Book Reviews

Choose Yourself! by James Altucher -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

30. Choose Yourself! - James Altucher

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 6/10

Date of reading: 3rd – 7th of August, 2017

Description: How to find and choose yourself in today’s fast-paced world. The author does this through a plethora of horrible personal experiences which somehow, in the end, made him happy and successful in a weird way. 


My notes:




“There’s no one path. There’s every path. Every path starts with this one moment. Did you choose yourself for this moment? Can you be bold? Then all paths will lead to the same place. Right now. #chooseyourself” ( :7)




“By 2002 there was nothing left in the ATM machine. I thought running out of money would be my worst moment. Worse than death. I was wrong. At the end of 2002 I had a conversation with my parents. I was angry and depressed. We got into an argument. Over what—it doesn’t matter anymore. I hung up the phone and cut them off.” ( :8)

“For all intents and purposes, 2008 was a carbon copy of 2002. I managed to get myself back on my feet. I built and sold another company. I made a lot of money and then, through mindless squandering, I pissed it all away. Again. Except this time I was getting a divorce, losing even more friends, failing at two other companies at the same time, and I had no clue what I was going to do to climb out of the hole I’d dug for myself.” ( :9)

“This kind of thing hasn’t just happened to me once. Or twice. But many times. In the past twenty years I’ve failed at about eighteen of the twenty businesses I’ve started. I’ve probably switched careers five or six times in various sectors ranging from software to finance to media. I’ve written ten books. I’ve lost multiple jobs. I’ve been crushed, on the floor, suicidal, desperate, anxious, depressed. And each time, I’ve had to reinvent myself, reinvent my goals and my career. On most occasions, I didn’t realize what steps I was repeating over and over, both positive and negative. Once I achieved success I would inevitably return to my negative habits and start squandering my good fortune.” ( :9)




“In World War II, 16 million American men left the United States in order to kill people. Meanwhile, someone needed to work the factories and offices to keep the country running. Women stepped in and filled the task. When the men came back, the women, quite correctly, realized that they didn’t want to just stay at home anymore. They wanted to work and contribute and make money. Making money was fun and it gave them independence. Suddenly, we went from having single-income families to two-income families in a booming postwar economy. For the first time in about thirty years, Americans had money. A lot of it. And American industrialization was spreading throughout the world. Before long the US controlled the global economy. Global conglomerates rose from the ashes of near-bankrupt companies that barely survived the Great Depression.” ( :11)

“I don’t say this in an evil way. I don’t blame them. I never blame anyone but myself. Every second I am manipulated and coerced and beaten down it’s because I’ve allowed it. They were just doing their jobs. But still…they are the manipulators. Now we have to learn how to discern the foolish from the wise and build our own lives.” ( :12)

“There’s a saying, “The learned man aims for more. But the wise man decreases. And then decreases again.”” ( :12)

“Credit card debt went from $700 billion in 2005 to $2.5 TRILLION in 2007. Two short years. Now everybody had wide screen TVs, two houses, the latest Viking kitchen equipment, a boat, two environmentally sustainable cars (to assuage the guilt for their voracious consumption), and ate out two or three times a week. And when I say “everybody”, what I really mean is “me”. I don’t know anything about everybody. I only know what happened to me. And I was up to my neck in it.” ( :14)




“I recently visited an investor who manages more than a trillion dollars. You might think a trillion dollars sounds impossible. I did. But there’s a lot more money out there than people let on. It’s squirreled away by families who have been hoarding and investing and reinvesting for hundreds of years. And this trillion dollars I speak of belonged to just one family.” ( :19)

“But he wasn’t happy with that. The publishing industry was taking too big a piece of the pie. Their claim: that they handled distribution, editing, marketing, publicity and they paid advances. Tucker realized that because of modern technology, he no longer needed just about any of this. For a fraction of the cost, he could get editing, marketing, and publicity, and he simply bought the same distribution that the publishers would pay for. And because his prior books were successes, he didn’t need the advance up front. So he started his own publishing company, in effect, simply to publish his next book. It was called Hilarity Ensues, and he took 80 percent of the revenues instead of just the 15 percent that publishers normally give. He chose himself and ended up making three times the money after all his costs.” ( :20)

“You no longer have to wait for the gods of corporate America, or universities, or media, or investors, to come down from the clouds and choose you for success. In every single industry, the middleman is being taken out of the picture, causing more disruption in employment but also greater efficiencies and more opportunities for unique ideas to generate real wealth. You can develop those ideas, execute on them, and choose yourself for success.” ( :21)

“One time I got upset when a well-known pundit tweeted that one of my books was crap. I asked her if she had read the book and she admitted, “No, I just didn’t like the title.” So I wrote a blog post about this. Out of nowhere I got this e-mail from a fan of my blog who thought I was diving too much into negativity. And he was right. He wrote: “I assume your blog post was mostly tongue in cheek about the feedback affecting you in a negative way. But if not, then please take this compliment to heart: From one very successful writer to another, I love your blog. Yes, it has its quirks and stylistic issues, but it is utterly original and compelling, and that is an attribute that is incredibly rare. There is so much writing out there, and so little of it is worth a shit—but your blog is one of those that are worth a shit. I subscribe to like 25 blogs in my RSS feed, and yours is one. And I don’t even really actively invest—I could care less about your financial advice. Please keep doing what you are doing, and please don’t let the cowardly commentary from the ignorant sheep and trolls get you down. There are a ton of us out here that read everything you put on your blog, and thoroughly enjoy it, but we don’t tend to speak up one way or the other, because we’re normal people with normal lives. Who even writes Amazon reviews? I’ve entertained millions of people, literally millions, but from my Amazon reviews you’d think my job was to punch babies in the mouth. That’s the shitty part about the Internet, and about anonymous feedback, is that you tend to hear from the extremes, those that either love you” ( :21)

“anonymous feedback, is that you tend to hear from the extremes, those that either love you more than reasonable, or those who are just spreading toxicity. Fuck those people. You do great work, and I really appreciate it. I hate to sound like a weirdo Buddhist, but the only things that really matter in this world are the relationships you have with the people you love, and the meaningful things that you do.” ( :21)

“Haters don’t fit anywhere into that. Don’t devote any mental space to them.” The e-mail was signed: “Tucker Max”” ( :22)




