I’m the worst form of addict, junkie, crackhead. Particularly since I’ve been working on this blog.
What I’m about to admit is perhaps the most embarassing item I’ve admitted in this blog (and that’s a high bar). I can’t start my day without the following START to END:
- I twitter search @jaltucher
- I twitter search “Altucher”
- I google blog search and news search “Altucher”
- I search yahoo message boards for “Altucher”
- I check Seeking Alpha to see if there’s any new comments on any posts I’ve done in the past year. You’d be surprised at how many people like to go back to posts I’ve made in July and trash me in them.
- I go to Business Insider to see if there’s any comments on posts I’ve made there.
- I go to feedjit to check statistics on my blog.
- I go to my blog to see if there’s any new comments or any facebook likes.
- I check stats on “James Learns Spanish” – my new blog
- I check comments on “James Learns Spanish”.
- I don’t even check emails until this point. “Email” is so 2008.
- I check all the stats on all the sites where I post (the sites that let me check stats).
- Then I check facebook to see if there’s any new notifications for me.
- I check Quora now to see if there’s any interesting notifications
- Then I might put together articles for WSJ, AOL, and perhaps one of CNBC, Business Insider, or Seeking Alpha
- Now I start responding to all comments, twitter posts, emails, Facebook messages, twitter messages, and even yahoo message board posts addressed to me (which is doubly pathetic), usually in that order.
- Intermittent through all of this, I “Waste Time”:
- I look for interesting tweets with links to interesting posts. I read the posts. This is how I catch up on news for the day. If something makes me angry during this process than that usually generates an article for WSJ or any of the other outlets I write for. “Anger == interesting articles”.
- I tweet anything that looks particularly interesting. Or I’ll respond to others’ tweets.
- I comment on various Facebook threads. I’m like the guy in Las Vegas that kills a craps table though. I always seem to be the last person that responds on a Facebook thread.
- I currently subscribe to an email list where everyone else on the list is horribly pessimistic about stocks and the economy. I usually write a rant against them which occasionally someone responds to but usually nobody does.
- I play chess online. I often do this while talking on the phone, which hurts my online rating.
- I respond to Quora questions. Sometimes these are good inspirations for posts or articles.
- I play WordTwist (on Facebook) against Don Graham, publisher of the Washington Post. I’ve never spoken to the man in my life but for the past year we’re in a match to the death on Word Twist.
- I’ll check up on my favourite blogs. Also places like “thebrowser.com” or “brainpickings.com” where there’s quirky links that the financial media crew doesn’t usually see, so I can throw them into my own linkfests later.
- I’ll look at my stocks again. Invariably someone will IM me and say “what are your favourite stock ideas right now?” and I always IM back the same thing, “the same favourite ideas I had yesterday”
Then I start thinking about what my blog post will be for “James Learns Spanish”. My New Year’s resolution is to learn Spanish in a year. And I’m keeping myself honest by blogging it every day. This will involve about an hour of studying Spanish while writing the post. Then about another 15 minutes of correcting the mistakes I make in the post. Will I learn curse words for the day? Or translate the Bible from English to Spanish? Or something in the middle?
But before I write a post I repeat everything between START and END above
Now I check on all the stocks I own. I’m largely a long-term holder these days. So mostly nothing is going on. Or if something is, I ignore it. Because I’m busy with all of the above. Once a week I have to check on random VC-style investments I have. I’m in about a dozen investments but most of them are hands-off. Some of them are even, “get lost. We’ll call you when we need you.”
Now I start thinking about a post for jamesaltucher.com
But first I repeat START through END
START to END takes anywhere from five minutes to an hour.
Preparing for a post for jamesaltucher.com is then a process:
I basically started this blog in mid November. But I love it. Its given me a chance to be creative and have fun in away I haven’t done in years. But its hard work. So the process begins:
1) COMPLAIN: I complain how I’ve already told every story I can possibly tell. The person on the other side of this lament is usually my business partner, Dan, or my wife, Claudia, who never seems to run out of things to say at her excellent blog, http://claudiayoga.com. They try to say, “you’re never going to run out of stuff, believe me.” But how do they know? There’s only so many crack whores I can write about.
One time I complained to my 11 year old daughter that I have no stories left and she said, “Dad! Its just a blog! And what’s a crack whore?”
