Choose Yourself Part 2: James Altucher Fights Back

Jerod and Demian thought they were all done talking about the concept of choosing yourself … but then Seth Godin commented, and James Altucher reached out wanting to discuss further and clarify his position, and so they decided to record Choose Yourself Part 2.

And why wouldn’t they? Altucher literally wrote the book on Choose Yourself, plus he’s an interesting guy who both Jerod and Demian were excited to talk to and thought you would enjoy hearing from.

So over 35 minutes one recent Wednesday morning, the Lede team and Altucher discussed all of the following (and more):

  • Random, ice-breaking thoughts on mimicking Morgan Freeman and Gollum
  • Why we decided to bring this topic back for another episode
  • The similarities and differences between Seth Godin’s concept of “pick yourself” and James’ idea of “choose yourself.”
  • The individual components that make up the choose yourself mindset
  • Why choosing yourself is about much more than taking responsibility
  • How James overcame his darkest moments to ultimately chose his own life over the alternative
  • Why choosing yourself today doesn’t guarantee you success (but does put you in a position to be successful tomorrow)
  • The importance of consistently generating and sharing ideas
  • James’ big tip on the best way to create wealth for yourself
  • Does James feel like his message is getting through?
  • James’ advice on how to deal with haters
  • The problem with “failure porn”
  • How James and Demian use sports to teach their kids about the real world

Listen in, and drop your comments below.


The Show Notes



Choose Yourself Part 2: James Altucher Fights Back

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Jerod Morris: Is that the difference?

James Altucher : No, because …

Jerod Morris: Damnit.

James Altucher : This is the thing. This is the thing.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back, content marketing enthusiasts, to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing that is produced by Copyblogger Media and that is hosted by me, Jerod Morris, one of the VPs of Rainmaker.FM here at Copyblogger, and Demian Farnworth, who is the chief content writer and the host of Rough Draft, another show on Rainmaker.FM.

On this episode of The Lede, we are actually extending our ‘Hero Versus Villain’ series, in a manner of speaking. On a previous episode, we talked about the idea of ‘choose yourself.’ We mentioned Seth Godin and James Altucher, among others, in that episode. That episode got a great response, not just from you, but actually from the subjects of the episode themselves.

Seth Godin commented on the blog post and linked to us in a post about this concept of ‘pick yourself, choose yourself.’ James Altucher actually reached out to Demian and asked if he could come on an episode and talk about the concept himself, because I think there were things that he mentioned that he liked and agreed with, and some things that he didn’t. He wanted to set the record straight and have a fun conversation, and so we did.

We are bringing back the concept of ‘choose yourself’ for an even more in-depth discussion with the guy who coined the phrase, the guy who wrote the book on the subject itself, James Altucher. For the next 35 minutes, we talk about this concept and where he and Seth differ in their wording and even conceptually, what he doesn’t necessarily agree with us about, and topics such as how he uses dominating his daughter in tennis to teach her about the real world. It’s a wide-ranging conversation, a fun one. I think you’ll like it. Here is my conversation, Demian’s conversation, with James Altucher about the concept of ‘choose yourself.’

Random, Ice-Breaking Thoughts on Mimicking Morgan Freeman and Gollum

Jerod Morris: I was looking on your Twitter, James. On March 31st, you said that if you had Morgan Freeman’s voice and your own good looks, then you would have Morgan Freeman’s voice, but I’m not hearing Morgan Freeman’s voice.

James Altucher: I need to work on that. I don’t know how to learn an impression. I think it has to do with learning how to control your throat and your breathing. It sounds ridiculous if I do it.

Jerod Morris: I think some people must just have a natural ability for mimicry because, for instance, my brother is amazing at it.

James Altucher: Okay, but can he do Morgan Freeman?

Jerod Morris: His specialty is Gollum from Lord of the Rings and some of those. He can do a Morgan Freeman, but it’s not perfect. He can at least do it, because somehow, he has that mimicry gene or whatever it is. I don’t know what it is. I don’t have it, that’s for sure.

