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15 Little Life Hacks

Be careful who you listen to

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Foreign people don’t give a damn about calling you fat. Go find any Spanish/Indian/Asian person and ask them if their foreign relatives have ever called them fat.

They will look at you bewildered. “Of course. Every time I visit.”

White people are speechless upon hearing this. But it happens.

When I went to visit India a few years ago, I had moved on from being a skinny Indian dude to actually gaining a little muscle. One of my uncles took one look at me and said, “You have become very fat.”

Another uncle saw me, squeezed my bicep, and said, “Aray! Been working out?”

Here’s the difference: The first uncle who called me fat…is overweight! The second uncle, who knew I’d been working out, is ultra-fit.

Who do you want to listen to?

Everyone has an opinion. One of the keys to mastering my personal psychology has been choosing who to listen to — and who can be smiled at, then ignored.

Guy calls me “scammy”

Look at this:

scammy comment

This is from a frugality blog. Imagine someone said this about you. In the past, I would read a comment like this over and over, getting depressed, debating whether to respond, and feeling a knot in the pit of my stomach all day. Now, I see it and move on.

Do I really care what a frugalista says about my “expensive” courses?

This power to control my reactions to unpleasant comments has taken years. And in fact, he’s right! My courses ARE expensive! I don’t care about producing $9 ebooks. I don’t play in a $9 sandbox, nor do I create simple material for people who will never read it.

One way I look at it is, I’d rather spend a lot on something that works than get something for free that doesn’t.

Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you rather spend $1,000 on something that works than $29 on something that doesn’t?

And I would rather stretch myself to write about all the different facets of living a rich life — careers, entrepreneurship, productivity, and more — instead of writing yet another post about interest rates and lattes. Just kill me.

Why do people criticize?

There are many reasons, but one of the most interesting comes from an example called “bike-shedding”: Basically, if you have a meeting about an atomic reactor, most people won’t speak up, because it’s way too complicated for them to have any meaningful input. But when confronted with a simpler choice — which color should we paint the bikeshed? — EVERYONE has an opinion.

Interestingly, I still get about 15 comments/week about my headshot. “Ramit, you should really change your headshot,” etc. Why? Because they probably can’t comment on my psychological techniques or email funnels…but anyone can say your photo sucks.

So, back to you.

How to handle critics

If there is one thing I’ve learned writing for IWT, it’s that 30% of the people who email me don’t need a tactic or technique. They need therapy. Maybe I’ll get into that in a future post.

I’ve learned you’re ALWAYS going to get unsolicited advice from people. But your reaction to it is what counts. Novices get really frustrated, then try to fight back against it: “Mom, let me do what I WANT to do! I’m a GROWNUP now!”

Life isn’t a Huggies commercial. Top performers plan for feedback. They actively solicit it. Plan for doubters, concern trolls, and outright skeptics. For example, I’ve been writing this site since 2004 and people are STILL skeptical! They continue to leave comments like this!

The truth is, some people are determined to be offended, or play the victim role, or be adversarial towards you.

But always ask yourself: Is this person in the position I want to be? Am I getting relationship advice from my girl friend who can’t hold down a relationship more than 3 months? Am I buying a “Make a million dollars” course from some info-product joker who, if I Googled around for 5 minutes, I’d discover he has severe credit-card debt and cashflow issues?

Or am I working on mastering my own psychology, recognizing negative feedback (not simply trying to ignore it), and improving my response to it?

This is why I don’t even bother selling stuff from my blog. If you don’t like what I see, leave. If you do, at some point you’ll join my newsletter, where you can see the 8+ master courses I’ve created over the last few years.

But I recommend you remind yourself of this: Opinions are cheap. Everyone will have them, because it’s easy to point out things you’re doing wrong, or ways you “should” think about things.

  • “Just follow your passion!”
  • “A Dream Job? You should be lucky to have ANY job in this economy!”
  • “You need to track your spending”
  • “Buying a house is the best investment you can ever make”
  • “Your first step needs to be social media”

All of these sound logical and are well-intended pieces of advice, yet are ultimately useless. Always ask yourself: Is this advice-giver in the situation I want to be in? Are they giving surface-level advice (“social media!!”) or, if I pressed them, would they be able to back it up and give examples?

You don’t have to listen to everyone.

You don’t have to give equal weight to critics.

