The Roadmap to Reinventing Yourself – by James Altucher

The Roadmap To Reinventing Yourself - by James Altucher


What you are about to read are not my words. The text belongs entirely to James Altucher.

This is a good post for folks who want to switch careers or want to engage in a new entrepreneurial journey without having to quit their job (at first). It’s what my buddy Jan calls “building a business on the side”. It is ~3,000 words and it will take you ~15 – 20 minutes to read it.

James teaches you:

– about mentoring and the 3 types of mentors
– how to properly initiate the process of reinventing yourself
– how to gather the best people around you
– how not to care about naysayers
– how long will the entire journey last (~5 years)
– how much you will read, learn, and experiment (~500 books)

When most people hear that it can take ~5 years to achieve mastery on a certain subject, a process which also implies reading hundreds of books, they will quit. That’s why mastery and true success are only for a handful of people.

When I read the passages you’re about to read, I found them extremely valuable to be left unshared. I want to spread the word out as much as I can so that when one of these handful of people are in a roadblock, they will have something to hang-on to.

Since it’s not normal to use lengthy quotations I asked James for permission to post this long excerpt from his book. He kindly agreed and for that I am deeply grateful. The rest of the marbles are in his masterpiece The Power of No.

To show my respect for James, I did not copy-paste the text, insted I typed it word by word.

The Roadmap to Reinventing Yourself – by James Altucher

a) Reinvention never stops

Everyday you reinvent yourself. You’re always in motion. But you decide every day whether it’s forward or backward.

b) You start from scratch.

Every label you claim from before is just vanity. You were a doctor? You were Ivy League? You had millions? You had a family? Nobody cares.

You lost everything. You’re a zero. Don’t try to say you’re anything else.

c) You need a mentor.

Or you’ll sink to the bottom. Someone has to show you how to move and breathe. But don’t worry about finding a mentor (see below).

d) There are three types of mentors.

Direct: Someone who is in front of you who will show you how he or she did it. What is “it”? Wait.

Indirect: Books. Movies.

You can outsource 90 percent of mentorship to books and other materials. Two hundred to 500 books equals one good mentor. People ask us, “What is a good book to read?” and we never know the answer. There are 200 to 500 good books to read.

Start with one, follow the recommendations for further reading in the back of that book, keep going, and add different topics – self-help, inspirational, individual to your area of work, and so on. Whatever your beliefs may be, follow your passions and see where they lead you. Underline them through reading every day. Note the passages that really stand out for you.

Everything is a mentor: If you are at zero in every way, whatever your personal zero may be, and have the passion for reinvention, everything you look at will be a metaphor for what you want to do. The tree you see, with roots you don’t see and underground water that feeds it: it’s all a metaphor for computer programming if you connect the dots. And wherever you look, you will connect the dots.

e) Don’t worry if you don’t have a passion for anything.

Do what you do with love, whatever that might be for today, and success will naturally follow.

f) Get your idea muscle in shape.

Take baby steps. At first, write just ten ideas a day. They can be bad. For example, ten things I like: ice cream, strawberries, cake, sleep, light, silence … you get the point. Do not worry. Write the ideas. Do it every day. The muscle will grow. Then write 20, then 100.

Some people tell us, “I can’t. I just can’t. I just have four or five ideas and then nothing else.”

Our response is “Okay, you don’t need to come up with ten ideas. You need to come up with twenty ideas!” You need to learn how to come up with bad ideas. The idea muscle grows stronger with repetition.

Then the ideas start to get better. Then the ideas flow. Then the idea muscle will turn into a machine. Then you will see the world for what it is: an ocean of creativity where everyone is clinging to the bottom, afraid to let go and float.

But you, my friend – your eyes are wide open.

You let go. And the ocean takes you home.

g) Time it takes to reinvent yourself: five years.

Here’s a description of the five years:

Year One: You’re flailing and reading everything and just starting to do.

