I’ve told some of you how I grew up in a middle-class family of 6. My dad worked and my mom stayed home with us.
We would eat out maybe once a month — only when we had a coupon to the local pizza place. We’d share 2 Cokes with the entire family, we’d each get 2 quarters only to play video games, and we would never, ever order appetizers.
When I got to high school, my parents told me that I needed to get good grades to go to college. “But you have to find a way to pay for college because we don’t have any money!”
It was always a running joke…but really a half joke. They didn’t have any money, but there was always this sense that things would be ok. As they told me, “if you’re good enough to get in, they’ll take care of you.”
I still remember how my family rarely ever ate out/vacationed, but parents told us if we ever needed something for school, they'd find the $
— Ramit Sethi (@ramit) May 20, 2015
I ended up applying to ~65 scholarships, which paid my way through undergrad and grad school at Stanford. If you’re curious how I did it, you can read about it here.
But this is where the story really begins.
See, I’d grown up in a family where we had to make do with what we had. We weren’t buying fancy clothes and we certainly didn’t have a lake house or an annual vacation. Our vacations were driving to LA to visit family, and my mom would pack lunches for us on the way so we wouldn’t have to stop at a restaurant. Feeding 6 people gets expensive.
But once I got these scholarships and got to Stanford, my entire world opened up.
I realized there’s an entire world of people who want to say YES to you — not say no. One of the things I loved about college was how all the doors were always unlocked. It was a subtle sign that once you were here, you were trusted.
Same with my scholarships. I once wrote them and asked for funding to travel to Hawaii for a conference. They said, “Sure, let us know the details and we’ll send a check.”
For a college kid with no money, this is mind-blowing.
Later, when I was starting to write IWT, I was consulting with some venture capitalists. One of them said, “Do you want me to put $50K in to help you out?” It was like he was asking me to pass the salt.
He offered to “put in” $50,000! Just like that!
This kind of thing didn’t happen to me as a kid.
It was the beginning of the realization of the existence of this entire world of people who want to help you. They have money, they have connections, and they actually WANT to help people.
When you wake up every morning with the knowledge that the world is there to help you IF you add value, it changes everything.
However, I also realized it’s not as easy as it looks. Once I graduated, I wanted to give back. I created something called “The Sethi Scholarships,” where I was going to give away $1,000 to a promising student.
Exactly 0 people applied.
This was free money and not a single person applied. I shut the program down.
So I learned a few things:
- There’s a world out there where people have money, connections, and they want to help people
- If you don’t know about this world, you have no idea it even exists. But it’s very real
- Getting into this world is difficult, but not impossible
- The masses don’t believe it exists, and worse, are actively resistant to the idea that there is tons of opportunity if you work hard (and yes, with some luck)
This is exactly what I’ve been trying to show you with IWT over the last 10 years.
But for the last couple years, I’ve been having this feeling in the back of my mind.
I have to admit that I haven’t given back as much as I wanted.
Maybe I’m still a little gun-shy from my experience starting a scholarship and nobody even applying. I don’t know.
But I could have never made it to this level without the help from people with their financial support, their advice, and their introductions.
And I’ve been itching to give back. In a recent interview, I mentioned that giving back would be a priority for IWT going forward. After all, I was given opportunities by scholarship foundations, professors, mentors, friends, and of course, my parents.
So I thought about what I could give back. I realized — with IWT, we’ve built one of the most amazing communities in the world. Together, we’ve learned about the game being played around us, and we’ve done amazing work to improve our finances, our careers, our businesses, even our inner psychology.
Imagine what would happen if we directed our energy and resources towards helping other people for just a few minutes?
Imagine how much good we could do.
About 2 months ago, I decided to do exactly that.
I was in NYC, shooting a day of interviews for my Brain Trust program. I invited one of my friends, Adam Braun, into studio to talk about his organization, Pencils of Promise.
Adam’s organization has built more than 300 schools for over 30,000 students around the world and has been driven by a movement of everyday people. He wrote about it in an amazing book that kept me up until 3am.
Here’s what happened.
He came in and did an amazing interview. Here’s a clip:
But once he left, I sat down and recorded something. Adam doesn’t even know I recorded this, and he doesn’t even know I’m sending this email right now!
That’s why I recorded this:
Effective today, IWT is launching a campaign to create schools for underprivileged children around the world.
Because of our scale, we can make a huge impact.
And I decided to go one step further.
IWT will match any donation 2-to-1, up to $100,000.
That means, if you donate $100, IWT will write a check for $200, making your total donation $300 — automatically tripling the impact you’ll have.
This is an unheard-of match. But because of IWT’s size and the success of our business, we can afford to do it. More importantly, I want to do it. This is the very best use of “leverage” possible — giving back to people who need it.
100% of donations go to building schools for children in countries like Laos, Ghana, and Guatemala.
You and I already know the power of education. We’ve spent years improving our own careers, our businesses, our finances. Let’s spread the benefit of education to the rest of the world.
I can’t wait to see what the IWT community can do together.
P.S. I’ve been wanting to give back for years. I hope you’ll join me in making this an amazing display of the power of the IWT community. IWT is tripling the impact by matching your donation 2-to-1. Even a $20 donation (which we’ll turn into $60) helps build schools around the world for poor children. Click here to donate.
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