The invisible scripts that guide our lives

October 18th, 2010 - 213 Comments

I don’t usually watch Bollywood movies, but when your Indian mom asks you to do something — including watching a movie (matinee of course), getting the mail from the mailbox, or buying her a car — you do it. Anyone with an Asian/Indian mother is nodding right now, fearful of the earth-shattering guilt trips that mothers have relentlessly honed over decades of surgical use and rigorous testing — and deservedly so.


Not my mom, but you get the idea. Source unknown.

Anyway, as I was watching this Indian movie, I started realizing how many invisible assumptions it revealed about Indian culture. And then I took a step back and thought about the American movies I watch all the time…movies that also reveal a tremendous amount about our own culture. These invisible scripts are so deeply embedded that we don’t even realize they guide our attitudes and behaviors.

For example, would a fish know he’s swimming in water?

Do Americans realize how many of their beliefs are pre-written by our societal values?

For instance, in Indian culture, parents will sacrifice virtually everything for their son to succeed. In the movie, the poor parents have one air conditioning unit, which they give to their son while he studies. (He goes on to a top technical college and is able to support them.)

Also in the movie, young Indian men put aside their “passions” for a stable job, which they can use to support their families. They have little interaction with women before marriage. Anything non-engineering/medical is looked down upon. And so on.

We all nod, saying “Ah yes, those passion-less Indian automatons” — until we look at ourselves.

What are the invisible scripts that govern our lives?

Would you even be able to identify them?

* * *

MYTH: “I don’t have any money…so I can’t go to college”

I’ve recently started watching this awesome show, Friday Night Lights. For someone who hates sports, doesn’t even know what sports season it is, and STILL does not understand how football is scored, I am impressed with myself for watching this show.

Anyway, it depicts a small Texas town and its love of football, blah blah blah. True to form, I ignore the football parts and focus on analyzing the meta-messages. I know, I am really fun at parties.

Friday Night Lights explained a lot of things that have puzzled me about American culture. For example, in one episode, the dad spends his daughter’s college money, prompting her to say, “Now I can’t go to college!”

I was confused. Huh? You don’t have money saved, so you can’t afford college? What?

Unfortunately, this is what most Americans believe: that if you don’t have money, you can’t go to college. This belief is reflected in our culture (TV shows), our educational system (high-school counselors), and even our businesses (banks that promote 529s with fear tactics).

Of course, it’s simply not true. If you don’t have money, you can still go to college. My family didn’t have any money, and I went to one of the top universities in the country via scholarships (how I won $100,000+ of scholarships). But even if I hadn’t done that, there were still MANY options:

  • Student loans (no, they are not uniformly evil, despite what everybody says)
  • Grants
  • Work-study/part-time job, etc

In fact, the cultural script of “No money = no college” is even more absurd when you actually know how college admissions and financial aid work. If you are poor — but you’re skilled enough to get admissions — most top universities will pay for your entire education. This is why you should apply to the best universities you can, regardless of money.

Yet Friday Night Lights reflects our cultural values, which are so deep-seated that we don’t even blink. No money = no college. Of course!

But that’s just an assumption — like so many of the invisible scripts that guide our lives.

* * *

What are 3 invisible scripts that guide you?

Do you see the invisible scripts that guide our lives?

Here are some others:

  • “I should follow my passions”
  • “I should hook up with a lot of people before I settle down”
  • “I work hard, so I deserve this nice apartment”
  • “My kids should take care of themselves after they graduate from college”
  • “Where did you go on vacation this year?”

Each of those is a uniquely American idea. Many other cultures would laugh, ridicule, and be utterly confused by those statements. Yet they’re so deeply embedded in our culture that we don’t even notice that they’re assumptions.

What are the top 3 invisible scripts that have influenced you?

(Hint: If you can’t think of any…answer this: What are the top 3 invisible scripts that have influenced your friends?)

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213 Comments

 

Comments

  1. “I’m going to university/college because it will get me a good job”

    I think the assumption nowadays is that if you want to earn decent money, you have to have a degree, even if it means going into student debt. I’m currently a university student in Scotland, and if I ask any of my peers what they want to do after leaving university, its just a blunt “Get a job.”

  2. For me (American WASP)
    1. Early marriage is preferable to living together. (And I married at 21.)
    2. Working in a profession is important, and one must at least be planning to go to grad school after college, if not actually applying. (I’m a prep school then elite college grad who is not planning on grad school and I work in the trades and feel very uncomfortable with this.)
    3. To go along with that–the best, highest status work is that which requires an advanced degree is as far removed as possible from making actual stuff. So, moderate status: architect. Higher status: accounting. Higher status still: investment banking, academia or being a lawyer.

    For my husband (Chinese immigrant)
    1. Being a Good Man means being able to earn enough to fully support your wife/family to an acceptable degree, even if your wife does work.
    2. School is very, very important, and children should be relieved of household duties to allow more time for study.
    3. Respect to in-laws an extended family is very important, and you should always be on your best company manners around the in-laws. (This confuses my poor parents to no end, and they are a bit hurt that he won’t relax around them.)
    4. A 30% savings rate is normal, 50% highly desirable.

    • And I didn’t realize how ingrained my own cultural scripts were until I encountered my husband’s. I frequently find that the root cause of our disagreements come from differing ingrained ideas about how things “ought to be done.”

    • So good. This is right on (and very similar to Indian culture). Nicely put.

  3. 1. Marry someone you love. (Without regards to any other trait.)
    2. Women are supposed to crave and strive for marriage at all costs.
    3. Bitch about work.

  4. Ramit –

    This is a topic that I contemplate often – it seems as if there is no hard and fast reality, but rather only that which is shaded a certain way via our respective cultural lens.

    We internalize and follow a certain set of internal rules that we’ve been socialized into honoring as truth, when in reality, those rules are not truth, but only our perception of truth.

    However, since reality is not an objective concept, I think we can look at this to be at our advantage:

    Subjectivity implies choice.

    We can choose to follow the scripts as society has pre-defined for us, or we can opt to define the scripts ourselves, based on our own preferences.

    I first wrote about this last year, when I spent Christmas in a Costa Rican village with a local family. Let’s just say there was a violent pig be-heading that really forced me to question my beliefs from a broader perspective. Check out the post & thought processes that went on here if you wish.

    Great post, Ramit. Cheers!

  5. I really couldn’t think of my own invisible scripts, so I had to use the hint at the end to even attempt this exercise (What are the top 3 invisible scripts that have influenced your friends?)

    1. I’ve been working hard all week so I deserve a drink, or three.
    2. I *have* to have a car, even if public transport will get me to work twice as fast, and the occassional taxi is much cheaper than own/maintaining/fueling my own vehicle.
    3. Overspending on people shows them that I really, really care.

    Erm…I think I’ll have to find some cheap, local, non-alcholic ways for me and my friends to hang out for a change.

  6. So what are the top three scripts that influenced you Ramit? (Besides Taco Bell commercials)

    As for me, I have a Jewish mother (just as bad on the guilt trips but with more goulash and less curries). So my scripts (guilt trips) were:

    1. Have kids – Oddly enough, I didn’t want to until a few years ago when I realized I would make a kick ass dad.
    2. Get a good stable job – Mothers are mothers regardless of culture. I followed this one to the letter.
    3. Keep up with the Jones – This one I picked up in the US. The need for ever newer and shinier toys. I still live this script on occasion but this time I’m the one writing it.

  7. Get a car. Seriously, why is there an expectation that if you just graduated from college, you need to have a car!

    • Sachit, I have to agree with you here. There is such pressure to go out and get a new car. Why is that? I do have a very old car, but it’s still in great shape, but there’s a bit of pressure to makes sure I go out and buy something new after I graduate… it seems a bit much!

    • Uh, because in certain places you need one?

    • I agree with that one. Among my recently graduated co-workers, the only three of us not having a car were immigrants. Everyone else could not even begin to understand how we could be professionals with a good slary but no car. The socail pressure was huge. However, instead, I paid off my condo. I followed the Indian / Chinese / Eastern European script of save, save, save; debt is bad.

      Mai

    • The expectation is there from friends of yours that do have cars. The very friends you’d as for rides and to help you move if you didn’t.

  8. 1. Be happy with your decisions, for things happen for a reason.
    2. Be happy with the friends, you chose them.
    3. Work your ass off.

  9. Typo:

    Be happy with your friends, you chose them.

  10. Ramit,

    I saw a lot of myself in the questions part of this post, and in the assumption that money was needed for college. I did it the stupid way, and I fully expect you to yell at me over it, but I already know what my mistakes were. It took me eleven years to graduate from a middle-tier state school despite top-one-percent scores on the SAT, ACT, and IQ tests, because I worked my way through college after dropping out of one of the federal service academies.

    Now, with my state school degree, I’ve moved home at age 30 to help run my father’s fairly successful farm that he’s no longer physically able to operate himself. I realize I’m helping him out a lot by working at a very reduced wage from what I’m worth, even in this economy, and still I feel guilty about eating with them regularly, and even taking my paycheck, despite the fact that I’m currently working over 80 hours a week to get crops out of the field, then putting in time on a freelance project.

    The one standard script I don’t feel bad about ignoring is not getting a standard office job. I’ve known since I was around 25 that I was more suited to starting and running my own company than to being a cog in someone else’s machine.

    So there’s me.

  11. I followed a lot of invisible scripts until I decided not to let other people’s experiences guide my own.

    The “follow your passions” one is the worst. I enjoy Cal Newport’s series on the topic of how that particular invisible script is so misleading and creates so much angst for people.

  12. Here’s my invisible script that I have learned is udder crap:

    Be really good at what you do. It will be noticed, and you will succeed.

    Nonsense. I am learning slowly that you also have to be good at self promotion. Frankly, that’s a taboo in the Puritan Work Ethic, and makes me, and probably a lot of other WASP-types uncomfortable.

    • Great point Paul. I used a similar script: “Be great at work and it will be noticed” but I’m finding no one actually notices (and they actually assume the opposite.)

  13. How about: “Becoming an adult –> buy a house?”

    Anyone else find that ridiculous?

    • As soon as my husband and I married, we started getting asked when we were buying a house. It’s as though apartments all leech arsenic or something.

    • Growing up poor, I was always told these things, which are ingrained still:

      1) Become a doctor or a lawyer, regardless of passion, money is the most important thing to bring you happiness. No money = no love = no happiness. You have to find a career that pays well. (I am neither a doctor or a lawyer… yes, I don’t make as much as they do but I don’t think I’d be happy as a doctor or a lawyer. Arguing and blood terrifies me. )

      2) Education will bring you opportunity for success.

      3) Go to grad school and get your graduate degree as soon as you can because learning always get harder with age! They will allow you to earn more money over time! (Decided to wait because I want an MBA — got advice from respected others who also suggest reconsideration of timeline and schools.)

      4) Save, save, save! (Savings at 30% net.)

      5) Get yourself a new car — you deserve it. (I drive THE worst car out of all my friends — been told this by countless people including friends and family to just down and do a monthly payment. I see it as money down the drain. I will get a used certified car instead.)

      6) Always have something going for yourself, because people can always run out on you at anytime. You can only depend on yourself. (I work hard for myself, regardless of others.)

    • Above comment posted in the wrong section. Sorry!

      But to answer your question Ramit, I’ve been told this by my parents growing up. Buy a house and buy a new car. My cousins (who are in real estate & loans) also tell me this, but seeing them, I can see that it is a terrible mistake. They are living together to pay off their house because none of them can afford one on their own. They can’t bring friends home because they feel awkward. They bicker at each other because they are always financially stressed and depends on each other financially… and they are in their 30′s.

      In another case, a friend of mine who makes well above $100K is also stuck with a small condo in the Bay Area. He bought the place before he was going to marry his ex-fiance and now it has depreciated over $150K. To him, it is more of a burden than anything and he can’t sell because selling means losing even more. It has caused him to panic many times during layoff’s.

      My boyfriend at the time is also thinking of buying a house because the market is “right.” And he considers buying a home before his late 20′s because he plans on getting married before he’s 30.

      I believe any decision is best when you feel you are really ready for the commitment, with less emphasis on what others is saying “right” at the time.

    • i got engaged recently- my fiancee’s mother pulled him over and asked him if he was saving for a house. he replied negative, and i laughed when he told me about it later. we’re both in nyc, buying seems like a ridiculous idea- esp when we have such a fabulous, inexpensive apartment already. i would be heartbroken and terrified to be tied down to a house for x number of years… we are too young and impulsive. what if we want to move to puerto rico and live on the beach?

    • Along those lines, a co-worker just tried to get me interested in dating her friend with the primary supposedly attracting factor (after “he’s such a nice guy!”) being “he owns his own house.” He is a nice guy and there’s nothing wrong with owning your own house, but how does that explain his date-ability? I tried to explain the idea that buying a house is not just for investment’s sake and doesn’t mean you’re financially stable, but she really couldn’t comprehend any of that. To me, him having a house just means he can’t spontaneously move to another city and has more bills than I do, not that he’s a great catch. He could be that with or without the house! Really it just means he wanted a house and bought it. Who knows if it was a good purchase.

      I guess that’s just her failing to understand her audience?

    • Buying a house is huge. In my family/friends owning a home shows that you have “made it.” When i talk with friends and they say….”I am still in an apartment, but looking to buy a house.” I tell them about your book and try to explain how the fallacy of a “house is the best investment” is all wrong. Out here in Southern California (where the real estate market is non-existent) people think renting means giving money away, or that you cannot raise a family in an apartment. Looking back it is all rubbish.

    • It was ridiculous to a point where I wrote an article on my blog trashing it (for teaching purposes on young people to regain self-ownership): http://blog.sysil.com/2010/10/12/popular-trend-of-signing-major-burdens-at-freedoms-expense/

    • Yes. I was told the exact same thing. So you buy a house and take on an enormous amount of debt at an early age because it is what you are taught that you are supposed to do. Societal norms often dictate the behaviours that we engage in and actions that we follow. Sometimes I feel as if we should rethink the perceptions that shape our realities.

  14. Some of the assumptions that have cropped up in my life:
    - men are the breadwinners in a relationship (as a female engineer I’m making the $$s in my relationship)
    I was in a bar once and some guys walked up to my friend and I and started chatting… once they found out I was an engineer and my friend was in law school they closed out the conversation ASAP. WTF is that?
    Semi related: A guy I knew in school used to tell women that he was a child develpment major when he went out. He was an engineer.
    - women are supposed to do the cooking (my bf is a much better cook, I’d prefer to be eating his delicious meals)
    - you must have cable TV
    - buying things
    - optimizing purchases (you must buy either the best or the cheapest)
    - optimizing relationships (you must marry for love AND money AND no crazy family AND obviously they must have a college degree AND a stable job AND be romantic AND who is this person and where do I find them?!)
    - bigger is better (bigger house, fancier car, more food, higher pressure job, giant wedding)
    - women are not sexist against other women (women enforce the invisible scripts of the way women should look and act way more than men)
    - busy is best (we need to fill every second of the day with a productive activity)
    - relaxing is something at just happens, not a de-stress skill to learn
    - being “successful” will make you happy
    - beauty looks a certain way (tall, thin, muscular, non-bushy eyebrows, etc)
    - for men: don’t look gay (more on this)

    Crazy scripts coming from my parents:
    - buy a house
    - grandkids! (I keep trying to remind my mom that maybe I should get married first)
    - please don’t quit your job and join an NGO in Africa (this is a bizarrely specific worry of my mom’s)

    • Really good. Especially the ones about being a woman.