Year Two: You know who you need to talk to and network with. You’re doing every day. You finally know what the Monopoly board looks like in your new endeavors.

Year Three: You’re good enough to start making money. It might not be a living yet.

Year Four: You’re making a good living, and you can quit your day job.

Year Five: You’re making wealth.

Sometimes you get frustrated in years one through four. You say, “Why isn’t it happening yet?” That’s okay. Just keep going. Or stop and pick a new field.

h) Patience is key.

If your reinvention is faster or slower than five years, you are doing something wrong.

i) It’s not about money, but money is a decent measuring stick.

When people say, “It’s not about the money,” they should make sure they have a different measuring stick.

“What about just doing what you love?” There will be many days when you don’t love what you are doing. If you are doing it just for love, it will take much longer than five years. Often, we fall in love with what we are succeeding at. It’s unclear if love comes first. Sometimes it’s a back-and-forth, like any new relationship.

Happiness is just a positive perception by your brain. Some days you will be unhappy. Your brain is a tool you use. It’s not who you are.

j) When can I say to the world: “I do X!” where X is my new career?


k) When can I start doing X?


If you want to paint, then sit in front of the canvas today and paint. Start buying 500 books, or get them from the public library, one at a time, and reading them. Learn a little every day, and keep painting.

If you want to write these three things: Read. Write. Take your favorite story by your favorite author and type it word for word. Ask yourself why he wrote each word. He’s your mentor today.

If you want to start a business, write all these specs and details of the idea for your business. Reinvention starts today. Every day.

l) How do I make money?

By Year Three you’ve put in 5,000 to 7,000 hours of work. That’s good enough to be in the top 200 to 300 people in the world in anything. The top 200 in almost any field make a living.

By Year Three you will know how to make money. By Year Four you will scale that up and make a living. Some people stop at Year Four.

By Year Five you’re in the top 30 to 50 so you can make wealth.

m) What is “it”? How do I know what I should do?

Whatever area you feel like reading 500 books about. Go to the bookstore or to the library and find it. If you get bored three months later, go back to the library.

It’s okay to get disillusioned. That’s what failure is about. Success is better than failure, but the biggest lessons are found in failure.

Very important: There’s no rush. You will reinvent yourself many times in an interesting life. You will fail to reinvent many times also.

n) Many reinventions make your life a book of stories instead of a textbook.

Some people want the story of their life to be a textbook. For better or worse, most of us are books of stories.

The choices you make today will be in your biography tomorrow. Make interesting choices and you will have an interesting biography.

o) The choices you make today will be in your biology tomorrow.

Beware of anger – it causes dis-ease. If you encounter anger along the way, it means something got stuck within you. Sit in silence with the feeling; let it pass through you so you can remain open and ready to continue your reinvention journey.

p) What if I like something obscure? Like biblical archeology or 11th-century warfare?

Repeat all of the steps above and in Year Five you will make wealth. We have no idea how. Don’t look to find the end of the road when you are still at the very first step. Just walk the first one. Release the need to know how it will all happen.

q) What if my family wants me to be an accountant?

How many years of your life did you promise your family? Ten years? Your whole life? Then wait until the next life. The good thing is: you get to choose.

Choose freedom over family. Freedom over preconceptions. Freedom over government. Freedom over people pleasing. Then you will be pleased.

r) My mentor wants me to do it his way.

That’s fine. Learn his way. Then do it your way. With respect.

Hopefully nobody has a gun to your head. If they do, you have to do it their way until the gun is put down.

s) My spouse is worried about who will support/take care of the kids.

You will. After your work 16 hours a day, seven days a week in a job you don’t like, use your spare time to reinvent.

Someone who is reinventing always has spare time. Part of reinvention is collecting little bits and pieces of time and carving them the way you want them to be. That is the Power of No in action: you say no to the superfluous distractions because you must find time for you.

t) What if my friends think I’m crazy?

