Ugh, I’m disgusted with my brain. I see people walking down the street and there’s like this killer inside me providing running nasty commentary about each person. Do you do this also?
I have to stop myself often: “you don’t know this person who is randomly crossing the street. You can’t possibly know that he’s a cheating lying rich Hamptons-worshipping whoremongering obnoxious trust fund baby with a 17 year old mistress on the side who doesn’t wipe, who doesn’t wash, who would wish nothing better than to see you die”.
You can’t know that! So why do I think it? Most people crossing the street probably think that about me also. Who is that freak? Is he homeless? Why can’t he comb his hair? Why is his fly open? Is he a child molesting pervert?
Most people are pretty crappy. But not all. And even the ones who are no good and not worthy of your time need a system for you to use so YOU can be happier and leave this lecherous gossipy crack addict thats in your head on the road and kick him or her to the curb.
There are only four types of people. If you understand in advance how to deal with each of these four types you will be infinitely happier. Ultimately, interacting with the four types in the way I describe below will make one fit firmly into the first type, however difficult it is. That’s the goal. You don’t want to go through life unhappy.
There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.
In an earlier article on my blog I gave my own Daily Practice that has helped me out of every tough situation in my life for the past 15 years (when I’ve been disciplined enough to apply it).
It has 4 legs. Many of us focus in our daily lives on only one of the legs (Physical, Emotional, Mental, or Spiritual) but we need all the legs in balance to really sit down at the dinner table without falling.
The Practice works and brings one from the brink to success and then more success. I believe in it more than I’ve ever believed in any hocus-pocus anything ever.
But to develop the emotional leg of that practice takes a lot of work and I’ve written nothing on this. Probably because it’s the hardest. In my talks people ask about the Mental side, the idea muscle. But the Emotional side, equally as important, is much harder.
The key is to identify the FOUR types of people and discipline yourself on how you should approach these people.
The Four Types of People
#1 Happy. There are people who are genuinely happy in the world. Sure they have their suffering. Everyone does. But a lot of people really are pretty satisfied with their lives at this very moment.
A natural reflex (not for everyone, but certainly for some people) is to resent people for being happy. Who doesn’t do that some of the time? Raise your hand!
Let’s say someone lives in 20,000 square foot house in Connecticut, has a sexy wife (or sexy husband), and is genuinely happy. It’s hard not to resent such a person. This resentment will block the Daily Practice from having beneficial outcomes in your life. In 2002 when I was pitching hedge fund managers to invest money with me I often ran into the exact person described above. And their families. The sexy wives in short shorts. The hedge fund managers served gourmet meals for lunchtime by loving cooks.
You can’t fake resentment. You can’t put on a mask. If someone is at a costume ball, you can easily see they are wearing a mask. You have to genuinely be happy for these people.
It’s so hard to grab a single ounce of happiness in this world, please be happy for the ones who are happy today. Train your mind to be sincerely happy for their happiness. Catch your resentments and jealousies before they turn into monsters.
Carrie Fisher once said, “nobody wants to read about a good looking happy person”. She was making a commentary on comedy screenwriting and she’s probably right about that. But for you to go from success to success you must first be sincerely happy for the people who are happy around you. Like attracts. Picture all the people you might resent. Spend five minutes a day training your brain to be happy for them. You’ll die lonely in the jungle if you don’t do this and everyone will forget you ever existed.
#2 People in pain. I’ve been unhappy often. Particularly in the past decade. Sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes people die. I think the level of unhappiness and pain I’ve had in the past decade (versus prior decades) has taught me compassion towards others in a similar boat. Try to cultivate that compassion. It doesn’t mean you have to drain yourself to help those less fortunate.
But even showing compassion and doing what you can goes a long way. If you can share what you have, all the better. If you can give a word of advice, do it.
Unhappy person can easily turn into category #4 below. You always have to protect yourself first. Be compassionate but keep your boundaries. Your goal is your own peace of mind throughout the day, so you can focus on your own success. The fastest way to do that is show compassion to those less fortunate. What you give, comes back tenfold. Try this exercise: picture everyone in your life who is unhappy or in pain, spend five minutes picturing them in a happier state. This trains your mind.
#3 Good people. This is different from “Happy”. Good people don’t always have ulterior motives. Some people legitimately want to help others. There’s an initial impulse (at least with me) to suspect them. To resent them. Maybe even to envy them. I envy Bill Gates being able to donate $100 billion to charity. But the best thing for me is to catch myself doing that (almost a meditation in itself) and say, “this guy is good. I wish I could be as good as him. I hope I can help him in any way I can.” Be grateful for all the people good to you. Five minutes a day. Doesn’t have to be with incense burning and in the lotus position. On a bus, smile and think of the people you are grateful for.
