A New Line

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People who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love. – Condoleezza Rice

James Altucher is an entrepreneur, blogger, and New York Times bestselling author. His most recent book is Skip the Line: The 10,000 Experiments Rule and Other Surprising Advice for Reaching Your Goals. He’s one of the most interesting people you could meet in the average week, overflowing with energy and ideas.

Some years ago, while employed by HBO, James took it upon himself to create a website for the organization. No one asked him to do it; he didn’t ask anyone if he could or should. He thought they needed one, and it was a project that interested him more than his regular work, so why not?

Through the mysterious rumblings of the grapevine, someone at Comedy Central caught wind of the project and asked him to do the same for them as a consultant. James agreed on the basis that he be allotted the 3 to 4am time slot for a show in whatever format he chose. Did I mention that James does stand-up comedy and is part owner of a comedy venue?

They initially rejected his idea, but he ultimately sold the powers-that-be on the concept of an original web show he would host. The time slot was only being used for infomercials anyway; what did they have to lose? That’s how James came to host III:am, a “talk show,” where he interviewed random people on the streets of New York at 3am on Tuesday nights for over two years. It wasn’t Friday or Saturday night, with the entire Big Apple out partying. He discovered a whole new world of people living unusual lives, following different rules than those that govern the daylight hours. He calls it the best job he ever had. You can get fascinating detail from his blog.

This week’s podcast focuses on the first accelerant of personal disruption –– taking the right risks, which means playing where no one else is playing. It’s a sort of gateway episode in which I offer a view into several other episodes that can help you as you think about risk. How to evaluate risk, how to figure out the better risks to take—especially in your career. One of the episodes I recommend is number 212, with James, where we discuss his ideas about “skipping the line.”

But James isn’t talking about cutting ahead in line. He’s talking about skipping it altogether, playing where others don’t play by starting your own line. He’s advocating for disrupting processes that we typically take for granted; we think we have to approach things a certain way because that’s how most people would do it.

In other words, why wait in line, competing for the same opportunities as the people ahead of you and those behind. You can get there better, faster, more efficiently, and achieve your goals and dreams by doing something unconventional, being the first person in your own line. You are taking your talents to the vacant playing field.

For example, who was James competing with for that 3am Tuesday slot on Comedy Central? Nobody. It was a short line that he had all to himself.

Last week our newsletter was about doing something new, making a fresh start. Right now, a lot of us are in the “new you” reboot mode. Listen to the podcast. Skip the line. Play where no one else is playing, where you haven’t played before either. Do something you love.

Take the right kind of risk.

My best,
Whitney

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