Being Unpredictable Will Free You

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by James Altucher: How
To Create Your Own Luck



I just got
this email from a friend of mine: “in Mexico… got grazed
by a bullet that wound up infected, and then I got a hernia, and
then I started to bleed internally…”

There were
more details: “drug cartels”… “corrupt cops”.
I wrote him some questions to get more details. Assuming he’s
still alive I hope he answers. He writes great books. He’s
very unpredictable but I hope he doesn’t get himself killed.

I like things
in my life to be unpredictable. I like to know that things that
didn’t seem possible suddenly become possible.

In 1994 I never
thought it would be possible, while doing some mindless programming
at a job in Pittsburgh that a little over a year later I’d
have a job at HBO
interviewing transvestite prostitutes
and drug dealers, or that
two years after that I would be selling a software company that
I started. Or that three years after that I would be dead broke
and filled with so many regrets and trying to figure out ways to
kill myself so that at least my two kids could live off the insurance

Or that, as
I sit here and write this, I’d be in Las Vegas about to give
a talk about the economy. And tonight in San Francisco to meet Claudia
and then give another talk on Monday in San Jose about how to take
advantages of the scams in our society to become an entrepreneur.

We all want
success. And although success does not equal money, we all need
to support ourselves and to support our family. We’d all like
to do good in the world.

Your brain
doesn’t want you to do good in the world.
I know this first
hand. Your brain wants you to say “I can’t” all the
time so that you don’t do something so unpredictable it gets
you killed. The brain, your enemy, prizes its own safety first,
and your happiness a distant second.

But there’s
an easy way to defeat it. I’m going to be blunt when I name
this method. It’s the “I can’t! You didn’t!
Method. And it works but for unobvious reasons.

Step One:
I Can’t

How many times
have I said, “I can’t”

  • “I
    can’t because I didn’t get good at x, y, or z when I
    was younger.”
  • “I
    can’t because I don’t have the right connections.”
  • “I
    can’t because I don’t have the money to do it.”
  • “I
    can’t start a company because I have to make sure I support
    two kids.”
  • “I
    can’t make a facebook app because I don’t know how to
  • “I
    can’t work for HBO because I’ve never done anything
    in the entertainment industry.”
    “I can’t relax until I sell my house first, which is
    like a chain around my neck.”
  • “I
    can’t get spend time getting physically healthy until I solve
    the problems in my business first.”
  • “I
    can’t write a novel because I don’t have the time and
    it won’t sell well anyway.”
  • “I
    can’t buy Yahoo, the entire company, because I don’t
    have a few billion dollars.”
  • “I
    can’t do this idea because the economy is bad. Italy might
    blow up.”

  • “I
    can’t write X, Y, or Z because I’m worried what my family,
    or what my colleagues, will say about me.”
  • “I
    can’t learn Spanish because I have to work 10 hours a day
    and then spend weekends cleaning my house.”
  • “I
    can’t daytrade because James
    said it’s too risky

One time I
was standing in Victor
’s house at a party looking at a painting someone
made of him and his father and I was thinking, “how come my
family connections are not so strong? Did this prevent me from holding
onto my success?” And how come nobody gave me a chance, like
George Soros gave to him? Suddenly I got in the “I can’t
succeed” mode. I got in a bad mood and even left the party.
Once I left the party I immediately got stopped by a cop and given
a ticket. I still owe Connecticut on this ticket. Probably with
interest. Come and get me, Connecticut! And I came home and I just
simply felt bad about myself.

We all have
our “can’ts”. Start to list yours. Go from
macro to micro. Macro is something like: “I can’t be happy
until I have a million dollars” Micro might be something like,
“I can’t sleep because I’m too worried about a meeting
tomorrow” or “I can’t make this list of ‘can’ts’
becaus there’s nothing I can’t do” (figure that one

So that’s
step one. Those can’ts are your boundaries. They are the walls
to your cage. Don’t try to escape them. We are all expert
cage-builders. Most people who tried to escape from Alcatraz died
in the attempt. If you can’t do something you can’t do
it. Don’t fight it.

But then how
will this method work?

the rest of the article

17, 2011

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