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2012: The Year of Mastering The Game Being Played Around You

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I have a special talent for making women cry. It’s not intentional, it just happens. I remember, one year during college I was an RA, and one Saturday I had a series of back-to-back meetings with my residents to try to resolve all kinds of problems. I hate my roommate! I just failed my test. What should I do with my life? Stuff like that. By the end of the day, I was pretty hungry. So it was with great disappointment that I looked at my calendar and realized I had one more meeting, this one with two roommates.

One of them was a really sweet girl who just wanted the normal college experience. The other roommate was a little odd — she would wake up at 5am and immediately start typing really loudly and calling people on the phone to talk about her grades. While I was hearing their complaints, all I could think about was how my stomach was slowly eating itself. 15 minutes later, I found myself in the very odd situation of having two women crying on my futon while I ate a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos. “Want some?” was pretty much all I could muster. The Cheetos were really good though.

What I learned from helping my residents — and later my friends — was that for many young people, there’s a game being played around us that we just don’t realize. It’s true of money (nobody teaches us this stuff), of jobs, of relationships, and of health.

This year, I want to help you cover some of the most important techniques, frameworks, and tactics you can use anywhere to live a richer life. These will help you find your passion, earn more, find your Dream Job, learn extreme social fluency, interview against the world’s top companies (and win), and integrate powerful systems into your life — instead of relying on fleeting willpower.

I was also debating including a 3-month series on cutting back on lattes, but I decided I would rather inflict 1,001 teen-angst/emo-style cuts on my body, then have my bloody corpse kicked around in a citrus field.

So, let me show you how I learned about the game being played around me — the origin of these powerful systems.

What Is The Game Being Played Around You?

In my early 20s, I finally discovered there was a game being played around me that I didn’t even realize.

I was working out regularly but not seeing any real results: Even after 6 months of trying to gain weight, I saw exactly 0 change. As a tall/ectomorphic guy, I had the body of a supermodel — a female supermodel. Not good.

I wondered why girls always went for bad boys, then complained about how these guys treated them…but avoided nice guys.

I couldn’t understand how some authors, bloggers, and business people blew up, while my blog couldn’t even get more than 5 comments per blog post.

What did I do? Did I decide to do exhaustive research and unearth the secrets of working out, women, and business? Did I dedicate 4 hours per day to create and test different approaches, then take detailed notes, then iteratively improve?

Of course not. I told myself I needed to “figure it out” some day. When I was out with friends, I would complain about it with them. Then I did nothing.

It was completely irrational! In the back of my head, I never connected this low-level feeling of complaint/malaise with actually CHANGING THINGS. I was just content to complain…or defer it until another day.

You guys know that I was studying persuasion and social influence at Stanford. I started to understand how human behavior really works. And as I started to study it intensely, I discovered fascinating insights. Mostly about myself.

Like your racist uncle who monopolizes Thanksgiving by saying that Obama is “too different than us Americans” (but who is really just racist), it turns out that, for people in our 20s and 30s, the phrase “I need to figure it out” is also CODE for something much deeper.

Here’s what it really means:

Look at that shirt. Shit just got real.
(In the video, you hear me referring to a Dream Job course. More on that later.)

For most of us, there is a game being played around us that we don’t realize.

For example, look at this quote from the New York Times:

“We did everything we were supposed to,” said Stephanie Morales, 23, who graduated from Dartmouth College in 2009 with hopes of working in the arts. Instead she ended up waiting tables at a Chart House restaurant in Weehawken, N.J., earning $2.17 an hour plus tips, to pay off her student loans. “What was the point of working so hard for 22 years if there was nothing out there?” said Ms. Morales, who is now a paralegal and plans on attending law school.

The game being played around Stephanie is that she believes she is owed a job. I’m willing to bet she believes if she sends out her resume enough, she “should” get a job. Only when it doesn’t happen, we blame everyone else…but ourselves.

“I have applied to hundreds and hundreds of jobs in that time, and despite a strong educational and professional background and outstanding references I have yet to get so much as an interview. ” —NYT

Over the years, I learned that I could blame the economy, I could blame women, I could blame everyone else…or I could try to deeply understand the game that was being played around me. For example, there were guys working out who were getting pretty ripped. Why wasn’t I? Ok, so women kept going back to what I considered “bad boys”…why? And I systematically learned the intricacies of building a business until, for example, I earned over $100,000 in one hour.

