Why Do I Expose Myself So Much?

batman

 

I wrote one very embarrassing story a few years ago and it got popular and I got a lot of pageviews, a lot of emails, and even a death threat.

I made new friends. It had been a long time since I had made new friends. Maybe ten years.

So I wrote more. I wrote the most brutal, revealing stories I could think of. Really embarrassing and painful stuff.

I didn’t care if they put me in a good light or a bad light. Entertain, honesty, and help, are my guidelines.

Honesty is not good or bad. “Good” or “Bad” are man-made. Truth is truth. But then everyone gets polarized. “He is THIS!” and “THAT!”

People would say things: “this is like watching a train wreck while it’s happening”.

The same people would write me on the side and say: “the same thing happened to me. Don’t tell anyone.” Because none of us are perfect but people try to be.

It took too much energy to pretend. Why be fake? I wanted to help people. To show that the path to meaning is riddled with misery and failure, rejection and discovery. Discovery about who you are.

Many of us wake up scared, anxious, nervous. Me too. Every day. Am I good enough? Will I survive? Will I thrive? I’m scared. Yes, yes. Me too.

I’m afraid, though. I’m always afraid. I like to be liked. What would happen to me?

But then it got bigger. More people were starting to come to my blog. I started holding Q&A sessions on Twitter.

I was seeing the kind of worries people had. We live in a time where many people are scared. Where so much uncertainty looms over our future.

  • “I’m afraid I’m going to get fired, what should I do?”
  • “I’m depressed and suicidal all the time”
  • “How can I find my passion in life so I can start to love what I do?”
  • “My boss hates me, what should I do?”
  • “My boyfriend left me and I have to support a kid and I have no job, what should I do?”
  • “I’m anxious all the time. Help!?”
  • “Should I send my kid to college?”
  • “Is it ok yet to buy a home?”

I’ve gotten over 40,000 questions in almost 200 Q&A sessions.

I would never answer directly. Who am I to answer another living being’s questions?

This is the problem I have with most blogs. Everyone writes from “authority”. In a world of mice, there is no one mouse with authority.

I would find where INSIDE myself I related with a story. I would feel the pain in my own body and try to tease it out with words. Sometimes it would come out, like a snake being charmed.

Then I would write my story. When did the question apply to ME! What did I DO to help myself. Sometimes I did things that worked and sometimes they didn’t.

But overall I learned.

Our true stories often show the dark side of ourselves. Without the darkness, how can we find the light?

I simply told what happened to me. When I was depressed. When I was suicidal. When I was an addict of some form or other. When I blew shit up. When shit blew up on me.

When I failed at businesses or relationships. When I lost control. When I had too much control. When I ugh, argh, and blahhed.

And in each of those situations, I described what I did. Perhaps I reveal too much. Who cares?

I then wrote a book. People who didn’t read the book said, “he wrote it for money” but if they looked at the first page they would see that I offered all the money back OR I offered to donate the full price to “Women for Women International” a charity I strongly believe in.

I let that offer run for three months, losing money on every single person who took me up on that offer.

I don’t say this to brag. The number of people who took me up on this offer was less than 2%. But I didn’t know that in advance. Claudia was afraid it would be 40%.

But as I mentioned in the first page, I wanted the message to get out to as many people as possible. I didn’t want to write yet another bullshit self-help book that would lie useless on your bookshelf.

I wanted it to have MEANING for people. To help people. If it didn’t help people, they could get their money back.

And it worked. Just seven months later over 100,000 people now have bought the book so far and rights have been sold in about ten countries.

Some people ask me: why do I expose so much about my failures? Won’t it cost me opportunities?

Won’t people think less of me? Will it cost me money and jobs and friends and won’t that then ruin my life?

Yes. Yes it will. And it did. My life turned upside down in horrible and painful ways.

I couldn’t believe the people who stabbed me. Sometimes my own family and friends. Sometimes people who never met me.

Writing honestly has cost me many opportunities. I did not grow up with a privileged background. I have nothing to fall back on.

My opportunities and reputation are all I have and I put it all out there for people to use or mis-use.

But then a funny thing happened on the way here.

Suddenly really special and magical people started to appear in my life. More than I could’ve imagined. My idea muscle went on fire.

I’ve been broke and desperate so many times. I was sick of it. And when I started blogging, I was really going nowhere in life.

I’ve created more abundance than ever since I started focusing on what I considered “my art” (which is a bullshit phrase but there it is) and forgot all about money. Money is just a side effect of abundance. It’s not the same as abundance.

Have I made enemies?

Of course!

People get upset when they read things they can’t understand. People who wear the cover of politics or economics or “guru” or “perfect” or “smart”.

People who are still afraid to reveal what’s underneath. The real person who we are. Nobody is smart. We’re all here for a tiny speck and during that time we do the best we can do, that’s it and nothing more.

But some people don’t like to see themselves in the mirror. So they attack and unleash. Something happens to them that I bet they don’t even understand.

They get angry and terrified at the same time. Sometimes they react to me through emails. Sometimes blogs. Sometimes phone calls. Sometimes they indulge in the outrage porn so common on the Internet.

