How To Diversify Your Life

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Recently by James Altucher: Advice for a 23-Year-Old


One time I wanted to sell my company to HBO. The CFO was looking at the numbers. They were willing to buy it for a tiny amount but it was an amount that would’ve taken me about one billion years to save because that’s just the way I roll. I figured I would quit after a decent amount of time and spend a year doing nothing but writing a novel.

They said no.

All I had been thinking about for months was whether or not they would buy the company. And it took only one or two decision makers to say no. To ruin my life, I thought then.

One time I had an idea for a TV show for HBO. I wired up a restaurant with video and audio. A good friend of mine who was very pretty and funny put an ad in the Village Voice looking for a blind date. She would then go on the dates being fully aware they were being videotaped but the guy wouldn’t know. We did two dates. On the first one the guy told her he wasn’t sure if he was gay or straight and was debating the pros and cons of both right in the middle of the date. On the second date the guy received a phone call. From his wife. He then refused to sign the release form unless my friend would sleep with him. Which she didn’t (I assume).

As they say, it was good TV.

I showed it to HBO Independent Productions. They “Loved it!!” I had all sorts of fantasies about how I was going to spend the money. I was definitely living in the future. I was going to be a big TV guy. BIG.

And then suddenly I couldn’t get in touch with them. The guy in charge, Dave B., wouldn’t return my calls. He was always in a meeting. He would “call me right back”. I couldn’t get in touch with him. Not knowing this meant “no”, I called him 15 times a day until finally he confessed, “you know, you have another project going with [he named another division within HBO] so they got upset at me for looking at this project. So I can’t touch it.”

I eventually had lunch with the head of the other division. She said, “your idea seems a bit mean to me.” Her division had just aired “Hookers at Hunts Point” and other family-oriented features so I sort of understood.

Another time I started another company. I wanted Google to buy it. I mean, I really wanted Google to buy it. Google was like some sort of Internet Disneyworld to me. People were riding around in skateboards (technically I signed a contract saying I couldn’t say what I saw in the building. They accidentally had me sign the wrong document so I actually had to GO BACK a day later and sign the right one. But, fuck it, everyone was skateboarding in there while eating fusion lasagna). Everyone was smiling. Everyone was SMART. We all sat around this big conference table and when I say “we all sat around” half of us were in NYC and the other half was web-exed or whatever in from SF. Everyone asked smart questions. I felt like I was in graduate school again.

That night I woke up in the middle of the night sweating. I literally felt like I wanted to call Google at 2 in the morning and asked her if she still loved me. And then say, “but are you SURE you love me?” I wanted them to love me. I wanted to buy a skateboard. I wanted to say “Google bought my company”. I wanted to sexually harass the other employees there. I couldn’t help myself. I was in Google Fever.

They said “no”.

I’m permanently sick of it!

I got sick of one person, or one company, or one decision-maker having any power over me. It’s an internal choice, of course, but also an external one. You can set up your entire life to be diversified in every way so a “no” turns from shit to fertilizer.

Everyone knows this in investing. One time, with my last dollars left, I bought a bazillion shares of Sonus Networks only to watch it go from $7 to 18 cents before it rebounded (long after I sold it for a mega-loss). I got crushed and left on the floor. My 3 year old wanted to play with me. There was zero chance I was getting up off that floor to take her to the park. She had to bounce a ball up and down right next to me. It was annoying me so I picked her up and put her on the pool table so she could’t get off until someone came and got her.

The only way to survive, to get off the floor, to build, to have ideas, to create businesses, to have flourishing relationships, is with diversification. And with the greatest invention since the wheel, the Internet, it’s easier to do it now than ever before.

9 Ways To Diversify Your Life

Start more than one business. Start many businesses. Or jobs. Or careers. Start them at the same time. Eventually one will stand out as the one flourishing. I’m watching this happen to a good friend of mine right now. He has his hand in ten different businesses. He also has at least one fulltime job. One is bursting through and he’s able to make his decision as to where to go – the one that will make him fabulously wealthy while having fun.

Well, what if you have a job? Get two jobs. Apply for more jobs. Always figure out what your value is on the job marketplace. I just went on the board of a temp-staffing company called “Corporate Resource Services”. I don’t know what I can legally say about it (it’s a public company). All I can say is: it fits my idea that the 21st century is moving towards an “employee-less economy” because of all the regulatory and economic uncertainty. Companies are not hiring permanent employees. So you’re going to need to diversify your sources of income starting right now.

Diversify the way you meet people. We are no longer limited to just our coworkers and neighbors. Life is global. We can meet people through the Internet, through travel, through classes on every topic possible. Pick the people who will be the most positive in your life. People who you can look up to, who can look up to you. Eliminate everyone else. Not in a cold or cruel way. But in a way that makes sure you put the importance back on yourself. Make sure you are your own center of gravity. Anyone whose gravitational pull becomes too great needs to be put on “Halley’s Comet” status – once every 76 years and that’s it.

Diversify ideas. Many people ask me, “when I’m working on my list of ten ideas for the day so as to build the idea muscle, should they all be business ideas, or ideas around one sector?” No! Write ideas about anything you can. Then mate them. Here’s an exercise right now. Make two columns. At the top of each column, write an interest. Then write down five ideas for each that has to do with each idea. Now cross-fertilize them. Come up with many ideas combining the two columns as possible. You will never be the best in the world at anything (unless you are, then ignore this), but you can be good at many things. The beauty of that is that you then become the best in the world at the intersection of all these things. It’s at that intersection that you can completely direct traffic and change the world.

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