3 unconventional ways to win

Ramit Sethi

People’s language is very revealing. For example, here are some code words that are linguistic X-ray glasses into what people really mean:

THEY SAY: “I’m really busy…”
THEY MEAN: “I don’t want to do that, but it’s politically incorrect to say that, so I’m going to use time as a convenient excuse”

THEY SAY: “Ramit, I am really disappointed in your blog because of…”
THEY MEAN: “I am a nutcase, which you can tell by my use of the word ‘disappointed’ when it comes to FREE MATERIAL”

THEY SAY: “I’m definitely going to try that”
THEY MEAN: “I’m not going to do that”

I’ve written more about code words here.

They are an amazing way to read between the lines and hear what people REALLY mean.

For example, take that last one — “I’m going to try that.”

That attitude is completely foreign to me.

When top performers set out to do something, they don’t say “I’m going to hope for the best” or “let’s see how it goes.”


My attitude for deciding what to do goes like this:

  1. Say no to most things. Be unapologetically open and transparent: “That sounds like a cool idea, but unfortunately I’m not going to do that right now. It just doesn’t fit into my plans.” Do not use time or other convenient excuses.
  2. If you decide to pursue something, go ALL IN. If you play, play to win. Don’t try. Don’t hope. You’ve already decided to do it…you might as well do it right.

dungyClick here for this awesome video

And that brings me to one of my favorite parts about winning — doing it unconventionally.

Some of my favorite examples of winning unconventionally:

  • Rejecting tradition: Billy Bean, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, couldn’t afford to pay high salaries for top players. So he threw away the “traditional” methods of evaluating talent in favor of more advanced statistics nobody else used (or thought would work). With these methods he was able to stack his team with talented but overlooked players and consistently outperform teams that had 2-3X his budget. Read about it in one of the most fascinating books of all-time, Moneyball.
  • Using a softer touch: Businesses and government officials who want to stop teenagers from loitering have learned yelling and making threats isn’t always the best option. What do they do instead? Play classical music over a loudspeaker, which is effective in getting teenagers to leave. (They used to do this at the 7-11 near my house.)
  • Create a role for yourself: Before Sylvester Stallone was famous, he had trouble landing serious acting jobs. So what did he do? Wrote a movie that he could star in. When a studio offered to buy the script, under the contingency that Stallone wouldn’t play the lead, he turned them down — despite having no money or any other options. Eventually the studio caved and the movie was a massive success, making Stallone a huge star. Today, we know the film as Rocky.

These unconventional wins can be found everywhere. Interestingly, to anyone watching, it appears to be just a fluke.

But the real story is that these winners didn’t just get lucky. They out-strategized their opponents by finding loopholes, exposing weaknesses, and keeping them off guard. They won the game before they even set foot on the playing field.

Tomorrow, I’m going to introduce someone who has mastered the art of the “unconventional win.” It’s an awesome story.

But first, I want to hear about a time you or someone you knew found a way to WIN at something in an unconventional way. Not just out-working people, but taking an unusual route to victory.

Leave a comment below with your best “unconventional win” story.

We’ll dig deeper into the winning mindset tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

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  1. Sean Mysel

    My most unconventional win was learning to write copy around selling sports products and services. I’d struggled to come up with an idea that I could use for freelancing.

    Then I figured that since I spend lots of money on equipment and lessons perhaps… just maybe… other people do too.

    Next thing I know… I have a $200k business heading into the rest of 2015.

  2. Tim Stephenson

    In college I couldn’t compete for the ladies with good looks or athletic prowess. So I learned calligraphy and was suddenly an interesting person and could wow ’em with a simple nameplate. I never got past platonic conversations (just as well – I’m happily married now), but I had a lot more of those than I would have had without a stand-out-from-the-crowd ‘hook’.

  3. Karl Stelter

    I’m training to become a pro tennis player on the side (yes, on the side), and purchased a ball-machine so I could practice at odd hours / have something that wouldn’t get tired of practicing one specific thing.

    While practicing one day, an impatient man waiting for courts yelled at me for having a ball machine and that they ‘weren’t allowed on the court.’ After ignoring him, he took the initiative to inform a rec official, who then came out to inform me that while ball machines weren’t technically disallowed, having more than 10 balls was. I thanked him, put away the ball machine, and began practicing serving with 10 balls. Mr. Impatient was furious, but had to continue waiting.

    After practice I made sure to thank Mr. Impatient, and let him know that my service practice was very productive.

    I’ve never been bothered on the courts for my ball machine again.


  4. Brian

    I believe I landed my current job as a patent attorney partly because of my proactive and unconventional approach. I took what Ramit said about how 80% of the work is done beforehand in one of his Briefcase Technique videos and made it fit my unique situation.

    Here’s what I did: In addition to the application package the job posting requested, I sent in a second writing sample a few days later. Except it wasn’t the usual writing sample that people dig out from law school. I researched what I could find about the law firm’s docket by scouring a public database of pending patent applications. I found a few where the firm hadn’t yet submitted a response to the Patent Office’s rejections. I picked one I felt most comfortable with and spent an entire weekend drafting a response for them, basically acting as if I were already an employee.

    Admittedly this was probably not very beneficial for the firm because it may put them in a difficult spot about whether to actually use it. Every attorney I tell this story to has different reactions, ranging from being surprised, impressed, amused, upset—which indicates to me that this was definitely not a traditional approach. However, I believe this risky move may have paid off since I’m working there now.

  5. Kwame

    I used Twitter to help kill a bill that would have prevented cities in Georgia from developing their own broadband networks.