I’ve had death threats. I’ve lost friendships in very hurtful ways. I’ve had people take out of context things I’ve said to try and put me in a bad light for reasons I’ll never understand.

And I don’t try to understand. What’s the point?

The most precious thing we have is our life energy. To use and waste and destroy that energy on things that are “crappy” (people or situations) is the fastest way to lose our life force.

I can’t ever let a crappy person become important enough for me to deal with. I can’t ever let a crappy situation waste my energy.

Energy builds up all of the time. But only if you don’t waste it. And when it builds up, the things that happen are beyond belief.

I will tell you what I truly believe in. This is my personal religion:

I believe the universe is curious. The universe’s only goal is to learn through our eyes.

It’s not here to help us solve our problems. It could care less. It wants us to have problems so it can see how WE solve them.

It can lend a helping hand, but only if we don’t waste energy fighting the fuckness around us.

I like to solve my problems. And then write about how I did it in an entertaining way. I spend all day studying how other writers work. And then I try to write 1/10 as well as them in order to share my experiences.

I do this now completely selfishly. Because of you. Because I’ve met you, my new friends, on this exciting journey.

Thanks for reading me.

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36 Responses to “Why Do I Expose Myself So Much?”

  1. Osaghae Napoleon Irianan Says:

    Are you feeling okay James? This was a very emotional article and i sense probably the most difficult to write. The few of us who ve read all your blogs and book lnow you be always been there for your readers by sharing your own experiences. You ve been there for us, thanks, now lets be there for you. Leta all reveal something about ourselves here today, i ll get the ball rolling, I struggled with stammering as a kid. You will be okay James, habe a great week.

    • Alexandra Leh Says:

      It’s funny you should ask this of James. My reaction to this piece was exactly the opposite: he’s never been better.

  2. Mohara Says:

    Thank you James!

  3. Ragnar Says:

    I had no idea I meant so much to you! Haha. Thanks for writing

  4. George in Lawrence, Kansas Says:

    Another exquisite post from James and another reminder of what matters.

  5. JoeChoi07 Says:

    Isn’t reputation a funny concept? We go to great lengths to try to protect it on FB, Linkedin, etc. But if you think about it none of us really have any reputations to protect. Maybe the President does and the CEO of some Fortune 500 company. Do you think letting go of “protection” is the first step in reputation creation?

    No real point to this comment. I’m just thinking out loud here…

    • shittystripper Says:

      DIsagree. The internet has triggered a culture where everyone polices and criticizes one another. Projection and judgement gone awry. I’ve heard of people losing out on jobs because something they wrote on social media. Teachers get fired when they get involuntarily posted on take-down sites.

      I wrote a black comedy-style column in a women’s magazine recounting my time stripping through an anthropological/economic analysis lens. I feel it is one of my strongest portfolio pieces but was forced to write it under a pseudonym because of the topic. I didn’t want to be judged or written off by future employers for being a former stripper. The truth is that I learned more about people, life, sales, and myself in that environment than at any other job I have held. Now I’m a programmer trying to break into market analysis or project management roles and I wish I could cite those articles…but the risk is too great.

  6. Pete Says:

    “there’s a skeleton in every mans house, we all have bones beneath our skin”

    Another great post James, thank you!

  7. iameyre Says:

    I came across your blog a few days ago and as a musician/amateur blogger it inspired me to take a page out of your book for my first post. Check it out. http://www.iameyre.com/blog-the-day-i-lost-it-all/
    PS. I felt enjoyed this post.

  8. Kristians Licis Says:

    You are a great inspiration for me, James! I am a young entrepreneur from other side of the world, but you have so strong messages, that they are literary changing the way how I think and act.
    Only sad that it’s hard to get your book on my side of the world 😀

    Stay strong, I believe in you!

  9. Tim Says:

    You’re like the reassuring older brother I never had

  10. Jill Rowe Says:

    It serves no one to stay hidden behind the veil. The more we reveal about the details of the human condition, the more we connect and heal. Thanks James!

  11. B.R. Merrick Says:

    Long-time lurker coming forward due to this sentence: “I believe the universe is curious.” That’s a powerful statement. I wouldn’t say that I believe, but I suspect that the universe is curious. Everything that flows from that is golden and confirms that Altucher isn’t your garden variety self-help guru.

  12. Gabriel Merêncio Says:

    Your blog is a tremendous inspiration for me as a writer (aspiring writer, at least), in all possible ways. Your trajectory, both successes and failures, the straightforward and authentic writing, simplistic yet honest life philosophy, a willingness to publish a variety of personal stories for the sake of good, helpful content for others… there’s nothing I dislike about the posts. I don’t know if it amounts to much, but you have my support and gratitude.

  13. Mike Derbyshire Says:

    Two words….”You’re Welcome!”

  14. Lightfoot Says:

    I love your writing. Thank you for doing it.

  15. Dan Says:

    James, great article – one of your best. I’ve been reading your blog for the last few months, and am about 70% through your book. I find myself resonating with a lot of your ideas and practices. I appreciate your honesty and I do find you entertaining to read. Keep up the good work!

