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Here’s what I thought the most important thing in life was…

James Altucher

Originally published by James Altucher on LinkedIn: Here’s what I thought the most important thing in life was…

Here’s what I thought the most important thing in life was: sex. Every day please. Twice a day.

I would look for it everywhere. And because I was ugly and arrogant I felt nobody would let me touch them unless I had a lot of money.

So then money was the most important thing for me. Because I wanted a lot of it. More than what I needed. Enough to buy myself a lifetime or more.

Enough to buy a bookstore but pretend I just worked there and then fall in love with one of my co-workers but she wouldn’t know I owned the bookstore and she would fall in love with me on the force of my charm.

Then I thought I wanted people to not just like me but love me. Hit up vote on this post please. Hit “like” on my Facebook posts. Hit “follow” on my Instagram. Hit RT on my tweets.

Hit me.

Then I thought I wanted nothing. “Nothing” would be the most important thing for me.

So I threw everything out. Now I miss a photo of my daughters. And I miss my 2012 tax returns. I loved those tax returns.

Now I’m not so sure about any of the above but when I woke up this morning I made a list of the things I think are most important to me:


I want some stability in my life. I live from Airbnb to Airbnb so I have no steady home. And I have no stable paycheck. I haven’t for 20 years.

But I like knowing I can provide for my children. And that I’m healthy. And that I know from day to day who I can trust and love. So I need some certainty in my life.


I like to take chances. I like to experiment. A few weeks ago I tried standup-comedy. I do a podcast where every interview scares me because I am always interviewing my heroes.

I write posts that I am never sure people will like. I try to figure out what chance I can take that I never took before.

I like making new friends and seeing what I can learn from them. I like to experiment on myself.

I feel the universe has given me five senses to go out and collect data and then when I die I send all the data up to the mothership.

To do that I need as much mystery as possible to get as much new data as possible.


Not the superficial love of our “social” media although I have to admit I crave that more than I should. (Why not admit weaknesses? I will always have them.)

But I love having a bond with my children. With my friends. With a significant other.

The love doesn’t have to always be the same and always with the same people. But emotional connection is important.


I’m in this vast human species tribe like the rest of us. I like to know that I am helping out a little bit.

I didn’t always feel this way. Particularly when all I wanted was sex or money.

It’s nice when I write a post and a single person is helped. Or at least entertained. Or perhaps laughs.

It’s great when my daughter calls and asks for advice.

Sometimes I feel sad when a day goes by and I feel I haven’t contributed.


If I do something, I want to get better at it.

Getting 1% better a day at something means I’m 3800% better at the end of a year.

I didn’t always understand this rule of compounding. When I sold my first company I thought I was “done” growing as a human. I did it! No more work needed.

But then I found out the hard way that no growth is the same as death.

I have to think to myself, “how can I get better at X today” and X might be different every day.

When I have growth, my contribution gets better, my ability to connect with more people get better, I get to explore more possibilities in life, and the side effect is that I get more certainty in what life holds for me.

Growth → Contribution → Love → Mystery → Certainty → Growth → Etc

Sex, money, fame, “likes”, and intrigue are exciting.

But they are fake replacements to fill the gaping hole that a life of failure and despair often have left me with.

Around 2010 I was so disgusted with my life I gave up. I quit every job. I moved far away. I stopped talking to most people in my life.

Then I realized what was important to me.

The five things I mentioned starting with “certainty”.

“Certainty” was the hardest thing for me to accept that I needed. Accepting that I was scared and lonely without it. That’s it’s ok to be a bit needy for stability.

And everything after that was hard to accept. Why do I need love more than sex? Why do I need mystery more than money?

But hardest was maybe accepting and believing that I deserved these five things. That the gaping hole I thought I had, was actually one I created.

Seven years ago I started working at it. And seventy years from now I hope someone will be able to say about me, “job well done”.

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. Join the 136,000 readers getting a dose of my best and controversial content. Join here.