    The bill was due for a vote with a few hours left before the end of the legislative session, and we were not completely sure we had the votes to prevent the bill from passing. Legislator after legislator who was in support of the bill made sure to mention that cities were using unfair subsidies to outcompete private sector telecom companies like Windstream.

    I was frustrated because it seemed like this point was hurting our case that cities should be able to develop their own networks if private sector firms were not going to install high speed internet connections in their cities.

    So, I took at look at 10-Ks for Windstream and a few other companies and noticed that they all were receiving Recovery Act grant funds. I sent @ messages to several members on the floor we believed were still on the fence after speaking with them in the hallways. Several expressed surprise/displeasure with this news and thanked us for the information.

    The bill did not pass on the last day of the session and served as one of the bigger defeats of that legislative session.

    The story’s not over. A legislator who was unhappy about me making this information public submitted an Open Records request for my organization’s financials…Needless to say, I thought I was in it deep, but my bosses were cool about it and I got a bonus along with the rest of the lobbying team for our effort that session.

  6. Jonathan

    I spent years hiring and growing an entry-level business development team. I needed to find cold calling hustlers to make 100+ calls per day for a company that paid about $15-20k less than market rate with as high a retention rate as possible.

    It took me a year to figure out how to (a) attract good applicants, (b) interview in a way that would weed out people who’d fail in their first 6 months, and (c) actually convince people to take the job. I made two huge adjustments.

    First, I needed to go after candidates with non-traditional backgrounds and hire as few new college grads as possible. Many of my best hires had great sales SKILLS but no traditional experience, and they wouldn’t be phased transitioning from cushy dorm life to the harsh reality of cold calling all day every day. Since very few companies would consider hiring them they needed to make this cold calling job work to get into Sales. Second, I realized that I needed to make the interviews as tough as possible to weed out the wrong people. The good ones would stick around since they already needed someone like me to give them a shot. Around 75-80% of the people I hired were successful for at least 6 months, whereas a lot of similar teams only have 20-30% of their hires work out for that long.

    I still use this hiring strategy for entry-level jobs – there are so many awesome candidates dying for a career change out there.

  7. CL

    THEY SAY: “I’m definitely going to try that”
    THEY MEAN: “I’m not going to do that”

    That does not apply in my case. When I say “I’m definitely going to try that,” it means like in the next 60 seconds I’m going to do something that will either remind me to do that or just do it right now. I just tried out moving into Asian American literature, and I am in the top 20 on Amazon now in the Asian American literature category. I don’t think your code words are universal, Ramit.

    • Anne

      Spreadin’ the crumbs – I love this idea, it’s a great success strategy. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Joey B

    I was recently in Iceland on vacation, and happened to be there the same time a major convention for an Internet based Sci Fi game was going on. Hundreds of fan boys were lining up to dump all their suggestions onto to development team. I haven’t played the game before, but it sounded interesting, and I happened to be near the smoke-break area of the venue when I noticed the dev team sneak out to get away from all the info-dump. I casually asked them, “What the heck is this game? I’ve never heard of it.” We spent the next 10 minutes chatting, and I could tell they were relieved I wasnt going to tell them how they should update their programming. It was a great chat, lots of laughs, and I also learned they were going to expand their game into different technologies over the next few years, one of which I’m currently studying. So not only did I spend more time with the development team than any fan boy at the convention, I made new contacts for potential future work.

  9. Seth

    When I graduated from music school I was working in a parking garage at the Union League of Philadelphia to pay the bills when I wasn’t freelancing as a horn player.

    The president of an orchestra in town was a member of the club and a very well-connected guy around Philly so I approached him one day asking about some things that were going on at his organization.

    He gave me his card so I emailed and called him a few times and continued talking to him at the garage while he was waiting for his car.

    Eventually he took me out for a drink and offered to have me intern at his office.

    Two years later, I am the Marketing Manager at this orchestra, the president’s go-to guy, and have grown a lucrative side business doing freelance marketing work for musicians and other performing arts organizations that I met through my position.

    I would’ve never been able to get this current job in such a short amount of time if I had taken a more traditional approach to starting my career in marketing.

  10. Jerry Swanson

    I was an employee at a large government contractor and a volunteer at a united Way member agency. At this company UW campaigns had always been heavy handed “give because we’ve got to look good”. I volunteered to work in the company’s campaign Since I was the only volunteer I was made the company campaign manager. I decided to run a light handed (& hearted

  11. jerry Swanson

    (Finishing Comment) I decided to run a light handed and hearted campaign. I trained the “volunteers” to communicate the benefits to the community (and to the contributor – to their heart) of giving and then specifically ask for a contribution with no sense of threat or heavy handed was. The result was a record setting result and a company wide sense of involvement.

  12. Kate

    I was a laser physicist and then became an internationally published writer and author. Everything else seems a little easier after getting a graduate degree in physics.

  13. Tiffany

    Perhaps this doesn’t quite count, but one day while browsing through dismal Craigslist freelance writing jobs, I came across a post by some pretentious ass who said that, though he was actually a professional engineer, he would be way better at writing jobs than an actual writer because he was doing it out of love and not just for money. Let’s ignore the fact for the moment that this self-proclaimed genius was posting an ad for his services in the section meant for people offering jobs. I posted a snarky parody of his post, stating that, as a freelance writer who really loved engineering, I would clearly build a better bridge than an actual engineer.

    Within twenty-four hours, someone who had read my post on Craigslist (before someone, probably the author of the original idiot post, had it pulled down) hooked me up with a new client, netting me over 2K of work in about two months. I was brand-new to full-time freelancing at the time, and that was huge.