James Altucher: I bet you it’s a talent. I think even Morgan Freeman works really hard to do a Morgan Freeman. It’s still hard.

Demian Farnworth: I always think that Gollum is such an easy voice to do, really. You’ve got to destroy your voice, and you’ve got it. My daughter can do a Gollum. It’s like, “Gee whiz.”

Jerod Morris: If it’s so easy, would you like to try?

James Altucher: Some people are easier than others.

Demian Farnworth: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Do you want to give it a try, Demian, if it’s so easy?

Demian Farnworth: No, I don’t. All right. Never mind. Yeah. I was wrong.

Jerod Morris: All right. James, we’re really excited to have you on The Lede. We listen to your podcast a lot, and it’s nice to actually finally get to talk to you. It’s especially exciting since we’re doing a follow-up to an episode that we did a couple of weeks ago. We’d been doing this ‘Hero Versus Villain’ series that Demian thought up, where we’re taking conventional wisdom ideas and debating them on either side.

Why We Decided to Bring This Topic Back for Another Episode

Jerod Morris: A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the concept of ‘choose yourself.’ Of course, you wrote the book on ‘choose yourself.’ We took some different sides. It was one of the first episodes we’ve ever done where the subjects of the episodes really responded. You reached out to Demian, and Seth Godin commented. That’s why we wanted to bring that topic back, do it again, and actually bring you on here to talk more about it. Demian, if you want to talk about how that came about and lead into the questions, we’ll get rolling here.

Demian Farnworth: James, Seth jumped on the blog post for the episode. He commented, and he actually even wrote a blog post on his site about it, which expanded. It came down to this, where he said, “Really, what I’m after is this idea of ‘pick yourself’ is to take responsibility.” I guess the first question is, do you agree with that? If not, when you think of ‘pick yourself’ or ‘choose yourself,’ what are you trying to say?

James Altucher: First off, a couple comments. I really appreciated you guys addressing the topic the other day. I think it’s a critical topic in this economy. I know there’s all sorts of government numbers about job growth, but essentially, most people we know are unhappy in their job, because either they’re not getting the credit they deserve, they’re not getting the promotions they deserve, they’re getting demoted, or they’re getting fired. I had a letter today from a friend of mine. She’s applied for 100 jobs and can’t get a job.

The Similarities and Differences between Seth Godin’s Concept of ‘Pick Yourself’ And James’ Idea of ‘Choose Yourself’

James Altucher: That’s part of the meaning of “you have to choose yourself,” and that’s part of what Seth is saying with “you have to pick yourself.” It’s the same thing. I’m not going to say they’re the exact same thing, because Seth has a slightly different meaning. By the way, I love Seth. He’s been on my podcast twice. The guy is a super genius. Anything he says is worth listening to. Certainly part of ‘choose yourself’ is taking responsibility, but what does that mean?

The second point I wanted to make is this: you guys asked, “Is it something real, or is it New-Age phooey?” — that’s the way you put it. I respect that, because I’m not a big fan of any New-Age, The Secret stuff where you put in an envelope, “I need a million dollars,” and it shows up in a package the next day at your doorstep. That’s the direct opposite of choosing yourself. I just want to stress that there’s no New-Age component at all.

The Individual Components That Make up the Choose Yourself Mindset

James Altucher: What I mean about choosing yourself is two things. We do live in this economy that has turned upside down. It’s no longer “go to college, get a job, stay there 30 years, retire, be happy.” Now, we live in an economy where we do have to invest in ourselves and invest in our own growth and in our own network and in our own platform, rather than investing in trying to please others. A great example is that you no longer have to please a book publisher. You can write a book and upload it to Amazon and market it yourself and make most of the profits. That’s one example of choosing yourself.

What I really mean is also at the deeper level, you have to choose yourself for health. You can’t just get sick and then go to the doctor and get medicine for your symptoms. The doctor’s only going to cure your symptoms. He’s not going to cure what’s really going on inside of yourself. Science backs that up. On one of my podcasts, I had Rich Roll, who’s very much into nutrition, an extraordinarily fit guy who runs all these Ironmans. He quoted Hippocrates, who said, “Food is your medicine, and medicine is your food.”

