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10 Things You Can Do with Zero Talent or Skill

I couldn’t get out of bed. I’d try to play with my kids. I’d try to read. To learn! Anything. Any f***ing thing. Nothing. Ugh.

“Kids always make you happier!” Everyone would lie to me. What a piece of BS that is.

When I saw my kids I would think, “They just lost their shot at happiness because I’m such a horrible dad, provider, person.”

I couldn’t go to a gym and exercise. (“But it’s a natural antidepressant!”) I couldn’t meditate. My mind was firing off too many thoughts.

I would cancel going to parties or visiting family. I just couldn’t handle seeing anyone happy.

I had no energy to actually WORK at something. Just, please god, help me get out of this gutter because I’m sinking, sinking, sinking.

1% a day. Compounded, 3,800% a year. Which makes you so much different. So much better.

I wanted it. Give it!

If what I needed to do required skill, I’m sure I’d be dead now. If they required me to “HUSTLE AND GRIND!” I’d be dead by now.

People say, “Make your bed before you change the world.”

I couldn’t make my bed. I was simply useless. I stopped paying my mortgage. I stopped showing up to everything.

But I did these 10 things that require zero talent every day. Or, at least, I tried to.

Again, 1% a day is 3,800 TIMES BETTER IN A YEAR.

When I had money and I was on my way up, everyone was my friend. I’d go to a Christmas Party and I’d hear people say, “That’s Mark’s internet friend.”

I felt popular. I felt liked.

So when I went down and all my friends, and even my family, started to disappear, I didn’t know what to do.

Are all people fake? I don’t think so. But maybe most people are.

Around June 2002 I started to do these things. And it was like the air would kiss me when I walked around. I felt that first stirring. Something waking up.

Like I was pregnant with thoughts and ideas that were just starting to come to life.

I was scared. But less so. I still felt like I was going to be dead. That nothing could save me.

But now I am still alive.


  1. Reading
  2. Writing 10 bad ideas a day
  3. Laughing
  4. Being kind
  5. Playing
  6. Going outside for 20 mins
  7. Deep breaths
  8. Being vulnerable
  9. Connecting to people
  10. Eight hours of sleep

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of JD Chow.

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Unread Books, Office Invaders, Conflict & Creating a Shared Understanding

Office Invaders and Burning Books

I have a lot of books. Lots and lots of books. I’m not talking about a few shelves worth. I ran out of shelf space a long time ago. Thank God for the floor space in my office. What’s left of it, anyhow. The tree graveyard that exists in my office creates a 13’ x 10’ box of kindling just waiting for an excuse to take the whole house out. Don’t tell my insurance company.

Given the chaos of my office (I believe it to be controlled), some variation of the following conversation has occurred from those who’ve looked inside, or actually braved stepping into it:

Office Invader: “Have you read all these books?”

Me: “No.”

Office Invader: “How many have you read?”

Me: Shoulder shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe half. Maybe.”

Office Invader: “So, you think you’ll be able to read all these?”

Me: “Eh, probably not. I read one and replace it with two or three more.”

Office Invader: “Why don’t you stop buying new books, and save your money? And, why don’t you get rid of some of these books you’ve read or won’t read?!”

Office Invader: Exasperated head shake signaling the following: You just don’t understand.

The two of us now have a conflict based in two different arguments. If the Office Invader has no stake in me owning books, it doesn’t matter. If, however, we are truly needing to make a joint decision about my books, this conflict needs to be overcome. This will not be easy, given our differing perspectives.

I’m With Eco

I take the same view of books as Umberto Eco (though I have a far less cool name). Personal libraries are not about ego, an attempt to show off what you’ve read or know. Setting books on display is not a sign to the outside world that says, “Look at me! Not only do I read a lot, but I also wear glasses. Damn, I’m smart!” They’re about access to information, knowledge and potential – a resource for research and learning. Books already read are repositories of what has been learned and can be returned to, while those unread are imbued with potential and possibility. My office holds thousands of years worth of questions that have been asked as well as countless ways people have come to understand life, reality and existence. And it goes well beyond the quick hit answers I can find on the internet.

