What is the point of life? Why do people work so hard in life even though they know that nothing they have done or ever will do will remain with them?

By – James Altucher

On the staircase I passed a woman who was a prostitute but she was dressed like a Viking and she was crying.

I knew she was a prostitute because we lived in the same building for many years and she had one of the most expensive rooms.

One time I saw her come in at 3 in the morning and I asked her, “what do you do for a living?” I was trying to overcome my shyness.

She said she worked as a “party planner”. As a rule, everyone I asked this question to when I was in the lobby of this building, lied to me. One time a 15 year old kid rode his bike into the lobby at three in the morning and said, “he was visiting his mother”.

And the more beautiful the woman, the more likely she was to say, “she was a party planner”.

But ok, that told me nothing. The desk clerk told me, “she’s a hooker. She’ll do it with you if you want.”

This one time, though, she was crying. I don’t know why the Viking suit. I saw her from at least three floors away. I lived on the ninth floor and always walked down.

One quick story. One time I asked someone in the elevator (ok, I didn’t ALWAYS walk down) what was the strangest thing he ever saw on my floor.

He said that girl in one of the rooms was late on her rent. She had painted all the walls in her apartment black and would stay there for days at a time.

The room next to hers was occupied by a drug dealer and there were always lines of people out the door but occasionally she would be able to dabble.

One time, Stanley, the manager from downstairs, called her and said, “you need pay your rent.” She was three or four months late. The guy in the elevator didn’t know.

She said, “I’ll be right down”.

And then she opened her window, moved back so she could get a running start, and ended up splattered in the center of 23rd Street.

“Come to think of it,” the guy in the elevator said, “the next day you moved into her room.”

Which, now that I’m writing this, explains all the black walls I had then.

So the prostitute in the Viking suit crying on the staircase while pretending to be a party planner wasn’t really unusual.

I wanted to talk to her because of a cognitive bias called the “halo effect” which told all the biochemistry in my brain that she was actually a smart, sweet, kind, beautiful person who would take care of me forever once she got rid of that Viking suit, her tears, her ugly job, and decided to share her beauty only with me. Forever.

But I just walked around her. I was too afraid to talk. And for the next seven floors I kept saying to myself what a bad person I didn’t offer to comfort her. I still hear her crying, as if she were some baby whale in the middle of the night trying to avoid whoever it is that still stabs baby whales.

I saw that with my own eyes. I heard her cry. I felt the tension in my chest when I saw an impossible future shine around her almost like a distorted aura that I ten tip-toed around.

I felt my chest punish me when all I could think was regret for the next seven floors.

Back in the laboratory, a scientist took notes of everything that was happening. Notes in a language my feeble brain will never understand.

He then passed everything on to his boss. Who passed it on to his boss. Who then put it in a giant thing we might translate as a computer but it really wasn’t.

“More,” the computer thought, as I went on my way, to work, to marriage, to parenthood, to divorce, to starting and selling and failing and wanting and needing and loving and lusting and giving up and being humiliated.

“More,” the computer though, when I was desperate and scared. When my house was shut down. When I came back from the dead. When I met someone to love. When I wrote another book. When I looked out at the sky. Into distant space, into the curvature of time  painted with pastels of black, purple, and rain.

“More”. And right now this second, and only for this second, everything is exactly where it is supposed to be.  Where the boss’s boss’s computer’s computer wants me to be. How proud He is. “Nothing less, nothing more.”


What You Can Learn In The Next Ten Minutes That Will Make Your Entire Life Better.

What You Can Learn In The Next Ten Minutes That Will Make Your Entire Life Better….

by – James Altucher

I’m going to be dead for about 9 or 10 TRILLION years. And only alive for the next 40 or so.

It sounds like I’m trying to put things in perspective. But I’m not. It’s just true and even a little depressing.

I’ve never built a rocketship that will make it into space. I’ll never cure cancer. I might not even write a bestselling novel about a teenage girl that falls in love with a dominating billionaire.

Sometimes this makes me depressed. What will I do?

Someone on Quora asked “what can I learn in ten minutes that will be useful for the rest of my life”.

This I can do. I can show you four insanely stupid things that will make the rest of your life better.

I’m not going to give you the usual lifehack stuff. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Evernote, new ways to floss, a new way to clear your emails. This I can’t do.

I have 203,433 unread emails not counting my spam box. Not only will I never launch a rocket into space I will never even read all the emails addressed to me.

I don’t like the word “lifehack”. It takes a lot of work to be really good at something in life. To get good at something you need: a teacher, a passion, read a lot of books, practice 3-4 hours a day for many days.

There are no shortcuts to learning something.

