The 5 Things I Wish College Had Taught Me


I’m so sick of Shakespeare. I never understand any of the quotes. Someone will say something in Old English and then look at me for a few seconds while I stare and then maybe stare at the ground and then they will say, “That’s Shakespeare.”

And then I still don’t understand what it means. And then I forget what he said.

Which is why I can’t repeat any of the quotes he said while I write this. I make it a rule while writing to never use Google. That sort of feels like cheating. Like using a chess computer while playing chess.

“To Be or Not To Be”. What does that even mean? Does it mean “do it or don’t do it?” Of course I’m going to do one or the other.

My kids are rebels. Here’s how they will rebel against me: somehow or other they will figure out how to go to college even though I will try to block them every step of the way. I don’t even want them to go to college for free. What a waste of four years.

I hope they don’t rebel that way. But that’s what I’m afraid of. And I’m not afraid to admit the things I’m afraid of.

Please god, just let them take one class that’s something like: “Here’s the Only Phrases You Need to Know to Survive in Life”.

Every other class in college they will forget almost instantly but this class I hope they remember.

If I were teaching the class I would teach these phrases:


When I was losing all of my money, my home, my family, I was afraid to say “Help” to anyone. I was ashamed people would know.

I should’ve gone to someone a lot older and smarter than me and said, “Please, I’m losing everything and I don’t know what to do. Just give me advice.”

Every book I write now I hope is there to help people who are afraid to ask.

Well, one time I did write and ask for help to someone much older than me. I poured my guts out. I cried on the page. I didn’t know what to do and asked him how he survived when he was going through something similar.

He ended up emailing it to everyone we knew and laughing at me. I heard about it much later when I was at a dinner and everyone had read the email I had sent to this person at my worst point.

Very embarrassing.

So you have to learn how to say “HELP” and who to say it to. Life is not easy. But small problems have a way of turning into big problems.

The word, help, stops a small problem before it turns into a big problem.


I have friends who are pro-choice. I have friends who are pro-life. I have friends who think some wars can be justified. I have other friends who think some wars can’t be justified. On and on: guns, government, democrats, republicans.

Who am I to say “You Are Wrong” to anyone. Most of the time I am wrong myself. Even when I STRONGLY believe something, I refuse to argue about it.

In the book, “Think Like a Freak” the Freakonomics guys talk about this group CXO Advisory Group, that kept track of every financial pundit on CNBC and even political pundit and then tabulated the accuracy of the predictions of these pundits.

The result was that the pundits were right 47% of the time.

I will tell you: that’s not so good for someone who acts like they are right 100% of the time.

My 12 year old picks stocks that will go up better than 47% of the time. And Claudia is right about stocks 100% of the time! She should have her own show on CNBC.

So if someone starts to argue with me about something, I automatically say “You’re Right”. Because, for one thing, I am easy to convince on anything. I’m gullible and I admit it.

And the next thing is: I’m going to die in a few minutes (maybe) so will I spend my last few minutes arguing with someone who will NEVER change their mind anyway?

“Well,” you might say, “what if someone wants to kill people are you going to say ‘You’re Right’ to them?”

And the answer is “No”. But I’m never going to hang around someone who wants to kill people. But I will tell you this: if someone is the type of person who wants to kill people and he says that to me then I certainly won’t argue with him about it.

He might kill me!

So if you’re married, want to live a healthy life, have friends, and just in general want tranquility, then learn “You’re Right” and then learn the next phrase:


Every day I try to keep physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy. I’ve written about this before. It’s not always easy.

So here’s what I do. I try to improve down each of these silos at least 1% a week. I don’t even know what 1% means but it gives me a sense that I’m always trying to improve.

If I improve, it means the people around me will be slightly uplifted. And then the people around them. And so on.

I have never seen a better way of improving the world then this technique described above.

Hatred and arguing only brings about more hatred and arguing. Peace brings about peace. Period.


Colleges need an entire course about the word “NO”. You need to say “NO” to people who invade your boundaries (very difficult).

You need to say “NO” in negotiations. You need to say “NO” to the marketing mythologies that have been spewed at us for decades and even millenia.

You need to say “NO” to the many things you are addicted to (I am projecting here. I need to always say “NO” to the things I am addicted to). I need to say NO to the people who are unhealthy to me.

The only creators and inventors in the world are the people who learned how to say “NO” to all of BS that ruled the world before them.

Create by saying “NO” to everything that happened in the past. To being unafraid to be the first man to step on the moon. To bleed your own unique DNA onto the page. To color with the colors only you can see.

But it’s not only learning how to say “NO” it’s learning how to HEAR “NO” that’s important.

How to deal with rejection. Whether it’s rejection of love or rejection of your ideas. Or rejection that you think is unjustified.

Some people say, “I never read bad reviews.” I can respect that. Bad reviews are often vile and often have their own agendas.

But I read my bad reviews on my books. Sometimes they are nonsense. Sometimes they are from people who clearly have their own issues and are projecting it onto me.

But what a useful thing it is for me to see that first welling of angry emotions and then let them go. Say No to them. Wave goodbye to them. Goodbye!


The most powerful words are silent.

I had a dinner with Michael Fishman (cc Monica McCarthy) last week. He said, “if even for one second you are preparing your response while someone else is talking, then you aren’t listening.”

That’s pretty wise, Michael!

My technique is this. Someone talks. I count to two. Then I prepare my response and not before then. Claudia and I talk about this in “The Power of No”. And then in the audiobook we have an outtake where we argue if it should be “two seconds” or “ten seconds”. The audio engineer chimes in also.


Today I’m going to say “Help”, “You’re Right”, “No”, all at least once before the sun sets. And I’m also going to practice being silent….

If I do that today and tomorrow and the next day then I know the world will change a little bit for the better. And unless I’m finally dead, I hope I will also. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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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