I found it fascinating that we’re “supposed” to know how to master these skills, but nobody ever actually teaches us how. Think about it: You graduate from college and you’re suddenly supposed to get a job. Who taught us how to do that?

We’re supposed to find a life partner. Who taught us how?

We’re “supposed” to buy a house, provide for a family, be healthy, respect our elders, have proper etiquette, travel around the world…but who taught us how?

That’s what I want to teach you: the actual strategies and tactics that I tested to get disproportionate results. Not vague platitudes (“keep a budget!” + “spend less than you earn!” + “Be yourself!”) but rather, actual strategies that have worked under repeated stress-testing. Stuff that is bulletproof and will work — including the actual word-for-word scripts that IWT has become known for.

It strikes me that the vast majority of people have huge, unrealized potential. Think about all the things we dreamed about doing at 22, right out of college. By 25, how many of us thought we’d have traveled around the world? Be making 6 figures (for some of us, even more). Or have an enviable job that we were passionate about — and made a huge impact?

Just a few years later, it’s amazing to see the difference between dreams and reality.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. MOST people, looking at the difference between their dreams and reality, begin to blame some external forces. The economy is bad! Those girls should choose me for me. Ramit, you’re out of touch…it doesn’t work like that.

But a very elite group of people realize that external forces like “the economy” mean very little to them. Look at this link, for example — it’s a discussion thread about a guy choosing between working at a hedge fund or Facebook/Google/etc.

Stop. Don’t throw up your hands in exasperation. Don’t say, “That might be fine if you went to STANFORD, but I could never get a job like that.” Maybe you can’t. But you can certainly learn from the discussion. Study the words they use. Analyze their mindset. What makes these people able to get elite jobs, while other people complain about the economy?

For my IWT students who have internalized this, they realize that macro-economics has nothing to do with their personal finances. These people begin to focus on systematically improving themselves.

I’ll prove it to you. In 2010 and 2011 the press was writing about how the economy was in tatters, which is a great way to sell advertising. OMG! CHICKEN LITTLE! RUN LOLFTW!! Yet in that same year, here are the results some of my students got:

“I’ve been a IWTYTBR reader for years, have the book and bought Earn1K. I’m now running a side business… that earned $25k+ last year.” – Jordan G.

“I finally asked for a review from my boss about a year after I began working here (freelancers don’t generally get a review)… Instead of making about $28,800/yr I now make $38,400. Almost a $10,000 raise feels like a lot, but I feel even better about it being a 33% raise – which was not left unmentioned by my boss. He told me it was unprecedented.…it’s really thanks to you that I had the confidence and the script to execute. A $10,000 raise was earned from about $15 for your Ebook, and a little extra reading and planning. I will definitely buy more products from you – whatever you’re puttin down, I’m pickin up!”
— Tessa

“[I interviewed for a senior position and] blew the interviewing managers out of their toilet seats. Why: because I changed the script, used the briefcase method, job shadowed my potential client, wrote a detailed proposal with 5 things they can do TODAY to save the company $1500/week EVEN IF they don’t hire me. Ramit, thanks for the extra $10k, 5+ weeks of vacation, and 6% 401k.” – Justin R.

(There are literally thousands of other comments like this here, here, and here.)

Bottom line: Let other people accept macro circumstances as an excuse for not hitting their goals. You know you have a very good shot at controlling your results using a systematic approach to testing. All to discover the game being played around you.

What I Learned From Testing My Assumptions

This is where it got interesting. As I started building systems to crack these codes and I started testing them, I found patterns I hadn’t seen before.

Think about these scenarios:

We all have friends who somehow knew what they wanted to do from day one. Not only are they successful at it…but they love what they do! How did they do that? Most of us have multiple interests, and it’s insanely hard to choose something and close the other doors. Yet somehow, these friends chose something, focused on it, and it worked. How did they do it?

Or we all know friends who are not as smart as we are, yet they’re more “successful” (whatever that means, e.g., more money, better lifestyle, etc).

Or we have friends who walk into a room and command attention, but we can’t put our fingers on how they do it.

Interestingly, we often complain about these important areas of our lives, but we do nothing — the exact behavior I exhibited in college. I was going to “figure it out” some day. For example…

Money complaints. I learned that most people complain about money for their entire lives, but never take one weekend to read a good book about how to automate their finances. They believe in “trying harder” to save, rather than using the power of psychology to make their money automatic.

