A Brief Review — Choose Yourself by James Altucher

Choose Yourself, the latest book by James Altucher is a straight forward kick in the pants to anyone who needs it. It makes a very strong case for what many of us already know (and many others suspect) — that everything we used to rely on for safety (College, Employment, Retirement, etc) no longer can be relied on. No longer can we wait for someone to hire us, invest in us, or pick us. Now is the time we must choose ourselves and, thus, control our own destiny.

He makes his case using straight talk and a no-nonsense style. To do so, he uses facts, reason, numerous case studies, and his own personal failures and successes. But, I think even more important is that this is the first book of this type I have read that stresses personal health and well being as essential tools for choosing oneself. Things like proper sleep, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are requirements for doing your best work. Choosing yourself begins with making these sorts of investments in ones overall well being.

As someone who has “chosen himself” already, I’m often asked by those interested in doing so for books, resources, and my own writings on the subject that I recommend. I can confidently say that this book will now be at the top of that list. Mainly because the author pulls no punches about the whats, hows, and whys of what he believes we all should do. He gets to the point fast and never couches or waivers from it. In fact, he believes so strongly in the ideas he is expressing that he will gladly give you your money back. He just wants to get this message out to as many people as possible.

Do yourself a favor and choose to get it for yourself. What do you have to lose? Especially those who have lost so much already.

P.S. I just noticed that, as I write this, the Kindle version is only $.99 cents but is available on loan for free to Amazon Prime members via the Kindle Lending Library program.


The hardest part? Signing up. — GORUCK Challenge Event Overview

I’m signed up for another GORUCK Challenge event this year — June 20th in Minneapolis. This will be my second. My friend Rodney was interested in doing his first and, for motivation, I said I would be happy to be a part of his team. He was nice enough to let me use his buddy pass to get in for free. Last week, we went on a good training ruck together. I’m looking forward to doing it again. It will be fun. That is, if anyone can call this brand of self-punishment fun.

Now that I have one under my belt, have shadowed several others, and have gotten others to commit to the crazy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that quote above. If you see the videos, read the after action reports of past participants, or even have done a GORUCK event yourself, you know that the statement above is true. Once you commit and show up, to finish a Challenge is easy.

Easy? Sure. I mean, it will likely be one of the the hardest physical tests you will ever put yourself through. Your inner-individual will be broken down to the point where it can be rebuilt to be part of your team. You will wonder every minute or two why the heck you ever signed up in the first place. That is, until you are so exhausted that your thinking just turns off and the strength to feel any emotion is lost (this happens about an hour in). And, when the sun comes up after a long night and you think it is almost over, you know that hope is simply a tool to make it sting more when you realize you’re only about half-way to whatever you think “over” means.

But, when you do finish, it will be one of the best feelings you can imagine. You got to push yourself beyond every physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual limit you thought you had. You are now a new version of you. A better version. One that just did that. Something that most people would never in a million years sign up and pay for. But you did. And, once you did, the rest was easy because all you had to do to finish was one simple thing.

So, the next time someone asks me about why I’m crazy enough to do another one of these, I’ll tell them what I know now. Signing up is the hardest part, finishing is easy — just don’t fucking quit.

P.S. The real take-away is that this same philosophy applies to finishing anything one starts.

Building Routines (or, How I Became A Daily Journal Writer)

The following was written for my latest book, This Could Help. This should give you a sense of the sorts of things that are in the book. Also, this particular idea was a revelation and a huge success for me so, I hope it can help many others as well. Enjoy!

I have always had mixed success with keeping a journal. I could probably build a small shelter with all of the half finished notebooks that contain those fits and starts. It is also the case that I have tried many software solutions as well. Part of the problem, certainly, is that I have not been able to form the proper habit of, each day, writing the significant things down. But, counterintuitively, I have found that another big part of the problem is the amount of guilt I feel when I try for a few weeks and then fail. That guilt keeps me from giving it another go. I tell myself that, if I try again, I’m only going to fail so why bother trying at all.

Not to jinx it (knocks on wood furiously), but I have now managed to keep not only one, but TWO journals going simultaneously and without missing a day since December 16th, 2013. That is longer than I have kept any one journal continuously and daily in my whole life! (Does little happy touch down dance).

So, what made the difference for me? Well, a combination of things as I think back on it.

  • I did it intentionally for long enough that eventually it became involuntary. In other words, habits take a while to forge but, once you forge them, then it becomes involuntary in the way that blinking and breathing are involuntary. It’s just that thing you do semiconsciously just the same as the many other things you do semiconsciously.

  • I built the routine on top of other routines. Like I said, I keep two journals. The first one I use as sort of a daily log — tasks I completed, meetings I’ve had, things I’ve done, etc. So, for instance, I already had a routine when I completed a task — I marked it done on my task list. “Great.”, I thought, ”A good place to install a new routine”. So, I made a new step when I completed a task — I marked it done AND I wrote it down in my log. When I had that simple routine down I installed others one by one. When I have a meeting or appointment, I mark it down in the log before starting my car to drive away. I write down ideas right away before I lose them, etc. In other words, I broke down the big routine into a series of smaller routines which I then added bit by bit until I had a completely new routine.

  • I realized that any routine, even unrelated, was appropriate to build on. For instance, my second journal is a Levenger 5 Year Journal. It gives you a few lines for each day over five years. I use this for recording my feelings at the end of my day. This was not a task or a meeting so I had to find another routine to build on. After a short thought session I found it — brushing my teeth. See, I brush my teeth every night before going to bed. Therefore, I built the new routine on that. Now, I write in my journal and then brush my teeth. Thus, writing in the journal became a subroutine of my existing pre-bed routine.

  • I used tools that were a pleasure to use but also perfect for the purpose of the routine I wanted to install. I’ve mentioned it before but, for my Daily Log journal I use a Hobonichi Techo. Not only is it a beauty and joy to use, the perfect size for my small handwriting writing, but since it is designed as a planner it becomes an automatic “Seinfeld Calendar”. Don’t miss a day and break the chain! And, if for some very unusual reason I miss a day, I go back the next day and put something on that page — anything — to keep the routine going. In the log, there are some whirlwind days in the past few months I just did not take the time to log anything. So, the next day, I made sure to go back to the previous one and write down as much as I can remember.

  • Per the above, I allow anything to “count”. There are, at least, 5 entires as I flipped back through the ones in my 5 Year Journal that are a single word. There is one that is just a doodle. Guess what? Yep, that counts. That is how I felt that day. I didn’t feel like writing more than that and the fact that I didn’t communicates that feeling too. There are no rules. Rules stifle routines. The only rule is to put something on that page.

But, as the title of this post suggests, this is about more than my (finally) keeping a daily journal (Two. Did I mention TWO???). I now know that many of these techniques would work with any routine/habit I wish to form. And, now that I have added these new routines to existing routines, I’m going to see what other routines I can add on top of these and what other existing routines are available for me to build on. For instance, my pre-bed routine would be the perfect place to add another subroutine — perhaps, ten minutes of meditation before I write in my journal and brush my teeth.

See what I mean?

The fact is, we all have existing routines. We all have a set of steps we do every morning, just before bed, or otherwise in our day. These are all opportunities to build in another step and form a new habit. So, if there is something you’ve wanted to do regularly for a long time but have yet to achieve it, this could help.

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