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Behind the scenes of a psychological campaign

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There’s a great story I know about a very sophisticated marketer who writes 30-page long emails. Someone asked him, “Does anyone really read those?”

He laughed. “Only the buyers,” he replied.

There are profound differences between people who consume and people who take action. It’s not just about buying something, either — it can mean testing your assumptions, pursuing your goals, or producing valuable material that helps others.

Today, you’ll learn…

  • The background of a simple psychological experiment I ran earlier this week
  • 3 breaks I’ve created that have allowed me to get into one of the world’s top universities, to earn over $100,000 in one hour, and to influence millions of people in a positive way to help them lead a richer life.
  • What you’ll be getting for the next 4 weeks, including material on psychology, negotiation, and hustling your way to success

The focus of this week has been to begin peeling back the curtain to see how top performers think. When I talk about 2011 being the Year of the Hustle, this means we are NOT going to be doing things like:

* Starting 5 projects but flaking out on all them

* Having 20 ideas of things we “should” do, but talking ourselves out of every one

* Getting really excited about a business idea with a friend, but getting let down when he doesn’t follow through

* Making New Year resolutions of all the things we’re going to do, then doing nothing and getting depressed in February that we’re doing exactly the same thing as last year

What we ARE going to do is take action. That means educating yourself enough to take action — and then implementing. You will learn 100x more from doing something than from reading about it.

But having someone tell you, “Ugh, just go do it” is not enough. There are complex psychological, cultural, and even physiological reasons we don’t do the things we “know” we should do. So today, we’ll continue exploring…

…and I’ll show you precisely how you’re going to take more action this MONTH than in the last 3 years, combined.

Behind the scenes of a psychological campaign

You may not have realized it, but the 2 posts earlier this week were a psychology case study.

In the first post, I told you what I’d be giving you this year: free material on hustling, including how to find a better job, earn more money, and take action. The number of comments: 180.

In the second post, I wrote about challenging un-tested assumptions, and asked people to leave a comment with how they were going to specifically test their assumptions within 48 hours. Number of comments: 57.

When you ask people to take action, you will dramatically eliminate a huge percentage of people. This is why people leave hundreds of comments talking about how excited they are to have free content wash over them, but when you ask people to take action, a fraction of the people respond. Same as in the email I sent out to people who subscribed to my list.

In other words, everyone gets excited when you tell them what you are going to do for them…BECAUSE I DIDN’T ASK THEM TO DO ANYTHING. When I do, people get a lot quieter.

And the same is true of people who take action.

I can tell you, to the dollar, that certain users (the ones who leave comments or subscribe to my email list to receive more content or do XYZ action) are FAR more likely to take action and succeed. We measure it carefully.

This is also why grocery stores who charge even a few cents per plastic bag see a 95% decrease in customer use of plastic bags. Using small barriers strategically works astonishingly well.

Now let me share how action has helped me leapfrog even my own expectations.

My top 3 breaks

Here are 3 breaks I created through action that have paid off handsomely.

1. The first break I engineered was getting into my top choice for college, Stanford. This consisted of writing over 30 drafts of my college essay, deeply understanding the psychology of the admission committee, and overcoming the self-defeating barriers and cognitive-dissonance — including “I don’t have enough money” and “I could never get in there” — that plague so many high-school students. And yes, there was a lot of luck involved. For extensive details of how I did it, how I got into Stanford.

Result: Met incredible people; had experiences like speaking at conferences in Hawaii and Japan; learned about social influence and persuasion; got dream jobs and internships.

2. The second break was resisting the temptation to go make $120,000 at a big-name company, even though it was essentially the “default” thing to do out of college. In fact, all you had to do was click a few buttons on our internal recruiting system, and you’d be scheduled for an interview at one of these firms. When you went — assuming you prepared and did your homework — you could land a job and be earning a very nice living as a 22-year-old.

