The fascinating psychology of master comedians

Ramit Sethi

In the last few months, I’ve gone to Madison Square Garden to watch Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari perform.

Being a professional comedian at the top of your game is like no other job in the world. I know this, because every morning when I look at myself in the mirror, I splash water on my face and congratulate myself for writing another hilarious email.


Ok, ok. When you watch these comedians, there are multiple layers to their act. It’s not just the joke — it’s reading the crowd, timing, and most interesting to me, the testing that went into perfecting that joke.

The months, sometimes years, to get that 15-second joke right…it’s awe-inspiring.

Louis C.K., along with Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, and Jerry Seinfeld, talked about testing comedy in a recent HBO special. I always love to hear the masters in ANY industry talk about their craft, and this interview was chock full of insights about growth and becoming the BEST.

If you listen closely, you can hear them allude to Big Wins — moments like an SNL monologue, an HBO special, or an interview on The Tonight Show where there’s a huge opportunity to grow their audience. Before they ever walk on stage for these shows, they virtually guarantee their act’s success.

To do this, they constantly test their jokes in low stakes environments — small clubs, shows in small cities, and with audiences that already love them. The top comics are willing to spend A TON of time being bad — bombing over and over so they can deliver where it counts.

Throughout the year, they closely monitor the reaction and tweak each and every joke. Some jokes land, and they toy with them and make them better. Other jokes bomb, and are either reworked or thrown out.

By testing in small stakes environments, when they prepare an act for The Tonight Show they ALREADY KNOW what the reaction will be to every single word.


The psychology here is fascinating. Comedians can go into each show with confidence, knowing that even if they “fail”:

  • They don’t take risks going into big shows because they already KNOW second-by-second what the audience is going to do.
  • They know their livelihood isn’t dependent on the results of the small club because they’ve nailed the big shows.

See the cycle here?

The meta lesson is: nailing the big things means that you can play around and take risks in other areas.

We can apply this principle to own lives. I call this concept my “tripod of stability.”

By taking care of the big things — my home, my car, my relationships, I can increase my growth by taking risks in other areas like pushing my limits when working out, experimenting in my business or traveling to new places.

In fact, they aren’t really risks at all. If I take 2 weeks to travel and have a horrible time, I’ve lost nothing but a couple weeks of my time.

What’s in YOUR tripod of stability? If you had to write down the 3 things you want really stable in your life, what would they be? For most of us, “a way to make money” is on the list, and the others are deeply personal.

So for example, maybe your 3 are:

  • Your job
  • Your relationships
  • Your home

Or, maybe you’re location independent and your list looks more like:

  • Your business
  • Your savings account
  • Your car

Once you get clear on the 3 main legs of your tripod, you can stabilize those areas and start to seek out risk in other areas — travel, starting a business, meeting new people. So leave a comment below, tell me 3 areas of your life that need to be stable and 1 area where you want to take more risks.

Friday, I’ll tell you about one of the biggest mistakes I see when people start building their own tripod of stability.

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  1. Kyle

    There’s only so much instability you can have in life and still be effective.

    I almost made a horrible business deal just trying to keep some stability in my life!

    Last month I was going through some growing pains in my business with new clients and a new product launch.

    Plus, I had just moved house and was using a friend’s bed for a month.

    When he came by to get it, my mind was still spinning and racing from all the burdens and uncertainty surround my business. The last thing I wanted to deal with was having to buy a new bed.

    One thing lead to another, and I offered to trade him my SEO consultant work on his business’s site in exchange for leaving the bed!

    Just for frame of reference, a typical deal starts at €10,000. You can get a lot of bed for that price!!!

    Thankfully, he turned me down as his girlfriend loves that bed.

    I got a new bed and business survived. As a matter of fact, I tripled my income from the previous month.

    So, what’s my tripod of stability?

    1. God and Church
    2. Morning Routine (on autopilot)
    3. Health (food + daily fitness)

    I’ll also add that having an untouchable savings account definitely frees up some part of your brain to be more creative and take more calculated risks in business.

    I also suspect that relationships and family should and will be on the list as well.

    The reality is the tripod evolves as we age and change.

    Will definitely be watching that Talking Funny documentary tonight. Part of my “stability routine” is to watch documentaries about top performers before bed if I’m not out and about. 😉 Thanks for sharing, Ramit.


  2. George G.

    The three things I need most stable in my life, I think, are:

    1. Earning at least a living wage
    2. Knowing and living my values
    3. Emotional stability

    …All three of which are still challenges for me right now, unfortunately.