Choosing yourself means taking care of yourself physically. You’re the only one who’s going to do it. No one else is going to do it for you. It means taking care of yourself emotionally, which means cut out — as much as you can — the negative relationships in your life, and build up the positive relationships in your life. Choose yourself mentally, which means we all have this idea muscle, and if we don’t exercise it every day by, let’s say, writing down a list of random, stupid ideas, your idea muscle’s going to atrophy. You won’t be creative, and you won’t come up with good business ideas. You won’t come up with good ideas for the businesses you work for, and so on.

Then finally, there’s choosing yourself spiritually, which doesn’t mean any New-Age kind of thing, and it doesn’t mean any kind of religious thing. It just means being grateful for what you have right now. Too many people, and this includes me, regret things that happened in the past, like, “Oh my God, I lost all this money,” or are anxious about what might happen in the future, like, “Oh my God, I might lose all this money.” Try to be grateful for what you have right now instead of time traveling to the past and the future.

Demian Farnworth: Let me ask you a question. Clearly, there has been a change from the traditional gatekeepers to the period now where we have access to the publishing tools. This idea of ‘take responsibility’ — in my mind, nothing has really changed, has it? You felt compelled enough to write a book, and I think you mentioned that about what you’re seeing with people not getting their jobs. What, in your mind, before you even wrote Choose Yourself, were you seeing and thinking?

Because think about it. Taking responsibility is just an age-old piece of advice. We should all have been doing that. What have we missed? What has been missed, and what did you see that was missing?

Why Choosing Yourself Is about Much More Than Taking Responsibility

James Altucher: Right. I want to put aside the phrase “taking responsibility.”

Demian Farnworth: You don’t own that?

James Altucher: Yeah. I don’t own that. I’ll give Seth full credit for that. Also, it’s not about taking responsibility, for me. I built and sold a business at one point, made a lot of money, and then — many people have gone through this; this is not an unusual story — I lost a lot of money. I lost all the money. I went totally broke. I lost my house. I lost my family. I lost everything.

How James Overcame His Darkest Moments to Ultimately Choose His Own Life over the Alternative

James Altucher: I was really thinking to myself, “The one thing I’ve got left is this $4 million life insurance policy.” I had passed the point where committing suicide was penalized by the life insurance policy, so I really thought to myself, “Okay. Maybe my kids would be better off with this $4 million than with having a dad.” I really considered — I understood — that I could kill myself, and there’s some benefit to that. Fortunately, I didn’t do that, although hopefully my kids agree with that.
Demian Farnworth: We all do.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

James Altucher: I didn’t have anything going on. I wasn’t really employable. I had just failed and bombed miserably at multiple businesses, really. I didn’t have any network, because everybody abandoned me. I had essentially been associating with the wrong people. I didn’t have any new ideas, because I’d just been relying on having all this money. All I did was sit around in regret all day and was anxious about living in the gutter and being homeless. I gained 30 pounds. I was eating unhealthy.

It wasn’t like the very next day, I was going to be successful. I was only setting myself up for more failure by behaving in this way, so I had to choose myself. I had to basically say, “Look, no one else is going to make me run around the block, or take walks, or whatever. No one else is going to say, ‘Hey, here’s a whole group of fascinating new friends who are positive for you that you should now start spending your time with.'” No one else was going to write down 10 ideas just for me. I had to start exercising my idea muscle. I was just obsessively regretting and anxious all the time.

Demian Farnworth: Your story, it’s a catastrophic failure story in which you’ve climbed out of that. Who’s your intended audience? Who’s your ideal audience? Who were you thinking about when you say “choose yourself?”

James Altucher: My intended audience is me. Although the phrase is ‘choose yourself,’ I’m not trying to give advice to anybody. Everybody’s in their own state in life. We all go through moments of some suffering where we’re like, “Oh my God, why am I here?” or “Why am I stuck?” or “Why did I end up in this situation again?” We all go through that, to some extent or other. There’s a spectrum.

