July 9, 2020

Book notes from Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher

As you know, one of my favourite books of all time is Choose Yourself by James Altucher. This follow up book is more of a “okay, I really liked Choose Yourself but how do I implement it?” – it’s a book on the specific tactics that James has done himself to build wealth. James claims that he does not write self help books – his books are about what has worked for him and not general advice books that may or may not work for everyone else. While I’ve only implemented a few of the things in his daily practice, I have already seen huge gains in my life – I feel like I have more energy (by exercising a little bit every day), I feel like I am generating more and more ideas (by coming up with 10 ideas every day) and I feel more satisfied and happier with things in my life (by being grateful every day). When we like specific authors, we (or maybe it’s just me) can’t help but absorb everything that the author has and will write and one way for me to remember what I have learned from James is to summarize it in my own words to others – here are some of the key ideas from James’ book that really hit home for me:

Ideas are the currency of the 21st century

A long time ago, I remember asking my friends about different business ideas they had and almost all of them refused to tell me. “If I had a great business idea, I wouldn’t want you to steal it”, they said. While I initially accepted this reason, later on I thought about how important execution is. You can have a great idea, a miraculous idea but if execution is awful then the idea will never take off.

James is in the habit of coming up with ideas every single day (again, this is part of his daily practice that he recommends) and then giving them away to others. Why? When you give away all of your ideas, your brain cannot help but come up with new and better ideas. I liken it to the wealthiest people who are often the ones that give away the most money.

Come up with ideas every single day. James recommends ten but he also says that your brain has to be sweating at the end or it’s not ‘growing’. Then give them away to others. Don’t expect anything in return.

Abundance will never come from your job

From the moment we get into school, we are in a ‘prison’. It’s a prison that expects certain things from us – to obey by the rules, to get good grades, to get a steady job where we can pay taxes and to not expect too much too quickly. When you work for someone else, you are busy at work making your boss (or your boss’ boss) rich.

Abundance won’t come from your job. Abundance comes when you are living along your themes. Themes you ask? James also suggests living your life according to themes as opposed to goals. Themes are better than goals. Goals are specific, measurable (SMART), etc. but sometimes you do not know what kind of goals you want to set. You’re just starting out and you have no idea whether you want to publish a book, a magazine or a children’s book. But you know that you want to write and build up an audience. Writing and building an audience is a theme. You can achieve your theme in multiple ways (as aforementioned). And maybe you don’t have a goal yet but as you write and build an audience, you will get a better idea of what to do.

Think about your life in terms of themes. Work towards incorporating your themes throughout your life, whether it’s working for someone else or working for yourself

How to sell anything
  • You’re more likely to sell to someone if they are your friend
  • You have to be willing to say no and walk away, otherwise you may end up with a bad deal
  • Over-deliver on value – if you sell your services for $100 / hour then if you work one hour, give them $200 in value and your customer will like doing business with you
  • Sell everything – you don’t have to just sell your product, you also offer your services, your employees, your experiences, your ideas, your other customer sand your competitors. Think about how valuable it is for your customer to have access to not just your company’s product but everything else that you can provide.
  • Persuasion – once you have built a following, ask them for what kinds of products or services you could provide to them.
Advice on negotiating
  • Use a trick to help you negotiate better. Ask the other side of your negotiations “I’m new at this. You guys are the grand masters of negotiation. If a grand master plays a novice, then he will always win. So help me out. What would you do if you were me?” And then ask again “But seriously, if you were me, what would you do. Again, i’m just a novice. I have no clue what I’m doing. Help me out here.”
  • Make sure your list is bigger than theirs – James says that when negotiating for example a book advance, ask the publisher about all of the other things that they can help with: what bookstores can you get into? what kind of marketing will they do for you? who does their book design? Do you have final say? Do you get a percentage of foreign rights? How do the royalties work? Will they pay for a publicist? etc.
  • Infinite patience = immediate results (love this)
How to master anything
  • List out everything that you enjoyed when you were younger
  • Go to the library or bookstore and see what kind of topics / industries / sectors / hobbies you are interested in. If you are willing to read 500 books on a particular subject, you probably have some interest in it.
  • Every single day, work on that hobby / interest / etc. for 2 – 3 hours a day
  • Know the history of that area – if you are studying jazz, study everything that has happened since the inception of jazz (and maybe even before things were known as jazz).
  • Study your failures – you’re going to make mistakes, but the biggest mistake you can make is not to learn from your mistakes
  • Be persistent – persistence creates luck. Just when you think that you can’t practice any more – that’s when you are at the very cusp of a breakthrough. A smart friend of mine said that it takes 2 – 3 years, if you are lucky and work hard, to really get good at something and be recognized for it. The first year is your learning year – that’s where you learn the basics, the foundational skills. The second year is your refinement year – that’s where you are slowly starting to master the skills and refining them to be really good. The third year is where you start to get noticed by others and slowly build your audience. Or maybe that’s in the second year if you are lucky.

Which of these ideas resonated with you? What did you like? What are you going to use in your life? Let me know in the comments!


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