IWT turns 12 years old!

Ramit Sethi

12 years ago, wise old Ramit wrote his first post on “5 steps to getting rich.”

Here you go:

  1. Know what you spend
  2. Start with little steps like saving fees on banking
  3. Keep money in a savings account that pays interest
  4. Don’t go too crazy with rules and buy some things that make you happy
  5. Above all: Don’t be stupid!

Ahhhh god. Some of those are okay. I can’t believe I actually included #3 as one of the most important rules in living a Rich Life. Looking back, I give myself a C+ for those rules.

Since then, IWT has grown up. Today I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’ve learned along the way. Here are 2 lessons that have meant a lot to me.

Lesson 1: Start focused, but keep your eyes and ears open

When I started IWT, it was focused on personal finance. But money doesn’t get me excited to wake up in the morning. I don’t sit around and marvel at my asset allocation. The stuff that gets me excited is understanding human behavior.

But if I had started writing about that, I would have failed.

Writing about personal finance was something I knew, I was moderately interested in, and most of all — something people needed help with. It was the Trojan Horse to get people to understand that there’s more to life than being a frugalista who agonizes about lattes. Then I listened to what people told me.

I call this The Seagull Theory:

“The Seagull Theory describes how the subtlest of clues can signify you’re on the right track. For example, when someone says something once, you might not notice it. When you hear it again, that’s interesting. When you hear it three times, you lean in and start paying attention.

Listen for seagulls in business. For example, when I went on a book tour and asked readers, “What do you want me to write more about?” the first person said, “How to make more money.” I didn’t even remember the first response. I asked more people. Almost all of them said, “How do I earn more?” I was skeptical. After 15-20 people saying the same thing — or seeing 15-20 seagulls — I realized I had to dig into why I kept hearing this over and over.

I leaned in, listened, and turned that insight into a course, which has now helped thousands of students start side businesses and generated millions of dollars.”


There are seagulls all around you, pointing out things you’re really good at. Are you listening?

That particular example led to the development of entire new areas of IWT, including careers, salary negotiation, entrepreneurship, and even people learning how to cook.

As a result, people landed amazing dream jobs.

They started amazing businesses (many of them going full-time).

People met new friends around the world.



Looking back, I would have never imagined we’d be writing about cooking or relationships or all these non-financial things. In fact, if I had known that from Day 1, I might never have gotten started.

Sometimes the best thing you have is your ignorance of what’s over the next hill. So you just start walking.

Lesson 2: Be comfortable changing your identity

Notice how many people in their early 20s identify themselves as “hustlers.”

They’re doing “things that don’t scale.”

They’re reading certain books, visiting certain websites.

Now imagine you grow past that. You can’t just “hustle” anymore because you’re trying to build something larger than a side business. What do you do?

This is when you have to change your identity.

EXAMPLE: Did you notice that I stopped referring to myself as “a blogger” a few years ago?

Why? Because I wasn’t just a single blogger anymore. I’d hired a team and set my sights on helping more people than a blog can help.

Think about how your identity changes:

  • Go from a “poor college student” to someone who has money and isn’t always looking for the cheapest drink at the bar
  • Someone who used to be a “total foodie” but now prioritizes health
  • Or — what’s yours?

Changing your identity is really hard. Not only do you have to learn a totally new way of thinking and new skills, you also have to change who you surround yourself with.

I was fortunate to have the help of lots of people around me. This change was something I learned from my mentor Jay Abraham. He calls this “The Strategy of Preeminence.” We spent months breaking it down, applying it to IWT, re-shaping the way we engage with people.

He taught me what it means to truly put your students at the center of your world.

Meeting and working with Jay changed the way I communicated (the copy, how I sold, everything).



Traffic. Conversion. Revenue. Everything went up as people started to value our material.

God, there’s nothing more frustrating than spending 10 hours writing something you think is awesome, only to have someone reply, “TL;DR.” Go to hell!!

But as my identity changed — and IWT’s identity changed, IWT readers stopped treating this like commodity information.

At a certain stage of life — or your business — you’re not interested in simply doing what you’ve been doing. That’s boring.

You want to go to an entirely different level.

You cannot do this alone. It’s not going to be you sitting in a coffee shop, drawing out Venn diagrams and building sole breakthroughs in your business.

You need help. I need it, you need it, we all need it. Whether you get a coach, join an online course, or even get a group of friends together for a monthly meeting to bounce ideas off each other, the people around you will drive you to new levels that you couldn’t imagine.

So that’s it — 2 lessons from the last 12 years.

I love having you as a reader and I want to thank you and one more group — the IWT team. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.