“Try this exercise: Think for a second of ten different times you’ve been rejected. Were you rejected for a job? Did you have a novel rejected? Did a potential girlfriend/boyfriend reject you? List ten. Now think about this: how easy would it be to list one hundred? I can probably list one thousand. But what if you never try? What if you are afraid to try for fear of being rejected?” ( :23)

“You build that house by laying a solid foundation: by building physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.” ( :24)

“Oxytocin levels can be boosted by the foods we eat, how we exercise our mind, how we associate with others, and even is partly responsible for how we cultivate an attitude of gratitude toward both the positive and negative events in our lives.” ( :24)

“uite the opposite. But in order to have a fully functioning life, we need a functioning body, a healthy brain, a functioning social life, a functioning” ( :24)

“idea muscle, and a very fundamental sense that there are some things we can’t control.” ( :25)

“Here’s what I believe. We’re taught at an early age that we’re not good enough. That someone else has to choose us in order for us to be…what? Blessed? Rich? Certified? Legitimized? Educated? Partnership material?” ( :25)

“We need to unlearn this imprisonment. Not dissect and analyze it. Just completely unlearn it.” ( :26)

“They went on subways and walked up to all sorts of people who were sitting down: young, old, black, white, female, male, pregnant, etc. To each seated passenger they said, “Can I have your seat?” Seventy percent of the people gave up their seats.” ( :26)

“But the other interesting thing is how reluctant the students were to even do the experiment. To ask people for their seats went against everything they had ever been taught. This is obviously an extreme. But it points out how hard it is for us to do things for ourselves unless we are given some implicit permission. I’m not saying “Choosing Yourself” is equivalent to manipulation. I’m not saying it’s equivalent to always getting what you want.” ( :26)




“”Dan Quayle might be the greatest vice president ever,” I said to one girl as she lit up my cigarette even though I didn’t smoke, and I probably thought Dan Quayle was the worst choice for a vice president ever. And then when I leaned in for the kiss at the end of the date…”I don’t feel about you that way.” Rejected.” ( :27)

“Finally she gave her verdict: “For material like this, you either need to show your neighbors fucking, or someone killing their mother while naked.” We had material pretty close to that but not quite as base or lowest common denominator.” ( :28)




“I used to go out every night. You never know, I would think. I used to go to every business meeting I was invited to. You never know, I would think. I used to go on TV every time I was asked. You never know, I would think. Maybe someone would SEE me. And call me and offer me and give me and want me and like me and love me. Maybe they would press the LIKE button on my face. Brilliant.” ( :31)

“Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do, this will happen: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be used up, burned up, a smoke signal to the future saying, “I did it again.”” ( :31)

“Imagine now you have three other bodies alongside your physical body: an emotional body a mental body and a spiritual body.” ( :32)

“It is from a foundation of health (in all four bodies) that you build the platform to choose yourself. The rest of the book describes how one can use this foundation to build the succeeding layers to create even more choices that lead to success. And you’ll read stories of people who have done just that.” ( :32)

“THE EMOTIONAL BODY. Emotionally I try to surround myself with only positive people who inspire me. This way I can learn to be positive. To be a beacon to those around me. It’s important to avoid people who bring you down. Not in a cruel way. But avoid engaging” ( :33)

“Here’s an exercise I do that can help in this regard: I try to be quiet. Instead of speaking the average 2,500 words a day that most people speak, it would be nice for me to speak just one thousand words a day when possible. This forces me to carefully choose my words and who I engage with.” ( :33)

“course. Maybe I’ll do a course on “The Daily Practice,” but I made a list of ten other courses I could maybe teach. It was hard! I didn’t even know if I knew enough about ten different topics to be able to teach them. I still don’t know. But I made the list. My mind sweated like a pig. And then you know what I instantly did afterward? I fell asleep. After sleeping about ten hours the night before. Sleeping is fun. I love to sleep. It’s a Saturday. It was 1 p.m. I took a half-hour nap. My mind was tired. Then I woke up and wrote this. Come up with ten ideas a day.” ( :34)




“How do I know a lot of people want to die? Because Google tells me. The search phrase that is most likely to take people to my blog is, “I want to die.” The number-two search phrase is “I hope to die.” Number three is “How can I disappear,” which is a little more hopeful than dying but expresses no less similar a sentiment (it’s sort of like saying “How can I kill this life I have and start another”). My e-mail is slightly more uplifting. The most popular question I get via e-mail is “I’m stuck. How can I move forward in life?”” ( :36)

“This is how we form a better society. First we become better as individuals. You can’t help others if you look in the mirror and hate what you see. And it’s very easy to hate what is there. We live most of our lives hating the mirror. Heck, I’m pretty gruesome to look at in the morning. It’s a daily challenge!” ( :37)

“Suddenly, they are “flossing.” Their brains say, “I’m the type of person who likes to floss.” Maybe after a day or two they start flossing two teeth. “And why stop there?” Ramit said. “After a few weeks, they’re flossing all of their teeth because their brain sees it wasn’t as hard a habit as they thought.”” ( :38)

“anything you want. L) Say to yourself when you wake up, “I’m going to save a life today.” Keep an eye out for that life you can save. M) Take up a hobby. Don’t say you don’t have time. Learn the piano. Take chess lessons. Do stand-up comedy. Write a novel. Do something that takes you out of your current rhythm. N) Write down your entire schedule. The schedule you do every day. Cross out one item and don’t do that anymore. O) Surprise someone. P) Think of ten people you are grateful for. Q) Forgive someone. You don’t have to tell them. Just write it down on a piece of paper and burn the paper. It turns out this has the same effect in terms of releasing oxytocin in the brain as actually forgiving them in person. R) Take the stairs instead of the elevator. S) I’m going to steal this next one from the 1970s pop psychology book Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No: when you find yourself thinking of that special someone who is causing you grief, think very quietly, “No.” If you think of him and (or?) her again, think loudly, “No!” Again? Whisper, “No!” Again, say it. Louder. Yell it. Louder. And so on. T) Tell someone every day that you love them. U) Don’t have sex with someone you don’t love. V) Shower. Scrub. Clean the toxins off your body. W) Read a chapter in a biography about someone who is an inspiration to you. X) Make plans to spend time with a friend. Y) If you think, “Everything would be better off if I were dead,” then think, “That’s really cool. Now I can do anything I want and I can postpone this thought for a while, maybe even a few months.” Because what does it matter now? The planet might not even be around in a few months. Who knows what could happen with all these solar flares. You know the ones I’m talking about. Z) Deep breathing. When the vagus nerve is inflamed, your breathing becomes shallower. Your breath becomes quick. It’s fight-or-flight time! You are panicking. Stop it! Breathe deep. Let me tell you something: most people think “yoga” is all those exercises where people are standing upside down and doing weird things. In the Yoga Sutras, written in 300 B.C., there are 196 lines” ( :39)

