The Second Rule Is Bullshit

image - Flickr / Sophia Louise
image – Flickr / Sophia Louise

Let’s make a club. You and me.

There will be a first rule of course. Every club needs rules. And then the second rule will be….hmmm, I don’t know. Let’s look at some other clubs first.

First there’s Fight Club. “The first rule about fight club is ‘you do not talk about fight club’. The second rule about Fight Club is: “you DO NOT talk about Fight Club”.

Warren Buffett has a second rule. “The first rule is ‘don’t lose money’. The second rule is: don’t forget the first rule”.

Haruki Murakami, one of the most popular novelists ever, has three rules about training for running, and he constantly makes the analogy that running is similar to writing. “The first rule is training. The second rule is training. And the third rule is…training.”

I think I’m beginning to see a pattern. There are no second rules.

We all want a set of rules to live our life by. We want ten commandments. We want 7 principles of success. Or 4 noble paths.

Whenever I collapsed in life I found that I was basically living without any discipline. I had zero rules.

Get the biggest house. The best art. The most sex. No rules.

Eat, drink, gamble, abortions, lie.

I would lie to everyone. Whatever I wanted. I used to think I wore masks in order to please people.

When I no longer felt I needed to please people the irony was I wore more masks than ever.

How could that be? Didn’t money buy freedom?

The investments I made were horrible. I’m cringing thinking about it. The one CEO who was on an “All carbs diet” and would tell me to “shut up” in meetings. But because I was greedy I’d write him big checks. All gone.

Thinking I could turn a ton of money into a ton of more money without any sense of how, why, who, where. Investing in a company , for instance, that was a portal for charities. I remember pitching the idea to Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner, so maybe he could also invest. His response, “F**k charity!” He knew how to make money and it was more along the lines of “The Sopranos” than “”.

Multiply that investment by 20 or 30 plus a house, plus art, plus women, plus living in hotels and taking helicopters to Atlantic City every weekend to play poker and suddenly…you have nothing.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself. There’s nothing good or bad about what I did. The black hole at the center of the universe is bad. It gave us all of our stupid atoms.

I had to live in order to learn how to LIVE. I had to die a little death in order to taste what a bigger death might be like.

Notice that in the ‘Fight Club first rule’ and the Warren Buffett rules the first word is “Don’t”.

Notice in Murakami’s rule the word is “training”, which in some ways is a form of don’t. If you’re going to run 5 miles a day, you: “don’t smoke, don’t eat twinkies,”, etc.

Life is not a prison. It’s not good to think that the only way to succeed in life or to feel pleasure or to even feel calm is to start with the word “don’t”, as if the pleasures of life were nothing more than prison bars, keeping us locked away.

But, in fact, it’s the reverse.

The only rule in life you need to know is subtraction. “Less is more”.

The universe is a big place. We want big goals, big dreams, lots of fun, lots of pleasure, lots of lots.


The more double lives we lead, the harder it is for the brain to keep track. The brain, which represents only 2% of our body weight, consumes 25% of our calories.

And if you live two lives, then even more fuel is burned up and wasted, a dirty exhalation of your life into the atmosphere.

I finally started to add some discipline in my life. Don’t invest without careful due diligence (even better: don’t invest at all). Don’t go out with women I had no intention of having a serious relationship with. Don’t drink, so I can live a long and high quality life. Don’t eat food that would make me sick. Don’t miss a day without helping someone.

Don’t keep around false friends or insincere family.

A wild beast will wound your body but a false friend will wound your brain.

If you deal with people with absolute integrity and kindness then you never have to worry about what people think, or what the repercussions are.

Authenticity requires courage, an ability to be diplomatic when dealing with wild animals, kind when dealing with people who need help, and uncaring when dealing with people who will judge you.

Authenticity also equals uniqueness. And uniqueness allows your true talents to come out. A work of art is the unique story of YOU that was used to create it.

A unique work of art (a story) has real value and can create careers, creativity, youth, abundance.

What is the magic word that will get you everything you want?

The first rule is “Don’t”. And it turns out there never was any second rule.

All of the prison doors are unlocked then. The outcome is freedom. Oh, and then you can be in my club. 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.

Keep up with James on Twitter and

More From Thought Catalog