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2013: The Year of Taking Control

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There are a few things in life that should instantly make you pause and proceed very cautiously.

  1. Your boyfriend/girlfriend asking you about people you’ve dated in the past.
  2. A Chinese/Asian/non-white mother asking you if you drink or if you think real estate is a good investment.
  3. Anyone asking you, “WOW! You look great! How’d you lose all that weight?” or any other questions about your recent self-improvement in health, money, spirituality, or your career.

The last one is especially dangerous since it sounds innocent, but actually, you are about to be slaughtered by the vagaries of human behavior.

Every year, I like to kick off each year with a big theme. In the last few years, I’ve focused on hustling and mastering the game being played around you. This year we’re going even bigger.

Welcome to the Year of Taking Control

In the next four weeks, I’m going to release material you’ve never seen before that will help you tackle psychological barriers, give you the word-for-word scripts to improve social skills, and help you take control of…

  • Waking up earlier
  • Being more productive
  • Overcoming negative “invisible scripts”
  • Taking the things you “know” you should do — exercising, being thankful, earning more, finding a better job — and actually helping you DO them

But first, back to the RED ALERTS of self improvement…

A few days ago, I walked into a minefield as I was having dinner with a family friend. She noticed I’d been working out, and she asked me what exactly I do for my workout/diet.

After years of working in self-development, red flags immediately went up. To any outside observer, I looked like the normal and lovable Ramit you know and love. Well…at least the Ramit you know.

But why did red flags go up? Because in one of the oddest quirks of human behavior, even if someone genuinely asks you what you’ve been doing to improve, when you answer, they will get defensive.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Friend: “So what have you been doing to work out?”

Ramit: (Cautious, as if I’m walking into a minefield) “Well…I used to be really skinny, so I decided to learn how to work out. I started eating right and got a trainer.”

Friend: “But what do you eat now? Are you off carbs?” (Notice how they’re already laying down the invisible script: “You may look good and I may want to look like that, but there’s no way I could go without carbs”)

Ramit: “I did try a few different things. When I went off dairy, that made a big difference. Would you ever consider doing that?”

Friend: “But I hardly eat dairy. And anyway, I want to enjoy my life. I don’t want to do these extreme things. I’d rather just be healthy like I already am.” (4 invisible scripts in 4 sentences. See if you can spot them.)

This went on for a while, until I finally said: “Did you notice that every answer you’ve given me has started with ‘but’?” She actually stared at me with her jaw dropped. Nobody had ever called them on this before.

Sometimes, it takes someone to point out the patterns that we’ve been doing for our entire lives…but we’ve never noticed.

These invisible scripts are so deep, we don’t even notice them.

Video: The pain of being out of control

Being out of control can be debilitating. Look at this video of some IWT students talking about how they were out of control with their money…their jobs…and their overall lives.

Our scripts can be hauntingly powerful. We can actually WANT to do something — really truly want to lose weight, or get in control of our finances — but our scripts get in the way.

For example, one of my friends is a mother of 2 who recently got really fit. When her friends ask her, “You look amazing! What do you eat?” and she tells them, their first response is consistently:

“Oh. I’m Asian…I can’t give up rice.”

How can we spend our entire lives worrying about money, losing weight, or living a rich life — yet when we see someone just like us, doing it successfully, our barriers instantly surface to hold us back from changing?

The weirdest part is we ACTUALLY want to change!

Yet when powerful barriers hold us back, it’s like a ship trying to drag an invisible anchor around. No matter how much you try, no matter how fast you try to go, there’s always something holding you in place.

And over the last year, I’ve encountered this in startling ways.

I made a dumb mistake and paid for it

A few months ago, I ordered two jackets online. The boxes sat in my room, 5 feet from my bed, for a month. It was an insanely busy month of work and travel, and by the time I tried them on and discovered they didn’t fit, the 30-day return policy had expired.

I acknowledged I was a dumbass but like any Indian person, I decided that “no” is the beginning of the conversation. (My dad told me a funny story about some Indian people who wanted to buy some land near a temple. The land was selling for $550,000. They walked in and offered $325,000. Can you imagine selling land to a bunch of Indians? They walk in with 3 shoes and a goat and wipe their hands. DEAL’S DONE!)