And that goes for me, too! Question my background. Question what I’m telling you! In fact, you should do your research on me (Google around, or you can find a 6-page profile that Fortune did on me) before listening to anything I have to say.

And if you like what you see, check out my newsletter — where I post my best material — for more.

Just remember, everyone has an opinion. Not everyone deserves your full attention.

Now you tell me: What kind of BAD feedback have you gotten — feedback that you ignored? Share your story in the comments.

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  1. Heh, funny that you brought up “ask them if their foreign relatives have ever called them fat.”

    Although I’m a very skinny Asian guy, I do know that my family is very quick to openly criticize. In fact, one of my friends is constantly told by her entire family about how “fat” she is. It’s depressing, but they don’t understand how much these critiques affect someone.

    My dad isn’t exactly traditional because he’s fairly young, but he does have this issue with openly criticizing and he doesn’t know how to give positive feedback. My great accomplishments are meant with “Cool,” or “Hm.” But then when I make a mistake? Oh boy, I won’t hear the end of it for a while.

    After a while, it desensitizes you and sadly you lose respect for the people who are opening their mouths. The judgment you used to hold in high esteem now mean nothing to you.

    I’ve learned it’s a lot more about choosing the voices to listen to (the ones that nurture and encourage growth,) while tuning out the ones that believe in nothing good.

  2. It does feel like you’re pitching your items more than you used to. I’m not counting posts or anything, but of the posts that I’m reading, those seem to be more of a sales pitch. Honestly, in the past,” I’ve actually thought why doesn’t he pitch his product more?” But lately it does seem to be a little more in my face…

    I haven’t considered dropping my subscription to the feed. But I thought I’d give my 2 cents, since you brought it up.

    P.S. Charge whatever you want for your product!!! What more does this guy want?!? It’s like he thinks you should write a book for the people who don’t want to consider spending more money. Oh wait….

  3. I’m a member of an alumni group on LinkedIn. And everyday, without fail, there’s at least 2-3 posts on there exactly like this: “Howdy! I’m a Dec ’12 B-school grad looking for a job in marketing/HR/customer relations/project management. Any leads would be helpful.”

    I recently wrote a blog post, trying to help, calling that tactic out for being:
    A.) lazy
    B.) not identifying what they want
    C.) adding zero value
    D.) not differentiating themselves

    I went on to offer advice on what I’d do instead.

    Here’s some of the criticisms I’ve received so far:
    ” That’s the painful truth but seeing that some people get responses make you do the same thing.”

    “I don’t disagree, but another point of view would take into account that this could also be a last resort. When you think about how almost 50% of recent college graduates are jobless/underemployed, sometimes taking what you can get is where you turn.”

    “A&M tries to imbue a community of people who support each other along with the training to help a company attain its goal. Because of that I think the posts are refreshing. At the very least it puts a public face on the reality of after college employment.”

    ” I would say that your post has some great advice in it for new grads….if this was a good job market.”

    “Ryan, a friendly bit of advice…It may be true that the world-at-large, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t care about the dreams of one person. I see that as a fault with our society–that we don’t empower people more to achieve their dreams and make it our calling to make the world a better place. However, stating “Nobody gives a shit what you want.” in an advice column is not helping the situation and will, unfortunately, lead people to take you less seriously as a writer.”

    I responded tactfully, but I should’ve just sent them this:

    • haha, ya I read that post (was excellent by the way).

      The easy job application methods give some sort of mental satisfaction that “I’m trying”, rather than actually putting in the hard work to think before you send…

  4. Asian criticism is definitely something that I’m used to. I thought it was because I’m genuinely fat, but it turns out that pretty much every Asian (inclusive of Indians) kid gets this, even the ones whose bones stick out an alarming amount. Americans are horrified when they hear the kind of stuff my parents, aunts, and uncles say to me. There are Asian girls who weigh 50 pounds less than me who get called fat every day by their mothers (this is not confined to crotchety foreign relatives), even though they are below the minimum healthy BMI.

    There’s some research that says that the Western media caused an uptick in anorexia and bulimia in Japan. I’d posit that the pressure wasn’t internal but rather external.

    Thanks for fortifying me before dealing with all of my relatives coming in for my sister’s wedding.

    • Right Back At You Link to this comment

      Tell them, “I can always lose weight, but you will never be pretty.”

      One insult deserves another!