  3. TJ

    I super lucky! I have the three legs of my stability tripod well-set, if I can convince myself that they are:

    1. I’m in a solid 15-year relationship.
    2. I have a plan Z, in case something goes really bad (like it did a few years ago).
    3. Thanks to solid financial planning, my partner and I are able to feel secure financially.

    Now is the time to figure out WHERE to take risks together, because we are both fairly young (mid-fifties) and bore easily. I’m the entrepreneurial one. He’s not.

  4. Em

    1. Marriage
    2. Business (or however I earn a living, right now small business)
    3. Vehicle (I need it for business and top non- business pursuits)

    More risk: My singing/music

  5. Penelope

    I’ve been following IWTYTBR for years now. I’ve done the following to stabilize (with your help!)

    1. Automated my finances, got rid of debt – I still owe, but only one cc now instead of four and only $6K instead of $26K

    2. Spent money on self development – I’ve invested in two small course of Ramit’s. The big payoff came from finally making a decision and acting on it – I got my PMP certification (Project Management Professional). My income has increased $14K in one year because of it and I now have my Dream Job at the same place I’ve worked for the past 15 years.

    3. Nailed down my home/relationship – Through expanding my network, I learned some things about personal relationships. I’ve applied them at home and I’ve never been in a more satisfying relationship with another person. We recently bought our “Dream Home” which is also our forever home. Because of #s 1 and 2 we’re able to travel (following the Tour de France in 2013 and visiting Grand Cayman for 10 days in 2014 were just the highlights – I traveled 6 out of 12 months last year!), travelling is something important to both of us.

    So now my finances, career and home life are very stable. I would like stretch and really push myself on presentation skills and leadership. Public speaking terrifies me – but I’m doing it today at 12 o’clock!

  6. Alex

    1. My love relationship with my partner
    2. My savings account – no matter how much I might be tempted by some shiny new toy, I don’t use my savings money. I just use my fun money (like IWT taught me).
    3. My car – reliable, paid off, and fuel-efficient.

  7. Kathy

    1. My relationship with God
    2. Making a living
    3. Fun vibrant relationships with friends

    Free’s me up

    1. To think about the unique ways I can make a difference in the world
    2. How to monetize #1
    3. Dream Big Dreams

  8. Mandisa

    Oh what a good article to read. I like practical advice. For me my 3things for stability are 1. Finances 2. Spirituality 3. Time for myself & famil.
    Its not easy to only list 3 things though. I wanna add more. I guess I need more to be grounded. Thanks.

  9. Keya

    Three things I really want stable in my life:

    1. My finances
    2. My Relationships (Family, Friends, Business Partners, Lover & Associates)
    3. Current & Future Business Endeavors

    I would like to take more risks in traveling (Flying is a fear of mine. I would like to travel overseas but the lengthy flights scares me!))

  10. Yasmine

    Im lucky for having my:

    1. Business and wonderful retainer clients…
    2. Supportive family + mastermind buddies
    3. My home

    Those three things keep me grounded, last year I had a location independent business and traveled 5 months to 15 countries and I had an emotional troubles because I didnt have the three pilars of stability.

    Since then I have allocated more energy naturally to make sure I feel more secure!

    Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  11. Kristine

    Nice article! My tripod is:

    1. Physical health/fitness
    2. Trustworthy relationships (personal and professional)
    3. Emergency fund

  12. Mish

    SO TRUE. When one of the legs gives way unexpectedly, it can throw you right off.

    My three tripod legs:
    1. self confidence – i.e. a belief that no matter what, I got this. I always land on my feet.
    2. family – I am grateful for the stability, strength and deep love that having a family creates. Parenting is a real-time zen master training, every day…
    3. spending time outside – getting outside, every day – no matter what the weather (and yes, I do live in Snow-ville USA). Without this practice, I wouldn’t be as positive, healthy, loving, creative or as fun to be around. Just ask my kids.

    Having these three pillars has allowed me to work in a variety of fields – from teaching to film-making to running my own business. I am free to make an impact in the world and not be too locked into HOW I do it. Sometimes it’s on the micro scale of a moment with a client, or in the macro of designing my new website and creating new ways to get my message out. I find that a return to the 3 pillars helps me to rediscover my strength and come back to center.

    Thanks for this great question, Ramit. As always, you have an awesome way of bringing out the wisdom we already hold.