    • Krystian

      It definitely counts, Tiffany! You’ve won it in unconventional way and you are damn proud of it, right? 🙂

  14. Kyle Reed

    I wanted to work in the music industry doing digital marketing. My vision was to go on tour with bands and do social media. that was 5 years ago.
    I moved to nashville and started pitching artist, only to be shut down because of budgets and space on buses. Fastforward 5 years, and I hacked my way in by working at a record label doing digital marketing for artist. Now I get paid to go on tours and I handle their digital strategies.

    My biggest move was to stop talking to artist and start talking with labels.

  15. Ali

    My husband and I are currently in the midst of creating our biggest unconventional win so far. His lifelong dream has been to be a sought after writer and director for major feature films. Despite our limited resources and connections we decided in January 2014 to create the best feature film we possibly could with whatever resources we had available. Through casting this clear vision and reaching out to the people we already knew we were able to create what I think is a pretty darn awesome 2hr feature film with 100% volunteer cast and crew on a micro budget. We ar completing the post production edits over the next three months and are hosting a private premiere in our hometown this summer. In addition to this being an awesome celebration with everybody involved we are also planning on inviting more well known people in the industry and using the movie to get a jumpstart on his career.

    • Caitlin

      That’s exactly the kind of unconventional moves I’m making as an actor. Send me an email if you need a pretty good actor of my type-female, strong character, versatile. I have a film in theaters now, It Follows. Best of luck on the project.

  16. JS

    At a research poster session a few years ago, my poster was next to one by a U.S. Geological Survey researcher. We chatted and I asked him if I could send him my resume for him to pass around to his colleagues, since it’s one of my dream workplaces. Less than 2 months later, one of his colleagues contacted me to say that they needed help, but didn’t have funding right now. I started volunteering 2 days a week (while doing other part-time internships/part-time work). 6 months later, our research group got a grant, I was hired full time, and…icing on the cake…I got to go to Hawaii twice for field work, all expenses covered.

    Without asking for help and volunteering, I doubt I could’ve gotten a foot in the door.

  17. Crystal Matthew

    I’ve the tendency to find myself the last woman standing – and that’s when the magic happens.

    While I have a natural talent for mentorship, seeking out the position of leadership is not necessarily top of mind. However, I approach design problems holistically and with an eye for context, so with a 35,000 foot view I’m primed to embrace responsibility as it comes across my desk. And that’s where my superpower comes into play: adaptability and ingenuity in seemingly incomprehensibly extenuating circumstances.

    I was studying graphic design at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and signed up for a portfolio review during my junior year. Of the design professionals that I met with there, I hit it off with the Creative Director at a local company and we were wrapped in conversation past our allotted time and all the way through the break. Lo and behold, her office was just a couple of blocks from the coffee shop that I worked at through college so we maintained a report throughout subsequent months, and when she needed a designer she showed up at the cafe and offered me a job on the spot. Networking, right? My very first day at the job, I proposed that we comprehensively reevaluate the branding strategy of the company, starting with logo. However charmed she may have been by my idealism, she wrote off the idea as impossible to sell to executive management and that was the end of the discussion.

    While she and I continued to work closely together, I wasn’t totally convinced that this was the right fit for me so I kept my ear to the ground. Her relationship with the CEO seemed to be getting into hot water, and then one morning I ran across a pair of job postings submitted simultaneously for an anonymous company in the area: one outlining her job description, and one outlining mine. In shock, of course I brought this to her attention. She stormed into the executive office, brandishing printouts of the job descriptions, and she called him right out. “Are we going to be fired?” And he retorted, “Crystal’s not, but you are.”

    For the four months that I worked for her, she’d been my mentor. I sat in her office on her last day and made a list of everything I could think of that would need to be addressed since I’d be on my own. The day after that, I sat in the VP of Market Development’s office and shared my ideas for the potential I saw for the company. And after three hours in her office, I had a new mentor.

    I got my new logo. I got my comprehensive brand redesign. I wrote the RFP for website redesign from the ground up and interviewed candidate vendors myself. Over my four year tenure there, the company transformed from a relic of its inception in the 70s into something I’m proud to show in my portfolio to this day, and I still maintain the relationship I built with my mentor there. When the worst recession in a century hit, we survived. With “Positioning”, “The Brand Gap” and Malcolm Gladwell under the arm, who minds a 60 hour week when you’re 22 years old, anyway?

  18. Stuart

    About 6 years ago I applied for a job. I needed the job desperately to move back to a city I had left and because I was transitioning out of a career. It was a bit of a car crash career move at the time, but it worked out in the end.

    I was wildly underqualified for the job I applied for but I did have some relevant experience in a field where there were few other people. I saw the job listed on LinkedIn, so I had a look through the connections of the man that had posted the position and found four connections that we shared and I guessed he would actually know. I was correct. Those four people were my references. When announcing my recruitment to the company he told them all that I was “the best referenced candidate I have ever seen”.

    That enabled me to negotiate shares on joining and a higher salary than I had ever had before.

  19. Noor-Hal

    When I was 10 years old and living with my mother in Mexico, I heard about the top private university in Mexico from one of our family acquaintances and I decided I wanted to study there, since that person told me only the brightest would study there. However, we didn’t have the means due to the high tuition costs.

    But my mother always told me “The difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is just a small effort.” I kept performing always excellent academically, in order to have a great profile that allowed me to look for scholarships to be able to do so. Four years later, I learnt of a high-school where the brightest student of my cousin’s class would get a full scholarship to go study to that university. That high-school is located on the rural outskirts of the town I lived in, so transportation was limited and I had to wake up way too early to get the public transportation. Studying on that high-school allowed me to participate in several National Chemistry competitions, to win them whilst keeping my top academic performance. I graduated top of the class with the scholarship I wanted.

