I don’t know the exact time of my birth. 5 or 6 am. My mom remembers dawn breaking outside the window. When I press her for more, she gently reminds me that she was occupied at the time.
Fair enough, mom.
There I was, pulled out, all tiny and screaming. If you were to translate what I was shouting to the world, it’d probably be a rendition of WHAT THE FUCK?
I think of the little beings we arrive as, thrust into the arms of unprepared parents. Instructions manual, none. Amazing that they manage to raise us to go on to build rocketships and write mysteries and compose symphonies. You’d think that given the general silliness of our species, we’d have gone extinct a long time ago.
So, several dawns later, here I am. Sometimes still looking around, mumbling, “wtf?” And sometimes, struck with gratitude for the sheer beauty of it all.
Since time – heck, reality itself – is an illusion, I’m going to give my newborn self the manual I wish he’d be given. Close my eyes, reach out to him, and hand him this. No fluff. No theories. Only hard earned truths. The rest, he can color between the lines. Here goes…
- You are worthy. The sooner you accept that, the sooner life will zing.
- Break rules. The rewards greatly outnumber the punishments.
- Everything is an experience. In the now, that’s it.
- Good and bad are labels. Be with the experience, not the label.
- You are special. Treat yourself well.
- I repeat: you are fucking special. Don’t accept less from anyone.
- Love requires risk. It’s worth it.
- The more you close your heart, the more it gets broken. Funny how that works.
- Your mind is not far removed from a monkey. Don’t trust it.
- Your inner self, the quiet and deep part within, trust that.
- Every day, spend time in gratitude.
- Every day, create something.
- Love yourself. It works wonders.
I am a later version of you. Before I know it, there will be a later version of me. And before he knows it, no more. Poof, a wisp of stardust, gone. Leave behind a life that mattered. I love you.
When I die
I want you to climb the highest mountain you see.
As you set your ice axe upon the peak and plant your flag, think:
he should have done this.
When I die
I want you to call my mom each day
tell her how magical she is.
I want you to
make her smile.
And when you feel her happiness, you shall think:
He should have done this.
When I die
I want you to build a company
write a book
fly a plane, do loop de loops
play outside in the summer
as loud as you can
for no reason.
I want you to call every woman I’ve ever been with
and thank her for loving me
in that beautiful special way that only women can.
I want you to hold a new love close
her breath on your neck
eyelashes on your cheek
he should be doing this.
When I die
I want you to come to my funeral with a pickaxe
rip apart the coffin
pull me out
shake me awake
and point out life
and say: “Go! Do this.”
(I wrote this over two years ago, shortly after making a vow that changed my life. Amazing the difference a simple commitment makes over time. Still, a damn nice reminder…)
I haven’t written in a long while. No daily practice, no ten minutes a day. No true sentence. Why? Because I’m afraid. Afraid of going in deep, of digging out the truths, of what it takes to write that true thing again and again and again.
What I forgot was the result. The gift you return with. The diamond clutched in your sweaty hand. Your face covered with soot. Emerging from the cave. The glint in your eye. The knowing within.
The gift that transforms you and then, when you share it, those around you.
Instead, I hid. Hid with excuses. My life is going great, why screw with it? The first two books were enough, look at what they’ve done. I’m just a guy trying to figure his shit out, what do I know? Look at all that I’ve learned, why not just stick with practicing it and be satisfied?
The truth is that I’m no longer the person who wrote those books. I’m better. Much better. Because I wrote those books. Because I shared what I learned.
There’s a deeper truth: better is not good enough.
For the longest time I thought that as long as I didn’t slide back to the depth of where I’d been, that was success. Ah, monkey mind, you are clever.
The truth is that the experience of going within and sharing our gifts, they transform us. We can never go back to where we once were. We may slide, sure, but the person sliding is not the person who’d been down there before.
So the question to myself is: who am I now? And start from here, from this point. Dive in and find the new gifts. And be better from here.