2) I now do START to END again. So that takes up an hour.
3) READ. I always like to read excellent writing before I write. I’ll usually read 3-5 stories or essays before I start writing and they all have to be A+ quality. I set the bar high (I think) so most of the things I read are things I’m re-reading for (in some cases) over the 100th time. My top go-to books:
- “Jesus Son” by Denis Johnson
- “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver
- “It Could Be Worse, you Could be me”, by Ariel Leve
- “Venus Drive” by Sam Lipsyte
- “No One Belongs Here More than You” by Miranda July
- “What’s Not to Love?” by Jonathan Ames
- “I Remember Nothing” by Nora Ephron
- “Superstud” by Paul Feig
- Other books rise up to and fall off of this list but the above is the current list. I pick a random book and start reading. But usually I’ll finish with either Denis Johnson (the one book that will never fall off the list) or Ariel Level (self-deprecating). Most of the above books claim to be fiction but they are all non-fiction with some of them disguising themselves as fiction.
- I’ll start writing down ideas for posts on my notepad and making lists.
- Then I’ll get back to the computer and do START to END again. I might even repeat a few times.
What are my topic choices? I know I’m not going to write about stocks or news or the economy. I write about that everywhere else and my opinion hasn’t changed since last week when I write about all of that. I’m amazed at how many times the opinions change with every other pundit. So how about:
- A business I started that succeeded? Combined with when I had to learn how to fire a gun?
- How about one that failed? How about the one Yasser Arafat was invested in? It turned out poorly for him.
- How about where I totally embarrassed myself and made a fool of myself in front of hundreds of people?
- Or the hundreds of examples where I’ve made a fool of myself in front of a woman.
- Or some way I failed as a father? Or a son? Or brother, friend, husband?
- How about everything I learned from Jim Cramer?
- How about the worst rejection I’ve ever gotten for anything?
- How about a story that shows that optimism wins?
- Or a story that shows that pessimism wins?
- It can’t repeat any other theme or story from any other blog or post in the entire known universes
And on and on, the list of successes, humiliations, and random encounters with random people that turned into mini-flash explosions worthy of writing about is a finite list, and I refuse to write about something unless its truly different and value-adding from the other trillion pieces of content that’s in this landfill of an Internet.
Around 3pm, assuming I’ve had no meetings for the day anywhere. I’ll finally eat something. I’m like a heroin addict who’s lost his appetite. I live right by the river. 40 feet away. I used to walk to the river. Now its just cold outside so I’ll stay in.
Then, assuming I have a topic. I’ll write three paragraphs. There’s a rule I have when I wrote any sort of post and I’ve followed the rule for 8 years. The rule is “write the article, then get rid of the first paragraph and the last paragraph. I don’t always get rid of the last paragraph, but even though I know this rule inside and out (so you think I could skip it) by the time I finish an article , I look back at the first paragraph and its usually bad. Then I take away approximately every other sentence throughout the whole article. But after just three paragraphs I’m still unsure where its going. Will it be a story? Or a list of advice. Or both? Or something horribly shameful and emabarassing. Or all of the above?
So I repeat START to END. Then I finish the blog post.
By this time its about 5-6pm. If I have a new post I’ll begin the process of posting and tweeting. So START to END again. Finally, I start thinking, “well, that’s it. That’s the final story I have left to tell about this lifetime.”
So I start thinking about the next business I’m going to start. And my business partner asks, “whats the endgame of this blog?” but I don’t have an answer. What could possibly be the endgame of this blog? And by then I’m tired, its 8pm, and I fall asleep.
This is not every day. I have businesses I keep track of. Responsibilities I have. But more and more, my addictions are taking over me. To do something better than everyone else you have to keep track of EVERYTHING, then improve it by one little step. That takes every minute of the day and its my crack.
Next week I go to India for two weeks. India is 12 hours a way. When its night there, its day here. So it will be hard to communicate with anyone. There’s no Internet in the room we’re renting. We’re going to be doing yoga two hours every morning. Which then means another 2 hours at least of travelling, resting, eating in the morning. Then walkng. Then a few hours in an Internet café tops.
I’ve never been on the other side of the world. Despite collecting Amar Chitra Katha comics since I was six years old, I’ve never visited India.
Maybe I’ll go there and my life will change.