Is it OK to judge people? NO.
One time someone wrote a lie about me.
I hated this person. I judged them. Why did they lie about me? Why did they wrong me?
I judged them as evil.
This person pulled apart two or three of my articles out of hundreds, and pulled sentences out of context and then said the worst things about me.
People who read this person but did not read me started posting this person’s article and saying comments like, “I will k**l James Altucher if I ever see him.”
And I got stuck in the muck. I would try to argue. I would cry. I would wonder why. I would wonder if I should fight back. It all seemed so senseless.
I was terrified and sad. Why me?
Another time I was in a business deal with a very bad person. He almost bankrupted me.
I thought to myself: he is nice to me. Maybe he is over his X, Y, and Z that had brought him down so many times.
The end of that story: he destroyed an entire company with hundreds of employees. He’d cost me almost 90% of my net worth.
I was on the set of a popular TV show. The writers invited me to watch the pilot being filmed.
In the middle of the day, I got an email about an “emergency” board meeting.
20 minutes later, after the call, I was in shock. I had lost a good percentage of all of my money on that one, all because of this guy.
I spoke to my lawyers. “Should I sue?” I am not litigious. I have never sued someone before.
They said, “Maybe. We can look into it.” At $1,600 an hour. I said no.
I moved on. I made the money back. I never spoke to this person again. I hope and pray he is over his troubles.
Yes. ‘Pray.’ Not to a god. But because praying is a sign you forgive.
And forgiveness releases oxytocin, one of the neurochemicals in our brain that triggers happiness.
And it’s important that I take responsibility for my choices. Blaming is draining.
What’s wrong with being happy?
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T JUDGE OTHERS
1. YOUR BRAIN BURNS 25% OF THE TOTAL CALORIES YOU BURN EVERY DAY
No matter what. Not more and not less.
It’s the part of your body that takes up the most energy. You CHOOSE how to “spend” that energy.
You can spend it judging others and then count the number of accomplishments you had that day from judging.
Or you can use it writing 10 ideas a day, executing on some of those ideas, networking with friends, writing, surprising your loved ones with quirky gifts.
Last year, I wanted to convince my partner at the time that life would be good when she moved in with me.
I wanted to think of the perfect gift.
I bought her a first edition, signed copy of “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf. The idea: She will always know wherever we are that she has a room of her own to be creative in.
If I was busy judging people (and I have PLENTY of people in my life), I would not have thought of this gift, spent the hours finding the right edition, making the purchase.
2. WINNERS FOCUS ON WINNING, LOSERS FOCUS ON WINNERS
To make money, to achieve success, to impact others, you have to have a vision of the world that is uniquely yours.
Some people say there are no new ideas. This is not true.
There are billions of ideas in the world, plus your additions to them based on your life experiences, the books you’ve read, the people you’ve met, the skepticism you’ve worked through to make you who you are.
Then you have to learn how to take this vision that has it’s home in your head and impart it onto others.
This is very difficult. It is a hard skill to learn to do. To transfer something from your brain to someone else’s. It’s like ESP.
If all you talk or think about are the people you resent (“I can’t believe they did this to me!”) then you will join those losers in their death spiral into the hate and gossip vortex.
So many people say, “So-and-so (wealthy, successful person) is an idiot.”
Or, “So-and-so did something evil, stupid, etc.”
Don’t judge. Because someday you will be just as wealthy and successful.
You will think it’s justified to judge. Because the brain gets addicted to judging. It’s a way to have status over the successful person.
Our brains crave status.
But the visionaries are moving fast and past.
3. IF YOU ARE A THREAT, THEN YOU WILL BE A TARGET
Ignaz Semmelweis was a threat.
He was trying to figure out why so many babies died in the hospital he worked at.
He figured it out. Doctors weren’t washing their hands after working on the dead bodies, then immediately went to deliver babies. So mothers and babies would die.
This made him a threat. All the doctors refused to believe that their poor hygiene killed people.
They persecuted young Igor. He was their biggest threat. He was fired. Couldn’t get a job and eventually died in a mental asylum.
The patients in the hospital in Vienna where he worked went from a death rate of 30% to less than 1%.
And now that all the “judges” are dead we realize he created the entire theory that disease is spread through germs.
He’s saved billions of lives.
When you have your unique ideas and they challenge beliefs like every great change in history, people will HATE YOU.
Trust me. HATE.
And yes, you will want to judge them.
In the past 15 years, whenever I felt I reached a new, higher level in my career or success (either with writing, business, investing, etc.) there was always someone there to try and take me down.
Some of them succeeded. Some of them caused me great pain. Because I couldn’t help being triggered.
I was a target.
Even now, at least five people came to mind I could’ve gone down the hole. “Why did he do this to me?” “Why did she write this about me when I was so generous to her?”
A daily meditation for me is to picture compassion from my heart toward the people who I can’t understand, toward the people who my brain wants to judge.
But if you are a threat, you WILL be a target.
And that’s a good thing. When you are a target, don’t judge. Just focus on being a bigger threat.
4. WHEN YOU FIGHT IN THE MUD WITH A PIG, THE PIG GETS HAPPY AND YOU GET FILTHY
One time I was disgusted. It was 1 in the morning on a Saturday night. So many people were tweeting hate at me.
So I tweeted my phone number. People called me. Once I spoke to them, they didn’t know what to say. The judges were silenced. The most they could say was, “I can’t believe you picked up.”
