Consuming vs. producing

Ramit Sethi

Got this note from a reader named Hamza.

You hit me man. You hit me hard.

I was reading your “Find Your Profitable Idea” ebook…until I hit the “STOP” page. As usual I kept reading it and though “I’ll do it later. No worries.” Then I read the page that came after “Consumer vs. Producer”: that’s where it happened. I stopped for a minute and realised that I’ve been consuming personal development content for close to 3 years now without much action… THREE F#$%# YEARS!

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Having said that, I did get some results in my life (I got my shit together and I am about to start a PhD in one of the best universities in the world). But really, I only used 1% of all the stuff I read over the years (including your IWTYTBR book) – and I’m pretty well off. I can only imagine where I’d be if I just acted on 10% of what I read. Argh!..

Anyway, just wanted to drop this quick email. Just know this, even if I don’t get my Earn1K profitable idea (even though I’m certain I will by the end of the program), just those couple of pages had a big effect on me.

It’s so easy to consume. It’s much harder to produce something.

That’s why the rewards for successfully producing something that people want are so disproportionately high.

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  1. Moneymonk

    This is so true, that’s why it’s easier to be poor. Obtaining and growing your wealth takes time, disciple and work!

  2. MD

    A post like this is always eye-opening. A sense of pride hits me when I glance over at my book stack beside my desk (Crush It, IWTYTBR, 4HWW, etc.). Then I ask myself how much of this information have I applied? That’s all that matters. By sending a few simple emails I was able to increase my freelancing income. Just a few simple emails.

    • Charlie

      What few simple emails? What do you mean? Can you explain this? I’m trying to develop a freelancing business doing family education consulting (soon I’ll even have letters after my name because of my degree). What are you doing for freelance work?

  3. Matthew Peters

    “That’s why the rewards for successfully producing something that people want are so disproportionately high.”

    I couldn’t agree more. So many times we consume extraordinary information – synthesizing into a few hours of reading what took 10 or 20 years of education, experimentation and life experiences through their book – but we don’t produce anything in our own lives following the encounter.

    We can’t stop at the good feeling we get when we put the book down – nor can we merely use it in a conversation piece at a party or make a passing comment on it as a simple blog post. We must embody the greatest information we have collected and become a proponent of the best-of-the-best information that we have processed.

    Knowing what information is worth using and learning how to produce something that the market truly wants is the key. Otherwise we may just become brilliantly broke.

  4. Sophie

    Hey Ramit,
    I just started applying your “Find Your Profitable Idea” tips and I have to say its working wonders. Just as MD here, I sent a few emails (4) and already got 2 new customers. So I had to say thank you. I didn’t have time to check the earn1k and beyond1k material yet, so much info, I don’t even know where to start tbh, but I can’t wait to read about new tips form you…

  5. Jennay

    Why can’t I find this ebook? I need help like you can’t believe. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’m really at the end of my rope.. both financially and mentally.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Jennay, it’s not available publicly right now. Best suggestion if you’re stuck financially is to start with a simple book — either mine or check out Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey if you’re in debt.

  6. Jenna

    What great personal insight. I feel that way sometimes when I read stuff. It will remind me of a friend who could benefit from what I’m reading and I probably only pass along the information 25% of the time. Just think how much life changing action could take if I shared information 100% of the time.

  7. Maxime

    Hi Ramit,
    I don’t know if it is normal but this post doesn’t appear in the RSS feed. I find it by accident.
    Great post, it hurts.

  8. Young Joe


    This post definitely hits very close to home. I had read T4HWW and your book several times (more times than I care to admit) without taking any action. I even joined your Earn1k program, again without taking any real action for months. I felt great “knowing” the things I learned but they were of no real benefit to me. I wasn’t doing anything with what I learned!

    To make a long story very short, I eventually ended up identifying a very small niche group that only I and a few other people have access to, and providing them goods that they absolutely need. I ended up crushing the 1K goal that I had set for myself. This first venture of earning money on the side was a surprisingly quick win and really galvanized my latest effort.

