I’m a skeptic that there is a god that sat down at a typewriter and wrote a BOOK.
I’m a skeptic that Allah spoke to Mohammed. I’m a skeptic that Moses parted the Red Sea.
I’m a skeptic that Buddha achieved something called Enlightenment.
I’m a skeptic in affirmation. I’m a skeptic in heaven or hell or afterlife or reincarnation or crystals or astrology or Myers-Briggs or self-help gurus.
I don’t want to be a skeptic but…
One time I spoke to a famous self-help writer who writes about productivity.
Then he showed me his secret weapon. The secret weapon he didn’t write about in his 400 page book on productivity.
He lifted up his shirt.
I grew up Jewish, so just by circumstance of who my parents were, I don’t believe Jesus turned wine into water.
I wish Jesus just ONCE would come back and take advantage of his superpowers.
Maybe he shows up at a restaurant with his disciples and the waiter comes over and says, “Would like to see the wine menu?”
And Jesus winks at his disciples and says, “No thanks. How about just a glass of water for everyone.”
If I were Jesus I would certainly do that.
“Would you like to hear our specials?”
“How about just one fish for the table?”
“But there are 13 of you!?”
Jesus holds up the palm of his hand. “It’s ok. Just one fish.”
Sometimes skeptics fool themselves.
They replace god with self-help gurus. They replace mystery with unproven science.
They say, “I believe ONLY if I can see.”
Science is about open-mindedness. About questions. About curiosity and learning.
Every day I want to challenge myself to learn from everything I grew up disbelieving.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”
I went to a therapist. He said, “How can I help you?”
I said, “The only thing that would help me is if you wrote me a check for one million dollars.” I thought this was the only way I had been happy before.
I forgot about the times I had nothing when I was happiest.
He said, “I don’t think that would help you.”
He was right.
Find a problem that people have. Solve it. Repeat. This is the only way in history to make money.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you”
Anger, even against an “enemy”, creates high blood pressure, anxiety, inflammation in the body, and even worse.
My dad was in the middle of an argument with someone about money.
That moment he had a stroke. “My head hurts. Ow!”
And those were his last words.
Anger is never justified. Even against so-called enemies. Life is hard and we all struggle to survive for the 5000 weeks we have here.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “
I believe this line very much. Not in a “Law of Attraction” way.
I don’t believe if you ask for tickets for a vacation to Bermuda then you will them in the mail the next day.
But this is where affirmations come in. I used to be a skeptic on affirmations. But I’m not a skeptic anymore.
I have a scarcity complex. I’m always afraid that no matter how much I have, everything will be lost again.
It’s too easy for me to slip into, “I don’t have enough” and be anxious and scared.
Affirmations are “the Honda Civic Effect”.
If you buy a Honda Civic, then suddenly you see all of the other Honda Civics on the road. Maybe you never saw them before. Now you do.
If I say every day, “I value abundance”, then suddenly I see the opportunities on the road. Suddenly I am much more aware of ways I can be abundant.
Note I said, “I value” instead of “I am”. I don’t want to lie to myself if I’m not feeling abundant.
This, for me, is the reason “Ask, and it will be given to you” has resonated with people for 2000+ years.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
People talk. And talk. And talk. And write. And write. And lecture. And do scientific studies for “proof”. And have Twitter fights.
But only by their fruits shall you know them.
Everyone is a critic. Everyone laughs from the benches.
Someone might have a great idea for a book. But only if they write it and you read it, will you know if it’s really good.
So many of my friends have great ideas for a business. But only if they take the first steps and test to see if there is an audience, will they know if it’s a good idea.
I know many people who say, “once I make money, I’ll be charitable”.
But true charity is so cheap to do.
It’s possible to be amazingly charitable every day. And, “Shhhh!”…you don’t need to tell anyone how you did it.
In business and career, IDEAS are the ignition, but DOING is what drives the car to your destination.
“Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span?”
Regret steals joy from the past, anxiety steals opportunity from the future. Both steal energy from the present.
There’s a ten year period on my life where I lived by regret and anxiety. I can’t think of one moment of happiness. Only anxiety.
For a long time, I was addicted to anti-anxiety medication: Kolonopin.
I say “addicted” because it’s a physical addiction.
I wanted to stop taking it. But if I stopped for more than two days, I’d have panic attacks. I’d stop breathing.
My anxiety would go through the roof. I’d have to take again. It’s a long process to stop.
Anxiety is the opposite of self-care.
“He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”
This is maybe his most common quote (other than “turn the other cheek”).
It’s easy for me to think someone is a “hypocrite” or “stupid” or even “a bad person” or “toxic”.
But I’ve certainly been toxic to people in my life. And I’ve been so so stupid about so many things.
The only thing we can do is ask ourselves, as honestly as we can, is this action I am doing help people?
Every twitter fight, most books, many of our actions, are about our own awareness or lack-of, of honesty.
When I pray (and I pray), I pray to be honest with myself. Which will lead to honesty towards others.
“Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
I hired a personal trainer.
About halfway through a session, she asked me, “Are you having fun?”
I said, “no”. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.
But nothing that is difficult is fun. Else, everyone would always do it.
Being an entrepreneur is not fun at all. Moments are fun (pleasing a customer). But most of it is not fun.
Even trying standup comedy, an art form devoted to helping others have fun, is not fun.
People say before I go on stage and I’m nervous, “just have fun”. This makes it even worse!
When I was moving up the tournament ranks in chess, it was often awful. If I lost a single game, I would be so upset I couldn’t sleep. I’d skip school at least one day, maybe two, maybe three.
Writing is not “fun”. Typing for hours is just stupid.
Is it worth doing well? Is it worth mastering? Are any of these things worth mastering?
Yes, mastery and the process of mastery is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. But it has never been fun for me.
Did Jesus really mean this? I have no clue. It’s what I get out of it.
Is it fun to be the first one in a relationship to finally say, “I love you”?
Narrow is the gate that leads to happiness and success.
There’s a reason these words have lived for 2,000 years.
The person who can learn from everything will beat out the person who judges harshly who and what to learn from.
This I have seen.
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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.