Bruce Lee once said, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” And Michael Jordan also said, “Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.”
Are you stuck in overthinking and unable to make progress in moving forward and getting things done? Sometimes, the real problem is not the obstacle we are facing, but overthinking about the problem. Just take the advice of the famous brand message of Nike, “Just Do It,” and make the effort every single night, regardless of the outcome. You will soon overcome the problem and get things done.
My special guest today is James Altucher, an author, podcaster, and hedge-fund manager who founded several companies. He went from having about $15 million in earnings to losing it all in a few months, leaving him with only $143 left in his bank account. But he was able to build his empire back and realize that success for some people comes with a lot of conditions, and the best way to become successful is to choose yourself.
In this episode, he will talk about getting to the top 1% in the world of what you like, how to overcome embarrassment, and how to skip the line and bust the 10,000-hour rule for achieving mastery. It’s an exciting session about success and getting to your dreams, so let’s get started.
James Altucher is an angel investor and entrepreneur who started twenty companies. Seventeen of the companies he founded or co-founded failed. But for him, they were not failures but opportunities to learn. He learned the hard way and at a great price the seventeen ineffective things to avoid when managing companies.
He hosts a successful podcast, The James Altucher Show, which has more than 30 million downloads. He interviews several leading peak performers, innovators, and creators. James Altucher is also an author of eighteen books. Two of his books, The Power of No and Choose Yourself!, are Wall Street Journal bestsellers, while Choose Yourself is also a New York Times bestseller. One of his latest books, Reinvent Yourself, quickly became number one in the Amazon store right after its release.
Many of his writings were featured or published on various media platforms, including Yahoo Finance, TechCrunch, The New York Observer, and The Financial Times, among others. James Altucher also shares more of his wisdom through his blog, which has gained more than 20 million views since its inception in 2010.
He will share in this episode more about his book, Skip the Line as well as talks about the 10,000-hour rule, why it’s no longer practical in today’s world, and what he believes you should do instead.
Have you already achieved the level of greatness on something that you love doing by the age of 20?
If you keep on doing what you love doing for years, you should already be an expert by the time you reach a total of 10,000 hours of doing the same things. A study found out that top-performing students had put in a total of 10,000 hours by the time they turned 20.
They also estimated that Bill Gates spent at least 10,000 programming hours before he founded Microsoft. Likewise, the Beatles spent 10,000 hours of practice in the early sixties before reaching fame. Based on these findings, the 10,000-hour rule was born and created by Malcolm Gladwell. You will eventually become an expert in any field if you put in 10,000 hours of practice.
“I actually was part of the experiments in the early nineties on the 10,000-hour rule. And how can we do this with comedy? … Is it laughs per minute? Is it money? What is it? And I’m like, I don’t know. There’s no real straightforward metric. … That’s the problem with the 10,000-hour rule.” – James Altucher
While there’s some truth behind the 10,000-hour rule, there are some loopholes in the principle. It is similar to the common idiom that states “practice makes perfect.” It is true that if you keep on practicing, you will get closer to perfection. However, the level of perfection will greatly differ among each individual. The same idea applies to players on a football team. Everyone puts in the same amount of practice hours with their coaches, but every player has a unique level of playing the game, and not everyone starts on equal footing.
However, this doesn’t mean that the 10,000-hour rule is not effective — it is. You will surely improve your skills if you put in the effort and time in anything you do. But the main problem with this rule is it focuses on quantity instead of quality. Practice is not equal, and the results will vary. Some may achieve advanced skills. Others will become experts, while a few will become masters in the field.
Being a part of the experiment back in the eighties, James Altucher knew that the 10,000-hour rule still had more room for improvements. So, he searched for ways to make it better and came up with a hack to skip the line and achieve mastery level, even without putting in 10,000 hours of practice.
Do you still have enough time to spend 10,000 hours towards mastery?
In a fast-evolving environment of a highly competitive world, time is crucial. By the time you’ve done 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill, the landscape may have already changed, and you’re left behind in the competition.
Let’s say you will put in 4 hours every day on a task you want to master. This is equivalent to 20 hours per week working from Mondays to Fridays. It will take ten years for you to reach the 10,000-hour milestone and become the best at what you do. But there’s a big question mark — will your mastered skills still be relevant by that time?
“And I came up with something I call the 10,000-experiment rule. … If I avoided repetition, which is more about the 10,000-hour rule, … every time I do [a stand-up] comedy, or every time I play chess, or every time I start a business, or make an investment, I’m going to do at least one experiment in what I’m doing.” – James Altucher
Instead of repeatedly doing the same tasks every single day, why not do something different and experiment every day. James Altucher made a simple twist to the 10,000-hour rule and changed it into a 10,000-experiment rule.
“By experimenting, you learn so much more quickly because the nature of an experiment is that you’re trying something that nobody’s ever tried before, or at least you’ve never tried before. So not only are you doing this activity that you love and want to get better at, but part of what you’re doing, you’ve never done before. So, your worst-case scenario is when the experiment fails. But that you [also] learned something.” – James Altucher
Every experiment has failures. It’s the main reason why many people are afraid to experiment — they are afraid of failure. But failure is just a mental state of mind of those who look at it in a negative way. For others, failure is an experience with some valuable and priceless lessons.
