The #1 Most Effective Habit

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by James Altucher: The
9 Skills Needed to Become a Super Connector



This was
a guest post I did over the weekend at TechCrunch.

There was a
girl at the party, Ona, who then started telling me how she met
her current boyfriend. She just simply told him she liked him. I
was insanely jealous right then of this guy. Here was this beautiful,
hysterically funny girl who told a guy she liked him and now he
was having regular sex with her.

That doesn’t
happen, right? It never happened to me. I sat there nodding, not
being able to say anything but thinking, what if she said, “I
like you” to me right then. I would’ve been happy. Instead,
I got depressed and went to sit on the stairs.

There was another
girl there. She was crying.I tried to comfort her by telling her
I was an artist. I then asked her why she was crying. Apparently
the party was actually her birthday party! I had no idea. I didn’t
even know who she was. And she was crying because her boyfriend
didn’t show up.

Within a week
we were living together. Ultimately it didn’t work out and
I did my usual passive thing, which
was to move to another city
(in this case, NYC), to get out
of the relationship.

In Stephen
Covey’s Book, The
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
his first habit is “Be
Proactive.” I haven’t read the book. I saw the list on
Wikipedia. I WILL NOT buy the book because at this moment it’s
the #1 book on Amazon under Motivation on the Kindle and I am #2.
How can he be #1 after 22 years? Beating the new, fresh, me! Stephen
Covey, I’m coming after you!

But it makes
me think – unfortunately he’s dead on. In fact, Being
Proactive might be the only effective habit. I read the other six
and they all seemed to be corollaries of the first one.

  • When I
    started my first company, Reset, I showed my brother-in-law the
    Internet so he could start learning design for it. And then I
    hired Reset from my
    perch at HBO
    to do HBO’s website. I was insanely proactive
    in getting the company off of the ground. When I wanted to sell
    the company I didn’t wait for buyers. I proactively went
    after everyone who was buying companies in the space. And screw
    you, Razorfish, for ignoring me.
  • When I
    was trading for hedge funds I sent out about 20 emails every weekend
    to new potential investors. Altogether I probably sent out over
    1000 emails. Most of them ignored me. Over the course of a year
    about 14 allocated money for me to trade.
  • When
    I started Stockpickr
    , I spec-ed out the site, had India mock
    up a few pages, and showed the CEO of what I was
    working on. I had spent less than $1000 on it at that point. He
    wanted to be involved and eventually it grew into a good business.
    If I had just said to him, “let’s do a social media
    business in Finance”, it would not have worked. I would’ve
    become a consultant rather than an entrepreneur. You have to DO
    things to succeed. Nobody is just going to give you money. This
    is why being as proactive as possible is important.
  • Ona was
    proactive in meeting her boyfriend. He was never going to ask
    her out. So she told him she liked him and they started going
    out. She was proactive.

  • Before
    I met Claudia, I was sending out probably 50 messages a day on
    dating services. That’s the sheer quantity I had to do in
    order to meet someone I liked and it worked. And I screwed it
    up so badly, as
    I’ve written before
    . She wrote to me that she was from
    Buenos Aires and I said, “oh, I’ve always wanted to
    go to Brazil.” And she wrote back, “uhh, Buenos Aires
    is in Argentina!” Ugh, what an idiot I am! I can’t believe
    she agreed to go on a date with me after that. But if I hadn’t
    been sending out 50 messages a day I never would’ve met her.
    To top it off, I really was hoping Buenos Aires was in Brazil.
    I would save at least four hours on any plane rides. Oh well.
  • Whenever
    I want to guest post in another blog, I write the post first,
    and then I send it to them, and I ask them if they want to guest
    post it. It almost always works. Very few times has someone reached
    out to me and said, “can you write for us.” It’s
    almost always me proactively chasing it.

the proactive plan:


  • Proactively
    list what you want (a spouse, a new job, a new business, a new
  • List what
    the next step is (sign up for dating services, take a yoga class,
    look at classifieds, spec out your business, decide how you will
    build your product, contact the people who will build it and get
    a price from them, ask people if you can work for them, etc.)
    Make sure the next step is very doable. So doable that you can
    (and will) do it TODAY.


  • Quickly
    determine what doesn’t work. For instance, if I went to 100
    bars trying to meet women, none of them would work. Similarly,
    when I set up I set up 10 other websites at the
    same time. None of them got any traction and I stuck with the
    one that did.


  • If you
    want a new job, proactively go out and get another one. Preferably
    freelance : think about what you do best, and then do it for three
    paying customers. Contact 30 customers and ask what simple services
    you can do for them that they would be willing to pay for. Three
    of them will respond and now you can quit your job.
  • If you
    want to raise money: Contact 100 VCs or angels and share with
    them your business. If they all say “no” then build
    up for six months, send them all notes on your progress EVERY
    MONTH, and go out and raise money again six months later. If you
    have no progress then start a new business. It didn’t work.

Another example:
when a book publisher once rejected me, I wrote back to her saying
that I fit perfectly with her list, describing how I could publicize
the book with the different branches of her own company, I would
make all changes she wanted, I would work with a co-author, etc
and wouldn’t you know it – she published my book that
she had rejected. It was an easy book to write (my co-author did
a lot of the writing) and I got an advance and made money. It never
would’ve happened if I hadn’t researched her and proactively
chased her down.

the rest of the article

3, 2011

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