I spoke with each one. They all tweeted and apologized.
But still… what a waste of time!
I slept for two hours. I woke up and my mind was filthy. I was filthy. I felt horrible all day.
Not my job anymore to make pigs happy.
5. THEY STOP EXISTING
This has taken me almost 20 years to realize. But it’s a pattern that occurs 100% of the time.
Everybody who has taken the time to really attack me (when I’ve been a threat) I usually Google them a few years later.
And I find… nothing.
Losers talk about winners. And then they disappear. They are so ready to blame that they forgot about the original journey they were on in the first place.
Nobody wakes up and says, “I have to attack so-and-so today.”
People who are “stuck” in life want to be “un-stuck”. I have found this to be common among everyone. Including me at many points.
But it’s easy to attack and blame others for being “stuck”. This is not the way to get “un-stuck”.
And if you are “stuck” long enough then you will stick.
I try to practice feeling compassion for these people who will remain stuck.
6. ANGER IS FEAR CLOTHED, PART ONE
Judging is a form of anger. “I hate this person because…”
99 times out of 100, anger is just fear clothed.
Whenever I am angry at someone, I try to take a step back and say, “Wait… what is it I am actually afraid of here?”
Maybe this person is slightly right and even though they are insulting me, I should try to listen to the gems of truth inside their filth.
Maybe I did do something wrong.
Maybe there is something I could have done better. Or more politely. Or expressed better.
When someone is judging me and I get angry, maybe deep down I’m afraid there is some small truth there and I want to deny it.
How could I BE WRONG???
But I could be. And I often am. And perhaps I crossed some line and the irrational judging of this other person is an indicator.
Their judging should at least give me some nourishment to see who and what I really am. At least to see what it is I’m afraid of and where I can improve.
7. ANGER IS FEAR CLOTHED, PART TWO
When someone is judging me, I also have to ask: What are they afraid of?
I have an exercise I do.
I picture every person is my daughter. Male, female, old, young, it doesn’t matter.
My daughters are the only creatures I love unconditionally.
And if, for a small moment, I can picture my greatest detractors or haters as my own daughters, then it often helps me figure out, with great love, what it is they are afraid of.
Maybe they are afraid my ideas will threaten theirs.
Or maybe they are afraid I will get more credit than them.
Or maybe they want something I have but I don’t know what it is.
I don’t know. But I don’t have time to figure it out.
8. YOU ARE THE AVERAGE OF THE FIVE PEOPLE IN YOUR HEAD
I was drunk, losing my house, the IRS was after me, and everyone I was close to was a degenerate drug addict.
Or worse. Much, much worse.
And when I started getting healthy, spending time with better friends, using my creativity to try and help others, and cultivating a sense that my life on this planet was short and magical… I (to put it blatantly) made a lot of money.
Money wasn’t the goal. But it’s a byproduct of the kind of life you live.
But I changed my mind. It’s not that you are the average of the five people around you.
You are the average of the five people in your head.
I recently had a great conversation with Bishop TD Jakes, head of one of the largest churches in the world.
I also had a great conversation with Ken Langone, who started Home Depot and has put hundreds of millions of dollars into medical research. He told me, “I am not a self-made man. I have had the help of many, many, people these past 60 years.”
I also spent some time recently with the always inspiring Amy Morin, author of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”.
And with many, many others who inspire me. I stay up at night thinking of the things they say to me. How I can apply those insights into my life.
I love these people. I love the people I work with.
I could fill my head with these thoughts and people who uplift me. Or I can fill my head with the ones who I will never be able to figure out: “Why did they say that about me?!?”
I have to choose the former. I look into the mirror and say to myself: I have to choose the former.
As TD Jakes told me, “It’s not what’s happened to you before. It’s what you do from here.”
9. IT’S ABOUT THEM, NOT YOU
I recently helped someone with a massive (and well-known) project he was working on.
I didn’t ask for pay. I didn’t ask for credit. We were great friends.
I was very proud of my work. And I got many emails from his co-workers thanking me.
And then suddenly… he stopped returning my calls. He insulted me (I heard) behind my back. This one time great friend never reached out to me again.
I at first thought, “What did I do?” And I realized that my communications with him throughout could have been better. But still…
I don’t know what he is dealing with in his life. Or what his angers and insecurities built up on a lifetime of his experiences might be.
But somehow I intersected with those insecurities and caused him to be angry at me.
I don’t know what, why, how, and I never will. There will almost certainly never be any resolution (their rarely is).
So I moved on. I learned from the experience. It was so valuable to me and I am grateful to him.
But I move on. I have more projects to do. Ones that I am excited about. And people to do those projects with. People that I am excited about.
Someone in my family wrote to me, “I never want to speak or have contact with you again.”
I went through every one of these stages above.
First, anger. Then wondering about their anger. Then really examining what I could have done better.
Then reaching out with love and trying to reconnect (it didn’t work).
And then finally moving on because the families we are born into are often not the families we die with.
And the friends we meet on the first day of school are often not the friends we stand next to on graduation day.
And the partners we choose on the first day of a new business are often not the partners we cash out when the business is sold.
Everyone is worthy of being loved like a daughter.
But even your children grow up and become adults and life continues.
Today I interview one of my heroes. And tonight I will sleep well.
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 Luke Porter.