What I write about in my book, and this idea of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health, is what I did for myself. This is how I chose myself, and it worked. I then went on to achieve some success after that moment, but then, you know what? Then it happened again. Then I made money, I sold a business, I made money, and I lost it all again. It’s because I stopped doing these things. Finally, I’m like, “You know what? If I’m going to be really serious about this — and I’ve got a family to feed, and I want to have a little bit more well-being in my life instead of constantly being on this stress roller coaster — I better start making sure I choose myself in a daily practice.”

It doesn’t mean I run ultra marathons and doesn’t mean I spend half a day in a soup kitchen feeding people. I just make sure I check the box every day. Am I, in some rough, estimated way, improving myself, let’s say, by one percent, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually?

Again, there’s nothing New Age about it. Am I actually making better physical and health choices for myself? Am I writing down 10 ideas a day? Am I looking through my relationships and seeing who I can be positive with today, and which negativity I don’t need today? Am I practicing being grateful, particularly in situations where it’s hard to be grateful? It’s hard to be grateful when your car crashes and you’re stuck, but how can I find ways to be grateful in a situation like that?

If I solve the problem “what’s one plus one?” I’m not going to get any better at math. If I solve some difficult algebra problem, I’ll get a little bit better at math. It’s all about solving the difficult problems in our lives, converting failures into difficult problems and then solving those difficult problems, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

Why Choosing Yourself Today Doesn’t Guarantee You Success (but Does Put You in a Position to Be Successful Tomorrow)

Jerod Morris: James, let me ask you something, because here’s where I think there’s an issue and why I think sometimes the idea of ‘choose yourself’ comes across as “New-Age phooey.” I think sometimes people hear it, and they think, “Okay, I can choose myself for success.” Really, what you’re saying is that the important distinction is you can choose yourself to be in a position to be successful.

You can choose yourself to do all these things like you’re saying, to be in the right mind frame, to be healthy, to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities. You can even choose yourself to say, “Hey, I have an important message to get out there. I want to get it out there.” Other people still have to choose you as someone to listen to or choose you for opportunities.

What you’re saying is that you can’t just choose yourself and say, like The Secret, “I have a million dollars.” It’s, “I can choose myself to be in control of what happens in my future, because I’m setting myself up to take advantage of opportunities.” Is that the difference?

James Altucher: No.

Jerod Morris: Damn it.

James Altucher: This is the thing. Here’s why I hate The Secret and all that New Age stuff. Why the heck should the universe give me a million dollars? I even write about this in another book. If there really is something like The Secret, give my secret to somebody else. I don’t need it. All I need to do is be physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy today. This is my only responsibility to myself. I can’t predict tomorrow.

I have a 13-year-old daughter. She’s always anxious. She gets in a pool. She gets out of the pool. Suddenly, she thinks she has swimmer’s ear. She gets worried about all these stressful things. I said to her, “Why don’t you take a little notebook around with you every day, and write down all the things that come up that you’re worried might happen in the future? Let’s see how good you are as a psychic. Let’s see if anything you predict at all comes true.” Of course, nothing comes true. I make it a point to remind her that nothing she has ever said about the future has ever come true.

I have no idea if I’ll have success, or if I’ll lose money again, or if I’ll have good relationships. I do know that, just like in almost every aspect of life, the best predictor of a successful tomorrow is if I have a successful today. That’s the only thing I know. I couldn’t have predicted a month ago that we would be on this podcast together. We didn’t plan anything. We planned something yesterday. I had a new book that came out a few weeks ago. Six months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to predict that that book would come out a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago, I threw out all my belongings. What does that mean? Success means different things for many people. Sometimes success means a boat. Sometimes success means a big house. Sometimes success means I’m going to have a huge library of books. I donated all my books. I got rid of almost all my furniture. I got rid of almost everything in my kitchen. Not because I needed to save any money. I just didn’t want these things in my life anymore. Actually, I’m really happier and peaceful. I wasn’t depressed — like sometimes people throw things out when they’re depressed. I just wanted to do that exercise, because I thought it would be better. It turns out it was a good exercise.

