Announcing the I Will Teach You To Be Rich scholarship for $2,500

Ramit Sethi

Today I’m THRILLED to announce the I Will Teach You To Be Rich Scholarship for Social Innovation.

You can read the details at the scholarship site, but I want to take a few minutes to talk about giving back.

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Why wait for a mythical day?
When I first launched this scholarship in 2006, people thought it was ridiculous for a 24-year old to start my own scholarship. My friends said stuff like, “Wow, I wish I could do that.” They said that while wearing $100 jeans and eating a $20 dinner.

One thing I never understood was the idea that “I’m just doing this for now, but later I’ll do what I really love.” I always get suspicious when people defer what they “really” want to do until later — whether it’s finding the job they love (“I’ll just work in investment banking for a few years”) or giving back to the community that helped raise them.

In a depressing yet bitingly honest post, Philip Greenspun writes:

Ask a wage slave what he’d like to accomplish. Chances are the response will be something like “I’d start every day at the gym and work out for two hours until I was as buff as Brad Pitt. Then I’d practice the piano for three hours. I’d become fluent in Mandarin so that I could be prepared to understand the largest transformation of our time. I’d really learn how to handle a polo pony. I’d learn to fly a helicopter. I’d finish the screenplay that I’ve been writing and direct a production of it in HDTV.”

Why hasn’t he accomplished all of those things? “Because I’m chained to this desk 50 hours per week at this horrible [insurance|programming|government|administrative|whatever] job.

So he has no doubt that he would get all these things done if he didn’t have to work? “Absolutely none. If I didn’t have the job, I would be out there living the dream.”

Suppose that the guy cashes in his investments and does retire. What do we find? He is waking up at 9:30 am, surfing the Web, sorting out the cable TV bill, watching DVDs, talking about going to the gym, eating Doritos, and maybe accomplishing one of his stated goals.

Retirement forces you to stop thinking that it is your job that holds you back. For most people the depressing truth is that they aren’t that organized, disciplined, or motivated.

I’m not sure I would take it that far, but there’s a definite element of truth about how we defer our dreams for a mythical day in the future when we’ll have more money and time. There’s a better way.

The 85% Solution for Giving Back
Earlier this week, I was reading an online discussion about what people would do if they were rich. People talked about traveling, starting a charity, and teaching…all GREAT causes. But why don’t we do it today? We don’t have to quit our jobs to travel — we can do it 4 Hour Workweek style. We can teach little kids by doing one-off seminars or tutoring or help inner-city women manage their finances or find local volunteering opportunities in our neighborhood.

You don’t have to quit your job and become a monk to give back. You don’t have to stop going out every weekend. We can be successful by going 85% of the way there.

My point is, we don’t need to wait for tomorrow.

If you want to give back, you can do it in a thousand ways.

It doesn’t have to be a scholarship. Never before in history have we been able to help so many people with so little. We have tools like Kiva and DonorsChoose and Youtube that allow us to scale our social entrepreneurship to millions of people. And with so many talented people reading this blog, I’m SURE I can find someone who’s the right fit to give back.

About the Scholarship
The I Will Teach You To Be Rich Scholarship for Social Innovation is a $2,500 one-time award for someone with an entrepreneurial background who has a specific plan for a socially innovative project. I’ll fund your idea for $2,500 and provide mentorship and introductions.

The key is that it must scale. Instead of helping one child (which is great by itself), I’m looking for someone who can take that interaction and apply it to 100, 1,000, or 10,000 people. For example, if you were really ambitious, you could fly to another country and donate your time. But if you wanted to make it scale, you could use your video skills videos like this or this. Or your teaching skills. Or your programming skills. How many more people would that affect? How could you measure it?

I’d love to see you apply for the scholarship.

Read the details here.

And please tell your friends.

Links you may be interested in:

[EDIT]: The finalists are announced here.

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  1. Doctor S

    What a great idea to promote forward thinking… off to the think tank I go.

  2. Raoul Duke

    i’m all verklempt. you, sir, rock. seriously.

    (unfortunately, i have a laundry list of things to do before i can even think about getting off my ass. 🙂

  3. Brad

    I’ve got too much on my plate as it is to think about applying for this, but I just want to congratulate you on the initiative. Not only is it a great idea, and a damn generous one, but it addresses an issue that affects many of us without us realising it (especially the youth) – if you’re forever putting things off until tomorrow, you’re never going to get a thing done today.

