2 Case Studies: Ordinary people using extraordinary scripts to hustle

Ramit Sethi

It happened again last month.

One of my friends told me an interesting factoid — “Did you know that Victorian houses in SF used to be considered cheap models, but now everyone loves them? — and I said “Hmm, interesting” and continued chewing my sandwich.

Earning more money
Two weeks later, I was walking with the same friend, and I said, “Hey, I heard something interesting…did you know that Victorian houses used to be —“

“GOD DAMNIT!” she said. “*I* told you that!”

Ah, yes. I forgot. Again.

It’s become a running joke that I hear someone’s idea, then 2 weeks later mention it to the SAME PERSON…which drives my friends crazy. But for some reason, it seems hilarious to me.

So today I’m delighted to be able to OPENLY take credit for one of my friends’ ideas and tell you how it’s improved my life.

I met Paul Singh a few years ago, and I was so impressed that I hired him for my last company, moving him and his wife to the Bay Area.

Little did I know that he was one of the world’s premiere lifehackers.

After a few months of exchanging techniques, he shared a technique that I’d never heard.

“I put away $3,000 every year just to meet interesting people.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I just put it into a separate account and force myself to spend it.”

“Interesting….” I said.

A little while later, I went to my 5-year college reunion. I met another friend, Steve, who was speaking on an alumni panel. He had moved to Seattle to work for Microsoft, but he had a particularly amazing strategy that I fell in love with.

“When I went to work for Microsoft, I knew I’d eventually want to move back to the Bay Area to start a company. So I made it a point of keeping my relationships warm.”

How did he do that? Here’s where it gets insanely awesome:

“I made a promise to myself that if anyone invited me to lunch, or even coffee, I’d fly to San Francisco to do it. I basically treated the plane flight like an hour-long car ride.”

How much did that cost him in a year? Maybe a few thousand dollars.

But guess what? Steve did start a tech company and, using his carefully cultivated relationships, he’s gotten terrific press for his company, which is profitable and killing it.

Yesterday, I wrote about recognizing and banishing the negative scripts from your life…and automating the positive scripts. Paul and Steve both automated positive scripts — of investing in themselves.

And of course, since I love to take credit for my friends’ ideas, I now set up a sub-savings account and force myself to spend on meeting interesting people.

Here’s an actual email I sent to somebody who I want to meet

[Initial email was the basics: Hi who I am, how I can help him, etc. We went back and forth. Then I wrote this:]

“If there’s anything more I can tell you, please let me know. If a phone call or even coffee in LA makes sense, just let me know and I’d be delighted to do it.”

I live in New York and San Francisco and it was important enough to meet him that I offered to fly to have coffee with him in LA. Even one meeting with him could change my business.

(Sidenote: He hasn’t responded after our initial back-and-forth, so I added this to my “Failures” tag. But I continue to send him updates on my business and I know eventually he’ll respond.)

If you read this and say, “Waa I can’t afford $3,000 per year to travel around and meet people, you’re missing the point. This is not about the amount of money — you could do the same with $20/month by taking 2 people out to coffee. The point is the mindset: Investing in your friends and relationships pays off, hugely.

We all claim relationships are important. But when you look at “objective” measures — your calendar (time) and spending (money) — are your actions really matching your claims?

2 case studies of automating positive scripts

1. Adam Baker

Backstory: Baker was a newly married family man accumulating debt upwards of $18,000. He made the decision to clean up his debt, sell everything he owned, and spend a year living in Australia. He paid off $18,000 in debt and saved over $17,000 before living overseas in Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand.

New Script: “The first step to living a life of passion…is to remove the barriers that hold you back.”

Automation: Baker’s mantra: Sell Your Crap… Pay Off Your Debt… Do What You Love… In the year leading up to the trip he sold all of his possessions (down to two backpacks) and payed down $18,000 in consumer debt. In June 2009, they left for what was to be a year in Australia, but quickly turned into more mobile travels through Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and finally back to Indiana. And now he’s added “earning more money” to that list through terrific products.

2. Eva Motch

Backstory: Eva is a designer who wanted to find a better job for 6 months. She not only quit her job and received a $12,000 raise, but found work on the side at a $4,000-a-year clip (with more to come).

Old Script: “I hate my job and want to quit, but will wait until something better comes along.”

Automation: Eva implemented a plan to apply to leads on Craigslist systematically, and in so doing stumbled upon the full-time job and salary bump.

BY THE WAY, Eva (#2) was a member of Earn1k, my step-by-step on earning money on the side. Later this month, I’ll be opening up Earn1k 2.0 — an updated version of the course with powerful techniques to turn your existing skills into side income. As Eva told me, “Your class honestly and truly helped me, and I will make many times more in my life because of it. “

Do you know your actual earning potential?

