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James Altucher


Things I've Failed At

This is not a whoah as me post. And we all have failures. We all have disappointments. I feel like there's a particular character to my failures. It's like I reach super great highs and then crash in a total explosion. I wonder if it's something about my personality or that's just the nature of things.

The upside to all of this is that I've:

- had some success in a lot of areas (but the flip side: jack of all trades, master of none)

- and the successes help me learn the science of learning. How I can apply it to the next area .

- and the failures have shown me to always remain optimistic and keep looking for opportunities. And also dealing with the psychology of failure is very difficult. Unfortunately I have a lot of practice.

But I was just thinking about this so decided to make this list.

    1. Computer Science

    When I was an undergrad I fell in love with it. Wanted to even be a professor. Went to one of the best graduate schools. It was a good feeling.

    Then I failed miserably. Failed every course. Got thrown out.

    2. Enterpreneurship

    My first company was magically a big success for me. I had no money in the bank. But we were profitable from day one. Never raised money. I did all the sales, all the programming, project management. It was a real trial by fire. Then I negotiated the sale of the company and made money.

    Approximately two years later I was broke. This has happened to me over and over. Although hopefully I've gotten a little better at it.

    There are three skills to money: making it, keeping it, growing it. I've always been good at #1 and now, on and off, I'm ok at the other two. But it's hard.

    3. Writing.

    I've written 25 books. I've also written a lot of unpublished stuff. I've been writing almost every day for about 32 years. If there's any one skill I can say, "This is what I'm good at!" it's writing. I've put in the time and the training and it's worked. Some of my books have been massive bestsellers.

    And yet, last year I had 2 or three books come out. Nothing was the raging success I thought they would all be. I guess that just comes in cycles. I don't know.

    4. Comedy

    I did standup comedy for 5 or 6 years. I reached great heights for someone with so little experience and had the chance to perform all over the US and parts of the world and headline with some great performers. I feel blessed for the experience.

    And yet, this is one case where I simply decided I didn't want to do it anymore. It was like a switch turned off.

    5. Chess

    This one tournament I was just in describes it all.

    In the first two rounds I won both games. Not only did I win, but the two players I played were higher ranked than anybody I had ever beaten before, even when I first hit the "master" title 25 years ago. I felt like, "this is it!" This will be the tournament where I get over the top.

    My play was the best ever. I was in the zone for the first time since coming back to tournament play.

    Then I lost six games in a row.

    I'm not even sure why. Maybe I somehow relaxed after winning those first two games and I wasn't as focused. I'm a very competitive person and have been in competition all my life. But not sure now how to train this aspect. I've never had an up and down tournament like this. It was a bit depressing.

    6. I could go on.

    But now I have to catch a plane. Tournament over, taking the red-eye home.

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