Dear Josie and Mollie (my daughters),
Everyone hates you. I mean, I don’t hate you. Most of the time.
But teachers hate you. Your future boss hates you (he bribes you to work extra hours and then makes a pass at you. Trust me on this one).
Your colleagues hate you (if you are demoted, they avoid you. If you are promoted, they want to take you down).
Your government hates you. Not in this quasi-socialist way. I don’t care what politics you have. But simply: they take taxes from you and give it to corrupt foreign governments or buy guns with the money and give them to other kids just two years older than you.
That’s really enough to say about them. But you two are women. This country wasn’t even a place you had a voting say until less than 100 years ago.
Every dream you have, has people in the way who hate you. Trust me.
One time I wanted I pitched a real good idea for a TV show. We made two episodes. It was a hidden camera sort of thing – spying on people who were on real dates.
Repulsive, right? But they loved it. Then they stopped returning my calls.
How come? Because I had offended someone in another division because I didn’t pitch to her division. All politics.
“I’m sorry man,” said the guy who loved it who was told to reject it.
I always tell you, “It’s not you, it’s them” if someone says something that bothers you.
But now I’m saying bad things about people. So it’s me. It IS me. I’m afraid.
I’m afraid of these gatekeepers in my own life. I’m afraid of them in your life.
You have such a glow now. In a dark room it’s like I’m looking at two lightbulbs when I look at you.
I don’t want that glow to go away. I don’t like how you stop drawing and reading and singing once the school year starts.
I don’t like how you think a piece of paper (a degree) is required to have a job.
I don’t like the thought that one day you can be given a gun and told to shoot other little kids. Even if they don’t draft (there is no draft) I can guarantee they will call you and make it sound enticing.
I don’t like how there are people who have never done anything in their lives but can still say “no” to your creativity. Simply because they don’t want you to be better than them.
And yes, it is about me. I have fear. I don’t want you to have that fear.
So here are the gatekeepers who will block you and destroy you that you have to look out for. These are the ones I have seen with my own eyes. There might be more.
By the way, just because someone’s a gatekeeper doesn’t mean they are evil. They are scared also.
The key to dealing with gatekeepers is this:
A) AWARENESS. Once you are aware of them, that’s eighty percent of the battle.
B) THE WORK-AROUND. Figure out ways to work around the gatekeeper. A simple example: you don’t need a publisher to publish a book. Just self-publish on Amazon.
“But people hate self-published books!”
No they don’t. Hugh Howey has done some nice analysis on his blog showing that self-published books are actually higher rated by readers than traditionally published books.
The gatekeepers will fill you with myths every step of the way. That’s part of AWARENESS.
C) ASK FOR FORGIVENESS. NOT PERMISSION. Do the work-around. And then ask for permission. This doesn’t always work (don’t run a stop sign or you end up with scars like me). But it usually works.
WHO ARE THE GATEKEEPERS:
Someone asked me the other day if I was against the “American Revolution” since I am against all wars.
I asked “What group did the American Revolution benefit?”
He had to think for awhile. He couldn’t really come up with an answer. “I guess I don’t know,” he said.
I’m not saying I’m right. All I did was ask a question.
Education feeds you facts. It never feeds you questions.
The way to avoid the Education gatekeeper is to be aware when you are being force-fed facts and they give you some excuse (“so you can get a good job later,”or “it’s on your record”).
Science and art and business and innovation is about asking questions first. One out of 100 questions might have an answer.
Why do we spend more than twenty-five cents for any drink in the world? Even water is over two dollars in the store.
Because of advertising. People complain about “inflation” as if it’s caused by some government strategy.
Maybe it is. But maybe it isn’t.
Without advertising, almost everything in our lives would be cheaper.
Otherwise why would companies spend trillions to put 2700 advertising messages or more in front of our eyes EVERY day.
Advertising puts the word “should” in your head. I “should” buy this instead of this because it’s “better”.
But somehow you don’t know why it’s better. It’s “high quality?”
Really? Were you there when the eight year olds hand-crafted it so you could see for yourself?
THE MESSAGE GATEKEEPER
Everyone has a message they want to say. A dusty book never finished. A song they would like to write. A movie they’d like to make. A painting they want to show you.
Not everyone. But many. And many would like the chance. But it’s hard to get through to a publisher, or a TV studio, or an art gallery, or a department store, or whatever.
The “Message Gatekeepers.”
You have a message. Focus on that. Make it better. Every day work on it.
Then do the work-around.
Casey Neistat, the Green Brothers, Mimi Ikonn, Miranda Sings all did the work around and posted directly to YouTube and now you are fans.