“divided into four chapters. In all those lines, ONLY THREE OF THEM refer to physical exercise. It basically reads, “Be able to sit up straight.” That’s it. That’s the only reference in the Yoga Sutras to physical exercise. Claudia always tells me that yogis measure their lives in breaths, not years. Deep breathing is what keeps those breaths going.” ( :40)




“Right now, look around, and list the areas where you are abundant. If you are in the middle of a rainstorm, there is an abundance of water. Think of the bounty that can be grown with that water. If you are in a traffic jam, there is an abundance of cars. Think of the human achievement those cars represent in our short history on this planet. Turn despair on its head.” ( :41)

“Anyway, I’m not a doctor. The doctor will tell you that. Ask for Klonopin and see what they say. Don’t forget: YOU ARE NOT DEPRESSED. It’s perfectly reasonable to be upset in your situation. But you are anxious. So an anti-anxiety pill will help you sleep.” ( :42)

“Eight days later he wrote back, “Thanks! Guess what? I paid the rent. I’m still alive.”” ( :42)




“How did he publish his book? He didn’t need a publisher to choose him. He didn’t need an editor to say, “It has to be 200 pages.” He didn’t need a marketing expert to put it in a few bookstores, where it would waste away. The same way he chose himself to LIVE (by forming his own personal Daily Practice) he chose himself to write and, to this day, continues a pattern of choosing himself for success. His book went on to become a bestseller. And he did it all himself. Just like Tucker Max did. Just like I do, and did with this book. Here’s how you can do it:” ( :44)

“If a painful memory arises, don’t fight it or try to push it away—you’re in quicksand. Struggle reinforces pain. Instead, go to love. Love for yourself. Feel it. If you have to fake it, fine. It’ll become real eventually. Feel the love for yourself as the memory ebbs and flows. That will take the power away. And even more importantly, it will shift the wiring of the memory. Do it again and again. Love. Re-wire. Love. Re-wire. It’s your mind. You can do whatever you want.[…] The results are worth it. I wish that for you.” ( :46)




“Other people have found success after changing careers many times: Rodney Dangerfield didn’t succeed in comedy until his forties. One of the funniest guys ever, he was an aluminum siding salesman. And then he had to start his own comedy club, Dangerfield’s, in order to actually perform as a comedian. He chose himself to succeed! But not until his forties.” ( :48)

“Henry Miller wrote his first big novel, Tropic of Cancer, at age forty. Raymond Chandler, the most successful noir novelist of all time, wrote his first novel at age fifty-two. But he was young compared to Frank McCourt, who won the Pulitzer for his first novel, Angela’s Ashes, written when he was sixty-six. And, of course, Julia Child was a young fifty when she wrote her first cookbook.” ( :48)

“One of my favorite writers of all time, Stan Lee, created the entire universe for which he is known— the Marvel Universe—when he was forty-four, inventing Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and others along the way.” ( :48)

“Harry Bernstein was a total failure when he wrote his bestselling memoir, The Invisible Wall. His prior forty (forty!) novels had been rejected by publishers. When his memoir came out, he was ninetythree years old. A quote from him: “If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book, God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.”” ( :48)

“eone asked on Quora, the Q&A website, recently, “I feel like a failure for being 27 and not knowing what I want to do in my life. What should I do?” My response was that when I was twenty-seven, I had yet to start a business, yet to ever fall in love, yet to write a book, yet to make a TV pilot, yet to fail at twenty businesses in a row, yet to run a hedge fund, VC fund, even become a chess master (which happened at age twenty-eight for me). Most important, I had yet to fail. But I failed so much in my thirties that I practically forgot I was a” ( :49)




“When I travel using AirBnb and Zipcar, I bring almost no luggage with me. I don’t need a computer or a tablet because phone sizes now are almost as big as mini-tablets. And anytime I need a computer, there’s usually a convenient FedEx Kinkos around from which I can use to write articles. All of the books I would want to read are on my “phablet” (my phone/tablet, which is the Galaxy Note II). Almost any work-related tools I need are stored within apps on my phone. The only thing I can’t do with the phone is write, but that’s where FedEx Kinkos comes in. And what else do I need? What else do I need, ever? Well, you might ask, what if you have a job?” ( :53)

“I’ll give you one example. A friend of mine created a database of all houses in the United States that are “rent to own.” In other words, they are for sale, but the owner is willing to rent the houses until the rent paid in equals the price he would’ve gotten for the house. How did he create the dataset? He basically looked at about a dozen other databases keeping track of all housing data and scraped specifically the rent-to-own houses off of them.” ( :53)

“So he solved a problem affecting a lot of people. He advertised on Google by buying keywords like rent to own. In order for someone to look at his database, they have to buy an annual subscription. Since people could potentially spend hundreds of thousands on the right house, they were willing to spend a few hundred on a subscription to his database, which he updates every day with new listings. Last month when I called him, he had made $300,000 from his database. I tried to call him the month before that, but I couldn’t reach him. He was on vacation in Greece. For the entire month.” ( :54)




“”Heheh. You tell that to a plumber who gets a call at 3 in the morning from some lawyer because the toilet in his guest room doesn’t work and now has to get up and clean someone’s pipes because they can’t take a shit without their shower filling up with shit water.” “What do you mean? How does that happen?” “Only so much can fit through pipes. And some things are not meant to go in pipes. People think they can do it themselves but there’s only so much Drano you can use if seventy condoms are clogging the pipes.”” ( :55)

“”Jesus, are people having that much sex?” “Heheh, I’m only speaking from experience.” ( :55)

