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Think Like a Billionaire

Think Like a Billionaire

Think Like a Billionaire

4.5/5 (61 ratings)
852 pages
13 hours
Dec 11, 2019

Editor's Note

Scribd exclusive…

James Altucher interviewed some of the most successful people in the world and distilled their secrets into this highly readable book. From Tyra Banks to Ev Williams, from “Shark Tank” investors to the CEO of Home Depot, these billionaires make it clear that money and success are natural byproducts of passion and effort.


What do Tyra Banks, Ev Williams, and Richard Branson have in common? If you answered that they’re all extremely wealthy, you’d be right. But you’d also be missing a big part of the story.

James Altucher, the noted entrepreneur, venture capitalist, bestselling author of Choose Yourself, and host of the podcast The James Altucher Show — which has over 40 million downloads — has interviewed 15 of the most successful people in the world to figure out just what makes them tick. And the conclusions might surprise you. 

For each of these people, money wasn't their ultimate goal — it was a natural byproduct of following their passions and developing good habits that enabled them to take advantage of their successes, and to learn from their failures.

From the founder of Spanx to the entrepreneur behind Home Depot, from a craft beer aficionado to the investors on Shark Tank, these visionaries honed their ideas and creativity, and used what they loved as a compass to guide their curiosity. That curiosity gave them the insights they needed to skip the line, to try new things, to diversify, and to hit the accelerator on their successes.

This isn’t some lofty self-help book. This is about real people who achieved their dreams and gained wealth and influence as a result. As Altucher notes, ultimately it’s not the number in the bank account that defines anyone — it’s asking if you’re living life to the best of your ability.

Dec 11, 2019

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Think Like a Billionaire - James Altucher



I don’t know how to define success. I guess there are many definitions.

The impact you have on the world. Your level of happiness. Perhaps some degree of financial success. Achieving a title or an award.

Much of success is fleeting. You win an award and you wake up the next day and wonder, What’s next?

It’s not the success that makes one achieve impact. Nor is it just habits.

I don’t like the word, habit. A habit might be something like, tie your shoes every day. Or look both ways before you cross the street.

Out of the hundreds of billionaires and other people of world-class success that I interviewed, it wasn’t simply good habits that brought them the success they deserved.

It was something else.

It was a particular set of meta-skills that they slowly developed over time that allowed them to take any situation and make it work for them.

At any given point, the world is telling you what to do. Or you are telling the world what to do.

The meta-skills this book will describe are what will change you — from being an innocent bystander who is thrust around by the events happening all around you, to the hero of the story that is being told by the world.

What does that mean for you?

You’ll experience the arc of the hero. Joseph Campbell describes this in his book The Hero’s Journey, but I am going to summarize it right now.

It’s the journey that can take you from stuck to unstuck.

It’s what took Sara Blakely from selling fax machines door to door, to changing the way women all over the world look at themselves.

It’s what took Peter Thiel from feeling imprisoned by his cushy job at one of the top law firms in the country (where he could’ve risen up to the top and made millions), to creating some of the most important companies on the planet — PayPal, Facebook (where he was the first investor), Palantir, among others.

It’s what took Richard Branson from being upset about a cancelled plane, to making Virgin Galactic — which will eventually pioneer the field of space tourism.

This is the arc of the hero:

Struggling with their current situation. Not sure what to do.

A call to action. Perhaps a disaster. Or a wish unfulfilled. Or a mysterious invitation. Or an urging of the heart.

The journey begins. The hero meets their new friends who will help them along the way.

Obstacles mount, trying to force our hero to leave the arc and go back to being a bystander. Go back to being stuck in a cubicle.

And finally the greatest obstacle of all, which our hero, against all odds, defeats.

Then the journey home, where our hero is a changed person, ready to take their new knowledge and skills to go on even greater adventures and arcs and stories and create an even greater impact.

Think about it. It’s exactly what happened in Star Wars.

Luke wants to go into space. His uncle says no.

He sees a hologram of a princess who needs help. His aunt and uncle are killed.

He meets his mentor. Then his new friends, Han Solo, Chewbacca, etc.

He faces greater and greater obstacles. Escaping from storm troopers, freeing Princess Leia, getting off the Death Star. All the while learning the skills to do this. Learning the Force.

Finally, with his friends’ help — and with the help of his new skills — he is able to destroy the Death Star.

He returns home. Not just to receive a medal. But to get ready for the further adventures ahead.

The arc of the hero never ends.

Are you the hero in your story? I wonder often if I am. I try to be. I don’t want to be a bystander. I don’t want to be stuck. But it’s difficult.

I always have to ask: Am I somewhere on this arc? Because if I’m not, then I’m not the hero of the story being told. I’m just a character in someone else’s story.

What I learned most of all from the many billionaires and successful people I spoke with is that they knew which skills would keep them the hero of their story.

They recognized when they weren’t the hero, and they knew how to get themselves back on the arc.

This was the main thing in common with all of them.

Of course, there were specific skills they all had in common, too. And you’ll discover them throughout this book.

But, quietly, they always knew that there was a story about the world written just for them. And they participated in that story to the fullest extent possible.