They NEVER would have made it through the Hollywood system.
Mac Lethan and Macklemore turn down the record labels. And now you dance to their songs.
I thought I had to be an artist and work with DC or Marvel to make a comic book. Instead I wrote the script and outsourced the drawing and made a comic book (the worst selling comic of all time).
There’s always a work-around to a powerful message.
Money is a secret gatekeeper. “I need money to start a business.”
One time I started a business (Vaultus) when I had no money at all.
I called up thirty companies and offered to buy them all. One said yes. I offered them $20 million. Ericsson had just offered them $17 million.
They took my offer.
I had no money, but now I had, in my hand, an accepted offer that was excusive. I had six months to raise the money.
I raised $30 million (including (I didn’t realize) $2 million from Yasser Arafat that he had stolen from the Palestinians). Bought them. Bought another company. And suddenly I had a company with $40 million in revenues.
And now it costs less money than ever to start a business. Sites like Fiverr, Freelancer, TaskRabbit, even Craigslist, makes it possible to start businesses for almost nothing.
Learn how to sell and that’s the best workaround on the money gatekeeper.
I’m your worst gatekeeper. You should decide at what point you need to stop listening to me. Maybe today.
People write to me and say: my parents won’t approve of me marrying this man, what should I do?
Or, my parents think I should be a doctor but I want to be an artist and I don’t want to make them upset. What should I do?
Parents often have to put their stamp of approval on education, spouse, where you live, career, health, etc.
My answer: how much of your life have you pledged to your parents in slavery.
Mozart eventually had to break free from his father in order to become the composer we know today.
When the parent period is over (and it could be today) then do what you want.
It might be ugly. It might be confrontation with people you love.
But don’t let them be your gatekeepers until the day they die. Because then you die soon after. And what’s left?
Again, I’m not an anarchist. I’m not an anything. I don’t think about government.
But they do take a lot of money out of my pocket every year to pay for wars.
They do tell me where I should Stop my car. (Check Makkinga, in the Dutch province of Western Frisia, for a counterexample – Google it).
With one hand they pay for an education and with the other hand they will seize all of your assets if you don’t pay them right back.
They do force me to “register” my love for Claudia in order for Claudia to get medical insurance if she gets sick.
They force me to register with them if I start making money on my own.
To be honest: I’m mostly scared of the government.
Picture this: you get a mail from the government today. It’s stamped “URGENT”. It’s a Friday and you can’t call back the number you HAVE to call. It’s too late.
Wouldn’t you be scared all weekend? I would be.
True story: One time the FBI visited me to find out what I knew about Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts. I won’t get into why.
I had no idea why they wanted to come up to my apartment at first. Maybe they wanted to give me an award for some reason.
A plaque or a medal. Or maybe make me a colonel or a general.
But I was so scared, that without any knowledge, I almost slipped down the back stairs while they were coming up.
I don’t know why I’m scared. I just am.
Your boss wants to pay you less than the value you bring.
They want you to live close so your commute is easy. They want you to fight it out for promotions where they pay you a tiny bit more for a lot more responsibilities.
And they can get rid of you whenever they want, no matter how much you contributed to their success. The “corporation” is a legal shield to protect the people who started it who now have control over much of your life.
They also specifically don’t want you to have another source of income. There’s a name for it: it’s called “moonlighting”. Like “moonshine” the lowest form of alcohol. They shame you into having no other passion than being a cog in a factory machine.
Meanwhile, the average multi-millionaire in America (there are 10,000 of them and income data is easy to gather) has over seven different sources of income.
Then corporations outsource you the second they can.
This is an overly bitter view. I loved the one corporation I worked at.
Scientific fact: If you make a million a year and your friends make $500,000 a year then you are happy.
If you make a million a year and all of your friends make $2 million a year then you are miserable.
There’s a ton of studies. Google is really great at finding them.
Your friends support you and support you and love you…until maybe one or two of them don’t.
When you have a vision that breaks out of the comfort zone you have created with your friends, some people will ALWAYS be unhappy.
Doesn’t matter what they were like before then. They can’t even help themselves. They will try to keep you down.
Get back to the first step: Awareness.
When you have a vision that changes the world, focus on that part. Not on what your friends think. I’ve seen it happen too many times. They will stop being your friends the second you see something they don’t or can’t.
As an aside, all of this makes me seem bitter.
Maybe. I have no way to judge that.
BUT I do feel that I am able to pursue the things that make me grow my competence.
BUT I am able to keep improving the relationships that are important to me.
AND I have total freedom in my choices and decisions. And this was hard-earned.
I don’t want to be bitter. I just want to be aware. And then do the work-around. And then ask for forgiveness but not permission.