And that’s what life – from my current understanding – really is: a journey of being better and better and better.
I’m cool with that.
(I cut this piece from Live Your Truth because it didn’t fit the narrative arc. It’s 100% true.)
I don’t remember when I first started reading James Altucher‘s blog, but I clearly remember the first time I met him. San Francisco, Thanksgiving weekend. Sunday. He and his wife, Claudia, were in town and we’d set up a breakfast meeting; them, myself, and a few others.
Except I didn’t show up.
I’d recovered from being sick, but my body still wasn’t at 100% yet. I’d often get tired and sleep and sleep. And that morning – one I’d been looking forward to, excited – I slept right through my alarm and the texts and the phone calls.
I don’t want to remember how I felt when I finally woke up, realizing I’d missed out on meeting someone I admired, someone whose written words had meant so much to me. And I’d put the meeting together, I’d made this happen, and now my friends got to meet him, talk to him, the guy behind the words, and I’d slept through it.
I sent him apologetic emails, groveling tweets. He responded kindly and rescheduled. This one, I was not going to miss.
We met at the lobby bar at the W downtown. I got there extra early, had a coffee, ate, and there he was through the revolving doors, in the flesh, and beautiful Claudia with him.
When you’ve admired someone’s work from afar, had conversations via email and comments on his blog, you wonder what they’ll be like in person. He’s the real deal. If you read his blog and close your eyes and imagine what he’d be like, you’re right – that’s him.
I was so excited, I talked and talked. I told him about being sick, about loving myself. He said immediately that I should write a book on it. I put the thought aside. He’d brought a few of his books as gifts and autographed them for me, including his latest, I Was Blind But Now I See. In it he wrote: Kamal, now you have to publish your book, James. He underlined “your.”
We met again five months later, this time in New York City. I was there for a day and he took the train in and we had breakfast together. Once again, he mentioned that I should write, follow the creative path inside me. I put it aside, but this time, a little less.
Few months later, I wrote the book and published it on Amazon’s kindle platform. James wrote a blog post on it and the book took off. I got emails from people all over, sharing with me the impact of the book. To say it was humbling is an understatement.
A month after, I was skyping with a friend, and decided to pull out one of the books James had given me, show her his autograph. I opened, I Was Blind But Now I See, showed her what he’d written – I’d forgotten that by now – and said, “Ooh, that’s cool,” continued talking, flipping through the book, the chapters I liked the most, to the back cover, then the page before the back cover.
“Look,” I said to her, “he must have used a print on demand service.” I was thinking about using one for a paperback version of my book. “It’s got the date of publishing on it.” It said this:
Made in the USA
24 September 2011
And then I stopped.
“What’s up?” my friend asked.
I ignored her. I knew that date. It was burned into my memory. It was the day when I couldn’t take it anymore and I stumbled over to my journal and wrote the vow to love myself. September 24, 2011
I pulled out my journal, flipped to it, and there it was. I’d dated it. I held them side by side, showed it to her.
“What’s the odds,” I said out loud.
1 in 365, I know. Maybe. If you factor in years, then odds get higher. But still, this isn’t about statistics. Not for me. I’ve learned to expect magic. What’s behind the magic, what causes it, I have theories on it. And that’s all they are, theories. But the magic, that is real.
Photons collide in the atmosphere in their lazy trip from the sun, butterflies flutter their wings in Tokyo, causing a thunderstorm in Ohio. A man in New York City writes a book, which then gets published in Lexington, Kentucky, while at the same time, another man in San Francisco, unable to take any more misery makes a vow that changes everything, and months later the author meets him, bringing along that book as a gift and writes in it that it is the man’s turn to publish a book, and months later, the man does, and a month later, the man sees the same exact date on the back of the book.
He smiles, accepting it. Who knows how the whole thing works? But he knows that there is magic.