This doesn’t mean finding your purpose.

This means living with purpose — even if you don’t know exactly what that purpose or passion is.


So what are the meta-skills that these successful people, these heroes of their stories, used to achieve success?




Ready. Fire. Aim.


Talent Sex




Problem Solving

What are these skills? I will write more about them along the way.

Why aren’t these the same as habits? We always hear: If you have good habits, you will be successful.

This simply is not true. I can jog every day, eat healthy, write down 10 ideas, be good to my kids, etc. These are good habits.

But things like Ready. Fire. Aim, which will be discussed in later chapters, take it one step further. This is a skill that needs to be improved every day.

If you improve a skill 1% per day, then, through compounding, it gets 37 times better in a year.

This is more than just repeating a habit. It’s a technique for building super powers.

But, one can ask, Is having a ‘vision’ really a skill?

Answer: Yes.

For instance, having a vision about how airlines could be run better means learning — as deeply as possible — the history of all airlines.

All the possibilities of customer experience. The science and mechanics of airplanes. And how to communicate that vision to others.

It’s like a magic trick. To take this idea that is burning so strongly in your head and somehow transport it into the heads of others: investors, partners, employees, customers, media.

This is not a habit. It’s not like, brush your teeth every day. Learning the skill of having a vision is something that must be developed deeper and deeper every day.

You can’t simply learn how to communicate with people better and then it’s all done. It’s a process of trial and error. Try and fail and try again. Until learning to communicate a vision finally goes from bad to mediocre to better to good to great.

And then keep on going until you are the best.

This is what creates the super powers needed for success.

And yes, they need to be super powers.

Because there are seven billion people on the planet. And they all want to go from stuck to unstuck.

And although the resources of success are mostly infinite, that’s still a lot of competition.

You have to compound the skills outlined above to stand out above everyone else. To become the hero of the story.


Ken Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, is worth about $5 billion.

He’s donated hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research. If you drive around New York City, you’ll see many hospitals named after Ken Langone.

I am grateful to him because these hospitals have successfully treated many friends and family members.

Well, Ken Langone told me a story once that he didn’t think was a story.

Or, at the very least, he thought he was telling me a money story — but he ended up telling me something very different.

In the late 1960s, a young man named Ross Perot was building a company that focused on selling computers — a very young company in a very young industry.

Ross Perot wanted to go public. Meaning, he would sell part of his company to the public and be listed on the stock exchange.

Back then, Ken Langone wanted to get the deal to take Ross Perot’s company public.

Ross Perot would become a billionaire as a result. And Ken would make his first million or so as his fee in the process.

More importantly, his network of people he could count on for his future successes now included billionaires. (Rule #1: If you help someone else make a billion, you will definitely make millions.)

But Ken’s first million didn’t come easily.

Ken Langone was not from one of the big banks like Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley.

He didn’t have the pedigree. He was from a small bank, from a small town, and didn’t have the fancy degree.

He had to figure out how to differentiate himself. He spent six months figuring out what Ross Perot’s needs and agendas were. He tried to tell Perot that the big banks might not focus on Perot the way he needed. But that he, Ken Langone, would make Perot his daily priority.

Finally, after these initial six months where they had spoken almost every day, visited each other constantly — even vacationed together — Perot called Langone and said, I don’t know. I think I want to go with one of the bigger guys. I’m sorry.

Perot was in Dallas. It was about 7 a.m. Langone was sitting in New York City while they were having this phone conversation.

Ken said, Wait. What are you doing for lunch?

Perot said Ken! I’m in Dallas and you’re in NYC.

Ken said, I don’t care. What are you doing for lunch?

At 12:30 p.m. Ken was at lunch and sitting down with Perot to go over — one more time — why Perot will get the special attention he needed from Ken.

Ken got the deal and made his first million.

That was the end of the story when Ken told it to me. But it wasn’t the full story.

Ken had a wife who was super supportive of him. He knew he could jump on a plane at a moment’s notice if that’s what his work needed.

Ken had employees who were on the plane with him. All of his colleagues were just as informed about Perot’s needs as Ken was.

Ken had spent years building his reputation as an honest straight-shooter who would overpromise and overdeliver. That’s how he got in the door in the first place.

He wasn’t going to blame his inability to get the deal from Ross Perot on his lack of pedigree or higher education. That would have been the easy out.

Instead, he built a life around himself that allowed him to get on that plane.

That life started with his loyal and deep marriage — and included the network of good people around him.

This isn’t a story about the importance of hard work. This is a love story.


I would never talk to someone at 7 a.m. — then jump on a plane and fly across the country to have lunch with them by noon.

Well… Never say never. But I have never done that, and I can’t imagine a situation where I would do that.

Maybe this means I will never be a billionaire. I don’t know.

But I don’t think that action was the critical moment in Ken Langone’s life.

He took a vision and used it to motivate other people, thousands of people, to help him create that vision. He had an idea, and he brought it to life. Millions of people have built or maintained their homes by going into one of Ken Langone’s Home Depot stores.

He made an impact on the world, employed thousands of people, reduced costs for millions of people who wanted to own a home, and then helped thousands or millions of people with his charity work.

