I could’ve made a million dollars at my very first job. A MILLION DOLLARS!

A few months earlier I had been kicked out of graduate school. I had failed all of my classes for four semesters in a row.

So they sent me a note: “Please leave. Come back when you are more mature.”

At the time I was obsessed with writing novels. I wrote a novel each of those semesters.

I was the king of bad novel writing. I’d look in the mirror and think, “A KING!”

They threw me out and I felt like killing myself.



I took a job. “You’re a writer?” So they made me write the instruction manual for their chip.

Their chip used light to send signals. Now this is old news. But then it was new. New turns to old. Fake news turns to education very fast.

One time the boss called me into his office.

Apparently I had made many mistakes. Grammar, spelling, and if you read my instructions, you wouldn’t be able to figure out how to use the chip.

The magic chip. The lightning fast chip.

I couldn’t figure out how to use it. And I had to write the manual.

“Don’t you take any pride in your work?” he said to me.

“Aren’t you ashamed?” he said to me, 27 years ago.

Yes. I’m ashamed. Even now.


I wasn’t good enough for that job.

All I wanted to do was write. I locked my door all day, pretended to be writing instructional manuals but just writing novels. Novels about vampires. About guys looking for love (like me. Horrible, ugly, failure guys who thought they were cool).

And then at 4:45, before it got dark, I’d run out to the highway and hitchhike home.

I loved to hitchhike. The feeling that I could get into a car and anything can happen. And anything did.

I met a girl I dated.

I met a guy who was constantly telling me about how he cheated on his wife.

Then another time he picked me up and religion had saved him.

Then another time he and his wife picked me up and he said, “This is the guy I’ve been telling you about!”

And then I quit the job. A year later they got acquired and I would have made a million dollars. I had been employee number ten. But now I was a zero.

This is the secret of success.


“No, I have no pride in my work.”

How could he have responded? I would’ve been honest. And he would’ve instantly reduced expectations of me.

He couldn’t fire me. He needed those manuals done.

And with reduced expectations, he would have been happier with my work instead of holding me to a standard that I couldn’t meet.

The key to happiness is to reduce expectations.

Later that night I hitchhiked and the girl who picked me up said, “are you going to kill me?”

I said, “No”.

But a week later I called her ten times in the same night and she never picked up.

In the morning she said, “Did you call me all night?”

Reduce expectations.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of bruce mars.