How to Choose Yourself

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein

A recent Gallup study showed that only 30% of American workers feel engaged or inspired by their jobs. That leaves 70% who are not reaching their full potential. And about 52% said that they put in time and effort, but just don’t have energy or passion for their current job.

Gallup also discovered that the 30% of employees who are the most engaged come up with the most innovative ideas, bring in the most new customers and have the most entrepreneurial energy.

Another survey from showed that 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with basically no emergency savings. These numbers haven’t changed much in the past three years even though the unemployment rate has declined and financial markets have increased net worth for those who have saved and invested.

Obviously, the gap between the haves and the have-nots has continued to widen in recent years. So how can we get more people to be inspired by their work and increase their wealth?

James Altucher makes a good argument for choosing yourself. I just finished his book, Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream, and I think his message would be very helpful to those that find themselves in the position of having no inspiration or living paycheck to paycheck.

Altucher is an interesting character. He currently has a great blog called The Altucher Confidential.  He has started over 20 companies in his career (including   He also ran a hedge fund, has written a number of good books, starred in a reality TV show and been involved in countless other business ventures. He’s a serial entrepreneur.

It’s hard to explain what this book is really all about, because he offers so much good information, but it recently hit #1 on both the “religion & spirituality” and “business and investing” categories on Amazon, so it covers a wide range of topics.

Basically, he tells us in the book that you are wasting your time if you think the old economy is ever coming back. Technological advances and globalization have forever changed the game. People must be willing to adapt to the new world order or risk being completely left behind.

I think that is part of what has been happening for those that are uninspired with their careers or those that have a negative net worth. It’s easy to live in the past and hope it comes back. But just as hope is not an investment strategy, it doesn’t work for your career either.

I’m not usually a huge fan of self-help books because I feel they’re a bit too touchy-feely, but Altucher manages to make a self-help book without being too self-helpy.  He does this through the use of real world examples from his own life and from the lives of other successful entrepreneurs that have endured struggles in the past with plenty of humor mixed in.

He shares detailed accounts of the many times he has failed in his life. He has made millions selling his businesses in the past only to frivolously spend all of his money and end up broke (multiple times). There are many lessons to be learned from his mistakes.

He also shares multiple stories from those who have started successful businesses or have simply turned their life around after ending up in a bad place. Some of the more interesting stories involve Colonel Sanders, Rodney Dangerfield and Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx.

So, what does he mean when he says you have to choose yourself to be inspired and successful in this ever changing economic landscape?

Altucher wants us to focus on (1) the physical body, (2) the emotional body, (3) the mental body and (4) the spiritual body to put ourselves in the right frame of mind to be successful.

He has some good company when focusing on these aspects of your life.

Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, seems to agree with Altucher on keeping your physical body in good condition:

When asked for a tip on how to be more productive, Richard Branson sat back and thought for a moment before replying, “Work out.”

It doesn’t have to be much, but getting your blood flowing on a regular basis can increase your energy and help you clear your head.

To keep his emotional body healthy, Altucher suggests only surrounding yourself with positive people and avoiding those who are constantly negative.

I received a great piece of advice from my Dad a number of years ago to keep my emotions in check through The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. They are:

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

Simple, but effective when you really think about it.  This can be helpful for your career and your finances.

Keeping the mental body healthy basically requires reading and continuous learning. Here’s Charlie Munger on this subject:

“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines.  They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.”

And here’s a anecdote about Warren Buffett from the Farnam Street blog:

Warren Buffett says, “I just sit in my office and read all day.” What does that mean? He estimates that he spends 80% of his working day reading and thinking.

“You could hardly find a partnership in which two people settle on reading more hours of the day than in ours,” Charlie Munger commented.

When asked how to get smarter, Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said “read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”

All of us can build our knowledge but most of us won’t put in the effort.

It’s hard to argue with two of the smartest investors and businessmen alive.

The spiritual body is the last part of the equation to keep yourself in balance. Spirituality means different things to different people, but Altucher simplifies things by telling us to stay in the present by avoiding regret about the past and stressing about the future by being grateful for your blessings as a great way to stay grounded.

Obviously, focusing on these aspects of yourself won’t automatically make you an overnight success story. But Altucher has found that successful people are much better at balancing these four areas than those who are stuck in neutral.

I can honestly say that this will be one of the more unique books that you will read as it covers such a wide range of interesting subjects.

Other highlights include: the list of successful businesses started by a founder who was approaching old age, lessons from Woody Allen, the Beatle’s last concert, seven habits of highly mediocre people and how honesty makes you more money.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are in need of some inspiration for new ideas.

*Altucher makes a compelling offer for you to read his book: If you read it in the first 3 months of its publication (it came out in early June), send him your receipt, and prove to him that you read the book, he will refund your purchase price or donate the money you spent to charity. That’s how much he wants people to read his message. I love the fact that he believes so strongly in his ideas that he wants to give them away for free.

Study: Most Americans Unhappy At Work
Farnam Street
Ask Men
Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream

Further Reading:
Altucher Confidential


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  1. Martin commented on Jul 15

    Ben, this is great review. First I am glad that I belong among those 30%, since my job really inspires me and satisfies me at the same time. And then I liked the mental body ideas and Warren Buffet’s responses. He is truly an inspiration to others. This gives me a motivation to continue my work on my blog.

    • Ben commented on Jul 15

      Thanks. Glad to hear you are in the minority in the fact that you enjoy your job. I actually think writing is a great way to increase knowledge because it helps you figure out what you really think.