How to give advice that people actually take

Ramit Sethi · September 30th, 2016

Alright, who here has a friend who’s asked you for advice, and when you told them exactly what to do, their first response was:

“Yeah, but…I can’t do that”


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“Yeah, I want to lose weight…but I couldn’t cut out carbs. I love bread.”
“Yeah, I want to find another job…but I can’t do that. I don’t have time.”
“Yeah, I want to save money, but I don’t want to read that book. I think I’ll just wait ‘til I win the lottery! Lol!”


I see this happening all the time. All these people who finally learned to lose weight complain when their husbands/wives ask them how they did it…then do nothing. “It’s so simple!” they say. “Why don’t they just do what I say?

Today, I’m going to show you how to actually give advice that people take.

To start, let’s look at an email I recently got from a guy frustrated with his mom:

From: “J.”
Subject: My question is your next blog topic.

My mother is a hot mess. In a sense, I arose from the ashes of poverty while she still hangs her hat there. She came to visit for Thanksgiving and asked me how I “made my millions” (slight exaggeration) so she could too. I don’t know how to tell her she sucks with money and that she needs to get her shit straight before she can dream of island vacations, or even owning a new car on her own.

Thoughts on how to tell a single mom who raised a half a dozen children who’s 60+ years old that she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing and needs to get her shit in gear?
You’re the man. If you have questions, I’m available on my cell or by email.

All the Best,


Well, well, well. We’re basically meeting Ramit from 14 years ago — morally righteous, judgmental, and just enough knowledge to be dangerous (but not enough to actually change people positively).

My response:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ramit Sethi
Subject: Re: My question is your next blog topic.
To: “J.”

stop being so judgmental. your language reeks of it
start with one simple thing she can do. ONE, not 20.
help her instead of judging her
once she does one thing, move on to 2. that means asking if she is ready to move to the next one, not pushing it on her.
eventually, you can get her my book (or any other good money book) and work through it with her.
notice at least 50% of helping her is changing yourself, not just her.




The worst people in the world are people who just learned enough to be dangerous (typically, people who just learned about Paleo, weight lifting, personal finance, or religion). They’ve gone through the journey of deciding to change their life, so now they believe everyone needs to join them…without realizing that 3 months before, they wouldn’t have wanted to hear this shit!

So what do you do when someone asks you for advice?

First, resist the temptation to launch into how “simple” and “easy” it is. If it was easy, they would have already done it. In short, shut the hell up.

Second, you want to measure how serious they are. Are they just asking to complain? Do they just want you to tell them they’re doing fine (i.e., what a surprising number of people want: validation). Or do they actually want detailed, specific advice?

This is why you ask them one question:

“How serious are you?”



If their response is anything other than, “I’m ready. I’ll do anything you say,” THEY DO NOT WANT YOUR ADVICE!! Just smile and say, “You’re doing great. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

People who really want advice will say a very specific set of words. Anything else means you are walking into a minefield. It’s kind of like saying “Do you love me?” to your spouse. If they say anything other than, “Of course!” you’re in trouble.

For example, let’s say someone asks you how you lost 20lbs. You listen, nod, and say, “Well, I can tell you. Out of curiosity, how serious are you?”

Person 1: “I want to! I’m just so busy, but I’m hoping I can fit in with my job and–” STOP. They do not really want to know how you count your macros and your gym splits.

Your answer: “I just watch what I eat and try to work out when I can.”

(This is why extremely fit people lie to their friends about their workout regimens.)

Another example:

Person 2: “Yeah, I’d love to know! I follow this Instagram girl and I tried a 30-day challenge, but I can’t seem to find the motivation…”

Your answer: “It sounds like you’re doing great! Keep it up!”

It might seem unsatisfying to not answer their question, but they don’t really want your technical advice. They want to feel encouraged. That is totally fine.

Final example:

Person 3: “I’m serious. I’ve tried 5×5, I did stronglifts, but I really want to know how to make this part of my life. I’ve seen you stick with it for 3 years and I want to know how. I’ll do whatever you did.”

You: “Awesome! Tell you what — start off by tracking your food for a week and going to the gym 2x next week. Doesn’t matter what you do — just go. Send me an email next Sunday and we’ll talk.”

Notice 2 things with the last example — these are important.

  • It seems unfathomably rare that anyone would actually say, “I’m serious. I’ll do whatever you tell me to.” CORRECT! Almost nobody ever says this, because almost nobody really wants advice to the level of following through. They want to complain, they want to feel validated, but fewer than 1 in 1,000 actually want to change their behavior. It took me 10 years to truly internalize this. Once you do, you’ll start to be more understanding and empathetic, instead of frustrated.
  • Even though they say they are 100% serious, I still didn’t dive into the deep, technical “how to” because they are not ready. You’re doing them a favor by parceling out your advice — and you’re giving them a minor barrier to see how serious they really are. Anyone can “say” they’re serious. Now let’s see if they email you on Sunday. This is an example of using barriers strategically.

It’s interesting that most people who complain about people not taking their advice…have never studied how to actually give good advice. There’s a reason that I don’t give away 100% of Earn1K on the Side — my course that teaches people how to build a profitable side hustle — for free, then sell Zero to Launch to legions of successful freelancers who owe me their success. (No, it’s not money.)

It’s because that doesn’t work. You can give people the best advice in the world, hand them the best tactics, techniques, and strategies but it still won’t work until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of putting in the work and making a change.

And if you’re looking to make a change in your life, the first step is taking action. Don’t send 100 emails asking people what you need to do. Stop reading blog posts and emails looking for a magic bullet. Just get started.

Hit the gym, talk to one potential client, join a local mastermind group or attend an event like Forefront and meet some entrepreneurs who actually run multiple six-figure businesses. You’ll be shocked at how many mentors you’ll find — eager to help you — once you show them you are serious.

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