Reinvent Yourself by James Altucher - Book Review and Quick Summary
If there’s anyone who knows how to reinvent himself, it’s James Altucher. He’s run hedge funds, started companies, lost it all with said companies, written books, hosted TV, and blogged about the worst moments of his life. His willingness to be vulnerable in his writing sets him apart from the sea of ’amazing’ self-help gurus. In “Reinvent Yourself", Altucher collects lessons he’s learned from his mentors, and shares them with you the reader.
His mentors aren’t always ’direct’ mentors in the Yoda/Miyagi/Rafiki sense. Rather, Altucher gets mentorship from his friends, authors, podcast guests, TV shows, his daughter, and even games.
If you’ve read a lot of James’ work or listened to his podcasts, there’s not much new information here. Still, it’s a quick read chock full of insights. Viewed through James’ and his mentor’s stories, the takeaways hit a harder than just reading notes like mine.
I recommend this book for anyone who:
- Knows a 9-5 job isn’t for them
- Is hiding from a big life change
The following are rough notes I took while reading. These are mostly paraphrased or quoted directly from the book.
Relying on a Job == Thing of the past
Since 1993 income for people age 18-35 has gone down
Relying on college, a job, promotions, security, pension = thing of the past
You can’t rely on government or educational institutions, they are designed to make the rich richer
When you have only 1 source of income (a job),...you will be one of the masses instead of one of the people who will survive.
You have to reinvent yourself.
How to find a Mentor
Many people die at 25 but are not put in the coffin until 75. The learning stopped for them early.
ways to find a mentor:
- Research them
- Give them value
- Try with a lot of people
- Be available (it’s worth it to fly to meet someone who will give you great advice)
- Get a virtual mentor (read their books)
Everyone I meet, I try to find at least one take-away.
Chris Voss, FBI Negotiator
Always want to get more information in a negotiation with as little commitment as possible.
Ask a lot of “how", “what” questions.
List your negatives first to build empathy
Make them feel powerless: “Sounds like there’s nothing you can do"
Mirror the last 1-3 words then go silent.
Louis C.K., Comedian
Ask, “who did I help today?” instead of wondering about life after death
"I’m bored” is a useless thing to say
Don’t spend energy on things that don’t matter, things you can’t change
"If you think about something three times in a week, you have to write it"
Mac Lethal, Rapper
"People don’t remember what they don’t like...keep working at it and you’ll put out good stuff and that’s... what they will remember"
"Unless your work gives you trouble, it is no good"
"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist"
"Action is the foundational key to all success"
Altucher’s daily routine
- Wake up and be grateful
- sleep well, exercise, eat well
- try to love the people in your life
- try to be creative
- at each of these, try to improve 1%
Chip Conley, Airbnb Hospitality
What five adjectives do you want to describe your life, or your career, or your relationships?
What did you love doing when you were 6, 8, 10 years old?
Despair = Suffering - Meaning
Chase Jarvis, Photographer
Building a connection [to your subject] is more important than technique or equipment or lighting
Rejections from girls
What James learned:
- how to handle ’no’
- how to ask
- how to better sell himself
- that time heals everything
Wayne Dyer, Author
Do work you believe in so much you’d go to jail for it
Arrange whatever pieces come your way
Always take responsibility for your own life
Rest when you have nothing to do
Rid yourself of everything you don’t need
Be around other Jedis (good people)
"If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it"
"It’s okay to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket"
Have a feedback loop. Think about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.
"Life is too short for long-term grudges"
It’s hard to be #1 at one endeavor. Combine passions and be the greatest at the intersection.
Put in 3 years to study, 2 years to start making money, 3-4 years before you make a living and 5-6 before you are killing it.
Never say no (early on), take every gig you can
"No one can grow if he does not accept his smallness"
Live by example instead of preaching
Cognitive Biases Eminem uses to win a rap battle:
- "In group” bias: ’everybody from the 313 put your motherf****ing hands up"
- Herd behavior
- Availability Cascade: repeats his lines
- "Out group” bias: points out opponent without hands up
- Ambiguity bias: never names opponent directly, always “this man"
- Credential bias: references lines from great rappers
- List objections up front
- Scarcity: finishes his part and leaves the building
Turn pain into art
Learn the history of your field. Learn everything about the masters.
"If it’s not hard, it’s soft."
If a piece of writing is not hard, it’s not worth writing or sharing
There’s a grammar of success. When you learn to use that grammar in one area, apply the same techniques to succeed in others
Be prolific. Asimov wrote 467 published books
Have a group to grow with. Asimove, Arthur Clarke, and Robert Heinlein were all friends who challenged each other. So were Burroughs, Kerouac, and Ginsberg.
Qualities of a good blog post:
- Captures you from the first line
- Tells a story
- Solves a problem
- Is honest
Normal will kill you. If you don’t let creativity flow it will be trapped and kill you.
A lie: “Solve other people’s problems and you will be successful.”
The truth: Show us how you solved your problems, or how you tried. Give us permission to be confused.
Rick Ross, Drug Dealer
Try to get the people working for you to be more successful than you
When there are lawyers, people lie and deceive and betray. When everything is based on your word and everyone is carrying guns, honesty is the rule (Skin in the game)
Ross ran a decentralized structure. “I had to show by example how to manage, so the people underneath me would know what to do instead of me being always involved."
