How To Become a Jedi Knight

In 2005 I was going to go out of business (again). My biggest investor had to pull out. His business had failed. He had a nervous twitch and whenever I ran into him he was constantly twitching, “I need my money back,” he told me.

But I didn’t have it I had invested it. It would be a year before I could give it to him. So I didn’t know what to do. One time he threw a chair at me and ran out of the room. But there was nothing I could do.

So I did what any normal 37 year old man in the fund of hedge funds business would do. I bought the book, “The Tao of Star Wars”. Because I knew deep down if I just surrendered to The Force then my business would be ok.


I read the book every night before I went to sleep. I had confidence that it would save my business.

And it did. Or I did. Or something did. My business didn’t go under. That wouldn’t happen for another year or so.

A few weeks ago Cheryl Richardson, author of the book, “The Art of Extreme Self-Care” asked me and a bunch of people what movies impacted us the most. I jumped right out there, “Star Wars” because I believe in The Force. I think someone else said “Schindler’s List”.

I saw Star Wars when I was seven years old and it changed my life.

I tried to explain the story to my dad and he gave me wise advice, “I can never follow when someone tries to tell me a story”. I now repeat that sentence almost every day to people who try to tell me boring stories.

Nobody knows what’s true and what’s fake. We all have faith in something: usually a mixture of some personal beliefs with modern science. I am like that also. Mostly, I just believe in what works for me.

The Force works for me. I admit it.

Here’s how to be a Jedi Knight

A) Rest when you have nothing to do. When Qui-Gon is fighting Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace a transparent door closes, dividing them. Darth Maul paces back and forth and Qui Gon simply sits and rests and seems to be doing nothing.

It doesn’t matter to me that Darth Maul kills Qui-Gon at the end of that fight. Qui-Jon comes back later. Whatever.

In modern society we all feel like we have to be like Darth Maul. Pacing, finding a “purpose”, being anxious, stressed, waiting for doors to open. But how great is it to just rest and be happy and not move when you don’t have to.

I will tell you: it’s great.


B) Less. Get rid of everything you don’t need. Obi-Wan lives in a cave or a hut for 40 years when he’s on Tatooine. Yoda, who was ruler of the Universe, lives in a swamp after he loses his battle with the Emperor. They were still capable of laughing, of living, of staying healthy, of being able to train the next generation. They didn’t need anything to keep them entertained.

Of course, I have to keep repeating, it’s a story. But this is the way I would like to live.

C) Practice being “good”. Being a good, compassionate person is not something like “having two arms” or “being able to see”. It’s a quality we develop over years and thousands of hours of practice. Most people are not good people. In business, in art, in almost every “world” I’ve been in, most  people I meet are pretty gray to black. It takes practice to be the person who is a source of compassion and honesty.

Supposedly it takes 10,000 hours to master something. Unfortunately, most people spend 10,000 hours trying to be a jerk to others. If all you do is put in your 10,000 with small kindnesses, then the universe will return that many times over.

D) Read. Clearly George Lucas read many spiritual texts before he wrote even the first Star Wars or conceived of the whole saga. I’d start with the Tao Te Ching and then various interpretations of it. Then I’d go with any stories of Chuang Tzu, Buddha, Thich Naht Hanh, and I’d read “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama.

I don’t think one should be a “taoist” or a “Buddhist”. I doubt that Buddha was a “Buddhist”, which is just a label. Nor should one be a “Jedi-ist”. There’s no reason to separate yourself out from all of the other people. Just read texts that are inspiring.

E) Think About What You Read. If you read one page of the Tao Te Ching there’s probably enough in there to think about it for a year.  Try it. There’s a saying, “reading spiritual texts is good, thinking about them is 100 times better, practicing what you read is 100,000 times better.” So think and practice.

F) Health. In all of the movies I never saw an out of shape Jedi. Although there seems to be a deep spiritual componenet to being a Jedi, clearly there is a physical health component as well. They are jumping out of spaceships, fighting with light sabers, and they can probably run a four minute  mile. Heck, even Yoda at the age of 800 is jumping all over the place.