However, imagine if the “default” behavior is earning that kind of money. How easy would it be to turn that down — with your eye on something bigger and more meaningful (as I describe here)? In the coming weeks, I’ll share how to use psychological and decision-making criteria to guide your choices to long-term outcomes. In my case, I turned down job offers to co-found my own company, where we grew to several million users and raised millions in venture capital.

Result: Learned how to build a company from the ground up, tested marketing ideas to grow to several million users, and raised venture capital.

3. Finally, my third big break was focusing on “I Will Teach You To Be Rich.” When I went full-time on IWT, I was able to refine my techniques and material to influence millions of people.

Result: Launched my book to become an instant NYT/WSJ/Amazon best-seller, then grew my business over 1000% in one year, including earning $100k in 1 hour. Helped millions of people optimize their finances, automate, invest, earn more, and stop thinking of frugality as the only way to live a richer life.

In the coming weeks, I’ll outline the techniques and tactics used to achieve each big break.

But for now, let’s get back to the psychology.

Example: The Manifest Destiny Fallacy

There is a funny thing that people in the self-development world do. You’ll see this in blog comments all over the web: They’ll say things like “That’s obvious” or “Do you have anything NEW???”

I call this the Manifest Destiny Fallacy, and I’ve written about it before:

“Have you noticed how lots of people always want more and more information, but rarely implement what they already have? A couple years ago, I started realizing how lots of personal-finance readers were constantly asking for more and more information — more blog posts, more book reviews, more financial magazines — but would often just READ, not take action.

To put it bluntly, I have lots of friends who read blog post after blog post, but have STILL not automated their money, started investing, or even put together an aggressive plan to pay off debt.”

So I wasn’t surprised when I recently got this email from a reader named Kyle.

“I’ve been a subscriber to your emails for a couple of weeks now. And I have NOT really been doing anything you’ve suggested in your emails. Buy 200 books to get a lunch with you? Set up for direct deposit? Set up your bills to pay automatically? I mean, this isn’t really breakthrough stuff. If you’re actually making a decent amount of money here, I gotta start something like this… Maybe your premium content is a little more useful, and that’s just awesome you can make so much money on so little.”

My response:

“What would you like to read about?”

Kyle responded:

“I would really love to read a kind of “Day in the Life” of your life. What do you do on a daily basis? How much time do you spend writing, researching, relaxing, golfing, etc.? And an overview of your finances. How much do you actually make? Where does in come from? 50% book sales, 30% courses, 20% affiliate offers? I would love to hear about how YOU are making money. That would be much more interesting than little things I can do to save or do. Thanks for the quick response!”

Now, Kyle asked for some good stuff. And this month, I will be sharing details of how I run my business, including how to generate multiple streams of income. But there’s also a huge fallacy in his email. Do you see it? Here’s what I wrote to him:

…i am willing to bet you have not done all the stuff in my book/materials and, if you did, you would find some tremendous results (be able to put away $1k/month, have more free time, automate investments, etc).

be careful of always wanting NEW material. it’s better to implement the stuff in front of you

The Manifest Destiny Fallacy is about always wanting more and more…and never stopping to implement what’s in front of you. This is why I get emails from people who say things like, “Ugh, what else do you have that’s NEW?” Or: “That’s obvious” or “I can’t do that because….”

Whiners always look for something else, something new, because it’s easier than implementing what works.

What’s coming this month

Starting Monday, I’m launching a free 30-day course on hustling. IF YOU TAKE ACTION, you will make more progress this month than the last 3 years.

Here are the details.

Week 1 – The invisible scripts of luck and success. My post on the invisible scripts that guide us was one of my most popular posts ever. I’ll include case studies of invisible scripts that hold us back — and how to turn those scripts into constructive and tactical success.

Week 2 – Psychological techniques to dominate. How can you strategically use concepts like cognitive dissonance, the Fundamental Attribution Error, and techniques from the worlds of social influence and persuasion to hit your goals? I’ll show you specific experiments, case studies, and techniques to use immediately.