    Which leads me to my shameless plug:

    This is my latest effort at taking action to really crush my goals of earning more. At the same time myself and my partner are providing a line up of products that everyone in our target niche needs! The book contains 25 drink recipes all including Moscato wines (which everyone loves because they’re sweet and easy to drink) and also 5 bonus dessert recipes. Moscato wine sales are up tremendously across the United States and so this represents a giant niche group that is willing to spend money on products that they consume everyday!

    I really wanted to share this with you and your readers. The knowledge I have gained in the past year has really changed my life! But without taking any action, I’d still be where I was in the beginning of 2010…essentially in the same place I’d been my entire life.

    Thanks Ramit, and please let me know what you think!

    • Charlie

      Wow, that’s really innovative! Congrats on putting that together. 🙂

  9. Chris Horner

    “I can only imagine where I’d be if I just acted on 10% of what I read.”

    Absolutely. All the knowledge in the world is useless if not put into action. Funny, as hard as it can be to get moving, once you’re going and seeing results moementum will keep propelling you forward.

  10. David Smith

    How true. We can read about good ideas for hours and it doesn’t produce anything until we stop and act. I know I sometimes have far to many project ideas planned rather than executed. It always tempting to spend more time reading because it’s educational when really it’s just being lazy if there are projects waiting.

  11. Chris Clark

    I used to have this problem in a major way. I could probably shame even the worst of you in my worst days of theory/action ratio. A few tricks helped me reduce to some extent my knowledge hoarding:

    1.) Always print out e-books (even though I really hate wasting paper). It allows me to write on the book and set limits. Getting a way from the computer screen is also a great way to snap out of the dull actionless haze.

    2.) Set a page limit before you start reading. If you really loved it and don’t want to take action just summarize the important points and go eat a Hot Pocket. No pressure. About half the time, however, you won’t be able to get those points out of your head and you’ll take at least one important action.

    3.) Read one thing at a time! I can’t believe how many non-fiction books I used to try and read at the same time. I think there was literally a time when I was trying to learn Ruby, PHP, how to start a business, how to lose weight and corporate auditing at exactly the same time. Reading one thing at a time will force you to prioritize what you’re learning and pays huge dividends by limiting the number of possible actions you can take as well as accelerating you toward expert status.

    4.) Know why you’re reading something. I can’t count the number of times when I used to read things just to stack more knowledge in my brain. Now I pre-select knowledge based on: problems I want to solve, or outcomes I want to see.

    At the end of the day all of this is about slowing the fuck down. Success is an iterative process.

  12. Ryan Waggoner

    This post reminds me of a classic tweet by _why before he disappeared into the ether:

    “when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.”

  13. Abhishek

    This is so true. I think we’re all so used to the idea of “new” that we never actually look back at what we have learned. It’s information overload that I feel really holds people back. People just want to read more and more information like the stuff you write because it makes them feel good, it makes them feel that they can do great things. But as you and everybody said, they end up doing nothing. I feel that we should all have 3 or less “go-to” sources of information, and block everything else out. For me, its definitely your book, 4HWW, and Crush It.

  14. Tyler Wells, CPA

    We’re all just junkies looking for the secret ingredient, the magic bullet, the one secret way that will change our lives and make us more like the people we really want to be. Of course, there isn’t one way, there are a million and they all require sweat and work. I’ve read most of those great books, haven’t followed any of them, and in the end I’m still just making it up as I go along.

  15. Hamza

    Hey guys,
    Thanks so much for your support! This was quite a spontaneous email I sent to Ramit – not calculated or anything, just my state of mind at that particular moment in time.

    I think that some people that read IWTYTB read the same self-help material out there, namely: Ramit (obviously), Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuck,, Seth Godin and maybe a few others. These are all great people to get valuable insights from – but without action it’s only “comforting reading”.

    Knowing there is a problem is step #1 (from step #0 which is simply ignoring the issue), seeking expert advice is step #2, taking action is step #3. If you ask me #2->#3 is probably the hardest transition in the process.

    @Jennay: I obviously recommend the IWTYTBR book for a start.
    @Chris Clark: the techniques you mentioned are quite interesting. Another way I found to stop myself from simply consuming is to use some of Tim Ferriss tips on note-taking (check out the 4HWW blog), which not only stops from consuming too fast but allows yo to stop and reflect back on the notes you’ve just taken to take action.

