I’ve given up right before the finish line. It’s not as bad as people say really.
It even has a nice ring to it. French. “I’m a self-saboteur.” Maybe I’m a spy.
Like, right when you are about to make a lot of money, or finish a book, or get a job, or whatever, you can’t take it anymore and you just give up.
It’s too much. Take drugs or have a lot of sex instead. Enjoy. Who am I to judge?
For one thing, once you give up you take off all the pressure of being a “winner.” Who cares anyway?
I once wrote the software for a company that I was going to split 50-50 with a guy. This was twenty years ago. I wrote the software. Well, I wrote almost all the software. I gave up. Too much work. I wanted to play with girls.
Now it’s a thriving business. It’s a fun consumer-oriented website. I’m a free member for life. He’s made millions. Ok, that happens. I am happy for him.
When it comes to self-sabotage I’m an expert. If anyone needs advice on how to self-sabotage themselves I am here for you. I can even open up a clinic maybe. I’ll wear my labcoat.
People will come in and say: I’m about to sell my company, or my book looks like it’s going to be a bestseller.
I’ll say, Whoah! Hold on there cowboy. Let’s take a step back. And then let’s take TWO steps back. Just sit back down hombre. Space is for astronauts, you know what I mean?
There are so many great things about self-sabotage, depending on who you are. More cheap and fun relationships? Or maybe just lying in bed and reading more books. I don’t know. You and I, we’ll figure it out together.
Here’s the most common kinds of self-sabotage I’ve either seen or I’ve done myself. You are welcome to all of them.
I’ve even been addicted to self-sabotage. And I’ve had the best enablers. I’ll admit I hope I’m over it now. But once an addict, always an addict. I see them everywhere, every day.
Not a day goes by I don’t see it among even my closest friends.
Let’s say you have a great idea. An idea that will change the world. It’s brilliant. You can make a billion. Maybe ten billion.
But not everyone is good at everything. I’m not good at filling out my taxes, for instance. Thank you Richard M. Gabor for helping me with that. I’m not good at driving. Thank you Miss Claudia Azula Altucher for helping me with that.
I’m not the best businessman. But I have many many mentors who help me with that. Thank you.
When you have one piece of a puzzle but someone has another piece of the puzzle, then you have to let them help you.
But they want 95%!?
I called Chet the day after the Netscape IPO in 1995. I said to him, can you believe this BS?
He said, what are you talking about?
Marc Andreesen, who wrote the software, only ended up with like 5% of the company. Jim Clark and James Barksdale got a lot of the rest.
J-j-j-James, hold up there, Chet said. Without those guys this software would never have left the lab. And now he’s rich anyway.
Great ideas happen to individuals. But great executions happen in groups.
Another BRILLIANT example is with PayPal.
Peter Thiel (Paypal.com) and Elon Musk (X.com) were going head to head and destroying each other through competition. How did they solve the problem? They merged.
When PayPal finally sold to Ebay for $1.5 billion, Peter Thiel, the FOUNDER of PayPal had just 3% of that. Did he care? Of course not. He took 1% of what he made and invested it in a tiny website called Facebook.
I was once at a poker table in Las Vegas during my “year of poker.” I played poker for 365 days straight, every day, every night, including the night my first daughter was born. I’m not proud of it but if I worried about every way someone could judge me from sixteen years ago I’d be a scared man all the time.
One guy at the table, maybe the best player there, said to me, “I have one leak. Women.” In other words, he makes his money, and then he spends it all on prostitutes instead of saving up his bankroll and really making a play for the big leagues of poker.
Be honest. What are your leaks? Maybe you fall for too many people. This is an addiction also. I am too trusting. I often have to rely on others to help me figure out who to trust.
Maybe you drink too much. Or read junk news too much. Maybe you think the finish line was earlier than it really was.
This happens to me a lot. I think, “Ok! I’m married. I don’t have to focus on this relationship any more!”
Often it’s in those final ten yards in a twenty-six mile marathon that the race for gold really begins. But most people don’t know that. I learn that over and over because I’m an addict. Every day I have to remind myself.
C) BLAME SOMEONE ELSE (EXCUSES)
This is the worst. It’s nice and easy when something goes wrong to blame someone else.
Why would one blame others? It’s nice when things are not your fault. That’s one reason.
Another reason is jealousy. If the rich are oppressing the poor, then they are easy targets to blame and could explain why one is not rich. “I would never want to do what they have to do!” “MMmph!” (Stamps foot down!)
Or maybe everything would’ve worked out but you made a poor decision when you hired that guy. That ONE guy that screwed it all up! “He seemed like a good choice. How could I know??”
There’s a two-step solution to blame:
a. It’s your fault. It’s always your fault.
b. Have a Plan B on every decision.
If you follow “a” you’ll never waste time being angry with someone else. They have their own issues. Now they need you to be angry at them?
If you follow “b” then whatever bad happens, you have a backup plan. It’s not always easy to have a backup plan. That’s why very few people win the gold medal.
D) BLAME DOOM & GLOOM
“It was the housing bust!” That cost me my house. Then my family. Then my job. Then I couldn’t get a new job. Then I got depressed. Then I had to take medication. Then and then and then! BLAH!
Every day there’s bad news. I’ve worked for enough newspapers to know that the news is bad for a reason. It’s not like there’s only bad news happening. But they only REPORT bad news.
Picture you’re in the jungle. To your left is a donut tree (I love donut trees) and to your right is a lion. Which one makes your brain light up more and pay attention.
The newspaper industry knows that you will pick up a paper that has a lion on it that is about to eat you. If you’re American then you certainly aren’t hungry so the donut tree can wait.