He sits and writes it down. Somewhere, a butterfly flutters its wings…
I set out to write a very different book – what I’ve learned about productivity, health, fitness, creating. How to be your best on the outside. Instead, this book rose. About discovering and living your truth, the foundation within. If you work on that, the outside is a natural byproduct.
More so than the last book, this one, I’m scared to put out to the world. It’s personal. It’s vulnerable. A deeper dive. But it’s helped those I’ve shared it with. And it helped me. So, as James Altucher taught me, I must publish.
I worked very hard on this book, gave it everything I had. I hope that it serves you well.
(If you want to read the ebook version, you don’t need a kindle device. Amazon has free Kindle apps for Mac/PC/iPhone/Android/Windows/Blackberry. You can download them here)
Hard Rock hotel, late night, walking back to my room. Pass photos of famous musicians, stop and stare at them for a while. Kurt Cobain. You can see the pain in his eyes. I look at others, similar. Do all artists have to suffer?
Part of me resists when I ask the question. I don’t want the answer to be yes. But I let go, and the answer, instead, is of a different sorts. They have to experience. To live and experience life fully because when you create art, if it’s not true and real, you know.
Hemingway, Cobain. Both killed themselves. But what if they hadn’t? What if they’d gone with the experience, whatever they were feeling, whatever they were fighting, knowing that it too would pass, and left behind would be the knowledge, the gift they could put into their art.
With the wisdom of age, what else could Hemingway have written? And Cobain, perhaps he might be a poet today or even just another burned out rocker. But whatever he’d created, as long as he stayed true to his experience, it would have connected and changed lives. Just those two, what could have been…it’s sad, I will never know.
I’m old enough to have lost friends. Random deaths are tough. Suicides, the worst. I’ve also lived long enough to look back at those gone and know that whatever they were dealing with, it passed. They didn’t have to. They could have been here, wiser and stronger and better.
No matter how smart we may think we are, no matter how committed we are to our truth, we can lose our way. We’re human. Made of flesh and feelings, not armor. And knowing that, there is one thing we can do to help us, guide us back to the light when we’re fighting it the most.
Set the ego aside. Reach out, share your truth, tell someone you love, “this is who I am. This is what I stand for. Hold me to it.” Be accountable. Often, we’ll do far more for another than we will do for ourselves. Use that to your advantage.
Once, while meditating, I saw an image of my parents standing in front of me. Behind them, their parents. And their parents, and their parents, and their parents. An unbroken line of lives so long that it faded into the horizon. An unbroken line of lives that ultimately led to mine.
Then I thought of those who have touched my life. Minor and major ways. And all the lives that were lived so that just these few could exist and walk the Earth with me for a brief spark in time. Lines upon lines, connections upon connections, ripples spreading across time and generations. Humanity doing its dance so that you could be here, reading these words I just wrote.
Even if we may feel like it sometimes, we are never alone. I write this, expecting that others will read these words. I write them with the hope that they will improve your life. I am giving you my all. My truth. That you will read it is a gift to me. I may never meet you, but that’s ok. I smile, knowing that we are links in a beautiful chain connected in ways deeper than we can imagine.
Whatever you experience in your life, choose for it to make you grow in amazing and unbelievable ways. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to those who came before you. You owe it to those connected to you that you’ll never meet. You owe it to those who have yet to come into your life.
The tools have changed, but the process hasn’t. You sit, an empty page in front, whether it’s pixels or paper or parchment, and you fill it with feelings, with emotion, with life. There is magic here. Real magic.
The world quietly asleep outside the window, the clickity-clack of the keyboard, whatever music I’ve got on – chill, classical, lounge – and the white of the screen slowly filling.
You dive deeper, you strip away the cleverness and the words become more important than your ego and that’s when you know it’s real, when it’s good. Light spreads out over the hills, dawn comes and passes, and a new day begins.
The feeling of when you step away, finished, and you look at the page and you know you tapped into something bigger than yourself to produce this, that feeling is, dare I say, spiritual.