Week 3 – Negotiating your big breaks. I’ll show you how to negotiate to get higher hourly rates, to get meetings with top executives, and how to convince people to pay you for your valuable services. Including ready-to-use scripts and case studies of people using them.

Week 4 – Creating your first big break. There are fundamental differences between people who win and people who dream. I’ll show you characteristics of both. And then I’ll show you how I took people from whining to winning…in their own words.

What you need to know:

* This material is free and will be on my blog

* Each Monday, I’ll give you an action item for the week. You can choose to take part or not, although I can mathematically tell you that the people who participate are far more likely to succeed in hitting their own goals

* By Wednesday of each week, submit your results for the action of the week

* Each Thursday, I’ll reveal the winner, who will get a prize and 15-minute call with me to discuss psychology, personal finance, or earning more

* You will fail. That’s fine. This month is about iterating, trying different things, and figuring out what works. Better to fail trying than to do nothing at all.

* Speaking of doing nothing, if you simply want to read content and let it wash over you, please go find another blog. We will systematically mock people who complain and do nothing

* At the end of this month, I’ll be launching Earn1k 2.0, a new version of the most comprehensive program on hustling and earning money on the side

Am I doing this out of the goodness of my own heart? Yes, but I also have a business to run. I’ll also be releasing additional material via a free email list, including:

  • 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
  • Interviews where you can submit your own questions — and get answers from best-selling authors, TV personalities, marketing juggernauts, lifestyle hackers, and more
  • If you follow along with what I’ve put together, you’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. But in 30 days you will have hustled to create a BIG break in your life

At the bottom of each post this month, you’ll see a bonus that you can get by subscribing to my private insider’s email list. It’s free, and in exchange for you trusting me with your email address, I’ll give you material that will blow your mind.

Here’s the email list (1-click unsubscribe — I hate spam.) Sign up to get an early look at the insider material I’ll be sending out this month.

(Can’t see the above form? Click here.)

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  1. I dunno, Ramit – I went back and took another look at your assumptions post, and the most compelling case study – the guy who had all the reasons why he shouldn’t go to college – was one where testing the assumptions took some time (like, more than 48 hours). Similarly, assumptions about business models, product demand, etc. all take awhile to check and disprove – seems like you might be giving folks an incentive to limit their search for ‘hidden assumptions’ to things that are easy to test. I’m guessing there were lots of folks who, like me, identified key untested assumptions as a result of your post, but didn’t see any way to ‘test’ them in 48 hours.

  2. Tell me your assumptions and I’ll show you how to execute a 48-hour test on them right now

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ramit Sethi, jpelker's top news. jpelker's top news said: Behind the scenes of a psychological campaign: There’s a great story I know about a very sophisticated marketer … […]

  4. Ramit,

    Is it me or do you make very simple things seem a lot more complex than they have to be?

    You write, “3 breaks I’ve created that have allowed me to get into one of the world’s top universities, to earn over $100,000 in one hour, and to influence millions of people in a positive way to help them lead a richer life.”

    And this is how you ‘engineered’ your way into Stanford:

    “This consisted of writing over 30 drafts of my college essay, deeply understanding the psychology of the admission committee, and overcoming the self-defeating barriers and cognitive-dissonance — including “I don’t have enough money” and “I could never get in there” — that plague so many high-school students. And yes, there was a lot of luck involved.”

    Why do you make this way more complex than it is? Bottom line: you worked your ass off and didn’t take no for an answer. You didn’t let your situation affect you. You didn’t self-select – you let Stanford actually choose whether they wanted you or not. Anyone who is smart would work their asses off on their college admissions essay too.

    The difference between doers and followers is simple: They do!

    The funny thing is doers don’t need your course that teachers what’s already out there for FREE. Instead, they’re doing!

    Followers buy your course because it makes them feel better while helping you to grow your business 1000%!!!!.

    And of course, it’s your job (or you do it out of the goodness of your own heart, I forget) to convince them that they’re a loser UNLESS they take action and buy your course.