Demian Farnworth: Really, it’s about controlling what you can control in those four aspects that you mentioned. I think you said the physical, mental, spiritual, and what was the fourth one?

James Altucher: Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.

Demian Farnworth: Yeah. Controlling what you can control, and then just leaving the results to fate or whatever you want. Really it’s actually controlling what you control.

James Altucher: I could only do these things for myself. I can’t do them for you or for anybody else. It’s not like I think if I do this, oh, the universe is going to take care of me. It’s the opposite. If I don’t do this, then it’s a higher likelihood that things are going to go wrong. For instance, if you hang out with a bunch of heroin addicts, then it’s probably not as good for you as if you hang out with a bunch of really strong, positive, empowering people.

The Importance of Consistently Generating and Sharing Ideas

James Altucher: If I come up with 10 ideas a day, I’m probably more likely to come up with a good idea than if I just sit around and don’t come up with 10 ideas a day. If I stay physically healthy, it’s probably more likely I’m going to live a longer life than if I just eat Doritos all day. I’m doing what I can, and that sets the odds in my favor, but I don’t expect anything back. I’m only focused on right now. Again, I don’t even like debating the New-Age aspect that much, but I think that removes the New-Age part of the equation.

Jerod Morris: I think what I love about it, and obviously we can parse different parts of it, but it’s just an empowering statement. What you’re saying is, “I can do these things for myself.” You’re not worried about things you don’t have any control over or the future. What you’re describing is living in the moment, taking care of the things you can take care of right now, and letting what will come, come.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the reason why people have really gravitated towards this is that empowerment aspect, because I’ve met so many people like this, that feel like the world is out to get them or that they don’t have control, or they try and feel like they have control over too much. You’re basically simplifying it down, distilling it down into, “control you, control what you can about yourself, and let what will come come.”

James’ Big Tip on the Best Way to Create Wealth for Yourself

James Altucher: Part of it is, too, is sometimes I have ideas for other people and other businesses, and I’ll share those ideas freely. That then creates opportunities for me. Again, it doesn’t create them in a New-Age sort of way.

The best way to create wealth for yourself is to create wealth for others. If I share somebody 10 ideas how to improve their business — totally unsolicited, do what you want with them — then one out of 40 might call me back and say, “Hey, can you help me out a little bit more with this? I want to understand these ideas a little more. I’ll pay you or give you a piece of my business.”

I’ll tell you, that basic technique, which I was only able to do after writing ideas down for years and building up that idea muscle, that basic technique has created more abundance for me than any other business I’ve ever created. I’ve seen it now work for other people, as well, since I’ve started sharing these ideas. It spreads out.

Then you know what happens? Then you build a community of people. Five years ago, I didn’t know Jeff Goins. I didn’t know Seth Godin. I didn’t know you guys. Now, we’re all in a community where we’re talking to each other about these important ideas that I know have helped me. I get emails from people who it supposedly has helped them. At the very least, we can have this fruitful exchange of ideas that maybe other people listening can benefit from.

Demian Farnworth: You published your book Choose Yourself in 2013, correct?

James Altucher: Yes.

Demian Farnworth: Obviously, before that, this thought was going through your head. It was germinating. Take us through, what was the genesis of that? You gave us your personal story, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. Was there any defining moment that it’s like, “What people have to do is choose themselves”?

James Altucher: I think there was two. There was one that was the micro-personal, which is that I saw what was happening with me as I applied these ideas. What was happening with me was that essentially every six months, my life was almost completely different in these totally fascinating ways. I was really enjoying the ride, as opposed to prior, where I was really stressed out of my mind. The other thing is that I’m an investor in many different companies. I’ve started and sold several companies. I’ve failed at dozens of companies. Also, at the time, I was on the board of a company that was a major staffing company.

