December 13, 2019

Book notes from The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher

The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth was book written by James after his great success from Choose Yourself. He ended up getting a lot of feedback from his first book from readers who were interested in how to bridge the gap between what the Choose Yourself book talked about and actual reality / tangible actions. I myself thought that Choose Yourself already had a lot (the best being the daily practice that James talks about) but I appreciate that James dives deeper into several topics. This book was written in 2015 and I think is still quite relevant to our times today (and even in the future). Here are the things that I learned from one of my favourite authors:

On quitting your job

James makes a lot of points here that I thought was illuminating. If you are in a position where people could make a decision that can ruin your life (say firing you, saying no to a big project that you want to start and run, declining on your TV pilot, etc.), you are basically stifled from ever succeeding. James argues that it is much better to put yourself in a position to succeed based on your decisions (thus the idea of choosing yourself). He also talks about how technology, automation, artificial intelligence, etc. will soon replace you in your job. And there’s really nothing you can do about it – technology is faster, cheaper, works harder and it’s only a matter of time before you will eventually be replaced. You might also think that your job is ‘safe’ but consider that artificial intelligence has written music, created art and done a lot of creative things which you may normally have thought were ‘safe’ from technology and computers. Finally, one of the worst things to get addicted to is a full time salary. You may earn a little bit more money every year but then you spend that extra raise or money from the promotion and you are constantly trying to earn more and more money to keep up with your lifestyle. When have you ever earned a 5k or 10k raise and saved all of that money, doing the same things you have been doing?

Generate ideas every day

Lots of people like money. I like money. But the future is for those that have ideas. Ideas are the currency of the 21st century James suggests. Other people may have money, but if you have ideas, you will never run out of opportunities and money. I would also add that while ideas are great, being able to take an idea and test / execute those ideas is also key. James, as part of his daily practice, reads for about 10 – 20 minutes every day and then he sits down and writes (and thinks of) 10 ideas on different things he has been thinking about. Why 10? The first 4 – 5 ideas comes really quickly. The 6th idea may be a bit harder to think of. Then you get to the 7th, 8th and 9th and you start really sweating. Your brain tells you to stop but you continue to think, lowering your standards for what you consider to be a good idea. Finally, when you come up with your 10th, you breathe a sigh of relief. Just like a muscle where you lift heavier and heavier weights to make it grow, you need to exercise your brain and come up with ideas every day to make it sweat (and come up with ideas on its own).

Tips on public speaking

Don’t use PowerPoint. Tell stories. Be vulnerable. Dress in comfortable clothing so that you are able to walk around and breathe. Watch comedians.

I particularly like the vulnerable tip – I think this is a key skill that great speakers have because being invulnerable (or appearing to be invulnerable) means that you set up an artificial barrier between yourself and the audience. The audience is more receptive to speakers that have been where they have been and are able to relate better with ‘imperfect’ individuals.

Watching stand up is something I’ll have to try for the next time I speak. Watching comedians helps you to relax, be funny and it gets you into the mindset that you can lead the audience through the stories you want to tell them. Have you ever gone into work after your partner has broken up with you? Awful. You are depressed or angry and you treat everyone around you like they are trash. What about getting into work after a wonderful weekend away with your family? You feel like you are walking on air. Your happiness and energy are infectious to those around you. It’s the same thing with watching stand up comedy before a speech.

How to master anything

Create a list of things that you were interested in as a child. Create a list of your talents. Take a look at your list and find the few things that you really want to explore (though these do not have to be set in stone). Every single day, practice that talent or skill for 4 hours. Learn from your failures. Recognize the patterns that may exist.

A long time ago, I remember being keenly interested in scrabble. I was introduced to it through a few friends and had no idea what kind of game it was (heck, my first word was Liszt after the famous pianist and composer but I did not realize that names were not part of the scrabble dictionary). After learning about the game and secretly wanting to beat my friends, I studied as much as I could about the game itself – all the two letter words, words with ‘Q’ but without a ‘U’, words containing ‘J’, ‘Z’, ‘X’ and some of the other hard to use tiles. I studied words that only contained vowels (because sometimes you pick up 7 vowels and have to get rid of them somehow). My game improved dramatically. I then learned about scrabble tournaments which sounded like a lot of fun but I was nowhere serious enough to participate. Later on, I learned that some of the scrabble champions memorized the scrabble dictionary – which is an incredible amount of effort and work. How do you improve from there? That’s what the next champions will know and do.

Myths that we have been told

  • Owning a home is better than flushing money down the toilet with rent
  • Going to college is a safe guarantee of getting a job and leads to more money and happiness than if you don’t go to college
  • Getting married means you won’t be alone
  • Procrastination is bad
  • One diet will lead to health
  • If you work hard, you can succeed
  • I can do ‘X’ later – where X is the thing you love doing the most
  • I can’t X (pro tip – I like adding the word ‘yet’ at the end here as per Neil Pasricha’s book You are awesome)
  • A job brings stability or wealth
  • Money solves all of your money problems

Why are the above statements myths? I think it’s a great exercise to stop and think about each and every one to understand why James considers these myths and what to do about it. For instance, you can work hard but maybe you won’t be able to succeed because your definition of success is different than what other people would normally call successful. I have a good job, I own some properties, I have a mortgage but otherwise no debts – but would I call myself successful? Not according to my definition but I know that according to many people, I would be.

The most important investment

What is the best investment that you can make? Is it on a house? Car? Index funds? Cryptocurrencies? Real estate? No! It’s none of the above. The best investment you can make is on yourself. Improve yourself through courses, books, in-person sessions, classes, webinars, workshops and anything else you can get your hands on. All of the other things you can invest in may go away. It may even have incredible 2000% returns. But an investment in yourself is never a bad investment to make and the returns could be exponential. I decided a long time ago that I agreed with this, that the best investment I could make was on myself so I almost never shy away from books or online courses or other things that I know will help me (whether now or in the long run).


What do you think about some of the ideas that James outlines? Investing in yourself? Creating 10 ideas every day? Quitting your job?


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