      My female Stanford friends know all about this (as does any female graduate from an elite university).

      Here is the exact script I have seen 100+ times:
      Guy: “So where did you go to college?”
      Girl: “Oh….California.”
      Guy: “Where?”
      Girl: “Northern California.”
      Guy: “Yea? Where?”
      Girl: “Around Palo Alto…so what kind of drink do you suggest?”
      Guy: “So what college exactly?”
      Girl (uncomfortable): “Stanford”
      Guy (loses interest immediately and walks away)
      Ramit (standing around, watching): Starts cackling loudly and cannot stop laughing

      As a guy I find this entire dance hilarious because I know exactly why it’s happening. But if I were a girl, I might not be so amused.

    • I don’t know why she bothers to dodge the question. Best to flush the losers out early. If you can’t handle my profession you probably can’t handle me either.

      That said I haven’t actually ever dated someone I met at a bar. All the guys I’ve dated have been from activities I’m involved with or mutual friends. Find a hobby if you want to meet someone.

      If that’s not working maybe you don’t know how to spot when people are flirting with you. I’ve slowly discovered all of my perpetually single friends are really bad at this. One friend who was shamelessly flirting with this guy at dinner had no idea that 1. she was flirting and 2. that he was definitely interested. OMG, how does this happen?

    • It happened to me all the time. One assumption that we Americans make is all people are born with some social skills, and that some are more gifted than others. I had to actively learn how to socialize and flirt. I know I’ve missed several slam-dunk opportunities in the past because I couldn’t interpret the signals that were given to me.

    • hah, i can so relate to what you’re saying esp this: I was in a bar once and some guys walked up to my friend and I and started chatting… once they found out I was an engineer and my friend was in law school they closed out the conversation ASAP. WTF is that?”

      so here are some assumptions that cropped up in my life (my invisible scripts).

      1. Men won’t date women who are smarter/wealthier/more successful than them ( I have one female colleague who told me stop reading a book because i look too smart, and therefore will never ever get a date)
      2. If you’re fat, you’re doomed. You’ll be an old maid for the rest of your life
      3. It’s better to be in a bad marriage than to remain single.
      4. Principled Journalists won’t make money.They will die poor…bur noble (duh>)
      5. The only way for journalists yo make money is to become a business reporter (no matter how much i hate it)
      6. Traveling is a waste of money. Buy a house and a car. Once you have that, then and only then, you can travel.
      7. Respect your elders – even if they’re unprincipled, greedy, unreasonable, childish, they are still chronologically older than you so you have to respect them

  15. I’m confused – what’s wrong with following your passion? How/why is that a assumption to scoff at? Can someone enlighten me

    • It’s not bad, per se, but it indicates a certain mindset about work. We work for lots of reasons–to make money, to pursue interests, to support our families, for a challenge, etc. And we rank those reasons according to priority. Following a passion frequently means prioritizing it over other things–like income, family friendly working hours, choice of home city, etc. My husband views work as a way to meet his duty of care to his wife and future children, which means that the earning power of a given job trumps passion.

      You know the saying, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”? That’s the way my husband, and many men from traditional cultures, view having a job. If your job fulfills your passions, that’s great, but that isn’t why you choose a field of work. My husband holds BA degrees in classical piano and math/computer science. Guess which field he will be working in long term?

    • Actually, I think that following your passion IS a good thing. I think the common “script” is that you should “get a sensible job, one you can rely on, one with a 401-k” rather than to pursue your passions.

      . . . and I think following that script, for many, is a recipe for a mid-life crisis. Better to live frugally and pursue your passions early on in adult life, so that if they don’t work out you can fall back to a 9-5 later on. Why SHOULDN’T you live your life doing something you love???

      And I’d rather my husband/bf pursue his passion, at least on the side, than succumb to the drudgery of a 9-5 just to support his family. That could, and does, create long-term resentment for many.

  16. I first started writing some hidden influences, and then realized I was just regurgitating “Common sayings that other people believe, but I know to be false because I’m so smart”.

    Here’s some more honest things that i probably believe that may not be(or were not) true:

    -I think I did buy a house because it was the next thing you are supposed to do after getting married to become an adult.

    -Now that I’ve taken a job after grad school, this is my career and I should settle down for the long haul.

    -I think that either my parents or my in-laws will bail my wife and I out if something catastrophic happens.

    -I think I pay so much in taxes, probably more than most other people.

    -I think that all of the good things I have are because I have worked really hard to earn it and so i’m entitled to it… (and not necessarily because my parents are well off and provided me with opportunities others didn’t have, and not necessarilly because my grandparents worked really hard through the depression to give my parents opportunities others didn’t have…).

    Wow. This was a helpful exercise, not only did I notice one potentially devastating assumption (reliance on parents in emergency), but I also noticed that secretly I’m pretty arrogant about money…

  17. “Be independent and stand on your own.” I have always striven for this and sometimes it means you fall and you fall hard, instead of just getting the help you need when you need it. Don’t understand homework? Work harder, don’t go ask some TA for help! Not getting accepted to jobs you apply to? Apply to more, don’t look for help revising your application procedure! Etc etc etc. Sometimes it’s good to know you’re having problems that other people have and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel your entire life.

    • This and if someone helped you its almost as if you didn’t acomplish it. How many times have you heard someone say… oh well that person had help from [insert expert]. They could have done it on their own.

  18. It’s easier for me to identify the scripts I’ve discarded:

    1. “The more degrees you have, the more important/successful/intelligent you are.”
    I didn’t go to grad school because I couldn’t think of a good reason why for my particular situation and interests, but it used to nag at me that others got that next degree and I didn’t, even though some of them did it without purpose and now just had more debt.

    2. “To buy a house, take out a loan and spend the next 30 years (plus hundred of thousands of dollars in interest) paying it off”
    Patience is hard, but we’re building our house by paying in cash, and this is very unusual amongst people we know.

    3. “Success means a steady paycheck (even if you hate your job) and buying fancy cars, big-screens, and purses with logos.”
    I’m self-employed, and I yawn when people want to talk about their Stuff or who they know. Blah, blah, blah. Success is deciding what you want out of life, stopping the whining, and making it happen.

    I wish someone would point out the scripts that still govern me, since I’m obviously oblivious.

    • @April I think we have similar scripts (along with a lot of the audience here.) How many of your scripts are just the opposite of the typical scripts, versus the result of a side by side comparison of choices? For example, I chose the script “Travel > strong roots” but after some travel realized the hidden downsides of travel (disconnect from friends, more chaos, infinite line of new transient friends.)

  19. @K00kyKelly–RE: Cable TV.

    YES. WTF is the deal with cable, and why do people think we’re such freaks for not paying extra money for more channels of crap TV? Some people think we don’t have it because we can’t afford it. They don’t seem to realize it is a choice to not spend hours of our lives in front of the idiot box.

    • We have cable because of our roommate. Seriously, you can’t expect to find a roommie who is willing to go without cable or just pay for it themselves.

      Also, I couldn’t live without internet at home… despite the fact that I have an iPhone and access at work.

    • So true.. I don’t understand why so many share houses insist on cable? It’s a luxury… right??! Something I could never really justify!

  20. Scripts of friends:

    1. When you’re 21 you’re supposed to spend every moment at a bar or club.
    2. Fathers are better people than single childless males. Unless they’re divorced. Then they’re assholes.
    3. If guys buy a girl a drink at a bar, there’s no obligation created by accepting the drink.

    Great provocation Ramit. I find my own scripts are generally reversals of normal scripts, but that still makes them a script.

    • Well… there *is* no obligation created by accepting the drink. Is it a kind gesture/introduction or a bribe?

  21. I LOVE this. I LOVE THIS!!!

    Many many times I have wondered this same thing. This “invisible scripts” also can apply to your political ideas, to your religion to your belief in climate change… People just don’t have enough time/will to judge everything so they just follow their cultural scripts.

    Here I post some spanish “invisible scripts”:
    - Business owners are always trying to scam workers
    - You have to buy a house as soon as possible, if you rent you are throwing your money away!
    - If one political party says 100 and another says its 0 then the answer is 50
    - There is nothing better than working for a safe government job
    - If you want to build your own business it is better to wait till you have worked at a corporate job at least a couple of years
    - Courses and all those “skill learning” things (such as Earn1K) are SCAMS
    - Evil Marketing only makes you want things you don’t need
    - If they say it on TV or in a newspaper it must be true
    - Every scientist in the world agrees that men are responsible for climate change

    And many many more…

    • Alfonso

      Hi from Barcelona! Your first 4 scripts sound sooo totally familiar to me too. I think they are ingrained in our culture in Spain! :-)

  22. Greeting Article Bro

    1. I sent out my resume to like… a 100 comanies! Why doesn’t someone hire me. I have X degree.
    2. If I get a Masters Degree I’ll earn more money.
    3. I want a Girlfriend/or B.F. so, I’ll spend my time at bars/clubs, then bitch later because I can’t meet anyone.
    4. To buy a new car you NEED a car payment.
    5. If you get married you rush out to buy a house to feel like ‘your on path’ of ‘everyone else’.

    I’m so glad I’m perfect. LOL

  23. -Gifts always require reciprocation.
    I always feel compelled to return the thoughtful gesture, even if its not in my budget.
    -There’s no such thing as a free ride.
    You gotta give something to get something.
    -You can always count close friends/relatives to bail you out of a jam.
    Sometimes you have to learn life’s lessons the hard way…it builds character

  24. These are a few that I’ve bumped up against and noticed through the years:

    -Charity is great as long as you aren’t the one receiving it.
    -You have to work hard so you can retire and then you can do the things that you enjoy doing.
    -Women are supposed to have too much of something- purses, shoes, makeup, etc.

  25. As a divorce attorney, i have a chance to deal with numerous “hidden scripts” that dictate my clients’ interaction with me and their soon-to-be-ex. some I’ve noticed:

    1. Lawyers (other professionals who get paid hourly) are always trying to squeeze more money out of me.
    2. Having a television, despite their cost and my economic situation, is a necessity.
    3. Public transportation is only for poor people.
    4. If I don’t give my kids X then they will not like me, and I must be liked by my kids.
    5. Thou shalt not be single. It is better to be loved by someone you do not love than to be alone.
    6. Having more facebook friends means more people like me.
    7. A house is always a good investment OR I want to hold on to this albatross (house) despite the loss in value and ecenomic impact on me so that my kids will have a “home”.
    8. I am more valuable if I am “busy”.
    9. My favorite – the harder something is to attain, the more valuable it must be.

    • This is so amazing. Wow. If you want to write a guest post on this (even anonymously), please email me. I am just fascinated by your comment.

    • The absolute confusion between #1 and #9 made my day. It’s harder to achieve a law degree so it’s valuable but if you do so successfully and charge a high hourly rate HOW DARE YOU?!

    • Ditto for physicians. If you work hard to be a physician and take care of people’s health, then your skills should be valuable and worthy of reimbursement, but physicians are not self-sacrificing enough by expecting people to pay for healthcare.

    • 8. I am more valuable if I am “busy”. — oh gawd. i actually know an ex-friend who relishes saying this. whenever i ask her whats up she gives me the whole shebang of how busy she is. the funny thing is, she seems ti be soo proud of it. like she won a nobel prize for busyness

    • As someone who has been through divorce and watched friends go through divorce, you are so correct.

  26. 1. Get a good job so you can have good benefits. (You can pay for these things yourself)
    2. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. (You can get rich if you put your mind do it but not everybody can be a professional sports player or famous singer)
    3. Work hard all your life and save so you can enjoy retirement at 70. (Really? I would rather enjoy my life now. Besides, I don’t plan on retiring at 70 and doing nothing for the rest of my life.)

  27. -If you don’t understand something, it’s a scam.
    -The only way to succeed at a job is to go to a top college, work 60 hour weeks, and live in LA/San Fran/New York.
    -If you are smart you should be a Lawyer or Doctor.

  28. Here are some of mine, some of which I’m working on challenging:
    -If you’re not leaving your house and working at least 8 hours, you’re doing something wrong and you need to drop everything you’re doing and get a real job.
    -If you’re not taking like 25 credits and running three clubs and a fraternity, you’re a failure at college and will never get a decent job. (Cal Newport’s blog is helping me challenge this)
    -Looking good is really important.
    -Material possessions aren’t important and won’t make you happy (I feel happy with some of my possessions..)
    -It’s a waste of money to eat out (but I know that I have a lot of fun eating out, and value that time with my boyfriend eating tasty food I can’t prepare myself)

  29. 1. You are not an adult if you still live with your parents. (This one is huge for me).
    2. There’s a salary threshold, and a list of job titles, that defines “success”.
    3. As long as you love each other, it doesn’t matter how many fights you have or how different your views are.

  30. Two come immediatly to mind:

    # 1 – Buying a house after I got married. I figured that was the next step. About two years later, were planning on going back to renting.

    # 2 – Investing means buying individual stocks. About 6 years ago, I started investing. I immediately thought that investing meant individual stock investing. I had no idea what an IRA was at the time. Luckily, I read Bogleheads and corrected course.

  31. A few that I still follow, more or less…

    1.) Getting a technical degree will guarantee you can do anything you want (you can always go non-techy, but you can’t go from a non-techy major to a technical field).
    2.) The golden rule–whoever has the gold makes the rules.
    3.) Patriotism

    #1 comes from my parents, one who has a PhD in chemistry, the other has a master’s. I definitely agreed with parents on this one for a while–I didn’t know what I wanted to major in in college so I chose engineering. My parents were very supportive of this decision. One problem–I was diagnosed with a math learning disability in high school. Let’s just say it was a very painful 4 years, and I now have a degree in something I NEVER want to work in. Despite that, I still believe it (I’m a slow learner ;-)). If you’re not sure whether you want to go technical or not, it is easier to start off technical. I just no longer believe that a technical degree is the only way to be successful.

    #2 is one of my dad’s favorite sayings and one I take to heart. I save a lot of money (>20% of my income) but I don’t feel deprived. When I save, I feel like I’m saving opportunities, choices, and freedom instead of just dollars and cents.

    #3 I’m proud to be an American. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many different foreign countries, and one of my favorite things to do is go visit war museums (I’m in the military). Seeing these museums that have a different perspective on conflicts I’ve studied is enlightening. They tell different stories–every country has and needs its own heroes. While I’m no less proud of the United States, I am much more cognizant that other people are equally proud of their countries and what their nations have to offer.

  32. The script that I managed to avoid was that you need to spend a lot of money on a wedding. The average wedding in the US costs $30,000.00! That’s a down payment on a house! Seriously, the marketing begins when we’re about two. Dream wedding! “Spend a huge amount of money on what is effectively an announcement to the world that the two of you are now married.”