  13. Deena

    1. Religion
    2. Relationships
    3. Residence

    I’d like to take more risks by launching an online business — I’m in ZTL. Thanks, Ramit.

  14. Dinesh

    Hi Ramit,

    My tripod stability

    1. Feeling confident about myself ( Not worrying about my Indian background when I talk to people)
    2.Building my body ( I’m skinny and working towards to building mass)
    3.Progressing in my career. ( I have a good career still I want to be top in my game)

  15. Joe D

    My tripod:

    My job: Stability & Longevity
    My relationships: Marriage, Family & Friendships
    My Health

  16. Tebogo

    Truly a eye-opening read. What I would really like my tripod to be made of is
    1- passive income
    2- great health
    3- relationship with my partner and family

    That would truly make it easier to take risks in other areas of life. I guess that should now be my biggest pursuit, acquiring that tripod.

    Thanks Rammit

  17. sal

    My tripod of stability:
    My family and their health
    My teaching jobs
    My relationships.

  18. Cristina

    Hi Ramit !

    Here is Cristina and I have to say you are really a great guy to fallow!
    being in a foreign country and in a challenging life situation -spent some years
    in learning a lot about what stop us to achieve what we really want in life.

    For me the biggest challenge it is to stop procrastinating ( and just learn ) and
    to dare to apply for my dream job.

    Otherwise My tripod of stability is.

    1.To achieve finally financial freedom from doing the work I am passionate about

    2.To sustain a dear member of my family which neeed my suport
    3.To find my dream life partner

  19. shazyq5

    The 3 areas in my life that need stability are:
    1. Monthly income
    2. Working hours (Am a freelancer and find it hard to manage my time)
    3. Good health.

    I would like to take a risk and invest in business opportunities that look very promising.

  20. Harrison

    My tripod:
    My home
    My job
    My family

    Investing and making more money

  21. Marcus

    My tripod

    1. Finances (getting out of debt and not worrying about money any more)
    2. Health (eating better and exercise)
    3. Family (spending time with and taking care of family)

    Bonus one: making other peoples lives better by either: starting a business (and employing others), donating money, creating something that makes other people’s lives better.

    Bonus two: not being so shy and commenting more on Ramit’s emails and blog posts

  22. Paul W

    Tripod: income, health, savings

  23. Brad

    1. Family
    2. Finances
    3. Car

    Want: start business

    As I thought about this, car didn’t come to mind, but I really thought about when in my life I’ve felt I was most panicked and flying without a net…other than the first two, it was the times when I didn’t have a car or a ride, more than my home. So car it is.

  24. Meredith

    Three things I really want to be stable in my life? That’s hard. There’s so many.

    Probably the most important three are:

    1. Daily journaling
    2. Getting home before 8pm
    3. Having enough time (an hour?) to comfortably finish my morning routine.

    I think most of my life will take care of itself if I devote enough time to planning and making sure what I do today doesn’t wreak havoc on plans, impromptu or not, for tomorrow.

  25. Scott

    Life purpose

    Risk: business / JOB
    because if I’m living my purpose, the method will naturally appear and I’ll be comfortable enough to take bigger risks for bigger rewards. Actel 2015 is the year of more

  26. Katie

    1. God
    2. Family
    3. Job

    I would like to take more risk in making good relationships outside of my family. In particular, a couple of really good girlfriends.

  27. Marie

    There are so many things that need stability right now but the three most important are:
    1. Finances
    2. Health
    3. Relationships

  28. Creigh

    1. Spirituality – Learning to live life with the role of a thermostat rather than a thermometer.

    2. Friends/Community – People to love and encourage that return the favor frequently. We all add value to each other.

    3. My biology/health – Fuel my body with anti-inflammatory food and use acute stress (exercise) and sleep to make my body and brain more effective tomorrow.

    I want to take more risks in how to add value to others: Both by creating businesses as well as building new relationships daily.

  29. Rodrigo

    Hello Ramit and hello guys!

    This article hit home. In July I am giving a workshop that will give me a lot of expoaure in a business area I am trying to get into. Thing is, I am terrified of speaking in public! I know this could be my big break but I will hace to test my presentation in small audiences, just like all the big comedians you wrote about.

    My trypod would be my business, my house (although rented) and my car.

    Cheers, guys!

  30. Lori Q

    My tripod is:

    1. Home life (house, relationships)
    2. Work
    3. Finances

    Recently I’ve stabilized my finances after years of struggling with the wrong priorities. IWT and Suze Ormond were two strong influences on the mindset and techniques I used to get out of the red. Thanks!