  16. loyd

    i see alot of comments showing pics next to the name of the person, can anyone tell me how it was done?

  17. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    key point:

    “successfully producing something that people want”

    anyone can produce, but the point above is very important to note and what distinguishes successes and failures and frustrations.

    what has been the best formula to find the right mix for you? interested in everyone’s thoughts….

    Loyd – go to

  18. Gal @ Equally Happy

    I would also add that a corollary to this is to focus on skills that actually produce something. If you’re going to school for a French degree (sorry to pick on French grads, it’s just an example), stop and think to yourself what you’re actually going to produce with that knowledge of French. Is it something useful? Is it something people want? Enriching yourself by learning new things is fine and well, but if you want to make money, focus on skills that produce stuff that people want and leave learning French for a hobby.

  19. Andrew @ Money Is Not Important

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll be sharing this with my readers today over on Tumblr.

    I was in the same situation as Hamza this time last year. I’ve spent years reading self help books and articles on everything from fitness to finance. I don’t know what happened, but a switch finally flipped. Over the course of this past year, I’ve managed to lose 40 lbs, negotiate a $10k raise at work, start freelancing as a web consultant ($1,000 in earnings to date), and create a personal finance blog on Tumblr that has gained 3,400 followers since September.

    I owe much of this success to things I’ve learned on your site, and I’ve learned that even the best laid out plans are worthless without excecution!

  20. Kris Pearson

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll be sharing this with my readers today over on Tumblr. I was in the same situation as Hamza this time last year. I’ve spent years reading self help books and articles on everything from fitness to finance. I don’t know what happened, but a switch finally flipped. Over the course of this past year, I’ve managed to lose 40 lbs, negotiate a $10k raise at work, start freelancing as a web consultant ($1,000 in earnings to date), and create a personal finance blog on Tumblr that has gained 3,400 followers since September. I owe much of this success to things I’ve learned on your site, and I’ve learned that even the best laid out plans are worthless without excecution!

  21. Chris

    This is pretty neat. I tend to think of myself as a doer, so here’s my do for the day (let it be a time capsule):

    *Write my 60 articles, so I can enjoy my Chris-mas.

    My next-week do:

    *Get my next rental property inspected, enjoy my last chance to back out (and then plunge right back in there)
    *Plan materials, contractors to contact, and where the money for all this is going to come from
    *Write for my newest client (he alone is going to pay me enough to live on, if I can handle the work load)
    *Determine an action date for buying Earn1k- I’m thinking August 1st (after the rental is rehabbed- it has issues), so I can enter 2012 as a wealthier individual

    My next month do is:

    *Find at least $2,000 triple-net, so as to start on the rental and accomplish a sizable portion of it before March. I want to have it done by late July, and the steps are already forming in my head.

    *Get my driver’s license (I just never wanted to before)

    *Help my girlfriend get her disgusting, crazy comedy website built properly (it’s right now, but it’s moving to and yeah, I totally just pimped it.

    *Return to 8 hours a night of sleeping- I’ve been so busy writing the past few months, I’m usually cruising on 4-6 hours (survivable, but not good).

    Ready? BREAK!

  22. Aatash

    Are there more specific strategies you know for turning these great ideas and knowledge into action? Other than “Just do it.” (which I think is probably a big part of the answer)

    Chris Clark mentioned some good ones.

  23. Prince Roy

    This whole Personal Development/Online Marketing is a bizarre racket. These guys don’t produce anything either. Their whole goal is to obtain ‘students’. Their ‘testimonials’ consist of these guys doing so for each other on their pitiful websites and youtube. They have their own stars and a pecking order, A-lists down to C-lists, but for the life of me I can’t tell what distinguishes them–they all do the same thing–what that is exactly, I can’t figure out. It’s a very strange community and phenomenon.

