Before I tell you about my date who smoked crack and got messages from dead people on TV sets, I want to say that I don’t write about “self-help”.
I think that is a BS industry. It’s hard enough to help ourselves, let alone help others.
Most of the time, every day is a battle against the things that will take us down. I’ve fallen so much I’ve come up with a comprehensive catalog of the nine ways you can destroy your life.
As long as you avoid these nine things, you will jump from rock to rock across the pond and make it to the other side.
Don’t do them:
Sometimes it’s not your fault if you’re sick. But, don’t fool yourself – most of the time it’s 100% your fault.
When my stomach hurts it might mean I was too stressed the day before. Or it might mean too much popcorn at the movies. Or too much to drink last night.
Too little sleep is linked to sickness. It turns out that too much lying is linked to more complaining about health.
You can make many choices to prevent sickness or improve health. You already know what they are. You don’t need to read them in a book.
When I go to a networking dinner, many of the people talk about the books they have no time to write. The dinner might go until midnight. No wonder they have no time to write their books.
About a year ago Morgan Spurlock was filming a series for Showtime about “The Seven Deadly Sins”. They called me up and wanted to follow me around for a day for their segment on “Greed”.
I told them “Ok” but my day is pretty boring: I read, I write, I walk, I make some phone calls, I read some more, eat, sleep.
They never called me back.
I was talking to David Levien on my podcast a few weeks ago (hasn’t aired yet). He told me how he commuted into work and he would look around and everyone would be reading the NY Post or sleeping. “I didn’t want this to be a dead end for me,” he said. He got depressed about it.
So he took out his computer and started writing every day on the commute.
A chapter a day. In a year he had his novel done. “City of the Sun”. It became a bestseller. While everyone else was sleeping all around him. His fourth novel in the series comes out in March.
I started a company, Stockpickr, in 2006. For some reason I did not do any competitive research. I just assumed my site was the only site.
It turned out I had about five competitors, some significantly more advanced than mine. I started to cry. I didn’t know what to do.
But I knew I had more passion for the project and more knowledge than any of my competitors but I was very afraid they would “defeat” me.
When you pour your soul into something, it turns a tea of boiling water into nuclear energy.
I have never doubted since then that when I pour everything I have into a project that it will turn into a nuclear project. If I write down ten ideas on how to make my business better, then it will become better.
Eight months later I sold that business. All of my competition went out of business.
I did a podcast the other day with Dave Berg, who produced The Tonight Show for 20 years. I was really grateful he agreed to come on my podcast.
He told me one of his favorite guests was Dennis Rodman. But often it was hard to get Rodman into the actual studios. He told me one time Rodman was supposed to be on the show but the day before he was doing some event in Nashville.
So Dave flew to Nashville that day but then he lost track of where Rodman was. It turns out Rodman went out to Las Vegas and forgot to take Dave with him.
So Dave flew to Las Vegas and then LA. Rodman made it to the show.
Dave Berg got amazing guests on Jay Leno’s show for 20 years not by sending out a bunch of emails every day and saying, “Well, I did the best I could.”
He actually DID the best he could.
One time my agent pitched a book to a publisher I really wanted to work with.
She said no.
I said to him, take her out to lunch and ask her why. He hung up. Then he called me back and said, “if you ever tell me what to do again then that’s the last conversation we have.”
It turned out that’s the last conversation we ever had.
He had been my agent for about a decade. He had made a lot of money because of me and this was the first time he was talking back to me.
So I called the publisher and explained why this was the perfect book for her. I went up to her offices. She told me why she said, “no”. I rewrote the whole proposal. I submitted again. She said, “yes”.
You get careless when you don’t check every angle. When you get carved into a routine that is destined to be a road to nowhere.
My agent will disappear with his industry. Maybe he’ll find something he loves doing. But he won’t do it by being careless.
I wasted two years of my life once. HBO offered me a job and I didn’t feel ready to take it. I thought I had to write a novel. To “be that guy” who wrote a novel.
Note: I was applying for a programmer position.
So I waited two years, never published a novel, and then finally went for the job.
There’s no right or wrong decisions. There’s just decisions. You either make them or you wait to make them. And while you are waiting, everything in your life goes on hold.
7. NO PROGRESS
I started a dating site once. Or twice. Many times actually. I had this obsession with starting a dating site. I think it was a perverse sexual fantasy that I wanted to help two people meet each other and eventually have sex with each other.
In any case, I never made any progress on any of these sites. I always had this dream that I’d launch a website and the traffic would be so big that the servers would shut down.
That did happen to me once. With a finance site. And with my blog. But I never had so much traffic that a dating site would work. When there’s no forward motion I shut it all down pretty quickly.
Why not? If you are writing down ten ideas a day there are many more things to explore.
Don’t try to dig a well where there’s no water underneath.
One time I went out on a date with someone I had just met. It was really the worst type of date one could imagine.
For one thing, I didn’t know that she was really into crack.
For another thing, I didn’t know that she received messages from dead people through TV screens.
I left that date pretty quickly when she was screaming at the TV in her hotel room.
That’s an extreme case. Every day I get business plans from people who think their business is the one business that will change the world forever. I got a plan the other day that was a social network for dead people. That’s an example.
Most people fall for a cognitive bias called “Sunk cost bias” where because they’ve already invested a lot of energy into something, then it must be the greatest business possible.
Always take a step back and make sure you aren’t deluded. Are you solving an urgent problem for someone in a scalable fashion and is it showing forward progress.
Or, in a relationship, how many people do you know who are going out with men or women who are unavailable? Fact: 95% of relationships that start off with one person betraying another don’t work out.
Don’t be deluded.
9. FALLING BACKWARDS
I was talking on my podcast with Brian Koppelman, who wrote Rounders and Oceans 13 and, my favorite, Solitary Man. He told me that he had been having trouble grappling with some issues while writing Solitary Man.
This is where he could’ve fallen backwards and stopped writing one of my favorite movies ever.
Instead, he found a safety net where he could play out his ideas and work through his issues. He started doing stand up comedy. Then he finished the movie.
If a business is going bad: if you are losing clients or key employees, you can give up. That’s ok. But have your safety net. Your plan B.
Know that you can still do something productive and this will see you through to the other side, rather than caving in to feelings of failure and misery and “Why me?”
Writing ten ideas down every day, being healthy, being grateful and giving to others, will always give you the safety net where you can fall and then bounce higher than you’ve ever been before.
As Tony Robbins said on my podcast with him, “if you ask lousy questions, you get lousy answers”. “Why me?” Is a lousy question.
When you feel yourself falling backwards, remember that you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.
But even more important, remember that you are the average of the five thoughts you have throughout the day. You can choose “anger” or “gratitude”. You can choose “regret” or “what did I learn?” You can choose, “I give up” or you can try stand up comedy for awhile.
The easiest way to help yourself is to just don’t hurt yourself. Nobody can do this but you. This is the meaning of “choose yourself”. Nothing else.
Later, I’m going to go to the supermarket. I like watching all the people. Beautiful people. Ugly people. People with stories.
Each one of us was carved out a piece of universe that was given to us when we are born.
All we have to do is carry it safely until the day we die. We have to protect that piece, to shine it each day so it can reflect and learn from everything that happens to us.
Later we will all get to meet and put the pieces back together. We’ll all make something new and beautiful together.