    My area of risk is my health. For years I treated my body like a station wagon in which to carry around my brain. Lately I am discovering how much better my brain works when my body gets the right sleep, exercise and nutrition. Internal scripts are hard to change. I’m using the tools I used for my financial fixes to evolve my habits and scripts.

  31. Darius

    1: my health
    2: my imcome
    3: nothing else matters except the first 2.

    I’m 35 years old and have battled death, illness, disease, poverty, abusive childhood, ptsd, brain damage, the list of shitty shit goes on and on. And yet on some level I’m succesful because i push through chronic pain and a terrible, zero privilege history to survive day by day.

    But im not successful by the metrics of your system or most people. So there is a real conflict, a war between me and the prevalent social darwinism.

    I love your posts and content, and the anger that’s there is because i know that i could’ve been an insider, instead of an outsider, if some of life’s randomness would have smiled upon me.

  32. Manuel

    My 3 Tripoid Stability:

    1) My passive income (apartment rents).
    2) Health (pyshical and mental).
    3) My Dog’s health and happiness.

    And my Risk (psychology)

    A) Start a Business on How to Create Wealth
    a) Teaching Basics of a Business

  33. Patty

    My tripod of stability:
    Home (have it)
    Marriage (have it)
    Monthly income Business #1 (not stable enough yet)

    My Risk Areas:
    Business #2 – new, not yet making much money, but it is on track to be more lucrative than business #1
    Buying more rental property (I want to do this as soon as I can save some money)

  34. Rodolfo Genius

    I was recently diagnosed with ADHD and I’m getting treatment for the first time over (therapy and medication). I’ve worked very hard to do what I can and so I can’t help but think that my life will take off as I address these issues.

    So, my current list would probably be

    1) Mental capacity (namely the ability to focus and organize my thoughts)
    2) Self Esteem (gradually learning that I’m not wrong, my brain just works differently)
    3) My significant other (she’s my biggest supporter and helps keep me from getting self-absorbed)

  35. Vince

    Stable Tripod:
    1) Stable home
    2) Reliable Car
    3) Livable wage/income

    1) Create an online business

  36. Dannon

    What I need stability in:
    My lines of communication
    My modes of learning
    My safe space/place of retreat

    Where I want to experiment:
    My frame of reference/view of the world

  37. Ann

    My tripod of stability is:
    My Faith-life
    My relationships (Our 30-year marriage, 2 daughters, large extended family and rich friendships)
    Our home (mortgage free)
    One area that I’d like to change is my work.
    Thanks for all that you do Ramit!

  38. Deborah


    1. My spirituality/self-awareness and self-esteem. They all go in kind of the same category for me, and are intertwined. This is the most important thing, because without it everything falls apart: my health, my relationships, my motivation to reach my goals in life, etc.

    2. The health/happiness of my sister, boyfriend and dog. I can’t focus or function when something is amiss in the lives/relationships with any of these guys. I have to make sure that my younger sister is doing well in her relationships with my parents and her friends at school and feels valued, otherwise I feel like a shitty sister and I worry about her. If something with my boyfriend feels off it bothers me to feel disconnected from him, and I’m not at my best. And my dog…jslfk;dj;f I just love that little guy. It’s like a science project, keeping him alive.

    3. My financial stability. The process for paying off my loan and car take up a lot of my attention; alongside the online opportunity that I’m a part of. This one isn’t completely stable yet–none of them are–and I spend most of my time and energy worrying and mentally fidgeting and budgeting. Luckily, the loan is getting paid off within the next two months, and I’ll be able to focus primarily on growing my income, and prioritizing my expenses.

    I’d like to take risks travelling and exploring hobbies that have always interested me including singing, writing, vlogging/blogging, and podcasting.

  39. Juan

    The 3 areas I need to be stable are:
    Relationships with friends.
    My savings account

    And I would like to take more risks in me. I would like to spend more money on things I want, travel more

  40. Kate

    My Tripod of Stability:
    –My health
    –My finances
    –My genuinely close relationships

  41. Jane

    Wow. This is really eye-opening. I think my invisible script around this is: ‘there has to be a shortcut’. As in, a shortcut around the ‘boring’ pursuit of stability and STRAIGHT to the good, exciting, fun stuff.

    I think a lot of it has to do with a fear of getting trapped. The invisible script being ‘if I become a creature of comfort, I will never leave my shell.’ Give up creative pursuits, travel, etc.