Why is health important? Buddha doesn’t talk about health. Jesus doesn’t mention health.

Health is not important. But sickness is. If you are sick, then your thoughts will be stapled to that sickness. You can’t get rid of it. You’re in pain and pain takes up the mind. This is why “The Yoga Sutras” is not about looking good in a yoga studio and picking up girls (although that is a good use of it). It’s about staying physically and emotionally healthy so you can focus on your spiritual life.

G) Be around other Jedis. Once Anakin starts hanging out with Darth Sidious he becomes a bad guy. Here are some things that are hard in life: being honest, being kind, trying to add value to others. These things take time and energy. When you are around people who steal your energy then those things become even harder.

H) Be open-minded. The difference between Luke and Han in the original Star Wars. Luke is willing to believe. There’s a lot of issues people get “stapled to” almost as if they were sicknesses. Some core issues: pro-choice vs pro-life. war vs anti-war. college vs no-college, global warming, etc.

I’m not saying one side is right and one side is wrong. When you find yourself thinking, “This side is DEFINITELY right” be willing to open your mind and look at why the other side thinks the way they do. It’s never for the stupid reasons you think it is. Issues are just ways for the mind to practice being open-minded. Strong opinions are ways for the mind to get stapled to this planet, filled with so many myths and manipulations.

This is good practice for the actual hard decisions you have to make in your life. Else your brain get’s too soft and one-sided.


I) Trust. Luke has to watch Obi-Wan die. Han has to be captured by bounty hunters. Anakin has to be recruited as a little kid. Qui-Jon has to die. Yoda has to go into exile. Bad things happen. But if you follow steps A-H, bad things happen in cycles. Good things also. Trusting that the kindness you are putting out there is compounding in a secret bank account for you means waiting for that bank account to deliver it’s returns. It will.

J) James is crazy. Yeah, I am. But I believe it.My business did get saved. Then it went out of business. The my next business got bought. Then it went down the drain. Then my marriage disintegrated. Then I got married again to the woman of my dreams. Then I lost all of my writing jobs. Now I write more than ever. Then I lost many friends. Now I have more friends than ever.

Everyone thought “Old Ben” was crazy. And he probably was. He died at the end of that movie. Just like the rest of us will.



44 Responses to “How To Become a Jedi Knight”

  1. Gary Says:

    James, Jesus does mention health, most notably in this passage:

    On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

    His whole ministry was about health of body, mind, soul, and spirit. While Yoda may represent some admirable qualities, to me it seems more authentic to emulate someone who actually lived them. And as you say, it takes practice.

    • David A Bailey Jr Says:

      Jesus didn’t mention health?
      He was consistently healing the sick. 😉

    • Priyantha Says:

      and Buddha too mentions of health; he has said the ‘best profit one can have in life is being healthy ( Arogya Parama Laba in Pali). but James you are right whatever they both say or not 🙂

  2. Johnny Ringo Says:

    Old Ben might have died, but his ghost looked great. I imagine it had to do with getting that 10,000 hours in. 🙂

  3. Mish & Rob Says:

    Yes, you’re totally crazy. But it’s way more fun that way, right? Also, you nail the crazy/funny/deep/pithy sentences in a way I can only dream of (“I never saw an out-of-shape Jedi”).

    I love this post, even though I’ve never watched a single Star Wars in my life.

    Points (A), (C) and (H) are particularly awesome – especially because they seem slightly counter-intuitive at first.


  4. Amanda Arthur Krill Says:

    You are a little bit crazy, but all the best people are. My dad took me to see Star Wars with him when I was like 5 months old. I swear I knew what was going on and it has been a huge part of my life.

  5. Joyce Leatherman Brandon Says:

    How to become a Jedi Knight, or even a decent & happy plain old human. Either way, it’s an excellent guide. (Our labradors, Obie & Padme, think so, too.)

