Answer by James Altucher:
One time I was pitching a TV show. The idea was this: a very beautiful and funny woman who was a friend of mine put an ad in the paper looking for a date. Many guys responded.
We then wired up the restaurant and videotaped the date without the date knowing.
One date confessed to her he was torn because he was not sure if he was gay or not. Another date got a call in the middle of the dinnner…from his wife. Then had that call right there at the table, then wanted to have sex with my friend.
Another time we got chased out of a transvestite bar by security because my friend was wearing a hidden mic.
And so on.
The resulting video was great.
But I made a political faux pas. I pitched the show to a different division of HBO where I already had a show being pitched.
So I made a mess of everything and the show ended up not being produced even though everyone initially loved the idea. This is a “no-brainer” one person told me in the initial meaning.
Which, I can only gather, meant I had no brain.
So I failed at pitching TV shows. I never tried again. I was a failure.
I then started a company making websites. I built up and sold it for millions of dollars.
So now I was a winner I guess.
I then lost all that money.
I was a failure.
I then decided to be a writer. I’ve written 11 books. So I was a winner. And I built and sold another company. Double winner!
Which was cool because it made me feel like I wasn’t lucky the first time. Somehow “double” became infinite in my mind. “I’m a winner,” i thought”, “and not a lottery winner. An actual winner”.
But then I lost it all again. I was a failure. Not only did I lost it all but I lost a home, got divorced, my family stopped speaking to me, and I lost many of my friends. I was a triple failure.
Then I did some consulting, did some writing, made back some money, invested it, and made it all back again. I was a winner!
But now I have a teenage daughter and it’s hard to get her to speak to me. And yesterday I had a deal that fell through. I’m a failure!
Failure! Winner! Winner! Failure!
I opened the dictionary to try and find what these words actually mean.
It turns out the words were not there. I was very careful. I went to “F” then “Fa” and I couldn’t find “failure”. I looked for “Wi” but I couldn’t find Winner.
The words don’t exist. They are made up words. They are words used in children’s stories and they might exist in children’s dictionaries but they aren’t for you and me.
Before any breakthrough in the history of mankind, something totally unobvious has to happen, has to be thought about, has to be acted upon.
Before WD-40, there had to be WD-39.
Don’t be a failure or a winner. Every second, be the person who does the unobvious thing. Some questions seem like they have no answers. You can answer them.
Once you stop doing the obvious: words like failure or winner have no meaning. You realize that the rules that define “normal” were all fake. You become the writer of rules.
I hope you let me survive in the Universe you create.