“”It’s not as bad as I am making it sound. Every situation is a different problem, and I like solving problems. It makes me feel like a detective. And I’m very good at it. But let me tell you something. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I can’t wait to clean out some shit today.’ I’ve never heard any of my buddies who are plumbers say that. But what you learn is that you do the job and you try to make sure you are happy in other parts of your life so the job doesn’t get you down.” Inner balance. Inner health. I’m sick of people saying entrepreneurs have it tough. And, by the way, that includes me. I’ve written it plenty of times. I’m sick of me doing it. Here’s what I never wanted to do in my life: Be a plumber Work in a cubicle (although I did for many years) Be a temp staffer (although I was)” ( :56)

“I have never made one dime by traveling. And yet, I’ve traveled to most continents for business, cross country many times, meetings all over the place. No money from any of them.” ( :56)

“a. Your employees. I always have the philosophy that I want my employees to call home at the end of a hard day’s work and say, “Mommy, I have the best job on the planet. My boss is great and I can see myself ten years from now running my own business. I’m learning so much.” And you know what? Most of my ex-employees are running their own businesses now, too.” ( :57)

“a. Your employees. I always have the philosophy that I want my employees to call home at the end of a hard day’s work and say, “Mommy, I have the best job on the planet. My boss is great and I can see myself ten years from now running my own business. I’m learning so much.” And you know what? Most of my ex-employees are running their own businesses now, too. b. Your clients.” ( :57)

“I’ve had (I’m counting them in my head now) at least seven clients call me up asking me for bribes if I wanted more business. Did I pay? Of course I paid! I had employees to feed.” ( :57)

“To think I paid for a great steak dinner for six just so I could hear a pitch about a time machine and a device that makes black holes. I’m about to sue myself right now.” ( :57)

“MAKE A LOT OF MONEY. A lot of money. Let’s be real. That’s the main reason to be an entrepreneur. “But the economy?” someone might say. There is more money floating around than ever before. And a lot of that money is buried and hidden from you. Time to reach out and touch it. The stock market has a capitalization of several trillion dollars. There’s another $2 trillion in private equity funds. There’s $50 trillion in transactions in the global economy every year. If you make money, someone will buy your company. Or, even better, you’ll make so much money so fast you don’t have time to sell your company.” ( :58)

“If you have a product company, you come up with additional features to put on your product. Every day. Then you spec it out. Assign it to someone to do it. Put a time line on it, and check in every day until it’s done. Then you roll it out. See how people use it, tweak it. Build a fan base around it. It feels really good to see someone using what you made.” ( :58)

“BE AROUND LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE. In every business, I’ve loved meeting my competitors. The reality is there’s no such thing as competition. The world is big enough for two people in the same space. If it’s not, then you are in the wrong business. Your sector should be big enough for a hundred competitors. That’s great news. It means you’re probably going to make money.” ( :59)

“BE AN EXPERT. When you start a business and you have a service or product that is good enough for people to use over other similar products or services, then you are now an expert in your space. Even if you are new to the space, you’re an expert. I like that feeling. I like giving talks. I like writing about the areas that fascinate me. I like starting businesses or being involved in sectors of industry that fascinate me. Sometimes you shouldn’t be an expert and yet you still are.” ( :59)

“ONE LAST THING. I’ve discussed the reasons why this major paradigm shift is occurring. It’s not that the system is out to get you. Or the system is imploding. This is not a conspiracy theory about the government or capitalism or the “1 percent.” This is actually a great opportunity for people who can now navigate the rough surf that history is throwing up on our shores.” ( :59)

“By the way, this is not just an opinion. We can look at one simple profession: the law.” ( :60)

“Lawyers are ranked number one in average pay. They are also ranked as the number-one profession for the percentage of people in that profession who are clinically depressed. Of course, money can solve a lot of your temporal problems, and your worries in the material world. But it tends to magnify the big internal ones as well, the bad qualities.” ( :61)

“where you can put big chunks of money away. Some people will say, “Well, I’m just not an entrepreneur.” This is not true. Everyone is an entrepreneur. The only skills you need to be an entrepreneur are the ability to fail, to have ideas, to sell those ideas, to execute on them, and to be persistent so even as you fail you learn and move onto the next adventure.” ( :62)

“”I’m too old.” “I’m not creative.” “I need the insurance.” “I have to raise my kids.” I was at a party once. A stunningly beautiful woman came up to me and said, “James, how are you!?” WHAT? Who are you? I said, “Hey! I’m doing well.” But I had no idea who I was talking to. Why would this woman be talking to me? I was too ugly. It took me a few minutes of fake conversation to figure out who she was. It turns out she was the frumpish-looking woman who had been fired six months earlier from the job we were at.” ( :62)

“”But it’s radioactive out there!” was just there to keep him down. [By the way, I’ve” ( :62)

“mentioned this example to people before and they usually reply, “Uh, that wasn’t in the movie.” Okay, you’re right. Read the book!]” ( :63)

“And to that I answer, “Okay, I agree with you.” Who am I to argue? If someone insists they need to be in prison even though the door is unlocked, then I am not going to argue. They are free to stay in prison.” ( :63)




“”I really disliked my job,” he said, “and I never believed in the idea of getting a fixed wage. I had” ( :64)

“been a salesman before in the credit card processing business where I would go out and get merchants like restaurants and retailers to switch their business to the company I was selling for. So I figured I could do this but work for myself instead of another company.” Rule #1: Take out the middleman.” ( :65)

“Bryan found ten customers (out of the first 12 he approached) who would switch their credit card processing to him. He figured he needed to make $2100 a month to quit his job. With his first ten customers he was making $6200 a month, so he had a cushion in case some dropped away. He quit his job and suddenly he was in business.” ( :65)

“In 2011, after four years in business, Braintree took in its first dime of investment capital–$34 million in a Series A funding round. Two years later, according to Crunchbase, they process over $8 billion in credit card transactions annually. Not bad for someone who quit his job and just wanted to figure out a way to get his bills paid. So what does this mean for you?” ( :66)

