Choose Yourself By James Altucher Review

First things first.

I’ve crossed this title off of my book wish list, and added the link to the title. I’ve done this for all the books I’ve read so far and written summary’s or reviews for. So now if you go to Kari’s Book Wish List you’ll be able to find all the reviews in one place. I’ll keep this practice going forward.

Second, I’m going to give a few brief takeaways for those of you that don’t want to read a whole review and you can determine if the book is a good choice for you or not.

Choose Yourself Snapshot

The Good:

Learning that balancing your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental self are essential for success

Tips for creating a daily practice that will allow you to get to a balanced state

Shifting your paradigm for all the reasons and excuses we give ourselves for not living the life we want to live

Calming that millennial urgency of “I don’t know what my purpose is”

 

The Bad:

There is some advice that is out of touch with certain audiences and with the times (and it was only written in 2013)

His writing isn’t linear. Some chapters should have been rearranged to flow together, some should have been condensed and some I feel weren’t explained enough or didn’t serve a purpose. (More on this in the review below)

He contradicts himself. He says you shouldn’t have opinions but reiterates again and again throughout the book that formal education is unnecessary and that we don’t need houses almost to the point of distracting from what his message is. He contradicts himself when he says that focusing on the money part of success isn’t important but then he highlights how much a successful entrepreneur made, how quickly they made it and how many luxurious things they have with it. He contradicts himself again when he says everyone fails but then later talks about how we can’t all be like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, or Bill Gates who were successful without many glitches.

Final verdict:

It’s worth the read, but don’t take everything he says literally and it’s easier to read if you think he’s poking fun at himself the whole time.

From here on out is the actual review.

I read this book after it was mentioned on La Verdad podcast as a good read. I was interested because I have a weak spot for self help books. If you look at my wish list, you’ll notice that MANY of the titles are self help books. I had a vacation and a long flight so I decided there would be no better time to cross this title off my list.

I will say, I’m glad I read it for the good reasons I listed above. It gave me the kick in the butt I needed to make some changes in my life and go after some things I’ve been putting off or making excuses for. In addition to the reasons listed above, below are other key takeaways from the book and a short explanation:

Daily practice- Doing a list of daily things that is just about taking care of our physical, spiritual, emotional and mental self.

My favorites were no complaining, write a list of ideas, tell someone you love that you love them, and express gratitude to people you’re grateful for. I had started doing some of these things on my own but it was nice to get more ideas of how to take care of myself and others better.

Jobs are all becoming temporary

In the chapter “Permanently Temporary” Altucher talks about how during the economic crisis many workers were laid off, but that after the economy started improving these jobs weren’t coming back. That’s because companies are preferring to hire contractors for work on a as needed basis. It keeps companies costs low (no benefits to pay for) and less things they have to worry about (unions, leadership development, career advancement opportunities, etc). And we’re already seeing this happen. We’re not losing jobs overseas, we’re losing jobs to the computer programmer whose contracted for 6 months. (And it’s happening in many sectors not just tech like trucking for example). His main focus in this chapter is that we’re all going to have to choose to work as a temporary employee for our “careers” or choose to be entrepreneurs and “choose ourselves”.

Paradigm Shifting

This isn’t a topic he talks about in just one chapter, it’s sprinkled throughout the book, but it’s a reoccurring theme. He gives examples of some of the excuses we give ourselves for why we don’t try to make our own company, or why we hold ourselves back from publishing a book, or becoming an artist or anything else we want in life. This theme was the kick in the butt I needed.

How To Self Publish

It’s part of that paradigm shift theme I was talking about. He lists exactly how you can publish your own book on Amazon, and gives ideas for how to get people interested in your work.

How to Better Serve Customers

This was split between Becoming  A Master Salesman and Honesty Makes you More Money. Both are good reads if you’re not sure what good customer service from a systematic business standpoint looks like.

