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I admit it: I’m insecure and want to be liked. Every day there’s always something to be afraid of if you let it.

So I wrote many books. So I made some money. So I tried to get good at various things so at least I can say, “forget about me, but don’t forget – I am GREAT at X.” Or…look at my house! Or….look at my degree! Or…look at my bank account.

I wanted a label. AND THEN I could achieve my purpose.

Everyone asks: “what is my life goal?” but there is no answer. Life is pretty hard. Don’t pressure yourself with goals on top of that.

I had to start from scratch. I had to start with nothing and no goals. Paying bills was the goal. But I had to start before then with the theme of health, of tranquility, of being honest.

Some people think dishonesty is the currency of success. This is just an excuse.

The only way to be truly free is through honesty with yourself. @jaltucher (Click to Tweet!)

I’m going to stop trying to control the labels pasted onto me.

Reputation is defined by others but my character is defined by me. Character is a daily practice.

Character is smiling at people. Character is looking inside yourself and smiling. Try it, close your eyes, feel the sensations in your body. The tensions. The rumbling. The fears. The regrets. Smile at them.

Ok, all I really wanted to do was do an intro to the following set of facts:

  • Van Gogh never had an art exhibition in his lifetime
  • Emily Dickinson never published a book
  • Kafka didn’t have a published novel while alive
  • Henry David Thoreau’s Walden sold only 2000 copies before his death
  • John Kennedy Toole had no books published until after his suicide
  • Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was published in 2008, four years after his death

These people did their art in isolation. They teased the blood and guts out of their bodies and used the blood to write and create.

You are an artist. Make everything you do an attempt to look inside yourself, to smile inside yourself, to build the character first so that reputation will follow.

You do this with love before labels. You do this with curiosity without expectation of discovery.

This process is very very lonely. No matter what you do, life is hard, life wants you to discover new ways around new problems. I try every day not to be afraid of whatever the new problems are. Building character lets you create your art, even if nobody else sees it.

And I know it’s lonely.

But you aren’t lonely if you love the person you are alone with.

And from there starts the rippling that will take you to every shore in the world of experience.


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.

Image courtesy of Maelle Caborderie.