I decided to take the jackets into the store and get them tailored so I could at least wear them. This is when things started going wrong.

I spend a lot at this store, so I have a lady who hooks me up with advance notice on sales and helps me shop for stuff. Ok, first of all, who the hell has a personal shopper and how ridiculous is that? I know.

Anyway, in the middle of a busy week, I took an hour off to do this godforsaken errand. When I walked in, she lit up. “Hey Ramit!” she said. She’s sweet, plus I think she’s going to pay for her future kids’ college educations off my commissions. I asked her if there was any chance of me returning the coats. “I wish I could,” she said apologetically, “but it’s past the return period.”

Ugh, ok. Could I get them altered? “Sure, but we’ll have to charge you.”

I was not expecting this. “How much?” I asked. Her response: “$65 for that one.”

Wait a second. I already didn’t want to be there. Now I find out that I bought these jackets online at full price, and not only can I not return them…but I’m going to have pay MORE?

“Forget it,” I said. “I’d rather give these away.” I was already frustrated having to run this stupid errand, and now I’d have to pay more for clothes I didn’t even want? I packed up my stuff and left.

As I walked out of there, I was pretty mad. You know when you’ve been a loyal customer and a company doesn’t treat you right? I’ve spent thousands of dollars in that store, and that lady has made a lot on commissions. In my head, she should have just offered to have the alteration done for free, knowing that I’d be a long-time customer.

A few days later, I was still thinking about why this bothered me. Was it the poor customer service? Was I just feeling entitled?

Then I realized it. I thought I was mad at the store policy…but I was really mad at myself. I had all these thoughts in my head (“I’m a good customer….they should pick up the tab…they should reward customer loyalty”)…but I hadn’t said ANY of these things to the woman at the shop!

How could she know this?

It’s funny — we get frustrated at our jobs…our bosses…our income…our lack of travel…

But how many of us actually get mad at ourselves? Mad because maybe we COULD get the things we wanted…if we only asked for them.

This crystallized what I’ve been hearing from tens of thousands of IWT readers over the last few years.

  • We KNOW we want to be more than just ordinary people working at ordinary jobs.
  • We’re WILLING to put in the time and work. We’re not asking for a free ride.
  • But we don’t know WHAT to do.
  • And even if we KNOW what we want…we often have invisible scripts and barriers holding us back.
  • And yet with ONE small tweak — one script, one change, one barrier exposed — we can often find that dream job, earn more, get in shape, improve our social skills, or even have better relationships.

That’s when I knew what the theme of this year would be on I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

2013: The Year of Taking Control

When we’re in our early 20s, the world is our oyster. We can do anything — we have multiple passions, and it’s totally OK to take the time to “figure it out”:

But over time, we turn 26…then 28…then 30. And as we get older, we start making excuses.

“Oh, I like to have my time to myself when I get home from work.”

“Yeah, he did it, but I don’t think he ever goes out any more.”

“Well, I’d do that, but I have _____ (kids, debt, an OK job, etc.)”

Then one day, we wake up and wonder how our lives turned out the way they did…

“I wanted to fly around and consult for CEOs…so how did I get stuck in this dead-end job?”

“I used to play sports. Why am I tired just walking up stairs?”

“I wanted to travel abroad at least 3x/year, but I can’t even pay my bills. WTF?”

Time to make a change. But how?

How most people approach taking control

I have a confession: I used to have the body of a supermodel — a female supermodel. I was 5’11” and 127 lbs.

Even though I would work out for 6 months at a time, I would never get big. Never mind that I had no idea how to work out properly or how to eat. I concocted this grandiose notion that “I can never get as big as THOSE guys.” It actually became part of my self-concept.

Years later, I learned I was guilty of “fuckarounditis,” where I would go to the gym and mess around, lifting this and that, never using a strategy, then get frustrated when I saw no results.

This doesn’t just apply to fitness. Take careers, for example. We have jokers who send out 100+ copies of their resume, thinking “If I just send 1 more, that’ll be the ticket!” Or they complain about how getting a job is all about WHO you know, not WHAT you know…then they fail to actually get to know anyone. Please get the hell out of my face, you whiners.

