Exactly 10 years ago today, I launched IWT.
When I started, it was a personal blog that nobody read. But I was tired of hearing so-called experts tell us what we COULDN’T do with our money: No vacations…no lattes…no buying anything. In 60 years, you just might have something in savings.
I didn’t believe it. And I bet you and I would rather live a Rich Life than one where we’re constantly trying to cut back on everything. As I’ve said, there’s a limit to how much you can cut back…but no limit to how much you can earn.
This idea of “expanding the pie” — and using psychology to help us live the lives we want — helped us grow this IWT community of hundreds of thousands of people who are unapologetic about wanting to live a Rich Life.
YES! We want more. We want to go out with our friends. We want to take amazing vacations. We want to buy gifts for our family, donate to charity, and live in a nice place.
What an amazing world that we can meet other people who feel the same way.
Back then, in 2004, things were different. I was a frustrated college student.
See, I’d learned about investing and money after taking my first scholarship check, investing it in the stock market, and losing half my money. This was a big turning point for me: I realized if I didn’t learn how money worked, I’d end up the same as everyone else around me.
So after I spent years reading every book I could find, watching every TV show, etc. I developed my own philosophy on money. I wanted to share it with other people and show them that they could use money and psychology to help them lead a Rich Life. The problem was, everyone said, “Wow! I definitely want to learn about money!” Then they never showed up.
I hate you, non-attendees.
After a year and a half of trying to convince people to come to my free class (especially haunting for me since I hate doing anything alone, including eating out alone, seeing movies alone, etc.), I realized I had to try something different.
So I decided to start a blog, hoping that my lazy college friends would rather learn about money from the comforts of their dorm room then come to an event about money. Yes, I was sober when I chose the name.
Today is a special day for me, so I’d like to look back on the journey that made the IWT you know today.
Me talking personal finance around 2005. Look at that size XL shirt. If I’d turned 16 degrees to the right, I would have disappeared.
Me speaking on behavioral change at a recent conference in New York City.
My favorite thing: Meeting my readers and seeing them make friends with each other. IWT readers host hundreds of meetups in 100+ cities around the world every year via Ramit’s Brain Trust.
The first iwillteachyoutoberich.com. I was not a master at design.
New website. We now have dozens of designers, strategists, product designers, and technology experts who run over 250 tests a year to create the best material for you.
Last year, I shared a few lessons I learned from 9 years of writing IWT. Today, I want to share 6 lessons I’ve learned in the last 10 years.
LESSON #1: Be brutally honest with yourself
I had a fascinating email exchange with one of my readers. I had asked readers, “What do you claim is important, but you haven’t done it?”
She wrote back, telling me she wanted to run 3x/week, but just couldn’t seem to do it. I said, “Why not just run once/week?”
Her response: “I don’t really see the point of running once/week.”
Think about that. She would dream about running three times a week…instead of ACTUALLY running once/week.
She would rather lie to herself than be brutally honest! Easy to laugh, but we all do this. In fact, many of us begin lying to ourselves from the very minute we wake up: “Ugh, I want to sleep 20 minutes more…I’ll go to the gym after work today” (knowing we won’t go as we say it).
What else do you claim is important, but you haven’t done it? Try to identify 3 areas. This is really HARD. Our mind creates all kinds of defense mechanisms to avoid answering this tough question.
The most successful people are BRUTALLY HONEST about their shortcomings and about systematically prioritizing them to improve. Go read James Altucher for the best example.
I believe this is so important, I want to share a video from one of my premium courses on how to be brutally honest with yourself:
Video from my program on mastering your psychology: Success Triggers.
LESSON #2: Invest in yourself
When I was launching Zero to Launch a few months ago, I started getting text messages from friends. “Do you think I should join ZTL? It seems a little basic…”
I shook my head and smiled. This is the same material I used to build my business to serve 15,000+ paying students over 10 years in dozens of industries, generating millions of dollars and tens of thousands of documented results.
ORDINARY PEOPLE: “How will this help me? How do I know this will work for my exact situation? What if I’m an Alaskan cobbler who has an orange-juice addiction? Can this help ME???”
SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE: “I’m going to invest in this course/book/coach because I know if I learn even one insight — just one — I’ll be able to apply it for the rest of my life.”
It’s weird. Nobody wakes up and says “I’m going to be arrogant today.” But it is the height of arrogance to assume you cannot learn from other people, especially people who’ve been through the gauntlet of what you want to accomplish.