    The same mindset helped me years later to get a full scholarship to do my graduate studies in Cambridge. 🙂

  20. Carlton Matthews

    My most unconventional win has to be how I landed an interview and ultimately a job at SEGA as a developer. I had no experience in that area of software development but I had always wanted to work in video games. I applied in the conventional way, through their website, but I sent a very unconventional cover letter. I explained that I had landed into IT purgatory developing software for finance and banking systems but that I longed to escape and follow my dreams for working for SEGA. I ended my letter by asking them to save me from becoming a Bill Gates clone. It was a ridiculous statement but it caught the eye of my soon to be boss. I joined SEGA during the Dreamcast run, worked on some great titles and even got sent to Microsoft, where I hoped no one knew about my comment.

    Thanks for today’s message. It reminded me that following the traditional path isn’t the always the best way.

  21. Kalyani

    My unconventional win? I convinced my former employers, at the time I was hired, to convert the full time position into a part time one. I used a softer touch, my daughter was just one at the time, she needed me more than she needed a daycare. The employers were concerned how it would all work out with my presence in the office only 3 times a week & meeting the CFO’s reporting requirements. I countered with wanting to be in office 5 days a week, 5 hours a day. It worked out so well that my boss stated repeatedly time & again how efficient & productive I was compared to her full time employees.

  22. Will R

    I used a video camera to land an engineering job at a well-known company 6 months before graduation. The day before the interview I rented a tripod and video camera for free from my university, skipped all my classes, and practiced responding to interview questions on camera for a good 6 hours… I also had a folder saved including notes for many of the interactions I’d had with this company and its employees over the last 4 years in college, including difficult interview questions, names of employees I’d spoken with and what I learned from them, and specific positions that seemed like a good fit for me. The morning of the interview, I woke up early and practiced another hour, and walked into the interview with my mind and mouth already flowing about the right things, compared to the other likely groggy and stifled candidates.

  23. Carlos Roberto

    Pewdiepie is the best example I can think off, He dropped school because he wanned to play videogames, His father wanned him to be an engineer but his plans where different, He started a youtube channel with videos of him playing videogames, all kids loved him and three years later he recieved the world ginness record with the most subcribed youtube channel, He is now making more money than his Dad and he is loving his life on the UK. HE IS AWESOME.

    • Jez Nicholson

      In my opinion, the unconventional winner here is Carlos Roberto because he is the only (?) responder who didn’t talk about himself. It isn’t easy to consider other people’s successes when you are working on building your own, but it is from those external successes that you learn.

  24. Josiane

    I need to admit I freaked out a bit because after 25-35 minutes nothing came to my mind. Not even a memory a convencional victory. Digging deeper… I remenber while preparing an academic work, actually the one to conclude college.

    It was about Tolkien, I live in Brazil and was having a hard time finding references. Not to mention low to no money to buy it and ship to brazil.

    Googling the book i needed “Women among the Inklings” i was linked to an academical article..

    So i googled the author and found out who she was ( she is a university teacher ).. e-mailed her telling my history and if she wanted to sell me the book.

    To my luck she just asked for my address and sent me a copy of her book. #winning?

    Same happened when wanted to learn Esperanto. And found the name of a person in my city and phone number inside an old esperanto magazine. Called, took some minutes to explain i was not a stalker. She helped me for free for six months and took me for the “world convention” which in Rio that year also for free for whole week. It was pretty awesome at the time I was barely 18.

    Still pissed i can’t remeber others stories.

  25. John

    Coaching amateur soccer has been a passion of mine for many years. After almost 40 years of playing and coaching the game I have learnt one thing, the team that is most motivated to win, and well prepared, will invariably outplay teams with superior players. This is especially true of young inexperienced teams.

    My boys proved this in a tournament over one rainy weekend a few years ago. Physically small but with a sense of purpose second to none, they were the underdogs. Even their parents came to me before the tournament started, telling me it was a pointless exercise, they believed we were going to lose. The strongest teams in the league were in their group, we were in the proverbial, Group of Death.

    The Thursday before the tournament was due to start, I wrote out team sheets for every stage of the tournament, from the group stages all the way through to the final. I also called the boys together and told them that every single player in the squad was going to get match time, not one would be left out. I showed them the team sheets, talked through each game, allowed them to voice their fears and told them that no matter what happened, no matter what anyone said about their chances, I believed that they were all going to stand with winners medals at the end of the day. I got them to see it with their eyes closed.

    One match after the other they won convincingly. The tournament favorites were a team so arrogant that their parents were dismissing us before the game began. My boys beat them in the final minute of the game, knocking them out of the group stages. That was the moment that the last shred of doubt fell away from the boys and they sailed through, to the final, beating their opponents on penalties.

    I credit the boys with the win because each knew he was going to participate and was not going to let his friends down. Stronger players helped weaker players, there was a single purpose. The squad was united.

    Every player knew before hand what he had to do, when he was going to play and how important he was to the team.

    And finally, each boy knew without a shadow of a doubt that I absolutely trusted them to do their best and that no matter what the outcome, they had my total and utter trust and support, even when their own parents doubted them.

    To this day both parents and players cannot believe the unbelievable results they achieved on that rainy, windswept weekend.