“C) Write a book. I have never made $1 million writing a book. But I have a number of friends who have made millions writing books or information products of some sort. This is a tricky area, so the key here is that you have to be legit. Don’t write a book on a subject you know nothing about. Then you’re just like one of those BS e-mail spammers, except a hundred times worse because what they do in six hundred words you do in sixty thousand. Instead, partner with someone who knows something and write about what they did. D) Write a book, part II. Actually, I lied. I just realized I have made $1 million writing a book. My very first book Trade Like a Hedge Fund. The book itself didn’t make me that much—maybe $50,000, give or take—but in 2004, I started getting speaking engagements with companies like Fidelity, Schwab, Profunds. A few other institutions would pay up to $20,000 per talk. I’ve probably given well over a hundred talks based on that book over the past nine years. Plus I’ve written articles for them and had other opportunities because of that book. Remember: when you write a book, it’s not all about book sales. Books give you credibility in your area of expertise or interest. Credibility gets you:” ( :68)

“Rent-to-own. I am forever against buying houses but, for better or worse, some people want to own homes. Who am I to stop them? Since 2008, many of these people can no longer afford to buy a home. Banks refuse to give out loans. Remember my friend from “How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found,” who bought up all the homes databases and built his own rent-to-own homes database? He charges a subscription fee for the database. And guess what? People subscribe to it. So much so that he’s expanded his rent-to-own model. He just launched a rent-to-own laptop product. He bulk buys the laptops for $200 apiece and rents-toown them out for $20 a week for a year. BAM! Huge margins. He started just a few months ago. He’s bringing in $300,000 a month now, and can sell his business for at least several million dollars pretty much any time he wants. And, by the way, he didn’t go to college.” ( :69)

“Last year, my friend from Miami (the one with the mansion) made several million dollars in his business. A few years ago, he was broke, living in his parents’ basement. He was overweight and unhealthy. He was in a bad relationship. And his ideas were stale, left over from the last time he made a million (which he of course then lost). What changed?” ( :70)

“That’s all you have to do. Want to take it further? Surrender to the fact that you can’t control ALL of the events in your life. Those people you hope to be grateful for probably aren’t going to do exactly what you want them to. All you can do is the preparation. The food will taste how it will. Finally, try to label your thoughts: “future” or “past.” If you can do that, you stand a pretty good chance of remaining in the present.” ( :71)




“Sara Blakely decided she had a problem. A big one. She wanted to look better when she wore panty hose. Specifically, she didn’t want the unsightly bulge that occurs at the end of panty hose underneath the skirt. She solved the problem by creating a seamless panty hose. You may have heard of it. It’s called Spanx, Sounds easy? Sounds trivial? It is. Even she will admit it. And now she’s worth $1 billion.” ( :72)

“It doesn’t cost much to make a billion. Sara started with $5,000. That’s it. She never took investors. She never borrowed money. Now her revenues are hundreds of millions a year. Facebook spent a few thousand to get to the point where they had 1 million users a day. Google hardly spent any money at first. Not that I’m in the billion-dollar league, but I can tell you that cost me less than $5,000 to build and was sold for $10 million a few months later. And the first company I sold cost less than $0 to build. We had profitable clients from day one.” ( :74)

“Build your product Sell it to a customer Start shipping Then quit your job.” ( :74)

“Ne ve r ask permission, ask for forgiveness later. Sara didn’t like how Spanx were being displayed at Neiman Marcus. So she bought samples of her own product at Target and displayed them right next to the cash register at Neiman Marcus. She knew innately that nobody would question her. Nobody questions anything if you have confidence, intelligence, and you are proud of your product. This is like the Stanley Milgram experiment mentioned in the chapter “And Then They All Laughed.” You just ASK for the subway seat and people give it to you.” ( :74)

“It’s not about the money. Sara had to tell her fiancé a few weeks before their wedding that Spanx wasn’t just selling a few million dollars’ worth a year but hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth a year. That’s a big difference, right? And it was only a few weeks before their wedding. As he put it in a later interview: “She said to me, ‘I’m not sure you really know how successful Spanx is—[and] I am.'” After she told him, her fiancé started crying. “I was just so happy for her.” He had already sold a successful, private-plane rentals company to Berkshire Hathaway and wasn’t doing badly himself. But it shows how little money played a role in how she defined herself.” ( :75)




“Re comme nd your competition. Think about it this way: what are two of the most popular sites on the Internet? Yahoo! and Google. What do they do? They just link to their competition, other websites. If you become a reliable source, then everyone comes back to you; if your knowledge has value, they can only get that by having access to you. They get access by buying your product or services.” ( :79)

“I didn’t enjoy writing finance articles. I’d write a finance article for some random finance site and then repost it on I had zero traffic. Then I decided to write articles I enjoyed. To get back to my true roots, where I loved writing and reading. I also wanted to really explore all of my failures, my miseries, and my pain. In public. I love being honest and intimate with people. I love building community. I love e-mailing with readers. It was about a little over a year ago that I decided to make the shift where I was just going to open the kimono at and say everything I wanted to say, and at the same time indulge in my love of writing, art, creativity, and reading. More than 4 million “customers” later, I’m enjoying more than ever doing what I love.” ( :80)




“Stephen King, in his book On Writing discusses an accident he once had that prevented him from writing for several weeks. When he started to write again he could feel the difference. He said how the words just weren’t connecting right. His writing muscle had atrophied. He needed to exercise it again in order to continue writing the nonstop, bestselling thrillers he’d been writing for thirty years. STEPHEN KING!” ( :81)

“To become an idea machine takes about six to twelve months of daily practice with the idea muscle. Below I discuss how to develop that practice. And again, this goes side by side with the other three “bodies.” You can’t develop the idea muscle if you’re suffering through a bad relationship, or an illness, or you lose your sense of gratitude and wonder toward the world around you.” ( :81)

“So I never thought about it again. I put up a fence around the idea and decided I would never be able to leap over that fence to execute on the idea. Now EVERY television channel is basically all reality all the time, or at least 50 percent of the time. My real problem was I didn’t have confidence.” ( :82)

“Note: what might be too big for you (thinking of the next step) might not be too big for someone else. They might easily know, and not be afraid of, what the next step is.” ( :82)

“Nothing. Not only that, airlines are a difficult business. Three of the best investors in history, Howard Hughes, Carl Icahn, and Warren Buffett, have crashed and burned buying airlines. Warren Buffett once said something like “The best way to make a million dollars is to start with a billion and buy an airline.” ( :82)