He didn’t do this by himself. He didn’t do this because he was lucky. He didn’t do this because one day he jumped on a plane.

He built up skills over many years that helped him be creative enough to have that vision and persuasive enough to motivate others to help him with it.

And he had the ability to execute on that vision, persist through the inevitable failures, deal with the difficult personalities along the way, and keep going towards the success of that vision — even when times were hard.

What I realized was that no matter what their background, every single one of the billionaires I spoke to had very particular habits that helped them achieve success.

What is success?

It’s certainly not money. I know many people who made a lot of money and then were desperately unhappy.

Again, I never made a billion dollars. Yet there were times I made a lot of money. But because I did not develop good habits, I was not only miserable, I also lost all of my money.

Yes, habits. Though they aren’t the same as the super powers that make you a billionaire, good habits are essential to your health and happiness.

I’ve written before about the basic habits that helped me.

I call it The Daily Practice because if I forget these basic habits even for one day, the inevitable decline will start. That will result in eventual despair and loss. Loss of relationships, loss of money, loss of career, loss of skills, and loss of health.

I view this Daily Practice almost the way I would view a religious or philosophical belief.

I pretend as if I have four bodies: physical, emotional, creative (or mental), and spiritual.

When a person has a heart attack, it’s because the blood running through their body is somehow blocked from the heart, and then the heart starts to break down until it literally attacks and causes enormous pain and maybe death.

Similarly, we know now that your emotional health and physical health and creative health and spiritual health are all connected.

It’s as if there is an invisible blood that runs between all the bodies, feeding them and nourishing them. If this invisible blood is somehow blocked from the core you that is at the center, then you have an attack. And that attack can cause pain in any number of ways: relationship pain, money pain, creative pain, and so on.

But if you keep all four bodies healthy, then it’s almost as if you develop super powers.

You become an idea machine, a creative powerhouse. You become persuasive and able to convince others of your vision. Your personal relationships will flow smoothly. You will learn to accept the moments of anguish that are beyond your control — and learn from moments that might be within control (this is spiritual health).

So every day I make sure to have:

Physical Health: I make sure to eat, move, and sleep well.

Emotional Health: I make sure I am being honest and good in all of my personal relationships. Not holding onto toxic relationships or things that bring me down.

Creative Health: I write down 10 ideas a day. So the muscle that rules my creativity gets exercised to the point that I become an idea machine — constantly generating ideas that can help me, help others, make money, make life better, etc.

Spiritual Health: I learn to recognize when I am angry or fearful of things that are beyond my control. Learning how to let them go so I am able to focus better on the things that are important to me.

People often come to me and say, I am feeling ‘stuck.’ How can I get unstuck?

They want to know what business to start. Or what investment to make. Or what idea will change their lives.

There is no answer. No single investment will solve things. No amount of money will make your relationships better, or your life more creative or filled with ease.

But I know that doing The Daily Practice every day has changed my life.

And then I stopped doing it.

I got comfortable. Life got a little easier. I thought: Ok, maybe I don’t need to do this EVERY day.

And then, bit by bit, everything fell apart. Again.

I lost a marriage. I lost a ton of money. I lost my ability to be creative at a moment’s notice. I was getting super anxious.

Keep in mind that I am just a scientific experiment that I do on myself. This is just what worked for me. I am my entire research sample. A sample size of one.

But I started doing The Daily Practice again. And it worked. Again.

I went from near broke to building a business worth hundreds of millions.

I reinvented myself and not only wrote many more books, but now do stand-up comedy on a regular basis. I have a super fun podcast, and I love the people around me that I spend time with.

Everybody suffers. Everybody has obstacles. But it’s our choice how we move forward from them.

It’s this strengthening of the four parts of what makes us truly alive that allows us to live life with strength.


Of course, many billionaires did not make their first billion when they were at a young age.

But developing the processes of billionaires should start early.

Remember, we’re not just looking at habits like brush your teeth every night. A PROCESS is a methodology for living your life that improves it, and helps you compound those processes into later success.

Here are some processes I wish I had focused on more when I was in my 20s. Or, to be honest, in my 30s.

Sure, I reached some success in my 20s and 30s. You achieve success all along the way. But I never felt like I was on a smooth upward trend until all of these processes kicked in.

And among all the billionaires I interviewed and researched, they all started these 10 processes from an early age:


When I was in my 20s people often didn’t respect me or give a shit about anything I said or did.

And now that I’m 50, people often treat me with even less respect if I say something that doesn’t fit their world view.

But it doesn’t matter whether someone hates me or likes me. I treat them with dignity.

Dignity shows who you are.

You have control over who you are. Always. Reminding yourself to treat EVERYONE with dignity is a powerful way to build self-awareness.

One act of dignity is like throwing a pebble into the middle of the ocean. The waves will burst out and eventually hit all shores.

Dignity compounds. The more you do it, the more you will see the powerful effect it will have on every area of your life: romance, wealth, friendship, freedom.


Always be creating value. I tell my daughters to ask themselves at the end of each day, Who did you help today?

If they help someone, then I respect them.