    I know a guy who works at a pizza place who has been saving up for a wedding for four years because his girlfriend wants a $30,000 wedding. How did she pick this number? It’s what her best friend spent. He will have saved for six years, and it will all be gone in one day.

    The industry is a huge scam. Really? You NEED to spend $10,000.00 on a dress that you’ll wear once? You NEED to spend big bucks on a caterer, flowers, decorations, a fancy venue? Honestly, no one really cares, and the way weddings are currently ‘scripted’ a lot of people are miserable, especially the bride. Take a bunch of amateurs and ask them to put on a broadway production. Expectations run amok. Recipe for stress, right? I didn’t want stress. I wanted to enjoy myself, my husband and the people who would be joining us.

    I build websites and I had a client who called with a need. She had a great location and we worked out a deal. As my mother had already passed, she acted as mother-of-the bride, loaned me a dress and provided alcohol. We both worked very hard. I provided $200 worth of excellent food, and cooked months ahead of time. (If you plan, and have a great freezer, or access to one, you can pick up outrageous sales when they happen.)

    What was going to be the main focus of my wedding? The people who were coming from all over the country to see me and each other. I wanted to provide good food and drink and make sure that they enjoyed themselves. No one really cared what I look like. I borrowed a lovely dress, but there’s no need for anything lavish. It was more important that I be comfortable.

    Invitations? I sent emails. Those who didn’t have email I called personally. In the email I told them that this was the only announcement that they’d receive. I also told them that gifts weren’t expected or desired. (You may not want to do this, but our place was so small and we already had everything we need to set up a household.) This caused people to give us checks, which was unexpected, but certainly welcome.

    We had 60 people for a lovely wedding. Everyone had a great time. Instead of a fancy cake we had great pies baked by my favorite baker. Instead of the cake cutting, we each had oreo cookies that we opened together and gave each other the bigger half. (This little symbolic act has happily come back again and again in our marriage.)

    Bridesmaids. I told my friends that anyone who showed up dressed nice could be a bridesmaid. I’m not going to ask my friends to spend several hundred dollars on a hateful dress that they can never wear again. My lovely sister gave me $200 for flowers that we went and got the day before.

    People were impressed with the other people they met at the wedding and the conversations they had. The food was great. My biggest expense was going to a fantastic fish market and purchasing a hundred dollar salmon. It was good to purchase food that does well hot or cold. The night before, I drove around and gave packages of ingredients to friends who did some cooking. We cooked the fish at the house that day.

    Being in IT, my husband and I knew a lot of single guys who expressed more and more anxiety to us about being single as the day approached. We decided to hold a contest for whomever could bring the most single women as guests. When we did the oreo thing, we had all of our single friends put up their hands and look around at each other. That changed the dynamic a LOT. Once all the single people found each other, they had an extra amazing time.

    I just wished that it could have lasted a lot longer. I’ll never have all of these people in the same place again, and that was the most precious aspect of the wedding for me. I really like that in India weddings last several days. A good friend of mine had his wedding last over a long weekend. If I had it to do over again, I think I would have found an off-season bed and breakfast, or several close together, and held it there over several days.

    The cool thing was that it was still truly lovely. My client’s house was a beautiful Victorian house full of wonderful art and the wedding was held in her enchanting garden. She rented tables and chairs and dishes and cutlery. My friends helped pack up everything at the end. People will remember this wedding for the people they met and how much they enjoyed themselves. It was a low-stress and very fun vibe.

    • That … sounds … PERFECT! What a fun, fantastic wedding! I’m going to cut and paste what you wrote and keep it for my daughter to read down the track. She’s 18, about to enter university to begin an IT degree and she is a real individual. I’ve always said to her, don’t indulge in the same wedding as everyone else. I had a stock standard traditional wedding and yes, I was unhappy on the day due to the stress. I love all the “quirky” but really in a sense, normal things you did. The Oreos story is gorgeous. :) Congratulations.

      So, in keeping with the Invisible Scripts comments yes, paying excessive money for a wedding is scripted. Getting the house, having the children, working part-time to be a supermum, trying to do it all. Scripted!

      Now am divorced, and having taken my daughter to Japan 2 years ago which I unexpectedly loved so much have begun a degree in Japanese Language and Asian Studies and am going to expand my small online business so I don’t have to be trudging to an office every day as an older woman in black pants, coloured shirt and bad hair. This I have noticed with women of my age going back to work because their kids have left school. Scripted.

  33. 1) Having more and/or expensive stuff is important for your standing among your peers.
    2) Everyone, of course, has to settle down, and must do so by a certain age.
    3) Something very similar I experienced in both India and the US: If you get into a good school in India and are a girl, it is assumed that you must have secured or will secure an admission in the “girls’ quota” – affirmative action for girl students. As a scientist in the US, if you get a grant over your male colleagues, it is assumed that it is because you’re a female, and no other reason.

  34. What script should I follow? The invisible ones set by my culture (“I should follow my passions”), the clearly visible ones set by bloggers (“you should apply to the best universities you can”), or the ones I come up with based on my own principles?

  35. [...] Ramit from I Will Teach You To Be Rich had a great post today about scripts, certain beliefs about our lives that cause us to make stupid decisions. Well, I’m going to add another script to my own list, the inability to ask for what I want.  However, I’m not just going to be aware of this script, I’m also going to try and break it, because it has to stop. [...]

  36. Without reading all the other comments, and at risk of repeating some:

    1) I should work for a large company for at least ten years before deciding to start my own company.
    2) People should live and spend according to their relative incomes.
    3) Be able to provide the same or better upbringing for my children that I received.

  37. Scripts I’ve rejected:

    -If you’re not working for a local, recognized, “secure” company, you don’t have a real job.

    -If you don’t leave the house to go to work, you’re unemployed. Home office? What’s that?

    -If you have doubts about your relationship, get married anyway.

    -It’s wrong to drop out of college to work before finishing your degree.

    -If your student loans are too expensive and you can’t find a skilled job, stay in college; get an advanced degree so your loans will be deferred.

    (Proud to say I have no student loans and make time to keep learning for free, every single day.)

    Scripts I’ve seen myself follow (working on rejecting):

    -The car you drive indicates your worth and success. (Fun exercise: Cost of ownership for a reliable 10 year old car $3.5k or less, paid in cash, plus maintenance, compared to a newer car with a loan.)

    -Busy = professional, successful, and important. Rest is for the lazy.

    -Sleep should be sacrificed whenever needed. Food, sleep, exercise, relaxation and all other basic body maintenance tasks are irritating necessities that should be treated as optional except by the indolent.

    -It’s more important to be respected by others than to be satisfied with yourself.

    • (I don’t think it’s foolish to spend money on a newer car, but so many of us do it automatically that it’s worth evaluating based on your situation.)

  38. Yeah I kind of scratched my head over that one line in FNL – like couldn’t Lila apply for scholarships, student loans or work study? Although half the reason why I like watching it (besides being a UT alum w/fond memories of Austin) is that it’s one of the few shows around that really talks about social class. That particular point kind of illustrates the Garrity’s fall from being affluent into more middle class, thanks to Buddy’s behavior. Even though Riggins is (ultimately) a decent person, you get the sense that Buddy is mostly horrified that Lyla would date somebody who’s NQOKD.

    Invisible assumptions? The most prevalent ones are about money, like how much savings I need to keep in the bank, what is/isn’t an acceptable amount to spend, and what to spend it on. All of which sometimes can make me very neurotic, but it’s also allowed me to get through aforementioned school completely on scholarship and save my money for the things that are really important to me.

  39. In my life I see the following in American society

    1. A car is a necessity / buses are only for the poor.
    2. Always smile and be agreeable, even if you have an opposite opinion.
    3. Don’t ever let anyone know about the skeletons in your closet/family’s closet.

  40. I think industries ‘create’ a lot of scripts some of us live by…whether it be advertisement, movie catch phrases, etc…

    “No pain, no gain”
    “Just do it”
    “Be all that you can be”
    “Show me the money”

    what’s interesting, too, is how the scripts evolve…20 years ago if you had a computer you were a geek…now, if you aren’t connected, your pretty lame. we all have to look like we have some tech saviness to have that “cool” geek look…that trendiness (Apple anyone?)

    Scripts can vary based on region…I guess the obvious example of this is what can be deemed “attractive”. Jersey – apparently fake bakes and lots of hair spray is hot. CA…bleached blonde hair, sun kissed skin, daisy dukes (according to the song :) ) is the way to go.

    From a food perspective, the best places to go for a hangover are 2 AM hole in the walls or fast food joints.

    BTW, after you finish watching Friday Night Lights, I’d recommend “The Wire” if you really want to think about life.

  41. Ramit you watched 3 idiots…………

  42. Current scripts are too hard to see, but growing up I believed a lot of garbage.

    1. When you get home you relax. I didn’t know what it was that made other homes tick but it turns out that everyone else at least does some dishes or laundry, and the people I really admired actually planned out their next day, gathered items and prepared for the next day or week.

    2. It’s not a really good Thanksgiving meal unless there are 9 pies, 6 side dishes, 3 meats, 3 breads and a misc. thing or two and another type of desert or two.

    3. People who have indoor plumbing are rich.

  43. Scripts I grew up with, have cast aside as an adult/parent, but still witness daily from friends/co-workers:

    1) Children must excel in math and science; music and art are expendable and distracting.
    2) Once you have children, you need to give up/sacrifice your own interests and dreams so that they can have a better future.
    3) “They say…” – this invisible and undefinable entity known as “they” has all the answers to everything.

  44. I’ve had the honor and luck to have come from a region (we called *ourselves* redneck) and gotten a scholarship to go to an East Coast prep school, and likewise onto an Ivy League college.

    The cultural differences between the established old money and where I grew up were vast. Where I was from, once a kid was 18, he was cut loose, or was expected to contribute to the family. In the more successful families, not necessarily all wealthy, but in terms of rearing sane healthy kids with little or no dysfunction, who were able to fend for themselves and have good careers, tended to help their kids more.

    I worked hard to put myself through college, did need to take out some loans, but found that I could negotiate directly with the bursar and head of financial aid. All in all, I got out for less than ten grand in loans.

    The big secret is that these fancy universities can afford you, and the smaller ones can’t.

    One big assumption that was in my family is that the girls drop their lives and take care of their parents. My parents never saved, and didn’t responsibly plan for retirement. They just assumed that because I got a scholarship, that I was set for life. As soon as I graduated, my mother got sick and I dropped the company I had started and took care of her for a few years until she died. Only a few years after that, the same story with my father.

    These are years that, somewhere in my head, took me off ‘track’ with my peers. That there was a ‘track’ at all is an unspoken assumption – that you’re supposed to be at some point in your career at a certain age. What I confronted after caring for my father, was that my hard won degree had an expiration date, and no one would hire me to do anything. Because I had gone off track, there must be something wrong with me. Even though I had done the dutiful daughter thing, it was preferable to hire someone with fewer skills who was a known quantity.

    I think I would have had an easier time if I had been a drug addict.

  45. Some I am aware off and trying to fight :

    You must work 8+ hours a day ( I am SE , working from home and waste time at my computer even when I don t have work – as I am suppose to be working I can t do anything else …)
    Buying a house is good investment (LOL)
    Work all your life to enjoy your retirement when you are less mobile/active

    As a foreigner living in the US NOT for economics reasons, these make laugh
    * The US is the best country in the world (no matter the area/topic) : so no need to change anything
    * Taking more that 2 weeks vacations are year is being lazy : what about getting a life ?

  46. I have a hard time coming up with my own invisible scripts – but I would like to share one impression I’ve had as a Canadian living in the US.

    A core belief of many Americans is that there cannot be too much liberty.

    Contrast to one of the founding debates of Canada, D’Arcy McGee – “The two great things that all men aim at in any free government are liberty and permanency. We have had liberty enough – too much perhaps in some respects …” http://bit.ly/9LDqcw

    I think the strength of this belief underlies a lot of the divisions between America and the rest of the West.

  47. If I work late, I’ll get a raise/promotion.

  48. I never realized how many cultural scripts influenced my life until I left Canada to move to Japan. Only then could I see how controlled we are by our own society, peers and family.

    Everything was called into question including seemingly mundane things like:
    How to wash dishes.
    How toilets work.
    How to take a bath.
    How big a house should be.

    Other bigger cultural scripts were;
    I need top of the line equipment to follow my hobbies.
    It is cool to be a non-conformist.
    Tattoos and body piercings make you rebel.
    School and corporations are evil.
    It is necessary to have a car.

    I think most people have no idea about how many of their everyday decisions have been directed by their cultural scripts.

  49. @mellowbride….”The Queen protests too much, me think”.

    I’ve thrown Halloween parties, Christmas parties and New Years parties for friends were I rented a hall, catered food, open bar and would simply charge everyone a small price per person to cover most of the expenses. To come to a party with a mixture of my friends, girlfriends friends and work friends making it a blend of different people who all don’t know each other. Where else could my friends find a party that cost something like $30/person and be able to eat, drink, dance and meet new people on a holiday?

    I do not think I could do a similar type event, excluding charging people for my wedding.

    A wedding should be a once in a lifetime personal event. It’s time to celebrate my bride and myself on becoming a family. If someone can afford to spend $30,000 than there should be no judging for it. If they work in a pizza place for six years to save for it, than more power to them for spending on something they want and worked hard to make happen.

    If you cannot afford $30,000 and do it for less as you did, that is fine as well.

    I just don’t agree with posts like yours telling people how much they could’ve spent, because that’s what you spent.

    Oh and while I wouldn’t bank on the gifts, New York weddings mostly everyone gives cash gifts. You could end up just getting your wedding cost back in gifts and breaking even. Taking account money gifts, I’m sure most of my friends paid $10,000 like you.

    150 people, your gifts average $100 per person that’s $15,000 of your wedding cost that you got back.

    • @NYGUY You’re right, I sound a wee bit judgemental. My apologies.

      What I was trying to get across, but didn’t very well, is that in the US, if you’re a girl, the wedding industry really works on you very hard, since you’re very small. When I started planning my wedding, I was really shocked to find out how much is assumed, and how much these assumptions play into the hands of an industry that in reality is there to provide a standardized aesthetic, extract as much money out of parents’ insecurities as possible, and little else. After two days of dealing with the ‘industry’, wedding planners, etc.. I just bagged the whole thing and started from scratch.

      There’s nothing wrong with spending money on a big event. What I object to is that the form the wedding takes in this culture is almost *designed* to create conflicts between the bride, her mother, her best friends and leave the future husband out in the cold. Who says that mother and daughter are supposed to build this thing together? Bridezilla became a popular meme because it’s true. There are so many expectations put on brides that they’re not prepared to handle that it’s very difficult, unless they’re already professional project or stage managers, to get through it without completely losing their minds.

      It’s very useful to deconstruct the assumptions and build from what’s important to you.

      Having so little money meant that I needed to question everything, and it became an exercise of great value. I was not so much coming down on the guy who works at the pizza place as much as coming down on the assumption that the way to figure out the budget should be dictated by how much the bride’s best friend spent. In terms of creating a symbol of devotion to her for the long haul, I’ve heard of few acts that can match his. I question the bride’s wisdom at throwing *all* of it at a wedding and not using part of it for their future. I question the bride’s wisdom at deciding how much to spend based on what her best friend spent. (Her best friend’s parents sprung for it.)