  26. Nichol

    I don’t often see people here from health care so it’s time to represent. My first win came last December when I was awarded best clinical student in my graduating class of RNs. I was stunned because my strategy had been to keep my head down, show up prepared, and make connections with patients instead of trying to become bestie facebook friends with all my classmates and instructors. I then made the cut for a highly competitive nurse residency program at the local hospital. During my group interview (where I was before a panel of TWENTY seasoned nurses) I didn’t feel like the interview questions were giving me the best opportunity to present myself, so when asked how I deal with being in unexpected or new situations, I described the crazy fitness classes (pole dance fitness and aerial silks) that I had taken for this very reason. Being ten feet in the air with just your leg muscles squeezed around some fabric builds confidence in yourself. After this I noticed people leaning in and being a lot less rigid. I figured I’d made an impression no matter what and I got hired the next day.

  27. Shirley

    I have two sort of unconventional stories:

    1. In 2010 I couldn’t get hired by anyone. So I decided to create my own job, and became a freelance design even when I had no clue how to use Photoshop or Illustrator. Every job I got, I would just add to my portfolio and referenced it when a client asked for samples. I often times held photo shoots for models who were looking to build their portfolio. Most people ask for permission and spend lots of money on design certification. I just thought outside the box.

    2. 2011 I decided I wanted to work for a really large fortune 500 company, but knew getting a job there was really hard if you didn’t already know someone. I got creative. Instead of applying for a regular position, I applied to an internship position (and no I wasn’t even in school at the time). I simply applied to take a course at a local college at the same time I interviewed for the internship. Within a few weeks I got the job. As soon as I was in there were tons of people there who were willing to mentor me or recommend me for a full time position.

  28. Cyprien

    when I was between the first and second year of preparation school to enter French engineering Grandes Ecoles, I spend all the summer to copy by hand word by word the book of physics of electro-magnetic waves to prepare for the second year.

    It happens after that it gave me a method to take anything I want from books and learn almost anything and now I speak 6 languages including Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

  29. Sima

    I decided to offer my online lessons for making cosmetics for free on YouTube. I also offered them free on Udemy. I now have companies asking to partner with me and over 700 students waiting for the next set of lessons to come out.

  30. Lina

    When I worked in a pharmaceutical company I tried to persuade the new boss that it was for the benefit of the company to sustain the ISO Certificate we have had for years -in the beginning he was negative about it -but then I found that he was afraid of the expenses -I told him that with quality we’d get less problems and save more money_so
    Eventually he said ok.
    It was by finding His motive (money ) that I persuaded him to do the right thing

  31. Sarah Liddle

    Oh my gosh, yes! So many nuggets of wisdom in this.
    Firstly, yes I agree it is FREE material, and your material is friggin awesome. – Big takeaway here for me because I can absolutely relate.
    Secondly, I have very much lived my life on unconventional wins. For the majority of my life doors never opened, I was put down, told I was too young, not smart enough blah blah blah.
    Ten years down the track, I built my own path and forged my own career. Yes, I am such a big believer to create your own success, your own unconventional wins.
    Thank you for another great FREE article.
    Sarah x

  32. Sibusiso Makhanya

    During a math lesson, our class was asked how many ping pong balls could fit the lecture room. Since they did not give us any dimensions we had to make our own. Noticing a loop hole, I said the room was 1cm X 1cm X 1cm and the the ball had a diameter of 1cm. Therefore one ping pong ball could fit the room.

  33. Josh

    I work as a small organization. Most of my co-workers have worked hard to make sure they have an employment agreement and a Job description. I have avoided both and used not having either to make sure I keep working on the projects I love and never work on the projects I don’t. I don’t need an employment agreement, because I don’t need the false sense of security or the arbitrary definitions it creates.

  34. June Longmire

    Well, The business was wanting to conquer the on hospital it did not have under it’s umbrella. No one could get past the R.N. nursing administrator as she was friends with the competition. So I went to the office late one night and compiled a three page introductory. I made copies for all wings . Next day I went to Shumpert Hospital in La. totally passing by the R.N. Admin office and delivered one letter with all services available to each floor and department. On the eighth floor A doctor , as Ms Elliot head nurse R.N.was hanging it on the clipboard the Doc asked what it was , read it , and ordered round the clock nurses for his patient. Everyone was looking at me in disbelief and asked what I did. After that the business changed their strategy to marketing the doctors and that one thing increased our shift count by 110. That is it.

  35. Amy

    One unconventional won I had was as a teacher in an inner city school. I had a lot of tough students, but one in particular stands out. For the first three weeks of school he would come into my class and do absolutely nothing. I tried every trick I could think of, but never got anywhere. I continue to be friendly with him and every day tried to get him to produce something. One day, the opening exercise involved listing a bunch of car parts and their functions. I KNEW cars were something he knew a lot about, so I had him tell me the parts and functions and I wrote them down. In 30 second he had completed the exercise and I gave him a 100% and a high five. Every day after that, he did at least SOME work. I’d like to say it was a huge success and he turned his life around, but he was actually taken out of my class in handcuffs a few weeks later 🙁 I never found out what happened to him.

  36. Simon

    Last year in HS, there was this UN event thing. Senior kids would go to the United Nations and see what it’s like. There was a tour and a student conference. I really wanted to go. Only problem was that I had to do a 4 page paper about some human rights violation in order to join. Plus, I wasn’t a HS senior at the time so I was at a disadvantage since they picked seniors over every other grade level. I didn’t want to do the essay and I already understood the inherent disadvantage I was already in. So I end up researching the UN event. I found a company that brought foreign students in to the event. I asked if I could join their group. I had to pay $10 bucks which I was willing to pay since I really wanted to go.

