A Map for the New Working World: Choose Yourself by James Altucher

In James Altucher’s eye opening book, Choose Yourself, he teaches you how to deal with the new economy. The shifting world of work is already at our feet and James has given us a map to navigate with.

The Old Institutions Are Dead. Choose Yourself.

The old institutions are dead, and with it is the promise of job security.  A college degree is no longer a golden ticket to a middle class lifestyle. Software is eating the world, starting with the middle class paper pushers. The squeeze in the middle is forcing labour to pop out both ends. Either you level up and come out on top as an entrepreneur, or you are made redundant by software and become a temp staffer/gun for hire. Take your pick.

That’s when it clicked. When everything changed. When I realized that nobody else was going to do it for me. If I was going to thrive, to survive, I had to choose myself.

The new economy isn’t really new.  We’re just seeing the hollowing out of the middle bit. The top has always consisted of trail blazers, independent thinkers and artists.  The bottom has always been populated by interchangable labor and temporary staffers. The only difference is that now you can’t settle comfortably in the middle.

You must be a creator, innovator, artist, investor, marketer AND entrepreneur.

To succeed you must, in James’ words, light your inner fire.  “Meh”, is your greatest enemy.  A “meh” job will not inspire you to challenge the status quo and unleash your potential on the world.

You light your fire by building up a foundation of health and then feeding the fire to stimulate your creativity.

You light your fire by:

Only do things that you enjoy. Only think about the people you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy that make you happy to be human. Only go to event that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with people who love you back and who are winners and want you to win too.

Every time you say yes to something that you don’t want to do, this will happen to you: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be used up.

Start With a Daily Practice

The daily practice is a set of activities that ensure the health of your four beings: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Some practical tips are:

  • Sleep more
  • Skip TV
  • Surprise someone
  • Be grateful

There are a ton of other great tips in the book.

Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur

Everyone is an entrepreneur. The only skills you need to be an entrepreneur are the ability to fail, to have ideas, to sell those ideas, to execute on them, and to be persistent so even as you fail you learn and move onto the next adventure.

Abundance will never come from your job. Abundance only comes when you are moving along your themes. When you are truly enhancing the lives of the people around you.

Where To Start

  1. Pick a boring business. Then do it slightly better then everybody else.
  2. Cut out the middle man and deliver value directly to your customers.
  3. Get a customer.
  4. Start blogging to build up trust while you sleep. This will lead to opportunities.
  5. Say yes when an opportunity arises. Take it and run.
  6. Treat everyone like a human being.

Making a Million Dollars

Corporate America doesn’t solve problems. It churns out the same product with minor tweaks forever.

School doesn’t teach you how to come up with ideas. School doesn’t teach you how to sell those ideas. School doesn’t teach you how to bounce back once you’ve failed.

Messaging someone to ask for help = valuing their time at zero.

Study the history of the form you want to master. Study every nuance. If you want to write, read not only all of your contemporaries, but the influences of those contemporaries, and their influences. Additionally, draw inspiration from other art forms. Then go back. The facets that resonate with time, even if it’s hundreds of years old, will resonate with your work as well. It’s like a law of the universe.

Focus on what you can do for your art/business right now instead of trying to aim for 10 years from now

You can release other stuff on your outlet. It doesn’t have to always be your work.

Pick a social media outlet and MASTER IT. This is you platform. Mastery of both your art and your distribution is the only way to win

If you’ve enjoyed these excerpts, make sure to check out the real deal. It’s available on Amazon. For the truly lazy (like me), here is a link: Choose Yourself

Also, I’d love to hear your feedback so ping me on Twitter @louiedinh.


Become a 10x Networker – Start Writing

I hate the word networking.  I imagine it means some guy in a  expensive suit slinging business cards left and right. Let’s call it connecting instead.

I have a confession to make; I suck at connecting. Wait! Let me be more specific. I suck at in-person connecting. Put me in a room full of business majors and I will awkwardly slink into the corner nursing my apple juice. What do you expect? I majored in Computer Science. I’ve gone to plenty of meetups, tried to talk to a few people and struggling to find the common ground. After a few awkward minutes, do I push through and hope that he’s also into memorizing all the Harry Potter Lore or do I move on and try someone else? You’re time limited by the event to a couple of hours. Once in a while though I meet someone where the sparks literally fly. We both believe in deliberate practice, have a love/hate relationship with technology, text editor geeks. Once in a while, I get a match made in heaven. How do I get this in repeatable manner. Discovering good people with whom you connect is really hard.

On a completely unrelated day, I got an invite to Medium, the new publishing platform. I typed up my thoughts on learning motivations and hit publish. The Blogging Gods must have been smiling on me that day because a Medium editor featured it on their front page. Over the course of 3 days I got over 1000 views. That’s like the size of my entire university graduating class!  Even better, people who read my article reached out with comments, emails and even detailed blog responses. By writing an article I got another human being, that I had never met before, to sit down and write a thousand word response to what I said. In contrast, I find talking to strangers for 5 minutes at a networking events to be awkward and my hopes of having an in-depth discussion about a dear topic have been long buried.

