How To Have More Common Sense

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A lot of people
who know me personally think I have ZERO common sense. For instance,
Claudia says, “you went to freakin’ Carnegie-Mellon for
a PhD and you can’t figure out how to operate a coffee machine”.
To which I have two things to say:

A) I was
thrown out of Carnegie Mellon’s grad school
and as anyone
there can attest I was easily the least competent person in my year.
Of the 8 classes I attended in two years I failed seven of them
and got a B– in one of them.

B) You are
not fooling anyone when you say “freakin’”.
I
know EXACTLY what you mean.

C) Making
a cup of coffee using a coffee machine involves about five or six
different steps
using various chemical compounds in the right
combination. It’s not as easy as the box claims. I can’t
just turn on a button and have a cup of coffee.

And I know
I said “two things” but I wrote “three”. So?

I get stressed
so much during the day. Probably because of all the coffee I drink.
But it seems like there are some basic common sense rules that would
make me a little less stressed.

A) Don’t
Dance.
And that doesn’t mean I can’t turn up a little
tango music, grab Claudia, and start swinging her around. That might
be fun, it would surprise her and make her laugh, unless I swung
her into a wall, in which case she would cry. But it wouldn’t
be my fault. Since I never take credit for anything bad.

What “Don’t
Dance” means is “do not respond in anger to the people
who are trying to provoke you.” And you know who they are.
People ask me, “What if it’s your mother/spouse/boss/friend.”
Let me tell you something: It’s ONLY those people. Else you
wouldn’t care.

I’ve gotten
three emails and at least one directed blog post that have tried
to provoke me in the past few days. One of them I “danced”
with. I responded to all the accusations, some of them 20 years
old (“historical equals hysterical”) and the only end
result is that ten emails went back and forth and I’m still
angry. The rest of the emails, and the blog post about me, I ignored.
And now I don’t think of them. When I woke up this morning,
though, I thought of the one email I had initially responded to
and I was already getting mad. I put it in my mental Spam folder
(I labeled it “not useful” as per my “Power
of Negative Thinking
” – that technique very much works
for me) and then I forced Claudia at gunpoint to make me a cup of
coffee.

Getting angry
accomplishes nothing. You can never win an argument with people
who are irrational.
You’re never going to win an argument
with your boss, for instance. Or with an investor. Or with a customer.
Or with a relative. It just won’t happen. They are always right.
So common sense is to ignore them as much as possible and you will
be happy. It’s one of those things where you can say, “On
your deathbed are you really going to wish you had just responded
to that one email one more time?”

Related to
this: Don’t Judge. Let’s say someone treats you bad in
a store. It’s a gut reflex to get angry at them. But what if
their wife just left them? Or their kids just got pregnant. With
each other. Who knows? Anything can happen. You don’t know
anything about them. Again, on your deathbed are you going to say,
“I really hate that guy at the cupcake store who dropped my
cupcake.”

B) Don’t
do bad things to your body.
I walk down the streets of NYC and
I can tell you: 80% of the older people walking down the street
look hideous to me. They are out of shape, their faces look like
they are frozen in stress and anger, they are stooped over, dreaming
to themselves of all the times they have been angry. All the things
they should’ve said.

I think in
most cases this is a direct result of treating your body very badly
for 40 years. I’m not innocent of this either. But it seems
like common sense: no junk food, no cigarettes, no alcohol, walk
as much possible if you don’t feel like doing hard exercise,
and no coffee. See!? I don’t follow this advice as much as
I should. And I’m 43. It’s almost too late for me to get
back on the right track. But if you don’t, you won’t enjoy
your 70s, 80s, and 90s as much as you should. Quality of life
will be lower for you than for the people who are using common sense
now.
Almost every illness you’ll get later in life is a
direct result of what you put through your digestive system right
now.

C) Don’t
Talk Behind People’s Back.
About ten years ago I trashed
the CEO of a company I was invested in. The company was called “Mighty
Seven”. The CEO was Josh Schaub. I was then having dinner with
him and his girlfriend that night. Needless to say, because nobody
keeps anything private, Josh heard what I had to say about him and
we had to talk about it all through dinner. What a waste of time.
And I was embarrassed. When you talk about people behind their back,
one out of three times they are going to know about it. Why stress
yourself out that way.

And couldn’t
you have used that time when you said those words in a more constructive
way. For instance, I should’ve sat down and instead of yapping
my mouth off I could’ve come up with some ideas on how the
CEO could’ve improved his business. I could’ve contributed
and been more helpful.

Instead, because
of a constant arrogant attitude where I was talking behind peoples
backs (and somehow everyone ALWAYS heard what I was saying) businesses
went out of business, I lost money, and I got unhappy.

Another anecdote.
I helped a friend of mine get a job at a company I once worked at.
One time she told me she was talking about another person and then
she realized that person was standing right behind her. She got
really embarrassed (Embarassment and Words go hand in hand. If
you stay silent
, you’ll seldom be embarrassed. If you use
lots of words without thinking, common sense says you feel more
embarrassment in life). So she apologized to the girl.

But then that
girl never spoke to her again, even though they had been friends.
And that girl made my friend’s work life miserable. “How
come she is doing this?” my friend said. “I apologized
to her!”

Well, tough
shit! She thinks you’re a bad person now and always will and
you can’t ever change that. So common sense: if you have nothing
good to say, don’t say it. [See my post, "Shut
Up
"]

Someone once
wrote a very negative blog post about me. We had a lot of mutual
friends. All of our mutual friends and a few other people asked
me what I thought about the post. Maybe they were curious if I would
dish out some good gossip. All I said was, “He’s a good
guy. I don’t know why he wrote that.” And that was true.
Common sense: saying that was a lot better for me, both internally
(I didn’t get angry) and externally (people thought better
of me for it) than wasting five minutes of my life trashing the
guy.

D) Cash
is king.
I’m starting to agree with the people who are
against the Federal Reserve’s creation in 1913. Society has
slowly inflated itself to a point where the cost of things we need
are costing more than our deflating incomes, making it impossible
to continue enjoying the fruits of middle class-dom.

Read
the rest of the article

November
10, 2011

The
Best of James Altucher

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