In general:

  • It will take you 1 year of serious study to be in the top 60% of anything in life.
  • It will take you 2 years to be in the top 50% (the learning curve slope starts to flatten)
  • It will take you 3 years to be in the top 30% (where you will start making money at your passion)
  • It will take you 4 years to be in the top 10-20% (where you will start to make real wealth)
  • It will take you 5+ years to be in the top 10% where you will make real wealth. I’ve switched careers many times.

Even if you have every lifehack in the book, this is what it takes to be GREAT at something you love doing. Great enough to make a living or even wealth at it.

I’ve done enough interviews now on my podcast with people who the best in the world at what they do and I can see there are no real shortcuts.

This is true no matter what field.

So instead, I’m going to tell you four dumb things I do that I have fun with and has made life A LOT smoother for me. I like to be calm, to laugh, to have fun with friends, to be creative, to wake up excited for what the day holds for me.



I have thousands of $2 bills. I always tip with $2 bills. How come? Because then people remember me. They always say, “whoah! I’ve never had one.”

And then the next time I come into an establishment, I’m remembered. This is good for restaurants, dates, poker night with friends, even for paying at the local deli.

I also find whenever I move to a new town this is a quick way to make friends. I’m very shy and this gets people talking. This has been also very good on dates. Nobody ever forgets the guy with a roll of $2 bills.


I wear a doctor’s lab coat most of the time. Like in airports, restaurants, walking around town.

The reason?

a. It’s comfortable.

b. The big pockets let me put any electronic devices I might need (an ipad mini, for example, plus waiter’s pads (see below))

c. People actually do treat me like a doctor. If someone said, “I need a doctor” I would not be able to help (unless it’s easy stuff in which case I can say, “I’m not a doctor” and then perform CPR or mouth-to-mouth or Heimlich, which are all easy to learn.

But the reality is, people move out of the way if you are an airport and walking around in a doctor’s coat. And in a restaurant sometimes people let me go first.

Is this unfair? Well, I never claim to be a doctor. I’m just wearing a doctor’s coat because I like how it feels, looks, and the functionality of it. But if it has other benefits, which it does, I’ll take it.

Besides, 99.99% of the time someone goes to the doctor here is the correct answer the doctor should give: “Go home and sleep more. Call me in a year.”


I have about 300 waiter’s pads. I order them for about 10 cents a pad in bulk on restaurant supplies website.

How come?

a. I like to write ideas on pads. I write down at least 10 ideas a day. The idea muscle is a muscle like any other. If it’s not exercised, it atrophies. If it’s exercised then within six months you’re an idea machine. Try it. It’s amazing what happens. Don’t keep track of the ideas. Just become an idea machine.

b. Why a pad? A screen messes with your dopamine levels. I like the visceral experience of putting pen to pad.

c. Why ten ideas? Four or five ideas on any theme is easy. It’s the final five or six that makes the brain sweat. This is how you exercise the idea muscle.

d. Why specifically a waiter’s pad?

i. It forces you to be concise. A waiter’s pad is small lines. You can’t write a novel there.

ii. It’s a great conversation piece in meetings. Once I pull out the waiter’s pad someone always says, “I’ll take fries with my burger” and everyone laughs. Again, I’m shy so it’s a good way for me to break the ice.

iii. In restaurants, when you pull out a waiter’s pad, guess what? Waiters treat you better.

iv. The other day in a cafe I was working and someone potentially violent came up and asked me for money. I held up my waiter’s pad and said, “I’m a waiter, do you want to order something?” and they sort of looked at me and grunted and then walked away.

– WATCH STANDUP COMEDY before every meeting, date, dinner, media appearance, conversation, public talk.

I watch Louis CK, Daniel Tosh, Amy Schumer, Anthony Jeselnik, Jim Norton, Andy Samberg, Seth Rogen, Marina Franklin, Ellen, Bo Burnham, and maybe a dozen others.

How come?

I have a lot of inhibitions when I meet people. I’m scared and somewhat introverted. Standup comedians are the best public speakers in the world and I think they are the most astute social commentators on the human condition.

So the reasons I watch them before most social encounters (personal, professional, media)

  • it gives me a boost of energy. My “mirror neurons” are going to feed off of their boost of energy for at least 1-3 hours after I watch them.
  • it gives me material. I won’t steal from a comedian (yes I will). But the reality is: good artists plagiarize, great artists steal. And at the very least, I often improvise based on material I heard a comedian said. I’m not competing with them. I’m just on a date. Or a business meeting.
  • Studying the subtleties of how comedians get laughs: their timing, their voices, their silences, the way they look at the audience, the way they move across the stage, the way they benefits from the comedians who came before them, AND their actual commentary about life, helps me in my many interactions with people.

All of the above may make it seem like I’m a loser in many respects. I don’t deny this. Loser of what? Remember those nine trillion years?

Anyway, this is the four insanely stupid things that I wanted to share.

And they work.