The Office Invader, on the other hand, may just see a mess, space taken up by unused books, many of which could be cashed in at a buck or two a pop. The result would be thousands of dollars in-hand. Doesn’t mean they don’t value books and learning. They just see keeping read or unread books that may never be cracked as wasted potential. Problem is, we are applying a different set of standards to how we value books.

Let’s take sides. Who do you relate to more? Me, or the Office Invader? All of you who can relate to my perspective, step over the line towards me.

Thought there would be more of you. Oh, well.

(Before moving on, we need to take a slight detour to address a couple of elephants. First, “Office Invader” is not passive aggressive code for my wife. She’s actually an enabler to my addiction. Second, if you’re considering robbing me to cash in on my books, good luck. You’d need a semi, and it won’t make it up my driveway. Be funny to watch you try, though.)

Subjective Value

The reality is that neither I nor the pejoratively named Office Invader are right or wrong. Our subjective perspectives are based on how we define value and potential.

  • Me: To have a repository of knowledge.
  • Office Invader: To get more money.

If the value you prioritize and place on books is in their potential for accessing information, whether that potential is realized or not, you will agree with my perspective. Conversely, if you think the value of unread books is monetary, you’ll agree with the Office Invader. The value is subjective; however, decisions based on those values can be more logical, rational and objective.

Definitions, Shared Understandings & Rational Actions

If we could agree to the definitions and principles set forth in each respective argument, whether value is determined by potential knowledge or financial value, both perspectives would become rational and justifiable. What would not be a justifiable stance, though, is buying books when you believe their value to be monetary, and selling them when you believe their value to be as repositories of knowledge. This is why definitions are so important.

Problem is, each of us won’t likely agree to how the other defines value. Still, we can seek to understand each other’s perspectives. In fact, in order to have a meaningful and valuable conversation from which we can resolve conflict and move forward, we need to seek this shared understanding. Otherwise, we are having two different conversations about two different things that will go nowhere. Our conflict is not in what to do with the books; it’s in how we value them.

It’s like arguing where the best place to vacation is, when one person wants to ski and the other wants to surf. Or, one person just wants to relax and the other wants an adventure. The two parties have different definitions of best. To have a meaningful discussion, what is actually meant by best – i.e. the type of vacation desired – must first be understood. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time, effort and energy better served focusing less on being right and more on understanding the other’s perspective. Once understood, you create a foundation to agree, disagree, seek common ground and move forward.

Creating a Shared Understanding

How do you create a shared understanding? By making sure each person understands the following three things about their own as well as the other person’s argument. This can be done by answering the following four questions:

  • What perspectives or actions are each person arguing for?
  • Why are the arguments being made?
  • How would a person rationally proceed in each case, if you assume the argument to be valid?
  • What mutual value and common ground exists within the shared understanding?

Once the what, why and how have been identified, you will create a foundation of understanding.

Creating a shared understanding, however, shouldn’t be confused with agreement, only a starting point and foundation from which a valuable and meaningful conversation can be had and a path forward can be determined. @poedge (Click to Tweet!)

Creating a shared understanding may, in theory, be pretty straight forward. Things get tricky, however, when one person attempts to alter the other person’s understanding and the values it entails. We then enter the murkier world of influence and control. But, that’s a topic for another post.

Have you ever found yourself in a discussion or argument, where you realized there was no shared understanding serving as the foundation?

Matt Nelson is the owner of Performance Ownership Edge (POE), the result of his obsession with answering the question, “How do you best engage people in a way that helps them change their behavior, accomplish great things and transform their lives?”. The mission of POE is to help leaders drive innovation by creating Empowered Engagement cultures that maximize the potential of their greatest resource: their people. Matt has extensive experience leading organizational change, coaching leaders and managing and developing regional and national teams. He holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, and Certified Professional in Learning and Performance designations in addition to an MBA where he studied finance. You can connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Radu Marcusu.

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How to Make Your Life Matter (Even If It Lacks Purpose and Direction)

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“Calm yourself down. It’s okay. All is well.”

I clung to the sterile white table while the laboratory was spinning around me.

“It’s just an anxiety attack. It will be over soon.”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, forcing my lungs to expand against the tightness in my chest. Cold sweat trickled down my spine as I battled the all-consuming feelings of overwhelm, panic, and disappointment.

My life was going nowhere.