And one final thing: If you could build a supportive group around you, who would it be? How would you do it?

Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Chris

    Congrats for your 12th year, and thanks for helping so many people succeed.

  2. Wilhelmina St. John

    Congratulations! Indeed, a significant milestone! To assemble the right team, the first thing I would look for is shared values. If people don’t care deeply about what I think is important then why bother? How can they even contribute in a meaningful way to what I envision? They need to be emotionally invested in it somehow. Just my first thoughts on this. And many thanks for being such an inspiration!

  3. Marie

    Congrats on 12 years in business! I just joined ZTL and I am glad to benefit from all the experience of your last 12 years! I already have a supportive group in my 2-3 very good friends but I can’t think of ways of expanding it to more people. I have moved a lot around (city, country…) and find it hard to trust people.

  4. tony

    To answer your question, the supportive group I would build around me is a solid writer, marketer, business strategist and a health coach, all of which would have to have some kind of accountability to get my butt in gear.

  5. Veronika

    Congratulations Ramit! 12 years, it’s amazing.
    Answering your question: I would love to have a support group around me, consisting of people that strive for growth, fulfilment and excellence. Lately I realised that I value live contact (face-to-face, phone call, video chat) above texting and emails.
    I was fortunate enough to find an amazing group for critiquing my picture book manuscripts. We talk mainly via email, but once a month we get together for a video group chat. And that is invaluable to me!
    Ideally, I’d love to have a group of people to meet up with either locally or via live video chats. With whom I can discuss things about mindset, business, and personal growth. I’m reaching out to people lately to become accountably partners, but so far people shy away from it. I don’t know yet if I’m saying something wrong, or I haven’t found the right people yet. It’s a work in progress 🙂
    Congratulations again and here’s to several more years of IWT!

  6. Dawn

    Congrats on your 12th year, been reading it for quite a while! The advice on “reinventing” is spot on. Start inside – change how you view yourself, then share that vision. I’d like to say it only applies to newly non-broke college students, but it doesn’t. Applies pretty much anywhere. I am the co-founder of a software company. (I’m too old to share my age, suffice to say, LONG past college.) That is how I introduce myself now. But I used to say “I work in software, small business with partners.” Big difference. I had to fix the mindset to see myself as I expected others to see me. So reinvent, reinvent!! Great advice. People respond, you connect, and you learn, share, and yes, grow!

  7. Andy

    My supportive group would consist of people who challenge me everyday. The critical thinkers who look at situations and views from a 360 degree angle. The ones who aren’t afraid to challenge your views, inspire discussion around topics. Those are the people who inspire growth.

    I do the above by “auditing” the people I associate with. Observing people you’re constantly around gives you an idea of their framework and what they bring to the table.

  8. Jane

    Now in this page you have talked sense to me

  9. Financial Canadian

    Ramit, congratulations on 12 years in the business. You should be very proud of yourself.

    As someone who is just starting in the blogging world, I have found tremendous value in your website and often refer to it when I need advice. So thank you.

  10. Gautam

    Congrats Ramit on 12th anniversary. I started following you for last 2 months and have been benefited already. I am getting a very different perspective from you which is conflicting from some of the belief like if my work is good people and money will follow.

    I am an immigrant in US and have created some supportive group by doing some coaching and self work. The social and friend circle I have is not very supportive in my vision. I repetitively gets a message that at 38 I am too late in the game.

    I have launched my website which I want to enhance to create a group of people whom I can collaborate to seek and provide help and guidance. Let me know your thoughts on that?

  11. Elizabeth Dankoski

    Thanks so much for this post, Ramit! And congratulations on the amazing growth you’ve created in the last 12 years. I was just talking with Selena Soo about this exact thing: whether I can risk an identity change. I’ve been known as an Ivy League college consultant for years, but I want to change that identity into something far more visionary through my mentoring program, The Dream School Project. I would love to see more about how you actually went through this identity change and got your readers to follow along with you. Very intriguing!

  12. Mel

    Congrats on Year 12, Ramit! I created a Mastermind group of colleagues and friends from different disciplines when I started 1.5 years ago. Having that weekly accountability (and differing perspectives) has been invaluable.

  13. Caterina Efé

    Just wanted to say, love, love reading your posts. I’d heard about IWT, I think about two years ago but I thought you came across as arrogant in your posts and it just turned me off from wanting to read any further.
    For some reason, a few weeks ago, I was doing a little research on finance for my blog ( and I got a link to your site (Google’s SEO loves you) and what I read changed my mind on you. I watched several videos of you on YouTube, I particularly enjoyed watching the one with the famous photographer (forgot his name) because I learnt so much from the things you said and also what he said.

