10% Happier With Dan Harris: James Altucher – Master of Reinvention

Listen Here

James is… Many things
  • Author – Reinvent Yourself, Choose Yourself (highly recommend this)
  • Founded/co-founded more than 20 companies (Reset Inc., StockPickr)
  • Podcaster – check out some of these notes from his podcast with Ramit Sethi
  • Stand-up Comic
How and why did james start meditating?
  • He was 12 years old and wanted to “see girls naked”, he hoped to “astral project” outside of his body so he could “travel around his town to see naked girls”
  • His practice has refined itself over the years, and he hasn’t stopped meditating
  • “Meditation is practice for the other 23 hours of the day”
What benefits has james experienced?
  • Meditations has helped him realize when his intentions and when his brain are going in different directions
  • Meditation has allowed him to be better able to catch his thoughts
  • “The real me is different from the nonstop stream of thoughts going through my brain”
Making, and Losing a Fortune
  • James has made and lost fortunes throughout his life
  • He owned a company in the 90s that made websites for entertainment companies (like HBO), which he sold for lots of money but ended up spending almost all of it
    • He frequently took helicopters to Atlantic City from NYC to gamble
    • He went from millions to $143 in his bank account, leading to pretty bad depression
  • Meditation helped him cope with the ups and downs
    • Every day, he made sure he did at least 1 thing to move his life forward – exercise, have good relationships, be creative, meditate
    • Improve 1% every day
  • Really ask yourself – How would your life change if you had $100 million?
    • Your actual lifestyle wouldn’t change that much
    • “Society’s relationship with money has changed since we have access to so many of the things we want”
    • Dan – Past an income of $70,000, happiness does not increase in a meaningful way
How did James become a self-help writer?
  • James doesn’t like the phrase, “self-help”,  because he just views it as telling his story of how he’s solved the problems he’s encountered. People can make use of this however they want.
  • Choose Yourself and Reinvent Yourself are his best books, he’s written 18
  • He has learned that no matter what’s happening, at the end of the day, make sure you’ve done something to improve your mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and emotional health
  • “The best predictor of a successful tomorrow, is a successful today”
James’ Experiment with Minimalism
  • At one point James got rid of almost all of his possessions besides what would fit in a carry on bag. This included artwork, diplomas, dishes, clothes, photographs, etc.
  • At the end of throwing everything out, he owned only a kindle, laptop, phone, two outfits, a pair of shoes, and a tooth brush
  • He stayed in Airbnbs during this time, rather than renting
  • Why did he do this? – His lease was up on his apartment, and this minimalism thing was something he wanted to try
  • Everyone underestimates the amount of possessions they have. You don’t really need most of what you own.
  • If he bought something new, he would get rid of something he owned.
  • Check out the book Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life
  • This experiment gave James a certain discipline he didn’t have before, and overall made him happier
Stand-Up Comedy
  • James has been doing it for the past year 3-6 times a week. He aims to go on stage the most difficult nights, so he can stretch his comfort zone more and learn.
  • James has learned humor is not the most important skill when beginning stand-up comedy
  • “One source of happiness is to always feel like you’re improving at something”
  • Being a good public speaker won’t do anything for your stand-up comedy skills, but the stand-up skills translate very well and make you an even better public speaker
  • Likability is more important than humor
    • No one is going to laugh at someone they don’t like, the audience doesn’t even know you, so your job as a stand-up comedian is to get the audience to like you as soon as possible
  • The audience can sense nervousness
What is James’ goal with his mediation practice?
  • He’s goalless
  • People tend to correlate happiness with success
  • With meditation, there is no way to rank yourself, the only “goal” is to do it, and observe the effects
Closing Thoughts