EDUCATION (part 2)
My daughters think they need a “college education” to get a job. Or to at least, “have something to fall back on. A safety net.”
Every year, fewer jobs require a college education. Even Google has said they will no longer require that.
More twenty-two year olds than ever before have college degrees.
And yet why has average income for people age eighteen to thirty-five gone from $36,000 to $33,000 in the past twenty-five years despite student loan debt going up 1500% in the same time.
I don’t actually know the answer. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a fact.
Meanwhile, Mark Messick, who I spoke to on my podcast, is sixteen years old, dropped out of school at age eleven, and makes $4000 a month writing books (so he’s clearly getting educated somewhere).
Scott Young got a full four year MIT computer science degree for just $2000 and in ten months because he followed their online curriculum.
When employers were later surveyed who would they rather hire: the guy with the MIT agree or Scott Young, they said Scott because he had the initiative.
And an education doesn’t even inspire the creativity to solve difficult problems.
Remember, true innovation comes from questions. The answers come later.
Francis Crick was a physicist. James Watson started as an ornithologist. They somehow discovered DNA despite their educations.
Another woman, Rosalind Franklin, actually developed the experimental data that led to the discovery of DNA.
But she couldn’t put all the pieces together. She had the right facts but not the right questions.
They took her data (without her permission) and then won the Nobel Prize with their discovery.
Real education is asking questions, then reading, then taking a walk, then playing catch, then doing a little bit of stealing, then coming up with the one solution among thousands that is in the haystack.
“I wanted to figure out my purpose by age twenty-six and now I’m stuck”.
“I wanted my business to have a million in revenues and now I don’t know what to do.”
“I wanted to publish my first book by age thirty and I can’t start because I get writer’s block.”
Goals will kill you. Goals are all about the future. It’s ok to want something. To want to write a book.
But to staple your happiness to an event that is totally unpredictable is not sane.
If you truly want to do something, learn how to do it in tiny tiny steps.
Then take one today.
If you don’t really want to do something, then go back to AWARENESS above. Then take a walk and find beauty in everything.
Then you will know what to do.
Do the work, but surrender the results.
If you do that every day, and have no expectations on the results, then all of your expectations will be exceeded.
HISTORICAL EQUALS HYSTERICAL
Raise your hand if you have this:
Someone in your family has “the list”. Everything you’ve done wrong over the past twenty years.
They keep reminding you of it.
Or maybe you are that person. Or you are incensed by that person.
Either way, you’ve just been gatekeep’d
- Nobody wanted to believe Charles Darwin on evolution. Didn’t God solve this problem?
- Nobody wanted to believe Ignaz Semmelweis that handwashing in a hospital will save lives even though he had the data. He ended up being put in an insane asylum.
- Nobody wanted to believe Georg Cantor that there were numbers greater than infinity even though he had a proof. Of course, he also ended up in an insane asylum.
We have come up with less than 1/1000000 of a 1% of the true facts that exist.
If your idea is close to ideas that are already acceptable, then you might be accepted by the establishment.
If not, then you are put in a crazy house.
Charles Babbage is a great example. He invented something called a computer. But about 150 years before his time. So he was crazy. Now there’s a computer in my refrigerator.
If you want to go against the gatekeeper of the establishment you have to build the bridge.
You build the bridge with superior communication skills. But that’s another story.
I am my worst gatekeeper.
I think of resentments, which prevent me from thinking of fun things. I think of anxieties.
I have to make sure I’m healthy because if you’re sick, you won’t get past the gatekeepers (they are extremely healthy and strong).
If you are angry, then you are immediately stopped by the gatekeepers. You might even be put in jail.
If I have excuses, then that puts an instant hold on my dreams. All excuses have workarounds. But most excuses are never worked-around.
If I say “if only” (“if only” I had a connection. “if only” I lived in Silicon Valley. “if only” I was more handsome (my typical excuse) ) then you just met a gatekeeper.
Take away the “if” in “if only” and you will be only left with “only”.
You don’t have to break down all the gatekeepers today.
They are strong. They are trained.
Often you have to surround them and persist and break them down and weaken them.
They will fight you everywhere. They will fight you until your heart bleeds because they are sure they are right and they will put doubts in you.
But eventually you will drain them of their food and oxygen. They will lay down their arms.
You will walk through the door and take over the kingdom.
But before that, Josie and Mollie, I hope you packed your bags. We’re going on vacation today.
James Altucher has built and sold several companies, and failed at dozens more. He’s written thirteen books, and The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth is the book to RULE THEM ALL. (Although he is also fond of The Power of No & 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 Wayne Grazio.