What friends?

u) What if I want to be an astronaut?

That’s no reinvention; that’s a specific job. If you like “outer space,” there are many careers. Maybe Richard Branson wanted to be an astronaut. Then he started Virgin Galactic.

v) What if I like to go out drinking and partying?

Read this book again in a year.

w) What if I’m busy cheating on my husband or wife or betraying a partner?

Read this book again in two or three years when you are broke and jobless and nobody likes you.

x) What if I have no skills at all?

Read “B” again.

y) What if I have no degree or I have a useless degree?

Read “B” again.

z) What if I have to focus on paying down my debt and mortgage?

Read “S” again.

aa) How come I always feel like I’m on the outside looking in?

Albert Einstein was on the outside looking in. Nobody in the establishment would even hire him.

The highest form of creativity is born out of skepticism. Einstein didn’t blindly follow the path of the time; he made his own.

bb) I can’t read 500 books. What one book should I read for inspiration?

Give up.

cc) What if I’m too sick to reinvent?

Reinvention will boost every healthy chemical in your body: serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin. Keep moving forward and you might not get healthy but you will get healthier. Don’t use health as an excuse.

Or reinvent your health first. Sleep more hours. Eat better. Exercise. These are key steps in reinvention.

dd) What if my last partner screwed me and I’m still suing him?

Stop litigating and never think about him again. Half the problem was you, not him.

ee) What if I’m going to jail?

Perfect. Reread “B”. Read a lot of books in jail.

ff) What if I’m shy?

Make your weakness your strengths. Introverts listen better, focus better, and have ways of being more endearing.

gg) What if I can’t wait five years?

If you plan on being alive in five years, you might as well start today.

hh) How should I network?

Make concentric circles. You’re at the middle.

The next circle is friends and family.

The next circle is online communities.

The circle after that is meet-ups and coffees.

The circle after that is conferences and thought leaders.

The circle after that is mentors.

The circle after that is customers and wealth creators.

Start making your way through the circles.

ii) What happens when I have ego about what I will do?

In 6 to 12 months you’ll be back at “B”.

jj) What if I’m passionate about two things and I can’t decide?

Combine them and you’ll be the best in the world at the combination.

kk) What if I’m so excited I want to teach what I’m learning?

Start teaching on YouTube. Start with an audience of one and see if it builds up.

ll) What if I want to make money while I sleep?

In Year Four, start outsourcing what you do.

mm) How do I meet mentors and thought leaders?

Once you have enough knowledge (after 100 to 200 books), write down ten ideas for 20 different potential mentors.

None of them will respond. Write down ten more ideas for 20 new mentors. Repeat every week.

Put together a newsletter for everyone who doesn’t respond. Keep repeating until someone responds. Blog about your learning efforts. Build community around you being an expert.

nn) What if I can’t come up with ideas?

Then keep practicing coming up with ideas. The idea muscle atrophies. You have to build it up.

It’s hard for James to touch his toes if he hasn’t been doing it every day. He has to try every day for a while before he can easily touch his toes (good thing Claudia is his yoga teacher). Don’t expect to come up with good ideas on day one.

oo) What else should I read?

After books, you can read websites, forums, magazines. But most of that is garbage. Start with 500 books.

pp) What if I do everything you say but it still doesn’t seem like it’s working?

It will work. Just wait. Keep reinventing every day.

Don’t try to find the end of the road. You can’t see it in the fog. But you can see the next step and you do know if you take that next step eventually you will get to the end of the road.

qq) What if I get depressed?

Sit in silence for one hour a day. You need to get back to your core.

If you think this sounds stupid, don’t do it. Stay depressed.

rr) What if I don’t have time to sit in silence for one hour a day?

Then sit in silence for two hours a day. This is not meditation. This is just sitting.

ss) What if I get scared?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, break it down. Sleep for eight to nine hours a night and never gossip. Sleep is the number-one key to successful health. It’s not the only key; it’s just number one. Some people write to me and say, “I only need four hours of sleep” or “In my country sleeping means laziness.” Well, those people will fail and die young.

