After I sold my first company, I went dead-broke within two years. I remember looking at my bank account by accident at an ATM machine: $143.
I was going to lose my house for sure. I had no way to save it. And I assumed people would hate me since I hated myself.
I had two baby girls and I thought about killing myself because I felt so worthless I thought it would be good if they forgot me — that my life insurance policy would be worth much more to them.
I couldn’t wake up some days. I couldn’t think. I went to a psychiatrist and he asked, “How can I help you?” and I said, “The only thing that can help me is if you write me a check for $1 million.”
He laughed and said, “I don’t think that would help you,” and at the time I thought he was wrong.
One day I wandered into a restaurant supply store.
I bought 100 waiter’s pads for $10. I thought they were beautiful. The size. The color. The “working” feeling they gave me. I started writing on them. Not articles because they were too small.
Just lists. 10 ideas a day. 10 ideas every single day. Ideas for businesses. For books. Ideas for other people to use.
Soon I had ideas for a business I wanted to create. And ideas for how to value investments. And ideas for other people to use and I would share my ideas and the people I sent them to would open up opportunities for me.
Sometimes I would make ideas for chapter titles.
Some keys to writing idea lists:
- Most ideas will be bad. The point is exercising the idea muscle.
- 10 ideas every day.
- Write ideas for other people and share them (on occasion).
- Idea sex: Take two ideas and combine them. For example: Star Wars = science fiction + Westerns.
One time I was thinking of writing an idea list for a book idea, “The 24 Rules of Money.”
I never wrote the book (again, most ideas I will do nothing with, it’s the exercise that counts). But here is a list of some of the chapter titles:
More on idea lists and “idea math” another time.
The point is: PAS.
Problem, agitation, solution.
I had a problem. I was rich for the first time in my life. I had never had money before. And I spent like an idiot. And then I was broke.
Agitation: I was doing worse at each job.
And I had a solution: Start being creative again. Start taking action. Write ideas and share them. Exercise my idea muscle. And ultimately this led to new ideas. New careers. New businesses.
And then I went broke again. And again. But that’s another story.
This is the essence of copywriting: to use words and stories to persuade people. It’s a bit more complicated than PAS but critical for all business. PAS is lesson #1 in copywriting. I will describe more techniques another time.
IMPORTANT: In the Great Reset, all the degrees and credentials in the world will no longer help you.
There are two types of skills but you only need to master one or the other.
- Technical skills: This can range from programming, to setting up a WordPress blog or Shopify store, to… uploading a book onto Amazon.
- Storytelling skills: Writing, podcasting, speaking, copywriting, persuasion, marketing, creativity, etc.
Remember, in the Great Reset: SKILLS > CREDENTIALS.
PAS is the basic, basic way of looking at storytelling.
But let’s take a look at Star Wars:
- Problem: Luke’s parents are killed right when he gets a message to save a princess.
- Agitation: Getting off the planet, getting help, finding the princess, rescuing her is all “agitation.”
- Solution: But nothing will save them unless they destroy the Death Star, which is the “solution.”
And every part of that can have smaller PASs embedded in it. A fractal of stories.
- P: Han Solo owes money in the first scene we see him.
- A: Greedo, the bounty hunter, finds him in the Cantina and might kill him.
- S: Han Solo shoots Greedo.
PUZZLE OF THE WEEK:
When I was broke, when I needed a personal Great Reset, I started off every day by reading some nonfiction (to learn things), some fiction (to get better at writing and storytelling), and a book about games or puzzles. And then I would write down my 10 ideas of the day.
Now, 18 years later, I still follow the same routine.
But why puzzles?
- Puzzles exercise the brain and build new connections.
- Puzzles improve your memory.
- Puzzles increase your problem-solving ability.
- Puzzles release dopamine, which improve your mood.
- Puzzles reduce stress, raise IQ, and prevent cognitive decline.
The brain needs exercise. Puzzles are a safe way to force the brain to solve a problem and exercise.
Here’s a puzzle that I was trying to solve recently. Enjoy!
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 Daria Shevtsova.