If they do something just for the attention, then I don’t care.

Attention is fleeting. Helping people is what builds a legacy.

If the people you trust and honor respect you, then your life will be good.

A friend of mine was describing an experience he had with an Instagrammer who has 25 million followers. Instagram is all this guy is known for.

I invited him to a charity event, my friend said, and all he wanted to do when he landed was get high and hook up and get into fights.

This Instagram genius had a lot of attention. But as my friend told me, He is by far the WORST person I have ever met.

Attention adds up to nothing. Respect from the right people adds up to everything.


There are a lot of books out there that encourage you to invest in yourself.

This is mostly BS.

What does invest in yourself mean? It could mean self-improvement or building a skill that can make you money. Maybe you start a business. I don’t know.

This is ok advice. But it only works if, like in all investing, you diversify.

Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, explained it best to me.

Build a talent stack, he told me.

For instance, he said, I’m pretty good at drawing, but not the greatest. I’m pretty funny, but not the funniest. And I’m pretty good at business, but not the best.

Yet combining those talents allowed him to create Dilbert, which is the most syndicated cartoon in the world right now.

Invest in developing multiple talents.

People often ask me, What do you do for a living?

I have no answer. I have no label to describe myself. I write, I podcast, I run a business, I do angel investing (tech companies, food companies, oil companies, etc.), I’m an adviser to several companies, I speak, and —just for the heck of it — I own part of a comedy club in NYC.

So what do I say? I usually say I’m a writer, and depending on the audience, they either have respect for me or lose respect for me.


I hate to give cliché advice. Read is cliché advice. But I’m so grateful I started reading a book every day or so starting around the age of 21.

When I was in my 20s I thought I knew a lot about life. And maybe I did. Maybe I was a super genius about life in my 20s. But probably not.

I messed up relationships, jobs, careers, money, marriage, family and a lot more. And I could say I was a victim. But when I’m the common thing in every bad situation, then the problem is probably me.

By the way, in my 40s I thought I knew a lot about life, too.

I’m 50 now, and basically know about the same as in my 40s. I still mess up everything.

Messing up everything is annoying. But if not for reading, I would mess up even more.

When you live your life, you are living ONLY ONE life. Every book you read allows you to absorb an entirely new life. When you read 1,000 books, it’s like you have 1,000 more lives inside of you.

And when you read good non-fiction books, it’s as if you’ve absorbed an entire lifetime’s worth of work in a few hours. You’re simply downloading all of the experiences of the person who actually did the work.

Reading is like a super power. And when you can relate books to each other (combining what you learn from The Old Man and the Sea with the latest book on Bitcoin, for example) then it’s as if you’ve read an exponential number of books.

Any success I’ve had in life I owe to reading a few books a week.

Plus, every book you read makes you a better writer. And learning to communicate is one of the most important skills you can have.


A year ago I wanted to get better at ping pong.

I had been playing since I was five years old and I thought I was good. But I wanted to get better.

It turned out I was horribly wrong. I had done every single thing wrong in ping pong. For the prior 45 years.

I was proof that people can do something every day and still never learn it well.

But learning how to learn has taught me how to get better when the time is right. When I’m really passionate about something.

Here’s how...

PLUS: Find a mentor, or a set of mentors, or virtual mentors (videos, books, etc). This is how I learned I was doing everything wrong in ping pong.

EQUALS: Find people to compete with or study with who are at your level. You will rise up as a peer group. You will challenge each other and then help each other as you start to achieve success.

MINUS: If you can’t explain simply what you are learning, then you haven’t learned. Find people to teach and you will realize you are learning. I became the best I ever was in chess when I was in my 20s and I started giving lessons as well as getting lessons.


I wish I had known this in my 20s. It was so easy to just think about myself and how situations benefited me.

But connection is the key to building your network. And your network is your legacy and your key to freedom.

Connection with loved ones.

Connection with friends.

Connection with co-workers.

Connection with community.

Connection with your spiritual or religious community.

Connection with people interested in the same things you are.

Connection with the world.

At my first major job (when I was 26) I focused on connection. I would learn about the interests of my co-workers and talk to them about those interests.

I would help my co-workers with projects at work without expecting any credit. Give credit and you will receive everything else.

I did this every day. It worked. This opened my eyes to the power of connection, and I started connecting more and more with everyone around me.

It didn’t always help. But I’m a good parent, a good friend, a good colleague and business partner (I’ve been partners for the same people for up to 20 years), and hopefully a good loved one.

And every time I connect with someone, I feel less anxious about life. Which is hard for me. My brain loves anxiety. My brain always assumes the worst-case scenario and throws it at me.


If you write a book, you’re going to get rejected.

If you come up with a business idea, some investors will say no. Some customers will hate it.

If you have a joke, some people won’t laugh.

These are outcomes. And I was addicted to them. I needed the dopamine of likes, money, approval, validation.

Process is watching that video after you mess up on stage.

Studying the game after you lose. Resubmitting to a new publisher after being rejected 15 times and insulted repeatedly.

Process is outlining the improvements to your product and then executing those improvements.

Process is having the difficult conversation.