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  1. James Clear

    Positive script: I can do amazing things without money by searching out opportunity and making connections

    How I automated it: Set aside time each Monday to research new conferences/scholarships/etc, developed a schedule based on deadlines, stuck to schedule and met with people/applied

    Results: Two free trips to Europe, landed a speech in front of CEOs, nobel laureates, other political and business leaders, got paid $9,000 for 9 hours of work

  2. Stepan

    Wow, there hasn’t been a day starting from 2011 that you have provided a long, inspiring article.

    The interview sounds awesome, I heard him talk with Andrew on Mixergy and I loved Noah’s attitude


  3. Tweets that mention 3 Case Studies: Ordinary people using extraordinary scripts to hustle | I Will Teach You To Be Rich --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ramit Sethi, Tricia McKellar and others. Tricia McKellar said: @scoutiegirlblog re: So when's the TCE meetup? 🙂 🙂 🙂 […]

  4. Lindsay

    That is awesome. Friendships and connections are definitely worth 3,000. It reminds me of people in college who would constantly say “At least I don’t have to pay for my friends!” to the kids in sororities and fraternities – and yet if you compare the social schedules, the resumes (from leadership positions, volunteer work and so forth) and the connections which often lead to jobs, it’s clear which ones were at the advantage.

  5. Kate

    Positive script: We are smart women who can make a difference.

    Automated set up: Bi-weekly, scheduled (on the calendar) meetings with business partner and monthly saving club meetings with 9 other women to keep us accountable to our savings goals.

    Results: Won TIAA-CREF People’s Choice Award in Raise the Rate Contest, increasing visitors to and club collectively has already saved upwards of thousands of dollars over their lifetimes through support, accountability and monthly meeting/updates.

  6. Wojtek

    Setting a sub-account for meetings with interesting people? AMAZING way to remind myself about it and automate those things!

  7. SuperbadIM

    Funny…I try to steal my wife’s ideas all the time, but she always busts me when I suggest them back to her!

    Great case studies. I love how Adam Baker turned his negative situation into such a positive experience and successful business.

  8. Blake Erickson

    Thanks Ramit for not offering a recording of the interview. It’s true if you want something bad enough you will make it happen.

    At first I was bummed that the live interview would be taking place at 6:00pm PST because I was scheduled to work my 2nd job during that time. My first attempt at asking my boss if I could have the night off resulted in a big “NO”.

    Now I was really bummed and let down because I FAILED.

    I then decided to talk to some other employees to see if they could cover my shift, and I got a couple of more NO’s. But I persisted and finally found someone to cover my shift . SUCCESS. Now I’ll be working a morning shift, not missing a day of pay and I will have the night off to catch the interview.

    For anyone else wanting to watch the interview, but can’t make it… Just remember that everything in life is negotiable.


    • Havana

      Haha, what a cool lil’ anecdote and example of Ramit’s message! Thanks for sharing! Even little things like that can demonstrate what persistence can do for ya.

    • Blake Erickson

      @Havana Thanks!
      and @Ramit thanks for the mention in the live interview invite email. See ya tonight 🙂

  9. Zachary

    I once used a survey monkey to send me questions on my progress for my training. I had four questions.

    1. Did I meet my training? 2. If yes great how did I feel? 3. If not why? 4. What can I do to ensure that I meet my daily training goal. It took me a month of filling out the forms and then after that it became a routine and I was able to easily set aside a time daily to strength train. Then I didn’t need to fill out the form to keep it up. I had the survey emailed to me and all I had to do was click on the website and take 15 minutes to fill it out daily.

  10. Havana Nguyen

    Thank you!!! I FIRMLY believe that relationships should be one of your TOP priorities. Relationships are, after all, what enriches our lives and makes them interesting, in love, friendship, and opportunity. People who focus SOLELY on themselves and their own progress are really missing out. Most of the time, simply being connected with others can help propel us to our goals faster.

    One of my pipe dreams is to work at Pixar. I have a connection who travels back to Atlanta once a year for the holidays. I love hearing about his stories and experience and he’s just an all-around interesting guy to be around. I dropped *everything* to take him out to coffee. Now, I have a fighting chance at possibly meeting with the intern recruiter at Pixar and establishing that relationship as well. It just BOGGLES my mind how CLOSE I am to this dream. I mean … wow.