      If I were to do it again, with a budget of thirty thousand or a million, I’d probably go through the same exercise I did with this wedding, figure out what’s important to me (family, friends, and their enjoyment) and then build something from there. I’d want to create a wonderful shared experience, and maximize the fun to dollar ratio. Maybe I’d rent a yacht in the Greek islands and have a smaller number of people stay on board and pay for their plane tickets and food.

      Weddings are beautiful events. I have great respect for those who can weather making one happen while keeping grace and sanity.

  50. Great post. Here are my 3:
    - I need to have a home and considerable savings before starting a family.
    - If I don’t give my days rigid structure, I will melt into a lazy blob.
    - I must have a positive attitude at ALL times.

  51. me (texan w/ hispanic background)

    1. become incredibly successful in order to take care of family

    2. have some sort of faith despite how illogical it is [i dont and i somehow feel guilty for that... the catholic upbringing affects me even after i swear it off]

    3. live close to home with the family [i don't, but it gnaws at me despite the ridiculousness of such a proposition]

    fiance [thai national, still living in thailand]
    1. take care of family even if not successful

    2. looking good is more important than thinking well

    3. some people (monarchy and high-society) are born better than other people

    cg

  52. Every member of one of the families on my road is severely overweight. Their youngest daughter was recently diagnosed with a thyroid problem – same issue as everyone else in the family. They claim it’s hereditary, which may be the case, but a quick look at their shopping carts in the grocery store hints at a different story. Numerous bags of chips, regular soda, loaves of white bread, ice cream… I think the invisible script is that they don’t believe the food they are poisoning themselves with is playing a role. If a doctor says “take this medicine to treat your thyroid problem,” that’s a lot easier for a patient to accept than “you need to completely overhaul your diet.”

  53. “I should go to college” even to begin with is a script unto itself.

    “I should ‘retire’ when I’m 65″

    “She can keep eating like that and she won’t get fat”

  54. Never forget people, you are products of environments, and most of you, products of your products!

  55. Never forget people, you are products of your environment, and most of you, products of your products!

  56. I’ve managed to break myself of a few scripts in the last 2 years (such as I need to buy property, I need an advanced degree), but here’s 2 I still follow:

    1) I’m not an expert at x/don’t have on-the job experience with x, so no one will want to hire me for it and I shouldn’t put that much effort into proving that I can still do a good job.

    2) I shouldn’t accept financial support from my family because I have to prove I can support myself and not have to be bailed out like other family members of my generation.

    • Erica, you’ve read my mind.
      I’m a recent graduate from college with very limited experience. I stop myself from even thinking about appying to jobs because I figure “I don’t meet the requirements, so they’d never hire me”. Don’t get me started on accepting financial support. I’m 20+ years old, how dare I even think about getting help from my parents? >_>

      My (family) scripts
      - Don’t even think about meeting a guy. Arranged marriage is your option.
      - (better yet) You get to have a say in your life *after* you get married. (I say wtf)

      I’m 24 years old, by the way. Ridiculous culture/family rules, ftw.

  57. 1. Better schools + more degrees = more opportunities. I have found it to be more true that better schools = “better opportunities”, where ‘better’ is defined by some elite group of people very oriented to working all the time and earning money as rapidly as possible. Square peg, meet round hole.

    2. Mothers must always put their kids first. Any leisure time alone is a sign of uncommitted parenting for mothers. Fathers, however, need such time alone and should be given it whenever possible. My head doesn’t believe this, but my gut (where I assume guilt is produced) still reacts to this script.

    Is there a script deleting app somewhere?

  58. the biggest script i’ve been breaking lately is “you have to have a regular full-time job to survive”
    i’ve never had a full-time job in my life, and hated all my part-time jobs. freelancing is the life for me <3 sure i don't have oodles of extra cash to blow, but my essentials are taken care of, i'm comfortable and i'm very much happier than if i were in a regular job!

  59. -Go to college
    -Get a job – if you’re not working 40+ hours something is wrong
    -Buy a new car
    -Buy a house
    -Get married
    -Have first child
    -Sell “starter” home, buy bigger house (w/30 year mortgage)
    -Have another child
    -Spend $ on kids, because you know “they’re expensive”
    -Save 10%
    -Buy and hold index funds, don’t forget to dollar cost average!
    -Refinance mortgage and cash out to take the vacation “you deserve”
    -Retire happily at age 65 with 15 years left on your mortgage

    • I totally agree on the kids are expensive thing. I see so many people buy all kinds of crap for their kids and then complain about being broke. Um, does your kid really need a new toy every week?

      Kids don’t need to be expensive when they’re little! Do you really need to dedicate a whole room full of furniture for newborn? How many movies are there with a nesting pregnant woman scene? They paint the room for the new kid and put up all this cutesy stuff on the walls and buy lots of stuff to put in the nursery. Top google result: preparing the nursery Warning: crazy baby industy link

      Wow. I feel like this kid rant is a bit too similar to all the expensive wedding rants. Do you really need a $3,000 dress? Do you need a $3,000 crib? Can’t you just hold the wedding in a park? Can’t you just keep the baby in your room? Everyone having a great time should be what’s important! Spending time with the baby is what’s important!

  60. I really really enjoyed these and now will get to work on taking apart my self-limiting scripts the best I can.

    Thank you all, I read every single comment.

  61. Interesting question to ask. I guess three of mine would be:

    “Go to college. Get a good job. Work for someone else the rest of your life.”
    “Be involved in lots of community, church, social, and any-other-kinds-of groups. Be really social.”
    “Plant roots and settle down.”

    What’s interesting is that not all three of those bother me. So while I detest the typical 9-5 job and vow to never go back, and tend to just be involved in a couple of groups and have a smaller group of friends, I DO want to plant roots (I’ve been moving around since I was 16 and I’m over it). So I don’t think “invisible scripts” have to be negative, or fought, necessarily.

  62. Ramit – great post, as usual. As always, a fan of your work.
    Here are some scripts that I live by – and shouldn’t:
    * If I’m not good at it, I shouldn’t do it – stick to what you’re good at
    * If you’re not enjoying it, then it’s not the right work for you – your job should be something that you love and enjoy

  63. 1. Always have cash on you. On your body, literally! Shirt/pants’ pockets, not in the jacket. (Underwear pockets? ;)
    2. Have a small cash stash in the car and in the office
    3. Forget and don’t count on this money, until you’re in a desperate situation

    The downside is that your spouse, friends and parents start to count on you.
    “Because he always has some cash” :)

    • The invisible script is “You never know what happens today”
      Hailing from Kazakhstan (Middle Asia)

  64. For me (woman of deeply southern roots):

    - Don’t move out of state. Otherwise, how will you support your parents in their old age?
    - I have no money, therefore can’t go to college
    - Military service is the highest honor and also how you pay for college if you really want to go.
    - Why leave Texas? It has everything you want. (see point number one)

    I’ve just come to terms that it’s okay to take out student loans for school. This was a huge epiphany for me.

    • I’m glad to see Southerners acknowledging the “live close to your parents so you can take care of them in their old age” script. My mom (a Texan) told me yesterday they’re planning on moving to wherever I am in a few years so it’s easier for me to take care of them. I’m glad that it’s not just me that’s confused by this.

  65. I am a bad person if I:
    -Eat junk food more than once a week
    -Watch more than 1 hour of TV a day
    -Don’t clean my appartment every week

    I am a good person if I:
    -Exercise every day
    -Read “X” amount of books every month
    -Stay busy at all times no matter how trivial the task

  66. It’s America. I can do whatever I want.

  67. Ramit –

    This got me thinking of invisible scripts I’ve obtained through my parenting, and society at large.
    I live in a pretty rural area of Texas, so values are pretty conservative around here, so my points posted earlier, as I thought about it, came from societal influences, not my parents. My parents were pretty liberal in my raising, so I often sense a clash of two worlds.

    Even then, my parents are polar opposites. For example, a script from my mom is: Enjoy life, follow those passions and NO WIRE HANGERS. (jsut kidding)
    From my dad: It’s all about the bottom dollar.
    I would say my father’s outweighs Mom’s. I once – no joke – sold the hubcaps off my car in a grocery store parking lot.
    Anyway, more to the point, my parents have always pressed upon me the need for a well rounded college education. However, most if not all my friends have chosen to forgo a four-year education, and enter blue collar trade industries or the military. I spent a long time debating which was better and ultimately decided to take out a loan (against my father’s script) and finish my degree, which also is a very marketable passion of mine (hello, mother). Everyone wins!

  68. As I read through all of the previous comments, I recognized so many of them as having been…at one time…an invisible script in my life. But having worked diligently over the years to question all assumptions of how/what a 2nd generation Italian-American daughter should be/act, etc., at the age of 68 I’ve finally found one that works for me and is a VERY VISIBLE part of my life (just ask my friends who range from 11 to 100 ^_^):

    Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”

  69. I’m guilty of these:

    1. I work hard so I deserve my trips.

    I like to go on at least 2-3 trips a year. I justify this by telling myself that I work hard throughout the year.

    2. You need to hook up with lots of people before settling down.

    Not sure what to add.

    3. If you don’t spend lots of time working on something, it’s worthless.

    I’ve slowly realized from the posts on your site that it’s about working smart (80/20 rule) and not about spending 100 hours on every project.

  70. This post (and these comments) are enlightening. One I didn’t see mentioned that I think is especially prevalent among women (unfortunately) is that you must complain about your body/face/hair to other women, even if you’re perfectly happy with the way you look.

  71. Hello,
    Can’t figure mine but I’ll say for my friends :
    1) Go to university after school (me too)
    2) Find a good paying job after university (I did the same but I changed my mind a few months after)
    3) Buy a house or an appartement (I’m not going to do this before at least 5 years when I’ll know what my life will be for the next 10 years).

    Hope this helps,

  72. Ramit,

    Of all the posts I’ve read on your blog, this one is by far my favorite. As an Indian person I can completely relate to everything you’ve talked about here. Here’s a few invisible scripts that held me back for a while:

    1) Because I didn’t go to “insert-ivy league business school” I’m not going to be as successful as my friends who I went to Berkeley with.

    2) I”m supposed to be working a 9 to 5 job that pays at least 90k since I went to business school

    3) I’m Indian and I”m 32 so I probably should really think about getting married since all my friends are too. I recently wrote a post where I said “remember when your parents use to say, would you jump off a bridge just because your friends did.” Funny that now they seem to have the opposite argument.

    Good stuff :)

  73. Ramit, great topic! A great book about this is “What To Say When You Talk To Yourself”. A must read for anyone looking to discover success. I found this PDF online that the author wrote and is the cliff note version http://www.bombaybookclub.com/download/What%20To%20Say%20When%20You%20Talk%20To%20Yourself.pdf.

    I noticed that most people commenting went directly to all the negative scripts they have. I had to fight through so many negative scripts especially in building my business. Here’s some of my current scripts. Since I intentional programmed them in my psyche, they may seem vastly different then most people.

    *If you don’t ask the question, the answer is always “No”.

    This script is great for when I am giving myself an excuse not to try something or ask someone. I just think “The worst that can happen is they say No.” The default answer is always No.

    * I eat healthy to enhance my life and feel great.

    Most Americans have really poor scripts on eating. They want to lose weight but when presented with the idea of eating better, they say “Oh, cmon, Live a little” like saying No to poor eating is going to hurt the quality of their life.

    * The Strange Secret is “We become what we think about most of the time.” Earl Nightingale

    * I am exact where I am according to the choices and decision I made up to the point. If I want to change my results, I need to change my choices.

    * Electronic Gadgets (TV, Computer, Ipads, Smartphones, Itouch, etc.) are time wasters disguised by marketers as productivity tools.

    * Home/ business improvement get at least three quotes from contractors. Base your decision on the contractor that demonstrates the best value and track record instead of price. If all are equal, go for the best price.

    I use to go for the cheapest but found that I was usually dissatisfied because the cheap contractor took too long to finish or didn’t finish.

    * Everything is negotiable.

    * Negotiating the purchase and sale of a house is where you can make the biggest profit gains.

    We sold our house during the recession and were able to purchase a single family home for cheaper than we sold our townhome for in the same area. We did it by staging our house so that the Realtors liked showing our house (We had over 50 people come through our house). We sold it for $10,000 more than the comp. When we bought our next house, we force our realtor to put an offer in for $45,000 off list on a pre-built house. This caused a big argument with the realtor who wanted to take only $10,000 off list. The realtor apologized to us when they settle for $40,000 off of list.

    * It’s better to spend 2 hours per day on the hugely important stuff that you’re avoiding then 8 to 10 hours on unimportant things.

    *You don’t need a big business with lots of employees to be hugely profitable. Most jobs can be automated or outsourced for a fraction of the cost and management headaches.

    * I continue to add more and more value to my student that continues to make my business and service worth more.

    * I make enough money for needs and more. Everyday in everyway, I get more and more financial secure.

    * I rather invest more money on assets then have a big car payment. This keeps my financial risk low and my security high.

    Obviously, reading this, you can figure out why I’ve never purchased a new car.

    * I am in control and confident and refuse to play the part of the victim. I will fight to the end.

    This attitude saved my business during the recession because instead of throwing my hands up and think it’s hopeless, I fought hard to keep my business going by marketing it like crazy, keeping my current customers happy, and improving every part of my business. I watched my competitors close their doors as my business continued to grow.

    * Turn problems in opportunities

    * Purchasing commercial real estate for my business is the next step towards our financial security.

    • Dude Tim, I know you are a karate instructor, but if you don’t write a guest post for me, I am going to physically hurt you.

      I can’t remember the last time I had to beg someone to write for me! Please let me get you international exposure and 100,000 readers instantly!!! I’ll do anything!!!

    • HaHa! It wouldn’t be the first time I got kicked in the head, but at least, I could say it was by a best selling author.

      I wrote an outline for an article then in September, I got a great opportunity that expectantly raised my student count by 40-50% almost overnight. Good problem but I needed to deal with some growing pains for the last month that’s why I haven’t commented lately.

      Things are almost back to normal and I should have time to start working on side projects.

      Sorry, it’s taking so long.

  74. I too only watch Indian movies when they are highly recommended.:-)
    Having read your book IWTYTBR, even though in late 30s, I realize there is a lot of ingrained values about money we learn from our parents. It may be a cultural stereotype but they are part of invisible scripts that condition our upbringing. Being an Indian brought up in Canada/States since age of 9, I can relate.

    I learned after my father’s numerous failed business venture and my mother’s hands off the finances that I needed to be always be in charge of $ no matter how little I had. Being in the dark about $ was somewhat comforting for my mother than knowing the truth because she would have to face the truth someday. Ignoring it was so much easier or else it’ll only result in uncomfortable arguments. Blaming is also much easier than taking charge of it.

    Saving $ is not sexy–you are right. It’s seen as a sacrifice but from what? When you end up slaving away at work just to provide the best of the best when really that isn’t even satisfying your inner needs of a peaceful life. People tell me often that they are “enjoying their money” as opposed to how I choose to spend my money.

