What is Your Philosophy of Life? What is Sacred to You? Here is Mine

“One day, I was in solitary confinement and then just a few years later, I was having dinner with the President.”

I listened. Tommy told me his story. Being set up. Going to jail. Not “ratting out” another person in exchange for an easy prison stay.

Then being head of security for the Vice President of the United States.

“They put me in the room with the murderers I had put in prison. I was going to die.”

I listened. I paid attention.

“It’s a curse,” he said, after 20 years of being in law enforcement. “I walk in a room and I can see everything about everyone in the room.”

“And he never stops,” his wife said, “He is obsessed with always being aware.”

Tommy looked past us, at the other people picking up their jackets at the end of an evening. “Sometimes it’s a curse.”

“I knew that if I didn’t play pro-basketball I would end up packing bags at Wegmans,” said the 6’9″ guy in front of me.

“I’m totally ignorant,” I said, “but are you an athlete?”

I think the woman next to me choked on her food then. I was afraid she thought I was a racist.

“I played pro basketball for many years.”

“There’s a lot of 6’9″ players who bag groceries at Wegmans,” I said. “What makes you different.”

“I played every day, 10 hours a day when I was a kid. I played the same guy. I lost 1,500 games in a row. But I kept knocking on his door to play again. Other guys are weak.”

“What makes you different from Michael Jordan? Are you weak?” Everyone at the table stopped eating.

This guy’s hand was the size of a watermelon. He could’ve crushed me.

He laughed and gave an answer. I had more questions. I asked them.

I was talking to one of my favorite comedians in the world. He’s depressed. “It’s treatment resistant,” he told me.

“In the morning it’s the worst. I’m treatment resistant. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

I ran into him at 10 a.m. that day. He looked like he was about to cry.

“It gets better at night,” he said, “And then I can perform. But then I sleep and the clock starts over.”

He was barely speaking above a whisper. Millions watched his recent special in the past week. He was so funny I thought I was going to choke from laughing.

We dissected one of his bits. “You write the basic joke. And then you look at every word. Can you dissect it more? Can you go off on a tangent here and come up with a whole other joke before coming back to the original one? Analyze that with every word in the joke.”

When he talked about comedy, he seemed happy. He laughed, thinking about his joke.

I’m happy when I write well. I live for writing well. I’m an addict. If I can’t write well for two days then something is wrong with my life. If I can’t write well for three days then I cancel everything until I write.

It makes me happy. Many things make me happy. But every moment of the day is about writing for me. Nothing else. Not money. Not my career. Not my relationships. Not even my kids. Everything else comes in second.

Which sounds like a mental illness. Maybe it is. I love my kids. I will do anything for them. But first … be quiet until I write.

I don’t like the phrase, “what is your why.” I have a lot of whys. And I feel I have many passions.

I play games. I love learning. I like having coffee with a friend. I like thinking every day how to increase my freedom.

But under every thought is: How will this improve my writing? This is the only real consistent thing I enjoy doing in my life. If I stopped doing it, I’d die.

One time I wrote something privately about something intensely personal.

A friend of mine, Tucker Max, heard about it and said, “If you don’t publish this you will die.”

He got it.

Writing is my guiding philosophy of life. It’s not a passion or a purpose. It’s the way I live.

I think everyone, if they sit down and think about it, has a philosophy of life. Something they do that is sacred to them.

It may be in varying degrees. I don’t know. But it’s there.

Why I write:

A) It Makes My Day

From the moment I wake up, the moment I sleep, to how many hours of sleep I get, to how I eat, to the people I spend time with, to how I focus my creativity, to what I am grateful for — all exists so I can write better.

I’d like to think it’s to make me have higher levels of well-being. But if I’m honest, I’m happy when I write something well.

When I *drop mic* on something I write.

B) I Listen

Everyone has a story. I stopped a woman in an elevator. She had a red Mohawk and piercings. I asked if I could take her picture.

