. When you generate more and more ideas, you eventually start coming up with GREAT ones.

So, I tried it out:
What if there was a Tinder for Uber drivers? Or an app that could stop you from texting your ex? Or a Thai restaurant that served green smoothies?

James taught me that to have great ideas, you have to be okay with generating bad ones. (I’m still a fan of a Tinder for Uber drivers. It can get lonely driving in a busy city!)

“Work out your idea muscle every day.”

Spiritual

James gave up all thoughts of the past and dedicated himself on focusing on the present. He started to pray, meditate, and be grateful for the little things in his life.

Now, you don’t have to pray (I don’t) or meditate to feel “spiritual.” For me, having a spiritual practice means to be mindful, appreciative, and present. Whatever helps you have a positive outlook on life.

“Surrendering to what the universe has put in front of you, being able to set aside fears, and living in the moment sounds like an awesome way to go through life.”


These were the only four things that James focused on to bounce back from utter disaster. After doing them consistently, amazing things started to happen.

Ideas started flowing. His writing improved. Strangers smiled back at him. James found and married the love of his life. He made millions from his investments. Within a year, his life was completely flipped upside down. Or maybe, finally, it was right-side up.

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