    Lastly, script that has been bothering me lately is that a woman needs to work to be independent. I am a homemaker and I am homeschooling my child. I know in this day and age that is considered traditional (and considered less than a working woman) to be home but I make this choice consciously. I see it as a luxury, an opportunity that many women don’t have. We have one income but we live a very fulfilling life. I make $ by saving it, by being financially secure and learning how to invest it for full potential. Staying grounded to my values is what makes me an independent thinker and doer despite what the latest trend society may follow.

    @ Tim Rosanelli–you are right on with your post–it is truly about your perspective and your attitude that keeps you buoyant in the rough seas.

    @ Ramit–I thoroughly enjoyed your book–for its entertaining style but advice is also applicable in many facets of life, not just finance. You truly deserve this success!

    • It’s not just women that are looked down upon for staying home to care for the kids. Men staying home to care for kids is even less accepted.

    • Yet both parents a lot of the times regretted on how little time they spent with their kids when they were young and needed parental attention the most.

  75. I’ve been reading for a long time, but this has got to be one of my favorite posts ever.
    Some invisible scripts….

    1) It would be suicide to leave your “good job” as a teacher–the job is secure, the hours flexible and the benefits amazing.
    Never mind working for a school district and all of its red tape is totally unstimulating and its near impossible to get projects off the ground.
    or
    2) Its ridiculous to leave a job in teaching–other jobs don’t have tenure and you could get fired; there are no guarantees. Besides, we are in a recession.

    3) If you aren’t busy all the time–you aren’t successful. More projects=more important.
    4) Taking time for sleep, exercise or other such activities is for sissies.
    5) Its perfectly normal to neglect your spouse and/family for a career

  76. There are some great scripts in these comments! Here are a few that I have noticed in American society:

    * I am a victim.
    Don’t you notice, everywhere you look, someone is a victim of something? We are all victims of our coffee being too hot, our government taking our money, that backstabbing friend (who we would never say a bad thing about- unless they deserved it, of course!) Lawyers in the US make bank because people constantly believe they have been wronged, which leads me to my next script:

    *I deserve the very best.
    Do you deserve the very best? Do you deserve to go to the best school without doing any work, or do you deserve someone to do your housework while you don’t lift a finger? Plenty of my friends seem to think so. Americans have such a sense of self-entitlement that many of them go into debt because they believe they *deserve* the best house, car, etc, or pitch a fit and talk about how unfair things are when they can’t get the best when really they didn’t work hard enough or save enough for it.

    I also have to remark that the buying a house script really annoys me. My husband and I needed to purchase a car, so we saved our money and bought one. My parents and in-laws are absolutely furious because we “should have” bought a house before a car and thus have “ruined” our future. Apparently having a method of transportation to get to work so that you can earn money to buy a house totally escaped them.

  77. Cheaper is always better – I’ve partially gotten over this mentality, and these days I try to look for quality/value over getting the lowest deal. But it’s a struggle.

    Real Estate is a great way to invest – dad keeps pressuring me to buy a house, even though we have a cheap apartment that we love.

    I need to work for a large corporation in order to make a real living – I’ve been working for myself and loving it, and don’t need to sell out for a steady paycheck.

    On the other hand, some more positive scripts I’ve adopted for myself:

    If a favor costs < $20, I don't expect someone to return the favor, and vice versa. For example: if I buy somebody a cup of coffee, I don't expect them to buy me one later.

    If pressured to buy something, say "I'll think about it" and get a number. I've bought some things on the spot I didn't want (and passed up thinks I wanted) because I can't think rationally when put on the spot.

    If I'm considering buying something, I can only put it on my card if I have the cash in the bank for it. Being a poor college student, it's tempting to just charge everything but I don't want to be stuck with huge credit card balances when I graduate.

    • I also follow a similar rule as your $20 favor. While I don’t expect a return on a favor, people have gone out of their way to help me when I needed it.

  78. Ramit,

    The key to uncovering our own scripts is doing exactly what you did. Having inherited some of your Indian scripts, and having lived in the US with its own scripts, watching something from Indian culture made the scripts obvious. You may have not picked up on them if they were always around. Watching a totally different culture (Texas football culture) allowed you to easily see what their scripts were. I think watching something from another culture and saying “Well, I would never..” is a good way to reveal our own scripts and biases.

    Really thought provoking post.

  79. Myth: I’m fat but diets rarely work so why try.
    Myth: Women love small children.
    Myth: America is the best country.

  80. Thanks to everyone for the thought-provoking comments.

    I’m female, from an urban middle-class family. A few scripts from my life:

    - Girls and women exist to clean up after boys and men. This was huge in my family, and even as an adult I wasted years in underpaid jobs that limited my role to clean-up behind the scenes until I quit and started my own business. (I got a good kick in the pants from Barbara Stanny’s book Overcoming Underearning.)

    - Don’t mention any of your successes, even to friends, because that’s bragging.

    • Cat,

      > Girls and women exist to clean up after boys and men.

      I’ve noticed this script as well. For example: I was doing a project at a high school where my girlfriend’s mom taught. One day I unwittingly wore a shirt inside out for the entire day, and her students blamed *my girlfriend* for not noticing and fixing it. I didn’t get any of the blame.

  81. I might get lost in the tide here, but here are several scripts that I have found over the years.

    1. The need to be free. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, but I must know that I can drop everything and do something or go somewhere else. It’s like claustrophobia to me, and one of my greatest fears.

    2. Risk adverse. I’m actively trying to break this one, and have been moderately successful so far. I’ve seen my Dad start and fail many businesses and it has left my parents financially stunted. It also doesn’t help that my parents cosigned one of my student loans, so if I fail to pay it they can end up losing their house.

    3. Save and buy. I’ve always saved for the things I wanted. I only bought something when I could pay for it in cash. As a tangent, I also tend to sleep on a lot of purchases or add them to my Amazon wish list. This is really handy around Christmas time when people ask what I want.

    4. I lack the “Keep up with the Jones” gland. For some reason, I have been immune to this phenomenon. My truck has dents and hasn’t been washed in months, but I owe nothing on it. My two big ticket items, my computer and TV, are both items that I wanted, not something to show off.

    5. Compulsive hoarder. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but I collect several things, like video games, books, movies, electronics, and computer components. This behavior shows up with a vengeance in my video games though.

    6. Perfect Execution Syndrome. This is another habit I’m trying to break. I over research decisions and plans I make, and sometimes avoid decisions because of this. I feel this is a contributing factor to #2 above.

    7. Breaking expectations. I often go out of my way to foil an expectation. This is grounded in my Mom’s favorite saying when I was growing up: “You will only work pumping gas or flipping burgers if you don’t study.” I still didn’t study, but I tried my damndest to make sure she was wrong.

    8. Carrying around a courier bag. This is a recent trend, but I now can’t leave the house without it. Currently I carry a journal, the book I’m currently reading, a Japanese language book, pens, and scratch paper.

    Here are some scripts others had around me.

    1. Expected to go to college. This was big in my family. Both parents graduated. My Dad worked for his tuition, and my Mom is doing her third tour this year. Most of my extended family consists of college graduates. The nice thing was that I wasn’t pressured into any specific degree or career path. This is a hybrid script, because it became so ingrained and expected that I considered it the next logical step, like going to high school after middle school. It was just something everybody did.

    2. Expected to succeed and meet my potential. This is an old one that I’ve mostly broken (see #7), and nearly broke me. People, including my parents and teachers, expected me to achieve and meet the potential they saw in me. When I didn’t (or couldn’t) live up to those expectations they were disappointed and upset. It got ugly sometimes.

    3. Eat healthy. My Mom passively encouraged this growing up by buying few unhealthy foods. Sugary cereals and snacks were rewards for good behavior. Dinners were also well balanced. This is another hybrid script, since I now do the same thing. It’s amazing how healthy you eat when that’s all there is.

  82. Your “invisible scripts” refer more to cultural assumptions, but here are my dad’s forms of inauthentic communication–the categories people fall into when they’re talking but not actually communicating:

    — “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” What I’ve experienced is so much worse than other people! Even if someone has faced something similar, their situation is always way worse. And no one understands.

    — “Yeah but what you don’t understand is …” Someone tells you about their problem, and you suggest X, Y, and Z things they can do to fix it/change the situation. But they can’t possibly do that, because of these reasons that you just don’t understand! (“I can’t leave my abusive boyfriend, all my stuff is at his house.” “I can’t ask my boss for a raise, the company is really hectic right now due to the economy.”)

    — “I know something you don’t know.” I don’t really experience this one as much, but these are people with ‘inside’ information just waiting to gloat over those who don’t.

  83. How about circumcision?

  84. Here are three American scripts (schema) that I consciously do not subscribe to, but have followed me to one extent or another because of others’ expectations.

    1. School = job. 95% of the people cannot comprehend that I intended on using my SKILLS and passions to choose my career, not a piece of paper. I went to college to experience new things and meet new people, not because I thought my classes would magically make me a better employee. My one “education” goal for college was to learn French, and that’s exactly what I did.
    2. Owning a house is better than renting. I’m embarrassed to tell people I live in an apartment (near Indianapolis, so it’s a suburb environment), even though I know it makes no sense for me to buy a house. I’m 23, but my friends and family (in general) think it’s the “next thing” you do.
    3. Kids are on their own at 18/after college. This is one thing that really bothers me about our culture. Our high schools (and our parents) don’t set us up to be independent at 18–not even close. College helps prepare us, but it’s still crazy to have such a stigma against living at home. I feel bad for people (guys especially) who live with their parents after college. We have a culture that expects college grads to be employed right of the gate and get no financial help from their established parents. In many other cultures, it’s either A)okay to live with your parents or B)the government subsidizes college/helps kids get jobs! By the way, I paid for my own college and started working right out the gate, and had my own apartment in my third year. I just think it’s interesting…

  85. Here are some scripts from myself, friends, and acquaintances. They come from the past and the present…..and they’re all over the place. Sorry, they’re not really organized. Oh, and just so you know, some of these are….a little distasteful (race, class, etc.) But they exist. Otherwise I wouldn’t have included them. fyi, I grew up in a smallish town in Texas which is reflected in some of these.

    The US is the greatest nation in the world. Consequently, it has the best schools and health care.

    All developing countries have poor healthcare. Is that true? If you have the time, I recommend watching all of his videos.

    You should be smart. That’s all that matters. Then everything will work out for you. (Too bad everyone downplays effort, perseverance, and ambition).

    Intelligence and athleticism are innate natural talents.

    Anything associated with New York is overly liberal and disconnected from the rest of America, especially their newspapers and magazines. (This turned out to be wildly false. Some of the best articles I’ve ever read are from the New Yorker and the New York Times).

    Parents show their love by helping their children financially in any and all ways.

    The American Dream is a nice car/truck and a big dick.

    It’s best to have lots of sex before you settle down. It’s lame if you don’t.

    All politicians are sleezy liars.

    All smart people are super nerds and only stay at home studying. (only a small group of the smart people I’ve met actually fit into this category.)

    All jocks are dumb.

    Changing my mind is a sign of weakness.

    It’s better if I let my parents support me while I look for a full-time job related to my degree. (My friend’s situation. His parents supported him during his 15 month job search, and no, he did not live at home.)

    Ivy league schools are only for rich kids.

    It’s ok to take out another loan, I’ll be making money when I graduate. (This was true, but I should have at least attempted to manage my money. However, it just stressed me out way too much. In fact, I didn’t realize how much my increasing debt was stressing me out until I graduated and started to earn more than I spent).

    All you need to succeed is one brilliant idea. Nahhh. Who are we kidding?

    Books are lame.

    It’s cool to be stupid. Personally, I suggest if you’re going to do something stupid – be smart about it.

    History is lame. (Actually it’s quite exciting. You just have to read the right books – or watch the right youtube videos. Drunk History! )

    All taxes are bad. (This is a new one that has seeped into everyday conversation to a certain extent).

    All blacks and hispanics are ghetto. (Please don’t get offended. A lot people in small towns think this.)

    The only people who are good at math are people who are naturally good at it. (Might be true to a certain extent. But math is just hard in general and requires at least a little bit of contemplative thought and hard work).

    I have to have a college degree and a job to approach someone.

    Girls suck at math. Not true of course

    People’s worth is based on their SAT score, college education, and financial compensation.

    Reading comprehension is pointless and ultimately subjective – say the people who suck at reading comprehension and don’t realize that they frequently reach incorrect conclusions about the world after reading a newspaper article.

    Everyone in the world wants to come to America. – It blew my mind when I heard a story of someone from Asia emigrating to Italy. Whaaa? Of course, this is completely understandable. I just had never thought about people wanting to move to places other than the US.

    There’s something a little off/wrong with anyone who smokes cigarettes. (I noticed the absence of this stigma during a trip to Spain)

    Ignorance is the same thing as stupidity.

    People are only motivated by money. Of course, that’s silly to say

    People always make rational decisions about everything they do.

    Successful people live in big cities

    Since our generation has better technology than the generation before us, then that means we’re just smarter! People often seem to forget that technology and collective intelligence advance differently.

    Texas is the best state.

    Austin is full of a bunch of dirty, liberal hippies.

    Dallas is full of a bunch of trendy douchebags.

    Houston is full of jobs but has no personality.

    If I own a 4-wheeler or a gun or a truck, then I can call myself a cowboy. aka – A Suburban Cowboy.

    You can stereotype a person based on the vehicle they drive or the clothes they wear.

    Small towns suck.

    Just follow your passion. That’s all that matters.

    Following your passion never involves hard work, because – like – you always want to – like – do it; it’s always fun. So if I don’t enjoy what I’m doing right now it means I’m not following my passion.

    You should always be happy and have a positive attitude.

    Having a positive attitude can cure cancer. whoops website

    People always put their politics and self-interest ahead of their desire to be objective in decision making. (I’m mostly thinking about how people dismiss science with a wave of their hand as they conjecture about the scientists’ ulterior motives.)

    Successful people climb the corporate ladder.

    (On the flip side….) All corporate jobs suck and you should want to leave it. For – like – your passion and stuff.

    Poor people are lazy.

    All government employees are lazy.

    All government programs are overpaid and inefficient, just like their employees.

    Advertising and marketing is dumb and useless. A common thought of engineers.

    All business majors are useless and pointless. Another common thought of engineers.

    The only thing that really matters is engineering. Another common thought of engineers.

    Engineering is one of (if not “THE”) hardest and most time-demanding majors. Another common thought of engineers.

    If you’re successful you should dress like it. If you’re not, you should still dress like it. Actually, you should probably just dress like your coworkers. Any variation in too crappy or too nice of clothes will turn on the Gossip Machine.

    Life has been so hard lately that you “deserve” that fast food/movie/ice cream/weekend vacation.

    Houses are investments.

    If you’re not rich and successful then you can’t save.

    If someone isn’t white, black, asian, russian, hispanic, or european, then you can jokingly call that person a terrorist.

    I think it’s worth it to put aside money right now for retirement. (I don’t know if I will officially retire or not, but I assume that having an extra million laying around probably won’t hurt.)

