What Is One Difficult Thing You Can Do Today?

Flickr / Mathew Foster
Flickr / Mathew Foster

Here’s the problem: I didn’t put my full effort into it.

I wanted to do a TV show. So I figured my best chance was the back door.

Nobody knew what they were doing in 1996 on the Internet. Nobody even knows what they are doing now. The Internet is still an empty screen our imagination is filling up.

I read that Larry Page has his vision for the Internet:

Your watch will recognize that your body needs milk. It will send a wireless signal to the refrigerator.

The fridge will see that it is out of milk. It will send a signal to the driverless car. The driverless car will drive to the store (takeout window?), and buy milk with Google Pay and then get the milk stored in your fridge.

“The last mile” of technology is about getting milk in your refrigerator.

People can say: that’s ridiculous. Or…what!? But the key I get from this is that: Larry Page is stretching his mind in every direction every day. And that even if the future doesn’t happen exactly like that, certainly extraordinary things will be happening.

But in 1996, my “vision” for the Internet had nothing to do with commerce. I simply wanted to show people doing embarrassing things when they were drunk. To me, the Internet was all about my life-long passion for voyeurism.

Ever since I first touched it, in 1987, I wanted to get into other people’s computers and read their emails. I wrote software to catch keystrokes. I found ways to get into other companies’ email systems. I was an addict.

Now I don’t even go near other people’s computers. I had some bad experiences. It’s hard to read emails from your girlfriend to another guy in French. And then she gets pregnant. And so on.

But in 1996 I had two ideas for TV shows. So first I did them on the Internet for HBO. One was called “3am” and I would interview people at 3 in the morning on Tuesday nights in NYC.

Every night I did this, the fake stage set of the day would come tearing down as I interviewed prostitutes, homeless people, scared people who were so scarred by abuse they couldn’t hide in daylight anymore.

You and I will also be discarded by society and put away into the corners of the night if we ever become so scarred.

By the time I finished, I realized I didn’t want to be in the cage of the day. That the people who were truly alive had lost their sense of time.

That was one idea.

The other idea was to secretly record people going on dates. The girl on the date was on our side. The guy didn’t know he was being recorded and videotaped from about five different mics and hidden cameras all around the table. We recorded two dates and then pitched the TV show.

None of the shows got made. Those are whole stories but to tell them would defeat the point.

So I started a business helping companies build their websites and I left the world of my daydreams behind. Then I started a VC fund, then a software company, then a hedge fund, and on and on.

What a different world! Trying to raise money from Bernie Madoff for an afternoon instead of chasing my dreams.

It’s not failing that defines you, it’s how you define the failure.

I gave up. I didn’t learn from my errors. I didn’t experiment with more ideas. I didn’t try harder and harder things in order to break out of the pack. I simply gave up and switched careers.

Nothing wrong with that. But every area of life is difficult. We should choose our difficulties to increase the odds of happiness today.

Yesterday I recorded a bunch of “Ask Altucher” podcasts with Claudia. My daughter Mollie was here. She watched for awhile, then we would throw questions at her.

The next thing I knew, she was sitting across from me and asking the questions and then the next thing I knew she was answering my questions.

I’m envious of her.

If every day, she does one hard thing, one thing outside of her comfort zone, one act of sharing, or one act of creativity, then imagine how that will compound 20 years from now, or 30 years from now.

Most of my life I did “annoying things” every day. But I didn’t always do one hard thing a day. Or one creative thing. That’s all you have to do. Talent is meaningless. Luck is meaningless.

It’s such a simple formula: do one hard thing a day.

I didn’t want to have children. I thought “how can an adult be friends with a 10 year old?” Or why would anyone want to clean the shit off of a tiny human being that doesn’t speak English and just cries all day.

But seeing Mollie’s brain and heart grow is probably the thing I’m proudest of.

I can’t force Mollie to do one difficult thing a day. I can only show her by my own example.

Some difficult things she can do:

  • Come up with 10 ideas to help someone else and share it with them.
  • Write a story and publish it on fanfiction.net or wattpad.
  • Make a youtube video that gets more than 1000 views.
  • Come up with an idea for a business and what the first step in creating it would be.
  • Forgive someone who did something that is impossible to forgive. Understand why this is important.
  • Share a part of your process. Every day we have 16 hours a day to learn something. Share some of it with a photograph or drawing or post or whatever.
  • Find someone to model yourself after.

Mick Jagger studied every jazz musician before becoming successful. Stephen King reads even when he takes walks. Mozart studied Bach’s counterpoint before achieving his greatest successes. Bobby Fischer studied every professional chess game played in the 1800s before becoming the youngest US champion ever.

– Connect the dots.

What’s the most commonly found object in sewage treatment facilities? Undigested anti-depressants. This is a psychology problem and a chemistry problem and a biology problem. The one person who connects those dots will make billions. Pick two things you are interested in and figure out ten similarities between them.

– Make one thing in your daily routine healthier.

– Stretch your imagination:

In 1969, the songwriter Harry Nilsson called a girl who had left him and he got a busy signal. Beep… beep…. beep… beep.

He sat and listened to that busy signal for an hour. Beep…

During that hour he wrote the song “One is the Loneliest Number,” which has been covered a million times, most famously by “Three Dog Night” who made it the #5 song in the country in 1969.

Imagine that! A busy signal, the heavy loneliness of it, “the saddest experience you’ll ever know”, writing while listening to it, and then the #5 song in the country (you can hear the busy signal in the first bars of the song).

Fighting loneliness is a hard thing. Nobody escapes it. But maybe nobody should want to. TC mark

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