I have to give two talks in the next few weeks that are scaring the hell out of me because I have no clue what I will say. There’s a good chance I’m going to make a fool of myself.
At first glance, these seem like pleasant problems. Problems of privilege.
But I’ve worked hard to be scared to death. I’ve been writing and investing and starting companies and failing at them for 20 years. I’ve caressed fear more than I have anyone I’ve loved.
20 years of waking up at night wondering not only how am I going to pay my own bills but, in many cases, how am I going to pay everyone else’s bills. The 30, 50, even 1000 people who have depended on me at different times.
And for 15 years, almost all the people I dealt with, begged with, tried to please, kissed ass with, were all people who I really didn’t like at all.
Everyone wearing the “Scream” mask at the costume ball.
I gave up my initial dreams about 20 years ago.
What they were is no longer important. They are long dead.
But then I thought it was better to make money. To sacrifice the dreams at the altar of reality. But I wandered into someone else’s church and prayed to someone else’s gods at someone else’s altar.
I gave up everything in order to start a business making websites for other entertainment companies.
I took bribes, I gave bribes, I got ripped off, screwed, I had to hire / fire, I had arguments with family, I had to fool people, I had to scare people. I had to run Run RUN!
And from there it got worse. I sold the business, went broke, and then went into a business I had no interest in but thought would make money: the hedge fund business. I went from writing about hookers to being one.
A hedge fund business means: raise money from rich people who love lording and hoarding it over you and then you pray you don’t lose it because they are as quick to stab as they are to kiss.
I have nothing against these people. They are in their own deserts. When I asked Bernie Madoff for a few dollars to invest in my fund he was probably the kindest of all the people I asked for money.
Another guy, who is also now in jail for having a Ponzi scheme laughed me so loudly out of his office that his secretaries (three of them) were too embarrassed to even look at me as I left.
Our ultimate parent is the mystery that fills the universe, that we’ll never figure out, and the sun shines down on everything, good or bad.
But sometimes, as a human in struggle, I would just stare down on the ground, ignore the light, and try to figure things out on my own without really seeing the beauty and secrets around me.
And when you push away the beauty, you become the ugly.
I paid people with inventories of inspiration that were quickly depleting.
I replaced “happiness” with “goals.” I let my creativity and energy atrophy.
Around mid 2010 I was so depressed, so anxious, so worried about my family, money, career, happiness, health, age, that I finally gave up.
“I can’t do it anymore,” I said to Claudia. I went to a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a psycho-pharmacologist. And even a dentist and a gastroenterologist. Nobody helped. I had pains in my stomach and head and I had bad breath.
So I started writing at jamesaltucher.com. I started writing whatever I wanted to. I started to write embarrassing stuff. And I focused on my health. My health in every way. My mental health. My spiritual health. These are the only things we ever truly “own”.
The first people who wrote me said, “you’re crazy!”
The second wave of people wrote, “this is like watching a train wreck in action.”
The third wave wrote, “I am never speaking to you again!”
Two things: I refused to do anything I didn’t want to do. I stopped dealing with the people I didn’t want to deal with.
Would this be the end of me? “I can’t do this!” I thought. I had to surrender.
But every six months since then it’s just gotten better. Fortunately the universe is bigger than my fat head.
Fortunately I looked up from the ground. Fortunately I really looked at what was being offered me.
Well… I was going to write today about how I was going to prepare for these two talks.
I was going to write all about my fear and how I will hope to conquer it. Because this afternoon starts what I call my “training period” for the next month of talks.
But I’ll do that another time.
Instead I just want to be thankful. It’s my Facebook page. I can do what I want.
I ended that 15 year period in the desert. The addictions (drugs, sex, alcohol, money, people-pleasing). The fears. The roller-coaster. The ass-kissing. The ice touch of 3am worries that electrocuted me.
Every word I write now is a thank you.
Not a thank you to you, or to “life” or to my kids or family or anything.
Not even a thank you to me. I’ve done nothing worth being thankful for. I’m thankful I’m not dead or I haven’t killed anyone.
Ahh, fuck it, I have no clue who I’m thanking. But thanks.