And finally, the most important category of all. The category that wastes a quadrillion brain cycles a day around the world. What man can say he is Jesus and not fall prey to the ongoing anger and pain of dealing with this next category:
#4 Crappy people: People who will do you harm, no matter what you do, for no reason at all. They never will get it. They will say and do things to you and they will never ever understand how evil they are.
And you will hate them. HATE THEM. And they knock on the door of your brain at three in the morning and they want to yell at you. And you yell back. And they yell back. And on and on. All day. All afternoon. The ongoing conversation with the shittiest people in the world. They will torture you, kill you, and slit the thoughts out of your mind and not even care because they think they are doing the right thing.
You know who I’m talking about. Because you have a good 20 or 30 of these in your life just like I do. They might even be former friends, relatives, neighbors, bureaucrats, whatever, whoever, whenever. They swoop down on your life and are just plain crappy and they won’t even know it.
They won’t ever know who they are so there is no way to convince them. That’s the trap.
Sometimes, in a weak moment, I think to myself: What if I run into them again? How badly I will hurt and destroy them. Maybe just casually walk up to them and smash a glass over their head so their nose is broken, glasses broken on the floor, blood all over their face. Arm broken after I hold the elbow and stomp on it.
Similarly, I was talking to someone the other day who couldn’t stop talking about someone who had wronged her fourteen years ago. Stop! You are an idiot. And it’s boring already. It was your fault anyway!
This is the worst category. I’ll tell you one more anecdote. Two seconds ago someone posted a horrible comment on my blog. I won’t repeat it. Racist, mean, rude to me, whatever. I deleted the post, blocked the user, blocked his IP address. And then I was going to send him an email telling him what I thought of him. I was angry. Then I stopped myself. You have to stop yourself.
There is only ONE only way to deal with these people in a way that will make you happier instead of sadder. ONE WAY. And it always works. This is the most important part of the Emotional leg of the Daily Practice. COMPLETELY IGNORE THE EVIL PEOPLE:
- Completely ignore them.
- Don’t think about them.
- Don’t talk to them.
- Don’t write them.
- Most important: Don’t give them advice. They will NEVER listen to your advice. It’s arrogant and stupid to think they will. It will only lead to more cycles of pain for you. The goal for me is to stop all cycles that cause me any pain at all. Giving advice to crappy people will only result in more pain for you. That’s the only possible result. Much better to be happy than to flush knotted up brown advice down a toilet that caused you agony to push out. This is hard.
- Most important: Never gossip about them behind their backs. Just completely disregard. We don’t care about their happiness or how evil they are. We only care about you. Its hard to do. Never ever talk about them behind their backs. Repeat this 500 times. This is hard also. Because it’s an addiction.
This isn’t easy. It’s a daily discipline. Much easier to do a 1000 pushups. I had an article recently on the Wall St Journal site that had 971 comments. No exaggeration when I say 950 of the smartest anonymous trolls on the internet called me an idiot moron and worse. I ignored all the comments. Great. I could care less. I was the winner there.
Then I put another article up on a supposedly peaceful site about Buddhism and yoga, the Elephant Journal. Great site. I post there regularly. The topic of my post was that 18 year olds should basically not be sent into war. I like peace. Better to send 40 year olds. They are closer to death anyway. The most hateful responses popped up. People comparing me to Hitler. I was so shocked I wasted one whole night until 2 in the morning responding to these people but ignoring the many emails I get that genuinely support me and that I want to be friends with. Why did I do that? I wanted my haters to like me. I wanted them to agree with me and love me. Its like putting a gun to your head and saying, “unless you do what I say, I will kill myself”. You’re going to end up firing that gun.
I lost my discipline for a whole night and then I slept late and it took at least 36 hours to get back on track. What a waste. For nothing! Its hard to keep up this practice. But you fail and die unhappy if you don’t.
And did I win a trophy for doing this? Was it a huge trophy made of gold? For responding to all of those comments? Did everyone/anyone write back and say, “you’re right. I’m sorry. Now I LOVE you! Let’s all be lovers!” Of course not! They just want to fight. I got in the mud with pigs. I got dirty.
If someone says, “what do you think of so-and-so”, your worst enemy, you say back, “So-and-so who?” And that’s it. No explanation. Nothing more. “So and so who?” Change subject right then. This is the emotional leg of the Daily Practice and must be balanced with the other three legs. Any deviation will set you back. Any addiction to the opposite of the above behaviors will eat you alive like cockroaches feasting on your heart. Have a good night.
James Altucher is a hedge fund manager, entrepreneur and bestselling author. He has founded or co-founded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. He has written 11 books and for The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, Forbes and TechCrunch.