Some people make the opposite mistake: They believe that if they want to achieve goals, they have to do the EXTREME VERSION of getting to that goal.

Money example: “I don’t want to have to track every penny of my spending for the rest of my life!” (You don’t, but that invisible script allows them to not track anything at all.)

Health example: “I don’t want to have to watch every single thing I eat forever. I like having a treat now and then!” (Similar barrier. Btw, the alternative is to keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing.)

Relationship example: “So you want me to communicate better. You’re saying I have to tell you EVERY SINGLE THING I’m thinking. That’s just not how I’m built!” (Nobody wants to hear your annoying thoughts, moron. They DO want you to communicate better.)

These “extreme-reach” barriers are convenient excuses to continue doing what we’ve been doing forever. And many people who claim they want a goal — like “passive income” or “6-pack abs” — actually want the RESULT, but are never willing to do the work to get them.

I ran into this with one woman on my email list. I asked my readers, “What’s one thing you CLAIM you want to do, but you don’t do it?” She wrote back, telling me she wants to run 3x/week. I said, why don’t you run once/week?

Her response floored me: “I don’t really see the point of running once/week.”

She would rather dream about running 3x/week…than ACTUALLY run once/week.

How many of us do this? We WANT these big, grandiose goals…but if I asked you, “What are you going to do TOMORROW to move towards it?” we would have no answer? Or we’d have a dozen ideas…none of which we really believe in.

It’s human nature to skip over the details. But that’s where IWT comes in…

To be in control, you don’t have to be in control of everything.

As I become more and more in control of my life, this is a principle I’ve discovered.

For example, I don’t cook. (My mom’s response: “You need a wife.” She seriously said that.)

But eating healthy food is important to me, so I have a guy who cooks food for me. Yes, I could read a few good books and learn to cook, but it’s not a priority for me right now.

Another example:

If it means the difference between getting something important done and not doing it, I’ll almost always default to “getting it done” (even if I don’t do it myself).

BUT, there’s an exception.

It’s one thing to pay for someone to clean your apartment, or mow your lawn, or even cook for you.

But for the critical things in life that only you can do — like finding your dream job — it pays to be in control.

One $5,000 raise in your 20s can be worth over $1 million over the course of your life.

And it’s the difference between waking up every day and wanting to hit the “sleep” button on the alarm for the 5th time…or waking up EAGER to get to work.

My philosophy: Take control of the BIG WINS in your life: Money, career, health, relationships. For the rest, decide how important they are to you.

You don’t have to be in control of everything to be in control of your life.

This Year: We Take Control

In the spirit of BIG WINS, we’ll be tackling big improvements like improving social skills, finding dream jobs, and becoming more productive.

Notice I’m not talking about worthless small savings, like saving $3/day on lattes. I’m tired of dreaming small. And I know you’re tired of setting pointless “New Year’s resolutions” of vague things (“I want to become a nicer person!” “I want to exercise”), knowing that you’re not going to do them even as you set them!

No more.

Let others focus on pointless tactical maneuvers and small wins. We’re focused on BIG WINS — the ones that are going to change our lives.

And over the next 4 weeks, we’re going to cover them in detail.

We’ll go through 3 steps:

1. Understanding psychology
Some people think I’m mean to my readers. What they don’t understand is after writing about psychology for 8 years, I’m lucky to be sane.

People constantly want to jump to the tactics without understanding their psychological barriers. These are the people who join my Earn1K program (to earn money on the side) and immediately ask, “Do I get on Twitter? How do I get more clients? What about a Facebook page?” I kick them out. Without tackling your psychological barriers, no amount of tactics will help. That’s why we spend so much time going over psychology and behavioral change on this site.

Here, I’ll show you.

Here’s an example of terrible psychological barriers in action. In response to a depressing article about unemployment, one commenter responds:

“If nothing else, these stories have convinced me to save save save save my money like my life depends on it. I’m in my late 20s and already trying to figure out what I will do when I become unemployable in 20 years and have to live the next 30 off of what I managed to scrape together during my short career.”

This person is in their late 20s and planning for failure! Talk about a lack of control. Would your most successful friend ever talk like this?