Why “bad boys” get girls. I discovered that the “bad boys” most guys complain about actually have certain confidence triggers that they display. Had I not learned this, I’m sure I would still be complaining bitterly about the girls making these choices. Totally irrational! Yet how many of us do this with jobs/money/careers?

Interviewing mastery. If you ask 100 people what they do in a job interview, 90-95 will say “Answer their questions.” Congratulations — they’ve already lost. “Answering questions” is what everyone else does, while top performers walk in and convey a crisp message. These two approaches might sound similar, but they are profoundly different in practice. (I’ll show you the actual videos of how I did this later.) Once I learned how this worked, I started getting closing interview after interview, even beating out MBAs while I was a sophomore.

For the past 8 years — since this blog has been around — there have been random commenters/emailers who asked for access to the system I built to secure $100,000+ in college scholarships, or how to ace the world’s toughest interviews.

I was never comfortable releasing them because they had worked for me, but I wasn’t sure they would work for everyone. But about 18 months ago, I started thinking what would make the biggest impact on us living a Rich Life.

Not yet another post on cutting back on something, but something transformative.

Beyond Money. A Rich Life

I want to live a rich life, so it’s amusing to me to see that so many sites focus only on the money part, as if money is everything. Hilariously, even within the money part, these “experts” focus on one thing: cutting back. “No, you can’t buy that latte! No, you can’t buy those jeans. Of course not, you can’t go on vacation.”

If you’re reading this site, you realize you don’t want some 60-year-old dude waving his finger in your face and telling you what you CAN’T do with your money.

You certainly don’t want to be making your own laundry detergent.

Instead, let’s talk about what we DO want. I WANT to buy my friends a round at the bar and not worry about my credit-card statement the next day. I WANT to take spontaneous trips. I EXPECT to be able to buy a gift for my family and not worry if I have the money in my account.

How do we do that? Money is a part of it, but only a small part. I’ve covered earning more money, saving money, and automating money, and I’ve been impressed with the results that you’ve locked down.

Then, over the last few years, I’ve been doing research to figure out the BIGGEST area with the most potential on helping us live a rich life.

Think about it — where do 97%+ of us spend 8+ hours/day?

At our jobs.

And when you think about it, these 3 areas of living a rich life — our jobs, our finances, and our relationships — have one thing in common: We’re “supposed” to know how to master them, but nobody ever taught us how.

That’s why I’m delighted to share some of my very best material on Finding a Dream Job with you in 2012.

This year, I’m going to pull back the curtain to reveal some of the techniques I’ve used to secure job offers at some of the world’s top companies (including Google, Intuit, and a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund), generate millions of dollars of revenue, and negotiate hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary increases. Every one of these techniques is tested and proven to work with not just me, but a panel of students and friends who I’ve been quietly working with for several years.

Not just how we did it, but the actual word-for-word scripts, the actual emails, even the intonation I used in negotiations — all of which you can use, immediately.

It’s finally time to unveil them.

Now, it would be easy to roll out twenty “Top 10” lists, but I find them to be totally worthless, and I’m not here to waste your time — or to be your intellectual entertainment. Go read TMZ if you want that.

If you’re in your 20s or 30s, the rest of your career is a long time. To not be spending your time doing the HIGHEST and BEST use of your time is a travesty — something I find depressing. Can you imagine being in the same company 15 years from now? On the other hand, can you imagine strategically using your job to help you live a rich life?

What’s amazing about your dream job is that the vast majority of people do the exact same thing: They “update their resume,” (if you use these words, you have already lost…I’ll explain why in Week 3). They submit their resume through a website. And they wait.

Again, if you’ve done any of these things, you’ve already lost.

I can walk into a non-profit tomorrow and get a job. I don’t even like most non-profits. My top-performing friends can get laid off on Tuesday and have a new job by Thursday. I have access to people at the world’s top companies, and I’ve secured permission to have them share their best techniques on how to beat the hiring process. Not through tricks or manipulation, but through a thoughtful, systematic process — not random tactics (“Submit my resume to that job posting!!”) that 99% of job-seekers do.

This includes a SYSTEM everything from figuring out “What is my Dream Job?” to the most tactical questions of all, like “What is the perfect answer to that interview question?”

