How to Win in Business

Why this self-made millionaire carries a waiter's pad and says you should too

This ultimate life hack fits inside your pocket
This ultimate life hack fits inside your pocket

Self-made millionaire James Altucher is in the business of reinvention. The 49-year-old, who has been married and divorced twice, has launched almost 20 companies and a hedge fund. He has had $15 million in his bank account, and he has had $143.

He writes candidly about the process of starting over on his blog and in his book, "Reinvent Yourself." And, he says, one of the favorite life hacks is writing on waiter's pads.

First, a waiter's pad helps you stand out in meetings, he says. It's a conversation starter.

"Everyone else has these ... expensive notebooks, and you pull out your waiter's pad and you just just throw it on the table, and 100 percent of the time, they make a joke: 'I'll take fries with that burger,'" says Altucher.

The first time he bought waiter's pads, he found them in a restaurant supply store, 100 for $10. Most people appreciate the frugality.

"It really makes you the center of attention, people pay attention to what you're saying and then you become this like quirky person," says Altucher. "So, life hack number one: Have waiter's pads with you at all times."

Most people don't realize this: the idea muscle is a real muscle.  And it atrophies super quickly.
James Altucher

In addition to the novelty of the pad itself, having waiter's pads encourages Altucher to write short, bullet-point lists. There isn't room to wax eloquent, but the shape of the page lends itself well to coming up with lots of ideas and jotting them down.

"Most people don't realize this: The idea muscle is a real muscle," says the entrepreneur. "And it atrophies super quickly."

Altucher is open about having fallen into a deep depression when he was in financial trouble in 2002. Getting into the habit of writing creative ideas down every day helped pull him out his depression. In fact, he says in a May 2012 post, the waiter's pad saved his life.

He wrote to-do lists, idea lists, have-done lists and gratitude lists. And it helped.

James Altucher is a self-empowerment writer of books including "Choose Yourself" and "The Power of No."

"Heartache, despair, with every day a battle, every day, a practice or I lose against the demons. It's all I thought about. All I paced about," writes Altucher.

"But suddenly everything changed. I was walking around the Bowery and wandered into a restaurant supply store. Everything looked so silver and shiny. Everything brought back memories of diners and milkshakes and french fries and sandwiches. I was a little boy in a diner. And then I saw it. The waiter's pad. Ten cents a pad. I bought 100 for $10."

That's another reason the entrepreneur likes waiter's pads: They are nostalgic and comforting.

And, if you go out to eat with a waiter's pad, the servers will most likely take to you, thinking you are one of them, Altucher says, so, "You'll get great service."

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