Mentally Strong Person of the Week: James Altucher

The Entrepreneur, Author, and Podcast Host Who Talks Openly About His Struggles

James Altucher is the mentally strong person of the week.

Verywell / Julie Bang

In the “Mentally Strong Person of the Week” series, I’ll share wisdom from some of the favorite guests on my podcast, “Mentally Strong People.” I’ll explain the strategies they use to stay mentally strong and then give you my take (as a therapist) on how you can apply these strategies to your own life.

James Altucher is an entrepreneur, author, and host of the popular podcast, "The James Altucher Show." He's also a stand-up comedian. And while he’s successful by most people’s standards, his path to the top has been winding. There have been several times in his life where he’s gone broke and lost almost everything—including his home and his marriage. 

In 2016, Forbes called James “the most interesting man in the world.” At the time, he didn’t have a permanent place to live. He moved from Airbnb to Airbnb with just his laptop and a handful of possessions. One of the things that makes James so interesting is his willingness to talk openly about his mental health. He’s struggled with depression and anxiety. He was even suicidal at times. 

He sees a therapist—which he talks about quite often. And he also developed what he calls “the daily practice”—a set of strategies that he says saved his life. He continues learning more strategies for improving his life and he takes his readers and listeners along with him for the ride. He shares what’s working and what isn’t in his blog posts, podcast, and books.

James Altucher

You only have so much mental real estate. But if 99% of your brain is out already to the people you hate and who hate you, you’re not going to really achieve much in the world.

— James Altucher

James’ willingness to be vulnerable is one of the things that makes him a mentally strong person. He acknowledges that while he doesn’t have all the answers for what will help everyone, he shares what works for him. 

He shared some great strategies for creating positive change during our conversation on the Mentally Strong People podcast. Here are three of my favorite tips he shared and my take on how you can apply them to your own life.

Generate 10 ideas every day.

James carries a waiter’s pad around with him everywhere so he can jot down his ideas. And he makes it his mission to generate 10 ideas every single day.

James Altucher

You have to exercise and strengthen that idea muscle.

— James Altucher

With practice, he’s become better at solving problems and developing creative ideas. Not only could this be good for your career, but it could also be great for your mental health. Sometimes, he even sends tips to other people about how they could improve their business. He’s not not afraid to share his great ideas. 

My Take

Generating ideas everyday—whether you develop random business ideas or you come up with ways to improve the environment—improving your problem-solving skills may serve you well.

After all, problems can cause you to feel bad. Whether you’re struggling with debt, dealing with a relationship issue, or faced with conflict at work, the way you deal with those challenges makes a big difference. Knowing how to solve problems can empower you to take action. Taking positive action can prevent a lot of suffering in life.

Perform experiments. 

James talked a lot about the various experiments he tries in life. In fact, he wore pajamas during our interview—which was part of one of his experiments where he wore pajamas every day.

James Altucher

Most of the time when I want to try something new, I start off with experiments. There’s little to no downside in terms of money or time and huge, huge, huge potential upside.

— James Altucher

James acknowledges that many of his experiments fail—but he continues testing new ones all the time. This helps him learn about other people and himself. 

My Take

Behavioral experiments are often a big part of therapy. This is because many of the things you think probably aren’t true.

So someone with social anxiety might think, “No one is going to talk to me at this social event.” So rather than skip the event, they might conduct an experiment to see what happens if they introduce themselves to five people. 

This might help them see that their anxious thoughts aren’t always accurate. Experiments can help you test your self-limiting beliefs and negative predictions. This might help you discover that you’re stronger, more capable, and more competent than your brain gives you credit for.

Monitor your media consumption.

James talked a lot about how news stories get sensationalized. Journalists often create headlines that are meant to capture your attention—and quite often, their claims are overblown.

James makes it a priority to limit his news consumption. But during the pandemic, he collected facts and data to explain the science. He used his social media platforms to help people make sense of scary headlines.

James Altucher

It almost turns you into an angrier person by reading the news. 

— James Altucher

My Take

When you watch news stories about rare events—like a flesh eating bacteria five states away, or a shark attack on the other end of the country—you might think your chances of becoming a victim are a lot higher than they are. That’s why these events are newsworthy—they’re rare. If they happened all the time, they wouldn’t make the news. 

The news puts you in a heightened state of anxiety. Studies have found that it takes your body 20 minutes to calm down and return to its normal state after you watch the news. So imagine what happens to your body when you read news stories on your phone throughout the day.

So while it’s important to stay informed, it’s also important to set limits on how much media you consume. Only checking the news a few times each day and only reading news from reputable sources could be good for your psychological well-being.

To hear more of James' mental strength suggestions, listen to the full episode on my Mentally Strong People podcast. Each week, I’ll share another Mentally Strong Person and explain how their strategies can help you think, feel, and do your best in life.

Was this page helpful?