  6. Joe Says:

    You dodged that chair…the force was always strong with you

  7. David A Bailey Jr Says:

    Hey James! Do you have a course or material on how you write your blog posts? Like a breakdown or step-by-step guide reverse engineering what you do?

    I really enjoy reading your posts and articles. And would like to know how you go about it so I can improve my writing too.

    Thanks in advance,
    David A. Bailey, Jr

    P.S. Also curious as to why you send people from your list to a seperate article before posting them on your blog?

  8. Sackerson Says:

    J: The Book of Job.

  9. Ted Scarborough Says:

    You wrote all that without one mention of Leia in the bikini costume. Amazing!

  10. Leroy Ford Says:

    Brilliant James!. I really admire your journey, I’ve listened to many of ur interviews & podcasts, you’ve bounced back so many times, you’re obviously a born fighter, most people would have gone down & stayed down, not because they didnt try, but that its just so damn hard to comeback.

    My question is, did it get easier to come back, each time you crashed?…
    Or was each time as hard as the first, just with different challenges?

    • James Altucher Says:

      Hi Leroy, sometimes it was harder. Because I think to myself, “I can’t believe its happened again”. But some things are easier. For instance, now I know that luck is something that can be calculated instead of just hoped-for. And I have a different set of personal expectations now (e.g. none) that help as well.

      • Leroy Ford Says:

        Fantastic, very much a Jedi response, wise words indeed. Thanks for the response, Im looking forward to reading your book ‘Choose Yourself’. All the best in business & life!

  11. Rogie Ylagan Says:

    I once wrote a blog post about letter H which is open mindedness. I really like that point, very much Jedi-like. There are people who thinks I’m close minded, but never do they know how much I consider both sides before I stand for something which sometimes I even have to help others explaining their “stand” even if it’s the opposite of mine. I meant helping in a positive way, not the sarcastic one.

  12. Helen Hunter Mackenzie Says:

    “I can never follow when someone tries to tell me a story” I don’t know why I didn’t try that with my son when he was 7! 🙂

    Great post as usual James, especially point E. I would add “…and question it.” There are lots of authors and bloggers out there (you’re not one of them and I don’t think Lao Tzu is either) who rattle off idea after idea, and tidbit after tidbit of advice, without any real substance behind it.

    I like to ask myself, “Who says that’s true?” and also try to follow the advice through several different scenarios in my mind. There’s very little that’s absolute truth. That doesn’t mean that all the ideas and advice out there are worthless– just that they should be run through the filter of critical thinking so they can best be implemented in one’s life.

    • James Altucher Says:

      Helen, I strongly agree with this. The ratio of good to bad books is probably 1:1000. One rule of thumb I try to look for in a book: if it worked for the author. In other words, if he’s not dishing it out as advice but telling a story about how he helped himself. Then he leaves it up to the reader to try the ideas out. Everything else is BS since nobody knows.

  13. Arakiba Says:

    Then there’s the bad parts about being a Jedi – celibacy, and denying yourself close personal attachment to others.

  14. Elizabeth Says:

    So, you’re married now? So am I, darnnit!

  15. Stimpy Says:

    I seem to remember that George Lucas drew from the mythology work of Joseph Campbell. ‘Hero of a Thousand Faces’ is my favorite of his books. “follow your bliss” was Cambell’s catch phrase. James, I am guessing that you are no stranger to Joseph Campbell or at least this aspect of his philosophy.

  16. Bob Afett Says:

    Obi and Yoda knew their destiny was to help save the galaxy from oppression by mentoring/training a young Jedi. They could live in remote, modest conditions knowing their purpose required them to be available (and alive) when the time came. So they bugged out for a few decades. Had to be done.

  17. ScoopingOprahDotCom Says:

    Another inspiring, though non-religious, text: The Conquest of Happiness, by Bertrand Russell, published about 1930.

