10 Life-Changing Decisions We Make Without Thinking

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by James Altucher: Is
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I showed up
at the SATs in my pajamas. I had woken up late for the most important
test of my life — the one test that determines what college you
get into, which then determines how happy you are, who will marry
you, how much money you make, and how many people you can legally
kill or maim before they jail you in a minimum security prison while
your money rests in Swiss bank accounts. I rushed out of bed, got
two number 2 pencils and went off to the school on that Saturday
morning.

About 200 kids
from all over the county were waiting to take the test and were
crowding up the hallway. I am not exaggerating: when I arrived they
parted down the middle like I was Moses. I was in my pajamas: glasses,
acne, my hair uncombed and in every direction and grasping those
two number two pencils. I was like the God of the SATs.

I clearly looked
like someone who was going to kick ass on the SATs. I was 17 but
I had been taking the SATs every year, as practice, since I was
12. I remember crying at age 12 begging my mom to teach me the quadratic
formula, u201Cjust in caseu201D.

What a joke.
I can't even remember the quadratic formula now or what it's used
for.

Because nothing
is used for anything.

Our lives are
the worst misshapen archaeological digs. Imagine a skyscraper built
on top of an aquarium, built on top of a merry-go-round built on
top of an earthquake fault in the middle of a volcano. None of it
makes sense. It's a maze, a mish-mash, a mess.

And yet that's
how we grow up. Get good grades or u201Cit goes on your recordu201D (nightmares
still of my mom screaming at me when I was in fourth grade and caught
shoplifting: u201CYOUR RECORDu201D…u201Dyour recordu201D…u201DYOUR RECORD!!!!u201D). Get
a good SAT score. Go to a good college, then graduate school. Get
a good wife , get a good raise, a promotion, move horizontally through
the corporate ladder, then vertically, zig zag up like in the childhood
game chutes & Ladders! Get money, get a good car, fly business,
then first, get art, build a stock portfolio, get your kids on the
same path you were in (u201Cif it was a good enough for me, it better
goddamn well be good enough for you, you spoiled little brat!u201D),
get a new kidney because I have so much money, get an award, get
multiple women crying at your funeral, and tough guys, Old Men of
the Sea, spilling at your ashes over the ocean (u201Cthe world will
never be the sameu201D, one of them finally says after the requisite
silence.) GOD BLESS AMERICA!

What the hell
just happened? I was going to write about YOUR major life decisions
and for half the intro I'm a virgin in pajamas with two pencils
comparing myself to Moses.

Ok,
12 MAJOR LIFE DECISISIONS YOU MAKE WITHOUT THINKING

A)
College. Oh my god. How many times to do I have to say
it.
I even wrote a book about it.
I've been writing about this since
2006.Finally the NY Times has caught on. Mark Cuban even wrote an
article this weekend. People are finally realizing it: COLLEGE IS/WAS/WILL
BE a SCAM. I mean this in the worst possible way. It's the US government
trying to rob our 18 year olds (who do you think backs the $300,000
in student loans you graduate with?) because they've stolen from
us until we're shopping in
dollar stores in Vermont
as the only way to survive. I've written
and argued and explained too much on this one so you can read about
what I've
said here
and that will lead to the rest of the links. Note:
I give alternatives that are MUCH BETTER than sending
your kids to college.

But my main
question for this article is: why do we think our 17 years olds
are prepared to make a decision that involves a half a million dollars
at this early stage in their lives (DO NOT argue with me about the
math. I will beat you down with a stick.) ?

B)
House. Oh sure, you can buy a house for $200k
and sell it 10 years later for $400k.
That's the extent of how people think about this decision. We're
not allowed to think deeper. It's the American Dream. It's ROOTS.
It's what's needed to create stability before we can CREATE. We
NEED A HOUSE. It's drilled into us from an early age. Not even the
white picket fence. Just something innocuous that's implanted like
a secret science fiction chip into our brain: u201CJust a place I can
rest my feet and call my homeu201D. “A place I can plant flowers.” “A
place I change the walls”. ROOTS.

It's such BS.
And again,
I write about it here
. But: maintenance, property taxes, interest
payments, more maintenance, time spent, lack of flexibility, lack
of ability to maximize your income because you are stuck, illiquidity
of a massive investment, massive debt — and is the debt backed by…the
US government. God Praise the Queen! Or the President. Or the Minister
of Security. Whoever. Someone has their hand in your pocket. There's
a hole in your pocket. They are feeling around past the hole.You!
My good friend. Have just been molested.

C)
Marriage. I've never seen something like how it is in the
movies: two people meet in a cab and then head to Las Vegas and
get married. Maybe it happens in u201Crealu201D life but I've never seen
it. But I've seen two people, age 23, meet for a first date and
then ten days later get married. Or even worse, two people live
together for 5 years and then finally decide to get married.

What the hell
are you thinking? Marriage is like the worst thing ever (married
people, hold off, I'm going to come full circle on this)

  • You're
    going to spend the next 70 years with that person EVERY SINGLE
    DAY
  • You're
    going to see that person in every worst possible way. On the first
    date, imagine them in the hospital with tubes sticking into every
    hole in their body and their head shaved. Now kiss them.

  • You're
    done. Unless you are cheating (please don't do that. It's too
    stressful for everyone involved, its unhygienic and could spread
    disease, and it will destroy all the people around you) you are
    not having sex with ANYONE ELSE for the rest of your life.
  • The passion
    in your marriage will eventually wear off. Not necessarily, but
    it's a normal part of life. As I've written before, there's the
    saying: put a penny in a jar everytime you have sex before the
    marriage, take a penny out every time you have sex after. You'll
    never empty the jar. I hope that doesn't happen to me but we'll
    see.
  • It costs
    money! On average, that is. Let's say 50% of marriages end in
    divorce (I don't care if the number is accurate. Some large number
    ends in divorce) then imagine the expenses of supporting two households.
    Or three. Or I know people with five households they are supporting.
    It really hurts.
  • You might
    fall in love again. With someone else. Anything can happen. We
    are talking 70 years! Hope that it doesn't happen to you but some
    people are addicted to falling in love. Maybe your new spouse
    is. I hope not!
  • People
    change. What you liked about your wife when she was 23 might be
    100% different at 33 and 100% different at 43. I hope you change
    together but that's a pretty big gamble. If you were a gambling
    man would you gamble that two people are going to change together
    over a period of 70 years? I would almost never make that bet
    without incredible odds.

This doesn't
mean I hate marriage. I love being married. Here's my post on The
Purpose of Marriage
.

Just don't
make this major life decision without thinking about it. I have
a checklist in the above post. Make sure you can AT LEAST check
all of those boxes.

D)
Children. First off, before I rant, I LOVE my children.
Someone sent me an angry email the other day:

u201CYour the
biggest prick in the world for talking about how your 10 yr old
daughter is spewing BS and vomit from her mouth when she lies to
you. Your a sad excuse for a father you piece of shit. You cruel,
heartless bastard. I hope you lose your wealth and your possessions
and wake up to what this life is all about you shit head scumbag.u201D

My emailer’s
name is Tom Wait and he lives in Newark, California. I am grateful
when I get an email like that. It lets me test myself. I don't respond.
And I feel bad that his anger has forced him to unleash on me like
that. But I also have to consider: do I talk about my kids too much.
I don't think so.

Read
the rest of the article

May
19, 2012

The
Best of James Altucher

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