This is why I invest over $50,000 a year in self-development, even buying books and courses from people who have smaller businesses than I do. If I can learn even one thing, the investment is a triviality. (The $50K amount isn’t the point. You can even start with $20.) By the way, I love that I get to lecture people on not being arrogant even though I’ve never, ever been accused of being modest.
LESSON #3: Total integrity means saying “no”
I was inspired by a sushi restaurant in San Francisco where you have to stand in line for over an hour — no reservations accepted. And if you don’t get there by 7:30pm, you won’t be eating there. Of course, when I finally got a table, I sat down like a huge weirdo and started analyzing their business: “Wow, they could fit in 4 more tables, adding 25% revenue, and if they added a reservation system, they could…”
My friend told me to shut up and enjoy the food. The fact is, the owners don’t care about revenue maximization. They want to run their business the way they want to, and they put the experience before money. Once you taste the sushi, you understand.
But this takes incredible courage to say “no” to the world, which pushes you to be vanilla.
These are some of the NO decisions I made:
- NO to people in credit card debt: I prohibit people with credit card debt from joining my flagship programs, a decision that costs IWT over $2 million per year. It would be easy to collect that money and sit back, happy. But it’s not the right thing to do. Because I know I’ll be here for years and years, I give away my best advice on paying off debt for free. And once they do, then they’re ready to invest in growth. That’s why I give away 98% of my material free and charge premium prices for the 2%. I know of no other company that turns down millions of dollars like this.
- NO to people who demand I write shorter posts. I don’t write for skimmers or people who treat my material as intellectual entertainment. I also love when people tell me to stop using profanity, as if being offended holds power. Ironically, if you do what these people ask you to do, they’ll lose interest in you. The world wants you to be vanilla. Ignore these people.
- NO to skeptics and doubters: Think about the last time you tried something new. How did the people around you react? I remember when I first started trying to dress better. I heard things like, “What are you, gay?” “Who are you trying to impress?” (Same for when you start to manage your money — “Ugh, who wants to think like that? I want to live for today” or fitness — “You don’t need to work out more. You eat like a bird!”) I think about these pivotal moments, when you’re nervous and insecure about trying something new. At these moments, you decide if you’ll revert back to vanilla…or push through to the next level.
- NO to releasing anything that doesn’t meet our standards. I once shut down a program that was generating thousands of dollars a month in profit because I wasn’t satisfied with my students’ results. We have fully completed courses that would generate millions of dollars. Yet they don’t meet our IWT standard. As a result, they sit in our private vault and will never be released. But as I tell my team, we’re one email away from someone unsubscribing from us. That means every single communication has to be our very best. If not, we don’t send it. The same is true for you. What about the emails you send at work? What about the reports you deliver? What would happen if you took an extra week to make them world-class?
Where do you set your boundaries? In other words, what do you say NO to?
When you’re clear about what you stand for, you can also say YES to the things that matter.
YES to reading every one of the 1,500 emails I get a day — and responding to hundreds of them, free — every day.
YES to testing my material for years before releasing it, because I want you to have confidence that if you use my material, you KNOW it will work.
What do you say NO to? And what do you want to say YES to?
LESSON #4: Tough love is incredibly rare
I was in the middle of a brutal workout with my trainer: 10 pull-ups, 10 push ups, 10 squats — 10 times. After the 5th set, I wasn’t sure I could go on. I looked over, sweating, and saw him adding MORE weight to the barbell.
When I finally finished, I looked back, dripping in sweat, and realized how I would have just given up if it were me. But he pushed me to do more than what I thought I could. That kind of push is incredibly rare — it sticks with you for life, because next time I think I can’t do it, I’ll remember that moment. When was the last time someone said, “You did OK…but I know you could have done better”? When was the last time someone was honest enough to challenge you to do more?
For many of us, we haven’t had someone really push us to our full potential in years.
That’s why I push so hard. Look at this email I recently got:
“Its unlikely you will read this, but…I do respect your material, but if I may say, their is a danger that over time you will lose some of your more intelligent customers by treating them as marketing objects rather than people. I would love to watch one of the presentations, but I do not have an internet connection at home, and it will be at 2am GMT in London. I understand that there will be no recording, in order to increase social value.
Please remember that it is possible to choose service over self-interest. And, as I have observed many times with many teachers, over time they can cross that line. And the question is are people more important than manipulation.”