“Note the important thing: the day he came up with the idea, he also called Boeing and got a plane from them. Not only did he identify the next step, but he took it. For me, I would’ve convinced myself that the “next step” in starting an airline was probably too big for me. And then it definitely would’ve been too big for me. This is not quite the same as “the secret”—the idea that our thoughts can create our reality—but it’s close. Our thoughts can make our ideal reality possible. If you think you can do something, if you have confidence, if you have creativity (developed by building up your idea muscle), the big ideas become smaller and smaller. Until there is no idea too big. Nothing you can’t at least attempt. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you can’t—either way you are right.”” ( :83)

“I read a chapter from Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell, and also, to waste time, I played a game of chess online.” ( :83)

“By making sure the other parts of your life are in balance: you have no bad emotional situations/relationships happening or you are doing your best to stay disengaged from them. You are keeping physically healthy, limiting (or eliminating) alcohol, eating well, and sleeping well. And spiritually (a word I hate because of two hundred years of meaningless connotations that have been applied to it but I can’t think of a better word), you realize that you can’t control everything in your life, cultivating a sense of surrender to the present moment as opposed to time traveling to your regrets from the past and your fears of the future.” ( :84)

“Shaking things up makes the brain say, “What the hell just happened?” And while the conscious brain is confused, the subconscious slips in and drops off what it’s been working on while your conscious brain has been too busy. This is why so many people have ideas and “lightbulb” moments in the shower or when they are just about to fall asleep for a nap.” ( :85)




“Some of the results have been amazing. At one workshop, I asked people to come up with book titles, then combine their book titles with a partner and come up with a table of contents for the first book title on their combined list. I have yet to hear of a book from the people who went through this process that I didn’t instantly want to read.” ( :88)

“starts off communist but ends up libertarian. Basically, companies get incentivized to replace all humans with robots. The excess profits you get from firing people gets taxed at only half the rate. All of those “robot taxes” get put into a government fund that is used to subsidize the people who are fired (just like farmers are often paid subsidies not to farm).” ( :90)

“So let’s solve this and end a lot of misery. Take the brain scans of a thousand couples who are happily married after forty years. You know, the couples who say, “Well, we’ve had our problems but we’ve survived.” Get rid of them. NO PROBLEMS. They are out there. Just a thousand couples of the 2 billion couples on the planet. Now average the brain scans together. When you sign up for the brain dating service, you have to submit your brain scan. It averages your brain scan with the brain scans of all the women in the database. Then it matches the results against the database of one thousand happily married people. Whichever combination for you results in the closest match to those thousand brain scans, you get set up on a date with. Price: $10,000. The technology is there, people. Why aren’t you entrepreneurs on top of this already?” ( :91)




“A) Nobody is ever going to change his mind. For instance, if I say something like “kids shouldn’t go to college,” everyone either already agrees with me or disagrees with me. Very few minds will be changed no matter how correct I am (and I am correct). Here are some of my other opinions: buying a home is ALWAYS bad. Voting is stupid. Shakespeare is Boring. ZERO wars have been justified. Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana should be handed over to the Jews and they should move from Israel to the United States. There! Go argue with that one.” ( :93)

“Whenever some guy says something very hateful I imagine: what was it like the first time that person kissed his wife? Did a warm gush of chocolate fill his heart? Did he say to himself, “This second, I am the happiest man alive?” Did he have an erection? Did she kiss him softly on his lips and then his cheek and then his neck? And then, erection intact, did he log onto the Internet as “Guest” and post, “James Altucher is a fucking douchebag.”?” ( :94)

“Only worry about your own happiness, which doesn’t have to be limited by anyone else’s stupidity unless you allow it to be.” ( :94)

“I went to a trampoline place a few weeks ago. Little kids were running up to this slanted trampoline and doing flips. I wanted to do that. But I’m too old. Kids aren’t afraid of doing a flip and breaking their necks and then being paralyzed for life. But as soon as I’m in the air, all I can imagine is my neck snapped off from the rest of my body. Would I pay anything to return to that age when I still wet the bed but could do a flip on the trampoline? No. Never. That would be a waste of my time. But I love myself anyway.” ( :94)

“J) Bewildered. I like to try this exercise: every time I have a judgment about something, I change the punctuation at the end of the judgment from an exclamation point to a question mark. “She should do this!” becomes, “She should do this?” Or “Obama should legalize crack!” becomes “Obama should legalize crack?” And, dare I say it, “Nobody should go to elementary school anymore because it’s a brainwashing concentration camp posing as a glorified babysitting service!” becomes “Really?”” ( :95)




“The vagus nerve stretches from your brain to your stomach and hits every organ along the way (almost). It gets inflamed when your cortisol levels are too high for too long. The vagus nerve basically causes every disease known to mankind. High stress inflames it, as does bad food, smoking, etc. You get the drift.” ( :98)

“1) Oxytocin is released when you have an orgasm. For men, interestingly, it is only released when you have an orgasm with someone you love. 2) Oxytocin is released when a woman is in labor. It helps the cervix stretch so it’s in less pain. Women, that is. For men, when the female cervix starts to expand it’s the beginning of about nine years of agony.” ( :98)

“BEING TRUSTED. This is hard. You can’t force people to trust you. And trusting someone doesn’t release oxytocin. But being trusted does. So live your life in such a way that more and more people will trust you. Guess what: you will be viewed in a more charismatic way if people trust you than if people don’t trust you. Why not try this? How can you be more trusted? Oh my god, why so many questions today? My hands are already tired. I’m about 1,497 words already.” ( :99)




“The mediocre entrepreneur understands that persistence is not the self-help cliché “Keep going until you hit the finish line!” It’s “Keep failing until you accidentally no longer fail.” That’s persistence.” ( :103)

“The best ideas are when you take two older ideas that have nothing to do with each other, make them have sex with each other, and then build a business around the bastard, ugly child that results. The child who was so ugly nobody else wanted to touch it. Look at Facebook: combine the Internet with stalking. Amazing!” ( :103)

“And, by the way, it was about the fifth attempt at such a social network. Twitter: combine Internet with antiquated SMS protocols. Ugly! But it works. eBay: combine e-commerce with auctions. The song “I’ll Be There.” Combine Mariah Carey with Michael Jackson. If Justin Bieber sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” it would be a huge hit. I might even listen to it.” ( :103)