What about gossip? The brain biologically wants to have 150 friends. Then when you are with one of your friends, you can gossip about any of the other 149. If you don’t have 150 friends, the brain wants to read gossip magazines until it thinks it has 150 friends.

Don’t be as stupid as your brain.

tt) What if I keep feeling like nothing ever works out for me?

Spend ten minutes a day practicing gratitude. Don’t suppress the fear. Notice the anger.

But also allow yourself to be grateful for the things you have. Anger is never inspiring but gratitude is. Gratitude is the bridge between your world and the parallel universe where all creative ideas live.

uu) What if I have to deal with personal BS all the time?

Find new people to be around.

Someone who is reinventing herself will constantly find people to try to bring her down. The brain is scared of reinvention because it might not be safe.

Biologically, the brain wants you to be safe, and reinvention is a risk. So it will throw people in your path who will try to stop you.

Learn how to say no.

vv) What if I’m happy at my cubicle job?

 Good luck.

ww) Why should I trust you – you’ve failed so many times?

 Don’t trust us.

xx) Will you be my mentors?

You are reading this book. We are all reinventing our lives together. We are all learning to say yes.


If you’ve made it so far, I wanna tell you that my personal favorites are: d, f, g, j, k, l, m, q, t, v, bb, ff, hh, jj, rr, ss, and tt.

I know these words have already helped me and I will keep reading them at least once a week for an indefinite period of time.

What are your personal favorite(s)?

Photo: here

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8 Responses to The Roadmap to Reinventing Yourself – by James Altucher

  1. Gary Crouse says:

    I am familiar with Altucher from his articles and postings on various business websites I read. His musings are usually pithy and thoughtful as this is.

    • Chris Chris says:

      He posts on various big websites. I believe his last post was on Richard Branson’
      He also posts them on facebook. I personally enjoyed both of his latest books tremendously. Have you read any of them Gary?

  2. Barry Kort says:

    On Facebook, you wrote, “I can’t read 500 books. What one book should I read for inspiration?”

    It depends on your goals.

    What is your goal?

    In the meantime, see “The Calculus of Ideas” …

    • Chris Chris says:

      Barry, one of my personal goals is to become more knowledgeable in my field so that I can help others as well. What is yours?

      • Barry Kort says:

        Mine is similar: To gain Insight.

        In particular, I would like to gain some insight into two similar (but distinct) issues.

        First, I would like to gain some insight in how to deal with individuals who are manifesting the character traits of the so-called Dark Triad (a blend of Machiavellianism, Sociopathy, and Narcissism).

        See “Compassion Conundrum” ~

        Second, I would like to gain some insight on how our culture might address and solve the interrelated systemic problems of conflict, violence, oppression, injustice, corruption, poverty, ignorance, alienation, abuse, despair, suffering, and terrorism.

        My feeling is that we need to employ Systems Thinking to solve such systemic problems.

        See “Solving Systemic Problems Requires Systems Thinking” ~

        • Chris Chris says:

          “The ten most intractable plagues of western civilization” may as well be solved as AI (artificial intelligence) comes into play. We may need to leverage upon the use of technology to get to the bottom of them…I don’t think it’s long until we get there…

          What do you think Barry?

  3. Keith Weatherby II says:

    Out of curiosity what if your goal is to do something that requires many different skills and disciplines?

    For instance if I want to make a computer/video game I need to know programming, art, sound, music, writing, etc…

    I can become great a programming using the steps above, or a music composer, or whatever, but some goals will require a multitude of skills.

    • Chris Chris says:

      I think the number of skills you may want to develop is directly proportional with the number of years to become versed at those skills. more skills, more years. read Deep Work by Cal Newport, he’s good some practical advice on how to avoid shallowness and become very good at the skill of your choice.

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