Process is falling in love again.

Process is being kind when nobody expects you to be.

Outcomes are echoes of the past. Process is your brain actually being used.

Use it or lose it.


There’s a well known saying by Derek Sivers: If it’s not a ‘hell, yeah,’ then it’s a ‘no.’

This is true.

But how do we say, No more often?

Monetize it when you can.

You can do things for free that you want to do. Just make very specific rules in advance about what you’ll do for free.

For everything else, charge an amount that’s ridiculously expensive.

Otherwise you are saying yes to too much.

Most things you won’t do for free. And most people won’t pay you a ridiculously expensive amount for the things they ask you to do.

This gives you time for all of the above things to sharpen your brain.

Then you can outsource yes and no to your superpower brain.

I do comedy for free.

I said no to give a talk in Qatar for $60,000. Who the hell wants to go to Qatar?

For a million dollars I’d go to Qatar.

9. ABS

Always Be Stupid.

Then every day you’re a clean and untouched sponge ready to soak in the world around you.

Which leads me to the final lesson.


This is a BS phrase that people throw around like it’s easy.

It’s not.

From the time we are born, we’re taught awareness about everything else but ourselves.

Our parents teach us to be aware of their needs. Then schools teach us to be aware of society’s expectations. Then jobs teach us to be aware of the boss’s needs.

How many people have thrown away their careers because of their parents’ expectations? How many people have married the wrong person because of their friends’ and family’s expectations?

How many people have thrown their loyalty towards a business that could care less?

So how can you practice self-awareness?

Start small.

Every time I’m angry, I try to say to myself, I’m angry. This puts the anger at arm’s length and helps me view it as an observer, rather than an immersed participant.

I was upset at my girlfriend and I said to myself, I’m angry. Then I realized that from her point of view, she had every right to act as she did.

I was upset at my daughter and I said to myself, I’m angry. But then I realized the sorrow and loneliness she was coming from in a recent decision, and I changed my behavior completely.

After that you can say to yourself (when it happens), I’m anxious.

Or I’m afraid.

Or My gut is saying something, and you learn to listen to what the subconscious is saying.

And then finally, when you get good at labeling everything around you and understanding the forces that are constantly trying to control you, you can finally say...

I’m in love.

This is the greatest lesson I wish I knew in my 20s and that I’m learning now.

I love you. And I will treat you with dignity. And I will learn to win your respect.


You would think for a billionaire that money is their primary focus.

This is rarely true. When I interview billionaires, the thing they focus on most are their values outside of money — and how these values compounded to produce their ability to solve real world problems.

If you solve more than a billion dollars’ worth of problems (i.e., really help people), then you will create a billion dollars in value for yourself.

I can relate with my own experiences.

I’ve had plenty of crises when I cared too much about money. I lost a lot of things during those times.

But finally I realized there are things more valuable.

Once you find those things, don’t just think about them or talk about them.

Take ACTIONS to improve those things in your life.

Actions > Words > Thoughts.

Once you act on what’s important to you, money will be a side effect. Not a goal, or a wish, or a thought.

Make your list of 10 things you value more than money. Then you will see also.

I’ve added my list below. I’m not trying to convince anyone to agree. Just sharing.


When I have friends, I am happy. Friends make me laugh. They also laugh at my problems. They also laugh at my insane stories.

I love my children. Children are very difficult. I mean, no grown man wakes up and says, I can’t wait to drive 80 miles to see 300 10-year-old children dance in a ballet recital.

Yet that’s what daughters make you do.

I go to the ballet recital and sit in the back and play Backgammon NJ on my phone until the four seconds when my daughter is on stage.

Because I love her. Because it’s magic to see her dance. Because I value magic more than money.

There’s evidence that strong community leads to a longer, smarter, better quality of life. So I value this more than I value money.


I used to day-trade every day. Sometimes I’d put on a trade at 9:30 a.m. and by 9:35 a.m. I’d get out of the trade with an extra $2,000.

Sometimes I’d lose money. And that was painful. I’d hate myself. I’d hate my life.

At 3 a.m. I’d be pacing around, adding up numbers, subtracting and dividing and selling assets and re-dividing.

X months before going broke.

Y days before going broke.

But I made a discovery: Doing one thing — anything, the smallest thing — creative, made me happy.

Writing an article. Starting a book. Making a video. Making a joke that would make people laugh.

Coming up with 10 ideas that would help a friend.

Coming up with 10 ideas for new things I could be doing in my life instead of mindless day-trading.

Was I happy because this creativity helped me make money?

No. One act of creativity doesn’t make you more money (unless you are either J.K. Rowling or John Kenneth Rowling).

But getting into the mindset that I value creativity makes me happier, improves my idea muscle, and — over years — makes me money.

And creativity is NOT thinking about creativity. I have ideas for children’s books all the time. But writing a children’s book made me very, very happy.

Did it make me money? No. It cost me money. But it made me happy.


This feels like a cliché. And I don’t want to share any story. But here’s the trick:

Give without anyone knowing what you are doing.

Find someone who is in the newspaper, or someone who is a friend of a friend, or find random people who don’t know anything about you.