    But one thing I hate is when people just seek out “high value” people to schmooze with. I invest in my relationships, whether it’s old high school friends, classmates, people who need advice from me, old clients, teachers, prospects, role models– just everyone. 🙂 You never know the impact you’ll make in their lives … or the impact they’ll make in yours.

  11. Richard Y

    Backstory: I tripled my income in three years and I now have a rolodex that includes a doctor who helps manage the energy levels of CEOs, a guy with a PhD in ideas creation, a specialist in mental resilience, a former teacher who is a CEO coach, a guy who made partnership at the age of 25 and countless other people who are now on my advisory panel.

    Oldscript: I only hung out with people I knew professionally and personally, as a result I only ever met a large group of largely homogenous peers and not the rare, special, wildly successful and talented people I was after and wanted to be like.

    I went to many networking events, seminars and showcase events passively, getting very little out of them.

    I never spoke to the interesting people who presented at these things.

    Automation: At every event I identify a minimum of one interesting speaker. My goal is to get their business card and to have at least 30 seconds to introduce myself and score a follow up. I have a 100% success rate (it appears that not many people do this…).

    I use an automated script because I’m a nervous guy… It goes something like this.

    ‘Hi I am Richard, that was a really great presentation on [insert speech content] in fact I have an [interesting story or interesting person] to [introduce you to or relate to you]. Look I’d really be interested to catch up with you to pick your brain about a few things, could we trade cards? By the way I work at [insert what I’m doing] and I [do something that matters to me]’

    I’m doing four things here that are automated (but genuine… automation does not mean robotic)

    1. Thanking and praising them
    2. Planting something intriguing or unique about why I’m worth speaking to
    3. I ask for permission to contact them and set up a proper one on one.
    4. I only take 30 seconds. I’m not a ‘leech’ you know the guy just hanging around as though the aura of success will melt into his skin? If it goes beyond 30 seconds it’s my new contacts decision, not mine.

    I follow this up with what Ramit has spoken about above, I offer lunch or coffee because I know my small favour is actually an investment. The one hour lunch where I can pick the brain of a luminary or lynchpin is worth the price of a meal many times over.

    I haven’t perfected this, but I’m running with a 100% strike rate over the last three years.

    Apart from netting me a network of amazing people, I’ve been invited on trips overseas to speak to CEOs in Japan and China, I’ve been invited to invitation only seminars for corporate big wigs, scored free training sessions and I guess it’s helped in tripling my income in three years.

    BY THE WAY: I’m effectively gaming myself. I’m not a natural but by creating a game out of it, I have a set of tasks I need to follow, and achieving a ‘card’ is the goal. I’ve automated my process so that it bypasses my nerves.

    By preparing the conversation I can focus less on my nerves and more on my the person I’m with.

    Also I used a similar script for my email to Ramit to get him to email me back a personal email within 24 hours. He even called me ‘the man,’ I hope you weren’t joking Ramit! By the way Ramit, I will be back to you within 7 days, but not yet as I need to go do some things to resolve an answer for you.

    • Rusty

      I love your script, Richard. What a great comment.

    • wilson usman

      That’s really cool, I think this is an idea I have to start applying thanks for sharing it.

  12. cc

    i have a very literal calling script, every week i call around at least 10 potential clients to try and drum up some work for my freelance design biz. by the time i get on the phone i’ve usually called 20+ people.
    it’s always a struggle making the first phone call, but your idea about the calling scripts (lifted from the credit card scripts in your book) is genius- i don’t have to fluster with what to say at all. i’ve got a list going now of over a hundred personally confirmed contact names- it would be better to have flat-out jobs, but at least this way i have a specific person to contact for advertising (and my postcards are coming in today- yipee!!)

  13. JT

    I think I have anxiety surrounding change, but I’m finding that I’m getting really tired and sick of my current job, so I’ve customized some RSS feeds to track jobs that I may be interested in and I’m committed to writing a cover letter and personalizing my resume to at least one application per week.

  14. Hariom

    Ramit I really like to read the comments that people post on here. Right now you can receive new comments via email only if you make a comment and select to be notified of follow-ups. Could you automate this for those of us who would like to receive comments for each of your blog posts (IWTYTBR-COMMENTS list).

  15. sambista77

    The webcast will be WED (1/12) at 6pm PT (9pm ET).
    – Please don’t ask about recordings or rescheduling it. If the topics above are important to you, I trust you’ll find a way to be around tomorrow evening.
    WTF 😉
    As I’m in Israel at the moment, that means, I’ll have to be up at 3:45am, to be ready for the webcast by 4am, this is brutal dude!! Having said that, if this will get me one step closer to live the life I DREAM of, Than I’m up for it!!! WOOOPYYYY

    • Rusty

      Mega points for being hardcore, Sambista!