    This line by the way is classic:

    “Am I doing this out of the goodness of my own heart? Yes, but I also have a business to run.”

    • Some good points. Thanks for the leaving the comment, Barry.

      But you can’t simply say “Eat less and exercise more” or “Spend less than you save” or “Be a do-er!” That is obvious but not helpful.

      People respond to stories, examples, techniques, and tactics. Some people can do it with free material. Others are helped by more premium material with richer content.

      Whatever works for you is great for me.

    • Hey Barry, Just thought I’d share that I think that I’m a doer (have started two successful non-profits, been a full-time freelancer for 4 years and also worked with a best-selling author for 2 years), but I find Ramit’s work extremely helpful. I’m trying to push through my limits and do work that’s _more_ meaningful and at a higher level. The details in Ramit’s examples like “I wrote 30 drafts…”, help me understand what exactly ‘work your ass off’ means. It’s pretty motivating, and it gives me a clear way to check myself (ie Have you written 30 drafts yet Amanda? Oh, no? Get to work! :).

  5. I would love more than ANYTHING to have a 15 minute conversation with you on the phone. Maybe I should make that one of my assumptions.

    Would you like to help me develop a script on how I can get you on the phone?

  6. My favorite line: “We will systematically mock people who complain and do nothing!”

  7. Haha … on Wednesday when you said

    “Today, I want you to lay out 3 assumptions you have that are holding you back”

    I didn’t realize “lay out” meant “comment on this post.” Wrote them out on paper, but only managed to test one (though in my defense, it’s the most daunting one).

    So while other people were commenting, I was going out and taking action. Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  8. Today, thanks to you, I made great strides on a project I started three years ago. By next week I’ll have a book for sale on Amazon. That’s all the proof I need. I’ll be looking for your emails in the coming weeks. Thank you.

  9. @Ramit – the point is, at the end of the day, after all is said and done – ya gotta just do it man. Sure, having techniques helps or stories to inspire us helps or courses help.

    But no matter what, you have to take the plunge and get out there. You can’t teach that. You can’t teach guts or courage.

    I’d actually argue your course helps because people are paying so much – they don’t want to waste all that money. If that inspires people to take action so be it. But that’s not really changing behaviors if every time they want to change they need to buy your course. It’s just making you rich over and over and over again.

    “Whatever works for you is great for me.”

    That’s not true. If everyone of your readers was a doer, you wouldn’t have a business.

    It’s your job to convince people they need your course.

    • Barry, I’d like to disagree with you on a few points.
      For one, I believe that you can teach people courage. Thinking that people either ARE do-ers or aren’t makes it a biological issue and though certain traits are linked to biology, biology isn’t destiny by any means. People are taught through example or through lessons by their parents, other go-getters, etc.
      Ramit is certainly not the only person to teach courage. There’s lots of books, speakers, websites, what have you on developing skills to take risks and manage the consequences.

      And regarding his course, if people were taking it that weren’t really interested in it, or weren’t a good fit for it, then the course would be less successful, there’d be bad things said about it (google reviews and see), and it would be a waste of his time. If someone buys his book (a $10.00USD investment) then it’s not anything to him if they don’t use it, of course, but that’s not the point. He’s got services that are valuable to people that he hopes to enroll the right people in, and gauging from what last year’s folks said, he’ll be doing just fine with that.
      I’d love to take his course but I don’t qualify – I still have debt. I want to work on my own business stuff for now and see how I do it, but I really love reading Ramit’s posts – they’re my favorite in my RSS. His command of psychology is superb.

  10. @Barry, you have made alot assumptions about his course. You probably should give his course a shot before stating those. Last time he offered it last year, he gave a 30 day guarantee.

    People learn things different ways. People are motivated different ways. Ramit’s post just helps overcome the barriers and helps to solidify his research with concrete examples.

    Not only that there is a difference in just doing it and doing it systematically. I’m sure there are people who are just skilled and talented and they can do anything to be successful, but there is a great majority of people that need help to figure out HOW to do it step by step.