How a random Twitter follower got $20,000 of my time — free

Ramit Sethi

I recently met someone who, in short order, convinced me to give him $20,000 of my time — for free.

How? Let me share his story.

A few months ago, somebody named @michaelfishman introduced himself to me via twitter. He said something interesting about copywriting (I don’t remember what), so I clicked through to his website. It looked interesting…but vague.

We struck up a conversation via email, and he mentioned some more interesting things on copywriting, marketing, and analytics — deep, non-obvious stuff that showed he actually knew what he was talking about. Then he mentioned a couple of big names he had recently met and spoken with at conferences.

I happened to know one of the guys, so I checked with him. “Is this guy Michael legit?” I asked. See, in the marketing world, there are a lot of scammy weirdos.

Turned out my friend respected him.

So when Michael invited me to lunch in New York, I went.

When we got to lunch, he gave me a gift — a book called Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. I didn’t know it at the time, but it costs around $100. More importantly, I’ve come to realize it’s one of the most sophisticated books on human behavior and persuasion I’ve ever read. He also gave me a couple other books that have since shaped my views on copywriting and psychology. These were incredibly thoughtful gifts that were not only on-target with my interests, but obscure pieces I’d never seen.

When we talked, we discovered how we share many of the same views on persuasion, yet we approach it from different angles.

A few weeks later, Michael invited me to a Boardroom dinner, one of the most exclusive invitations you can receive. I put on a suit and went to The Four Seasons, where I met some of the top authors and businesspeople from the worlds of health, psychology, and marketing.

Long story short, over the next few months, he:

  • Threw a dinner party and introduced me to fascinating people I would have never met
  • Offered to connect me with VIPs who I’d tried to meet (and failed)
  • Linked to several articles I’d written and emailed me some behind-the-scenes advice

At the same time, I was helping him. He’d asked me to record a few videos for his site,, but I was always busy. But finally, I cleared my schedule to record 3 videos for him. You can watch them here.

After all, how could I say no?

Finally, last time we met, Michael told me he was throwing a health summit where he wanted me to be the keynote speaker on behavioral change. Unfortunately, he couldn’t pay my normal speaking fee ($20k) but would I be able to do it?

The magic of his request is this: Not only did I say yes, but I wanted to do it. It wasn’t a chore. It was a pleasure.

And this is how “networking” is done.

Notice all the things Michael did before he ever asked me for something substantial? He introduced me to people I never would have had access to…he gave me thoughtful gifts on topics I’m fascinated with…he offered to help with several parts of my business…and he never asked for anything.

Compare this to what most people think of “networkers” as: sleazy, slimy, and scammy.

When you use networking effectively — when you help other people before you ever expect anything in return — you can get more than you had ever imagined.

And you can use these same principles in negotiation.

In fact, I have 4 more case studies to give you:

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  1. Tweets that mention How a random Twitter follower got $20,000 of my time — free | I Will Teach You To Be Rich --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CollegeDegreeHelper and Belinda Fuchs, Stephani. Stephani said: How a random Twitter follower got $20,000 of my time — free: I recently met someone who, in short order, convinc… […]

  2. wilson usman

    You gotta give to get right? But the cool thing of your story is that it seems to be more natural and I don’t think he had it all planned out, it just happened.

  3. Joe

    How a random blogger got $5 of my time for free…..

  4. Barry

    Ramit – This post proves that what you’re REALLY interested in is selling and marketing — to your readers.

    I mean your personal finance philosophy is pretty simple, no? Remove all barriers, automate, automate, automate!, buy all the lattes you want or else you’re going to kill yourself and instead focus on the big wins. Am I missing anything?

    Ah, of course. We can only cut our spending so much. Instead you gotta earn more!!!

    Oh, add words like complex, systematic, behavioral, methodical and psychological whenever possible.

    It’s funny what Ramit does if you really think about it. His job as a marketer (and that’s what he is) is to make you unhappy with your current situation. Because if you were happy, you wouldn’t worry about what an extra grand a month could do for you.