I thought she would be mean to me and say, “no.” I was the rude one anyway. But she was very sweet and said “yes” and posed.

I asked her where she was going. She said, “A wedding.”

I asked “for who.” And she told me. And then her door opened and she left.

Everywhere I look, I see a potential story. I’ve been doing that for 25 years. Now I see stories everywhere.

The world is a jigsaw puzzle with every story a piece in that puzzle.

And everyone wants to share a story. So I listen.

C) I’m Curious

I want to know why Coolio got lost in his addiction to coke. I want to know why the old man sitting at the table next to me is crying.

I want to know why you got separated from your husband. People always say, “It was amicable.” No it wasn’t. Don’t lie. Tell me. Please.

I get an itch in my brain. I want to scratch it. You don’t have to answer. But I hope you do. Else it will be unasked forever. It will be knowledge that disappears.

D) I Want Attention

Who doesn’t? Let’s be honest.

E) I Like to Play

Words are fun. Words are poetry. Words are rhythm, Words create entertainment. Nothing is more beautiful to me than two words that fit together better than they lay apart. Like a good marriage.

F) I Like to Think I Can Help

I write about what happens to me. I write about my curiosity. But if one person follows an idea and it helps them, then I am happy.

G) Words Are Freedom

Because I write, I think of ideas. Ideas lead to things I can sell. Writing helps me sell these things.

Writing, at first, is the branch-covered pathway that leads you out of the forest. It’s the way from lost to found.

Building the skill of writing is the way to clear out those branches. Without writing, I would have no career and no self-esteem and nothing.

People say, “You should visualize self-esteem and then you will have it.”

Maybe that works for them, but it doesn’t work for me.

H) Writing Builds Character

I have a problem. In fact, every day I have a problem. I feel it in my body. I explore what the problem is by writing about it.

It’s surgery. I open my heart up. Poke around. Find a cancer. Scrape it out with words. What’s really there. What am I feeling?

You have to be honest with yourself. Cancer doesn’t pretend. It’s there. You can only dig illness out with authenticity.

Don’t describe your feelings. Tell your story. This happened. This happened. This happened. Don’t even give me a description. No flowers or clouds. Just tell me BOOM BOOM BOOM.

I) I Love to Read

From the moment I wake up, everything is so I can write better. Part of that is reading. What I read. What will influence me today. What will I learn.

I read different types of things depending on what time it is. Fiction in the morning. Nonfiction at night. Random in the middle. Poetry scattered throughout the day.

Today I read from:

  • Raymond Carver’s collection of all his stories
  • Bukowski’s Factotum
  • Angela Duckworth’s Grit
  • Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game

Without reading, there is no writing. Because what respect do you have for your elders and your peers if you can’t read what they wrote?

J) It Makes Friends

I love my friends who write. I love them. I’ll be honest: I’ve had a good business year. But a bad relationship year. Horrible.

My friends who are writers, plus a few others I know through my writing, have saved my life.

“You have to get up every day and do it,” the pro basketball player told me. “It has to go through every aspect of your life.”

He shook his head, “I had one brother who died of AIDS. I had another in jail. I had to only look in one direction. And that was getting better at basketball.”

Basketball became what was sacred in his life.

He looked at me. “I lost 1,500 times in a row against my teacher. But I had heart. I came back every day for more. And then I won one game. I never lost again.”

He smiled, thinking about that moment 25 years earlier and how it defined everything ever since. That’s writing.

This article, What is Your Philosophy of Life? What is Sacred to You? Here is Mine, was originally published by James Altucher.

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Published: November 29, 2016

12 Responses to “What is Your Philosophy of Life? What is Sacred to You? Here is Mine”

  1. What a fascinating article! Why do I love to write? Many reasons. It makes me feel happy. It gives me a chance to play with words - which is a blast. It allows me to exercise a gift and feed a passion. And, when I'm on a roll, writing feels a lot like flying. :-)

    Guest (Deanna)

  2. Writing is healing. Sometimes it takes a while to get going, especially when fear and delay tend to sabotage my plans. But I agree there are stories all around. I've written my first book, started a blog. The key for me was notebooks and pens (blue ink). I have started writing more by hand; the words flow and I can scribble faster than I can type. I can later type and post. I also create space (non-physical)to practice what I intend to write about, a great source for me, and more appear.