  5. As a nightclub DJ, I have the blessing/luxury/curse of instant feedback by looking at how many people are dancing to the music I’m playing. I have a theory that almost nobody asks a DJ for a request unless they are dissatisfied with the music being played at that time (which I feel is a type of feedback).

    Now, I’m the idiot who tries to reason with drunk people on why I won’t play their request if it is outlandish (I had a person ask me to play Flamingo music… WTH?). But most of the time, I take their request and weigh it against: 1) keeping the dance floor filled; 2) what the club owners, managers and/or promoters want me to play; and 3) how it fits into what I’m playing or planning to play through out the night. This doesn’t mean I won’t play the request, but the request has to pass those tests; otherwise, I will not play it.

    My goal every night as a DJ is to get the most people to have the best time possible, keeping them in the building as long as possible, so that they will drink as much as possible. That means I don’t care about any one person, I care about the group as a whole. So it doesn’t matter if a person is begging me to play some EDM song they downloaded onto their phone, or a person is screaming at me to play Hip-Hop when I’m playing the format the club owners want me to play, which is NOT Hip-Hop. I have to shrug off the request/feedback of the few, because I know at the end of the night, the bulk of the people will have had a great time!

  6. My ex best friend once told me I am the worst friend she ever has and she look forward to never meet people like me. It hurt me because I always try to be like a sister to her. But I realize that no matter what I did or do to try to be a better friend she would never appreciated. I never understood why she wanted to hurt me that much, or what she wanted to show me with that. But i just keep to myself what I learn from this situation.

  7. I think people are telling you to change your mug shot because we’ve seen you in video and in other photos, and honestly you look better in other photos than in your mug. That’s not a negative thing — some pictures just aren’t as good as others, and don’t capture a person as well.

    Also, the way we view our own pictures/appearance in the mirror is often very different from how someone else sees us. For one thing, we see the mirror image whereas they see ourselves in reverse. Or the other way ’round.

  8. Remit, I just started following you after learning you from Creative Live. You are fantastic! Thanks for making all these great posts, especially on a Sunday night – really enjoyable to read.

    Negativity comments, in general, used to depress me as well in the past but I learned to move on quickly. Withstanding criticism is like trying to withstand a major storm – it’s how you handle it that showcase your character. Everyone has their opinions and we just have to take it as a grain of salt.

  9. When I first decided I wanted to move halfway across the world & start my energising coaching business parents were (understandably) concerned. I got a few emails & a few uncomfortable phone calls about my choice, but in the end I stuck to my guns & did what I knew was right for me. Now most of my family is extremely supportive, and the rest are reluctantly so. If I hadn’t ignored their advice I would still be half a world away from the love of my life & finishing a degree I’ll never use.

    I think it’s important to understand where the criticism is coming from. In the case of my family, it was from a place of love & concern for my future. I think in your case most of the critics are either a) envious of your success deep down (or not so deep down) or b) wanting to establish a connection with you & try to help, but in the only way they can think of, whether it is truly helpful to you or not.

    • Annika,

      Great job following through on your plans despite the resistance!

      When a broke friend recently heard how well I was doing freelancing, she urged me to abandon what I was doing and listed all the reasons why, mostly citing her own business failures. I think sometimes commiserating over real or perceived failures is the only way some people know how to bond. Being a victim is perceived as easier.

  10. Sadly, the bad advice often comes from all the relatives on my dad’s side. Like Ramit, I often got upset about this until I learned to just smile and ignore them. My relatives are overweight, overworked or unemployed, and have bad social skills, yet they offer other people advice in these areas the time.

    The worst advice though has come from my grandma, who was chronically broke while raising my dad – electricity getting turned off and everything. Yet she insists my best shot at success is being a temp (“I did that and I was never out of work!”) and freaks out whenever I mention entrepreneurship. It literally doesn’t matter to her that I’ve made $1,000 this month freelancing on the side (which of course I’ll tune up so I can eventually support myself full time). To her, the only sure bet in the world is a $15/hour temp job. When she heard I was preparing to negotiate, she freaked and urged me not to be a troublemaker.

    Now I tell my dad’s family a very watered-down version of my life. The freelancing, the negotiating, the networking, all my plans – I keep those close to the chest and just smile and ignore the unsolicited advice. It allows more peace and harmony in my family and affords me the freedom to do what I need to without the drama.