The James Altucher Show: Jesse Itzler on Becoming Self-Made


“I learn best by jumping into the unknown”

  • The traditional way to gain an edge – read books, hire a coach, go to seminars, listen to podcasts

  • For Jessee – “Stepping into the unknown is the best way for me to get an edge”

  • Given his books – the idea of learning by jumping into the unknown and just seeing what happens, is sort of a niche for Jesse

The $160,000 Lesson

  • Jesse remembers only one lesson from his college education

    • His senior year, he took an advertising class, where he had to create a fictitious brand from scratch

    • Jessee used the project to create a brownie business

      • His teacher told him “There’s a thousand brownie businesses that come out every day. If you want to be great, and make it in this world, you better be a much different brownie business that anyone else”

        • You can sub brownie business for manufacturer,author, restaurant etc.

    • You HAVE to differentiate

      • “We all live by a playbook, so what if we ripped up the playbook?”

      • “If no one told you how to do your job, how would you do it?”

      • If you do the same thing everybody else does, you’re going to get the same results

    • Be 10x better not 1x better

    • Go where it’s least crowded

  • “Ready, fire, aim”

    • When you have an idea – get the advantage of being the first mover in the space

    • Waiting to become an expert takes too long

    • If you fail, you can always go back and try again

Experience is Overrated

  • Look at things with beginners mind - borrow from other people who may have put in the 10,000 hours, instead of putting the “necessary” 10,000 hours to be an expert yourself

  • Many a people have lost an opportunity trying to take the time to get to 10,000 hours

Life Resume

  • We focus on our work resumes a lot, we should focus on our life resumes more – build through experiences 

    • “After a certain period, no one will ask where you went to college” – James

    • “The real life nuggets don’t come in the way they think they’re going to come”

  • The Kevin Rule – named after Jesse’s friend Kevin

    • Many people feel they are too busy for X

    • So the rule – “If I can’t take one weekend every other month for myself, or to spend with my family, how out of balance is my life?” – Allow yourself to take that trip


  • We are all running from the present moment

    • One thing Jesse does to help him be more present, he likes to tell himself things like:

      • The average American lives to be 78

      • So, if your parents are both 73, but you only see them twice a year, you don’t have 5 years left with your parents – you only have 10 visits left – Be present

    • Reverse engineer the rest of your life

      • Recognize how precious the time you spend with people is

      • “How do I want to spend that time, and who do I want to spend it with”

    • Wellness, family, business, relationships – the 4 buckets of life

      • If you’re spending a lot of time outside those 4 core areas, it’s a distraction

  • If you’re trying to decide whether to invite someone to a birthday party, ask yourself – “If this person were the only person to show up at the party, would I be happy that they were the only person to show up?”

    • If not, don’t invite them

  • If you’re feeling anxious about a piece of work/a creation

    • Remember: “No one whose reading this will be around in 100 years”

      • When you realize this, it’s much easier to do/try things you normally wouldn’t

  • The average person spends 2-3 hours a day looking at social media

    • That’s 800 hours a year – a lot of wasted time

Living with the Monks

  • Jessee recently spent 15 days living at a monastary

    • He wasn’t allowed to use his phone

  • “By writing about your experiences, it’s like you’re experiencing them again” – James

  • Jesse wanted to pull some of the wisdom of this 1500 year old tradition, and apply it to his life

  • To pay the bills at the monastery, the monks breed German Shepherds

  • By just jumping in and not doing too much research, Jesse didn’t give himself the opportunity to psyche himself out

  • “I wasn’t looking for religion, I wasn’t looking for silence, I was looking for experience, one more thing I could put on my life resume

  • We are all bombarded with too much news and information, notifications, we ask Google and Alexa our questions etc. - This makes it hard to trust our gut

    • “Thinking is a lost art form”

  • What did Jesse learn from this monk experience?

    • Things that were most important to Jesse rose to the surface

    • “I didn’t miss a lot of the things that I spent a lot of time on” – like the things on a “to do” list

    • Jesse became more present – he no longer is so attached for his phone

  • The monks just had “do lists”, not “to do lists”

    • They didn’t move to the next task, until the current one was completely done – they perfected monotasking

    • After being overwhelmed with helping with doing the dishes one night, a monk told Jesse – “You don’t have to clean all those dishes, you just have to clean the one that’s in your hand”


  • Aim to have 3 hours of the day for yourself – exercise, run, sauna, write, read etc.

    • When you’re in this time, don’t feel guilty about not working or being with your family

  • Jesse only eats fruit until noon, and has done so for 27 years

    • Fruit takes less energy to digest, which technically means you’ll have more energy in the afternoon

  • “If you don’t have a cause you’re working towards at age 50, it’s a miss” – Take a position on something that means a lot to you, and stand up for it

  • Stop taking Flinstones gummy vitamins

    • 3-5 of the ingredients are banned in 10 nations (aspartame etc.)

  • “If you’re present in everything you do, it’s like receiving a present”



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