Figure out how to help them in ways that could change their lives — but they can’t possibly figure out who you are or how they got help.

Do it.


Once I had a friend of mine on my podcast with terminal cancer.

He was going to die in six to 30 months — yet he was ridiculously happy and wise.

I asked him, When the drugs stop working, how will you eventually die? I didn’t know the answer.

He told me the cancer cells thrive in the bone marrow. So when the drugs stop working, the cells will keep replicating. The cancer area will keep getting bigger and bigger until, from the inside, one by one, they break all his bones. He will be in ridiculous agony, become paralyzed, and eventually die.

Or, he said, the cancer cells will grow in the brain, and all my brain functions will go away until I die.

I asked him, If the drugs work GREAT and you find you’re going to live longer, would you be depressed?

What a dumb question! But I wanted to know. And he thought about his answer for a while.

I was also a guest on a podcast about divorce. Mara Marek’s excellent podcast. What fun! I got to ask all sorts of questions to the hosts.

When I interview someone, I study everything I can about them, and then I ask them everything I still want to know.

Because I want to learn how to be better. We’re never perfect, but we can always move in the direction of perfection.

We can have the INTENT to be perfect.

All of these people contain their own clues to how they achieved excellence. I want those clues to become mine. I want to own them.

Curiosity is the bridge from mediocrity to excellence.


I don’t want to be depressed. And I don’t want to be anxious. No matter what people say, meditation won’t cure chronic anxiety. At least with me it didn’t.

In 2009 I had to take Klonopin to reduce horrible anxiety. I would wake up so anxious I’d hold my head and start crying, Please, please stop thinking so much!

My brain was in the middle of this intense game of life chess, looking 25 moves ahead in the worst direction over and over.

Klonopin stopped my anxiety. It was the strangest experience. It was like a wall went up in my head whenever my brain wanted to be anxious. BOOM! You can’t go there.

Klonopin lasts in the blood for 12 hours. Then I’d be anxious again. So I’d take more.

I was up to an insane amount per day. And then I honestly didn’t need it anymore.

The thing I was most anxious about (money) started to go away as a worry, mostly because I spent my days valuing these other parts of my life.

These other parts of my life, as I get better at them, had an incredible side effect: making more money.

As well as having a happier life.

So the Klonopin stopped working for me. It didn’t stop anxiety. I had built a resistance.

So I tried to stop taking it, and then something bad happened. Lots of bad happened. I was physically addicted.

If you stop, you get panic attacks, you get seizures, you can’t sleep.

I tried to stop cold. All of the above happened to me.

One time I sat in a chair, on day three, and I tried to just sit still. But my mind was racing further and deeper into insanity than ever before.

You have to reduce one quarter of a milligram every day, I was told.

That’s more quarters than it takes to do my laundry, I said. Even though I’ve never actually been in a laundromat.

Being addicted to Klonopin sounds like a wimpy addiction.

Why couldn’t it be heroin? I love the idea of a drug that makes you happy. But I’ve never taken heroin. I’ve taken Klonopin.

Now, while I had chronic anxiety, I was never fully depressed.

But I have been sad.

After I interviewed my friend who was dying, even though we’d spent much time together after he told me he was going to die, I was very sad.

I had never spent two hours with him simply asking him about the terms of his death. Hounding him with every question.

So I was sad. I cried afterwards. Not sobbing. But tears when I thought about it.

I called a friend. She was saying maybe I should meditate.

How come?

It might make you happier.

But I thought about it. First, I didn’t think meditation would make me happier.

Second, I liked being sad.

I’m not sad that often. Lately I’ve been very happy. I don’t know why. It’s like my baseline of happiness has gone up.

My friend and I used to spend hours every day together in our 20s.

Talking, laughing (he has a much better sense of humor than me), playing chess (I was much better than him, ahem), dreaming about our future.

I could die any day, of course. I don’t think I will. But we do know he will die.

And that makes me sad. Sadder than I’ve been in a long time. I wanted to experience it.

I didn’t enjoy it. But I don’t enjoy going to the gym either, even though it makes my life better.

I don’t enjoy those moments before I go on stage when I do stand-up comedy. But it makes my life better.

I don’t enjoy sadness. But it’s a special emotion. It’s another way to connect to the world around me and realize that there are things much more important than my daily life. Much more important than anything I can possibly understand.

Sadness is not depression. Sadness is not anxiety. Or fear.

Sadness is a deep connection to… I don’t know. I can’t explain it. But it’s more valuable to me than money.


Helping is different than giving. Again, words don’t have to explain. Let’s say that giving is a form of charity.

But sometimes you can help and make something bigger than yourself and even make money from it.

#BlackLivesMatter is an important hashtag that went viral.

The idea is: Law enforcement kills many more innocent black people than white people.

61% of those killed are also mentally ill. For a variety of reasons this is an issue that is not only important to me, but also scary.

I don’t want anyone who is close to me to ever risk getting killed.

It turns out that the only non-lethal weapon is the Taser.

But even that is no longer considered by law enforcement to be fully non-lethal.

