Being Unpredictable Will Free You

Recently by James Altucher: How To Create Your Own Luck

I just got this email from a friend of mine: “in Mexico… got grazed by a bullet that wound up infected, and then I got a hernia, and then I started to bleed internally…”

There were more details: “drug cartels”… “corrupt cops”. I wrote him some questions to get more details. Assuming he’s still alive I hope he answers. He writes great books. He’s very unpredictable but I hope he doesn’t get himself killed.

I Was Blind But Now I ... James Altucher Best Price: $1.95 Buy New $1.98 (as of 02:30 EST - Details)

I like things in my life to be unpredictable. I like to know that things that didn’t seem possible suddenly become possible.

In 1994 I never thought it would be possible, while doing some mindless programming at a job in Pittsburgh that a little over a year later I’d have a job at HBO interviewing transvestite prostitutes and drug dealers, or that two years after that I would be selling a software company that I started. Or that three years after that I would be dead broke and filled with so many regrets and trying to figure out ways to kill myself so that at least my two kids could live off the insurance policy.

Or that, as I sit here and write this, I’d be in Las Vegas about to give a talk about the economy. And tonight in San Francisco to meet Claudia and then give another talk on Monday in San Jose about how to take advantages of the scams in our society to become an entrepreneur.

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We all want success. And although success does not equal money, we all need to support ourselves and to support our family. We’d all like to do good in the world.

Your brain doesn’t want you to do good in the world. I know this first hand. Your brain wants you to say “I can’t” all the time so that you don’t do something so unpredictable it gets you killed. The brain, your enemy, prizes its own safety first, and your happiness a distant second.

But there’s an easy way to defeat it. I’m going to be blunt when I name this method. It’s the “I can’t! You didn’t! Repeat!” Method. And it works but for unobvious reasons.

Step One: I Can’t

How many times have I said, “I can’t”

  • “I can’t because I didn’t get good at x, y, or z when I was younger.”
  • “I can’t because I don’t have the right connections.”
  • “I can’t because I don’t have the money to do it.”
  • “I can’t start a company because I have to make sure I support two kids.”
  • “I can’t make a facebook app because I don’t know how to program.”
  • “I can’t work for HBO because I’ve never done anything in the entertainment industry.” “I can’t relax until I sell my house first, which is like a chain around my neck.”
  • “I can’t get spend time getting physically healthy until I solve the problems in my business first.”
  • “I can’t write a novel because I don’t have the time and it won’t sell well anyway.”
  • “I can’t buy Yahoo, the entire company, because I don’t have a few billion dollars.”
  • “I can’t do this idea because the economy is bad. Italy might blow up.” The Wall Street Journa... James Altucher Best Price: $1.21 Buy New $10.13 (as of 08:05 EST - Details)
  • “I can’t write X, Y, or Z because I’m worried what my family, or what my colleagues, will say about me.”
  • “I can’t learn Spanish because I have to work 10 hours a day and then spend weekends cleaning my house.”
  • “I can’t daytrade because James said it’s too risky.”

One time I was standing in Victor Niederhoffer’s house at a party looking at a painting someone made of him and his father and I was thinking, “how come my family connections are not so strong? Did this prevent me from holding onto my success?” And how come nobody gave me a chance, like George Soros gave to him? Suddenly I got in the “I can’t succeed” mode. I got in a bad mood and even left the party. Once I left the party I immediately got stopped by a cop and given a ticket. I still owe Connecticut on this ticket. Probably with interest. Come and get me, Connecticut! And I came home and I just simply felt bad about myself.

We all have our “can’ts”. Start to list yours. Go from macro to micro. Macro is something like: “I can’t be happy until I have a million dollars” Micro might be something like, “I can’t sleep because I’m too worried about a meeting tomorrow” or “I can’t make this list of ‘can’ts’ becaus there’s nothing I can’t do” (figure that one out).

So that’s step one. Those can’ts are your boundaries. They are the walls to your cage. Don’t try to escape them. We are all expert cage-builders. Most people who tried to escape from Alcatraz died in the attempt. If you can’t do something you can’t do it. Don’t fight it.