40-minute video on mentoring, writing effective emails, and the financial crisis

Ramit Sethi

I talk to my friend Ben Casnocha (who wrote My Startup Life) a few times every week. About a month ago, he came up with a great idea: to record our conversation so, maybe, other people could get something valuable out of it.

Here’s our first try. Imagine a pilot episode — it’s not completely smooth, but it gives you a good idea of what we’re up to, and we talk more in-depth about things than we usually can on our blogs.

In the video, we talk about:

  • Finding a mentor
  • Writing good emails to get people to pay attention to you
  • An update on the I Will Teach You To Be Rich Scholarship
  • Building a portfolio before you need it…and a bunch more stuff

Hope this is useful!

TDTV #2: Ben Casnocha and Ramit Sethi from Think Different TV on Vimeo.

Ben’s notes on the video:
0:59 Ramit explains what he’s telling his readers about personal finance in these tumultuous times
5:00 Has the media done a good job explaining the crisis?
8:00 Ben says he admires those who have conceded the complexity of the situation
8:50 Ben says most young people he talks to don’t really care what’s going on in D.C. re: finance industry
9:08 Ben says if you’re going to be an engaged citizen, you should follow what’s going on even if it doesn’t affect your own situation
11:16 Ramit says ignore macro-economics and focus on what you can control
13:10 Ben says if you take “only focus on things you control” to its logical end, people shouldn’t focus on anything going on in Washington.
15:38 Ramit talks about his scholarship
17:48 Ramit says doing things that can scale — and reach a large audience — is most fun
19:53 What are the keys to a successful outreach to get 15 mins of a busy person’s time?
21:24 Ramit says personalize the outreach
23:50 Ben says asking good questions is key and the key to a good question is specificity
24:38 Ben cites Geoffrey Moore’s strategy to dominating niches and leveraging success as analogous to escalating communications in a relationship
25:35 Ramit asks Ben what the best way to get 15 minutes of Ben’s time is – Ben says he’s biased toward people who do their background research
27:10 Ramit: “Build a portfolio of work online that you can point people to”
28:59 Ben confesses that he judges people based on appropriate apostrophe usage in “its” and “it’s”
29:54 Ramit talks about the “lamest, most ridiculous” emails he gets
31:10 Ben says in early days of a relationship your communications need a clear call to action, but eventually you should be able to say something and have the person react
32:32 Ramit says his use of “eom” in the subject line reflects the intimate nature of his relationship with Ben
33:27 Ben riffs on mentors: don’t ask explicitly for someone to be a mentor, and it takes time. Relationships have a natural pace to them.
37:00 Ramit says ask your mentor good questions
38:31 Ben says also try to add value and bring up those topics for which there is no expert.

* * *

More videos: Btw, if you liked this…I’ve also released some new videos (not released anywhere else) on my Facebook page, so join here:


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  1. @zanders

    If TDTV never runs out of rich content like this, it will rival reality tv and the hulu’s of the world. It’s unscripted, real insight, streamed to a laptop or a phone, with multiple outlets to follow-up on the conversation and continue the rich dialogues that take place (Twitter, your blogs, etc…)

    Thanks for the sound-byte about the scholarship as well. You provided more context than the website does, but it confirmed a few of my assumptions before I applied.

  2. Writer's Coin

    Great stuff Ramit, I dig the email/contacting/specificity stuff. Oh and the “its vs. it’s” — totally.

    But is it possible to make the text available for this? Video is great, but it takes a while to load and when I want to just hit certain spots, it’s frustrating.

  3. Ramit Sethi

    Yeah, text transcripts are really handy. I won’t get them for this one, but I’ve done it for others and I’ll try to do it for future videos. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. kt8130

    suggestion: up the volume…its really low, have you mics a bit closer

  5. David

    So. This guy is, like, totally, like, annoyed by, like, people who, like, you know, don’t, like, use, like, correct grammar, and stuff?

  6. Ramit Sethi

    Give me a break. It’s a casual chat. If you want fancy/edited video, go to CNN.

    Thanks for the suggestion on the volume.

  7. Andy

    Come on Ramit. Who cares if its casual chat, Ben has great points, but listening to them is really tough when he can’ t finish a sentence without saying “like” 3-4 times.

    Thanks for the great stuff on writing effective emails, but effective face to face communication is just as, if not more important.

  8. laura

    second request for the transcript… i’d love to check it out but i’m videophobic. also, i dont have time to watch a 40 minute video! that’s a long time.

  9. Edward

    Ben: “I don’t switch to mocking mode as easily as you do.”
    Ramit: “Oh I do”

    HAHAHA priceless!

    Thanks for the awesome tips on writing emails. I always stumble around when writing an email to a stranger. Maybe it’s just me but the impersonal feels of emails, makes it feel very awkward sometimes.

  10. Darren

    Love the vid Ramit. Not really sure why people are complaining about Ben – I thought it was fine. The context of the conversation made it easy to listen to.

  11. Mado


    Loved the video. I listened to it while browsing elsewere. I actually enjoyed that it was 40 minutes long, I could just tune out sometimes. It’s kind like listening to radio.

    keep up the good work on the site Ramit. Thanks !

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    […] Bloggers, Ramit Sethi (I Will Teach You To Be Rich) and Ben Casnocha (who wrote My Startup Life) recently posted a video in a vidcast/webisode sort of way discussing topics such as finding a mentor, building a business, writing effective emails, and more. Check out the video below and find notes on the video here […]

  13. Jen

    Hey Ramit,

    Great video. I esp like the format. How did you set it up so that we can see both you and Ben? (sorry if stupid question). Is this Vimeo functionality that allows your two webcams to record into the same video?


  14. Jim Bathurst


    Great chat and content with this one! Thanks for the notes on the video, that will save a tremendous time if I need to reference this again.

    The one thing I’d suggest is taking a talk like this and breaking it down into 15 minutes chunks and releasing it in parts to be easier to sit down and absorb.

    But again, great content! Love your blog!


  15. Ben Casnocha

    Jen — It’s not Vimeo functionality. We have offline software that mixes the video before we upload to Vimeo.

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  17. Johanna

    You guys are both very good looking, thus I’m captivated. Mr. Casnocha — look into some glasses with anti-reflective coating perhaps?
    Overall worthwhile! Thanks!

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  20. sheila

    I found this conversation to be extremely helpful. Especially the part toward the end about building a portfolio, which is not just for designers anymore. I have seen del.ici.ous links nearly everywhere but didn’t know their importance to peeps like me. Old peeps like me, that is. Thanks. I’ll be back to both of your sites soon.

  21. Nolan

    This was a great video for me especially as a freshman in college. I am trying to build my network and find mentors every day, and these unwritten tips are crucial for doing so. Great job Ramit and Ben!

  22. Gary

    Thank you for doing this video. It was unique…taking the time…letting us listen in as you shared your Real life with each other. Thanks Ben for the use of Religion in conversations. As you get into the area of honoring the other person, or being aware of their successes, failures and struggles…you are touching the Spiritual area where the deep resources for Success in Life. Totally appropriate to recognize this is where the undercurrent of this conversation you are having really is.