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7 things I learned from 9 years of IWT

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I’m not a sentimental dude. But this week, “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” turns 9 years old, and I’ve been thinking about the last NINE YEARS of writing hundreds of blog posts, thousands of emails, and millions of hilarious jokes.

In 2004, I wrote my first blog post. IT IS HORRIBLE! I say that Step #1 is knowing what you spend. That is exactly WRONG! I use the word “budget” multiple times. I have no narrative, only boring information.

In short, I hate myself of 2004.

College Ramit repping thugs

But at least I got started.

I continued developing my philosophy and systems. I tested my material with hundreds, then thousands of people. I learned how to track results, stop nagging (like 99% of other “financial experts”), and focus on the Big Wins.

Slowly, the site started to get readers. The Wall Street Journal covered me. Then, a New York Times best-selling book. Then a 6-page Fortune profile, and Forbes putting me next to Warren Buffett.

Warren is in the house (that was his actual first tweet ever)

All of that is great, and it’s nice to be recognized since we’re doing something nobody has done before: we’re focusing on living a Rich Life.

And we’re doing it NOT by dumbing things down, or appealing to the lowest common denominator, but by relentlessly TESTING our assumptions. Do we really need to keep a budget? Should we really submit our resume through job websites? Do we really need to start a Facebook page to have a successful business?

More importantly, we have CONCRETE results. While thousands of life coaches (AKA unemployed people who give advice and can’t generate any meaningful results, including profit) continue sharing touchy-feely tips like “Get in touch with your emotions,” IWT readers handily crush platitudes, generating hundreds of thousands of measurable, concrete results.

I employ 2 people whose only job is to catalog our success stories.

Dream Job success stories

To me, this is what I’m MOST proud of. Not the cool technology we’ve developed, or the intricate behind-the-scenes systems that scale to millions of data points.

It’s results like these:

We’ve moved from just writing about personal finance to all aspects of living a Rich Life — entrepreneurship, careers, fitness, even relationships.

And I have a lot more up my sleeve for you.

Today, I thought I’d celebrate the Rich Lives we’re developing by sharing some of the biggest lessons from IWT.

LESSON #1: Brutal honesty. No nagging.

A friend of mine is brutally honest about being materialistic. She loves bags and shoes — expensive ones. She does online sales, and she made a rule for herself that each time she does a monthly webinar, she takes 5% of sales and spends them, guilt-free, on anything she wants.

I love this!

A $2,000 bag? Get it. A weekend trip to Vegas for $4,000? I’ve done it. Flying last-minute to see your old college friends? Let me show you how to do it.

None of us wants to live like a penny pincher. Do you really want to know how to make your own laundry detergent and save $0.32/year? Who wants to live like that?

Instead of telling you all the things you CAN’T do, IWT is about showing you what you CAN do. But it takes you being brutally honest about what you really want — and what you’re willing to do to get it.

LESSON #2: Big Wins, not minutiae

It’s easy to talk about cutting back on lattes, disabling the oven light to save $0.03 over 2 years, and never ordering appetizers. Great! You’ll save $11,000 in 30 years and hate your self every day of your life.

Or…you could focus on the 5-10 Big Wins in life and never have to worry about ordering your morning coffee: Investing early. Negotiating your salary. Starting a side business. Finding a Dream Job. Optimizing your credit. And a few others.

You can listen to the experts who tell you to keep a budget and cut back on lattes. The truth?

  1. They don’t even do this
  2. Why don’t they ever talk about Big Wins like earning more? Answer: They don’t know how.

LESSON #3: Psychology first.

We tend to believe we can do it all. Especially in America, we use phrases like, “I’m going to buckle down” and “If I just try harder, I can (lose that weight / save that money).”

We truly believe that if we try harder, if we just learn one more piece of information, we’ll change our behavior.