    It was a unconventional win because I bypassed the essay and put myself into an immediate advantage ahead of my peers. I was able to go the UN tour while my fellow senior friends couldn’t because they were late. Win for me!

    Ended up going to the event and it was pretty damn fun 🙂

  37. Ashley

    Had just moved to Nevada, where I knew no one, and needed to find a job. A professional job. I saw an employment ad placed by a psychiatrist, who had recently opened a medical office and was looking to hire an office manager.

    I contacted him and told him he was aiming too low—that what he really wanted, really needed, was a mental health professional to work with him in his practice, who could also help him manage the office.

    He said since he could not think of a rebuttal to that idea, he would have to hire me (for much more than the office manager job was going to pay).

    After several months he had an eruption of personal difficulties: his Nevada fiancee discovered his Texas wife (!), he started gambling, and he relapsed into heavy drinking. My position only lasted 11 months, but it was a job when I needed one, and more importantly, it helped me make some contacts that led to other jobs and opportunities.

  38. Ashley

    This is one I helped a good friend pull off. He lived in a Southeastern city, and we got together every year or so to do some adventure travel. He had always had banking jobs. Never loved them, but once he got started down that road, he thought he had to stay there. He dreamed of having a job connected more to the natural world.

    He came out for one of our trips. This one was in the Sierras, and included a side trip to the ancient Bristlecone Pines in the White Mountains. He got really excited about them, read all of the literature at the park, bought a book about the trees to read on the plane back home.

    Toward the end of the trip, I said he seemed like something was bothering him. He confessed that he had lost his job just a few days before coming out. His bank had been taken over by a rival, and many upper level managers were sacked. He had not wanted to say anything when he arrived, so as not to cast a pall on our trip.

    He had no idea what to do for a job, as banking was in a slump right then. He had a hometown newspaper with him, and leafing through it, saw an article that the botanical garden in his city was holding a retirement party for its director. They were looking for a new one. I twisted his arm to apply.

    At the interview, they were impressed with all of his management experience, but then, they had to ask—did he know anything about plants? Well, he spoke knowledgeably, passionately, and at length, about the Bristlecones. The interview committee loved it! At that time he did not know a fern from a fig, but he did know about those pine trees he had just seen, his excitement about them was genuine, and he got the job.

  39. Pronounce

    When I got my first job fresh out of school, I didn’t do what all my friends did – e.g. spend all their money on things they didn’t need – but saved as much as I could. I mainly did this by NOT getting a car and getting a job in my hometown to which I could commute to on a bike.
    Later I leveraged that saved money to get in the stock market in March 2009. This was in the midst of The Great Recession. It turned out I stepped in about two weeks after the international markets hit their lows. Not bad.

    The huge profits I made (and salary increases) have now given me a very nice nest egg. And I need it, because working as a bookkeeper I know that ultimately my job will become redundant due to automatization. This will happen to a lot of people, and most of them will have no plan and no money once their current job gets obsolete. I will have a plan – and the money to back it up.

  40. Fikr

    I’ve a colleague from my previous job, who started to work there few months after me. It was a small Danish company erecting wind turbines. This guy came there with a specified plan: to become a PRO! He worked his ass off, never complaint, did the job extraordinary for about 1-2 years. Now he’s one of the highest rank Management persons, having shit loads of money and running a rich life. I’ve changed the job in the meantime, when the times got tough in there (my colleague didn’t) and I’m still far from a rich life :/ But I’ve learnt my lesson now. With Ramit’s help I’m looking at these kind of things and opportunities totally differently and I’m on the right path now(improved my life significantly in the last few months).

  41. Vic

    It’s fascinating how people do things because they have always been done. It is like followimg a tedition even when it doesn’t make sense to follow it. Right now I’m going through a dispute where they want me to pay for a service, which I didn’t receive. Their argument is “well, everyone pays for it.” The fact that everyone pays for it doesn’t make it right.

    It seems to me we follow silly unspoken rules too much. We don’t question the established practice enough and this gives us predictable results, which are not always what we are looking for.

    I recently participated in a negotiation where someone on my side of the table was convinced that the only way to get the business was to give more money. Since we couldn’t do that, he decided that the negotiations are over and we should pack up and go home.

    To me, money is only one part of the equation, so I pushed that we keep exploring other options to make the deal happen. Maybe offering something extra besides money would have even better effect than paying a higher price. In this case we didn’t offer anything more – we just changed our payment terms. After all, the other party wasn’t after more money but after getting the money faster. It wasn’t about how much but how quickly.

    The lesson I learned from this was to never decide for the other person what they want. Let them tell you, probe them to find out for themselves (many don’t actually know) what they want.

  42. Derek

    I took a 90% pay cut and moved from Australia to the Philippines, despite never previously visiting Asia. I wanted to change jobs, change careers and change my life. So why not change continents too? Doing this by taking a job in Asia before even visiting was a giant roll of the dice, but it paid off.

    I was able to become an expat in Asia at 22 years old, claw back close enough to the salary I had previously, by proving my value through actions, not words. Due to the cost of living, now I’m actually living a much better lifestyle now than I would have be able to afford in Australia for another decade. Despite being 1/2 the age of most expats in Asia, this hasn’t stopped me from learning and growing more in 2 years than I may have otherwise done in 20 years.

  43. Vita

    I “won” by asking my non-profit organization to pay for me to go back to school for my MBA. Other coworkers and my boss, said I was asking the impossible. I approached the CEO with a strategic proposal and a plan of action of how that MBA would help the organization and I received an emphatic YES, less than 24 hours later.