I was seeing what was happening in the economy. Not that the economy is good or bad. I almost hate the word “economy,” because there’s many different economies out there. In general, corporatism, as opposed to capitalism, is disappearing and changing. Just like the horse driver industry changed when the automotive industry came in, the general corporatist economy is changing to more of a ‘choose yourself’ economy.

Demian Farnworth: Because of the Internet?

James Altucher: Because of the Internet. This has largely been a result of the Internet, but also, people have been choosing themselves and building their own businesses for hundreds of years without gatekeepers. Now, it’s true, it is easier than ever because of the Internet and Internet technologies. I can build a business for $2,000 and sell it for millions a year later. That’s certainly possible now. I could write and publish a book for free without depending on any publisher or agent saying no to me.

Book publishing — I’m not recommending necessarily people do it. I just give that as an example, because that’s one where you had this major gatekeeper in the middle for 100 years or for 500 years. Now that gatekeeper has suddenly and utterly disappeared. You can make so much more money self-publishing than waiting for a publisher to choose you that it’s just ridiculous at this point.

Does James Feel Like His Message Is Getting Through?

Demian Farnworth: Do you feel like your message is getting through?

James Altucher: I do. It’s funny. Somebody just wrote me and pointed out a whole list of Meetups that are occurring around the world that are around this idea of ‘choose yourself.’ I don’t have it in front of me right now.

Jerod Morris: We were just talking about that, because I saw you tweeted one in Dallas, which is where I live. There are all kinds of Meetups of people getting together to talk about the ideas, which is great.

James Altucher: There’s one in Ko Samui, Thailand, and just by coincidence, I was there six months ago. Again, in terms of prediction, I never would have predicted that when I was standing in Ko Samui, Thailand, which is this island off the coast of Thailand, that six months later, some person I had no idea lived there was going to be organizing a Choose Yourself Meetup there. I think these ideas are getting across. Again, for me, it’s not important that the ideas get across. I just tell what worked for me.

I always recommend, try it for yourself. If something else works for you, then do that. These basic ideas worked for me. Also, again, when I say being physically healthy, I don’t necessarily mean go to the gym and do 500 pushups. I wouldn’t be able to do that. Every day, I think about nutrition and movement. Am I doing the things I should be doing to be healthier, as opposed to unhealthy?

Demian Farnworth: Right. Given that you think that your message is getting through, what are some things that frustrate you about it, besides upstart podcasters calling you New Age?

James’ Advice on How to Deal with Haters

James Altucher: I didn’t mind that, because it gave us this opportunity to talk and answer the question. I was happy to see that. I think everybody who says something interesting is going to have people who say the opposite or who just hate them for no reason. I get plenty of that. Again, I view that as a challenge. I try to just either ignore it, or if somebody’s really negative, I just don’t want them in my life.

That gives me a difficult problem to solve. We see it on the Internet all the time. There’s that famous cartoon: “Honey, I can’t go to sleep right now. Someone is wrong on the Internet.” This happens to me at least once a day. I’m writing a letter to respond to somebody, and I’m like, “You know, this is not going to add to their life. It’s not going to add to my life,” and I just delete the letter. It’s really hard to do it.

Demian Farnworth: Right. That’s funny, because yesterday, I was thinking about you, because I was trying to respond to somebody on Twitter who had said something. I was like, “Do I just apologize and let it drop, or do I push the issue?” I’m like, “You know, I’m just going to apologize, let it drop, and move on, because I think that’s what James would do.”

James Altucher: Yeah. Sometimes I just ignore. I was talking to someone this morning. A friend of mine called me up crying. Some members of her family were saying nasty stuff about her on her Facebook wall. I said to her, “What did you do?” She said, “I deleted my Facebook app, so now I don’t have Facebook.” I’m like, “Why didn’t you just block them from seeing your Facebook wall? Why did you ruin this source of pleasure for yourself because of a few hateful people, instead of just getting the hateful people out of your life?” She’s like, “That’ll cause all these problems.”

