How To Break Free From Prison

Email Print

Recently by James Altucher: Why I Won't Vote


I was scared when I left the corporate job for the first time. I was even more scared when I was thrown out of graduate school and had to explain why to my parents. When I was first separated and then divorced I was ashamed to tell people about it. When I lost all my money in just one summer and went totally broke and forced to sell my home I was so embarrassed that I even lied to people who asked why my home was being listed. I would say, “that must be a mistake”, even though I had to have signed a contract and everyone knew that. People would smirk.

I needed to break free from all the prisons I put myself in. Shame, embarrassment, fear, anxiety were the guards and the bars that kept me locked up.

When you are a prison, it’s natural to want to escape. But most people don’t. If they do their daily routine, eat on time, play on time, watch TV between 6 and 9, follow their orders, do their chores, pay their dues, then eventually they think they will be released. Many years in the future.

But when you want to escape from prison RIGHT NOW, your powers of observation become heightened. You become like a superhero. Like a mutant from the X-men.

You observe the schedules of the guards. You look for any holes in the wall. You look for ways to smuggle tools from the kitchen. You look for those fleeting moments when the doors are open for supplies, when the trucks release their goods and for a split second, a hiding place might reveal itself. You observe in yourself if you have the courage to do what it takes. You look at maps of the prison, of the outside, of the grounds that you can hide in. You exercise every day to get yourself ready for “the moment” – the point of no return where you begin your run to freedom and can’t look back.

Your powers of observation become so heightened, so superior to your fellow inmates and the guards that watch over them, that eventually, after diligence, you figure how to wiggle out of the chains, how to take advantage of the tiny oversights that add up, how to turn invisible and slip through the cracks. And when the dogs bark at the morning light, spread out in the forest sniffing at the tiny scraps of your scent left behind, you are long gone, even though your presence is felt everywhere.

It’s the same thing every day. We are trapped in this world of sickness and money lust and failure and striving and craving. I am not being pessimistic. I am optimistic we live in a world of increasing literacy, decreasing sickness, decreasing violence, increasing innovation. And yet, the more I want, the more I crave, the more bound I am, the less chance I have. To find my own meaning in this infinite dictionary. To find my own life.

I need to break free from the prison. Sometimes the craziness adds up to too much. I simply want one moment completely free from bondage, and then carry that moment to the next, treasuring the only thing I can ever have – my own peace of mind this second. Here are the things I feel I need to observe to break out of prison. When I can observe and then conquer these, freedom will come. Not before then.

  • when am I angry. Not to suppress it. Just to notice it. Not to act on it. Not to kill someone. Just to notice it. When is it happening? Why? It’s a hot plate that cools under observation rather than if I try to ravish it too quickly.
  • when am I worried about the future, in particular money. Do I really need to worry about how I will pay bills a year from now? Will that help me to pay the bills a year from now? Or can I use the time spent worrying (even the nano-seconds, when added up) to read, to further myself, to achieve, so that those worries recede beyond the horizon. Can I become the Ocean instead of just the ripples (the fears) that eventually lap onto a muddy shore.
  • when do I sit and regret the past? What I said at the party the other day. How I treated those people ten years ago. Not that I want to excuse any failings or not learn from them. I can learn from them right now. But if I regret, if I play over events, then I am no longer being observant of right now, I am lost in the moment, I am in a time machine, I am in a dream factory, floating in nebula, light years from reality.
  • when am I feeling lonely, wondering what the other people are doing? Are they wondering about me? How many times have I been lonely in a crowd, dead eyes all wandering aimlessly in their futures or pasts while we shuffle through the dying light of the current day.

Read the rest of the article

The Best of James Altucher

Email Print