    Time is better spent outdoors. (Yes, it is!)

    Working out makes you feel better physically and mentally.

    Video Games are fun and fulfilling. (my friend)

    Video games are inherently a waste of time. (me. I’d rather space out and stare at a wall.)

    You should watch sports so you can make small talk. (Other than college football, I get bored by watching sports. oh well.)

    I can’t work out after I get home because I’m too tired.

    I can’t work out in the morning because I’m too tired and too rushed for time.

    If you’re not working on something super amazing or important (curing cancer, ending poverty, etc.) then you’re a failure.

    All criminals are evil at their core.

    All opinions are equally valid.

    He who yells the loudest wins.

    All babies are cute. (I feel awkward when I see an ugly one. There’s nothing you can say. I wish I could make my eyes lie in these situations.)

    A person’s sexual transgressions is an indication of the integrity of every facet of their character. Can you really expect a politician who cheats on his wife to successfully balance a budget or negotiate a treaty? What a preposterous idea! The no-good charlatan will sell us to the devil as soon as he can profit from it!

    Don’t take on unnecessary risk in your life. Especially financial risk.

    People are just going to say no, so why bother asking? (Perhaps this could be called the “Undeniable, unknown expectation of failure”)

    Doing something well is satisfying in it’s own right.

    Physical labor can be rewarding and mentally stimulating. Seriously.

    The more money someone makes the more worth they have and the smarter they are. Not true. One of the best bosses I ever had was when I was weedeating for the Parks department in my home town for summer employment during high school.

    Time is better spent outdoors. (Yes, it is!)

    Working out makes you feel better physically and mentally.

    Adults don’t wear backpacks. The first time I saw an old man with a backpack walking on campus I just about fell out of my bus seat. As silly as it sounds, that’s when I really started to realize that life is truly full of possibilities

    Don’t buy snacks at the convenient store. (Mom, you’re right. It does add up, but it can be sooo delicious! Plus, coffee and sunflower seeds help keep me awake on long drives.)

    You need some type of business related degree to start a business.

    A real friend won’t offer unasked for advice.

    A real friend will offer unasked for advice when needed.

    Men should be unemotional rocks.

    Men should be sensitive and open.

    Girls should be virtuous

    Americans care about what really matters.

    People are good at making estimationsJust kidding!

  86. American dream : you can do anything if you “put your mind to it”

  87. I’m a postdoctoral researcher in academia. Below are some scripts I do or at have some point subscribed related to academe:

    1. I’m only as good as my publication history and funding from competitive grants.

    2. The only respectable goal is a tenure, and preferably someplace good.

    3. I’m not working hard enough if I’m not putting in at least 60 hours per week.

    4. There’s a good chance I’m not smart enough to figure this research problem out or solve it correctly.

    5. I need everyone to think well of me and my potential.

    6. It can’t be a “real” job if it involves any aspect of training, cannot persist indefinitely, and doesn’t pay close to what I “should” be making with my academic and socioeconomic background.

    What follow are some more general scripts that make me pretty upset:

    1. When making a decision, we only need to consider our own preferences and the welfare of immediate friends and family. The decision to own a car, have kids, own a house, and go someplace for vacation are personal decisions, not personal decisions that have a sizable impact on billions of strangers–and thus a potentially large moral component.

    2. You should have kids, and you should have as many as you want to.

    3. Women should want a diamond engagement ring. They need to receive compliments to feel pretty. They shouldn’t complain too much if let down in bed.

    4. People should adopt and blindly respect whatever values their parents teach them.

    5. If most of your friends or most Americans or [insert reference group here] are doing it, it must be okay; go easy on yourself.

    6. If you have more money, it means you’re winning the game.

    7. When doing anything involved in sports, you should give 110%. Marathons are cool.

    8. Even in the short term (and especially for women), it’s always better to make as many people like you as possible.

  88. I’m a private music instructor, mostly teaching guitar to middle aged men.

    The thing I hear over and over again that drives me nuts: “I can’t sing–I don’t have a good voice.”

    Singing is not like being tall. It’s a learnable skill. You wouldn’t expect to pick up a guitar or sit down at the piano and be good immediately. Those things take work. Fun work, but work all the same.

    For some reason, most people think you either have it or you don’t.

    Great Derek Sivers post about how long it took him to be a good singer:
    http://sivers.org/15-years

  89. LOVE this blog! Great fun to read. Keep rm coming!

  90. Do what you love and you’ll find a way to make it work. No amount of money can buy you fulfillment.
    The world may or may not kick you when you’re down, but don’t hang around on the ground waiting to find out.
    You can have it all, you should have it all, and anything less is a failure to achieve.

  91. Many of these invisible scripts are generally written by somebody else, And thats why they are invisible to us! When we right our scripts by our own hands; we know what is there in the scripts.

    This is a basic human psychological and philosophical folly that we tend to accept that people in authority must be right. It’s this assumption that Socrates wanted us to challenge by urging us to think logically about the nonsense they often come out with, rather than being struck dumb by their aura of importance and air of suave certainty.

    Ask yourself: “How many times have you written your own scripts?”

    Blindly believing on scripts like these, is the insult of human rationality. If people like Newton, Galileo or Einstein had believed the same way that most of us do, then we would still be considering earth as a flat plate with no ends.

    And I am talking about things, that your beliefs wouldn’t find convincing, but I am sure that your rationality which is far away from these dogmatic beliefs, would find them to be logical…

    -Anshul

  92. Responsibility is doing things you don’t like, so that you have the money do you what you do like.

    My kinky, coily, curly hair is beautiful right out of my head.

    Not everyone is meant to be a mother or a father.

  93. Some of these are mine, some not.

    “If I’m not inherently good at something, I can do just enough to get by and avoid it for the rest of my life.” I really see this in people’s attitudes towards math or science. Both are fundamental to having even a basic understanding of how reality functions and knowledge in both fields is more about work and effort than talent. Even if you have the talent, you still have to put in the time. EVERYTHING worthwhile requires periods of just grinding it out.

    “Achievement, especially academically, is based on talent, not effort and diligence.” I’ve seen too many incredibly talented people end up achieving very little because they implicitly bought into this. And I’ve seen less-talented people achieve their dreams by working their asses off.

    “Talent = moral worth.” You see this especially amongst the very talented. It often leads to some really disgusting behavior.

    “I’ve gotten to where I’m at solely by my own efforts. Those with less would have what I have if they worked as hard as me and/or were as smart.” That’s a pretty dubious proposition.

    “I can’t get ahead because of all these external forces holding me back.” Another dubious one.

    I could go on, but I’ve killed enough time already.

  94. 1. Creative jobs are for other people (or for fools who wind up waiting tables in at Waffle House).

    2. Parents don’t give children financial assistance after college by any sort of rhyme or reason. For example, we will not help you with living expenses in grad school – it’s too expensive and for other people. But if you work a low-paying workingman’s job and can’t afford health insurance, parents will step in to pay for the medical bills you incur when you get into an ATV accident.

    3. We are middle class, not wealthy. As long as you still shop at WalMart, you’re middle class, no matter what tax bracket you find yourself in. And you will never get everything you want out of life, so quit trying.

  95. I am Indian so these are embedded in my head since childhood…
    1.Be a doctor or engineer everything else is worthless.
    2.Work hard and get a JOB with some reputed company.
    3. Repeat the above 2 with your kids!!!!

  96. I believe certain invisible scripts guide our lives such as, pusue a career in what you enjoy or good at, because in the past this has been practised by people and resulted in some form of fulfillment or success.
    The success stories of practing this or other scripts have been passed on from generation to generation, slowly assimilating into our popular culture and logical thinking.

    Although, you can make some condictions to these scripts such as,

    For e.g. Do what you enjoy, what if you enjoy bell ringing :? is becoming the worlds best bell ringer actually going to make you happy, problay not, unless you enjoy the bum life and a constant ringing in your head. I’d be worried if someones aspires to that lifestyle, although i know some people who would entertain the simplicity of that life.

    I think the best way to approach making the right career choices is to look at what sort of life circumstances you desire, for e.g. if you want a big house or just want to be able to have enough money to treat yourselves or the people you chose to be around.
    Then look at what you enjoy doing, anything like filmaking, policitics, Maths
    and try to find a healthy balance between the both, studying or training for job job,with the right salary prospects and checking is their enough passion in that particular interest to make you stick it for a long time and drive you to excel with success. Maybe im a doey idealist but if your doing what you love, (being good at something, interested by it, love the feeling it gives, rush , adenaline etc), you will be happy with your life and im sure your fiances will look pleasing too.

    To sum up, some Invisible scripts are teachings, we can choose to acknowlegde them or not!

    Some scripts i find irrating though, as they have been created by the popular censuss of opionions around certain topics:

    You have to settle down with a family when your 30, why not 35 why not 20

    Finding the one, is there really a one for someone and if there is how the hell do you know if it is, do you ask your magical genie or read your horocscope to find out :)

    You have to try to right to be right all the time, whats wrong with being wrong, thats what learning is all about

    Success is money, sometimes having a good reputation can be better than a good amount of money.Theres loads more i could come across.

    The End

    • If you want to destroy your scripts on homeless people read The Glass Castle. Something about the life circumstances discussion brought that to mind. Amazing book, unusual family!

  97. This is the best post of Ramit that I have read!

    I am not sure of what my scripts currently are, but I had the following: btw, I am an Indian, doing PhD in the US.
    1. You should learn maths. (I studied engineering because this what every one should do)
    2. If I dont get admission for Electronics Engineering (the most demanding at my time – computer science was not there!) I will not get a good job
    3. Only men are intelligent.
    When I became a teacher in an engineering school, the most brightest students I found – 2 of them – both of them were girls ! Again my spiritual master is a women!
    4. George Vithoulkas is the ultimate truth regarding homeopathy. If he does not say about x in homeopathy, then x is wrong.
    5. The best thing one can do is to become a very good homeopath. (I lost it after seeing my spiritual master – though I still like to become one)

    6. Every one should follow their dharma

    May be some body will identify my current scripts! (most probably my wife)

  98. The Icelandic scripts:

    *Everything will turn out alright.
    *If things don’t turn out alright, blame someone else.
    *Get an education, get a job, get a boyfriend/girlfriend, married, children, house, car and in case this does not provide happiness, repeat process until it does.
    *Money issues are like sex issues of yesterday. Everybody has them, but no one wants to talk about them.

    The scripts are actually just ways for us humans to help us feel normal. Anyone who violates them could feel anxiety and cause anxiety in others for a little while because todays society doesn’t know any better and wants everybody to act the same way or “be normal”. Ever noticed how “normal” is automatically considered good?

    So be happy that you’ve seen the scripts. Because once you do, it makes it that much easier to stop following them.

  99. Lordy! So many women have the fairytale myth – one day my prince will come, I don’t need to take financial responsibility for myself because eventually I’ll marry a millionaire/hedge fund manager/partner at a law firm, the fairy godmother myth…where does it stop. I think Cinderella, Snow White et al have a lot to answer for!

  100. i have come across this often in college:

    1. studying more means doing better in exam (nothing could be further from truth)
    2. all law firms want to hire the toppers only (i am in a top law school in India – not a topper – and two law firms fought over me two months back and i have 10 months to go before i finish my course)
    3. you must work more to make more money
    4. you must be rich if you want to hang out with girls (not completely true, but kind of true)

    my god, the excuses people believe in to not try to get what they want! it makes me feel like screaming!

  101. Nothing says American “invisible script” better than Nick Sanabria in “The Horse Race.”
    http://www.nicksanabria.com/funny_stuff/Entries/2008/10/6_“the_Horserace”.htm

  102. Ramit – this is my favorite post of yours yet!!

  103. Man, this is such a great post that I was think about it some more. I have two great scripts that I inherited for my parents.

    * No matter what happens if you keep your faith, things always turn out for the best.
    I heard my parent, especially my mom, say this all the time when I was young and she’d follow it with examples. For example, right after college, I didn’t get a job offer after an interview. My mom would say, “Don’t worry, it will turn out for the better” and I received a job with a salary of $10,000 more than the job I didn’t get.
    * Stay strong to the finish
    I say this all the time to motivate people in my karate classes. For me, it means to not leave important things unfinished but to persist and be resilient in every situation.

  104. I’m a CoDA, child of deaf adults. Growing up with two cultures, hearing and deaf, three if you want to count Chinese too, has given me a perspective and understanding different than most people.

    “Deaf = Dumb/Disabled”
    - This is a “hearing” script that the deaf community resents and tries its best to break by stressing education as much as possible in their children and community.

    The really hardcore members of the deaf community really want the community to be sort of self-sustaining, having no reliance on hearing people if possible. They really stick to their own not unlike most ethnic groups but it’s definitely a separate culture that most people don’t seem to understand.

  105. 1. Work is virtue in its own. You should work hard and earn money. Just because.
    2. You should prove that you can do better than most of the others.
    3. You should find a wife that is fun to be with. And you should choose nicely because divorce is not an option.

    I’m Russian but i’m not sure that these represents the scripts of our culture much. Of my family mostly. First two points are kinda stupid but I can’t get rid of them. Third one is accomplished, hopefully:)

  106. Hah! This is interesting! The Finnish deeply set ideas are somewhat different… this is my view on some of them (and deep down I find that I believe them too):

    - Do not be an attention-seeker. Don’t boast with your success and never with money. Related: hide your happiness lest you make other people envious.
    - Education should be free, and it is. Even university is free, and you actually are paid to study. But you need to be good to get in. (Hey you brainy people, come to Finland to study and then stay!)
    - Only loosers live with their parents after finishing secondary education (age 18-19). Being financially dependent on your parents later is not acceptable. On the other hand, the parents do not expect to be taken care of by the children in the old age.
    - Everything can be solved logically. People not capable of logical thought are dumb.
    - For most people, comfort and practicality takes over fashion for clothing. It is sensible to dress according to weather even if it looks a bit dorky. Frozen ears look even more dorky…
    - Both men and women should get a job and work hard, but only max. 40 h a week. It it is more than that, you are not doing it right. Taking longer than 30 minutes for lunch is lazy. Five weeks of holidays per year is a minimum. Paid maternity/paternity leave for at least 10 months is a norm.
    - Honesty is important virtue and a general high level of honesty is expected/taken as granted. You can trust the government, doctors, and all experts. They do not try to scam you. You can also trust what most people tell. Politicians, however, are not to be trusted as they never fulfill their promises.
    - Talking about your faith is embarrassing to other people. Being deeply religious is OK just as long as you keep it to yourself.
    - Even with its problems, Finland is the best country in the world. Incidentally, the Newsweek came to same conclusion. (http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/15/interactive-infographic-of-the-worlds-best-countries.html)

  107. 1. One’s greatest desire should be made their greatest reality. With or without help.

    2. Be enlightened: Children can’t understand why anyone would eat anything but icecream and watch anything but cartoons.

    3. Life responds to deserve and not to need. If you sow, then you shall reap. You can’t just do whatever the hell you wanna do.