    Anyhoos, to answer your question, that’s one of the key areas I’m struggling at – building a support group and reaching out to people to be my mentor.
    It’s something that I’m slowly working on, but it’s very much a work in progress because I have anxiety about asking people for help because I get the dirty feeling that I owe them forever.

    Anyhoos, just wanted to say that I always look forward to your posts and you have a way with words where what you write actually sinks in and it’s never just a mindless read.

    So congratulations on your 12th year anniversary and I wish you many more, money-making, prosperous, inspiring years to come for you Ramit and the IWT team!!!

  14. Nicole Maki

    Wow! 12 Years! That’s an amazing achievement. Well done and thank you for all the value you’ve added to my life.

    I’ve been thinking about your questions a lot lately. Most of my friends are sick, fat, middle aged and whiny. It kills me as they give me a hard time about how, “It must be nice to be in shape/motivated/enthusiastic” etc. Like it’s a bad thing! And they willfully forget that five years ago I had my spinal cord severed, a year ago I weighed nearly 200 pounds at 5’2.

    So assembling a new team of friends, mentors and colleagues is something I need to do urgently. I need people that are motivated, hopeful, positive, challenging while still compassionate, smart but not too arrogant, confident and daring. I need boldness and vision. Someone like Dwayne Johnson.

    • Aldo

      What’s holding you back, Nicole? What’s keeping you from starting fresh and looking for your team of Dwayne Johnsons?!

    • Nicole Maki

      Thanks, for the question, Aldo. I’m in the process of finding new friends and colleagues that are more in step with my current goals and extracting myself from outdated relationships. Starting fresh doesn’t happen overnight though and some people that you audition for a spot in your life aren’t quite what they present publicly. Practically speaking, the change over is going to take some time.

    • Eusebio

      Nicole, I recently started to question and change my thinking behaviour. Change my mental scripts. One of those old scripts were exactly what you partly wrote above :

      “Starting fresh doesn’t happen overnight though and some people that you audition for a spot in your life aren’t quite what they present publicly.”

      Change your scripts :
      1. Ramit said : “The stuff that gets me excited is understanding human behavior.” – think about yours first not those of the people you meet.
      1. Even if starting fresh doesn’t happen overnight, you’re making steps of change EVERY day. What are THOSE specific results ?
      3. You “audition” people in vain.
      People say one thing and do another.
      You should select people only by observing what they do NOT what they say.

  15. Lorisa

    Congratulations on your success, Ramit; and thank you for for allowing us to benefit from your growth!

  16. Chris Duff

    To start building a supportive community from scratch, I would begin by looking at problem points in my own life, then start polling FB, whether through my own social circle, or start running ads to see if they are facing the same issue or similar. After that, I would start writing copy according to those responses and launch a website (or just start off with a private FB group) and start catering to those needs, figuring out what the best techniques are to help the budding community, and building accordingly.

  17. Aldo

    Ramit… You are the man. Been reading your material for a few months now. Graduated last year with a Bachelor’s in Communication, turned 25 three days ago, and although inspired by your insight, am still pretty stuck on deciding where to go from here. Feeling like time is running out. Did you ever feel that way? On a brighter note, I know I have the support system I need and the ability to keep expanding on it. I’m not too worried. Congrats on 12 years! Cheers!🍾

  18. Val

    12 years is amazing!! Kudos to you for turning this venture on its head and doing so much more with IWT.

  19. Brian

    Congratulations on 12 years. I’ve already gleaned a lot of value from the 1-2 *months* I’ve been following along. It’s encouraging to see success truly stemming from helping others achieve success themselves.

    And thanks for the subtle reminder. It’s not a question of IF we could build supportive groups, but WHEN we do so. HOW is the real challenge. Seems like I’ve got some emails to write…

  20. Christian

    Happy Birthday IWT!!! 🙂 In build a community group I would attract people whom are willing build something bigger than themselves, with a collaborative community you build mountains bigger than Olympus Mons 🙂 Also these people shall display a form of positive vibration willing to making whatever we do for the purpose of making a positive growth for the clients and the world all while having fun. We are students and teachers. A well known Japanese proverb says it very well: “A master is always a student”.

  21. Jemma

    Thanks for making me feel old, Ramit! 😉 Cultivating a crew that is diverse in their focus and competence yet similarly positive and looking for opportunities and ways to make good things happen. Smart minds about business, good taste in wine (my business), connectors, CREATIVE, collaborative, kind, funny…

    • Royce

      Join the dis😉cussion

  22. Malia

    Happy 12th anniversary of IWT! -^,..,^- Thank you for existing.