    Guest (Allana Tang)

  3. Most of all, writing gives you a voice when no one is there to listen. It organizes thoughts and allows you to revise, reorganize and perfect those thoughts. It communicates with others when you are too shy or introverted to do it in public.

    Guest (Ellen)

  4. I love to write because it takes me out of every single problem, worry, mishap, all the oopsies and forgotten promises, failures ... everything but the words that sometimes only flow through my fingers. I'm consumed, flying on a cloud of endless words to choose from and finding the best place for each,they're friends of a sort, we ponder and agree or not ... but always satisfying in the end.

    Guest (Linda J)

  5. Hi, Will, I write because I can. I write because I get real pleasure out of expressing myself, especially turning a phrase in a way that catches attention -- like a cherry on top of whipped cream. I write to get close to people, to express joy and pain, to share, to make myself feel complete.

    Lynn Little

  6. I truly have a passion for writing and the gift of gab. When I was twelve I liked writing short stories. Most were fiction, but up to ten pages or more. I am currently running a blog site and on the side attempting to write my first book. It's my story. It's how I cheated on my husband and where I'm at today. I know that there are woman out there that will be able to relate, and hopefully find peace in my words. Thank you for your time.


  7. I didn't always love to write. I couldn't please my English teacher. I would fix one fault and my next essay would have a dozen other faults marked in red.
    Then I read "The Exam Secret". Writing is not about what my English teacher was marking.
    Next day my English essay shot me to the top of the class. I enjoyed writing so much I would take a word at random and write a half-hour article in my lunch hour. Including "nothing".
    I write 4-page Word document letters to my brother. I just love writing


  8. I really enjoyed this article, then looked up James Altucher and enjoyed watching his videos on how to quit your job. I followed his advice six weeks ago, and have never been happier! I've been writing stories and creative fiction since I was a little kid, even before elementary school. My imagination is always in overdrive, and I just finished getting through 40k words for the month of November. I see the world through a writer's eyes, like a photographer uses a camera or a painter their brush. It's artistic and amazing. I wouldn't want to do anything else. I love it so dearly.

    Guest (Meg North)

  9. My writing affords me the freedom to accomplish any goal I set regardless of the risks! I'm Bold, Real, & very fearless whilst writing. That enables me to keep going on during hard times. Unloading the pain & weight of a struggle on paper lightens the load of my soul temporarily while I'm waiting on an answer to my present dilemma! That's exhilarating!!!

    Guest (Terry L Burns)

  10. When I write, I enjoy expanding on ideas already there by either recreating what was said, or, creating a poem out it. I like to write what I believe, even if it's make believe, to help others see, what life can truly be. Right now I write just for fun, or for friends to help them express their ideas into written words...Your story is encouraging and lifts my soul to a place of confidence and willingness to explore writing for a living.

    Guest (Scotty Moore)

  11. This is my first time visiting this website. I would like to briefly share my thoughts and belief about writing.

    As a writer, I am a creator. The moment in time that I am writing is mine in which to be creative. I can inspire joy or sorrow, action or inaction, movement to lofty heights or to the brink of despair. My pen is like a magic wand. It can bring to life whatever atmosphere or situation that I can imagine.

    Guest (Helen Marie Fotovich)

  12. I loved the article. It reminded me of why writing is so important to me. Writing has always been freedom for me from the stress my life has mostly been. I got lost from it somewhere along the way, but I'm finding it again. That's why the article got me so. As an avid Sci-fi reader, I'd get lost in new worlds and wanted to create my own. My writing has always been a part of me. I'm hoping soon I'll start this writer's life, make money, and also make more to write about. Happy writing.

    Tamara Kratzer

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