    Sure, money doesn’t hurt. But study after study proves that money contributes very little to our over all happiness once you make a certain amount. Yet, you’re trying to convince people that if only they make an extra X k per month, they’ll have their dream life and FINALLY be happy.

    People are delusional to think that but it’s the human condition – might as well exploit it, right?

    • sambista77

      @ Barry
      I am amazed that people like you waste their time bothering to leave a comment, unsubscribe dude, and do something more profound with your time.
      I had confronted and overcame hurdles bigger than myself in this FREE course, thanks to Ramit, and I find your comment intentionally disrespectful and a bit pathetic.

    • Stepan

      It’s ok Barry, I still think you’re cool and smart. Let’s all blind ourselves of what’s possible. Definitely safer, right?


  5. Gal @ Equally Happy

    I recently got in touch with an old co worker that I hadn’t spoken with in a long time. I asked her to lunch and she responded with “sure, but can you tell me in advance what position you’re applying for?” I asked her what she meant and she told me that no one gets in touch with her unless it was to ask for a specific favor, usually in regards to a job (she works at a large, very well respected company here in Silicon Valley).

    She was amazed when I told her I simply wanted to have lunch. In fact, she invited another person along, someone we had both worked with and I had lost touch with. We had a great time and are now back in touch. I’m pretty sure that this person will now keep me in mind if a good job passes her desk and, although I’m not actually looking for a job, send it my way if she thinks I’m a good fit.

    That’s the way to network. You need to keep in touch with people and treat them as the friends they are, not as resources only to be communicated with when you need something. Send customers their way, send qualified people their way, send interesting websites their way and go out to lunch to introduce them to your new favorite Sushiritto place (don’t ask, it’s an SF thing). Friends help friends and your network needs to be made of people who are essentially your friends, even if the friendship is a weak one.

    By the way Ramit, I contacted her thanks to your urging a few weeks ago. Thanks for the reminder 🙂


  6. cukamunger

    He wasn’t necessarily some random twitter follower now, was he? Unlike myself, he knew someone you trust. You might not ever have agreed to lunch had he not given you a reliable source to check him out.
    Oh, and congrats for letting us know that you are now such a big shot that people are giving you lavish gifts and invitations. I think that you are well on your way to becoming a politician. Just please keep a level head and don’t resent those people you wanted to help in the beginning. It’s a good blog, don’t ruin it with a big head.

    • Chris Clark

      @cukamunger – I totally understand your vitriol with this post. I’ve been there, but it’s a losers mentality. And I mean that as someone who has erupted in similar ways in the past.

      Your point is dead on. The guy knew someone that trusted Ramit. But at some point he didn’t know that person. I think being open to meeting new people and being nice/helpful to everyone you interact with is a better long term play than immediately jumping to skepticism about someone’s position of advantage. If you don’t like someone you don’t have to spend time with them and you definitely don’t need to ask them for anything. Just my 2 cents.

  7. Ramiro

    @Barry I don’t think you can generalize by saying that money doesn’t make you happy. You have to say that when you pass a threshold, money’s power to produce happiness diminishes, but you can’t say it doesn’t affect your level of happiness at all. I believe that more money is better unless the monetary increase is producing you unhappiness (maybe because you are stressing out, burning out or whatever term you want to apply to being unsatisfied/unhappy). With money you can do things that you can’t do if you depend on one source of income or are tied to a paycheck. In other words, money can give you more autonomy, which is tied to happiness. Not all increases terms of money will produce unhappiness.

  8. Ramiro

    @barry, also, not to defent Ramit, but I haven’t seen him linking money to happiness. If he did come out and say you will be happy if you earned 1K per month, then I would have to agree with you, but his blog is a personal finance blog, not a happiness blog.

  9. Stacy

    The definition of “free” in this case seems to be “for things worth more to me than the money”. Networking has always been about a complicated structure of mutual obligation/gratitude and barter to hopefully provide benefit to all parties involved over time. While it’s true he didn’t pitch “I can introduce you to X, Y and Z in exchange for a speaking engagement by you” the effect is the same.

