This is what I did to ruin my life:
I had a policy: always say “yes” to opportunity. If you GRAB enough opportunities, I thought, then one would work out and be a winner.
What does “a winner” mean?
It might mean that the goddess, Oprah, would call me.
Or that money would rain down and bless me with its kiss of freedom.
Or that more people that live on this planet (and other nearby Earth-like planets) would love me.
I don’t know what it means. It’s a broken Rubik’s Cube.
Here’s the thing: EVERY time you say “Yes” to one thing you are saying “No” to something else.
This was one policy I had: CNBC would call and say, “Can you come on TV at 5pm today to talk about Apple’s latest products?”
And I’d brush my hair (the once a week brush through) put on a fake suit (jacket and maybe a tie) and go 5 miles uptown to a studio.
Then I’d be nervous. So I’d call my business partner and go over what I was going to say. No matter how many times I did it I was always scared to death.
They would put me in a dark room and a camera would stare at me. I’d say to myself, “I surrender. Let me say the thing that will help the most people.”
Who was I talking to in the dark? Maybe one day I’ll know. I was just scared.
Everyone was scared. About the economy. About their bank accounts. I wanted less people to be scared.
And then I was on for three minutes. And maybe three other people were on with me, so I’d get 45 seconds of speaking time.
Then I’d go home.
When you see someone on TV for 45 seconds it means they probably prepared physically, emotionally, and mentally for a good three-five hours, including the time to get home.
I had 100s of those segments carved out of the skinny bones of my life.
Which means I lost my marriage. Which means I spent less time with my children. Which means I spent less time with my wife when we started seeing each other.
Which means I spent less time on creative efforts. Or other business efforts.
For what? The ego of being on TV maybe. Or maybe I thought exposure like that was good for my business efforts. 45 seconds.
I always said “Yes”.
I will never get those 100s of three-five hour segments back. And now my kids are not little kids anymore. They are big kids. They do big things. They don’t want me as much.
That was one policy. I had other policies.
I would take speaking gigs where I had to fly, no matter what the money was. I figured: more experience, some money, more connections and the always favorite: “hey, you never know what opportunities this can create”.
The always say “Yes” policy.
Five years later I see my daughter about to turn into an adult. Her eyes look past me and not at me.
I always said “Yes” to a book deal. Maybe it gave me experience writing books. But I look back on the 16 books I’ve written. Maybe five are good. The rest….
It was the “always say ‘No”” policy to taking walks with my wife and relaxing and getting in shape and being happy.
I’m in a train right now, skimming along the banks of the Hudson River and watching the leaves change right before my eyes on the other side.
“Leaves change” is another way of saying a 10,000 tiny deaths are happening right in front of me, creating immense beauty.
Well, which is it?
I had a week of meetings and podcasts and other things planned to make use of my time in the city.
I took my daughters last night to a Broadway opening and then put them in a car at midnight last night. “Have a good week!”
I said “Yes” again to bullshit.
Today I packed up, changed all my plans, and got on the train. I watched people kiss in Grand Central. I’m watching the leaves. I’m watching the water.
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 cottonbro.