I said, “Yeah, but right now this second, you called me crying. You were sobbing. Who cares about the problems a week from now? You’re sobbing right now. Obviously, deleting something that was a source of pleasure for yourself didn’t solve your problem.” Even though it’s obvious — “Oh, yeah, take a walk around the block and by physically healthy” — people sometimes need to be reminded of these things.

Demian Farnworth: Yeah. I think so. Here’s a personal example. Just the other day, a neighbor boy said something to my son. This boy’s a lot younger than Sebastian, but he said something to upset my son. My son’s like, “I’m going inside. I’m done playing.” He told me, “Yeah, I never want to hang out with him again.” I’m like, “No. You have to live next to him, so let’s go talk this through and try to see each other’s situation, because you have to live with each other. You have to see them. It’s much better to have that relationship smoothed over and talked through, and communicate clearly about our feelings,” because I think it’s often what we do.

That’s my response a lot of times, if I’m confronted with something: “I’m just done with that relationship. I’m done. I’m moving on.” Instead of, say, “But I’ve gotten value out of that in some sense, so how can I preserve that but at the same time confront this issue?”

James Altucher: Yeah, no. I think you did the right thing. First off, it’s never the random guy who lives across town who is the negative guy. It’s always your next-door neighbor, or your mother, or your father, or your colleague.

Jerod Morris: Your spouse.

James Altucher: Yeah, your spouse or siblings. You know what? Sometime, they’re batshit crazy. You can’t do what you just did with your son and his friend. Hopefully that relationship’s repaired, and your son can enjoy playing, and they live next door. Sometimes you have a boss who is just simply evil. You have to say, “I’m going to either quit this job, or I’m going to just do my work and check in and say hi, but not try to make BS small talk or anything like that. Engage as little as possible.”

People say, “What if I have to deal with them? What if I have to see my siblings over Thanksgiving?” You don’t really have to. There’s plenty of ways to enjoy Thanksgiving without seeing the crazy sibling or whatever. Or, again, engage as little as possible in some cases. Again, there’s a spectrum. Sometimes you can work it out. Sometimes you can’t, but you still have to engage a little bit. Sometimes you can just say, “Okay,” it’s like you said, “I have already gotten enough value out of this. Now I’m going to move on.”

Jerod Morris: James, as we wind this episode to a close, I want to actually give people a little bit of a preview of next week’s episode, because you’ve mentioned a couple times this idea of failure. Obviously, you explained your story, and you’ve mentioned a couple times failing and learning from it and moving forward. In our next episode, that’s actually what we’re going to be talking about, is this idea of celebrating failure, and failing forward, and “fail faster, fail harder.” Where do you stand on that whole idea of failing forward?

James Altucher: I don’t like it anymore.

Demian Farnworth: Thank you.

The Problem with ‘Failure Porn’

James Altucher: Yeah, I used to think, “Okay, let’s be honest about our failures.” Now I think we’ve all of a sudden — I don’t know what happened — it became failure porn. We all revel in our failures, and it becomes this red badge of courage to fail, because then that’s how we’re going to become a billionaire later, is by failing now.

When Thomas Edison got a light bulb working on the thousandth try, he didn’t say, “Oh, I just failed 999 times.” Failure porn says he failed 999 times. I don’t think Thomas Edison viewed it that way. I think he was very happy and probably in a state of flow experimenting 999 times before that thousandth try.

Again, I view the businesses that I’ve started that haven’t worked out as experiments, while I’ve ultimately found this path that works for myself. They were all experiments along the way.

I don’t like using the word “failure” anymore at all, really, even though we did use it in this podcast, so I can’t totally say that. I think people engage too much in failure porn. Of course, there’s a great book, Failing Forward, by John Maxwell. Everybody gets it because, “Oh, I just failed, so I could use this book now.” No, you can’t. Failure doesn’t propel you forward. Solving a difficult problem will propel you forward.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, we don’t want to give away too much of the conclusion, but yeah. It’s a word issue. I think you hit the nail on the head: “experimenting.” You can experiment forward, but the idea of failing forward may be taking it a little bit too far. I love the idea of failure porn, though. We’re going to have to use that.