    Again, as you say, don’t expect people to fork over chunks of cash (like an Earn 1K subscription) if you haven’t proven you can provide value through smaller demonstrations of usefulness on earlier occasions (like blog posts). He was demonstrating to you his usefulness so by the time he asked for your chunk of time, you happily complied because what he’d already supplied you was worth it to you.

  10. Barry

    @Ramiro – huh? That’s the point. You can’t find evidence that more money increases happiness once you’re past a certain point. Of course, Ramit doesn’t explicitly say money will make you happier. Nor will he ever link to research proving that.

    He sells a dream. Whether it’s how he doesn’t work full time, or he’s able to work whenever/wherever he wants, etc., that’s all designed to make you unhappy with where you’re at.

    Sure, it would be nice if everyone could be self-employed entrepreneurs but the reality is 99% of people are better off as employees. He sells hope.

    What’s really interesting to me is that Ramit makes his money by teaching others how to make money. Much easier to teach than do. And when it comes to money, it’s very easy to figure out the hot buttons to press.

    • Chris Clark

      @Barry – If happiness is your goal, and that’s a great goal, skepticism and antagonism is a terrible way of achieving said goal.

  11. Dave

    @Joe: good joke! thx 4 the comment bro!!

    @Barry: Uh.. I’m really not sure where you’re going with your posts. Are you better than Ramit because you’re not doing what he does? Do you not find these posts helpful? I don’t know why you’re taking the time to leave comments. It’s up to the individual what they want to get out of iwteach and I’ve never seen Ramit write “This is the key to your happiness” or anything like that. You’re not really proving anything, but if you want to feel like you’ve one upped anybody, then go for it I guess. If you’re not going to get anything from these posts, why waste your time reading?

  12. Lewis Howes

    Ramit, I love this post.

    1. Because I use this same philosophy in my day to day life in terms of networking.

    2. Because I have had many similar interactions with Michael (in fact he introduced us at Tim Ferriss book launch party)

    3. Because everything you say here works incredibly well… and everything is about networking (the way you describe here) and building quality relationships.

    Thanks for sharing this, as it makes me a bigger fan of Michael even more now 🙂

  13. Khai Yong

    Dear Ramit,

    I loved this post and I would like to share this with all my friends in the “networking” industry. But I couldn’t find any social sharing buttons.

    Guess i’ll have to manually share the link because the post was so darn good.

    Was there any particular reason you omitted the sharing tools?

  14. Simon


    Much of what you saying may be true with “Financial Gurus” in general.


    “I mean your personal finance philosophy is pretty simple, no?” – True, still most people does not implement this or something similar and many may just need a framework and a bit of encouragement, if they are interested.

    “that’s all designed to make you unhappy with where you’re at.” – Not necessarily true, I would make risk a guess to say most people following Ramit is not happy in the first place.

    “He sells hope.” – Cannot see how that is bad

    “it’s very easy to figure out the hot buttons to press.” – Is it? Please do tell us more. I for one would love to know more about this, as to me it is not that obvious at all.

    “His job as a marketer (and that’s what he is)” – True, at least in part. No use having the goods but not being able to market / sell it. Definitely wish I was a better marketer and/or seller even of my own skills,

    “But study after study proves that money contributes very little to our over all happiness once you make a certain amount. ” – Supposedly True, Just not sure what the “certain amount” is as I certainly have not earned it yet. Has been relatively “happy” financially but then suddenly the babies arrive, your income as family drop by a quarter, expenses shoot up, a bigger house is needed. Believe me when you are tired keeping up at night and then also struggle financially, happiness does seem distant and a side income is not only a nicety but a necessity.

  15. Tabor

    Your a good guy for being open to new contacts Ramit. I’m like you more after trading this article. Thanks for all your helpful info.

  16. Tabor

    Reading not trading