  4. Chung Nguyen

    More important than the money itself, it seems you’ve got us all thinking about what we want to do to improve all our lives.

  5. AD

    Wage slave? What a really depressing way to put it!

    But at least I am actually doing the things I want to do…just don’t have two hours to devote to the gym or three hours to learning the piano, so it’s more like 45 minutes and 30 minutes a day instead.

    Very cool scholarship idea..

  6. A. Dawn

    I like your approach. It’s a great idea to give and to promote simultaneously. An Entrepreneurial Thinking …
    A Dawn Journal

  7. mike c

    I’m no longer in my 20s, and thus ineligible, but I read today (somewhere… can’t recall exactly) about someone that fits the bill for this:

    Emily Douglas of “Grandma’s Gifts” at

    If my math is correct, Emily founded the org when she was just 11 years old in 1993, which puts her at about 26’ish. Through her org, she’s raised millions to help fight poverty.

    Very impressive young lady.

  8. Pamela Slim

    All I can say Ramit (in a 1970’s flashback) is RIGHT ON LITTLE BROTHER!!!

    This is great, great, great. Great example. Great way to promote innovation. Great way to stimulate us all to stop waiting for the mythical time to do what we want to do.

    I’ll spread the word!


  9. Murali

    Super idea! Love your focus on executing NOW!
    You are Blessed, indeed!

  10. Pablo

    good project. just turned 30 last month. i guess i’ll just forward to the young’uns among my friends.

  11. jontsai

    Bravo, Ramit, bravo. No, seriously. Thanks for the Greenspun quotation, and also your take on the situation:

    “One thing I never understood was the idea that “I’m just doing this for now, but later I’ll do what I really love.” I always get suspicious when people defer what they “really” want to do until later — whether it’s finding the job they love (”I’ll just work in investment banking for a few years”) or giving back to the community that helped raise them.”

    I’m in my early 20’s right now. I don’t want to see these years go by without doing anything significant besides the futility of padding my bank account and buying more toys and gadgets for myself to enjoy.

    Thanks for the wake-up call and timely reminder. The 30’s and 40’s will pass by quickly, and soon I’ll be 50 or 60 if I live that long. Even if I’m more financially able to “make a difference” or “do something” or “give back” then, I will likely be less physically able. The principle of compounding efforts and exponential ROI–start small, contribute regularly–perhaps one individual you touch will go on to touch 5 other lives… If I start when I’m “at retirement age,” there’s a whole lot of catching up to do, if by that time I’ve not already become so engrossed in myself and interested in my pleasures and interests to be concerned for others around me at all.

  12. Mark

    That’s a fantastic idea!

    Everytime I write a post for my blog I wonder what I can give back rather than just focusing on my own finances (my blog makes me sounds far more greedy and materialistic than I actually am). So far it’s been limited to regular charity donations but this idea has far more scope. If you ever think about expanding the scholarships and need more funds from fellow bloggers let me know.

  13. stephanie

    Ramit, this is an excellent article. I’ve been really focusing on this the past few months – taking control of my life instead of letting my life control me. I think this idea has gone hand in hand with taking control of my finances in the past year! I recently started volunteering at a local charity, and yesterday I started learning how to play bass guitar (at no cost to me – my younger brother had one that he never uses, so I’m borrowing it to learn on!).

    I’ll be brainstorming ideas, and I’ll pass this information along to all of my other 20-something friends!

  14. diN0bot


    Can you be more clear about what you’re looking for and offering?

    I co-founded a community-oriented non-profit last year and am interested in applying for funding. We already have some technology and outreach, though. Are you looking for ideas or is it still worth applying with some progress?

    My understanding is that this is a donation. However, your video makes it sound like you’re looking for a business partner. There is also some discussion on Hacker News ( about whether this is a trick. I don’t believe this is the case, but hearing more of your thoughts would allay all concerns.


  15. Ramit Sethi

    Thanks for the heads-up about Hacker News. I responded there.

    No, I’m not looking for a business partner. This is a scholarship.

    Progress is more important than anything else. Ideas are cheap.

    Btw, I love how skeptical people are on Hacker News. Some people are determined to be cynical despite all evidence to the contrary.

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