Sorry, but I won’t tolerate excuses. I’ve catalogued literally thousands of excuses and I’ve tested responses to all of them. For example, one of my favorites is “That only works if you went to Stanford.” False — I’ve tested this material with people from all levels of education. Another: “Well, you need more experience to get that job.” Maybe, but I’ve showed people how to beat out people with 10 years’ more experience. Imagine walking into an interview and getting a Dream Job — more responsibility, higher pay, and something you’re excited to do every day — and watching those people with 10 years’ experience walking out the door, rejected, stopping at the donut shop to contemplate their next pointless tactical maneuver. Ah, the love of watching dejection in action.

Anyway, what if you could use process for discovering your Dream Job, then know how to set yourself apart from other candidates…before you ever walked in to the interview room?

What if you could use these very same techniques instead of sending your resume through worthless recruiters or job-hunting websites?

I know you can, because I’ve tested it with thousands of data points. This will be challenging. This will require a total mindset shift as I show you a new way of approaching a rich life, because this material goes to the core of psychological and behavioral change techniques I write about.

But the rest of your life is a long time.

Some of the material you’ll learn:

  • How to discover our passion. This is the #1 question — “What is my passion?” What if there was an actual, step-by-step process that worked? One that didn’t require you to try to guess what you’ll love doing for the next 30 years. (Hint: It does not involve sitting in your room and making lists of the things you love…no matter how many career books tell you to do that.)
  • How to interview against the world’s top companies — even if you don’t have as much experience as other candidates. (Hint: 80% of the work is done before you ever walk into the room. But the other 20% involves very specific phrases and body language.)
  • How to negotiate the salary you deserve. (My students negotiate, on average, $10,000 more per negotiation.)

You’ll learn how to make your resume stand out so it rises to the top of the pile without submitting it through the “Black Hole of Doom.” And how to use your network to find jobs for you (even if you don’t think you have a network, you do).

All of this, to understand the “game being played around you” — so you can first see it, then master it.

You know what I’m most excited about showing you? The actual, nitty-gritty tactics, including the ACTUAL COPY of emails to send, the ACTUAL WORDS to say when you take people out for informational interviews, and the ACTUAL WORDS and BODY LANGUAGE to successfully interview and negotiate?

You can tell how much I love using actual, tested material, rather than worthless high-level career advice (“Don’t apply for a job you’re not qualified for!” “Make your resume 1 page!” “Definitely get on Twitter!”). Get the hell out of here.

If you want to stay at your current job, great — let me show you how to get a substantial raise and more responsibility.

If you want to find your Dream Job, even better — I can show you how, and I can point you to other people doing what you want to do who have made similar transitions.

And if you want to use this material for more than just your career — for example, to improve your social fluency, storytelling, or even psychological insights of what other people want — feel free. It’s here for you.

Here’s the plan: I’ll release a lot of this material here, on the blog. It will be free, but I’ll challenge you with lengthy posts, videos, and scripts. I love when whiny people complain about the length of my posts, because they are basically raising their hands and telling me they’re illiterate. Go read http://animalsbeingdicks.com/ and get the hell off my site please.

Then I’ll be releasing some deeper material on my Insider’s List. Again, it’s free, but to get this more tactical series of videos and scripts, you’ll have to trust me enough to join my list — and I know I need to earn that trust. And later, for those of you who want to go even deeper into implementing these tactics, I’ll have some new course material for you.

The rest of your life is a long time. And a core part of living a rich life is about mastering your career. Use these frameworks and techniques however you like — but I’m confident you’ll be surprised with how effective they are. These are some of my best techniques that I’ve ever developed.

In 2012, I’m going to show you techniques, frameworks, shortcuts, and actual tactics you can apply — tested techniques, including the very word-for-word scripts and emails that have secured 6-figure jobs, meetings with CEOs, natural networking to meet new business contacts and friends, and insane results in interviewing and negotiations.

Finally, this is important, and it’s important now. When we’re in our early 20s, most of us take whatever job we can find. We mess around for a few years, but in our mid 20s, something changes: Some people find careers — discovering what they love and what they excel at — and they rapidly advance. Others meander around, never sure what the next step is. By 30, the chasm between the two is so large, it’s difficult to bridge it.

Which do you want to be?

That’s why we can’t wait to “figure it out” some other day. Let’s start right now.