So because I have community, and because I have creativity, some friends of mine (and I like to think I helped, but I didn’t really) figured out a way to create a true non-lethal weapon.

And law enforcement agrees. More on this later.

No, I’m not a billionaire. I’m not Jeff Bezos or Larry Page who can change the world with a point and a click.

But Richard Branson told me on my podcast, Look around and see who you can help. It doesn’t matter if you are an employee or an entrepreneur.

If you can help people you can create things and you can potentially start businesses that will make a lot of money.

Anyone can do this. Every billionaire did this when they were dirt poor. I did this when I was dirt poor. I did this the second, third, and fourth time I was dirt poor.


I was at a party in 2014. There was a girl that I thought I might like. I told her a joke.

She was in the middle of drinking a glass of wine and she was mid-gulp. She burst out laughing.

The wine in her mouth spit out all over my hair and face.

She was horrified. She kept apologizing. I kept saying it was ok. But I was literally soaked. It’s like she had a gallon of wine in that mouth.

I wanted to keep talking but she was too embarrassed. And it ruined the party for me because she was so horrified at herself that she kept walking around and telling other people about it — and I felt a bit shy about it now, standing there soaked.

But at that moment when she spit the wine all over me — because she couldn’t control the laughter I was bringing out of her — I said to myself, I want to do this for the rest of my life.

The average child laughs 300 times a day. The average adult… 5.

I asked my therapist about this. He asked me why I thought that was the case.

I guess responsibilities? Worries? But I don’t really know.

Some people count how many steps they take a day. I don’t know if this makes them healthier or not.

But I try to ask myself at the end of the day, Did I laugh 300 times today? I’m happy when the answer is a probable yes.

I always make my podcast guests laugh. I call up friends and try to make them laugh. I’m about to go into a personal training session. I’m already thinking of ways to make my trainer laugh. It makes the gym session easier to watch her laugh.

I’m trying every day to learn the amazingly difficult skill of stand-up comedy. What a hard skill! I’m up there three to six times a week.

But I try all day to figure out what will make people laugh — and then I do it. And in order to practice, I watch a lot of comedy that makes me laugh.

Did I make it to 300 yesterday? Yes, I did.

Do you know how laughter started?

Two million years ago, the quasi-chimpanzees that were our ancestors would jump to the trees when they thought danger was around. Maybe there was an unusual sound, an unusual rustling in the trees.


And then when they realized the tension was for nothing (It was just the wind are words no chimpanzee ever said), they made a sound that is the ancestor of today’s laughter.

They were going to live longer!

And that’s what laughter is.

INTERLUDE: I’m in the middle of my list of 10 ideas. For 15 years, like clockwork, #7 always seems to be the number where I look back and ask myself, Am I done yet? And I realize I only hit #7.


Learning is sort of the same as improvement. Or success.

Success is not winning the lottery. That’s making money through luck. Nothing wrong with that.

But learning provides so many other benefits to the mind, the body, and the soul.

It’s very hard to learn a new skill. I know this because I’ve spent my life torturing myself learning new skills. Torturing!

Because nothing ever worth learning is fun while you are learning it.

I had a friend once who played chess every day. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good either.

I said to him, Bob, why don’t you read a book about endgames and get a chess coach? You’ll be so much better in just six months.

But 20 years later he plays at the exact same level.

For me, there’s no enjoyment in that. It’s just escapism. Which sometimes we need. Life is hard.

Learning, however, is a path to excellence. And excellence — seeing the subtleties and nuances of a craft you love, and seeing the effect your excellence has on others, like going from writing bad poetry to beautiful songs — is a great feeling.

It’s dopamine straight into the brain.

Rather than taking cocaine or Adderall, you can experience the benefits of both — completely naturally — by simply learning a hard skill and sharing what you’ve learned with others.

Kaizen, the Japanese notion of small incremental improvements, is an important concept to understand in learning.

If I want to shoot a bullseye from 100 feet away, maybe start with five feet away, then six, etc.

There are two benefits to this: First, it works. It’s how you get better. The second is dopamine. Each success fuels you on to the next one.

This is why kids take Adderall. The artificial dopamine fix keeps them studying. Granted, this is not a good reason to take Adderall, but it’s a reason kids often take it. (Because the scam academic/industrial complex rewards a society of drug-ridden 22 years olds who are greatly in debt.)

There are many other ways to learn, and it’s worth a whole post. But I have to mention one that has already come up in this book.


Consider any hard skill that is worth learning. And then don’t think about it as a single skill, but many micro-skills that are independent of each other. Each has to be mastered individually in order to achieve true excellence.

In chess, nobody is simply a good chess player. A good chess player knows the openings, knows the middle game, knows the end game.

In mixed martial arts, you might need to know boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, karate, and so on.

In business, it’s not good enough to know how to make a good product. You have to know negotiation, sales, management, design, testing, copywriting, customer service, motivation, persuasion, networking, money raising, pricing, and on and on.

Any hard skill worth learning probably has at least 50 micro-skills.

Learning the Language of Learning is how you can get good at many hard skills — and find happiness and success by constantly being in a stage of improvement and learning.