    • @Pyotr

      ‘Deserve’ has been a real trap for me, and it’s a word that I’ve found has layers that when peeled back, mean that there are cultural assumptions lurking beneath.

      It’s tied to the ‘victim’ script. If you don’t get what you deserve, then you’re deprived, or a victim. If I’m going to get something because I ‘deserve’ it, or I’m ‘worth it’, then something has ‘entitled’ me.

      These have all become watchwords for me.

      Cultural norms have everything to do with it. If you’re from a wealthy family, and all your friends are wealthy, and something bad happens to you that causes something out of norm, or when the punishment doesn’t fit the crime *according to cultural norms*, then you don’t deserve it. If your family and friends experience hardship on a daily basis, when bad stuff happens, it’s more the norm. What did you expect?

      Earning something is weird. Who sets the value on your work and time? If you’re not conscious of who sets the value, then you’re at the mercy of what others think your time or your output is worth, but if you can understand market forces, then you can earn more for your time or output by negotiation, or clever marketing or a million other ways. There are many places where there are disconnects in the market economy where if you think of earning and deserving and karmic return without taking these disconnects into account, you may be sorely disappointed. Either that or karma may return to you, but it might not be in this lifetime.

  108. @ mellowbride

    I agree. Spend what you can and would like to spend, not try to overdue or match what your friends did at their wedding. Simple rule of ‘don’t try to keep up with the Jonses” applies to weddings as well.

    If I were to get engaged, I would be paying for my entire wedding without help of parents, fiance, or fiance’s parents. I will hate it if the preasure if on my from my fiance to match what her friends with larger incomes or wealthy parents spent.

    Some of her friends that are recently engaged are a lawyer and other with wealthy folks. I’m sure I’ll have preasure to match what their weddings were.

  109. One that’s pretty much beaten into every child growing up, which I am seeing again now that I’m a parent:

    “you have to share”

    I’m not sure if this is American or universal but we basically bully our kids into sharing so that more than half of them never really want to do it, but they only end up doing it because of perceived societal pressure. If it were possible for everyone to understand that they don’t have to share, but when they do they might just feel good about doing it of their own free will because they wanted to it might happen more freely and with less edge. Then again try telling a 2 year old he doesn’t have to share, not a good idea so I’m stumped.

  110. These are scripts that I used to believe, and even though they are now conscious scripts with which I disagree, I have to deliberately adjust my knee jerk reactions.

    -People who are dressed impeccably well are more successful than those who are not.

    Great example of how wrong I was, see group photo at bottom of page 1. http://knowledge.allianz.com/nopi_downloads/downloads/Leadership%20Statement%20on%20Climate%20Action.pdf

    Did Richard Branson and Sergey Brin not have to care that they are what might be called sloppily dressed? Or do they surpass others in their endeavors because they do not adhere to social norms? Was comfort more important to them than external appearances? Or did it just happen that they both spilled guacamole on their suits before the photo? I pondered this one for a while.

    -Being indirect is more polite than being direct.

    “I’m too busy.” really says, “I’m too busy for YOU.” and implies either that the person is too stupid to figure that out or that you don’t care if they do. At best it is misleading, and at worst, condescending. People say this to others, and just as often to themselves. More often than not, when I find myself being overly indirect it means I am afraid of speaking my mind.
    Being Asian, I grew up with indirect, and it took a while to learn that there is value in directness as well.

    These are scripts that I see in others and are on my pet peeve list.

    -Political leaders should be average people like “me.”

    Excellence is not average, it is well above it. I would prefer the best leader, not the average or similar to me. And statistically speaking, for most people the best is not them.

    -If you aren’t making the same choices that I am, then one of us must be wrong and better it be you than me so I’ll criticize you.

    And finally a script that I admire.

    -Find the best in others without being ignorant of their worst.

    Thank you Ramit for a thought provoking post!

  111. Here in America if child behaves differently, we diagnosis new disease and label him with that. Once child is labeled, he will behave that way and find many excuses to explain his behavior rather than improving him self.
    As I understand more about my self, I feel that I might have ADD/ADHD during my childhood and even today but guess what? My parents always told me that I am special and intelligent, hard worker and caring…. even though I was very moderate in my studies, often getting angry, ADHD symptom etc..

    And that gave me time to understand and improve my self. Today, I have a Masters in Physics, owning a business (ice-cream franchise) and working as a successful Sr. Software Engineer….
    So don’t label you child……Tell him you are special and you can do it!!

  112. It’s funny, I recognize all of these scripts but I had a hard time trying to find ones that had affected my life until I came up with these two pretty strong ones:

    1. *When you graduate college, you get a job right away.*
    - Now, if you need to support yourself, yes you probably need some sort of job or way of earning money. But I wish I had thought more about travel, alternative types of jobs/earning money before charging into the workforce because once you’re dependent on a certain amount of money to pay for your apartment and car and bills it becomes much harder to go on those adventures. I of course am trying to remedy this with Earn1k.

    2. *Credit cards are bad and lead to MASSIVE DEBT*
    - For this one I have my parents and my siblings to blame. My older brother and sister built up some serious credit card debit in college with cards they had applied for on campus (I’m sure for a free t-shirt or something). I was warned of the evil credit cards and told never to get one because only irresponsible, bad people did that. Credit cards were for adults. I of course was a good child and never got one which totally screwed me when I tried to finance a car two years ago. At 24 I still didnt have a credit card and even my own bank wouldn’t give me one (other than secured). Lesson learned: have credit! just make sure you’re smart with it.

    • Hey Mary,

      1. I’m actually writing about this as we speak on my major writing project for college students in my former major. That script applies only to less than 5% of the graduates (most of them have enough “valued” internship or real-work experience already though).

      2. It’s poor management of credit cards that leads to the debt spiral.

      Wow, we’re both 24.

    • Hey Stanley-

      I’m actually 26 now :) Been carrying my secured credit card from BofA for awhile and was recently approved for a Gap Visa card – wahoo!! The woman at the register actually cheered for me because I told her I was very doubtful I’d be approved seeing as my own bank wouldn’t give me a card.

      It’s funny – I had other proven kinds of “credit” and responsibility with money – I’d never been late paying a bill, I had never missed a payment on my student loan, I had a steady job, but still a bank or CC company was more likely to give a card to someone with debt in the tens of thousands.

  113. Anyone got one of those LG phones with the green screen, well I got one still.

    I get the weirdest look from people when I pull it out… and sometimes I feel like hiding it myself. I love it but i’m probably the only brown dude with a shitty looking awesome phone, TV job and an awesome wild but true-at-heart italian girlfriend who ran away from home and works in a grocery store to pay her way through life.

    now that’s real. I feel good.

  114. 1) As an ABC: Education, especially college, is extremely important to wealth. You must major in something respectable and earns a good salary. Going to grad school is extremely desirable. While I agree that education is important, I do not feel that college for everyone. I do still see college as a means to higher salary, if that is your goal. I am not saying that you have to go to college to earn a high salary, but it can be an easier path if you choose the right major or know how you’re going to use your degree. But let’s get real. How many high schoolers know what they want to do? I get bugged about grad school all the time, which I do plan to go to, but just not in my parent’s timeframe. They don’t seem to care about how satisfied I am with my job, just as long as they have bragging rights.
    2) Buy a house as soon as possible. I really do NOT like the push to own a home. I live in a cheap city. Parents and coworkers ask me all the time when I’ll own my own place. My response has always been “I’m not ready.” I’m hoping to get out of this state and never return in the next year. My parents think I’m dumb for not buying then renting it out when I leave. I’m not attached to where I’m living now, and have no desire to own a rental in a city that is cheap and doesn’t attract a lot of high incomers. This state has a long long way to go before that will happen.
    3) Marriage is the ULTIMATE goal for females. I detest the emphasis on marriage. So many end in divorces. I can take care of myself. I don’t need a guy to “complete me”. I do enjoy the companionship, however. My mom is actually worried that marriage is not a higher priority on my list. I sometimes wonder if they still think I’m a child because I’m unmarried and a female.

    • “I sometimes wonder if they still think I’m a child because I’m unmarried and a female.”
      Yes, they do. My parents are the same way. I haven’t been completely dependent on them since I started college (I’ve graduated and work now) but in their minds, I am still 10 years old and cannot take care of myself.

  115. HI Ramit,
    While I was thinking about this, I had recently read a post which you had written about how you were doing on the 30 day challenge and I think it was about cooking/eating at home to save money and how you finally asked your mom to bring over some food. And many of the people who commented said that they did not like this part.(I think the word was mooch). And being an Indian, I was thinking, that is perfectly normal in an Indian family.We do not think twice about asking our mom to cook something for us , even if we are 30 :) and our moms would love to do that. That I think is one invisible script which guides the Western and Indian thinking in different ways.

    And thinking about my own and others when I was growing up: (Over the years I have been influenced by other ways of thinking also)

    1. All my friends have gotten married so should I. I should have gotten married by 25. Because I am not married, I need to be given a sympathetic look every time I am at a social function.
    2. Study hard, get good grades so that you get a stable job which pays you good money.
    3. Because my grades were not good,I cannot get a job at that top company.
    4. Girls are expected to know cooking.
    5. Never take anythin on credit (Still valid to a certain extent)
    6.Remain a virgin until marriage.
    Cheers
    SV

  116. Invisible scripts for middle-class Brits:

    You must go to university in order to get a “good” job. (Even a ridiculous subject at a bottom-ranking university is better than going straight to work out of school.)
    That job will involve working for somebody else, in an office, doing something suitable cerebral, with a basic 9-5 structure.
    You must buy a house ASAP.
    Thin = happy.
    As a female, the single most important thing you can do is be attractive. And young.
    You will get married one day. Remaining single by choice or co-habiting long-term are not options.
    … and then you must have children.

  117. Ramit,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. There are so many scripts that are so deeply embedded in every culture that we don’t even notice them. Some are big and some are very small.

    As part of my commitment to grow financially and as an entrepreneur, I have learned that it’s important for me to recognize certain scripts that I follow, let those close to me know about it, and make a firm to choice to question the script.

    When I’ve questioned a script that I’ve followed for most of my life, I begin thinking of alternatives that I have led to tremendous growth and happiness.

    For instance:

    1. Script: Traveling is an expensive luxury.

    Change: Through learning more about frugal travel, I spend much less than all of my friends do on travel, travel far more frequently, and enjoy more luxury while a travel.

    2. Script: There’s no money to be made in music.

    Change: As I publicly had to fight this challenge through most of my young adulthood, I ended up having a more consistent career, being a professional musician, than all of my friends combine. Please note, my job wasn’t affected by the recession. In fact, my income increased significantly during the recession.

    3. Script: Being rich means having and being able to do X,Y, and Z.

    Change: I had to come to realize that this was MY PERCEPTION of what being rich was. For many of the wealthy people in America, they live less materially than the LOWER MIDDLE CLASS. Their happiness comes from inside.

  118. 1) people who are successful work their lives off, are bald, unhealthy and have terrible personal lives, therefore i am not going to work hard and realize my financial dreams

    2) i want to be cool and have a bang on social life in college, so i have to join a fraternity or a s’rity or i won’t have either

    • I can really see #1 at work. So many managers fit that description (work 24/7, don’t eat vegetables, personal life on the back burner, overweight, etc). Then the manager job itself is undesirable: long hours, tons of meetings, deflecting political verbal abuse from your group, managing the budget which is always a bit short. As a result I have no interest in becoming a manager. So, if I don’t want to b a manager at some point how does my career path look?

    • That’s a thought pattern that I have analyzed to death before I let my future in the electrical engineering profession rest in peace altogether (wrt non-existent quality of life).

  119. College is still cheaper than kids.

  120. In most of the posts, isnt there an invisible script saying “all invisible scripts are bad” ? :)

  121. I admit I haven’t read all of the comments (so many of them!) but here’s a few of the ones I come across the most as a guy in his 20s in Scotland:

    - You must spend every penny of your disposable income. If you have a job, you must spend your wages at the weekend on alcohol, for yourself and your “less fortunate” friends (students / unemployed). If you get a pay rise, that means you should move to a nicer (i.e. more expensive) flat. Any money left over after all that drinking and rent should be spent on Stuff: big screen TVs etc.. Seriously, saving money is practically unheard of here.

    - Similarly to the last one – alcohol is necessary and sufficient for having a good time. If you’re not drinking then you’re either boring or you must be “unfortunate” (see above) and so people will insist on buying you drinks.

    - Marriage. mellowbride put it pretty well, but I think the whole idea of marriage is a ridiculous leftover from the bad old days of religion-dominated society and I can’t understand why anyone would want to aspire to being married, except because they see it as a sign of having “made it”.

    - Being in a relationship is always preferable to being single. I know this has been mentioned before but it’s very persistent around here. And similarly the idea that being promiscuous and obeying your natural desire for sexual variety is somehow bad, especially if you’re female.

    - People who play a musical instrument or play a sport or speak another language or are fit and healthy or have a successful career or otherwise achieve well in some area of life are a different kind of person and “normal” people just aren’t capable of these things.

    - When you get back from work you have to spend the rest of the day “relaxing” in front of the TV or playing computer games. Same goes for your days off.

    - Living an unhealthy lifestyle is something to be proud of, especially if you still appear healthy.

    And people wonder why we’re a nation of unhappy, unhealthy, alcoholic slobs :P.

  122. Hmmm… scripts that I’ve seen operating in my life and/or my parents’ lives:

    - You must take care of family, no matter what. (despite the fact that you’re enabling addictions/bad decisions.)

    - My parents will always be there to bail me out financially.

    - You must buy your child a car.

    - You must go to college and grad school. (An aside on this. I want my Ph.D. For personal reasons. I’d be the first person in the family to do it. Suddenly, my mother’s talking about going back to school to get a Ph.D. I’m irrationally angry at her for this.)

    - Everything must be organized before you can start on a project.

    - Out of sight is better than taking time to put it into the right place.

    - Anything that isn’t to one’s taste is “crap” or “a waste of money.”

    - You must have a house.

    - You should go out and spend time with other people. (even when you hate it.)

    - Facebook is a necessity. (My reality? Facebook is a gaming network that plays off of the reciprocity entanglement theory.)

    - You must reciprocate gifts.

    - As a woman, shopping makes you feel better.

    - Sugar and/or food is a cure for boredom or upset.

  123. One that I’ve seen parents tell their children:

    “You better get do well in school, get all A’s or else you’ll be flipping burgers for the rest of your life.”

  124. Another script is that I’ve seen some Americans play out is the idea that you everyone you should be able to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and you’ll be like successful and rich all by your own will. If you cannot find a way out of misfortune they you are just “weak”.

    • This is a biggie, having been to India several times for business it’s one of the hardest cultural differences to overcome when discussing scheduling and quality control. Indians are very averse to change even when disguised as innovation.

  125. I see this in my roommate (accountant) all the time: “If you wear jeans to work/can wear flip flops/have flexible hours/don’t work 70+ hours a week for 5 months of the year, you don’t have a “real” job.”

    My fiance (also roomie) and other roommate both get a kick out of this – they work in software and IT, respectively, and roomie #1 just doesn’t understand “how they have a job”.

