James Altucher

Choose Yourself By James Altucher Book Summary, Notes, and PDF

Last Updated on November 16, 2020

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This book teaches people to stop believing other people are always more successful than themselves. The author, Altucher, shows a way out. 

If you want to go deeper into all the different principles of this book, you should listen to my podcast with the book’s author.


The American Dream No Longer Exists

So what is the American dream? A dream with a big fancy house and gorgeous picket fence, as well as two lovely kids, two beautiful cars, and a great vacation each year. With two working adults in the family, it means that there will be more money coming in, and a tremendous lavish lifestyle. 

This is the idea of what a perfect life should be, the idea that turned into a standard everyone started to chase. 

The whole plan is clear – Obtain a good education, get a steady job, work hard, then get promoted, and finally carry on with the expensive lifestyle until you retire.

However, in 2008 the American dream was utterly destroyed. The world faced a significant financial crisis, and many companies began cutting costs. Many workers lost their jobs, and their American hope was utterly shattered.

Have Full Control Of What You Desire

You have to be the person in charge of your dreams. This one statement encompasses everything that you want to know about choosing your goal.

If you want to attain financial freedom, then you need to control your expenses, start freelancing, obtain passive income in different ways like selling books and courses, seminars, etc. If you can do all these, then congratulations, you are on your way to success.

Want to be your boss? Then you can have better control over your free time. 

Then why are you not the person that controls your dreams? It’s because you are scared of it.

As long as you keep living with that fear and do not act on it, it means that other people will have the power to create your life options for you.

You need to remember this; you must carry your dreams with you even if that means taking baby steps. Make sure that you are the only person that can control your dreams.

How To Maintain Physical Health?

Do something good for your health every single day. To obtain this objective, follow a simple guide to do so:

Maintain A Proper Sleep Cycle

According to experts, we need at least eight hours of sleep daily. This is required to let the spinal fluids clean the brain and keep it from getting clogged on protein plaque. It can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as well.

Why Is Sleep So Crucial To Successful People

Ariana Huffington created her newspaper, and she sold the whole business for 300 million and has attained success throughout her life. However, she never wanted to talk about any of it when she joined the author for a podcast. The only thing that she wanted to share was the benefits of proper sleep. Ariana even wrote a book on this subject.

“I have never been able to get up early every morning, and this has been an excuse for almost all my life. However, there are times in my life where I was forced to wake up early. During these times, there were people to help me and call me early in the morning to make sure that I was awake. My day became more efficient and productive when I wake up early every morning and get crucial things done. Imagine if you have finished all the important things done before lunch? It is a good feeling. Are you a morning person? Do you get a lot of things done every morning? If not, enlist another person to make you wake up each morning every day.”

Ariana further continued her advice by asking people to eat well.

Eat Properly

  • Do not eat the moment you get up from the bed and the moment you go back to bed. Think of how you can put breaks between meals.
  • Do not overeat snacks.

If you complete these two things, then you have already eaten much better than 90% of the population. You can later try whichever diet that you are interested in. Just cut out snacks and stop eating all day.

You will gain more nutrition for your body. You also have a lot of extra energy.

Do Something That Requires You To Move Your Body Strenuously

We are moving around the whole day, but not all movements burn calories. That’s why there are so many obese people living around us.

What the author explains is that we need to move around until we feel tired. We should go, “I cannot move anymore, I feel exhausted,”

The whole point is pushing ourselves further. In the author’s case, he tries to avoid being lazy about it by doing some sort of exercise that he enjoys. This is to cheat the brain into thinking he is not doing something difficult.

Take Care Of Your Emotional Wellbeing

In life, we meet people that put us down or people that we argue with constantly. We might have bad thoughts in the back of our mind regarding people that we dislike:

Good advice for everyone:

  • You are the average person of the five friends you spend time with
  • Always try to stand next to the smartest person within the vicinity.

In other words, hang out with people that love you or people that you love. It is much better to hang around people that you like rather than people that hate you. The fewer people that are toxic in your life, the better your life is.

