Thanksgiving, I went up on stage. 15 people were in the audience. A small number.
It didn’t matter. It was an American holiday so nobody in the audience was from the US except my two daughters.
So I didn’t use my regular material. I just said, “We’re like a United Nations here. Tell me your countries and I will solve all of your problems.”
And for the next 20 minutes we had a blast. I was happy. I was in love. I was free.
Sometimes my purpose (and there’s been more than one) has made me millions. Sometimes it has helped me find love.
And sometimes it just makes people laugh. Even my two daughters.
You can find your purpose, master it, be known for it, make friends because of it, meet the best in the world at what you love.
I know it is possible because I have done it and it’s changed my life over and over at my absolute worst moments.
I looked back at every time I’ve found a purpose. How did I put the 10,000 puzzle pieces spread all over my brain back together into a beautiful picture?
By now, you want to find your purpose. I will tell you how I did it and how the hundreds of others I’ve interviewed about this exact topic did it:
- You realize what purpose means.
- You build a foundation of habits so purpose becomes easy.
- You find the clues.
- You learn what to do with the clues.
There’s no one purpose in life. There are many.
What were the clues? I analyzed. Then I spoke to hundreds of other people who had found their purposes. Everyone ranging from Richard Branson to Tyra Banks to super race car driver Danica Patrick to former world chess champion Garry Kasparov to writers like Ken Follett, Judy Blume, to self-help gurus like Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer and many more.
How do you find your purpose? How do you put together that puzzle?
And when I was so ashamed of losing my wife, house, money, life purpose I had to figure out how to LIVE and find the foundation that could lift my life so I was ready for purpose.
FIRST: A DAILY PRACTICE
Without a solid foundation, you can’t create a building that will reach for the sky.
I do this every day. Improve 1% (whatever that means) in each of these areas:
PHYSICAL: Eat, Move, Sleep. If you’re in bed sick, then a purpose will do you no good.
EMOTIONAL: Trim the toxic people (even if they are “friends” or family) and be with the people who love you and support you and you love and support.
If you are constantly angry or resentful or nervous about your relationships, your purpose will forget you.
MENTAL: Exercise your Creativity Muscle every day. If you aren’t creative every day, the muscle will atrophy. And if you are creative every day (just write down 10 ideas a day on a pad) it will become a Creativity Super Power.
Without that super power you will have no chance of finding a purpose and then exceeding what’s been done before. Finding your own unique voice that will make you rise above everyone else.
SPIRITUAL: Not in a prayer sense (although it could be). Not in a meditation sense (although it could be). Not in an “Angels” sense (OK, it won’t be that) but a feeling that you can’t control everything. Only focus on the things within your control. No anxiety or regret or resentment about what you can’t.
I do this Daily Practice every day. Without it, there’s no way to find purpose.
If I don’t do it, within a week or so the first thoughts of depression, anger, resentment, or worse start to take hold.
I die while I’m still alive.
FINDING A PURPOSE FAQ:
Rule #1: There is no “one purpose”.
Bill Gates had a purpose. Take a piece of software and get everyone in the world to use it.
Now he has another purpose: stop Malaria in Africa.
Every athlete has a purpose: play football, basketball, skateboarding, whatever.
But then they retire and find other purposes. I spoke to Tony Hawk, who was an 11-time World Skateboarding Champion. Now he makes the best video games out there for skateboarders.
I spoke to Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion for 20 years and still one of the best chess players in the world. Now he fights for human rights in Russia.
I spoke to Arianna Huffington. She wanted a platform to share news that was more accurate and powerful than traditional news sources. Now she writes books about the amazing benefits of sleep.
For me, I thought my purpose was to be an astronaut, then a computer software guy, then a billionaire, then a writer, then make a TV show, then a comedian. Then and then and then.
I’m always hunting for the things that give me such pleasure it’s like I’m walking around in a living cloud of purpose.
RULE #2: How do you find the clues to your purpose?
I asked Danica Patrick, the highest ranking female race car driver ever.
She told me three of her ideas:
A) Ask yourself, How would you structure the ideal day?
B) What photos are on your phone? The thing you take the most photos of might contain a clue.
C) What makes you most energized?List everything you did this past month and then rank them by how happy you were when you were doing that activity.
These all lead to clues as to your purpose.
Let me add a few more.
D) What were you most interested in at ages 12–15? How have they aged?
For instance, if you loved basketball but now you are 50 years old, maybe you can write a blog about basketball, or make a fantasy sports league about basketball or maybe be a basketball coach or write a book or make basketball clothing or maybe music for basketball teams.
Jesse Itzler was a failed rapper. He loved rap but his songs just wouldn’t break out.
But interests age and change as we get older. He started making songs that sports teams would use as their anthems during games.