  18. Travis Speegle Says:

    Thanks James! It’s fun to be reminded of the how many lessons have been introduced by Jedi over the years.

  19. Sid Lopez Says:

    When the cards are going the other way ….. I look at Porn…. then after a couple of hours my whole outlook is bright…

  20. Joe Says:

    Good article, Episode 1, 2 and 3 references aside. Please don’t reference the prequels when you mention Star Wars.

    If you are going to mention Darth Maul, Yoda jumping around to Miss Piggy noises or other nonsense from that sham, then the natural ability to apply “The Force” is found by some obscure blood test. Jedi fall to the Dark Side for no real reason at all, anyone can instantly identify thousand year dormant enemies at a glance, not one Jedi ever actually wins a fight with anyone and the supposed protectors of the Galaxy are targeted and distrusted everywhere they go like average street cops.

    It is clear, as you point out, Lucas read a lot of spiritual texts working on the early films, but unfortunately he was an uninspired action film director with an overly large special effects budget by the 1990s.

  21. galleymac Says:

    I adore this line: “There’s no reason to separate yourself out from all of the
    other people. Just read texts that are inspiring.”

    • David B. Durand Says:

      Agree. Labels are misleading. Being a Christian in name has nothing to do with living as one. Having water splashed on your forehead when you are crying your eyes out as a baby does not in fact baptize you. Jews can live as Christians. So can Buddhists. So can Hindus. So can Muslims. I mean fully. I mean “saved.” Until we live as Jesus would, given our circumstances, we are not yet fully baptized in spirit. We are not fully realized beings. We are not full Christians if that is our favorite label.

      I am more interested in what you say you know deeply in your heart, what you really “know,” rather than what you “believe in.” Belief is required as a beginning, but until a belief is intuitively known, it has no power. Someone says “I believe in Jesus.” What does that mean if they don’t act like Jesus, if they don’t “feel” as Jesus would when you are with them? Be fully loving (love your enemies because loving your friends is too easy) and you won’t have to concern yourself with any labels and you will sit at the right side of Jesus if that’s what the reward is for being all loving. You won’t need water splashed on your forehead, and you won’t have to parrot a line like “I take Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” but you’ll have to love everyone and everything and follow the example and teachings of Jesus fully. Or you won’t be done.

      And if it helps you to have your forehead made wet or your mouth to move certain words through it to get you to the point of being an all loving being, so be it. Do what you must to free yourself from judgement and hatred of others and yourself. Be as he was. Or be as Buddha was. Or be as Krishna was. But be all loving as best you can, and you will get there. And you won’t need a label when you do.

  22. Sheree Martin Says:

    As a Jedi-in-Spirit, I love this post.

    I’ve said on more than one occasion that I hope to be remembered, most, for being a nice person, as a kind person. Not that I’ve always lived up to my aspirations. Jesus is a hero. The interpretations of Jesus’ message aren’t always nice. But Jesus was nice, kind, loving.

    Health is huge for me. I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t realize the value of rest, sleep, real food, water, walking/exercise and how those figure into health.

    The most valuable skill that I learned in law school was to look at every issue, every problem, every situation from a multitude of angles. Although law practice didn’t suit me, I will be ever grateful for the mental paradigm shift that I experienced as a result of my legal education.

    Star Wars remains one of my favorite movies, and the lessons of the Jedi from all 6 films are timeless. Thanks for writing this post, James.

  23. Alex Park Says:

    The only issue I’ve had with Jedi masters, Yoda and Obi-wan, is they lied to Luke in order to get him to do what they wanted. They told him Vader killed his father, and then later when Luke smarts-up to it, Obi-wan says, “Well, what I really meant to say is that Vader is your father but b/c of the dark side in him, yeah, in a way, he killed your father”. This is the kind of spin you get from companies all the time. They also didn’t tell him about his sister, Leah. Later, they’re like, “Well, if Luke doesn’t work out, there’s always Leah”. They’re not really thinking about Luke, but their cause, the bottom line. This is corporate America. Other than that, Jedis are cool.

