From Rock Bottom Back to the Top: A Review of “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher
Have you hit rock bottom? Have you dug yourself in a hole so deep that you can’t even begin to figure out how to get out of it? James Altucher has been exactly where you are. In his book “Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live The Dream”, he documents his times at rock bottom and his journey back to the top.
He begins with an economics history lesson answering the question: What has happened in the past to bring us to where we are now? Unfortunately, the state of the society depends on the state of the economy. If the stock market is on the upswing, people are happy, money is flowing, lives are being lived. If the stock market drops, that’s all we hear about. People are scared, and money is being stuffed into mattress all over the country.
James recounts how his life was dramatically affected by the stock market crashes in 2002 and 2008 to the point where he thought his family would benefit more from his life insurance policy than they would with him still in their lives. The harsh reality of our society is that so many people contemplate these same ideas that James faced due to one problem: money.
James shares his personal tail of financial woes starting with his upswing (building businesses, selling them for a fortune, having it all), to his crash and burn (no job, no money, millions of dollars in debt). In fact, he went through this cycle more than once! Each time he had to pick himself back up and figure out how to rebuild his life.
What did he learn during his many times down the rabbit hole? Choose yourself!
Your next question is: How do I choose myself when I am responsible for other people (kids, parents, etc.)? Don’t worry, James knows that life, too. Choosing yourself starts with only doing things you enjoy. James explains why this is so important to your well-being and how to turn this in to taking care of your responsibilities. Next, we focus on what James calls “the daily practice”. This is keeping your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies all healthy by working on them and sending energy through them on a daily basis. He goes into detail on how each “body” is important and gives tips on how to take care of each one individually.
Here are three points that stood out to me the most:
- The fear of rejection is keeping you from choosing yourself.
The fear of being rejected is keeping you from building the house you want to live in. In other words, rejection is stopping you from going out and getting what you want for your life. James acknowledges that in some points on your journey to choose yourself, you may need the green light from other people. For example, if you are trying to get funding to start a new business (think Shark Tank), you’ll need the approval of an investor to get the money you need.
He focuses more on how to control the time it takes to get over rejection. This means put down the ice cream and chocolate chip cookies and do something productive that’s going to help you get past the pain of the rejection faster, so that you can get to the approval part sooner rather than later. Part of this recovery is coming to terms with the fact that there are some things that we can’t control. We can’t force Mark Cuban or Lori Greiner (another Shark Tank reference) to give us the money we need to fund our projects. That is just not in our control, but we can realize that whether or not they “pick” us does not increase or diminish our value as a person. James states that at an early age it is engrained in us that we are not good enough. By others choosing us, we begin to place a value on ourselves. James wants his readers to know that this practice needs to be unlearned. We need to understand our value to the world without the approval of others, so that we understand that rejection does not diminish our worth.
- You’re at rock bottom…what now?
As I said before, James knows rock bottom all too well. In fact, if you’re there right now, look around and you’ll probably find “James was here” etched into the wall. The power in being at your rock bottom is knowing that there is a ladder ready to help you get back up. The ladder can’t force you to climb it, though. You have to be ready to get up and climb each step till your back at the top.
For some, the first step can be as simple as getting out of bed. The next step could be getting dressed and then getting back out into the world. The steps can be as little or as big as you make them, but either way they are helping you to climb. James stresses the importance of recognizing the abundance that is in your life when you are at the bottom. For example, are you living pay check to pay check and struggling to keep food on the table? Recognize the abundance that comes from having a job that provides that pay check, even if it is just a minimum wage job. Some people don’t even have that.
James uses traffic as an example: maybe you’re just sitting in traffic stressed out of your mind that it has taken half an hour to go two miles. Recognize the abundance of cars on the road and appreciate how far humanity has come to in such a short time! You get to relax in AC and listen to your favorite music instead of sitting on a buggy being pulled by a horse (even though that may be quicker during rush hour). The point is, recognizing what you are abundant it during times of crisis, turns that chaos on its head. Feeling grateful rather than defeated will set the tone for your journey out of rock bottom.
- AND NOW THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR…
Let’s be real. A huge draw to the book is the fact the James claims you can make millions by choosing yourself. Well you can. He gives a great example of a woman who chose herself and is now worth one billion dollars. That woman is Sara Blakely and the product that has made her a billionaire…SPANX!
Trust me, you don’t finish the book and get a knock on the door with someone offering you a million dollar check with balloons is hand. It takes work! Sara found an improvement that could be made to panty hose, spent countless hours researching patents and fabrics, and made her vision come to life with just five thousand dollars to start with. These types of success stories are not reserved for certain people, they are available to everyone! Before Sara was the billionaire Spanx lady, she sold fax machines! To find this type of success, it takes flexing that mental body! Working your mind, or as James refers to it “the idea muscle”, will help you in discovering where holes are that can be filled or where improvements can be made and what you can do it make them happen! Everyday something is invented that causes someone to say, “How did I ever live without this?” Why can’t you be the one to come up with the great idea? James says it can be you and he gives you the tools to work out your idea muscle so that you can be the next Sara Blakely!
You don’t need a masters in economics or a business degree to understand the messages and lessons that James provides. He conveys very valuable information in a very informal way, which makes his book easy to read and quick to digest. He breaks down the information in bullet points and interjects “try this” exercises to help his audience see how his story relates to their own. With a mix of chapter titles from “Finding Your Purpose in Life” to “How to be Less Stupid”, his book offers a relatable and raw look at his method of getting out from rock bottom by choosing yourself!
Madison Rodriguez is a contributing writer for Launch Yourself Today. She is a student of the world – striving to learn about other cultures through the eyes of the people who live there and dedicated to ocean and habitat conservation. When she’s not writing or managing content, you can find her at SoCal beach reading The Help alongside her trusty, four-legged friend, Boots. During football season, she loves cheering on her brother who is an offensive lineman for the Dixie State Trailblazers. Recently, she earned a B.A. in English Literature from California State University, Fullerton.