Help One Person And Two People Will Help You

image - Flickr / Kristina Alexanderson
image – Flickr / Kristina Alexanderson

After 9/11 I went back to my house a few days later. I lived only 3-4 blocks from the World Trade Center so nobody was really allowed back yet but I went up there anyway.

The lights were out, the electricity was gone, no Internet. Everyone was crying all the time on the street, running back and forth not knowing where to go. Guys in Hazmat suits and tanks were still roaming the street.

There was a fire going at Ground Zero that was the leftover fires from the planes crashing in. That fire wasn’t put out for another six months, blanketing the entire area with a filmy sheen of ashes, asbestos, and the torn shreds of everything else that was blended into the buildings.

I couldn’t stay there so I went up to the hotel that used to be called the Barbizon Hotel. Originally a women-only hotel for aspiring models.

Now parents were staying there with photographs of their children, People’s hands shaking as they show you 20 year old photos. “Have you seen my child?” everyone was asking everyone else in the lobby.

I did what any mentally ill person would do at that moment: I put all of the remaining money I had in the stock market the day it re-opened. And the stock market went down. So I borrowed money and put that money in.

Around 10:30am that Friday morning I was screaming to my 4 year old daughter, “I’m broke!” and I sold everything at a loss while she ran out of my office. I lost my mind.

From that moment, for the next three months, the stock market went straight up. Instead of ending up with less than zero, I could’ve made millions. But you know: could’ve would’ve should’ve.

Everyone is always smarter than me. Never again will I be fooled into thinking I know anything. I pride myself on knowing nothing and having no opinion.

I hear people argue but what a joke. Arguing all the time. “Ebola…Ukraine…Obamacare…He did this and that!”

Which brings me to gratitude porn.

It’s easy for me to be grateful for a roof, or for Claudia, or for my kids.

Easy gratitude is emotional sugar. It will fatten your brain, leaving you no room for the deeper emotions that bring about relief.

Gratitude is not meant to be easy.

Life gets better only when you solve hard problems.

Not when you fail. Not when you thrive. Life gets better when you move forward. Difficult gratitudes are better than easy platitudes.

  • When you are in a traffic jam, being grateful that you live in such a popular city that everyone wants to be here because of all the opportunities.
  • When I was afraid of going broke, being grateful I could find one person I could help. Doing this over and over certainly saved my own life.
  • When I l was losing my home or family, grateful that I could write to you and eventually find my way out of the cave where I was lost.

We are walking DNA computers and nothing else. And what is the one goal of DNA? To replicate.

It can replicate in only two ways. I can have a child. Or I can leave behind an idea, a work of art, a plan, a way to help someone.

If you help one person, two people will boomerang back to help you. I’ve done this enough times to know it works.

I am making my list today. The list of people I can help and how. I do it selfishly.

I’m grateful I lost my mind. Because when I kiss, no thoughts can possibly bring me down to Earth. What is better than that? 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