Like I mentioned earlier, following my passion alone isn’t what makes me happy. Improving at it is critical.

So I like to take a craft or a skill, break it down into its micro-skills, and then every day try to improve (even just a tiny little bit) at one of those skills.

For instance, in stand-up comedy: likeability, commitment, crowd work, stage work, timing, voices, act-outs, absurdism, dealing with hecklers, dealing with low-energy crowds, identifying what type of crowd you have, one-liners, misdirection, reversals, and on and on.

At least 50 skills.

To achieve success in a 10- to 15-minute set in a comedy club, humor probably ranks third in skill you need to learn. Likability is first and commitment second.

Although when someone spits wine in my face, humor is probably No. 1.

Why do I write about stand-up comedy? Because like I mentioned in step No. 7, laughter is a way to bond with people.

And yes, billionaires are extraordinary at bonding with people.

If you ever watch Warren Buffett give his annual talk at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting, it’s almost as if he’s giving a stand-up show.


About three years ago, I gave away all my belongings.

I told my friend Lisa, Go up to my house, take a truck, and you can do one of four things with ALL of my belongings: Keep it for yourself, give it away, sell it, or throw it away.

She took her husband, her mom, her kids, her nephew, her cousin, and a truck. And it took them a week.

She later told me that she gave away almost everything. You had a lot of things.

Was I free after doing that? Not really. Not as free as I thought I would be.

What is freedom, really?

Freedom is a feeling inside. Freedom from anxiety and regret.

You can be free in a prison.

How do you get that freedom? I’ll tell you for sure when I’m there.

I think you can always move closer, but never fully get there. And that’s fine.

Just being aware of thoughts as they hit you: That one is anxiety, and that one’s regret. And try to replace them.

The most successful people have many things to worry about. They have many prisons in the mind. But success comes when you fight through those prisons that try to chain you.

Prisons created by society to enslave people: politics, institutions, demographics, ways of life. Prisons created by bosses. By romantic partners. By children. By ourselves.

But the doors are always open.

This doesn’t mean LEAVE a relationship. Or LEAVE your kids. In fact, leaving might become its own type of prison.

Just be aware that the door is open. That’s freedom.


Let’s be clear: Kissing someone you love is more valuable than money.


Someone very close to me said the other day, You have to do something unethical in order to be a billionaire.

I have heard this many, many times in the past 30 years.

But, like with everything, you have to ask: Is this true?

The way to stand out is to be skeptical of conventional wisdom. Come up with your own opinions. Understand the nuances and reasons why people believe the things they do. And then do something with your new understanding.

Why do people think that billionaires have to do unethical activities to achieve their success?

I can make some guesses.


Thinking that someone had to do something bad — to achieve some outlandish success that I couldn’t achieve — is a way I can assert my status over that person.

We come from a tribal, hierarchical evolutionary background. Three million years ago, chimpanzees always knew their status in the tribe, from alpha to omega.

The alpha had easier access to food and mating opportunities. The omega wasn’t always unhappy, though. While they had less access to these pleasures, they didn’t have to work as hard to defend their omega status.

Still, buried deep in our genes is that need to have more status, to be closer to the alpha.

Just consider the neurochemical serotonin, which is linked to happiness. (Many antidepressants operate by blocking the chemicals that interfere with serotonin.)

Serotonin is triggered in our bodies — making us happier — if we feel we are moving closer to being the alpha in our tribe.

So if someone has status over us, we feel a lack of serotonin. And often a spike in cortisol, which increases stress in our bodies and makes us feel the pain of that stress.

When that cortisol spikes, we have two choices. Try to blame it on something: They must be unethical. Or try to work through it: I’m going to be a billionaire (or an X, Y, or Z), and that will make me happy.

So often it makes us feel better to think somebody did something wrong in order to achieve success that we haven’t achieved.


Many world leaders are enormously wealthy. How did they get that way if their outspoken intentions are to help the people?

Simple: They are corrupt and often steal from their citizens.

Similarly, some business leaders have gotten to where they are through corrupt means. For instance, during Prohibition, many of the famous bootleggers (people selling alcohol in the U.S. illegally and charging enormous mark-ups) became legitimate businessmen, bankers, politicians, and philanthropists — once alcohol became legal.

This is the classic example, but there are many more.

While we can think of many examples of people who have achieved great financial success through corrupt behavior, I still think these are exceptions and not the norm.

The interviews in this book, for instance, are done with people who I hold in the highest regard. I, of course, don’t know everything about their lives. But I do know that part of my criteria for an interview was that after extensive research, I found them to be ethical first, and

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  • (4/5)
    muy ameno con muy variadas experiencias, deja una buena experiencia en lectura muy enriquecedor
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Absolutely loved the book, so much care and love was put into conducting the interviews. The book shows gives a perspective of how the greatest think and live. The main highlights to me were that all the interviewees where what they loved and had a strong standing in who they are. It a one should definitely read each page is worth your time.

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  • (5/5)
    This book was awesome. A great read. I recommend for bookworms like myself.
  • (5/5)

    3 people found this helpful

    It's a great book and great writing style.....definitely changed my mind

    3 people found this helpful