There are many cases in life where you feel like you are forced to spend time with people that you don’t really like at all. This could be in case scenarios like in school, in jobs or relationships. You end up spending some time with them all day long for years and years.

However, you only have one life, so make it count. Be around people that can aid you to become a much better individual.

Although emotional health is all about being with the right crowd, there are a lot of other things that help you obtain it. You need to have a good personality to attract good people around you.

So how does this come to happen?

  • By becoming more honest
  • By social networking

The way to a proper network would be:

Introduce someone to another person. Do good things for both of them. 

Each day, the author tries to introduce one of his friends to another one.

“This idea has helped me out a lot, and I enjoy introducing two different people in the network to each other without wanting anything back in return.”

Take Care Of Your Mental Health  

So how do we take care of our mental health? We do something creative once a day This might be:

  • Creating a paper flower and giving it away
  • Writing an original blog post
  • Taking a beautiful photo of a grasshopper 

Examples of creative exercises that we can do daily:

  • Sunshine Diary

In the book written by Julia Cameron, we can create a personal diary that we can handle every morning. We just need to write three pages each day without taking your hands off from the paper. There will be no writer’s block as you can write anything you want on it.

The blog is an easy way to do something creative every single day.

You can write about:

  • The things we are grateful in life
  • Something that happened recently
  • Something that is currently happening
  • Lessons that you learned at work.

Experiment with your skills and try to get better at it day by day. This might be, for instance, photography. Some people like to take food photos and post them in social media groups. Some of them take scenery pictures, like the sun rising, etc. What the author does is simply walk up to someone that looked down, talk to them, and asked if they could take a photo with him. 

This is how he gains an exciting experience and takes a photo along with it.

  • Writing Special Ideas Daily

The author has been writing down ten ideas every single day for the past 15 years.


  • Ten recipes I can write
  • Ten books that I can read
  • Ten places I can travel to

The brain is a muscle like the ones in the rest of our body. If you don’t think of new ideas each day, your idea muscle will disintegrate and no longer work as sharply after a few weeks.

Most of us no longer have idea muscles, at least none that really work. It is the situation that most of us face in our society.

If you exercise daily, within 3-6 months, you will turn into an idea generator.

Life is not about competing with people all the time, but if there are people that try to compete with you and it is not beneficial, then you leave them behind. There is no apple to orange comparison.

People start asking the author if he executes his compilation of 3560 ideas in one year. His answer is no. It is because he cannot possibly perform all of his thoughts.

“You will go crazy, trying to carry out all these ideas. Maybe you can carry out one idea. The rest, just throw out the window.”

You cannot execute the ideas because these ideas are elements of a bigger purpose.

So when the author thinks that there is a business that is great to venture in : –

  • The following day he pops up with ten different execution ideas.
  • The ideas are simple and easy because he wants to know if the business idea is good or not
  • The business idea might not be good.

You need to turn yourself into an idea generator to create execution ideas.

Ideas are great for the 21st century. The author states that insights are even more valuable than money. It is a life currency. 

How To Attain Spiritual Health

The author likes to do something each time he wakes up in the morning. He tells an accountability partner three things that he is grateful for, and his friend sends back three things he is thankful for as well. They do this every single day, and if one forgets, the other reminds him to keep it going.

How To Practice Gratitude Muscle Exercises?

When a bad thing occurs in your life, try to think positively. The author calls this technique “difficult gratitude problems.”

He will try to list out one thing to be grateful for. Doing this turns the person into a spiritual person. 

You must know that feeling grateful or feeling angry cannot be in your brain at one go. This is a new practice to carry out every single day. Next, you need to self-meditate every day and add the meditation exercise into your routine.

Improving 1% Day by Day

The 5th thing that the author adds to the list is to educate all four items listed above at 1% a day. The skill level is compounding. If you improve anything 1% a day, we become 38 times better than our original state in one year. 

1% seems a small amount better compared to yesterday. You need to ask yourselves these questions at the end of each day:

Am I better at work today compared to yesterday?

Are my ideas better compared to yesterday?

Is my health better than before?

Do I feel more grateful for what I have than the day before?

Is my temper better than yesterday?

Is my mood swings better than yesterday?

