I decided to email someone I admire. I found James Altucher‘s blog a couple of months ago and have since devoured pretty much everything he’s written. He’s made (and lost) a ton of money, and has some incredible stories to tell. His best post is How to be the luckiest guy on the planet and he’s also just self-published a book of the same title, which you can and should download for free. Then read all his other stuff.
Here is the exact email I sent to him, and his exact response. Note: I mean every word I say in my email.
Me to James:
I found your blog a couple of months ago. It’s absolutely fantastic. I really admire the honesty you display in your writing.
I wanted to ask you a couple of things. I’m about to graduate with a BS Economics degree from Leeds University, UK. I don’t have the best grades in the world, but I’m pretty confident, I’m smart, and I’m ambitious.
Do you have any advice for someone who is just graduating and doesn’t want to go into a traditional graduate scheme-type role? I genuinely don’t know what I want to do with my life, apart from start a company at some point. I’d love to work for a startup or something, but I have very few technical skills, so it might be a bit harder for me to get involved in that sort of area.
I really appreciate any advice you can give me. And I’ve bookmarked your ebook online – the daily practice advice is brilliant. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks and already I feel better about the future.
And his response:
There’s some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is you’re stressed. How come? You’re 22 or so. You have about 10-20 years before you need to figure out a career. There’s no reason to get rich so fast (what would you do with the money except guarantee your future?). I’m not saying “how come” flippantly, by the way. Are your parents stressed about your future? Were they stressed about their own futures when you were younger? Is your girlfriend shaky? Your other friends? Not that you need an excuse to be stressed. Its reasonable at this stage also to wonder, “What’s next?”
What if nothing was next? What if you worked as a waiter for a year and took painting and photography classes for a year? Write a comic book script based on a spiderman and submit it to marvel comics? Work in a factory? Go to India for a year and study yoga (you would get in shape, feel spiritual, make great friends, see the world, etc) while giving English lessons and “getting by”. Like young people do.
Next level: find something your mildly interested in and work for a mega corporation. What’s your favorite TV show? Who produces it. Work for them. They are obviously good at what they do. Its never bad to be the janitor at the best company in the world. You learn how to clean up their shit. Which makes you CEO-level for just about any other company. This is really true.
Next level: startup world. You’re obviously self-motivated and good at sales (you wrote to me. I’m responding. I got 1500 emails today). Go to any startup and tell them you’ll work for free until you get them a $1000 in revenues. And then go out and get them revenues. This focuses you on finding a good startup that you know you can sell their product. You become like a venture capitalist of sorts.
Next level: start your own company. I don’t like that. Maybe you need experience and something you’re a bit more passionate about.
Keep with the daily practice. Start stretching that idea muscle out a little bit more. Make lists of the craziest things you can do. I wasted the ages of 22-26. Or did I? In other words, nothing you do those years will be that important for later on. Meaning, you can explore yourself, make sure you have the right values and know how to be happy, make sure your brain is as big as possible (the mental practices), make sure you know how to save lives by surrending to whatever force you can help.
These are more important than finding the exact right job now. I made the equivalent of 14k euros a year from the ages of 22-26. I lived like a king because I lived cheap. Then I made more and it ruined my life.
This might’ve been a bit of a ramble. But there might be a few things here useful. Thanks for writing me and I’m glad you are doing the daily practice. Please keep in touch and let me know what happens next?
I’m flattered he even replied. His email made me smile. I hope I can take him out for a drink one day.
EDIT: We sent another couple of emails back and forth. Here they are:
Me to him:
Thanks, I really appreciate the advice. I think the reason I’m feeling stressed right now is that there seems to be pressure from my parents and my credit card company to get a job and start earning money RIGHT NOW or the world will end. I guess I feel like I’ll be a failure if I’m not earning good money by the time I’m 25, which I know is ridiculous. I feel like I have the ability to do great things and that I’ll be wasting it if I take even six months of my life to do nothing. I feel like I have to do something impressive right away, or else the chance will be gone forever.
Does that sound stupid?
And his reply:
It doesn’t sound stupid at all. But it does sound like something that might not be the best way to be happy right now. A lot of that pressure is external. I was really a miserable failure at 25. And then again at 32.
Why don’t you take a day off from parents and credit card companies. Make lists of what you love. It might be hard at first. You’ve been a bit programmed to think about things you don’t love. What would you if everyone was dead and you were free from the stresses you have? Are you worried you won’t meet girls if you dont have a great job? What if you were a famous painter? Or a juggler? You dont have to do nothing for six months. What if you stopped all alcohol and worked out for six months. Become a hugely healthy person? WOuld that be a waste?
Parents are hard. Mine were disappointed in me. but it worked out in the end. Sort of. Because in the end I had to stop caring what they think (although I still do a little with my mom). The only thing you really need to do righ tnow is survive, save a life every day, and continue that daily practice so you can be a superhero. I mean it.