Choose Yourself ~ James Altucher


James Altucher’s Choose Yourself is a loose, rambly piece of work, a book only in its physical form. I like to think of it is more as a collection of aphorisms by someone who has been on the path–sometimes choosing himself, sometimes not–for almost his entire life. You can’t live that long and that big and not come up with at least a handful of zingers!

Here they are (in no particular order):

On Choosing Yourself

“In this new era, you have two choices: become a temp staffer (not a horrible choice) or become an artist-entrepreneur. Choose to commoditize your labor or choose yourself to be a creator, an innovator, an artist, an investor, a marketer and an entrepreneur.” (26)

“Only do things you enjoy. Only think about the people you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human. Only go to the events that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with the people who love you back, who are winners and want you to win too.” (44)

“Every time you say yes to something you don’t want, your fire starts to go away.” (45)

Big Takeaway:
We are in a new age, post-individualist, post-selfish, post-materialist, fully-actualized living. We no longer need submit to conventional tropes of “career,” “success,” “having it all,” and “making it.” Living a good life is about defining for ourselves what that looks like–cobbling together a living with multiple streams of income (everything is a side hustle), welcoming pleasure, opting in and opting out. We get to both choose ourselves as well as choose for ourselves.


On Creativity

“The idea muscle must be exercised every day. Even if you’ve come up with ideas every day of your life, it will atrophy if you give it a two-week rest.” (140)

“Collisions are the fundamental life-giving processes of the universe. Ideas are no different. The best ideas come from collisions between newer and older ideas. (145)

“Don’t pressure yourself. If you pressure yourself to turn every seed into the most amazingly beautiful plant the world has ever seen, then you are going to set yourselfup for burnout and disappointment.” (146)

Big Takeaway:
Creativity is a practice. It is a way of living, of apprehending the world. It is not some flash of genius (although genius is important) that comes through solitary contemplation (although contemplation is important), but through collaborations, amalgamation, “collisions” of not only people but also the points of contact of ideas, old and new, tentative and fully-formed, harmonious and contrapuntal. The metaphor of the seed is especially beautiful. Spread the ideas, put them out there in the world, then detach from the outcome.


On Spirit

“No matter how hard it tries, a ripple that laps onto the shore will never be as powerful as the ocean that created it. The goal is to be the ocean–the central force in our existence that moves mountains, creates all life, shakes continents, and is respected by everyone.” (42)

“How do you surrender? By trusting that you’ve done the right preparation. You’ve done all you can do. All that is within your power, your control. Now give up the results.” (51)

“Don’t hit yourself over the head when these thoughts are in your brain. Just notice when these things come up. It’s not like you’re going to get cured of paranoia. But notice when it appears. Water withers the rock away. Every time you notice, the window clears a tiny bit. A smudge is gone. You get a glimpse of the light outside.” (190)

“If a painful memory arises, don’t fight it or try to push it away–you’re in quicksand. Struggle reinforces pain. Instead go to love. Love for yourself. (Quoting Kamal Ravikant, 70)

Big Takeaway:
Go with the flow. You are part of a bigger whole. Resistance is futile. The best work comes out of alignment with the universe. You need only be the instrument.


On Success

“As Woody Allen famously stated, 80% of success is “‘showing up’.” (234)

“A[nother] sign of a bad salesman is a good negotiator . . . When you’re negotiating you have to say no a lot. When you are selling you are always trying to find the “yes.” (132)

Big Takeaway:
Success is an illusion. There is only now. There is only saying yes to the universe.


On Failure

“But the most important thing these rejections gave me was a sense that never again should I rely on the whims of one person to choose my success or failure in any endeavor.” (40)

“No matter who your audience is 30% will love it, 30% will hate it, and 30% won’t’ care. Stick with the people who love you and don’t spend a single second on the rest.” (216)

How do you get past this [failure]? Diversification is everything. You get past “this” by having lots of “thats.” (249)

Big Takeaway:
Failure is an illusion. Diversification is everything.



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Note: Page numbers in parentheses refer to the Kindle edition of the book


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