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Choose Yourself

James Altucher is pretty awesome. Not only does he pound out original high-quality writing at a pace that makes some newspapers look slow, but he opens himself up for everyone to see. Beyond the catchy headlines of his writing (e.g., How To Become a Jedi Knight), there is a person who doesn’t fit the conventional path of life. He’s likely failed at more things than anyone you’ve ever met. Going from suicidal to success story more than once, James finally realized he must choose himself and carve his own path.

I was hesitant to get a copy of his latest book, Choose Yourself. While James is a compelling writer, I didn’t know if the book would be a good fit with Farnam Street readers. It’s not the typical type of thing I cover. In the end, I reasoned that if I read his blog, I should probably read his book too or at least give it a look. (Remember that in case I ever write a book, ok?)

So I opened the book and a few hours later I finished it.

Honestly, how can you read this and put the book down?

And I was still broke, hungry, despairing, and depressed. I was in a constant state of panic. Nobody was helping me. Nobody was giving me any chances. Nobody was giving me an outlet to prove how talented I was. I knew I had to hustle to make it, but the world was upside down and I didn’t know how to straighten things out. To make things right. … I’ve written ten books. I’ve lost multiple jobs. I’ve been crushed, on the floor, suicidal, desperate, anxious, depressed. And each time, I’ve had to reinvent myself, reinvent my goals and my career.

I stopped when I read that: “Nobody was giving me an outlet to prove how talented I was.”

Nobody is going to do it for you. Nothing is going to change unless you change it. If you’re sitting at your desk waiting for someone to come tap you on the shoulder and say OK you’re up, the odds are against you.

You have to figure it out.

The ethic of the Choose Yourself era is to not depend on those stifling trends that are defeating you. Instead, build your own platform, have faith and confidence in yourself instead of a jury-rigged system, and define success by your own terms.

I don’t buy all of the arguments. “In this new era, you have two choices: become a temp staffer (not a horrible choice) or become an artist-entrepreneur,” it’s too black and white. The world is not this binary. There are many paths for many people. But the principle of taking responsibility for your own path is powerful.

So what’s the biggest impediment to choosing to take control?

Rejection—and the fear of rejection—is the biggest impediment we face to choosing ourselves. We can all put together books about all the times we are rejected. We’re rejected by lovers, by friends, by family, by the government, by the corporate world, by investors, partners, employees, publishers, and on and on. … But what if you never try? What if you are afraid to try for fear of being rejected? … When you put yourself out there on a daily basis, that’s going to happen (whether you deserve it or not): you get hate mail, you get rejected for opportunities (even if accepted for others), you get people who don’t understand you, who are upset with you, angry with you, don’t respect what you’ve done for them.

You can’t hate the people who reject you. You can’t let them get the best of you. Nor can you bless the people who love you. Everyone is acting out of his or her own self-interest. What you need to do is build the house you will live in. You build the house by laying a solid foundation: by building physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

This is not some new-age, self-helpy jargon, “Be kind to people and all will be well.” This is a book on how you can achieve success for yourself, and these are the building blocks.

You probably care too much about what other people think. But more importantly, you’re putting yourself in a position where you’re relying on the whims of others to choose whether you’re successful or not. Someone else controls your fate. That’s not what you want.

Also look at your sources of happiness.

Often when we attach our happiness to external goals: financial success, relationship’s success, etc., we get disappointed. Even when things work out, everything cycles and the happiness is often fleeting.

James talks about his daily practice — “where you internally get healthy enough to make the decisions about what is right for your life instead of relying on century-old customs and antiquated ideas about “property rights,” “education,” “jobs,” “politics,” and so on that have helped keep people enslaved with ancient philosophical shackles.”

Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream is original and thought provoking throughout. If you’re stuck in a rut this is a good place to start.