How To Avoid Death

My dad got depressed and would cry in the shopping store, cry at parent teacher conferences, cry while playing chess with me, cry at work, cry all the time.

He started a company in 1970 and it went public in, I think, 1984. The day it went public he was worth 5 million dollars on paper. About a year or so later he was worth zero and the company went bankrupt.

My parents bought a house but then couldn’t pay for it so it was only half built.

All of the other houses seemed to be filled with happy people, children, cars, nice lawns, and then there was this one house in the middle that was half built and falling apart.

They bought it but they didn’t buy it. Lawyers were involved.

Then the new company he worked for fired him and he got health insurance money to pay a portion of his salary. They fired him officially for “mental health reasons”.

When I first made a lot of money I felt like I was going to avoid his curse.

I had money so I was completed as a person. That was it. I was done! I did it!

I bought a big house. I spent a lot of money. I bought other things. Lots of other things. I felt like I was immortal.

My dad would come by the new house while it was being built. He told the builder that we needed a power flush in each toilet.

We put the power flush in the guest toilet so he would always be able to use it and feel like he had made a contribution.

Then the same thing that happened to him, happened to me. I couldn’t escape his curse. I was him.

He made money and lost all of it and became half of who he was. I made money and lost all of it and became a fraction of who I was.

He got divorced from his first wife. I got divorced.

When I was a kid I would work in his office in NYC at least once a month. I had acne so bad that he would take me to a dermatologist who would drain all the cysts on my face and then I’d be too embarrassed to go to school so I’d sit in his office and help the secretary run the copy machine.

Then at lunch he’d take me to the Carnegie Deli. Then he’d get the late afternoon New York Post and we’d go home and play either ping pong or chess until it was time for me to go to sleep.

I like to play games with my kids.

Therapists, family, friends, partners, all told me I wasn’t like him. But I was broke and depressed and empty and I was afraid to sleep.

I knew I would wake up at three in the morning and I would feel lonely and scared and nothing at all could prevent it.

He had a fatal stroke when he was in the middle of an argument with someone who owed him money.

I’m afraid to repeat that mistake also.

Spending time with people you love and who inspire you is not about making money or having fun. It’s a matter of life and death.

I got better at that part and it changed everything for me.

I removed the people who could kill me. And I surround myself with the people who give me life.

Maybe I broke the curse.

Today is my anniversary with Claudia. She laughed at me when I tred to explain to her I’m from another planet so there’s no possible way her puny Earth mind could understand the love I feel for her.

Her dad is dead also.

And maybe one day in the distant future, if everything works out, I hope my children will be orphans as well. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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image – Zach Dischner

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated.

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