Today, I have three questions for you:

1. Is this interesting to you?
2. If you could have me write about anything related to finding your passion, interviewing, resumes, negotiation, or social skills, what would it be? Please be SPECIFIC — write as much as you need to — so I can hook you up with my best stuff.
3. What IWT advice have you implemented in the last year? (In other words, if I give you what you want from question #2, how do I know you’ll take action?) BE SPECIFIC.

Leave a comment below!

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419 Comments

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  1. Holy Fucks Sake. Ramit.

    I am not going to complain about the utter length of this post – but I must admit, I think I am feeling a bit of a bulge in my pants.

    I won’t waste your time with a useless comment here – mainly because you laid down everything on the table with nothing more to discuss. Looking forward everything you have talked about thus far.

    Thanks dude.
    Dilanka

  2. 1. Yup
    2. Negotiation – my weakness is that I often empathize with the other side and sacrifice more than I should to make sure they leave happy.
    Social Skills – I have a number of passions I pursue, including my job, however I’ve put socializing on the back burner with a move to a new city and the start of a new job
    Relating to passions – I consider my job one of my passions and I’d like to learn how to create a system that allows me to learn what I need to learn for my work while still having time to pursue all of my other passions.

    • I second that, how to carve out time to learn what you know you should amid continuous barrages for results/answers in your job.

  3. I’m also looking forward to all your ass-busting info to come.

    Personally, what I am still struggling with after several months of reading your blog/book/tweets is how to build and maintain a system to find one’s dream job.

    Other than that, I’ve been taking notes, experimenting, and am constantly looking for new ways to implement what I’ve learned here.

  4. Did I ever tell you you’re my hero?

    I’m teaching abroad this year and already that year is half way over. I have no idea where I want to go or even what kind of job I want to pursue 5 or 6 months from now.

    This year I’m going to take my finances seriously and move towards automation (it’s virtually impossible when you’re working with int’l banks) and make my money work for itself.

    This year I’m going to try to find that dream job, and hopefully even secure it before I even set foot in the U.S. again. So, in response to your questions:

    1. Yes! This post was probably the most inspiring one I’ve read, and the nitty gritty specifics really turns me one because I always feel so lost in “the real world.”
    2. Yes. I want it all. Right now, though, I want to start looking into what my dream job is (at least for the time being), what my opportunities are. Should I be looking into my networks? Where do I look for those? Should I set up informational interviews? What are those supposed to look like? How can I get the person to even reply to my request? Basically, what steps do I need to take to find my passion if I don’t already know it? Making a list of the things I love sounds fun, but I don’t know how kittens will get me a great job.

    • Same situation.

      Ramit, any advice you can give for those with geographical barriers would be greatly appreciated!

      Writing emails that get a response? Fostering relationships with someone in a different city/country? Getting informational interviews without face-to-face contact?

      Thanks!!! You rock!

  5. Negotiation
    Resume and job related stuff
    Social skills

    in that order and a gr8 post.
    Thanx for changing my paradigm.

    Regards,
    Amit

  6. Social skills – I work in the finance industry and while I think that I do well in one and one interactions (especially in a formal setting), I fail horribly at networking. I tell myself it is because I prefer to listen more than I talk, but then I see everyone else having a seemingly better time and I just wonder could a system improve my networking skills.

  7. How to prepare for interviews for promotion.
    How to find my skill sets that I an bring to new positions.
    How to network in my field and outside of my field.

  8. Ramit – great post as usual. I must admit I am different than your normal readers as I am a 40 year old accountant with a CPA, but I am just like the woman you mentioned earlier who thought that a college education would be enough to get the dream job, and the CPA would get me six figures. Hardly. I have spent too much time watching those less qualified get the higher level positions, and am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Time to learn a new approach and get off my ass. I’m looking forward to your posts this year and to “The Rich Life”.

    • People tell me CPA will get my Resume to be noticed… how do you feel about that? (I’m in my 20s)

  9. Good post. Please fix the axes on the graph 🙂

  10. Ahhh right on time! I am three months away from finishing my mandatory internship and 4 or 5 months to finish my master thesis in engineering (of course, if it depended on me, it would be 4 months, but some bureucracy you just can’t fight…). I will start looking activelly for a good job in the middle of January. So thank you!!

    1. YES!

    2. Interviewing (I am still not confident enough) and negotiation. The second one if I really really need to pick just one.

    Thank you for all your wonderfully uselful material!

    A

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