  16. Camilo Olea Says:

    “The most precious thing we have is our life energy. To use and waste and destroy that energy on things that are “crappy” (people or situations) is the fastest way to lose our life force.”

    Awesome to see you echoing something I came to realize some time ago. I now tell (some) people just that: energy is a privilege and gift given to us, and its non renewable. We need to choose wisely how (and where) we spend it.

    Keep up the great work, James. Best regards from Cancun, Mexico.

  17. Actaeon Says:

    James, I don’t have your courage. I have a story to tell that I could only do so anonymously — I am keeping secrets that I am really uncomfortable with. Is it possible or advisable to try to publish anonymously?

  18. Carlos Says:

    Have you read “The Hunger Artist” – novella by Kafka? Its an allegory for what an artist does – reveal his nakedness, suffer in a cage before an audience.

  19. Razwana Says:

    Your raw honesty is the reason I keep returning to read, James

  20. Jimmy The Chin Says:

    This is why I read this blog!!

  21. Greg Whisenant Says:

    Very nice, very honest, as usual. As I read your post, I was reminded of this passage from Mark Nepo.

    ***************************************
    We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

    When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances for joy. It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting that we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing ever feels quite real.

    In this way, our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.

    (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening)

    ***************************************

  22. Howard Stein Says:

    … “I believe the universe is curious. The universe’s only goal is to learn through our eyes.” — This is a beautiful way to put it. So simple and so difficult.

  23. Christen Perreault Says:

    Great post. The realness is inspiring to see. The focus on energy and allocating it as the precious resource that it is is great to see – something I am always working to be better at. As always, thank you!

  24. Steve Morris Says:

    ‘Good to Great’ by Collins and ‘Anti-Fragility: Things that Gain from Disorder’ by Taleb and both compliment this meme quite well. Facing the Brutal Facts and Doing it Often are ways to build yourself up and prepares oneself for bigger and more complicated opportunities (aka problems or unforeseen events).

  25. Julian Meyer Says:

    Thank you so much James. I am busy writing my own book and has been blogging for a while. This just gives me the motivation to say: “its fine, let them see ME”
    Thanks again.
    JulianMeyer
    http://www.julianmeyer.co.za

  26. Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D. Says:

    Thanks James, your authenticity is something that I have always admired. Over the last few years, I have discovered that being honest and vulnerable is so much easier than trying to convey an certain image of yourself. People see right through that stuff anyways. Great post.

  27. Bob Lyle Says:

    I posted an honest story on youtube about how I had arrived at a particular movie posted there, having had an argument with our 19-yr old on a family trip we didn’t eat where we intended and ended up stopping off NY state thruway in an upstate town by Schroon Lake. I googled the town and found a 1958 movie was filmed there, about a 20-yr co-ed from Hunter College who was a dancer. My 19-yr old also goes to Hunter College and is a dancer. So I posted this — many people post how they arrived at a movie — and in two days someone smashed my comment — said my 19-yr old was spoiled and what kind of parent was I, etc — real venom. I deleted my story. I broke my cardinal rule of never mentioning my kids anywhere, even with the generic term ’19 yr old’. Difficult to be honest.

  28. Sheree Martin Says:

    James–

    This really resonates with me:”I believe the universe is curious.”

    Curiosity is one of the driving forces in my life and it’s probably at the core of my purpose for being here.

    As a college professor I’ve tried to inspire students to be curious but I’ve come to realize that most people aren’t curious and don’t want to know why or how. I’m now ready to take what I’ve learned from this phase of my life and move into the next.

    Not sure where I’ll end up, but it’s great to follow your lead as I move forward on the path to choosing myself.

    Look forward to seeing you at The Instigator Experience.

    Sheree

  29. Sniveling Suck Says:

    “Honesty is not good or bad. “Good” or “Bad” are man-made. Truth is
    truth. But then everyone gets polarized. “He is THIS!” and “THAT!”

    Ya! Excellent quote James! Love your advice… you are the best in the whole wide universe! Plus all the multi-universes too! Take care man, good luck with all the books! Ya! Wooooo!

  30. Ansh Says:

    James, I can’t thank you enough for being a great friend, mentor, inspiration and guidance through your posts.
    And, all I can say is “Thank God you expose(d), i meant expressed ;-)”. As always your post helped me gain a great perspective …Keep up the good work and kudos!!

  31. Ivo Lukač Says:

    This post reminded me on Frank Herbert’s Litany Against Fear: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

  32. Pollster Says:

    I like you Mr Altucher! (Hi from Malaysia! :D)

  33. Shane Hurren Says:

    I’m glad to see you are revealing your—— self. It can be hard to do this. Just imagine if you had all these elite assholes looking into your brain and posting your thoughts into their blog. That would be quite revealing, wouldn’t it? Do you think so? I love computers, but, I’m no computer scientist…like you. Can you please tell me Mr. “honest” James, the revealer of the dream, is there technology to do this? I know you would reveal this to me, right? Who doesn’t love the hustle right?

  34. Andrew Says:

    “Honesty compounds little by little. And that compounding turns into millions or billions. The dishonest people disappear. They die. They go to jail. They don’t maximize their potential. They run. They are scared.”

    from “Choose Yourself!”

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