When you make it about something other than the money, the benefits never stop
Give for free, then charge when they trust your product
Daymond John, CEO of FUBU
"People always say you need money to make money. This is wrong. Half the Forbes 500 of the richest people in the world start[ed] with nothing"
- Find your community
- Take affordable steps forward
- Always Manage Risk People think entrepreneurs take risks. This is not true. Entrepreneurs want to make more money than they spend. Period.
- Always be Testing "We’d try new prices, new styles, new sizes. We’d...double down on what worked and stop doing what didn’t"
A job is like running a business with one source of revenue.
His plan: be at the forefront of technology (but not too far ahead), get as many press releases going as possible, sell as fast as you can
Don’t invest in ugly
Get comfortable, then get rich
Cuban’s Rules for investing:
- Find something you are super excited about and know that at least 100 million people can be super excited about it.
- Start a company in that space or invest as much as possible. Strongly participate in it.
- Get as much press as possible. Don’t use PR firms
- Have a good bullshit detector.
- Engage the customer
Make the dream life by re-calibrating what’s really important to you. In my mind, I’m a trillionaire. And getting richer every day.
Sell the dream, not the sales
Don’t nickel and dime, “Better to have 20% of a $100M company than 100% of nothing"
Get value besides the money (introductions, other help)
Know what you are good at. Pitch the right guy. Invest when those in the know are investing.
Get advice when you fail
Bad questions: “Why did this have to happen to me?", “Why did I lose that job, I was so good!"
Good questions: “What can I do to improve?", “How can I find a better job?", “How can I be grateful that I lost this job?"
Bring the target closer. Then move it a little further away.
Break down your goals to make sure you even need to aim that high
The best know they know nothing
- At first you know nothing
- Find 5 experts
- Interview them
- Figure out the simplest things they have in common
- Do that simple thing over and over
Some people thing “choosing yourself” is a selfish concept. But it’s the only way you build the strength to help others.
We’ve forgotten the beauty of “I don’t know"
Larry Page, Google
To have well-being you need: 1. A feeling of competence or growth 2. Good emotional relationships 3. Freedom of choice
"In technology, we need revolutionary change, not incremental change"
What does your “good enough” day look like? What’s one thing that moves you past that?
Focus on building the things that don’t exist
So many people ask, “How do I get traffic?” That’s the wrong question. Ask every day, “How did I help people today?” then you will have more traffic and money thaan you could have imagined
"Invention is not enough. You have to combine invention and innovation focus, plus the company that can commercialize things and get them to people."
"Small groups of people can have a really large impact"
"We don’t have as many managers as we should, but we’d rather have too few than too many"
What are 10 things that can be invented that people would use twice a day?
Profitability is proof that an idea is sustainable
"I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition."
Mimi Ikonn, Youtuber
The most successfull people have a model for their success
- Value. Provide value for the viewer
- Consistency. Consistent release schedules
- Authenticity. No fluff, no pitch
Help one, use that experience to help many
Make a use story, don’t just list features
Don’t wait for permission, say, “we are already doing this, are you in?"
Ideas get stronger when they are shared
Look for the adjacent possible, and start small
Stand next to the smartest people
All successful people start off knowing nothing
Idea subtraction: subtract a worry, what would you implement? ex: “If only I knew how to program I could do X.” Imagine you can program. What would you implement?
"employee” doesn’t mean you give up on creating, on making, on coming up with ideas
Buddhism and Taoism aren’t religions. Buddha and Lao Tzu never mention a god. They mention:
- Suffering will always happen
- Suffereing will cause you to react
- You can remove yourself from the suffering by noticing your reaction instead of being a slave to it.
- Noticing your reactions to suppering is the key to well-being
A friend’s Grandma
Do you make fear decisions, or growth decisions? Look at your big decisions, and even your day-to-day decisions.
There are two ways to learn: passively and aggressively.
Passive: study your mistakes, read the history, network, find a mentor
Aggressive: Get right in the middle of it. Take ACTION
In your head is important. But ACTION is what creates heroes.
Bruce Lee technique: “I don’t fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks. I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Pick a specific area to work on, and repeat.
If you find yourself playing a game all day, ask yourself: what might be wrong in my life?
"Consipiracy theory": if too many things have to happen in order to bring about the situation that you want, then back out and try again later.
It’s not about 10,000 hours, it’s about 10,000 hours where you practice with intent.
You have to get a teacher. You have to study the history.
Never let a loss go to waste. The only way to learn is to study something you never knew before.
If you get good at anything you get to speak a language that builds a bridge to others who share the same love.
- Find your Plus (a mentor)
- Find your Equal (a peer to challenge each-other)
- Find your Minus (a student to teach)
Time it takes to reinvent yourself: five years
- Year One: you’re flailing and reading and just starting to DO
- Year Two: You know who to network with. You’re Doing every day.
- Year Three: You’re good enough to make money. Maybe not a living.
- Year Four: You’re making a good living
- Year Five: You’re making wealth
Books / Articles Mentioned:
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Bukowski’s Influences: Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Knut Hamsun, John Fante
Rick Ross’ book recommendations:
- As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
- Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
Models for success:
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