I’ve been very sad at points. I’ve been lonely. I’ve felt like I was no good at anything.
I felt like I didn’t know what the rules were. For happiness. For living. How can I find out?
And I felt that I was constantly trying to please others, just to survive, and nobody was trying to please me.
These are the things that I’ve done that have directly helped me whenever I am feeling down. And in some cases, they have led to incredible success.
1. ASK FOR ADVICE
Let’s say you are negotiating a salary. Or anything.
Ask for advice. Say, “I love what I do and I just want to work here. You’re the expert at making deals and giving out salaries. If you were me, what would you ask for?”
Asking for advice gives status to the other person. Also, people do not want to betray the trust you are giving them. In most cases, they will give you good advice.
This isn’t just for salaries, but for anything. People like to share with and feel bonded with others who are vulnerable with them.
2. MAKE EVERYONE ELSE LOOK GOOD
I had a professor once who said he didn’t care if anyone knew who he was. I didn’t understand.
He said, “If my students become famous, then I’ve done a good job.”
Make your boss look good. Make your spouse look good. Give all credit to your employees.
If you are always the source of “credit” then everyone will come back to the source.
3. LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE EVERY DAY
I had to perform the other day. One of my favorite comedians was also performing in the same show.
“Do you want to go before him or after?”
“Can I go right after?”
“Are you sure? That’s going to be a hard spot. Nobody else wanted that spot.”
“I want that spot.”
That’s how you get better.
Another time, I wanted to get better at performing in situations that were terrifying.
So I did stand-up comedy on a subway car.
I don’t know if it helped me. But that’s why you have to try new things every day.
4. TRY TO IMPROVE EVERY DAY
In 2002 I needed to improve my creativity.
I was depressed and dead broke. And I had a family to feed.
I couldn’t sleep at night. I was so anxious. And the fumes from 9/11 still made the area stink. Every morning I’d get as close to Ground Zero as I could and I’d get really depressed.
But then I started writing down 10 ideas each day.
Within a month, I felt excited again. For the first time in years. And a few months after that, I felt my creativity spiking. I could come up with any idea.
It changed my life, that simple practice.
Improving my creativity every day made me creative for writing, business, relationships, performing, income opportunities, parenting, everything.
Pick one thing and improve every day. Nobody can compete.
This one practice changed my life.
5. BEING ANGRY AT SOMEONE IS LIKE DRINKING RAT POISON
It’s like drinking rat poison… but you think you are giving it to them to drink.
I can’t understand!
This friend is treating me like garbage.
As far as I can tell I’ve been very good to this person. I’ve done favors for this person, I’ve gone out of my way to help him.
But for some reason, he is very rude to me.
So at night I wake up and I think about it. Why is he rude to me?
It’s really hard but I always try to catch myself and say, “I am wasting my time thinking about this person.” Thinking about ‘why’. Thinking about what should I do.
I should do nothing.
Make new friends. Move on with my life in every one of these situations.
6. REACH OUT
Every day I reach out to a friend. The more community you have the healthier you are, the longer you live, the happier you are.
7. WALK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
I live on the 7th floor. I walk up and down the stairs instead of taking the elevator. That’s not a lot of exercise. But it’s cold outside now. I’ll walk more when it’s warmer.
But never reject a chance to walk more.
8. DON’T EAT TOO MUCH
I call this the ‘Airbnb Diet’.
When I was living in Airbnbs for three years, I’d never shop in a grocery store. I’d always order delivery.
You can’t order a bag of doritos from a sushi restaurant.
By ordering just one entree and no bags of doritos I kept my eating within normal levels.
When I go to a grocery store I feel an enormous urge to buy chips, cookies, cakes.
During this period I lost about 30 pounds and kept it off.
I need eight hours a day. Not everyone does. But I do. If I don’t get it, I get sick.
10. BE CREATIVE EVERY DAY
I write every day. No exceptions. I’ve done this for 28 years. I hope I never stop. I read in order to get inspired and to learn from the greats, and then I write.
11. BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN. YOU CAN’T STOP THAT
But you can control your reaction.
I used to blame myself for every bad thing. I used to think, “Damn! Am I going to have to start from scratch again!?”
Now when something bad happens I think, “OK, here’s a chance to apply all the advice I’ve written down.”
And that works.
I hate thinking of this as some BS self-help post.
I also hate self-help stuff that is based on scientific research. Scientific research means nothing unless I can apply it to myself.
A friend of mine is on his deathbed. We were good friends 20 years ago and now not as much but I think about him a lot.
He told me, “I will never mortgage the present moment for the hope of something better in the future.”
And I guess that is the best life tip of all.
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 Jakob Owens.