“So by the time I’ve decided to be close to someone—a client, an employee, an acquirer, an acquiree, a wife, etc.—I’ve already done a lot of the thinking about them. This means I can’t waste time thinking about other things, like how to put a rocket ship on Jupiter. But overall it’s worked. “I thought being mediocre is supposed to be bad?” one might think. Shouldn’t we strive for greatness? And the answer is, “Of course we should! But let’s not forget that nine out of ten motorists think they are ‘above average drivers.'” People overestimate themselves. Don’t let overestimation get in the way of becoming fabulously rich, or at least successful enough that you can have your freedom, feed your family, and enjoy other things in life. Being mediocre doesn’t mean you won’t change the world. It means being honest with yourself and the people around you. And being honest at every level is really the most effective habit of all if you want to have massive success.” ( :104)




“The manager asked me to put my demo CD into the computer and show him what I had. The only problem: his computer was running Windows. At that point I had never in my life used a Windows machine, only Macs and Unix. So I had no idea how to put the CD in there and get it running. He laughed me out of the room. I had a chess lesson afterwards. I couldn’t play at all. It was like I didn’t even know the rules. My instructor, a chess grandmaster, said, “What’s wrong with you today?” I was ashamed. And angry at myself. So my intelligence went way down—like 80 percent down.” ( :105)

“My worst-case scenarios have my children begging for food on the harsh streets of Bangalore. I’ve spent at least a year of my life, when you add it up, thinking of the worstcase scenario. Even though the worst-case scenario HAS NEVER HAPPENED. Or if it does happen, it was never as bad as I thought it would be. I have a scarcity complex. If I didn’t have that then I’d have an “abundance complex.”” ( :107)




“get that question a lot in my Twitter Q&A sessions: Why is it that you have to be dishonest to succeed in this world? And people don’t believe me when I say that’s not true. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Only honesty will succeed. They say back, “That has not been my experience.” Nobody asks: Do you have to be dishonest to succeed? People seem to know the answer already, and they want to know, structurally, why is this truth?” ( :109)

“But here’s the truth. Dishonesty works…until it doesn’t. Everyone messes up. And when you are dishonest, you are given only one chance and then it’s over. You’re out of the game—at least until you get your act straight and you have to start from scratch with your tail between your legs.” ( :110)

“BE THE SOURCE. “But if I give ideas for free, what if they could’ve made a billion dollars? I always get screwed by my partners.” If you are the source of ideas, then you are ALWAYS the source. Forget the losers who steal. Move on. You become THE fountain of ideas. People come to the fountain and make wishes and throw money in. Don’t be a trickle of dirty water. Be the fountain and let people know it by giving away all credit and rewards.” ( :110)

“Then Google is completely honest. They come back right away and say, “We know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about motorcycles BUT if you go to these ten or so websites, we think these are the best sites where you can find out about motorcycles.”” ( :111)

“”A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” — Gandhi” ( :112)

“Acknowledge even the smallest accomplishments of the people around you. Bring more and more of the people around you into the 20 percent. At heart, everyone wants to be perceived as special. That’s because everyone is special but are often never acknowledged that way. Be different. Be aware of the smallest movements around you and acknowledge them. Nobody will forget that.” ( :113)

“Ten years later I ran into the employee who became CEO of that spinoff company. He ran after me and called my name. It was in Times Square in New York. We hadn’t spoken in almost ten years. His company had greatly expanded. They had taken in major investors, and the company was now profitable and had lots of employees. He told me that when he walked the floor, he always pictured two people as his role models: his commander in the Israeli Army. And me. I felt really honored. He had greatly helped me when I was building my business. And now it was an honor for me to help him back in that way. I don’t ever have to benefit off of his business. But his business is helping many people now and, in its own way, that creates abundance for me. The abundance can never stop when you help others.” ( :113)




“I wish I had been smarter when I was twenty-three years old. I did everything wrong: I felt like I needed a college degree. I felt like I needed a graduate degree (I was ultimately thrown out of graduate school). I felt like I needed a publishing company to “choose me” to be a writer. I felt like I needed a big corporation to hire me so I could validate that I was smart, that it was okay for me to be successful. I needed none of these things. You need none of these things.” ( :115)

“Alex Day is a perfect example. If you’ve never heard of Alex Day, that’s okay. Most people haven’t. But enough have. And they LOVE him. Alex is a twenty-three-year-old musician from England. Since 2009, when he was nineteen, he’s released three studio albums, had three UK Top40 hits, and accrued 100-plus million views on his YouTube channel. He did all of it with no record label and mostly just the support of his YouTube fans. His third, most recent album came out in the UK the same day as Justin Timberlake’s long-awaited, much-discussed 20/20 Experience album (his third, also). Here’s the result:” ( :115)

“So a ten-year-old kid who liked my stuff told his dad he should work with me. The dad was with distribution with Universal. So I did a one-off distribution deal with Universal where I did everything but they got me in every HMV. It was great. Nobody said I could sell physical CD singles but I sold ten thousand in the UK. Lesson Number Three: Everyone will say you CAN’T. Especially when you’re young, but if you pick and choose how to work with the entrenched system, you CAN.” ( :118)




“Years ago I read an interview with Gabrielle Reese where she was asked how she deals with the pressures of being a pro athlete, SI model, mother and wife of Surf God Laird Hamilton. She said, “In life, you will always have 30 percent of people who love you, 30 percent who hate you and 30 percent who couldn’t care less.” When I heard that, my entire worldview changed.” ( :123)




“Also, I try to cultivate friendships the way Superman cultivates friendships. He doesn’t hang out at the bar with Lex Luthor. Superman is only friends with the Superfriends: the Flash. Black Canary. Wonder Woman. Batman. They all have secret identities. They all see a world totally out of balance. They all have powers they use for good, and which they use to bring balance back to the world. All of my friends are superheroes, too. Each one of my friends has a different power. But they are all amazing powers and I’m blessed when I see those powers in action. And once someone joins the bad guys, they are no longer my friend. I’m busy saving lives. I don’t need bad friends.” ( :126)




“Five lessons from this:” ( :128)

“1. Nobody can tell you what to do.” ( :128)

“It is through silence that sound, activity, and action erupts.” ( :128)

“Or when someone asks me a question on my Twitter Q&As (held every Thursday between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. Eastern), I don’t say anything unless I have personally experienced or seen the advice I am recommending. 4. Sugar is bad. And since most processed” ( :128)