  16. Rusty

    I need to figure out what kind of script I can write. This is really a great topic. I *am* an interesting person doing interesting things, but a 30-second bit? I need to work on my rambling!

    • sambista77

      Thankssss babe
      make sure you leave your script at this post,
      It looks like a few people didn’t get it, and hey, you can win… and get sweet stuff.

  17. Gal @ Equally Happy

    I reached out to one of my friends yesterday just to say hi and catch up. This is now automated through a task that reminds me to reach out every Tuesday. I also spent some time on my websites through another automated task that reminds me of the things I need to do on those sites.

    While doing these two things, I came up with a great idea for a start up. Contacted a few friends and got the ball rolling. Not sure if that’s related but it’s fun so I figured I should mention it.

  18. Frank Taeger

    Positive scripts :

    I can have my own business automated in a way that it needs less attention than I could give because the product is great.

    I know not only how to be healthy and an allstar athlete, I have done so and am in the process of regaining my strength and vitality of that time with every breath and moment on this planet.

  19. Jim


    It seems your techniques are for outgoing people. How does a painfully shy person achieve wealth? How about how does a husband and father of 2 kids get out of a $45,000 debt and an upside down mortgage? It seems a lot of your followers are young and single and can sell everything they own and move to Australia. That won’t work for guys like me and I know I am not the only guy like me. I have tried it all and nothing works. (This comment won’t even work, so I don’t know why I am commenting.)

    • Rusty

      Jim, most of Ramit’s audience is how you describe – young, single, unattached to things.

      Being painfully shy can be overcome. There’s a book called “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I’d suggest that, and also working on talking to people you don’t know, on a casual basis, to start warming up your ability to take more action.

      There’s a lot of things that apply to people who have families and mortgages, too. Have you automated your finances? Have you started tracking your spending with something like

      Does your partner work? If not, that might be an option depending on your other circumstances (whether or not the kids are in school, cost of daycare/babysitter vs income received).

      Also, I’d suggest reading Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman as well. You can always check books out for free from your local library or if you’re in the U.S., there’s several Suze Orman books available right now on

    • sambista77

      Hey Jim
      It’s possible you just gave me my first “1k on the side” Idea,
      as I was burn anything BUT shy,
      so, thanks man!

      Now let’s break it down a bit and see how we can get you rolling.

      I will assume, living the way you said, must feel like “shackles on”,
      this, in and of itself must be tough.
      Before I move on though, I think you need to know we all feel this way sometimes, and no one is immune to that.
      From an evolutionary stand point fear (you call it shy), will paradoxically,
      move your genes forward.
      Let’s be honest, if you keep it small, there is last chance for you to die, than the dude next door who lives it big, travels the world, bungee jumping, photographing a red ass baboon, or even being excited from the next business venture he’ll get in to, as it all means, his heart is beating like a jungle drum most of the time, and he’s at risk.
      On the flip side, your chances to survive, although bigger,
      will lack an experience of being a LIVE,
      leaving you at the end of the day feeling useless.
      The sad news is (and I wish I had a nicer way to say it, BUT there isn’t):
      IT’S UP TO YOU, it is your choice: shackles on or shackles off, wait,
      it gets worse, either way you choose, and I’m giving you my word here,
      The good news is: in today’s world if you “keep it calm”, and work your butt off, within 12-18 month you can have a completely different reality!!
      Which one will it be? It’s only up to you!
      There are tens of thousands different ways you can get yourself out of anything, and get yourself into things, currently behind your imagination,
      the list long!!
      BUT the 1st step will be noticing what Ramit refers to as your “script”
      Best Sambista

  20. Megan

    Old Script: “My job is boring, routine and nowhere near challenging enough. What I really want to do it write novels, but I don’t know if I’d be any good at it.”

    Automation: Every day during my lunch break, I open a word document and write at least 750 words. I write with a specific story in mind, but keep it free form, detailing all the little bits in this characters world. After three months of this, I will outline the story that has been percolating in my mind and begin to put together the pieces of my first novel.

  21. So what? « Naveen N. Sinha

    […] 3 Case Studies: Ordinary people using extraordinary scripts to hustle by Ramit Sethi – the advice itself isn’t original, but the stories are interesting […]

  22. MariaM

    Hi guys, greetings from Finland! I really liked all your comments and scripts, they are so inspiring and help me find my own strengths in “nothing is impossible” and help me start writing my own script.
    Megan: thanks for the hint, I am an aspiring writer as well 🙂
    Have a great day everyone!