How had this happened? I thought I had a plan.

I had chosen a promising career in science to make a positive contribution. I’d dedicated myself to changing the world, gaining recognition, and creating a legacy. So my life would matter.

And yet, I felt empty. Aimless. Unhappy.

I was stuck in a pointless treadmill of work, eat, sleep, repeat. I had no social life, no hobbies or passions. I focused solely on my research, hoping to enrich other people’s lives.

But instead, I added to pharmaceutical companies’ profits. I made no difference to anybody. And I was way behind in my career compared to other people my age.

I lay awake at night, disillusioned and frustrated, beating myself up for my miserable failure, drowning in hopelessness, anxiety, and worries.

What if I died tomorrow without leaving a mark on the world? Vanished without a trace, my insignificant life instantly forgotten?

What if my existence was meaningless?

I stood in the middle of the deserted lab, tears streaming down my face. Everybody else had left to enjoy their evening. Their lives had direction, happiness, purpose. They counted.

What was wrong with me?

As despair washed over me, I knew I couldn’t go on like this. I had to find my true purpose in life. Before it was too late.

My Hopeless Search for Purpose and Direction

After my fateful (and humiliating) breakdown in the lab, I embarked on a quest to find my true purpose, determined to make my life matter.

I studied countless blog posts, articles, and self-help books. Desperate to discover the secret to filling my life with meaning, I absorbed every piece of information available on the topic.

Most writers agreed that we have to focus on the things we love, and use them to contribute to society.

The problem was that I had concentrated all my time and effort on pursuing an academic career. It had seemed a sensible choice at the time, with excellent prospects of achieving purpose and impact. But it had never been my passion.

And I was now at a dead end, without a clue about what I loved, because my whole life was purpose-driven.

I never went for a walk in the sun unless I could pick up some shopping on the way. I never spent time in the garden unless I could pull out some weeds at the same time. And I had abandoned my favorite hobbies of jigsaw puzzles and crochet because I thought they were useless activities.

I felt guilty and lazy when I wasted precious time on them. Time that could be spent doing something productive and significant.

For months, I obsessed over finding something I loved that also had purpose, but nothing I felt passionate about seemed important enough to lend meaning to my life.

Growing more anxious, frustrated, and desperate by the day, I prepared myself to settle for an unfulfilling half-life, devoid of purpose, meaning, and direction. Maybe I had no purpose; maybe my life was too irrelevant to matter.

But then, a thought popped into my mind that changed everything.

What if the crucial question wasn’t “What’s my purpose in life?” but “Why is having purpose so important to me?”

My True Motivation for Seeking Purpose in Life

Having purpose enriches us. Knowing we can use our gifts to improve our community, better society, and enhance people’s lives, we experience joy. A deep feeling of satisfaction, connection, and fulfillment.

But, as I dug deeper, I discovered that none of this really motivated my relentless search. At least not primarily.

The truth was that I so desperately sought purpose in my life because, somehow, I believed that I had to justify my existence.

It was as if I didn’t deserve to live if I didn’t have a purpose. As if I was unworthy of love and happiness until I could offer something useful to the world—until I had important achievements and contributions to show for myself, and was somehow special, somehow more.

So, the pursuit of purpose became the sole purpose of my life. And my failure to identify what could give my life meaning left me feeling pointless, stressed, and ashamed.

All because of one devastating misunderstanding.

The Tragic Reason Why We Obsess About Our Purpose

I spent my entire life chasing my purpose—desperate to achieve the one important contribution to mankind that would make me special, that would earn me recognition and approval and justify my existence—because, deep down, I believed that I was worthless.

I considered myself an empty vessel, devoid of value and significance. I assumed that I had to gain worth through my accomplishments, successes, and qualifications. That I needed purpose and a clear direction in order to could gain some worth and finally deserve happiness.

The absence of purpose in my life created a painful worth deficit. I felt inferior to others who made valuable contributions and earned admiration, approval, and status.

I mattered less. I was irrelevant because I was useless to society.

It was my perceived lack of worth that made me feel empty and meaningless. And the only cure I could see was to find that extraordinary purpose that would make me worthy.

So, I searched more and worked harder. I sacrificed every activity that didn’t seem meaningful and important enough to increase my worth, irrespective of how much I loved it.

