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I’m in a lot of pain right now. Almost agony. And Claudia took away all of my heroin and needles. Like she does.

Sunday, Claudia comes up to me and says, “I really love weekends because you don’t get stressed and then I don’t feel your stress. We just relax.”

Which I took as an insult.

And then she asked that question that is always half-accusation and half-psycho-biography: “Why is that?”

So we made a list of the things that bring me down during the week and the things that we can do to prevent each one.

First, I look at the stock market 1,000 times a day.

Twice in the past twenty years, I’ve sold companies for stock. The stock eventually went to zero and contributed to wiping me out, among other things.

Right now, I have a big stock position in a company I did a recent deal with.

So when it goes down, I feel some sort of memory-stress of the prior two times. So it’s harder for me to relax, and my restless energy gets spread throughout the house. And since I never leave my house, it gets pretty bad.

For instance, all of the leaves around my house have died. Claudia says, “Because it’s Fall,” but I know better.

So we blocked Yahoo Finance. No stocks for me. And Claudia wrote Dan, my business partner, and said, “Don’t talk stocks with James.”

Second, I always check my internet metrics. Like my Amazon rank. Up or down? It’s like I don’t have confidence in my self-worth, so I’ve replaced self-worth with all these other things (stock prices, amazon rank, etc.).

I also compare my amazon rank to other people’s ranks (basing my self-worth on its relationship to others’ worth). So no Amazon until the afternoon.

Third, whenever I’m even a little anxious, I play chess online.

I’ve done this for twenty years. I’ve been a serious addict. I only play one-minute chess (each side gets one minute to play all of their moves), so there is absolutely no intellectual satisfaction or nourishment.

It’s just junk food. I play chess whenever I’m on the phone or whenever I’m even slightly anxious. If you have talked to me on the phone over the past twenty years, then I was playing chess at the same time. Guaranteed.

When my dad died, I went over to his house and checked HIS chess account. He had played 30,000 one-minute games in the prior two years.

He was very stressed. I was turning into my dad. He died of a stroke. I don’t want to die of a stroke. What’s worse is that I wrote part of the software twenty years ago for this particular online chess community. So I probably killed him.

I actually wrote the means of my own demise. And it’s the perfect way to value yourself. Every minute I know: win or lose. If I win, I feel better. If I lose, I want to play again until I feel better.

I was late for my first wedding in 1997 because I couldn’t stop playing one-minute chess with the champion of Sweden. “Don’t you understand,” I tried to explain later, “I was beating him!”

So Claudia uninstalled the chess software. No more chess!

Which is why I’m in pain right now. I’ve already reached for the app several times. Not there! UGH!

Fourth, I get stressed that I will run out of things to write about. Writing is largely a function of two things: engaging with the world so you have something to write about (e.g. living your life) and constantly improving your skills (by reading, writing, interacting with other art forms, etc.).

Since I am doing the first three, I’ve already read more, written more, slept more, and exercised more.

Admittedly, it’s been thirty hours.

I was worried I was only cutting off the side effects, not the real problem. The root causes.

But the real problem I have is figuring out ways to value myself, to love myself.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve accidentally solved that by developing all of these quick ways to value myself (like playing one-minute chess) that have no other purpose in my life other than to alleviate very short-term bursts of anxiety.

So I solved a problem by creating faster problems.

Don’t do that.

So I got rid of the problems. For now. We’ll see how long I can survive without my heroin.

Do this exercise: list all of the things that cause you stress today and why. List the ways you can avoid (or sidestep) these problems. They don’t have to be permanent. I will certainly check stock prices at 4:00 p.m. today.

One way we make our lives better is by practicing what we want to become. This works.

We do become what we practice.

I want to be a more loving person. I want to be more kind. I try very hard already, but these stresses get in the way.

When you get more successful at something via practice, you get more passionate about it.

NOT the other way around as most people think. We become passionate about our success.

And then that feeds the circle. Passion then gets you more energy to practice.

If I get really good at this, I will let you know. Because I will love you. And leaves won’t die anymore.


James Altucher has built and sold several companies, and failed at dozens more. He’s written ten books, and Choose Yourself is the book to RULE THEM ALL. He’s an investor in twenty different companies. He writes every day. He doesn’t have enough friends. Still interested in knowing him? Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.