  23. Hariom

    Here’s a little automationhack that I started using today that I thought I’d pass along to you guys.

    I remember reading an interview with Hershel Walker about how he got himself such a great body. (Google Hershel Walker if you have no idea who I am talking about.) One of the things he mentioned was how every time he would go get something from the fridge he would drop down and do a set of push-ups. This meant that everyday he would automatically be reminded to exercise multiple times a day.

    So how to implement this for my own purposes.

    I like to drink tea a few times a day which usually takes me two minutes to make in the microwave. So a few weeks back I decided to start taking some ayurvervedic powder which you can take two to three times a day. Unfortunately I would always miss out on my daily intake because I would have it on the table….now I just put the bottle next to the microwave along with glass for water and everytime I brew my tea I am reminded to take the supplement.

    Ok it’s a minor thing….but i’ve got the habit down cold after doing this for about one month.

    Now to kick this automationhack into high gear what i’ve started to do is put a book on top of the microwave (Conversationally Speaking by Don Gabor as I really need to hone my conversation skills). I read the book every time I make my tea and waiting for it to cool down for a few minutes. This easily gets me about five minutes of reading every time i drink my tea.

    Thank you Hershel Walker!

  24. Book: Let’s Get Real About Money: Profit from the Habits of the Best Personal Finance Managers | sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    […] reminded of Ramit Sethi’s story about how some people set aside money for meeting interesting people. Might be a fun experiment, although perhaps not to that scale. Ditto for learning and […]

  25. Nayland House

    Love the case studies – need to admit to my own scripts

  26. Vivek

    I am 34, married & blessed with a 5yr old daughter. My earning is so so but I always believed that million dollar is within my reach. For that I wrote Actuary exam and cleared one in which success rate is 10% odd. Then so called ”action” was missing and internally I justified by citing extraneous factors.

    From last week I revived my goal & analyzed that – two hours a day & four on weekends & that’s it- which had resulted in my success earlier. After coming from office till bedtime- I have 6 hours. So I wrote in my diary- 1 hr –wife for helping her in professional course; 1 hr- with daughter for teaching & playing with her ; 2 hr for self study; 2 hr for rest, dinner, tv, internet, market etc.

    Now every night I tick some part of syllabus done & look forward to next day for again doing what I did today. My wife & daughter too are more happy that I give them regular time.

    If it’s automation, woks for me.

  27. B

    I know the contest is over, but I realized one of my negative scripts from my dreams from this morning. Quite often in my dreams, things consistently don’t happen my way–I can’t find a seat in a restaurant, the waiter doesn’t bring me what I want, and other such minor irritations. I eventually get what I want, but it takes a while and I have to push for it. It makes the dream one big struggle.

    And I now know that that is one of my negative scripts: I expect that to win, I need to struggle first. Which is total B.S.

    Except that it worked once before. I had a spectacular win with this argument: in my college essay I wrote about how much I struggled in cross country and how it built my character. I was pretty proud as a 16-year-old to have that kind of ‘deep’ idea. And it worked; I got into my first choice school.

    14 years later, it’s time for me to replace that negative script with one that’s much easier: “I win easily all the time” as my new mantra.

    Does anyone have any tips for automating positive mental scripts? I don’t think there are any tactics for me to implement; I just need to hypnotize myself into a new belief.

  28. Adam Gustafson

    Catching up…week one

    Backstory: Been floating around for years, volunteering, dipping in social work fields, inventing on the side but going no where, entry level jobs. Now Im in grad school for product design but still do not have clarity about my career.

    Old Script: It will all just work out in the end. Keep doing what you enjoy and what helps others and your career will come to you. (Fine idea but after too many years it has been proven flawed).

    New Script: I must actively choose the direction I move in and not ride the wild horse of chance. ! Daily I must strengthen the clarity of my direction and take some action in that direction.

    Automation: (That can be reasonably completed daily.)
    Each morning after a vigorous set of jumping jacks, push ups, face slaps or whatever sit down at my table and plan my best 2 objectives to do that day toward finding my direction. Do them before I sleep that night come hell or high water, or laziness, excuse, next day obligations, whining, tears, indigestion.

    Goal duration: 1 week.
    Goal time: 8:00 Day one (today)
    7:30 day two
    7am each day after for one week.

    A few ideas:

    Surround myself with like minded designers/inventors that want to use their creative powers for good. Emails, calls and coffee.

    Have a Master capture list of my best ideas that come up throughout the day. Refer to this list when stuck.

    Mass email design grad students at AAu and locate a few like minds to discuss, plan and encourage.

    And oh so many more. Thanks so much for this format in which to better my life situation. Adam G.