“Thomas Edison famously did try 10,000 different filaments to make a light bulb. A reporter asked him, ‘How does it feel to fail 10,000 times?’ And he said, ‘Sir, I did not fail 10,000 times. I learned 10,000 different ways to not make a light bulb.’” – James Altucher
Experimenting allows you to skip the line and do away with the 10,000 hours of work. You will achieve the mastery skills level quickly and stay on top of the game. It’s one of the secrets of the highly successful people — those who belong to the top 1% in the world in any field.
If you deliberately follow and observe the 10,000-experiment rule of James Altucher, getting to the top 1% in the world of what you like becomes easier. But what does it mean to belong in the top 1% in America? According to a 2020 publication, you have to be earning at least $500,000 per year if you want to belong to the top 1% richest Americans. The earning potential should be enough inspiration to start aiming to get to the top 1%, especially now that you have an edge for knowing the 10,000-experiment rule, plus a few techniques and strategies you will learn from experimenting.
But there’s also the fun part. You can apply the same principle in various aspects of life, including games. You can be in the top 1% in a board game like Scrabble, Chess, or Monopoly, — whatever you love doing. You just need to focus on the micro-skills.
“Everything you could think of that’s worth doing is a collection of micro-skills. … Focus on the right micro-skills that are important for you, and that are easier for you. That’s how you get to the top 1% of the world. I could guarantee I’m in the top 1% of the world in Scrabble, but I’m not going to play at the highest level in a tournament.” – James Altucher
Experimenting allowed James to develop some micro-skills and strategies, which is something you can’t achieve if you keep on doing the same tasks repeatedly every single day. I’m so excited that James shared a few tricks he learned from playing hundreds of games in Scrabble.
“Scrabble also has lots of micro-skills. For instance, you’ll get 50 extra points every time you have a seven-letter word. So, there are some people who obsess about remembering all the seven-letter words, and there are techniques for doing that. But you don’t have to do that if you know all the two-letter words, — you’re going to just beat all your friends anyway.” – James Altucher
Perhaps, you’d like to try these hacks the next time you play a game of Scrabble with your friends. He also shared some tips on getting to the top 1% in a game of Monopoly.
“The most popular square to land on in Monopoly is jail because you could land on jail through the dice, there’s also a ‘Go to Jail’ square, and there are two community chest cards that say, ‘Go to Jail Immediately.’ So that’s the most popular square by far that people land on. With two dice, the most popular roll is a seven. The seven puts you right in the middle of the orange properties. So if you own the orange properties and have hotels on them, everyone’s going [there]. … Get the orange properties … at the beginning of the game, [and] get the utilities.” – James Altucher
These micro-skills were not developed in a single game, but after a series of games, after spending hours figuring out some strategies that work, and after so many losses and failures.
Don’t be afraid to fail, even if failure leads to embarrassment. If you have the passion and the determination to succeed complemented by actions, you will soon get to your goals and learn to overcome embarrassment.
Can you still remember the last time you were embarrassed?
It’s safe to say that embarrassment is something everyone experiences at some point in life. People make mistakes that sometimes lead to failure — it’s a simple fact! — When we achieve victory, we would want everyone to know about our feat. But if we lose, we keep the failures to ourselves. It’s because we feel embarrassed by our failures.
The fear of embarrassment is sometimes the obstacle that prevents us from moving forward to our dreams. We got stuck in the state of embarrassment that we allow to take us down. We all have our own share of embarrassment, including James.
When one of his articles went published, it created a chain of reactions of negativity among the millions of people who read the article. Some hated him, made fun of him, called him names, argued with him, and someone even wrote an article to ridicule him. Did he feel embarrassed? — yes. Did he allow embarrassment to take him down and stop writing? — no. Although, he stopped writing for a short while.
“I think my brain reacted without me realizing it. … My brain was basically telling me, “If you write something, the world [will] punish you.’ … The article was spreading into the audience and people were commenting. So my brain reacted to that. … I realized what was happening. … And usually, it means a big change. … And so I recognize that, and I’m back to writing again. But, … I decided to use this time productively.” – James Altucher
James keeps on writing, even after that one article that created so much negativity among the audience. But in every article he writes, he does it differently, taking into account the lessons from the previous articles based on the audience’s response.
Guys, you will surely find this episode interesting and pick up a few tricks on how to stay on top of the game in various aspects of life. You don’t need to spend 10,000 hours to master a skill. Instead, do something different and experiment. By experimenting, you will skip the line and achieve mastery quickly. Listen to the full episode for more wisdom from James, and don’t forget to share it with your friends.
Follow James Altucher on social media and learn more about his journey towards greatness. If you are looking for a side hustle, subscribe to his Youtube channel and check out his Side Hustle Friday. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, for more insights and updates.
I want to leave you all with a quote from author Peter Block, who said, “Why do anything unless it is going to be great?”
We are all on a journey toward our goals that involves making some mistakes every day. But every mistake is an experience with valuable lessons we can learn that will help us to evolve into the best versions of ourselves. Every day presents an opportunity either to do the same things or do something differently. The choice is yours, but you will never reach newer heights if you keep on doing the same things. On the contrary, if you do something differently, you will quickly get to your dreams and achieve greatness by just being great every day.
“Being great today is greatness.” – James Altucher
Friends, if you love this episode and you want more from James Altucher, check out our previous conversation, Episode 19: “Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream,” which will show you why money is not the key to happiness. I’m sure it will change your life! But don’t forget to do something great today.