The Power Of No Self-Hurt

This is what’s difficult. Actually taking your own advice.

Or anyone’s advice.

“Think and Grow Rich”. It doesn’t really work. You can’t think money into your hand.

“The Power of Positive Thinking”. Good luck with that one. When the shit hits the fan you, my friend, are going to get splattered no matter what you were thinking.

It’s easy for Tony Robbins to say, “Awaken the Giant Within”. The man is SEVEN FEET TALL. The man is like Zeus. He walks on coal and ships trampolines to his speaking engagements.

I remember one idea from his books. Don’t slouch like Charlie Brown. Stand up straight. Ok! I will do that today.

I am not saying none of this works. By the way, I love and recommend the above books.

I love reading books like “The Power of Positive Thinking”. We can all agree that thinking about positive things is much more fun than thinking about negative things.

And how weird is Napoleon Hill? Holy Shit! That chapter on sex in “Think and Grow Rich”? Why don’t more people talk about how weird that was?

He acts like he had one conversation with Andrew Carnegie when he was 12 years old and then for the rest of his life he was writing bestsellers about becoming a millionaire.

The reality is: like the rest of us, he got broke, then got saved, then broke more, shat in his pants like a baby, and then finally he withheld having an orgasm so he could build up his chi and make a ton of money.

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about Tony Robbins. The guy will kick. my. ass.

When I first saw him in that Jack Black movie I kind of thought it was a documentary and that Jack Black ended up seeing everyone looking like Cameron Diaz for a few days. I was like, “Who is that LEGEND?”

Self help is getting more niche now. It’s much harder to just simply think and grow rich. First you have to improve your “productivity”. Then you have to deal with “failure”. You have to “fail forward”. You have to fight resistance. You have to have compassion all the time.

Then you develop good “habits”. Then you find your true “one thing”. And then you make a lot of money on the World Wide Web.

When you read a self-help book, doesn’t it make you feel good for a little bit. Like, “I can do this!” “I’m going to be PRESENT!” And never worry again. And never regret again. “It’s none of my business what people think of me!”

It’s a habit to build good habits. The problem is I have a habit of building bad habits. It takes work to stop that!

I’ve lied stolen cheated, been sad, depressed, suicidal. Didn’t floss, didn’t eat right, didn’t exercise.

Didn’t write every day. Backstabbed. Failed. Blamed. Regretted. Worried. Abused and got abused.

Been addicted to everything. Been so angry I punched through a wall and ended up bleeding and in the hospital.

And still do. Some of those things. Some of the time.

But when I read a self-help book I get that glow. It sounds so easy. Jack H from Columbus, Ohio started thinking positively and LOOK where he is NOW? He got those two tickets to Hawaii in the mail when he won that contest! Holy fucking shit! And that was in 1950!

And then you get home and your wife or husband says something crappy to you and your kids are angry at you for no reason and you KNOW shit is being said about you behind your back. You KNOW IT!

And then you look at your stocks or bank account and there was less there than you thought. And you still have to open that letter from the IRS.

So you look at the beautiful horizon and you say to yourself, “Ok, I’m just going to think about how great this horizon is and how much I love the people in my life and how my co-workers are just going through their own shitty times and who knows what where or when but things are all good for me.

But then you think, you know, Jack H from Columbus, OH is probably dead now. Maybe he got eaten by a shark in Hawaii. We never heard the end of that story.

And you sit down and cry because life really is hard and complex and things cycle up and down. They horribly cycle. The man or woman you love is upset at you or sick. Your dreams of world domination will have to wait for your constipation to end.

I love self-help.

But sometimes much better is to avoid self-hurt.

The real key is not to be perfect. But to lower the probability of bad things happening to you. (Uh-oh, this almost sounds like self-help. But I’m just describing to you what works for me. Not what works for anyone else. Jack H is dead.)

For instance, avoiding people who I don’t like lowers the probability of crazy bat shit. No more arguing with the crazies.

And if I don’t eat bad stuff and I try to do some exercise and I sleep a lot then at least I won’t have the annoyance of getting sick.

To be honest: if all you do is just sleep a lot and don’t drink alcohol, you won’t get sick. Oh, and don’t eat bagels. Unfortunately that last one might just apply to me.

And if I write down ideas every time I worry about money then I know good things will happen in the future. But I only know this because it’s worked for me over and over again. I didn’t read it in a book.

The valley of worry is the best time to plant the seeds of success.

I know as soon as worry hits, “time to write down some ideas.”

I also remind myself that I’m almost ALWAYS wrong about the future.

There is no way to predict anything. So I give up on that. But that’s a habit. Which means it’s hard. Habits are hard. Try flossing. Fucking impossible.

Here’s the truth: reading self-help books is good. Thinking about them later is one hundred times better. And actually trying to live the advice of the best books is 100,000 times better.

But it’s 100,000 times harder.

Today I’m going to eat my vegetables. And take deep breaths. Probably actually speak to nobody. I’ll write down ideas. And watch one comedy show. And write this post.

Oh, and I’m very excited. I’m going to pitch an idea for a comic book. Fuck this self-help shit. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Linh Nguyen

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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