    • Alex Park Says:

      One other thought, Luke doesn’t exactly “choose himself”. Jedis don’t really choose themselves. They have to follow the order and whatever is ingrained in them by the force. The person that truly chooses himself in Star Wars is Han Solo. He doesn’t have to be part of the rebellion. He could get richer from the Empire. He doesn’t have to do what’s good. At the end of New Hope, he could fly away but he comes back with his Falcon, saves Luke who blows up the Death Star. He has the choice to go the other way, but he chooses to do what’s right. In many ways, that’s more admirable. So how about, “How to become Han Solo”?

    • William Rex Says:

      “Their cause” as you say is rescuing the galaxy from tyranny. Not evil. And in their wisdom they made some calculated decisions about what to tell Luke based on when they felt he would be ready. Like parents or other mentors tell you what you need to know/hear to best help you progress.

      • Alex Park Says:

        Very good point. My point: be direct, straight-forward, honest, and let the individual make the decisions. Don’t try to control or manipulate. That’s true mentorship.

  24. Ironthumb Says:

    Maimonides mentioned health (he was a doctor)
    That dude is my favorite prophet
    he considered the prerequisite of 1st perfection is the “body” since how can one pursue spiritual perfection in an unhealthy state?
    So it is the job of the Holy Kingdom to keep its residents healthy so they can think straight and walk th path of the Lord

  25. Ironthumb Says:

    I watched Star wars trilogies from my uncle’s VHS copy back in my childhood days.
    I watched it everyday like cartoons.
    This was even before the Trilogy was re-introduced en-masse

  26. Becca Niederkrom Says:

    Thank you James =)

  27. Design A Says:

    I agree with most of it except A) Rest when you have nothing to do. Why? Most people are resting when there are was you could occupy your time with productive activity. Today’s modern, lean startup entrepreneurs aren’t just responsible for one thing, they are responsible for virtually everything that goes into and comes out of a company. When I’m not occupied with work to do for clients, I make myself busy. I find new ways to be productive, to engage with readers and followers on social media or I write on my own blog. I try to add value through every activity I do!

    In summary, this is a hyper competitive time we live in. Most small businesses are out staffed, out budgeted and would fail if it weren’t for ingenuity and a lot of hard work. I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve had nights where I’m lucky if I get four or five hours of sleep. But you know what? It’s worth it, I can account for positive gains and growth. I’m able to make a bigger broader impact than if I just sat back and remained idle. After all… Darth Maul did beat Qui-Gon and subsequently Darth Maul did lose to Obi-Wan (who in my opinion was the most active of the three). I pokes and prods at the door until it opens and rushes out with immense fervor to attack, attack, attack!

    Any way, that’s just my two cents for what it’s worth. Enjoy!

    • Neil Says:

      Rest without seeking distraction brings peace within yourself. I find that if i use my downtime to mediate on whatever is around me, rather than seeking a distraction that I want to happen, the world is a very different place, I have more energy and I’m happier, whereas when I seek distractions and constant busyness, I feel nervous, agitated and like I am always missing something.

      I wish I could totaly rest when I had nothing to do, its not an easy thing to manage though, especially when you are busy during the day, it takes time for your mind to settle down, but I agree on the premise of resting whenever you can!

  28. Priyantha Says:

    hay this is wonderful James! I had 10 days of vacation at home and I played like a kid with my teen daughter and younger son, while I saw lot of my serious adult neighbors were making money and doing other serious stuff. Also for the second time I watched the Star War movies with my two kids. Both disliked the movies by the look of them at the shop. but when I started watching them by myself they moved towards the TV and never stopped until we finish the 5th one.
    good stuff James, I quite agree with you like a kid who would readily agree on playing all day long:-)

  29. Radomir Sjarief Says:

    Speaking about “Less”, do you still keep your Galaxy Note 2 or already move on to another? I tend to care unnecessarily about being connected.

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