2. Systematic breakdown vs. random (pointless) tactics
It can get kind of depressing watching all our friends on Facebook humblebragging about their amazing vacations and posting pictures of their new cars and awesome gifts.

How do you think it makes most of us feel?

The truth is, these people don’t have some magical quality that you and I lack. They are not “naturals.” From knowing a lot of successful people — people who run their own businesses, travel whenever they want, even earn 6- and 7-figure incomes — what they DO have is a systematic way of breaking down problems.

PROBLEM: “What should I do with my life?”

AVERAGE PERSON: “I don’t know…I need to find my passion…I should try a bunch of stuff….I’m reading a lot of blogs….I’m overwhelmed…help! I don’t know what to do! Ahh…I didn’t go to Stanford so there’s no way I can do what  _____ did….The world is unfair….It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know….Ugh, it’s not like I’m unhappy…really….I’ll do it some day.”

TOP PERFORMER: “All right, I don’t know what I want to do, but I do know a few things I like…so I’m going to find out. How? I’m going to take 5 people out to coffee this month and ask them…Why would they spend time on me? I don’t know yet, but I’m going to try….Oh, in order to get 5 people to say yes, I probably have to email 20 people…What should I email them? Let me google “How to meet busy people”…Hmm, this is an interesting article with the exact networking scripts to use…the first meeting was a little awkward…let me try a different approach on the next one.”

Average performers do what the media says, sending out resume after resume, wondering why nobody responds to them. They latch onto tactics, begging people to tell them what book they read…or what size margins to use on their resumes.

Top performers know there’s a game being played around them, and if they do what everyone else does, they’ve already lost. They deconstruct the game, analyze it, then systematically study how to get what they want, ethically and rapidly. This works for finding a dream job, earning more, traveling more, improving relationships, even working out.

I’ll show you how you can use this approach to take control in your own life.

3. Picking the right things to work on
I remember being in a meeting with about 10 people at my last company, and someone brought up an innocent question: What color should the website be? Within minutes, 10 people were arguing, defending their perspective, and treating the color like it was a world-changing event.

What I learned from this meeting was smart people will attack ANY problem like rabid dogs. The difference between SMART people and EFFECTIVE people is knowing what to tackle.

“I can save $0.50 on saran wrap!” Great, you’re a moron.

This is the perspective of so many people. They are EFFICIENT — tackling whatever’s put in front of them — but not EFFECTIVE in knowing what they should work on in the first place.

We’re cognitive misers. We have limited cognition and willpower. How much of an impact would just ONE big win have on your life — like getting into shape or landing a job you love?

There’s a cost to not being in control

For every day we go by without taking control, what happens?

On that day, nothing.

Over a lifetime, maybe everything.

Just like eating one piece of cake doesn’t affect us in the long term — but eating it every day will make us fat — not taking control holds an invisible grip over us.

Not taking control of productivity means doing less every day than others every single day. It means not flossing or exercising or pursuing that hobby we keep talking about — or trying, half-assed, then giving up.

Not taking control of health means less energy every day and more physical pain, not to mention the intangibles like poorly fitting clothes, less people attracted to you, and lower self-confidence.

Not taking control of relationships/social skills means the phone doesn’t ring on Friday night with people inviting you out. It means settling for who talks to YOU instead of the kind of partner you want. And it means letting your friends and family dictate your decisions instead of being able to confidently say, no, this is what I’m doing.

Finally, not taking control of your career means hating the alarm clock EVERY MORNING. It means being stuck doing something you don’t love — or worse, hate — being underpaid, losing thousands of dollars a year (compounded over a lifetime). Worst of all, it means not living up to your potential.

There’s a real cost to not taking control. And just like investing, the cost actually compounds as we get older.

But if you DO take control, the results ALSO compound.

One $5,000 raise in your 20s, when properly invested, is worth over $1m over a lifetime. Just one raise.

Same for health, productivity…you see what I mean.

So getting us to that first step of taking control is my HIGHEST priority for this year. I’m going to use every tool and technique and example at my disposal to help you get there. Because I know once you do — once you make that first step and instead of waiting for permission, you TAKE control — everything can change.