    Ramit seems to exist on the periphery of this community. He speaks the same lingo as these guys, and is all about SEO and tech savvy, but one key difference is he’s actually got a tangible product: personal finance guru to the most self-entitled generation yet to walk the earth. I think his book is a great idea, but he loses it for me with the other get-rich-quick stuff he peddles. Everything he does seems designed to suck the reader in to buying yet another in the same line of similar products. Whereas a real personal finance guru (Suze Orman) would give the following counsel: keep the money, pay down your debt if you have any, pad your emergency fund, and invest the rest in low-cost index finds. Really, the only book you’ll ever need is “The Boglehead’s Guide to Investing”. Ramit’s book is interesting filler, and may ‘speak’ to the 20-somethings, but at the end of the day, he is just another online marketer. Go Bogle, and don’t look back.

  24. Kate

    SO TRUE.

    Whenever I speak on starting one’s own business, I make this point over and over again. Once you shift your mindset from consuming to producing (i.e. stop sitting in front of the TV for 3 hours every night consuming, and spend even HALF of that time producing something of value), it’s amazing how easily success comes.

    Unfortunately, I still know that even if I speak to 100 people, maybe 7 will come up and talk to me about starting to produce, and, of those, maybe, MAYBE 1 will actually follow through.

    It makes me want to bang my head against the wall when people talk about quitting their job and starting their own company or starting freelancing, and then they get angry that things aren’t working out. Meanwhile, when you ask what they did last night, they’ll tell you about all of the TV shows they watched.

  25. TheMasterPoint

    Acting on what we read is always the most interesting and difficult part. This at least reminds me of the need to try to do more.

  26. Hamza

    It’s great to see such great comments. I found this interesting article about self-help info addicts!

  27. Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach

    I think we’re all in violent agreement that this post rings true, but an interesting question is why do we engage in nonproductive input behaviors?

    Here are a couple of my thoughts:
    1. Fear of Failure-If we never actually try to implement the ideas, we can’t fail.
    2. Inertia-It takes effort to start to move in a different direction and do something about what we’ve learned.
    3. Fear of Missing Out-Persuasive communication entices us to believe that we will miss out if we don’t read whatever comes at us. But in fact, we’ll miss out by never doing anything with what we know.

    To a brilliant end to 2010 and a glorious 2011!

    • Charlie F

      I think you’re definitely spot on, Elizabeth. Something that I’m trying to do right now is to get over my fear of failure. It took me… I don’t know, 8 or 10 times of reading what Ramit had wrote about the guy that started to communicate with his lenders (both online and in the book) before I started talking to them.

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  29. Marie-Pier Joubert

    I recognize myself in Hamza… I’m reading blogs but I don’t actually put what I learned in action. I intend to make IWTYTBR and 4HWW an important part of all my reading and actions this year. Thank you Ramit.

    • Charlie F

      So what actions are you going to take now?

  30. Sandy @ yesiamcheap

    This time of the year I guess we can also apply the same thought to our resolutions. How many of us will make them and then utterly forget about them until December the following year? I guess it’s human to think big and then go slow on the action part. This year I hope to buck that trend with both my finances and my life goals.

  31. Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach

    Thanks for the affirmation Charlie-it takes a lot of courage to admit that we’re afraid of failing. It’s a natural fear but one that doesn’t have to paralyze us.

    One thing that I found is helpful for transforming the mindset of the people I serve is to point out to them that doing nothing to move in a positive direction is actually dooming yourself to a 100% failure rate. Even small actions toward your ideal is a HUGE success compared to doing nothing.

    I wish you the very best as you prepare to start graduate school.

    Have a Fantastic End to 2010!
    Elizabeth Grace

    • Charlie F

      Thanks, Elizabeth. Putting the failure rate in those terms (100%) is a very succinct way of looking at a problem that plagues everyone. For example, an ER bill just arrived to my parent’s house for me, and my mom was just going to throw it away, assuming I knew about it and didn’t want to do anything with it! I said no, I want to start making payments on it.
      Blogging about my financial turnaround has really been helpful – I’m making myself publicly accountable for getting things paid off, and soon, getting money invested and beginning consultant work.
      And thanks for the encouragement about graduate school. I just got confirmation of my 3rd reference letter writer – all I need to do is get my essay written, collect the letters, and send it all in!

  32. Anne

    I think one of the causes of this tendency is the authors of self help books themselves. The tendency I’ve seen in the industry (having read 5 bazillion self help/ personal finanance/ weight loss/ ect books/ blog/ articles/ ect.) is to make people feel warm and fuzzy. They make you feel fantastic about yourself for not being one of “those” people and fail to give actionable steps to get some shit done!