“5. Nothing is more important than the cultivation of yourself. So many people think they will save the world if they defeat “them,” where “them” is some evil force that is bringing the world” ( :128)

“down. But once you divide the world into categories, into an “us” versus “them,” then you immediately become a “them” and lose touch with who you really are. And before long you’re calling me a fucking douchebag on the Internet.” ( :129)




“Try this exercise: pretend everyone was sent to this planet to teach you. Famous people, dead people, your neighbors, your relatives, your co-workers. This will give you a strong feeling of humility. And guess what, you will learn from people, you will appreciate them more, and they will actually appreciate you more. Because everyone loves to teach.” ( :130)

“Allen puts out a new movie every year or two. None of them will compete with Star Wars or Harry Potter in terms of gross dollars. But that doesn’t seem to bother his studio. They give him $10 million, his movie makes $20 million, everyone is happy, and he gets to keep doing what he’s doing.” ( :130)

“4. Productivity. To put out a movie every year or so, plus plays, magazine stories, and books, you would think Woody Allen works around the clock. In a 1980 interview, “If you work only three to five hours a day you become very productive. It’s the steadiness of it that counts. Getting to the typewriter every day is what makes productivity.”” ( :132)

“5. Avoid outside stimulus. These days, I make a huge mistake every day. I start off with the loop: email, Twitter, Facebook, my Amazon rank, my blog stats, my blog comments. Claudia asks me, “Did you finish the loop yet?” And I think it will only take a few seconds but it actually takes about twenty minutes. I probably do it ten times a day. That’s two hundred minutes! Three hours and twenty minutes! Ugh.” ( :132)

“Do you know where Allen was sitting when he won an Oscar for Annie Hall? In Michael’s Pub in Manhattan, playing his weekly jazz clarinet gig. Why get on a plane (eight hours, door to door), and go to a party where he would feel uncomfortable, to win an award he probably didn’t care much about (although it magnified his prestige in Hollywood, the city that paid his bills)?” ( :132)

“Wake up early. Avoid distractions. Work three to five hours a day and then enjoy the rest of the day. Be as perfectionist as you can, knowing that imperfection will still rule. Have the confidence to be magical and stretch the boundaries of your medium. Combine the tools of the medium itself with the message you want to convey. Don’t get stuck in the same rut—move forward, experiment, but with the confidence built up over experience. Change the rules but learn them first.” ( :134)




“I say it was a “concert” because people in the blocks around them quickly began to realize what was happening. People couldn’t believe it. You see office workers climbing out of windows and down ladders to get a better view. Women running up and down the streets to try and see better. An older man with a pipe climbing up a fire escape to stand on a rooftop and watch. After about ten minutes, the streets were crowded with people staring up at the roof of the building where the music was coming from. People on the ground couldn’t see the band but they knew it was them. The effect of the Beatles singing live shut down London for a half hour.” ( :135)

“hasn’t been done before, in a way that is potentially disruptive, playful, unique, and vulnerable. People will hate you, people will love you, people will climb on the rooftops to see you before the” ( :136)

“police arrest you. The Beatles passed the audition that one last time. Now it’s our turn.” ( :137)




“One time I tried to sell a company that I had started. The company didn’t have enough clients or enough revenues. And I was a bit inconsistent about the services we were offering that made us unique. There were about ten different areas I needed to improve and gradually I improved them all and sold the company a year later.” ( :139)

“ASK FOR ADVICE. Someone rejected you? Poor baby! Now, after your mourning is over, ask why. You’re going to be rejected all your life. In every way. It never hurts to understand why. Sometimes they will even tell you and, in those cases, it’s a guarantee that you will remember.” ( :140)

“The other day I read that 76 percent of the universe is comprised of “dark energy.” In other words, we have zero clues as to what it is. Another 20 percent is “dark matter,” i.e., matter that we have no clue about. Only 4 percent of the universe is actually made up of matter we understand. In other words, after Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg, and two thousand years of collective exploration of the universe and all its elements, we’ve basically failed. In fact, the more knowledge we get, the more we realize how badly we are failing. We used to think we had it down. But now even the Big Bang theory is in serious question. We just suck at understanding the world around us.” ( :140)

“see “The Curious Case of the Sexy Image”): a third will like you, a third will hate you, a third won’t care…no matter what you do.” ( :141)

“Don’t fall back into a story (“I always get rejected”) that is more fairy tale than reality.” ( :141)




“”How do you get past this?” Diversification is everything. You get past “this” by having lots of “that”s.” ( :142)

“Three funds I tried to start and couldn’t get off the ground. I tried to get someone to buy $1 billion worth of FB stock (before it went public) and failed I tried to get someone to sell $300,000 worth of Twitter stock and failed” ( :142)

“I tried to get a $1 billion dollar JV on an oil deal done I tried to buy 1 million barrels of oil for someone and failed three companies I invested in, I had to write off as zeros I’m waiting to hear today if a company I invested in gets funding or if they will depend on me to avoid going broke by the end of today. I sold a house I never lived in, and lost $800,000 on it. Just glad to get rid of it now. My oldest became a teenager (which turns out to be a much bigger loss for me than I realized it would be. I will never have those years back.). My mother accused me of killing my father and will no longer speak to me. Both my sisters no longer speak to me. I get nonstop hate mail. I got one today saying I was “too Jewish,” whatever that means. And over the weekend I got one from a Jewish guy saying I was a disgrace to Jews. So I don’t win either way. I got results back from testing my DNA. I have double the risk of everyone else of getting Alzheimer’s. Ditto for Parkinson’s. I told a friend I was going to write The APo4E Diet (Apo4e being the gene or chromosome or whatever for Alzheimer’s). She wrote back it would be a bestseller because everyone would forget if they had bought it already.” ( :143)

“Or even exclamation points. “Will I get over this?” becomes “It’s too late.” Becomes “I can’t get over this!”” ( :143)




“Next circle: what your center circle can turn into. A blog can turn into a book, or a show, or a consulting service, or a novel, or who knows? Keep thinking of it. A janitor can rise up to be CEO of a company. Make your brain sweat. A doctor’s job can turn into a business, a book, advice, a class, a mission. A secretary can turn into a boss, a company. What does your center circle evolve into if you stick with it over time?” ( :145)

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