A few months ago, a friend called me for some advice on launching an online product. He wanted to know the best technology to use, my advice on pricing, and some advanced questions on marketing. I shared what I’d learned after launching a big product, and then I added something.
“There’s one other thing I wish I’d known,” I said. “You’re going to spend 3 or 4 months creating any product, once you factor in the content, marketing, sales page, emails, etc. You might as well spend a few extra months and make it the world’s best product. You can get disproportionate rewards if you do.”
He wasn’t really into it. “Yeah man, I know…” he said, “but I really don’t want to put much time into this. I just want to get this out there quick and see what kind of sales I can do.” Basically, he just wanted a way to make some quick money, even if it wasn’t the best product, using his large userbase.
“Dude,” I told him, “let me tell you the difference between doing something that’s ‘just okay’ and something amazing. Here, look at these numbers.”
I shared a couple of examples with him. He went completely silent.
Here is one of those examples (minus some private information):
I’ve been testing writing guest posts for a few other high-traffic sites. In one test, I churned a post out quickly, taking about 1.5 hours to write it. It got me a few hundred visitors.
In another test, I spent 18 hours writing an awesomely detailed post, including case studies, a video, and concrete examples. Result: 100,000+ visitors.
I spent 12x the amount of time writing the good one. But I got 250x the results.
THAT is disproportionate impact.
Imagine being able to systematically focus on doing just 10 high-impact actions per year. Now compare your results to your friend, who does 100 different things and seem to be furiously busy, but few of them make any difference whatsoever. Who gets better results?
Disproportionate impact is not easy. Most people have an ordinary impact in the world. They work in ordinary jobs. They save ordinary amounts of money. They take an ordinary number of trips per year. When they go to work, they affect an ordinary number of people.
Most people are, by definition, ordinary.
(I don’t mean that pejoratively, but rather statistically. It sounds depressing but I don’t think of it that way. Because most people are ordinary, as I wrote about in The Craigslist Penis Effect, you can be extraordinary using some simple tweaks.)
For example, by spending 10x as long on something (if you’re working on the right thing), you can get 100x the results.
Examples of disproportionate impact:
Writing a book:
– What I COULD have done: Take years of posts and re-purpose them into a blog-to-book for an arbitrarily sudden deadline because I want to see my name in a bookstore and satisfy my extremely large ego
– What I ACTUALLY did: Spent years writing a blog for free, treating it as a laboratory to test my ideas and build a readership. Turned down the first publishing offers to find a superb publisher. Then spent two years writing all-new content for the blog to create “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” the best book on automating, investing, and spending. Result: Instant NYT bestseller, #1 book on Amazon, instant reprint, covered on Today Show, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, weekly ABC appearances, and national book tour
Writing a guest post for another blog:
– What I COULD do: Write a guest post in 1-2 hours and send it off, hoping for a few new readers.
– What I ACTUALLY do: I spend 12-18 hours per guest post I write…and why I’ve gotten 50,000 new readers from one post. It’s also why one guest post I’ve done has generated over $100,000 for me. (Read more about how to write a guest post.)
Launching a product on earning more money:
– What I COULD have done: Slap some generic content together on earning more, put it in an ebook, and sell it for $19
– What I ACTUALLY did: Resisted writing about earning more for 3 YEARS because I thought it was scammy — even though it was the #1 most-requested topic from my readers. Finally got convinced to research it once IWT readers told me, in person on my book tour, that they really wished I would write about it. Spent almost a year researching earning more (collecting over 5,000 data points) and creating all-new content on earning money — including investing over $100,000 of my own money. Result: Earn1k, the world’s most comprehensive program on earning money, TONS of success stories about people earning money on the side (and quitting their jobs to work on what they love), great financial results for my students and for my company, and coverage in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, huge websites, and television.
Today, in 2011, I want to help you focus on DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT.
– Virtually anyone reading this site can get an ordinary job paying an ordinary salary. How can you get paid 2x as much as much as your peers? How about 4x? I’ll show you how.
– Anyone can create a Twitter account or blog and get 100 followers. How can you have the voice of 10,000? 100,000? There are specific techniques to do so.
– It’s easy to donate $100 to charity. What if you want to donate $10,000 in 2011? Or $50,000? There are several ways to do it.