Calming the “I don’t know what my purpose is panic”

This is another theme of the book. He admits that he doesn’t know what his purpose is, but he knows how he wants to live his life and is making decisions every day that help him live that way. I like one quote in particular

“You can find the tools to be happy right now. I still don’t know what my purpose is. I’m afraid I will never know. That makes me very happy. Maybe I can have lots of adventures between today and the day I die. Maybe I can do lots of different things.”

It helped put things in perspective for me, that what I want out of a career now, may not be what I want in life later and instead of worrying that I haven’t figured out what I want to do with the rest of my life, I can instead enjoy the adventure that each new life stage brings. Maybe I reinvent myself a couple times in this life? Maybe I find a calling and stick to it forever? Who knows, but I can choose to do things that bring me happiness every day.

Now for the bad that I talked about earlier.

I mentioned that some chapters were repetitive, could have been rearranged or been omitted. The specific chapters I feel this way about are the following:

How to Release The God Hormone & The Simple Daily Practice-Both are about being more grateful and taking care of ourselves. They should have either followed one another, or been blended into one chapter.

Choose Yourself to Live & What If I’m In A Crisis– The advice is the same in both chapters. Take care of your emotional,spiritual, physical and mental self and start to see how that well being translates into other areas of your life.

Honesty Makes You More Money & Become a Master Salesman– It’s all about running a better business.

How To Become an Idea Machine & Let’s Get Specific: What Should I Do?– The “What Should I Do” chapter actually comes before the “Idea Machine” chapter and, personally, I think the idea machine part should come before the what should I do part. You get ideas flowing, you get in the practice of coming up with new ideas, you figure out how to take the next step and then you figure out what you should do. It felt like he was backtracking to a point he made earlier, when 3 chapters later he decides to talk about how to become an idea machine.

I think these chapters could have been condensed into paragraphs, been footnotes, or omitted entirely:

How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found– It’s not about actually disappearing, but about doing work you can do remotely.

Curious Case Of The Sexy Image– It reads more like a case study of a woman who decided to choose herself to live healthy but it didn’t really need an entire chapter.

Competence and The Beatles Last Concert– I’m still not sure why this needed a whole chapter because it’s a story about how the Beatles drew a crowd from an impromptu concert that didn’t have any publicity. Maybe I’m not smart enough to get the message, but the story he was trying to tell was lost on me from all the back and forth.

In addition he makes a lot of distracting comments like this one:

“The best ideas are when you take two older ideas that have nothing to do with each other, make them have sex with each other, and then build a business around the ugly bastard child that results.”

or this one:

“In fact, the longer you stay at Google, the less profitable Google is. They want you to get the hell off their site. Every time you leave their site either their algorithm improves…or they make money…And then where do you go when you want to find out about say, contraceptives? You go to Google.”

or this one:

“Superman actually had no useful powers. We all have the same powers, but we’re afraid to admit it. People always say Batman had no powers and Superman did. But it’s actually the reverse. Think about it. When would you ever need super strength? Are you really picking up a car anytime soon? No of course not. Heat vision? What for? I have a microwave. X-ray vision? I can see the most beautiful woman in the world naked anytime I want.”

He makes a lot of comments relating back to sex, and I wasn’t sure if he wanted to give us the impression that sex is always on his mind, or that’s what would get our attention the most, but for me, most of the time it took away from the message he was trying to make.

Finally I really think his advice about doing away with formal education is really out of touch. As most people of color know, education is a powerful tool of empowerment. It’s how we understand how to make change in our communities and how to lift ourselves up from impoverishment. Education is a source of strength, not something holding us back. I think he was trying to make this point because people from well off backgrounds may have the tools they need without formal education (Henry Ford for example or Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of college). His point is that education stifles creativity (and he’s not talking just about college, he means the whole k-12 system as well). But I don’t believe that’s a blanket statement that can be applied to all people.

So like I mentioned in my final verdict in the snapshot. It’s worth the read for the good bits, and maybe just skim over the parts that aren’t so good.

 

 

 

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