He built that business and sold it.
Then he flew on a private plane. He thought, “This is amazing! But more people should have access to this.” So he created Marquis Jets, a service that allowed for people to fly on private jets without owning a jet. He sold that to Netjets which sold to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
But old interests don’t just go away. Now Jesse is back to his interest in sports. He doesn’t play basketball. But he OWNS the Atlanta Hawks. After starting off his career with $0 in the bank.
I loved writing when I was 12 years old. I kept a notebook about who liked who in my class.
That wouldn’t work now (Facebook does that trick without any help) but I love to write every day. I’ve written 3,000 words a day every day since 1990. 21 books later I’m happy with the result. It took writing every day from 1990 until 2004 before my first book came out.
E) Purpose Sex
If you love music and you love sports, what about music for sports teams? See the Jesse Itzler example above.
If you love psychology and you love economics, what about creating the field of behavioral economics and then winning the Nobel Prize like Daniel Kahneman?
If you love media and you love astronomy, create books, shows, podcasts, explaining astronomy to laymen like Neil deGrasse Tyson.
I loved investing and I loved writing software. So first I created software to help me trade the markets. Then I created a website called Stockpickr that was a social media site out there devoted just to investors.
F) What are you AFRAID to do?
In 1996, every Monday I’d get to the Luna Lounge on Ludlow Street an hour early. I’d wait on line so I’d get a good seat.
It was comedy night at the Luna Lounge. All the up and coming beginning comedians would perform. People like Amy Poehler, Marc Maron, Michael Ian Black, and on and on.
Then I’d even go to the Aspen Comedy Festival. Unknowns like Dave Chappelle, Louis CK, etc. would perform.
I wanted so badly to try it. But I was terrified. TERR. A . FIED.
It took many years before I realized that I loved going a bit past my comfort zone and trying new things.
So finally I challenged myself to try it.
I was scared to DEATH.
Three years later, I now perform all over 3–4x a week. I even own part of a comedy club (Stand Up NY on 78th and Broadway. Stop by!)
It’s a real passion for me. I have no goal or agenda. I make no money doing it. I just love doing it.
My two daughters don’t like when I make fun of them but that’s part of life. Grow up!
You’re only afraid to do something if it’s important to you.
If it’s important to you, it might be a clue as to what your purpose is.
G) What section of the bookstore would you read all the books in?
When I was a kid I’d go to the chess section of the bookstore.
Yes, at Coliseum Books on 57th and 7th there was an entire section devoted to chess.
One by one I’d buy all the books. I was obsessed. I’d read each one. Very quickly I won my state’s junior chess championship and I got the ranking of “master”.
This has helped me in every other area of life (since people assume that chess mastery equals intelligence).
In 2002 it was the investing section of the bookstore. In 1998 it was the poker section. In 1992 it was the short story section. In 2017 it was the comedy section. in 1995 it was the “World Wide Web” section. In 1996 it was the television section. In 1980 it was the politics section. In 1982 it was the psychic powers section.
Because, you know… with psychic powers I could become invisible and control people and fly.
What do you do once you find clues to your purpose?
- List all the ways you can spend more and more of your day involved in that purpose.
- Find a community of people who love that purpose just like you do. Compare notes. Learn. Help people. Find mentors.
- Read as much as you can about that purpose. Read the history, read the biographies of the greats. Read all of the current thinking. You need to do this to discover your unique voice.
- Purpose sex. See above.
- DO. Start doing things that make a name for yourself in that purpose.
When I got fascinated with investing in 2002 I read every book. Then I wrote software modeling the markets. Then I started sharing my results with others and they would invest with me. Then I started writing about investing (purpose sex). Then I built a website devoted to investors. Then I built businesses around investing. And, of course, I learned every strategy of investing and started investing more and more successfully.
Rule #3: DIVERSIFY YOUR PURPOSE
I don’t like to feel horrible.
And if you throw your whole life into something, sometimes you will succeed and sometimes you will fail.
When I fail, it feels horrible. Of course I will try to learn from failure. Of course, failure can propel one to success.
But it feels like death.
When I “invest in myself” I make sure I diversify.
I never have one passion or purpose that I am pursuing. Because if you bet everything on Red, you can lose everything.
But when one thing is not going so well for me I switch to other interests I am passionate about.
This makes me feel better. Gives me ideas for the other things I am interested in. Clears my head so I can learn better from my failures.
And makes me a happier person in general:
- Community. I meet other life-minded people.
- Improvement. I start to achieve mastery in the things I am in love with.
What is freedom?
The ability to spend more and more of your day making decisions that are your choice and nobody else’s.
In other words, the reason for being ALIVE.
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 Samson Katt.