This is patently wrong. Here’s a great excerpt from the Culture Code, by Clotaire Rapaille:

“Years ago, Tufts University invited me to lecture during a symposium on obesity…

Lecturer after lecturer offered solutions for America’s obesity problem, all of which revolved around education. Americans would be thinner if only they knew about good nutrition and the benefits of exercise, they told us. Slimming down the entire country was possible through an aggressive public awareness campaign…

When it was my turn to speak, I couldn’t help beginning with an observation. “I think it is fascinating that the other speakers today have suggested that education is the answer to our country’s obesity problem,” I said. I slowly gestured around the room. “If education is the answer, then why hasn’t it helped more of you?”

There were audible gasps in the auditorium when I said this, quite a few snickers, and five times as many sneers. Unsurprisingly, Tufts never invited me to lecture again.’”

If you’ve looked beneath the hood, you’ll notice that IWT isn’t about money, or entrepreneurship, or even careers. In truth, IWT is about using psychology to live a Rich Life. The psychology, persuasion, and social influence lessons I learned at Stanford, applied in my life, and tested in my business. This is what I teach every day via my personal laboratory of IWT.

LESSON #4: Being the best = disproportionate results.

In a world of infinite choice, there’s a flight to quality. That means it’s “free” to try all the free ebooks, the $7 online courses, the “guru” webinars…but ultimately, we start to realize we’re wasting our most valuable resource of all: time. I’ve found the best people want the best material. And when you’re ready for the best, price is a mere triviality.

That’s why I spend millions of dollars developing my courses, sparing no expense. I spend years researching the market, collecting 100,000+ data points, ripping my courses apart and rebuilding them until they’re perfect.

And it’s why I’m not afraid to charge premium prices for premium material. Because the best know to focus on value, not cost.

I love when people write me saying, “Dream Job looks great but WOW that’s too expensive. I might buy it if it cost $50.” I just laugh. I don’t play in the $50 sandbox. Why would I? I’d rather give my material away for free than attract people who pay $50.

So I give away 98% of my material free. My goal is to make my free material better than anyone else’s paid stuff. And I know that after I’ve invested in you, sometimes for years, you’ll invest in yourself when the time is right.

LESSON #5: Avoid losers.

It’s politically incorrect but true. Avoid losers in your personal life and above all, avoid them in your professional life.

That’s why I’m brutally honest about who I want on this site and who I don’t. I openly urge people to unsubscribe if they’ve read my material but haven’t taken action. If someone has been reading for 2 years, and they can’t afford one of my courses, I’m very blunt with them. Why? What have you been doing wrong? People are crying out to be held accountable, and nobody does it for them.

I learned this in 2006, when I released my first premium mini-course — a laughable $4.95 ebook — and people went apeshit crazy. “RAMIT, YOU JUMPED THE SHARK!!!” they cried. “OH, SO THIS IS JUST I WILL TEACH MEEEE HOW TO GET RICH, NOT YOU, HUH!?!” These stupid morons were so focused on a $4.95 charge that they missed the entire point of paying for value (and nearly drove me insane). It took me 3 years to learn how to master my psychology of being the best, working with the best, and charging for the best.

That’s why I systematically surround myself with people who challenge me to be better. My friends. My amazing staff. And it’s why I set up a program to make that same personal network available to you.

If you’re the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with, and they’re keeping you down, how can you expect to succeed?

LESSON #6: Think big. Being the best is never an accident.

If you’re going to look at anyone in your industry, study the best. Being the best is never an accident.

I advise a lot of startups. Almost always, they want to know the “magic bullet” to more traffic, or generating automatic revenue, or building courses that sell for thousands of dollars. In classic IWT fashion, I give them what they WANT to know, but I also give them what they NEED: I teach them some of the inside techniques we’ve developed in the IWT Lab, but I also encourage them to study the best copywriters, marketers, product designers, and other specialists. I tell them how many thousands of hours we spend developing our courses, sales material, emails, even a simple guest post. Inevitably, their eyes glaze over.

They want the results without the work. Just like your neighborhood complainer wants the 6-pack without the work, most of us want the results without the work.

They will never succeed.

