My friend wanted to be a famous artist. But she said, “I can do it in Paris. I feel that will inspire me.”

She had unopened paintbrushes in her apartment. Waiting to be packed.

Twenty years later, she’s a computer programmer at an accounting firm in California.

Another friend of mine is divorced and thinks she will never meet another guy again. She wants to meet a guy.

She is 50 and incredibly healthy and good-looking. Every time I see her she insists, “I will never meet anyone! I’m too old.”

She is very convincing.

One friend of mine thinks $30 million is his “number.”

“How did you get that number?” I asked.

“I just know. And I’ll get there. Soon.”

He works 80 hours a week. He barely sees his wife and kids.

He’s 56 years old. “When I’m at that number, I’m going to work on my golf.”

I don’t know how to properly live my life. Sometimes I do it OK and sometimes I mess up.

For 15 years of my life (and sometimes now), I was focused on having a person, a place or things. “Then I will be happy!”

Those were the worst 15 years of my life.

One time I gave up. “I give up!”

I was day trading. I had a bad day. Lost money. Also, I got rejected by two publishers that day for my next book.

And nobody was returning my calls about a business idea I had.

Screw this, I thought.

I took a walk. I kept walking. I wouldn’t stop. I was outside of New York because lack of job exiled me 70 miles north.

I stopped by this place I had never been before by the Hudson River. It was like a mini-beach.

I waded into the river. I didn’t care anymore. I was sick of myself.

People were looking at me because I had all my clothes on. The river was warm. I remember a boat just sitting there. People in it.

The sun was a fiery dagger plunging into the mountains across the river. I watched it kill the mountain.

It was hot so when I walked home my clothes dried.

I started writing. Instead of writing about stocks, I wrote about times I had failed.

It felt good. It tickled my heart. I wrote more.

I wrote a story about a woman I once liked. I wrote about losing my home and how I cried.

I wrote about the time Yasser Arafat invested in my company (he lost his investment). I laughed at what I wrote.

I wrote every day, 1,000 words a day. Sometimes 2,000 words.

I took more walks. I often returned to that spot by the river but I never felt like swimming it again. It seemed too muddy to me.

Now I live in the city. I’m busier. I don’t have as much time to write.

When I went into the water that one time with my clothes on, I tried to float. But I couldn’t.

So I went underwater. When I rose up, the sky erased me. The last bright orange lying over the mountains was burning into my brain.

I walked home. Bad day in the market. Nobody in my life. No number in the bank. Exiled from opportunity in the city. Slightly wet. I collapsed asleep with my clothes on.



[I wish I could live more like the quote in the image. It finds me, then escapes me, then finds me.]

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 Martin Adams.