The author tries to improve himself in all different fields each day. Doing so includes sleeping correctly, eating nutritious food, carrying out proper exercises and jotting down ten ideas every single day. 

A daily practice means being around people that you love and get rid of the toxic people in your life. However, you can practice gratitude so that you can enjoy each moment of your life and not travel to the past in your head.

This has been the author’s habit now of writing down three things he is grateful for every night, and life has changed, and he developed good habits.

Reinvent Yourself Twice a Year

You need to keep reinventing yourself because it is a constant process.

If you are getting better and better in sports, you will keep having to start the reinvention process again and again. Let’s say you are good at badminton;

  • Are you going to play badminton with others?
  • Will you change your badminton instructors?
  • Will you investigate how to improve your badminton skills?
  • Will you combine various skills needed for better badminton playing? 

Once again, you need to keep reprogramming the reinvention process, so half a year is not good enough. It might take you five years to excel in something, let’s say swimming if you know nothing about swimming. You can take a local competition as well if you are still in school and you can represent your school.

You can make the reinventing process work if you can produce ten ideas a day, or if you are healthy physically and spiritually, and you have good people all around you. The people around you should be interested in swimming as well.

Moreover, there must be an essential combination, like writing and swimming.

Open up a swimmer’s blog, and write consistently on tips on how to swim better. Next, you can join a local Facebook community dedicated to swimming. It adds extra sauce to your life. 

How To Get To The Next Level Fast?

If you are an entrepreneur and you are just beginning to start on cold feet, here is another way you can take your business to the next level.

Practices Daily

The first layer that you must bear in mind is to practice your ideas and good habits in daily practice. A lot of people lose their health when they start forming a business because they feel that they will become healthy after the company is thriving. After their health fails, their business fails as well.

You cannot stop doing these practices daily. You have to keep up and continue doing it. This practice is something you build a solid foundation on. These five key aspects are physical, emotional, mental, spiritual health, and focusing on improving yourself every day by 1%.

Do Things That You Love

This might seem very obvious to most people, but some just don’t get it. Each time you are forced to oblige to do something that you are not willing to do, this will happen:

  • You start to resent the people around you
  • You will perform poorly on the job.
  • You don’t have extra energy for the things that you work well on.
  • You start earning less money.
  • Wasting a part of your life and feeling worn out.

Finding a balance at a new skill

If you want to become better at doing something, you have to do something that the author calls the “+/-/=.”

The most significant factor in attaining your success in any key areas are – Your plus +

The definition of your plus is your real teachers plus your virtual teachers.

The author’s real mentors were people like Cramer and Niederhoffer. Both gave him guidance and advice on his path of life, along with other people as well.

Moreover, he also had virtual mentors – self-improvement books. The author himself has covered all the books in the market on finance that have been published for the past 400 years. The author also feels that his best virtual mentor is Buffett. He has never met the writer in person but read his entire bibliography.

The first thing is to find your “plus sign.” Next, we see your “equal sign.”

What about the “minus sign”?

This doesn’t mean that you get people that are inferior to you to make you feel good about yourself. This just means finding another person that you can teach.

If you want to become better at something, teach that field to another person. 

When the author reads a book, he probably remembers 1% of what he learned in that book. That is the average of what ordinary people remember after they have read the book or listened to a podcast.

The author is trying to practice writing down ten things that he has learned right after listening to a podcast. He writes it down immediately, like writing a new article. That way, he knows what the essential things to be put into the piece are.

“I want to teach another person what I learned from the book, and that’s how I learned the things from the book at the very best.”

The whole process of writing the article and sharing it with the community is like finding a “Minus sign” group. They are not inferior to him, but he wants to share with them what he has learned.

Next, we are looking at the “equal sign.” Equal signs are the people that compete with you. Find people that you can talk to as an equal. If you find people equal in your finance, like people that are on a trading platform, or other authors that are like-minded like you, then these people are your “equal sign.”

In the author’s case, he found employees working under Cramer and Niederhoffer. All these people were also managers, and they talked about how they built their success. The author grew up in building the firm with other people together, and they kept in touch daily. He felt that they were war mates together. His shareholder back then was still his shareholder.

