Sunday, January 01, 2012

"I Was Blind But Now I See" by James Altucher

Recently finished an interesting book in I Was Blind But Now I See by James Altucher.

Altucher is a former finance guy who was at times fabulously wealthy and completely broke and his current writing (including a frequently posted to blog) leans towards the self-help variety with this book describing what makes him (and may help make others) happy.

It was self-published using CreateSpace from Amazon and doesn’t seem to have been closely edited, but if a reader would dismiss the book due to typographical and grammatical errors, they’d miss out on some excellent points and ideas.

Starting point from Altucher is that happiness is something different for each person and a big first step towards reaching it is to drop any ingrained notions or definitions of happiness that may not personally apply. He then goes on to write of the financial value of this happiness goal as there's enough opportunities out there that people should be able to combine together being happy both outside and inside of a career. Towards this end, Altucher's stated personal goals are the following:

1. Be happy
2. Eradicate unhappiness in his life
3. Have each day be as smooth as possible with no hassles

These concepts can certainly be easier said than done, but Altucher provides some solid suggestions towards reaching them with one being to have a daily practice of actions taken in each of the following areas:

Physical – Advice includes sleeping enough and not drinking to excess (ideally, not at all).
Mental – Idea is to challenge your mind continuously and steps to take include engaging with others and assuming they have wisdom to pass on and simply writing down lists of ideas.
Spiritual – Even if someone not religious, daily work in this area could be as simple as taking time to be grateful.
Emotional – This is the area that Altucher spends the most time on and simplest manifestation of action to take would be people should do (and think about) things that make them happy and not do (or think about) things that make them unhappy.


Another framework from Altucher that seems to make a lot of sense is to assign a designation of useful or non-useful to things, people and situations. The useful is then embraced and the non-useful avoided or walked away from… with some of what Altucher characterizes as non-useful noted below:

College as the path to learning – He writes of people spending 4 or more years in a higher education system that leaves them in debt and still not knowing what they want to do for a vocation. Alternative would be to try to simply start doing things of interest to see if they’re still interesting after having been experienced.
Home ownership as an important goal – Idea here is that the purchase of a house both ties up capital that could be used elsewhere and can hold someone back from opportunities elsewhere with the financial obligation to a bank.
Being caught up in the daily news cycle – Point made is that news organizations often-times get caught up selling fear and sensationalism. As few of the things (including politics) reported on actually impact someone’s life, reading about or watching reporting on events can often just be avoided.
• Spending time on bad thoughts and situations – This relates very closely to the emotional category that would be worked on via a daily practice. Altucher writes of a number of different applications of this concept with things to avoid including: resentments, dwelling on problems, anger, attempted revenge, gossip & spending time with or thinking about people that bring you down. He details how the best thing to do with people who are not being useful is to just write them off and get on with life.


Really, there's a ton of content in the Altucher book and (like any book) its up to the reader to make of it what they will, but his basic concept of "spend time on things that bring happiness, avoid things that bring unhappiness" is both profound and seems very actionable.

Good book.