We’re going to unshackle ourselves from our barriers. We’ll recognize and conquer our invisible scripts. And we’ll take the things we ALREADY want to do, but haven’t….and get more done in the next 4 weeks than we did all of last year.

Along the way, I’m going to show you examples of students I haven’t shared before. (In fact, last year, I didn’t even tell you about literally thousands of students who had success with IWT programs. I have their stories, videos, and even tactical field reports to share with you.)

I’m also opening up a new version of my Dream Job course, Dream Job 2.0, which will help you discover what your dream job is, use natural networking to find people who will help you get it, master your resume and the job interview, and negotiate your salary. The new material is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

What’s coming your way…

WEEK 1 (next week): Taking control of PRODUCTIVITY and HABITS

The last week will be private only for my email subscribers. To get on the list, and join 160,000+ other people, click here for instant signup.

So, questions for you:

  1. Is this interesting to you?
  2. What is ONE SPECIFIC THING you want to take control of? Don’t just say “productivity” — tell me what part of being productive you want to improve, and why. Share a story.
  3. What surprised you about today’s post?

Leave a comment below!

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  1. 1.Is this interesting to you?
    – yes, I began to notice areas in my life where I’ve not taken control e.g. health, I eat a lot of the wrong things and don’t exercise

    2.What is ONE SPECIFIC THING you want to take control of? Don’t just say “productivity” — tell me what part of being productive you want to improve, and why. Share a story.
    – productivity in relation to my blogs. I tend to take time off and let the blog writing lapse. I’d like to get into a routine of updating and maitning the blogs for at least 2hrs a day 5 days a week

    3.What surprised you about today’s post?
    – “Because in one of the oddest quirks of human behavior, even if someone genuinely asks you what you’ve been doing to improve, when you answer, they will get defensive”


    • Thanks! One thing: 2 hours a day 5x/week is a LOT. I’d rather have you aim for 3 hours a week — total — and hit your goal.

      There is a cost to setting goals too high. When you fail, you trust yourself less each time. One of the things we’ll do this year is focus on setting ACHIEVABLE targets.

    • 1. Yes this interests me or I wouldn’t bother to respond.
      2. In terms of productivity, I often get overwhelmed by the amount of new material I feel I should be reading or want to be reading and would like to get in a routine (I feel I had one before but have somehow lost it) of reading 3 newspapers today and like 75 pages of a book.
      3.Just thinking about my productivity example, I realized I’ve been using correspondence as an excuse to avoid reading.

  2. One point about the person in their 20s and planning for failure. I’m also in my 20s and have the same view that come sometime in my 50s, I won’t be able to do that job I do now. Not sure if it is a case of can’t do it, or don’t want to do it yet, but either way I won’t be able to do it.
    I too am saving for the same point, however I view it as a life choice. At the current rate by the time I hit 58 I’ll be able to stop working *without* impacting my lifestyle financially. (I say financially as I enjoy my job and right now I’d still come into work tomorrow even if I won the lotto a few times over) Ideally I’ll get this date down a bit, and the choice will be my choice of when to stop working.

    So a goal more than planning for failure, and that is the difference.

    And before you rip into me, I already have another source of income outside of my main job and am currently starting another venture in an area completely unrelated to my main skill-set. Your material is too infectious sometimes and right now there are too many opportunities and not enough time 🙁

    • haha, but that a good thing right? Being able to do that before xyz happens?

  3. Patrick Brophy Link to this comment

    1.Is this interesting to you?

    Definitely. While I’m doing well in many areas, I seem to do lots of reading and not enough doing, especially when it comes to exercise.

    2.What is ONE SPECIFIC THING you want to take control of? Don’t just say “productivity” — tell me what part of being productive you want to improve, and why. Share a story.

    I’ve lost about 30kg over the past couple of years and I’ve got my healthy eating, avoiding sweets and junk squared away most of the time. But for some inexplicable reason, I’ll go completely nuts for about two weeks, out of nowhere, start stuff my face with sweets and keep going until it eventually peters out. I’m in control most of the time, what causes this slip?

    • Well, what are do you think? Think back to the times you’ve reverted to old eating habits. Why did it happen?

