10 Things I Learned
About 15 years ago I read “Awaken The Giant Within” and it
saved my life. For years afterwards whenever I was in a
bookstore I’d check to see if Tony had a new book out
because it had been so long.
Well after 25 years his newest book “Money” is ﬁnally being
released and he invited me to come to his home to interview
him about it. It was like ﬂying to the X-Men headquarters.
It was a fantastic experience and here is what I learned:
By James Altucher
ASK LOUSY QUESTIONS,
GET LOUSY ANSWERS.
Many people say, “Why did this have to happen
to me?” Or “Why did I lose that job when I was
These are lousy questions. You will never get
an answer that makes your life better. I get
bitter, resentful, angry. And anger is a form of
fear. I’m usually afraid I’m going to go broke.
And if I go broke, I’m afraid I die.
You have to ask good questions: “What can I do
to improve?” or “How can I ﬁnd a better job?” or
“How can I be grateful that I lost this job?”
Because inside of every problem is the seeds of
a “difﬁcult gratitude problem” and it always
improves your life to solve those problems.
ANYTHING, TALK TO
Tony told us about a time when he was 24
years old and he wanted to train members of
the military to shoot better.
“I had never shot a gun in my life,” he said
and laughed in his raspy voice. He was
scared he wouldn’t do a good job.
So how did he solve this problem? He spoke
to ﬁve excellent sharpshooters, ﬁgured out
what they all had in common, and then used
that to increase the results of the students in
the school by 50%.
BRING THE TARGET
Speciﬁcally, for every student he had them bring the
target only a few feet away. Everyone shot bullseyes.
Then he moved the target back a foot. Bullseyes.
Then another foot. And so on.
This is true for everything in life. I look at the example
Mark Cuban told me. He didn’t just start
Broadcast.com and make a billion. First he started a
bar. Then he started a computer business. Then a
He brought the target very close and then moved it
further and further away as he succeeded at each
I thought about teaching my 12 year old how to serve
in tennis. First I had her serve from the net. “All you
have to do is hit the ball into this huge box.” Then
when she got 10 in a row I had her move back a few
feet until she hit the base line. Now she’s got the
most consistent server on her team (I’m bragging).
LOOK AT GOALS
Tony told us of one time he asked people what their goals
were. One guy said, “I want to make a billion dollars!” At
ﬁrst this would seem like an admirable goal - set it high!
There’s that horrible saying, “Aim for the moon, because
even if you miss it you’ll ﬁnd yourself among the stars.”
But Tony said, this guy didn’t really understand his goal.
He broke it down. “Why do you want a billion?” And the
ﬁrst answer was, “I want my own plane”. Tony told him,
“Well a plane costs $100 million and you might only be
ﬂying 12 times a year. If you charter a yet for $30,000 an
hour then it will take you forever to spend $100 million.”
So suddenly the guy didn’t need $1 billion anymore. He
needed $900 million.
“By the end of that session,” Tony said, “it turns out to
achieve the exact lifestyle he thought he needed a billion
for, he needed $10 million.” This is still a lot of money but
this was Tony’s way of bringing the target closer.
When I read that in his book, I did the exercise with
Claudia. Her numbers went down by 90% when we really
went through it. What happens then? You feel relief. You
don’t have to be on the hamster wheel of money for your
whole life. What you want is freedom, not money.
EXPERTS KNOW THEY
All the time I get spam ﬁnancial newsletters
saying, “The Markets are going to zero!” or “This
stock is going to go up 1000%!” The reality is the
experts know zero. With every investment expert
that Tony interviewed they not only had a plan B.
They had a plan C, D, and E.
The best professionals in the business admit they
Nobody can predict the future. Anything can
happen. When I got out of the “future” business I
was much happier. I got into the possibility
This made me a lot more successful. Leave the
future business for the possibility business and
the world will get inﬁnitely larger.
HIS ENERGY IS
Somebody told me he jumps up and down on a
trampoline before speaking in front of 10,000 people.
He wants his energy at peak.
I thought about doing that before my most recent TED
talk but there was no trampoline available. But it’s
true. When he came downstairs to talk to us he was
very excited about the potential for his book to help
people. It almost made me want to write about
ﬁnancial stuff again.
After Claudia and I left his house (and, by the way,
that’s a BIG house) we had so many ideas about
creative things we could do we almost had to pull
over and calm down. So we went to Cheesecake
Factory and ate until we exploded.
THE TONY ROBBINS
In the interview I said, “Ok, I ﬁgured it out. You use "the
Tony Robbins Method’”. Which I deﬁned as:
• at ﬁrst you don’t know anything.
• you ﬁnd 5 people who are the experts in the world.
• you extensively interview them.
• you ﬁgure out the most simple things they have in
common with each other.
• you do that simple thing over and over and over and
• And that’s how you succeed.
PEOPLE NEED CERTAINTY. PEOPLE
Everyone needs to know where their next meal is coming from. And
maybe their next kiss. And maybe… a bunch of things. We crave some
stability, which was the appeal of corporate jobs for the past 100 years
(although that period is now slowly coming to an end) and was the
appeal of all these mutual fund ads that say, “we return 9% a year”.
But most of that stability is a lie. You have to ﬁnd stability inside yourself
For me, it’s stable to make money from multiple sources. To know that if I
have ideas every day, then life will be more stable than if I don’t.
But we also need variety. A marriage will die if you stick to the same
routine year after year (“the 7 year itch”). A job will get boring. We only
have one life. It doesn’t mean you quit your marriage or quit your job. But
always look for new things to learn. Always look for new ways to surprise.
Always look for new ways to break out of your comfort zone.
It’s this dance of certainty and uncertainty that made us human and we
often lean too much in one way or the other. But if you did that on the
dance ﬂoor you’d fall over.
Tony describes this in the book in a ﬁnancial sense. His goal is to expose
the lies in the ﬁnancial community and get you thinking about how to
provide stability there so you can ﬁnd variety in other parts of your life.
SHOW PEOPLE YOU ARE
When we are very young we build strong neural circuits
across our brains so that electricity can pass quickly
between certain neurons. This is why it’s easier to learn
when we are young then when we are older.
After the age of 20, we lose the ability to “insulate” these
neural circuits with myelin, the substance which
cements these circuits for life. This is where our basic
intelligence comes from. Building as many circuits as
possible with myelin protecting them.
I think the same thing happens with relationships.
Business, personal, family relationships, etc. They start
off young and that’s when you can build almost a
“relationship myelin” around them. You do that by being
honest with people, by showing gratitude, by not
overusing the connection, by treating it just right so it
develops into something that can last a lifetime.
If someone does something for you, show you are
BE THE SERVANT OF
Tony said in the interview exactly how much he
saved in taxes by moving from California to
Florida. It was a big number. He had a big house.
He’s spoken in front of three million people. He’s
feeding 50 million people. This is a process that
took him 30 years or more.
He said the way he did it was by being the servant
of many. By constantly adding value to others, you
get value come back to you. It becomes the most
Tony Robbins has his critics I am sure. But I know
he has helped me get through a hard time 13
years ago, maybe even saving my life. I know he
has helped others. People always seem to be
afraid to admit it. I know I almost feel ashamed to
say I needed help.
But it’s by helping others and accepting help that
we grow as a society. Sometimes people think
“choosing myself” is a selﬁsh concept. But it’s the
only way you build the strength to help others. It’s
the only way you surrender to not some man-made
force, but a force inside yourself that is perhaps
the most powerful there is.
In our interview, Tony shares the
lessons he’s learned about making,
saving, and investing money from
talking to and working with 50 of the
richest people in the world.
To listen, click the link in the