Worst of all, some of them come to me with dim goals. “I just want to have enough to cover my expenses!” is the rallying cry of every digital nomad.

What a waste. To live like a subsistence farmer? So you can brag to your friends that your scammy SEO business covers your $600/month expenses to live on the beach in Thailand, while you jealously look at other businesses doing more good (and more revenues)?

Think big. It doesn’t mean you have to make a million bucks, or have a best-selling book, or be on TV next year. But it does mean surrounding yourself with the best, challenging yourself to think bigger, and studying the best to know it’s possible to do more than you ever imagined.

LESSON #7: Live a Rich Life today.

I love really nice hotels. When I took a 3-week vacation to SE Asia in 2012, my motto was “My villa is your villa” and I invited my friends to join me.

To keep track of my favorite hotels, I save a list of them to visit whenever I travel. A little while ago, I was telling my brother-in-law that I save the REALLY nice ones for later in life. Because, as I said, if I stayed in them now, where would I stay in the future? In other words, how can you go from driving a Mercedes to a Toyota Corolla?

He looked at me. “Dude,” he said, “if you can stay there now, do it. There’ll always be new hotels. And you never know what’ll happen tomorrow.”

Amazing insight. We can save for our retirement — and we should! But we can also live a Rich Life today. That means focusing on Big Wins and ensuring our money automatically goes where it needs to go, so we can spend guilt-free. It means setting up systems so we can travel on a whim (if we want to). Or if we want to be healthy, we can afford healthy food, or a personal trainer, or even a chef! Or it may mean starting a scholarship, funding your parents’ retirement, or simply giving back to your local public library.

We don’t have to wait until tomorrow to live a Rich Life.

That’s what I’ve learned in 9 years. And I have a lot more coming your way in the next 9 years.

Until then, it’s a thrill to write for the 500,000+ monthly IWT readers who’ve committed to a Rich Life.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll talk to you soon.

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  1. Dude, those really are pimpin’ slippers.

    I don’t want to sound like a dick (even though I will), but the handmade Ugg boots on my feet right now were worth every cent. Plus, my last pair lasted nearly 15 years. Spending the extra cash on these once, rather than buying cheap crappy ones every year or two – that’s what I consider living the Rich Life. Oh, and the $10k pay rise I negotiated last week, plus $3k of training materials for my next promotion.

    Sorry, I really got sidetracked by the slippers.

  2. Looooved this post! Thanks for writing this awesome blog and always being so generous with what you’ve learned.

  3. Thanks for driving people to achieve their true potential.
    The day I your posts stop punching me in the gut is will be the day I know I have really started to achieve something.

  4. Love it! Keep on rocking the Rich Life, Ramit! You inspire me every day of my life. Nothing like having a surrogate South Asian father to bust my chops when I’m whining or slacking or feeling unmotivated.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you!

  5. Huge congratulations! You’ve done so much in your 9 years, and it’s been a big help to me personally. Hey, we’re both turning 10 next year! Wow, we are old geezers.

  6. Huge congratulations on hitting nine years, an incredible achievement.

    I laughed at your first blog post, not out of spite, but because it was just written for a level way below what you offer now. I truly admire that you play big and bring actual value to the table.

    Here’s to the next nine years.

  7. That is some great progress mate. Inspired by your life story, I’m sure there’s more coming.

  8. Loved reading this, Ramit. I only started reading your blog at the end of last year after finding your book. Am I ever glad! Reading the book and going through your blog archives was the first slap in my face to get my act together financially and career-wise.

    Congratulations on your first nine years, and looking forward to learning more from you in the next nine years!

  9. Congrats Ramit…really cool to see the evolution and growth over the last 9 years…great stuff and keep up the amazing work there…it’s truly a unique approach you’re taking.

  10. Congratulations Ramit! You’ve done so much with another idea you say often but didn’t happen to mention – a year from now, you’ll be another year older, and where will you be? I also like: we overestimate what we can achieve in a year, and underestimate what we can achieve in ten years. I’m really excited to see your next 9 years 🙂 thank you for doing what you do!