“It’s Obamacare!” “It’s the government bailouts!” “It’s Greece!”
I like the last one. Everytime Greece is in the news every stock investor I know loses money because “It’s Greece!” and then you turn on TV and people even uglier than me are talking about Greece like it’s a Hiroshima on the economy.
Then they forget about it for awhile (“it’s Ebola!”) and then it’s back in the news again.
Solution: Macroeconomics is largely a myth. It’s just an extra thing to study in college so they can justify charging you $40,000 a semester.
Even politics is a myth, particularly in the West. How much has a President really moved the needle on your life.
If you’re in the army (i.e. you work for the President) then they might move the needle. But largely the President, the Congress, some judges, etc., maybe move the needle 5-10% on your life only once in awhile.
So ignore it all. People say, “but don’t you need to be informed?”
About what? I can’t really think of anything I’ve ever been informed about that has significantly changed my life. I like to focus on the things I love, not the things I’m informed about that disappear tomorrow.
I am happy to say I have never fallen for this. Only because I’ve seen others fall for it a lot. So when I see it happening in me, I shut up.
“I’m better than this! I deserve to make $X.”
And that ruins everything. All visions, all bigger pictures. It ruins it for everyone who backed you and supported you in the past. It ruins it for your boss, who now has to fire you.
Entitlement is the same as the word “ceiling.” Once you feel entitled to X, then X is your ceiling.
Nobody is entitled to anything.
A great example is Louis CK. The man is the greatest comedian alive (you have to admit top ten even if you disagree with me). He was offered to be the head writer for Conan in the early 90s at $500,000 a year but he turned it down.
How come? He wanted to be a comedian. He went on the road. He shot a movie. He kept pitching his own shows. He kept improving his skills. Not over a period of months but over a decades. In the mid 00s he even had a show on HBO, “Lucky Louie” (also starring a recent podcast guest, Jim Norton). It got cancelled.
Then he pitched another show to CBS. They rejected it.
Finally he pitched a show to FX. He didn’t give up like, “they NEED to give me a show. I’m the best!”
Now it’s one of the best shows ever on television. And he’s my hero. If at any point he had given up because of feelings of entitlement he never would have created the work of art he now does and gone on to higher heights as a comedian.
Oh man, long post again. What the heck? Can’t I just make a list like everyone else does and keep these down to 300 words or less? I forget who said it: “I’m writing a long letter to you because I didn’t have the time to write a short letter.”
So ok, I will just list the other ways people self-sabotage.
H) FEAR OF CONFRONTATION
I) THE WORD “CAN’T”
Ok, I need to comment on this one. If someone says to you, go be the best pianist in the world, you might say, “i can’t do that. “That’s fine. That’s a normal “Can’t.” I’m not a big believe in “Can’t Porn” – this idea that you should NEVER say “Can’t.”
But so many people take something simple: like “self-publish a book ever month or so and make an extra $1000 a month” and say “I can’t.”
Why can’t you? Did you try the twenty times that are necessary to get good at something? Did you study all the books on self-publishing and the techniques of the people who did? Do you have to be eight feet tall to self-publish?
Can you stop watching TV for one hour a day so you can do your full time job, and write your book on the side and at least try?
It’s your heart’s desire but you’re so afraid of failure that you don’t even want to make the attempt so you can continue to live with the illusion, “I could do it …if only I can’t do it.”
Roosevelt could’ve said, “I can’t. I have polio.” Hawking could’ve said, “I can’t. I can’t even move!” Thomas Edison said, “I can’t. It didn’t work the first 999 times. It will never work.”
“Can’t” is the jealous lover of “Persistence.”
J) NOT MY THING
We get labels early on. I’m a mathematician not a businessman. I’m a dancer not an actress. I’m a programmer, not a salesman. I’m a pretty girl, not a physicist.
Richard Branson could’ve said, “I’m a music guy not an airline guy.” Elon Musk could’ve said, “I help people on Ebay buy baseball cards, I can’t blast a rocketship into space.”
Steve Jobs could’ve said, “I’m a computer guy not a music/phone/movie guy.” JK Rowling could’ve said, “I have to take care of my kid. Not write a fantasy novel with unknown prospects.”
Maybe these are just anecdotes. Benjamin Franklin could’ve said, “I run a printing press. I don’t know anything about lightening.”
Albert Einstein could’ve said, “I’m a clerk in an office. I don’t know anything about the time-space continuum”.
I feel like there are some that I’m missing.
Please add to the list. We all see self-sabotage every day. I know it.
OH! Here’s one.
K) NEVER THE RIGHT CONDITIONS
Like the guy who has to be in Paris to write. Or the woman who has to be Silicon Valley to start a tech company. Or you have to be in Hollywood to be an actress.
Or you’re “stuck” and don’t know how to get out. That’s a post in itself.
What are others?
I see self-sabotage every day. People who don’t know how to sell an idea, or express a vision, or who want to fail because that gives them something to blame.
So they give up.
What am I missing?
I will tell you this, though. If you run those last ten yards…. If you just make the attempt. If you just cross the finish line…
There’s the other side of the finish line. And you realize you never have to stop running. Nobody is ever going to stop you now. (Oh, they will try. But they will fail).
You can run out of the stadium. Past the people. Past the houses. Past the forest. You run and now you jump and now you’re in the air.
James Altucher has built and sold several companies, and failed at dozens more. He’s written twelve books, and The Power of No is the book to RULE THEM ALL. (Although he is also fond of Choose Yourself.) 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 Ben Rea.