    The supportive group I would, and do, keep around me are those who encourage me and push me to do better. Having them reminds me of my personal motivation of wanting to see others live comfortably, instead of scraping by.

    I don’t and haven’t always found them; half the time the people who support me found me instead and discovered what I was doing. When they did, they congratulated me on shooting for a high goal, while others that I don’t hang around so much anymore had glazed looks when I told them what I was doing.

  23. Dee

    I’d want a group that
    1. Liked to geek out over stuff, like technology, math and art,
    2. Enjoyed field trips and projects,
    3. Was big on planning and execution, and
    4. Cared. About each other, ethics, animals. The big picture.

  24. Anthony

    An amazing achievement of 12 years,so congratulations! While I’m inching along towards my success in life. I am truly thankful for you and your wonderful team for the dedication and motivation to help me get and stay on track.

  25. Alison

    Great article thank you. It has certainly provoked some thinking for me. I’m part of an accountability group which is awesome.

  26. Amber

    I would want people around me who encourage me to be authentic, and are authentic themselves.

  27. Stacey

    My team is being built around my kids to have their own business. I’m teaching them now what I am learning from you…thanks

  28. RJ Reyes

    I need a group of new ZTL members that could help me validate ideas. I suppose the facebook group is already there for that. Haha I just answered my own question. Thank you for the e-mail! The seagull theory for some reason helped me look at things from a different view. THANK YOU

  29. Greatness

    Many hate growing up but something amazing comes along, that when you are young you wish to have, EXPERIENCE. Those are 12 incredible years that I would like to have. Happy for you. Well I am struggling on creating a team that would go along with me and grow.

  30. Patrick

    I’d want a group of people with specific refined skill sets. Especially those from different places and different mindsets who wouldn’t normally cross paths or get along. A hunter and a vegan gardener. A fighter and a meditator. A physicist and graffiti artist. Granted, these are crude dichotomies. But a group of people taking a deep dive into other worlds would be exciting and enriching.

  31. Alex

    If I could build a supportive group around me it would be one that is exhaustively passionate about improving their knowledge about how psychology informs business. A mastermind group quarterly seems like the best avenue.

  32. Paul D

    Hi Ramit, being a personal finance/self-help guru, did it (ever) cross in your mind to ever do something other than these topics that you are passionate about? How do you deal this FOMO issue?

    Really appreciate your writings. Thanks!

    Paul D

  33. Jun Estrella

    Congratulations on your 12th-year anniversary! What a milestone.

    To answer your question, I would gather the most knowledgeable and the wisest people around me. Some of them would be my father who is an exemplary businessman and human being, my colleagues who are into the same things as I am, and true fans of my product or service. I would always communicate with them and try to start and maintain human connections with them.

  34. Frank

    I really wish I knew. I could use a group of folks I could trust, but haven’t the first idea how to find them.

  35. Darcy

    A group forum or weekly group calls are great ways to share ideas and insire others like you do😃

  36. Delphine

    great post as usual. As for support group I plan to create a success team following the guidelines of Barbara Sher. Sounds fun and useful, even if it is a leap of faith considering my culture. It will start in october, off line.

  37. Eusebio

    This is a big one. How can I connect my purpose with their individual purposes ? … Who would it be ? … Hmm, possible people who don’t do exactly what I do, but complementary activity that helps mine, so they’ll end up pleased all the same … How would I do it ? … Not sure yet. Search and ask …

  38. David Rice

    Great article Ramit. I discovered you a year or so ago on PAT FLYNNS SPI show and I have to say that you were one of the first people that kept me on the edge of my seat. One of the first people I said that with was people like TIM FERRISS, DAN KENNEDY, and a few others. I have learned a great deal from you and your free material. Currently I am building a local service business in my city but will expand and scale some day and will take what I have learned and package it up to sell as well (info business). The biggest thing I enjoy form you is in learning consumer psychology and how to market to the way people think (I believe ZIG called it “emotional logic”). Learning that is so much more than doing a “quick sale” today. Again, thanks, good luck in the future of IWT, and I look forward to meeting you face to face someday soon.
    David from Columbus, GA

  39. Gbenga Akinwole

    Congrat on your journey and on your transformation though the years. I am a kin reader of your website and I must say you are out of this world. Rock on Ramit.