    My favorite authors, Tim Ferriss, Ramit, and Loral Langemeier all give actionable steps to actually make your life better- not make you feel better. All the postive thinking in the world won’t put a dime in your pocket.

    I have two tendencies that are different than Hamza that end up landing me in the same boat.

    1. Starting WAY too many projects at once.
    This was my 2010 (all of these were going on at the SAME TIME!)
    – Working full time
    – Working a part time job
    – Working out 3x/week with a personal trainer trying to lose 40lbs
    – Starting a vending business
    – Getting my MBA
    – Having a boyfriend/ friends
    – Writing a book

    No wonder I couldn’t get anything done!
    I would like to argue that biting off more than you can chew is an equally large problem for those of us with Type A+ personalities.

    My 2011 resolution is to try to eat the elephant one bite at a time instead of shoving the whole thing down my throat.

    2. Is flitting around from project to project without sticking to one.

    I get really excited about an idea, work really hard on it, pour all my energy into it for a few months, and then quit.

    For my entire life I have looked at business and finance as this super complicated thing. I’ve worked, and I’ve studied, and I’ve analyzed- and I haven’t made a damn dime.

    From 2011 on out- either I am having people give me money for the work I’m doing or it’s a hobby. The end.

    Ramit, I think you should do an article about the importance of focus and follow through. Any advice or tips you would have on this topic would be of great use to me, and, I would guess, a large population of your readers.

    • Nigel Chua

      Ah, I’m guilty of that too! Now I write down all I want to do and achieve, and then schedule them on my calender, breaking them down into tasks that are doable in 30 minutes or less.

  33. Joe Miami Social Media Marketing

    I’m glad he wrote that to Ramit. I’ve felt the same way for a long time, and am just getting out there to get clients and be more productive. I hate that I trick myself into consuming more and more information (even though it is quality) and call it work, but then never really using it well. I’m slowly changing but I’m still a consumer. This blog helps and thanks, Ramit, for the bonuses from 4 Hour Body, those help too.

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    […] ever). I read so voraciously that I periodically try to figure out whether I’m hitting the consuming vs producing trap (guilty mostly). The 2011 sequel to this goal will be retention. Reading is all very well but […]

  35. Zac Sullivan

    Working in education seems to blur the line between consumer and producer to me because I must consume in order to produce (and this is true with food and other things as well). There’s a bit of a false dichotomy between the two.

    One concern I have is this: How can I really get ahead if I am constantly selling my time for lessons, etc? If I had a product that I could sell, then I could get ahead it seems. Am I wrong? Or do I have to have a product to be a producer as an educator?

    Happy New Year,

    ~ Zac Sullivan ~

  36. Nigel Chua

    Agreed, and this is proportionate to the 80/20 rule, Ramit. That’s why there’s such a big and seemingly unfair disproportionate difference between the consumers and the producers. I wrote a heartfelt blog post on this just a couple of weeks ago, it’s here:

    I find that even though I share this with the people around me, they ‘understand’ but I don’t see any change…which really frustrates me. I realise, some people don’t realise it at all. I’ll be changing my approach to encourage lasting change in the year 2011.

    Keep it up man.

  37. Hamza

    Looking at the new posts by Ramit about helping people to do more and not just consume, I realise I was kinda setting things up with my email.

    Full discloser: it was a genuine email and I had no idea what Ramit was about to release. I didn’t know he was even going to read it, let alone post it (without asking me by the way, though I’m not complaining – I’m grateful, it was like slapping me with a hammer and yelling “SEE!!!” when I saw it posted on the blog).

    Looking forward to real results this year.
    Cheers Ramit! ^^

  38. Danny Rosenhaus

    It’s funny how the status-quo is so easy to maintain. You take that first step to start reading blogs so you can learn and grow, but eventually that becomes the status-quo. But because you know you are doing something to help yourself, you keep reading the blogs instead of actually acting. I’m glad to see Hamza actually got around to really implementing what he has been reading. I’m new to this blog, but I know I’m almost done with my research phase and I’ll be out of reasons to not take on my internet marketing dreams.

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