Demian Farnworth: I know. One final question. What is beyond ‘choose yourself,’ not just for the concept, but for you?

How James and Demian Use Sports to Teach Their Kids about the Real World

James Altucher: I don’t know, really. Again, I focus on what I’m going to do today. I know I’m going to play tennis a little later to stay physically healthy. By the way, I play my 13-year-old, so I know I’m going to win. She can’t beat me in tennis yet, and I like to win. I’m going to spend time with people who are positive and forward thinking. I’m spending time with you guys right now. I’m going to write my 10 ideas for the day. I don’t know what they are yet, but I’m going to do it. I already wrote a post for today. I’m going to practice being grateful.

I’m involved in a whole bunch of different businesses, so in the afternoon, when things slow down for me a little bit, I’ll see what I can do today to help those businesses. That’s my “job,” is to figure out how to help the businesses that I’m involved in. I just focus on today. I don’t say this in a spiritual way, like The Power of Now or anything. It’s just — I can’t do anything about tomorrow. I can only do things about today.

Demian Farnworth: How does your daughter respond to losing?

James Altucher: That’s actually a great question. She does not like it. I tell her, “Welcome to the real world,” because the reality is, she gets all A-pluses in school. She starts to panic if she gets a 98 out of 100. I’m like, “You know, only in school do you get all 100s. Everywhere else, you get mostly F’s. Reality is mostly about getting a 60 out of 100 rather than 100 out of 100. This is closer to reality than what you just experienced in school.” Then, of course, I take her out for ice cream afterwards, so it’s all good.

Demian Farnworth: There’s a reason why I asked that question. My son, I play him — with football, baseball, chess, whatever — and I clobber him. He doesn’t want to play anymore, so I’ve had to peel back and make it competitive for him. Otherwise, he doesn’t want to learn or he doesn’t think it’s fun. I’m just curious about the balance that you had to take there.

James Altucher: What I’ll do is I’ll note to her — because she’ll always get disappointed in herself — I’ll note to her the positive things, like, “Oh, by the way, did you notice you just got seven serves in a row in? Yesterday was six. Now you’ve just broken your record.”

I’m a big game player. I have found some games that are fairly complicated games that she seems to do well in. I have a big 19-by-19 Go board. I don’t know if you know what Go is. Basically, we play five in a row. It’s like tic-tac-toe, but five in a row. Sometimes she wins, and I can’t believe it. I’ll act like a sore loser. I’ll throw the pieces on the floor, and she laughs. Then it’s a little bit more fun.

Jerod Morris: That’s great.

Demian Farnworth: Yeah. All right.

Jerod Morris: This has been great, James. We really appreciate the time, getting the chance to flesh this out more.

James Altucher: Thanks, you guys. I really appreciate you having me on. Good luck with tomorrow’s episode, too.

Jerod Morris: Excellent.

Demian Farnworth: Thank you, sir.

Jerod Morris: Thank you all very much for listening to another episode of The Lede. We always greatly appreciate your attention. Of course, if you’re enjoying what you’re hearing on these episodes, we would definitely appreciate a rating or a review on iTunes. Just a quick reminder that The Lede is sponsored by the Rainmaker Platform, as are all the shows on Rainmaker.FM. The Rainmaker Platform is the complete digital sales and marketing platform.

Not only is Rainmaker.FM built on the Rainmaker Platform, but my side projects and Demian’s side projects are, as well. Whether you’re going to start a podcast or build landing pages or develop a membership site, whatever it is that you want to do to build an audience and build an online business, the Rainmaker Platform allows you to do it and allows you to do it simply and without hassle. That’s why so many people are signing up and loving it.

If you want to give it a try for yourself, see if it’s the right fit for you, you can actually take a 14-day test drive. Just go to, and get started today.

All right, everybody. Thanks again for listening. We’ll be back next week with another episode. Talk to you then.