Foregoing all joy, I burnt myself out hunting for my purpose. So I could prove that my life mattered. So I could convince the world of my worth—and my right to exist.

In the process, I missed the purpose of my life altogether.

The Empowering Secret to Living a Worthy Life

I thought I would never be useful enough to have worth, which meant my life would never matter, but I was wrong.

And I realized it on the day I first cradled my newborn daughter. Looking down at the tiny bundle in my arms, there was no doubt in my mind that she was worth. That she deserved all the happiness and love in the world.

Yet, she had no accomplishments to her name. She’d made no contributions to mankind and society. She had no concept of purpose, goals, or direction.

Yet she mattered, simply because she existed.

In this very moment I understood that we cannot have worth. It’s not something we earn, gain, or lose.

Worth is the essence of our being. An absolute, inherent, unchangeable part of who we are.

We are worth personified. Every one of us is 100 percent worth. From the day we are born to the day we die. And beyond.

Having a purpose, a goal to work toward, can enhance our life, add to our happiness, and enable us to contribute to the world. But it won’t change anything about our worth, which is unconditional, unlimited, and independent of our actions.

Success, accomplishment, and focused direction won’t increase our worth. And failure cannot diminish it.

Because we are worth. We are wonderful expressions of life. And as such, we matter.

Finding a Way Out of Worthlessness

And so, five years after the day in the lab that started my journey, I abandoned my unhealthy quest for purpose and focused on accepting my true, inner worth instead.

Countless times a day I affirmed: “I am worth.”

I reminded myself of my infinite worth every time I felt useless. I repeated the affirmation when I struggled with my meaningless, aimless existence. And I tried to remember the truth whenever I beat myself up for not being important enough.

At first my mind resisted, stressed by the change of priorities.

Too many years it had held the belief that I was worthless, and that purpose was a prerequisite for worth and, ultimately, happiness.

I ignored it as well as I could, stubbornly affirming my worth, over and over again.

And step by step, day by day, my understanding of my true worth grew, and the compulsive need for purpose weakened.

Until one day I was liberated. I felt free to explore my passions, enjoy all my unproductive hobbies, and fill my entire house with crochet doilies. Without guilt, without feeling I was wasting my time on idle indulgences.

I even found joy in my profession as a scientist once the crushing pressure to achieve, outperform, and impress had been lifted. Once I no longer expected it to give me purpose.

And I could relax. Knowing that, sooner or later, some purpose would reveal itself to me, without having to be forced, simply because I was focusing on the things I loved.

The Liberating True Purpose of Your Life

When I was convinced of my inherent worthlessness, I sought purpose as a means to deserve happiness, while I abandoned the things that actually made me happy because they lacked purpose!

Looking back, the irony makes me cringe.

I now believe the purpose of life is to be happy. To grow, thrive, and experience life to the full. To worry less about our achievements, productivity, and the meaning of our life and to prioritize the things we enjoy.​ Even if they serve no purpose at all.

Because the only way to make your life matter is to make it matter to you. To know your true worth and contribute your unique perspective to this world.

So, be kind and compassionate. Take care of your loved ones. And yourself.

Help and support others. Not because you have to earn worth, but because you want to improve their lives.

And do what you love as often as you can. Walk in the sun, sit on the beach, lie in the grass. Just because it feels good.

Do it without feeling guilty or beating yourself up for the lack of purpose. Without fear over whether you are important enough, useful enough, influential, significant, or deserving enough.

Because, at the end of the day, purpose can add to your happiness, but it’s not a prerequisite for it. You don’t need a mission, purpose, a direction for your life to be worth living.

You don’t have to justify your existence or prove your worth. Not to your parents or your family; not to your friends, your boss, or society.

Not even to yourself.

Because you are worth personified. You matter. Right here, right now.

And as long as you enjoy walking your path, no matter how aimlessly, your life has meaning.

About Berni Sewell

Dr Berni Sewell, PhD is a health scientist, energy healer, and self-worth blogger. She is on a mission to make you feel good about yourself, no matter what. Grab her free “Healthy Self-Worth Starter Kit” to boost your confidence, release shame and self-judgement, and start reclaiming your life today.

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