    With Love from Nigeria

  40. Joel Cherrico

    Congrats, Ramit! Cherrico Pottery just passed our six year mark. I’m psyched for the next six and for levels that I can’t even imagine. If I could build a supportive group around me, it would include Tim Ferriss, Daymond John, one part-time assistant and two student interns. Yesterday I met with a CPA to set up payroll for our team. Tim Ferriss owns some of our most popular pottery & his strategies helped me set the pottery Guinness World Record this year. Our plan for getting Daymond John as an advisor is to wait patiently to see if a certain TV show he is involved with follows up on their invitation. Otherwise, we plan to do everything ourselves, to grow another 20% for the 5th year in a row and to create the unbelievable levels that I can’t even imagine yet.

  41. Ishoo

    Congrats – what a story! Thanks for the insights on changing your identity.

  42. ash

    To be honest i don’t think a support group can do much and it will consist of people who are at the same level as you. it is just a bunch of “entrepreneurs” coming up with plans but without any solid base. i’m saying this because ive been there.

  43. Kris

    Congrats to you and your team on 12 years of leaning, sharing, and successful growth! When I need help I look both to people who are wildly successful and further along in the process than me, and also people who are at my current level that I can more directly relate to. To put it succinctly, I look for the ordinary moving into extraordinary, and the extraordinary who have surpassed the ordinary when I’m building new support networks.

  44. Mike

    Hey Ramit! Lurker reaching out to say massive congratulations to you. When I first found IWT two years ago, I was a sceptic. Your free content got me a 30% pay rise in 2 weeks. ‘Nuff said. Your question really made me think: I want people around me who aren’t afraid to be their best. It’s so odd, but I find mediocrity more and more endemic in the western workplace. Dare I say, excellence now comes second place to a comfortable working environment? I’d build a supportive group through shared values like ambition, growth and celebrating other’s success. Would love your thoughts on this. You’ve done us all proud Ramit, onwards and upwards!

  45. Nausheen

    Hey Ramit! Congrats on the 12 year roll! Each time I read your mails, I get so so inspired. The answer to your question: I would like to have a supporting group with the 3 areas I am thrilled about: Art, language and travel. I would love to get something going in these sector, more like a combination of them. This would definitely be a dream I have for quite a while and yet to implement. Would also like to know your take on this. Would it work? Thanks again for all the inspiration and you really got my thought process going in terms of doing what I aspire to be! Cheers to you! Ciao!

  46. Caroline

    Ramit, congratulations to the 12 years! I love what you wrote about that we shouldn’t be afraid of changing our identities. I have been thinking a lot about what it means “to level” in life. I wanted to answer your question about how I would build a supportive group around me, and who would be in it. I have a mastermind group that consists of 3 people (all entrepreneurs and thinkers) and we have been seeing each other once a month for 6 years. It is great! But still, I feel like I miss something, and regularly turn to personal development books, Tim Ferriss podcasts, your emails etc. I would actually like to have people in my mastermind group that have levelled in life, to more peace, money, time, love etc who feel like sharing and listening. As it is now, I enjoy your insightful and honest emails, books by for example Robin Sharma and some pods out there. It’s lonely though.

  47. Sonali

    Congratulations Ramit! Your emails are very insightful and fresh out of the box thinking. I hope to someday put your tips into practise and leverage all these tips.

  48. Lauren

    Ramit et al,

    I’m usually a lurker, but I’ll comment here to say

    Great post. Definitely good for me to remember, as I’m working to change the face of my community through dance lessons. How do I know what classes to book? Among other things, now I’ll watch for seagulls.

    I already am building that supportive group. I found people who care about others and themselves, most of whom dance, and I made sure to keep them in my life and tell them I’m important. I live with some of them. I work or organize events with some of them. I’m big on creating spaces for others to thrive, and once I find like-minded people, the world keeps growing. Of course there are other ways, but I find a common mission to be very important to build sustaining supportive relationships.

    Thanks for your work!

  49. Joe

    Congratulations! I wish I had come across you way way sooner.

    If I would build a support group, I would find people who have done what I am aiming to do. I will do it by
    1. Building a Relationship – email, conversation, ask questions. Never waste their time.
    2. If he/she is well known then read everything about him.then try reaching out.

    Well that is all I can think of right now.

    Again congratulations!

  50. Andrew

    Just wanted to say congratulations on your 12th anniversary!! I have been following for sometime now and always appreciate your insight.

    Andrew L., Director

  51. Jacqui St. Cyr

    Hi Ramit!
    I’m a seasoned corporate worker, downsized and relocating to the Maryland, Wash. DC area and looking to meet other positive thinking entrepreneurs. Investing in your program as soon as I get my car out of the shop. I realized just what you mentioned about moving to next level with my 3 small businesses. Your realization was right on point for me !!! Anxiously waiting to move forward with your IWT program.!!! Thank you for the inspiration!!