  126. Funnily enough, this topic came up in conversation with 2 or 3 friends on different occasions over the last week.

    Some scripts I’ve noticed:
    -It’s not OK to be without health/dental/vision insurance, even if you are healthy and single
    -Going to college guarantees you a “good job” after graduation
    -It’s OK to criticize other people’s personality/psyche, but it’s not encouraged to explore your own
    -Taking online classes like Earn1K are scams
    -Doing a great job at work will get you promoted
    -Bringing your own lunch from home is OK, bringing groceries to work (like sandwich fixings) for the whole week is weird
    -Life as we know it ends the minute we don’t own a car. (This especially amuses me as I live in Portland OR, which has one of the best public transit systems in the US)
    -People will admire you for walking, because it makes you thin, but then offer you a ride to the bus stop because you don’t have a car.
    -The only people who successfully follow a dream are already experienced in that dream. As in, only someone who’s been ballroom dancing for years dream of competing/winning a ballroom competition.

  127. Script that I have let go of:
    -You have to watch TV.
    One day I decided to turn off the TV and have not turned it on since. I even quit watching scripted shows online. Every now and then I go to the movies, I admit my favorite moment is when the lights go out, the movie doesn’t matter that much, if I want to see a story. You can get your news on NYTimes website and actually learn something by watching speeches and documentaries. There is nothing the Kardashians ever taught me!

  128. [...] days ago, I was reading this post by Ramit Sethi (author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” and co-founder of PBWiki) [...]

  129. 1. Blood is thicker than water, so you have a responsibility to help family, no matter what (supporting certain family members who are hopelessly irresponsible doesn’t sit well with me, even if they did raise me)

    2. Go to school. Lifelong learning is essential (before I understood the essence of the message, I was crestfallen when my grandmother asked if I was taking any classes shortly after I’d received my B.F.A.)

    3. Money is the root of all evil (I’m slowly learning the true meaning of this phrase, not how my grandmothers had interpreted it)

  130. - You must know how you’re going to make money with an idea before it’s worth doing.

    - You have to be “ready” before you apply to well known or prestigious grants/schools/etc.

    - You must spend 8 hours a day sitting at your desk in the presence of your co-workers or you’re not actually doing your work. (or your company will assume that they don’t need you)

    - You have to quit your job if you want to do anything that requires time away from the office (long term travel, artist residencies, etc.)

    - You have to have your own business (even if it distracts from what you ultimately want to do) if you want to be able to do interesting things (long term travel, artist residencies, etc.)

  131. Here are some of my own as an entrepreneur:

    1. Building a business must be a painful process that takes a long time
    2. All businesses need to massive like Bank of America for example.
    3. Making money is a hard process.

    These are things I know not to be true, both from personal experience and plain fact (e.g. businesses vary in size).

    My question is: what do you do with the scripts then? Which are relevant or true?

  132. The script about “I work hard, so I deserve this nice apartment” really resonated with me.

    I really drank the Kool-Aid about what I “deserved” back when I was working a long-hours, high-paying job the past couple of years. I used to live in a nice luxury apartment, and I kept paying for my overpowered little car (loan + insurance + PARKING) despite using the car perhaps 1-2 days a month. Dumb.

    And because I was spending so many hours working, I thought nothing of going out on the weekend and spending too much on nice restaurants and drinks because of course, I DESERVED it for working so hard.

    I think this is a great exercise to track down some of our blind spots and gain a little bit more self-knowledge. (And perhaps some humility too…)

  133. 1. you have to be starving to be a true artist
    2. following your passions means ignoring what other people need/want
    3. dancing is flirting and not worth doing just for your own enjoyment
    4. abundance only comes with sacrifice/pain

  134. Mine have been:
    “There is only THE way to do things.” Really it was just “a way” and often not the best way.
    If you do _______ or if you don’t do _______ you won’t go to heaven. This was all about fear (in my case). It made life hell at times because it really limited choices and created a ton of guilt.
    I graduated Magna Cum Laude from a top tier school but was stuck in the mind set of “If you had worked harder you could have done better”
    I think “You aren’t worthy” was a big one related to the “won’t go to heaven” above.

  135. Pay attention: Money is the root of all GOOD. Money gives you food, shelter, clothing, medical help, spiritual help – money gives you brand-new guts. The Bible says the LOVE of money is bad. MONEY ITSELF is GOOD.

  136. The scripts I’ve been fighting recently are:

    1. Work is unpleasant, and it’s unrealistic to want, or to actively go after, a job (self-employed or otherwise) that you actually enjoy.

    2. If you’re employed you should hold on to your job for dear life, even if you hate it, because the economy sucks and you should feel grateful to be working. Don’t bother looking for something better — if you’re a new hire, you’ll be the first fired.

    3. No one has any money to spend because the economy sucks. So don’t bother trying to get a side gig or going into business for yourself, because you will fail.

    4. Busting ass at work will get you a raise or promotion. (My co-workers and I worked insane OT for more than a year. They all got laid off and I got a big pay cut.)

  137. AMEN!!!

    thought of a couple more which i have rebelled against but have the same question as others…what am i participating in that i do NOT sense which is driving my behavior?

    - being exuberantly joyful means making someone else look/feel bad so be smaller and sadder to fit in (like football touchdown dances being outlawed which would be enjoyed by all in West Africa)

    - Americans/Puritans believe in Black/White, Right/Wrong and discount the other 98% of shades of gray/richness. (FLAT! causes war, too!)

    - the body exists only on the frontal plane (ie- magazine images) so people break themselves trying to behave/move in a way that appears to “look” fine from the front

    - all bacteria are bad and leading a sterile life is healthy/Godly (which actually causes vulnerability to disease and lack of good bacteria causes cancer, autism, etc)

    oh- and this one i believed when i was a starving artist hippie

    - profiting by employing/engaging other people’s efforts/services is unethical/slimy. you should only profit from working your own a** off. (

  138. Having two parents from the former Yugoslavia, now Serbia who both were teachers, I was told to stay out of jobs that are part of the “System.”

    GET A PROFESSION where you can be independent and be your own boss.

    I choose law school and now I practice criminal defense. The money will not make me rich, but it beats a teacher job any day. I know of many lawyers whose parents are from eastern Europe and they know this concept very well.

  139. In the “completely missing the point” category, here’s how American football is scored:

    Kick the ball through the uprights, score three points.

    Run the ball into the other team’s end zone (or catch a pass in there), score six points and get a bonus: The ball is placed on the two-yard line, and you can either kick it through the uprights for one point or try to run/throw the ball back in the end zone for two points.

    End the play with the ball in (or batted out of) YOUR end zone, the other team scores two points and you have to give the ball back to them.

  140. White Australian female here. It’s been great to read all these comments. They made me think not only of my own scripts, but how they differ from those imposed by my parents (immigrants):

    Them: Art and Music is a waste of time. Focus on Maths and English.
    Me: Find your unique talent and learn how to sell it well. No one else developed their drawing skills as a child the way I did, much to my parent’s disgust :P Add that to a Comp Sci degree and you have a winning combination in the web industry.

    Them: If a girl does well in her studies, maybe she can become a teacher?
    Me: If you can’t do, teach.

    Them: The best job is one in government, it will always have the best benefits.
    Me: The laziest job is one in government, that’s where you can go if you have no ambition.

    Them: work solidly. You don’t have to be popular as long as you have a good work record.
    Me: Spending time getting to know/getting along with your colleagues is where opportunities come from.

    Them: If you want to retire comfortably, thrift, thrift, thrift. Op shops are the best places to buy.
    Me: You’ve worked hard for that discretionary allowance, you’ve earned the right to enjoy it. Donate to charity, there are always ppl out there worse off than you.

    And more general social scripts:
    - Wearing makeup and brand sunnies is the first step to being respected by other women in the workplace.
    - Women think they should act stupid because that’s what men want.
    - Men ask me continuously where are all the smart women?
    - Getting married is a licence to pity/nag those who aren’t.
    - Buying a house is a licence to pity those who haven’t.
    - Having kids is a licence to impose them on those who don’t want kids.
    - Travel, otherwise you are not cultured.
    - Don’t trust people who won’t drink.
    - Don’t stay in the same job longer than 3yrs, you will stagnate professionally.
    - If you want to keep him you have to marry him, otherwise he will escape. Seriously, wtf? My man whom I’ve lived with for 7 yrs was asked once by a senior member of staff “How do you stay together without being married?? What happens when you fight?” I wonder “A divorce court is the only thing between you and the door? We must be more secure *without* a marriage certificate than some people *with*.”

  141. I have a script that I didn’t see covered. I was a GT (Gifted and Talented) child all through school. I have a high IQ and have always done well in academic pursuits, and now in technical jobs. Years of public school, however, left me with the script.

    * If you do that better than your peers you aren’t being fair to them.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself backing down from something because I didn’t want to be unfair to people who couldn’t (or even just wouldn’t) do it.

    • Oh, that’s a good one!

    • Sheridan, I know that one. I was in “giftie” classes through school, and one of the scripts that I got from that was a little bit different – it was something like:

      “Intellectually gifted” is the best and most special part of your identity. If you have to struggle for a while or work really hard at something, you must not be *really* gifted. So if you’re going to work hard, at least make things *look* effortless.

      This was a tough one to unlearn, but I seemed to make steady progress on it during college, through conscious effort and redefinition of that part of my identity. Still sometimes feel like things “should” be easier, though, because of those early lessons…

  142. Here’s a few more:

    You’re not a real entrepreneur unless you are in Silicon Valley and raised money from a venture capital firm on Sand Hill Road. Starting any other kind of business is worthless (especially profitable ones, or ones that do not fit stereotypes about startups), and they are all merely ‘lifestyle businesses’.

    You need to have a regular schedule, and do certain things at certain times of day, every day, except on weekends. You should ideally be sitting in front of a computer or at desk the majority of each weekday, otherwise you are not working. It is commendable to be “busy” all the time.

    Do what you dislike during the week and do what you like on weekends.

    It is normal to be sitting on a train or driving your car to work for an hour or more each way each day.

    You should choose what you do and become on primarily based on how good it will look to someone else reading your resume.

    Money is scarce and if someone is paying you to do something that automatically makes it worth doing regardless of its other qualities. The idea of being choosy about what kind of work you do and for whom is a foreign concept.

  143. [...] a  background in psychology (cue: namedrop + shameless plug) recently wrote a post entitled “The invisible scripts that guide our lives,” in which he discusses the invisible assumptions that exist within and across cultures, and [...]

  144. Right on Ramit, I work with teens and hear this all the time, it was great to hear you lay it out like this, you are so right. I am inspired to go to our local high school and tell all our Seniors this, in fact maybe that is what I will do next week… Thanks for the words of wisdom!

    Steve

  145. [...] I was reading this post at I Will Teach You To be Rich the other day wherein A-list blogger Ramit Sethi talked about how watching a Bollywood movie made him think about “invisible scripts that guide our lives”: [...]

  146. [...] I was read­ing this post at I Will Teach You To be Rich the other day wherein A-list blog­ger Ramit Sethi talked about how watch­ing a Bol­ly­wood movie made him think about “invis­ible scripts that guide our lives”: [...]

  147. 1. You need to have furniture in every room in your house. It sounds CRAZY that I wouldn’t, but we bought a real fixer-upper (as the decrepit falling apart house that had been on the market for over a year that no one would touch), because we enjoy the projects, and we can increase the value of our home as we personalize it. Well, I see no reason to rush out and spend money on furniture for rooms that have yet to be worked on. We are comfortable in the parts of our house that we use, and as our family grows, so will our usage of the space in the house.

    2. I should be happy to have a job in this economy, even if I don’t enjoy it. Friends are getting pissed at me for exploring new career opportunities just because they are having difficult times finding work.

    3. Here in New Orleans, there is a certain social hierarchy of the Carnival Krewes (clubs that put on either a parade or a ball or both). Many of those who are active in this realm [of Mardi Gras] have acted completely irrationally in the name of social climbing. I love Mardi Gras and the Carnival Season as much as (if not more than) anyone else, but I choose to participate because I enjoy the actives and company, not purely to obtain a higher social rank.

    BONUS: I’ve been dealing with a situation recently where I am trying to overcome a script barraging me from all sides. Our garage was built ON the property line and it is falling apart. I want to tear it down, but everyone tells me that I shouldn’t because I’d never be able to reconstruct it. My question then remains: Would I ever want to reconstruct it? Why do I need a garage that is so tiny you can’t exit your car when parked inside? Why does America insist I have a garage? what is wrong with a driveway or carport?

  148. Ramit,

    I’m not sure if you’re still looking over the comments on script descriptions these days, but I have recollected a few that fall under these categories: sunk costs, settling for mediocrity, and keeping false faiths in bailouts. Hope you don’t find them lame as I’ve been pretty pissed off about them mentioned in my face for a while. I’m also wondering what you think from a student of behavioral change (it’s certain something that I’m not strong at, from a background in the physical sciences instead in Electrical Engineering despite not continuing in it).

    Sunk Costs:

    Loss Aversion examples
    “I lost $[insert number] thousand dollars at the poker table. Therefore I need to wager my plane ticket home in order to win the money back.”

    “I lost $[insert number] thousand dollars in stock [name] on the NASDAQ. Therefore, I need to buy on margin/credit card/relative/loan shark money in order to recover the losses.”

    “You wasted 4 years of your life in your undergrad b/c you’re unemployable [whether the major is practical or not]. Why don’t you stay in school for another degree that would make you more employable in 2 to 4 more years [postponing the process of facing dreadful job markets]? Better yet, why don’t you stay in school for your masters/PhD, fight for tenure to become a professor, and stay in the academic safe haven forever?” ← This is from other people I’m acquainted with various obligations/commitments mentioned repeatedly when attempting to influence my decisions to allow them taking advantage of my resulting availability (think about abusive and parasitic customers if that helps with your imagination).

    “I lost a lot of value on my mutual/lifecycle fund. I gotta withdraw now to avoid losing more money.”← this is very common during the recession for people without smart mindsets as this is a perfect time to pick up equity at bargain rates

    Settling for Mediocrity:

    “You didn’t get your ideal opportunity (killer graduate programs, dream employer, etc.) after finishing your degree. Just suck up your ego and dreams in front of major corporations when you’re begging for a job. Be grateful about your mediocre job, settle by buying a McMansion and car [trapping yourself with debt], get married, pop out a couple kids to repeat the cycle.” ← this coming from people around me to encourage taking what’s offered to you (I know your Earn1k program does not advocate students leaving their day jobs without building a safety net from the freelancing. I don’t advocate people staying in unfulfilling, abusive, and punishing day jobs waiting to get fired when there are exit routes that won’t devastate the cash flow though)

    Bailouts

    “I didn’t have enough money to live on hot-dogs for dinner lifestyle (either b/c of not saving enough or lost all the investments in one swoop). Luckily the government can bail me out with social security checks to pay the bills!” ← from elders assuring the middle-aged group on irresponsible management of retirement savings, having too much faith that the social security would take care of them if their kids wouldn’t (it already is when France is raising its retirement age; the figures shown on IOUSA is scary).

    That’s just my 2 cents.

    Stanley