  44. Jared Kimball

    When I was in my senior year in high school my physics teacher created a competition with every new class called the “Physics Olympics”. The prize, whoever won got an automatic 97 (A+) on their final exam.

    There were roughly 8 different physics based events where we had to build something, do something or solve a physics type problem.

    The second event I remember the most – which team can launch a water balloon the farthest distance without breaking.

    My team was considered the underdogs. We were unpopular and also not thought of as the smartest students in the class.

    Our teacher laid out the rules for this event:
    – The teacher will provide the water balloons
    – Each team will get 3 water balloons
    – You can create your own launcher or buy one from the store
    – The team that can get the balloons to travel the farthest distance without breaking wins

    Very simple rules, right.

    One of the guys on my team had a Nerf water balloon launcher and offered to bring it for the competition. The tough part was that we wouldn’t have any time to practice launching the balloons to perfect our technique.

    So we had to think of something out of the box that would help us win the competition with very little practice.

    That’s when it hit me. We just had to get the balloon to travel farther than anyone else. What if we could get the balloon to roll farther than anyone else?

    I asked the teacher if we could wrap the balloons in something to improve their distance and she said that was okay.

    On the day of the competition I brought a huge roll of duct tape and some newspaper, and we carefully wrapped each balloon in newspaper and then tightly wrapped them in duct tape to make an almost unbreakable waterballoon.

    We launched our balloons with the Nerf Launcher so they would roll on the ground and because the duct tape was holding them together our balloons traveled at least twice the distance of any competing team.

    We ended up winning the entire event, and I got a free A+ on my final exam.

    Looking back on my life I can think of a number of times where I had to do something unconventional to win. Many times starting from a very disfavored position.

    I find that those times were probably some of my greatest accomplishments, and just remembering those wins encourages me.

    Thanks for this exercise and allowing me to share one of my unconventional wins.


  45. Dan

    I was an intern in hospital administration. I had no job lined up, but I had done a killer job for about 6 or 7 months and had impressed the big bosses with my work. I went to the CEO and COO and asked if I could have a position, but there was no obvious position in the company. They met with the HR director and made me an offer to become a full-time member of administration, with benefits, salary, the whole thing. And it was more than 3x what I was making before.

    I got my start as a 4-hour a week volunteer wearing a polo and khaki pants. Honestly, I’m tired of people telling me that the economy sucks and that you can’t make it. Sure you can. Work hard, be clever, work your connections, and don’t be afraid to ask for big things. People say “yes” way more often than you would expect.

  46. Saulo Segurado

    That’s right, Ramit. Go hard (and smart) or go home!

  47. KatieK.

    Fall of my last year in high school I saw an ad in a magazine for state level teen scholarship/talent/looks competition and on a whim and the what-do-I-have-to-lose mentality, I got my brother to take a photo of me and filled out the entry form. It was a big leap of confidence for me as I had spent the last 3 1/2 years in/out of hospital and full-body casts for severe scoliosis – imagine spine as an ‘S’ – I was obviously deformed and I walked/moved/looked different then other teenage girls. We all had to perform or showcase a talent in addition to interviews with a panel of judges and a knowledge-type test. I didn’t sing, play an instrument, cartwheel, etc. In my spare time between going to doctors, hospitals, and school, I rode my bike, tried to run, did Girl Scouts, babysat, and baked cookies, cakes, pies as my mother had taught me. What could I do up on a stage in front of folks? I liked teaching and talking in front of groups but that wouldn’t cut it for the ‘talent’ portion. I finally came up with a very unique presentation that showcased my skills and talents – I wrote a script as if I was a real estate agent advertising my real estate company on TV, and at the end of the spiel, I said something about everybody’s home should be a castle. Then I lifted up a foil-covered box and there was a highly decorated castle cake. I made it to the top 12 finalists in my state.

  48. Raghav

    As a college student, I recently wrapped up my internship search – I was looking for internships in UX and product design.

    In one of my company interviews, I prepared a thorough design suggestion for one of their products. I had data to back my suggestions, and actually created the designs for them ahead of time. I sent them my design suggestions before my interview, suggesting that we could talk about them during my interview if they wished.

    Everyone was extremely impressed with my hustle, and they focused the interview on the design suggestions that I came up with. This gave me the opportunity to direct the conversation, and I ultimately landed an offer.

  49. scott

    hello Ramit, hope you are well. what me and my family over came unconventionally was brain surgery. when I was 27 I underwent brain surgery and was told if I lived through having 3 brain lesions, one of them on the brain stem, that I would be only the 7th person on record to do so. the Mayo clinic in Minnesota gave me these stats. it didn’t look good and my family was terrified but in spite of everything I refused to even worry about it. AT ALL. everyone believed my mindset was really obscured by medicine and brain abscesses. what they didn’t know was that i was in charge of everything and I had to keep myself alive. it took me 6 weeks to learn how to walk again and a year and a half to get back to my old job working in shipping at a cake factory. I quit my job 2 years ago because of wear and tear and nerve damage.I am now 44 and my wife and I are searching constantly for something awesome. thank you for your information and for wanting to help people. take care

  50. Russell Grey

    Lots of really long answers here, I respect your time so I will be brief.

    I used quantifiable and qualifiable data sets from Dexa Scan (x-ray of muscle, bone, fat with specific measurements) to win a fat loss contest at work and went from 40kg to 30kg (about the weight of a spare tyre) in 7 days,

  51. Russell Grey

    Lots of really long answers here, I respect your time so I will be brief.