This is about taking your existing skills and using leverage, psychological insight, and pure hustle to give yourself more opportunities than you know what to do with.
This is about having disproportionate impact.
“The voice of 10,000”
I’m pretty sure that I’m a terrible employee. When most people hear that they have to tell their boss when they’re taking vacation, they nod and say, “Makes sense.” When I hear it, I get this irrational anger and say, “What? I have to TELL (or even ASK?) him to take vacation? Who does he think he is?” That’s one of the many reasons that I’m probably better off working for myself.
Anyway, when I was about to graduate from college, I was busy interviewing at several companies. One of the job offers I got was from Google — a really great offer doing interesting work with very smart people. But I had some reservations. And one of them was especially weird: In college, I was “Ramit the Stanford guy doing interesting stuff.” It was my brand. I posted my papers on my website (which my Stanford friends thought was “weird”) and I did nutty things like creating a self-serving Ramen dispenser.
I was afraid of going to work at a company where I wouldn’t have my own identity, and would instead become yet another product marketing manager or member of some random team.
But I had some values that I wanted to stay true to. I’ve always said that I want to have the “voice of 10,000,” so when I listened to my gut, my decision became much easier. I ultimately turned down the offer to co-found my own company. And then I went full time on “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” growing my business and exposure to host over 300,000 readers every month.
When I used to write a paper in college, I would have exactly one reader: my professor. Now I can write something at 8am and have 100,000+ people read it before lunch. That’s disproportionate impact.
Years ago, American Airlines removed one olive from each first-class salad, resulting in a savings of $40,000/year. They are a massive public company with huge scale, so you can’t get those kinds of results. But the principle — focusing on small actions that give you incredibly huge results — is something you can do.
How can you use your existing skills to create opportunities that will give you disproportionate impact?
There are 2 parts to focusing on disproportionate impact:
1. Avoiding the trap of skepticism
2. Using specific techniques to hustle your way to incredible opportunities in 2011
Let’s break them apart.
“The plight of loser skeptics”
2010 was the year of earning more money.
After writing my book, the #1 thing people wanted me to write about was earning more money. So I created an entire series of material on earning more money on the side and released it — free — as well as a premium course.
Smart readers took what I wrote and thought carefully about how to apply the lessons to their own lives.
The very best joined my course and are now earning thousands of dollars per month on the side. Some have even quit their jobs to work on what they love full time.
But the most interesting people were the skeptics.
Whenever you start doing something different or interesting, you’ll find people who get threatened by what you’re saying. Now, we should always be comfortable with constructive criticism. But here are a few skeptics who were irrationally antagonistic:
“This site has turned into constant, tiresome self-promotion…Good luck teaching yourself to be rich, Ramit. I, however, am unsubscribing.”
“Sounds like Ramit figured out how to earn some extra dollars on the side. IWTYTBR seems to be more of a product pitch platform now.”
(You can find more of these on my previous post: Attention whiny complainers: Why you’re still not saving money.)
Here’s the thing. Do you think those people are any further along in living a rich life?
Of course not. They’re stuck in their scarcity mentality that if anyone is selling something, they’re trying to somehow scam people.
Some people are skeptical of everything. As blogger extraordinaire Jason Kottke noted, “Some people are determined to deliberately misunderstand much of what they encounter in life. Sometimes I have a hard time realizing that that’s their problem, not mine.”
Compare that to my Earn1k students, many of whom are totally dominating.
”After YEARS of talking without action I realized a dream and quit my day job to freelance full time.” –Kelly Azevedo
“I want to thank you so much. I applied the customer research techniques before a pitch today and just landed a 1k project!!” –Sunira Moses
“I’ve bought a lot of books on freelancing, quitting the day job, finding your passion, etc., but none of them were as tactical and step-by-step as Earn 1k. It literally changed my whole attitude about business and sales. I think it was the smartest thing I’ve ever spent money on — I’m now self-employed and making more than twice what I was making at the day job.” — April Dykman
(Read more comments about the course from Earn1k graduates .)
It’s not just about money, either.
Seth Godin writes about the predictable lifecycle of the skeptic
The Kindle is a lousy idea. No one will read a book that way.
The Kindle is late. Amazon has no clue how to launch a product.
The Kindle is poorly designed. See, we told you.