    • Sounds like you’re spending a lot of “control” energy depriving yourself. If you allowed yourself to answer “yes” to “do I really want this chocolate chip cookie” sometimes then it’s a lot easier to answer “no” when you really don’t. Likely a couple of yes votes a month – or even a week – would add up to fewer cookies than your 2 week binge. It’s worked for me, anyway, for 30 years of maintaining a 45# weight loss in my 20s.

    • Sweet cravings relate to lack of grounding, over thinking or worry as all of these are part of the earth element in Chinese medicine. I’d start looking there for emotional triggers.

  4. 1. Is this interesting to you?

    Very interesting. Health, career and money are definitely areas I’m going to work on this year.

    2. What is ONE SPECIFIC THING you want to take control of?
    Building habits. I have a lot of hobbies and plans but I find it difficult to start and do these things regularly. I’ll be doing them regularly but then just stop and I’m not sure why.

    3. What surprised you about today’s post?
    Two things:
    That when you talk about how you’ve met a goal people are defensive. I noticed people don’t seem too interested in the answer unless it’s some “magic fix”- I didn’t realise people are defending their own choices.

    Secondly: “I just need to figure things out” I’m guilty of this but again, didn’t realise it’s something I/other people do to procrastinate or change the subject. I think it’s a way to tell people you’re being productive when you’re not.

  5. Ramit,
    I knew you’d come through! I have spent the last couple weeks focusing on setting up systems and figuring what I can automate/delegate/let go of to make my life more streamlined and less stressful. And of course I thought of you! I’m ready and so happy to have read this post–happy 2013!

  6. What I’ve always loved about Ramit is his ability to see and analyze “proxy conversations” and the minefield conversation above is pure textbook.

    A strikingly high percentage of people are walking bags of excuses, fear, resistance and defensiveness. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad people, or mean, or doing it to you on purpose. But if you want to live YOUR life to the best of your ability, you’ve got to see and sidestep these conversation and behavior scripts.

    Keep it going Ramit. All the best for a dominating 2013.

    Dan @ Casual Kitchen

  7. With any luck I’ll get my 20-something children to follow you 🙂

    • Connie, this may be way off because this line is the only thing I know about you, but this sounds like you’ve given up on yourself. And if that’s true, and that attitude is any influence on them, then they’ll need luck too.

    • Huh, Connie, I didn’t get that impression at all. To me it sounds like you are just saying that you hope they pay attention to Ramit sooner, rather than later, which is not at all a commentary on yourself.

    • Dear god Brett. You got all that from one line? Come on man.

  8. Very interesting, thanks! The restatement of obvious points really helps me overcome my natural “dumb” reactions and better hear what is said. This year will be a healthy year so naturally I over-slept due to reading a book late last night and now don’t have time for a morning swim. Health, defined as lower body mass (235), lower blood pressure (130/80, non-medicated), better food intake (Paleo), less stress (Course correct career and work interactions), and better active relationships (Disengage negative mental scripts and expectations).

    Probably the most surprising thing was hearing that some of your readers are dumb and then asking them to comment. Doesn’t that set you up for more dumb comments and slow down the careful ones who share an innate dislike for embarrassment?

  9. Hi Ramit!
    1. This is very interesting to me and I can’t wait to read and explore the new material you will present this year!
    2. I would like to actually get in shape and be consistent with my exercise and healthy eating. For years, I have been saying I want to do this, but I feel like my health follows the pendulum you spoke about above. I’ll be extremely healthy exercising every day and eating healthy and whole foods for a week and then the next week, I go to the other extreme sitting on the couch and eating junk food. I’d like to finally get CONTROL of this!
    3. What surprised me about today’s post was that I already started to recognize some of my deep set personal barriers.

  10. 1. Of course this is interesting to me! I wouldn’t have spent my time reading the full article if it wasn’t! 🙂

    2. I want to take control of my career. I’ve been floating from job to job for the past 8 years, and I want to find my dream job, even though I think I know what that is, and make what I’m worth. I’m grossly underpaid at my current job and I hate where I work and what I do.

    3. What surprised me most about today’s post was that I saw a lot of my own excuses there. I really have none – I’ve lost out on jobs because I was not an internal referral. If I network more, I will be. I have the skills and ambition – I just need to do it.