    I used quantifiable and qualifiable data sets from a Dexa Scan (x-ray of muscle, bone, fat with specific measurements) to win a fat loss contest at work and went from 40kg to 30kg (about the weight of a spare tyre) in 7 days, using the numbers to target specific body regions NOT relying on willpower just the maths I avoided second guessing myself, said no to just about everyones advice, an being a massive data nerd researched what I was eating with Nutritiondata

    Result – 5 friends started using Dexa , I won the comp and we all lived happily ever after.

  52. Felix

    Six years ago, I learnt of my childhood idol, a Japanese singer, was coming to town for a concert. It was her first time here. I know I have to get a chance to meet her in person.

    Local media all had interviews lined up, but I am no reporter. I only had an independent music podcast as a “new media professional”. What to do then?

    I wrote e-mails to the organizer, and the singer herself, effectively cold-calling them for an interview for my podcast. Surprisingly, both of them said yes, and the interview was on. At the end, I was the only non-mass media interviewer in the tour. Even got press passes for a few friends/fellow fans to the interview itself.

    The “unconventional” part: knowing that the production was small, thus arrangements can be flexible, and I took advantage of it.

  53. Justaperson

    One day in class we were asked to sign up for our preferred presentation slot on a piece of paper sitting on the Professor’s desk. Everyone stood up and started getting in line. I got up from my chair and rather than standing in line with everyone else, I quickly walked to the opposite side the desk and signed the page that way, even though my signature was upside down. No one complained!

  54. Blaine Wilkerson

    Awesome Post. I love it!

    I’ve had several unconventional wins. However, a few are related to the same topic: my career advancement.

    Out of all the positions I’ve held during my 22 yr medical career, 80% were not hiring at the time.

    No job boards. No classifieds. No online resume services. Hell, a couple of places forgot to have me fill out an application!

    Once I decided where I wanted to work (all were considered the best in their field), I took my career into my own hands and convinced them to make room for me.

    I didn’t wait for them to post openings.

    Instead, I researched the facility. Discovered whom to contact. And setup casual meetings and/or facility tours.

    So far, 100% of these casual meetings have lead to job offers (with increases in salary). Job offers for postions I wanted… at places I chose to work for.

    When I suggest this strategy to friends, family, and coworkers, they always look at me like I’m crazy and say “I cant do that”!

    Don’t sit around waiting for your dream job to fall in your lap. Get up, get focused, and go get it.

    Thanks Ramit! Good luck Everyone!

  55. Mihai Pintilie

    Playing classical music to make the teenagers leave is a good one. I knew about Oakland’s strategy to select their players based on statistics, by the way, it was used later by many other teams due to its success, and also knew about Stallone’s desperate move. A winner.

  56. Leo Slocombe

    In 1975 went to Harware show in Toronto. Saw a guy assembling a booth with difficulty. I was in the exhibit business and my company I was selling for had a unique simple and fast to assemble exhibit system. I said can I help after introducing myself. He was the General Manager of Lufkin measuring tapes. I helped him put up his booth. It was a nightmare. Too complicated. Frustrating. I told him I had a simple system and he asked me to come to his Barrie Ontario office after the show. I sold him a simpler system but he was so appreciative I had helped him in his struggles he gave me display work for several years. In 1975 I won a huge display contract with him to produce promotion and POS displays for the Lufkin tapes 1976 Montreal Olympics. They were the Olympics official measuring device. I produced a lot of work in 6 languages. One small helpful step turned into a major king term client and an Olympic Games biggie 👍😃

  57. Christina

    I’m a former professional ballet dancer. Like most performers,I faced my fair share of rejection. Early on when I was trying to get into a top company, I was making the audition rounds and wasn’t having much luck. There was one particular company I was striving for but the director didn’t notice me much at his audition. I heard he was going to be at a ballet studio watching other dancers. I had trained all day but found a way to take the class he was watching. It went extremely well. He came up to me at the end and said sorry I would be getting a rejection letter in the mail but after seeing me again he wanted to hire me. Sure enough the rejection letter came and so did a contract. It was the beginning of a wonderful career and great relationships! That persistence and risk paid off immeasurably and changed the course of my life.

  58. Adam Thomas

    My most unconventional win was getting the job I have currently.

    I didn’t have the grades and I didn’t even graduate college at the time (I have since graduated) . I simply networked on to the bus and demonstrated value as soon as I got in front of someone important.

    After 5 years, I am thinking of other opportunities – but that win is the one that effected my life the most, got me to NYC, and eventually giving me the struggles that lead me into RBT.

  59. Lemon Angel

    my most unconventional win was getting online and knowing about the internet, it has changed my life alot. so many things i know how to do with the internet now that produces money for me that i never knew before. its a big break for me. and also getting to read some finance books and meeting inspirational people. thats a great win for me, cos the impact on my life is felt until today. i would now recommend that you get this free ebook on how to be successful, its an amazing book it will change how you think about winning, success and money. get my ebook now at

  60. Asha

    22 years ago, after leaving university before the internet, when I was looking for a job, I used to send my CV to jobs ads in the local newspaper. I did not have any work experience which meant I got rejected all the time.

    So I started sending a one pager, asking for work experience. Once employer that I sent it to, as a joke, had the same first name as mine, a unique name, given that it is Indian. They got in touch with me and I worked for them for 3 months for free, although they paid my travel expenses and they gave me a job afterwards. They thought I was smart sending the one-pager even though I told them I only sent it as a joke.

    I told a friend of mine to do the same and a large US financial company interviewed him and said “we can’t let you work for free so here’s a job and we’ll pay a salary”. He told me that 5 years later as I had no idea that he had tried it.