In his mind, all his reasons are valid. It’s 2am! He doesn’t have an internet connection! He has work the next day.
I have a different take: If it were important to him, he would find a way. OF COURSE it’s hard. OF COURSE it sucks to stay awake at 2am for something. But I also know that thousands of people in the UK, Spain, and all over the world find a way to do it every month. They sacrifice sleep. They go to a coffee shop to get internet. THEY DO WHATEVER IT TAKES.
You want to get a successful person to share their secrets with you? Ask them what they sacrificed to make it there.
Successful people do what what others will not. If it means you lose a few hours of sleep for a night, so be it. It’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s not fun. But as Muhammad Ali said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
LESSON #5: Following through is a skill
In our research to create Finisher’s Formula, a course on following through, we found these haunting comments:
“I can do anything I want to do, but I don’t want to do anything”
“I coasted through high school and university and am struggling with real life work.”
“I don’t even have the self discipline to cut back…”
I hear so many people say things like, “Why am I so damn lazy?”or “I start things but can’t follow through.” The assumption is that they’re just bad at following through.
When I was starting to do pull-ups, I asked my trainer, “What are other exercises to get good at pull-ups?”
He just looked at me and said, “If you want to get good at pull-ups, do more pull-ups.”
Following through is a skill. If you want to be the kind of person who follows through, start following through. It could be on small things — BJ Fogg’s great example is committing to floss just one tooth. I used to joke about how lazy I was, until I realized that I was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I stopped describing myself as lazy. I started practicing following through on little things, like showing up when I said I was going to show up, and sending people articles I told them I would send. Years later, I became the kind of person who follows through.
LESSON #6: Be open to change
My worst nightmare would be to be a personal-finance pundit, going on TV and talking about budgets, writing post after post about the savings account with the best interest rate, and adding links to the newest credit card.
Who wants to talk about the same thing for 20 years?
However, change is weird and uncomfortable. We’re testing a new course that will launch next year, and last week, I ran some user testing. One of my readers sent me an angry note saying she was offended by the new course. “You should stick to what you know,” she said.
The world wants to put you in a bucket so they can comfortably assign you to a role. When you try to change, it makes other people uncomfortable. That’s why it’s important to decide whose advice you should take.
I always wanted to hold myself (and my readers) to a higher standard than the usual stuff out there. That means constantly challenging ourselves and growing.
Along the way, you’ll notice my business has grown and changed.
- I don’t do it alone any more — over the last 10 years, we’ve built the best team in the world helping to create amazing material to live a rich life. (And we’re hiring.)
- I’ve expanded beyond personal finance into entrepreneurship, careers, psychology — and soon, even more areas of living a Rich Life.
- And I’ve also started to talk about more than just tactics. After all, what’s the point of a word-for-word script if we have psychological barriers holding us back?
The most important lesson of all
Looking back at everything, the greatest accomplishment at IWT is YOU.
Read any of the comments on this blog, or in our Brain Trust group, and you’ll meet a group of the most extraordinary people anywhere. This isn’t normal!
YOU are the ones that took action and got results like these, these, and these. Imagine what would happen if we exposed some of this material to other readers around the internet. Guess how they would react?
We don’t have to guess! Look at the commenters here and here to see what happens when you share IWT material with people who are used to reading about frugality and complaining about politics. This shows us how special our community is.
So to celebrate IWT’s 10-year anniversary, I’m celebrating you.
For me, a huge part of living a Rich Life is being able to thank the people that have been there for me. Over the next two weeks, we’re going to celebrate.
To kick things off, I want to give you something that has been instrumental in my business and personal growth — my bookshelf.
These 5 books have helped me build my own Rich Life over the last decade and they can do the same for you. They cover everything from business to psychology and persuasion to health.
- Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think – Brian Wansink
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg
- The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right – Atul Gawande
- Iacocca — Lee Iacocca and William Novak
- Arnold: Education of a Bodybuilder – Arnold Schwarzenegger
For a chance to win these books, sign up by Sunday, 8/24 at 11:59 pm Pacific. I’ll choose 100 of you randomly and ship these books directly to you.
[UPDATE: This contest is closed. Thanks to all who participated!]
Thank you for the last 10 years. I hope I can keep creating material valuable enough to help you lead a Rich Life for the next 10 years.
P.S. There’s more tomorrow, so stay tuned. Let’s celebrate together.