Effective connecting is about solving two problems: Finding the right people and meaningfully engaging with them.

Writing has two special properties that make it extremely compelling as a means to reaching people. Writing is scalable and discoverable. These two properties make writing much more efficient than in-person networking events.

Discovery without the sweat

Google is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. It greatly accelerates the bootstrapping process of learning what you don’t know. Writing is discoverable in the sense that it can be searched, linked to and shared. It is not ephemeral and disappears as soon as it’s spoken. We’ve all had that experience where you talk and have the same conversation 10 times because you’ve written it down and can just link it. (Thanks Tim Berner’s Lee – Father of the Web).

Sebastian Marshall estimates that for every 100 people you meet, you’ll have extended interactions with 5 and really hit it off with 1. Gosh, 1/100 doesn’t seem like very good chances. Now if you get 1000 people to read your article, then chances are 10 of those people were really cool and you want to spend more time with them! awesome.

So just by pure numbers, writing is gold.

Scalable Giving

Networking is really just adding value.

The second reason writing is so effective is because the value proposition is baked in.  Michael Ellsberg, James Altucher and Adam Grant all agree that giving value is the best way to network. And more importantly, giving without any expectation of return. I’m a naturally suspicious person. When someone walks up to me at a networking event and tries to be all friendly, I’m like what do you want? You’re probably just a sleaze ball looking for a developer because you can’t code. Honestly, I’m wrong most of the time, but that’s still my knee-jerk reaction. You have to get past my defences.  When I’m reading a blog article, if the person has bad writing and is wasting my time I just click the back button. Nobody’s feelings get hurt. Because reading is such a low risk endeavour, many more people tend to give you a chance.

Good writing is valuable because it gives someone a little nudge in the right direction. A bit of motivation towards a cause you both believe in.

Writing and its Rewards

You may have heard this one before: build your network before you need it.

Helping people is it’s own reward. However, writing helps you find your Tribe [Seth Godin] so that you can do great things together.

Opportunities are attached to people [Reid Hoffman] and writing helps those people find you. When a faceless stranger discovers your writing, they receive a little boost without any (more) effort on your part. If your work really resonated, they will reach out and you get to see a little bit more about the world.

Writing is the best way I’ve found of attracting people of like mind. And that’s good enough for me.

If you’re just starting your own adventure, have a blog in draft and need feedback, or just want to chat then drop me an email (louiedinh at google’s email) or hit me up on twitter.

Just In Time vs. Just In Case Learning

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”

― Isaac Asimov

Every human is born with a super power: the ability to learn. Everything you know is learned. Like all important endeavours, a lifetime of learning merits some planning. We will classify the types of learning and then explore the effective use of your super power.

In very broad strokes, learning can be split into two categories: Just-In-Time and Just-In-Case. School is the perfect example of Just-In-Case learning. You are asked to do algebra, read Chaucer and argue against a geocentric universe. Don’t you dare ask why. There is no reason. Or the reason is in some distant future that probably isn’t going to happen anyway.On the other hand, work is an example of Just-In-Time learning. On your first day, you have no clue how to do the job. So you watch, and you copy and you finish the task. Why are you learning? To get the job done because your livelihood depends on it. The rewards are very concrete.

At the heart of this split is the question of value. When will this learning pay off? Just-In-Time learning creates immediate value. You’re learning to surf because you have a vacation booked in two weeks. You’re reading a book because you have a book club meeting to attend. We will consider value as simply something that you want to have. The thing can be enjoyment, fun, fame, money, or appearing attractive. Whatever floats your boat. Just-In-Case learning is a risky delayed value proposition. You’re not certain it’s going to pay off. Will studying algebra make you attractive to the opposite sex? Only time will tell.

Now if you’re reading to figure out which is the One True Way, I’m going to disappoint you. Neither Just -In-Time nor Just-In-Case is better. Schools preach only Just-In-Case methodology. Work argues exclusively for Just-In-Time chops. Both are lying to you.

The optimal strategy comes from sound investment principles: diversify. Like investing, allocating your capital across different asset classes with different risk/reward profiles tends to maximize return while minimizing risk. [Intelligent Asset Allocator]

Just-In-Time learning is like buying bonds. Safe investments that gives a very predictable reward. You know what you need to know. You learn it. You get the pay off. It’s all money in the bank.

Just-In-Case learning is more risky, like stocks. You learn something and expect a future reward. The future comes and you guessed wrong. D’oh. However, once in a while you run across a problem that is solvable by something you learned Just-in-Case. You bust out your mental tools and annihilate the offending issue. Everyone looks at you in bewilderment and think that you must be a goddamn genius. Boom. Just-In-Case learning. The beauty of Just-In-Case is most stunning when applied to notoriously difficult subjects like mathematics, programming or writing. Achieving mastery in each field requires an inordinate amount of time. When you run into a thorny programming problem, you can’t run off for 10 years to self educate.[Teach Yourself Programming in 10 Years]

It’s up to you to determine the right mix of risky versus safe investments I suggest using Just-In-Time learning until you are generating enough value to sustain your lifestyle. Then invest in Just-In-Case learning and swing for the fences.

Happy Learning!