Self-Help Dictators, Stillness, and Altucher’s Book Club!

Kim Il-sung killed millions of people while supreme leader of North Korea for 50 years.

“People only get free from oppression through struggle.”–Kim Il-sung.

Kim Il-sung was the self-help, failure-porn motivational speaker of his time.

Anyone who disagreed with him was “disappeared.”

In the mid ’00s, I was getting a divorce and my latest business venture went to nothing.

What’s it like to be a “nothing”:

I hated myself. I had so many regrets. Is this what it feels like to have your world end? I thought on the first Thanksgiving alone, without my kids, with no family.

Finally, I gave up. I couldn’t take it. I was in so much pain.

At night I would grab my head. Stop! Why are there so many thoughts?

I became addicted to anti-anxiety pills. They were the only thing that worked for me. They slowed me down.

I could think again. I could think about today.

The best predictor of a successful tomorrow is a successful today.

A successful today meant: I was around people I loved who loved me. I would say yes to things I loved and no to things I didn’t. I would be curious and learn each day. I would be grateful and provide value without being asked. I would be creative each day.

I started to make my kids laugh again.

Five years go I was speaking to the author featured in this week’s book club, Ryan Holiday.

I told him, “You should start a marketing agency. Work hard at it for two or four years, get acquired, work another two or three years to help the buyer of your company, and then you can do whatever you want.”

He listened. For about two weeks.

And then he moved to a farm in Austin, he got a goat, got married, had a kid, and started writing the books that made him famous.

“I didn’t want to deal with clients I hated,” he later told me, “and struggle for all those years. I just wanted to write books.”

Ryan and I once debated the question: Is there anybody worthy of envy?

Ryan asked me, “Picture someone you are envious of. Would you want to trade places with them? To take ALL of their life, not just the parts you are envious of?”

We both tried to think of someone. Nobody.

Conversations like this make it a pleasure to recommend his latest book in today’s book club.

What makes someone authentic, calm, happy? And does that lead to success?

One quote from the book: “To have an impulse and to resist it, to sit with it and examine it, to let it pass by—this is how we develop spiritual strength. This is how we become who we want to be in the world.”

He tells stories from his own life, from 100s of historical lives, and shares inspiration from every story he’s been inspired by.

Struggle didn’t shape me. Learning to be calm, after 20 years of stress, did.

Learning to breathe.

Don’t listen to the self-help gurus who get their inspiration from dictators.

List what makes you happy. Today. Do those things more.

You’ll get what you’ve always gotten if you go where you’ve always been going.


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