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Look what happens when you try to help the wrong people

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Look what happens when you try to help the wrong people
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I got a great email from an IWT reader that made me smile. I smiled because I sensed his inevitable doom, but I wanted to try to gently guide him away from making a mistake.

In the past, I’ve written about how I don’t try to help everyone. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but some people just can’t be helped. (And if they can, it will take a lot longer than I have time for.)

And today, I want to show you a GREAT example of this.

In this email exchange, you’ll learn about an “adverse-selection” problem.

Here’s an email I got out of the blue from IWT reader Scott:


This is a classic question I get from people who want to join my courses and send me an email saying “HEY, if your courses are so great, let me try it for free and if it works, I’ll pay you a percentage of my salary.” Coincidentally, they can never afford the course. I always reject them.

My response:


Scott replies:


And we went our separate ways. Until a month later…


Some people really are just bad.

Have you ever tried to help the wrong people? Share your story in the comments below.

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  1. […] I got a great email from an IWT reader that made me smile. I smiled because I sensed his inevitable doom, but I wanted to try to gently guide him away from making a mistake. In the past, I’ve written … Continued […]

  2. Unfortunately, my most depressing experience came from trying to help my family members. After helping my brother apply some of the Earn1K material, he decided it was too much work for so little… despite his soul-crushing minimum wage job. Also tried to help my entire family with finances by showing them data and telling them to bail on BoA, failed miserably as they told me “this is how we’ve always done it”. They never left, and racked up hundreds in fees over the last few years.

    It feels pompous to think I know better, but it also seems like solid data should be enough to convince people. Does it just come down to fear? I try to analyze the invisible scripts people use, but it’s hard to know what they’re telling themselves sometimes.

    • I think you nailed it and it is no surprise.

      Decisions are made on emotions. No amount of data will override this.

      Maybe if you piled up the $100s of dallars in a pile of cash in fron tof them and say – this is what you’ve given up – in exchange for NOTHING with BoA…..maybe that might generate enough emotion to switch. Use $1s for the greatest effect, good luck.

  3. Interesting insight. It’s kind of the same dilemma from that post about “how to win any contest” where the added barrier of payment acts as a qualifier for those who have the passion and drive needed to be the best fit. Never really stopped to consider it from the opposite point of view before, makes more sense to me now.

  4. Yes and it became a wasteful, fruitless endeavor. Some people don’t want to be helped. Some folks just want someone they can complain to so they can get patted on the back and be told “It’s okay baby, I’m here for you.”

    I’m not talking about people who are having a hard time to help themselves, but are trying to help themselves and they have to vent some tears here and there (hey, we all do) obviously.

    I’m just referring to the whiners and quitters who are always looking for the easy way out.

    Help yourself.

    • Also,

      I’ve noticed that whenever Ramit starts posting things about actually doing the work and getting into the nitty gritty, the amount of comments seem to scale back.

      Every new year when he introduces a brand new car, everybody jizzes themselves in excitement talking about how they are all going to have the car.

      However, when they realize they have to actually get the car and then drive to their final destination, they want to stick with the city bus.

      Also, nice new layout Ramit.

  5. Ramit, the new site looks great.. like the more simplistic look and feel approach. Also I personally feel its easier to search couple of things now, than the old one was..

    Great work

  6. When I first started in my full-time position as a financial coach for Government civilians, I wanted to help everyone. The service is free and we have a good flow of people coming through our door. However, it’s extremely hard to keep them here.

    As you’re well aware, a lot of them are just looking for that “magic bullet”. You know, “what’s the easiest way to get out of debt?” and “how can I save a ton of money while still spending way beyond my means?”. When I end up telling them that it’s not going to come easy, they bail. They never call or email me back.

    I’ve since lost the passion to help everyone. Who wouldn’t? Instead, I’ve decided to pour more energy into those that come to my office with a passion for changing their financial life. Needless to say, my job has become much more rewarding.

    Although most people are truly searching for help, some of them are just looking for the wrong kind.

  7. I was coaching someone through some very difficult financial problems. It seemed that this person ALWAYS made the wrong choice (not insuring a vechile, not paying self-employment tax, etc.) I sat down with him and put together an action plan that he was supposed to take. After 4 months of meeting, almost NONE of the action plan was done by him. Eventually, I told him he needed to seek the advice of a bankruptcy lawyer. He was so afraid of calling the laywer that it never happened. I ran into this person not long ago. It had been almost 6 months and NOTHING had changed for him. Still had not spoken with an attorney, still had not taken on extra work to bring in more income. I didn’t ask, but still probably had not taken care of his tax issues. It sucked the life out of me and made me strongly reconsider whether I wanted to do more coaching again.

    • This was my experience, too. I wasn’t put on this earth to become an emotional therapist to people who don’t follow through. Kill me pls!

      On another note, I do feel for the guy. It’s not that he’s stupid or lazy. It sounds like there are much deeper issues surrounding his destructive behavior.

    • I have similar experience with teaching yoga. People constantly not following through, going into class with a detached brain on their shoulders, very eager to practice often but will self sabotage themselves every step of the way.

  8. One clear exception to the “pay later” model is attorneys working on contingency fees. In that case, proceeds from lawsuits are paid to the attorney’s trust account first. Psychologically speaking, parting with money feels worse than getting money feels good, so if attorneys didn’t have a legal right to be the “middle man,” I doubt even this model would work. Clients just wouldn’t pay, even though the only reason they received any money at all was because of the lawyer. There is a perceived sense of entitlement (goes along with many people who pursue these types of lawsuits). It’s a fascinating phenomenon.

    • Sounds like the guy emailing you in caught somewhere between being a staff leasing business and a headhunter. He could start a temp agency.

  9. I believe the phrase is “don’t cast your pearls before swine.”

    When I worked in b2b sales one of the key phrases I heard that instantly made me realize my product was not a good fit for someone was, “I’ll have to run this by my wife.” (Meant I was getting a call from an individual who had to get sign-off from his wife for day-to-day business operations, and not a business with enough scale for our product to make sense.)

    I would regularly tell such people that our product was not for them and they simply couldn’t believe that I switched modes to talking them out of buying our product. Bottom line though, saved both me and them from wasting our time.