The Kindle’s pricing model hurts book publishers. It will never be adopted by them.
The Kindle is pretty cool. Non-techies like it.
The Kindle is sold out. Amazon doesn’t know how to produce a product.
The Kindle is selling far more than anyone ever predicted.
The Kindle will sell millions and we are raising our predictions for Amazon’s earnings as a result.
… The Kindle missed our estimates. See?
Being skeptical is comfortable. It’s familiar. It allows us to look on every opportunity with a skeptical eye and list off the reasons something won’t work.
And being skeptical is adaptive. We live in a world where companies are constantly trying to sell us get-rich-quick products, so it makes sense that we’re wary.
The problem is, when skeptics scoff at every opportunity, they miss chance after chance to grow and end up stuck in the same place. It’s easier to apply a blanket belief of “no, that’s a scam” than to carefully evaluate each opportunity — whether it’s a new job, a book or online course, or taking someone out to coffee. Even if it could help you. And even if it comes from a trusted source, like the angry readers above who’d been reading my (free) site for years.
On Conan’s final Tonight Show, here’s what he said:
“Please, do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, it’s just true.”
Who would you rather be?
Someone who’s open to new opportunities and, as a result, makes a few mistakes (e.g., buying the wrong product, going down the wrong path for a while) but systematically corrects and improves?
Or would you rather adopt a cynical attitude toward everything and constantly look at the worst-case scenarios and reasons something won’t work for you? People who are open to new opportunities might make a couple mistakes, but they’ll learn and adapt. Cynics will tread water forever.
SKEPTICISM IS NOT A STRATEGY. It’s a cashmere collar around your neck. It feels good at first, but keeps you in place forever.
This is not just about money or buying products. It’s about strategically cultivating so many opportunities that you can “pick and choose” which ones are the best for you. Whether that’s being able to choose which job you want to take — regardless of money — or which country you want to live in…or if you want to live bi-coastally….these are things you CAN do.
As I mentioned, 2010 was the year of earning more money on “I Will Teach You To Be Rich.”
Now I’m THRILLED to announce that 2011 is the year of the Hustle.
Introducing 2011: The Year of the Hustle
Hustling — in the best sense of the word — means finding unconventional ways to achieve high-impact goals.
This year, I’m going to show you how to create so many opportunities that you’ll be HAPPY to turn down job offers that give you $10,000 more… because you’ll be awash in jobs that pay even MORE… and are more meaningful.
You want to be a sports agent at age 26? Let me show you 3 people who’ve done it.
Want to give $50,000 to charity this year? I’ll show you how.
Or maybe you want to quit your job and work for yourself. I have countless examples of people I’ve helped to do that in the last 12 months.
Here’s what you can expect in 2011:
• If you follow along with what I’ve put together, you’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. I work my ass off and you’re going to, too. But I’ll be along for the ride, nudging, helping, and showing you mistakes to avoid
• I’m going to give you rich case studies of people who’ve hustled their ways to success — by finding better jobs, living bi-coastally, living in multiple countries, or even quitting their jobs entirely to work for themselves
• People who realized they were following someone ELSE’S goals — not their own — and how they re-positioned to find out what they loved
• Interviews where you can submit your own questions — and get answers from best-selling authors, TV personalities, marketing juggernauts, lifestyle hackers, and more
• Several new premium “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” products to help you earn more, have a better job, negotiate more, and a few others up my sleeve
Of course, I hope that if you follow along with my free material and find some success, that you’ll eventually join one of my premium courses, like Earn1k. If not, that’s totally fine. But I know some of you will want to grow to an even higher level, like thousands of my premium students have.
In exchange for all this free material, this is what I ask of you:
1. Stop blindly consuming in 2011. If you’re not getting benefits from any blogs, newsletters, TV shows, WHATEVER, unsubscribe and stop watching. (Even my blog — if you’re not benefiting from my stuff, stop reading it and find something that helps you take action.) Anyone can consume. Few can produce.
2. I’ve created 30 days of all-new material to help you create disproportionate rewards via hustling this January. It starts soon – so stay tuned later this week to find out how you can be a part of it.
3. Leave a comment below and tell me 1 SPECIFIC area you want to hustle in. Better job? Get a raise? Travel around the world? I’ll choose a few of the best to kick off the new material.
See you later this week.