Find lots of good people to work together and grow alongside you. You need to challenge your mindset and the place you live in.

Create A New Version of Yourself 

Now that you have built a home, you might want to decorate it beautifully.

The author’s first business, which has a net value of millions of dollars, it took a lot of time to build. It also took time to create the right skills for the job.

The thing is you cannot stop anything that you are currently doing.

  • You have to keep finding your “Plus sign,” “minus sign,” and your “equal sign.”
  • You also need to keep jotting down your ten ideas a day into your current business.

The example quoted here is Airbnb. This business started in 2007. Now in 2020, it is still running. Even though it was successful right from the start, it took years to grow it into a business worth billions of dollars.

Many years after the founders created Airbnb, they found out that the business was always in competition with hotel chains. The CEOs decided to reinvent Airbnb so that it would fare better in the hospitality sector. That was when they began to get negative reviews.

Therefore, they hired a hospitality expert, Conley. This guy owns a total of fifty hotels. Conley was their “plus sign” expert to turn their company into a more hospitality-oriented firm. After that, the company revolutionized.

These are the experts that understood what was “plus sign/minus sign/equal sign” and how to improve 1% each day. That is how you make the business better.

How To Connect With Authority’s and Work Alongside With Them?

When the author lost all his money, he decided that he needed to learn more about making money and finance. So he decided to read a lot of books on economics and started to create software based on stock markets. 

He also found out that the top leaders in the finance market are fund managers and investors. Therefore he tries to connect to them.

Initially, he sent these people emails, asking them out for coffee.

This is what he wrote 40 emails to different people stating, “Hi, I would like to have coffee for you. I want to pick your brain.”

He didn’t receive any replies and thought to himself, “How can I get a reply in that manner?”

People don’t have time to have coffee with a random person. That is why no one responded to him.

Began thinking of ways he could help them without getting back in return

The author started to email people on giving them ten ideas that can improve their life. He sent out emails to 40 people, and this time a few people responded.

People started responding to him

He wrote another 40 emails. All of them did not meet. They were significant people that were always busy. However, out of 40, 3 of them returned after that.

How To Do Permission Networking and Introduce People To Each Other?

The author would do this every day. However, he needed to think of two people that would suit each other. He would ask people if they would oblige to meet each other. Once they agreed, he brings them together for a cup of coffee. They allow him to introduce them to each other. This is called permission networking. Sometimes great things happen; sometimes, nothing happens. However, things do happen. They might not occur immediately, since it may take some time to work.

Every time you plant a seed in your backyard, you don’t know when they will grow. However, there is an 80/20 rule. 20% of the things that you plant will create the ultimate value of 80%. That is where all the tomatoes in the garden start popping up.

When you are doing permission networking, you don’t have to be in the middle. Let these two people help each other out and gain from the friendship. You will benefit from it later on.

If there is a network effect, you will benefit from it in the future.

What is the difference between linear effect and network effect?

If you live a long life, your resources become better if you meet someone new, and you grow your social network. You have to create a list of new people to expand your empire.

However, if you live a network life, which has been popular ever since the internet started to boom, the value of the website will keep increasing no matter how many people use it. People from the site that do not know each other start to network online, thus continuing the network effect.

That is the way to build an empire. How do you apply this theory? How many people are making use of you?

The value of the network keeps growing when you view the number of people you know and your resources as nodes on a piece of the graph. Think of how many connections you can make using two same nodes on that piece of the chart. 

It means countless opportunities that will be headed directly to you. There are so many different strategies and platforms that include email marketing lists, copywriting tactics, and many others, that keep changing over time.

If you create ten ideas every single day, you will learn all these tricks fast as well, because you’ll end up becoming an idea machine.

And even better, if you apply the “plus sign/minus sign/equal sign,” you will learn even more since you’ll start looking for mentors, and you get to learn more about similar businesses as well.

Author Biography

James Altucher’s an American-born entrepreneur, with several different jobs. He has created over 20 companies. 

He has published close to a dozen books so far and has written blog posts for various newspapers, like The Huffington Post.

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