    Hmm… and yet, the stress from instability slows down progress towards those shiny, more exciting pursuits. This article suggests I’m shooting myself in the foot with my impatience. And that slowing down to set up some basic fundamentals would actually get me to my goals faster.

    Looking forward to hearing more on Friday.

  42. Andrew Paterson

    1. Relationship with my wife
    2. Progressing my career
    3. Maintaining good mental health

    Risk area: Write my novel

  43. Carolynn

    1. My relationships, especially the ones I have with myself & God
    2. My business/checking account
    3. My health

  44. Gemma

    Family (stable)
    Health (stable)
    Community (almost non-existent)

  45. Johann

    This one is an eye-opener for me. I have tried a lot of things and failed in most(if not all) of the time. After evaluation these are the three things that matters most.
    1. My relationship with my family : I always wanted to spend more quality time with my wife and kids. Going to the beach and other amusement parks. And most importantly being able to guide my kids in their school lessons as well in their development.
    2. My Finances: Either I get it from my Job or freelancing, I want it to be constant and to a point that I wont be worrying how I could stretch my budget. I created my conscious spending plan based from your book (thanks by the way) and started to cut things out slowly. I am still starting on this and realized I want to earn more.
    3. Personal Development: in health and profession. I want to be happy in my terms and my family. I am still developing this and realize that I have many ways to go.

    And the thing I want to take more risks is being able to earn more, by selling things and freelancing or finding a better job. But before I could do this, I know I have to concentrate to stabilize my tripod first.

  46. Lissette

    1. GOD and my family relationships
    2. My finances (be able to save money)
    3. Paying off all our debt

    Risk area is my new online business. Although I am new to it, I have finally found something I can feel wonderful and happy about and it has opened me up to things I have not been able to accomplish before. I’d like to expand this area in time and be able to work on this FT to be able to give me more time with my daughter who has a learning disability.

  47. Colleen

    My connection to nature and the environment
    My health and exercise
    My home

    More Risk-It starting to build my .09 Photography job into a 100% career

  48. VParker

    My three foundational areas that need to be stable in order to branch out are:

    My family relationships with my husband and babies
    My self-awareness
    My home

  49. Dylon

    This was the most wonderful article to trip across. My dream is to become self-sufficient author of social conscious speculative fiction and part-time stand-up comedian. So to some extent it feels like the universe crafted this message just for me. Thanks Ramit. Like many others I’ve yet to stabilize my income stream and with your inspiration I feel as if I will surely be able to tackle the challenges that will allow me to stabilize what’s important to me while continually growing. When I’m rich I’ll be sure to buy all your products, for now all I can do is pass the positive energy forward and encourage everyone I know to check out

  50. Darren

    1. Family
    2. Money
    3. Self-development

    I believe I’ve got this in the right order. Self-development will enable me to go in the right direction and shift as necessary to live a rich life.

  51. Nina

    My tripod:

    My job
    My home (I’ve been moving around and living in other people’s houses)
    My body (fitness + health)

    Where I want to take risks:
    Blogging for real, not just in my journal

  52. Michelle h.

    Hey there, a little context first: I’m 22, recently graduated, and trying to find a job/source of income/career path/whatever. I am so not focused.
    So I guess my tripod is:
    1) relationships, family &friends
    2) enough income to live, save, put away for retirement, and travel
    3) A purpose. I need to work on stuff I care about.

    And what I want to take more risks on is putting myself put there.. networking and traveling.

    Thanks for the blog!

  53. rose

    You really hit the nail on the head. thanks a lot. my tripod is
    1. myself- feeling good as I do what makes me happy. (still grappling with what am good at)
    2. people in my life- good relations with family/friends/colleagues
    3. money -being secure

  54. Stephen Haran

    My three main areas of stability are –

    1. Home and home life with my family

    2. My business and its financial and personnel stability

    3. My birth family and their well-being

    My key goals for this year are all based on these three areas, aspects of each, or working to make them stronger, more expanded, more resilient etc.

    The area in which I would like to take more risks is in putting myself out there more, communicating with people, showing more of myself and what I represent.

  55. Darin

    2. Investments
    3. Studies
    3. Business

  56. Dirk

    Nice article! Besides that, comedians are supreme at the 3 elements of communication: content, timing and expression. By doing tryouts at gigs, they are gathering vital feedback to improve their performance. Something many marketeers still have to master ;).

  57. Marlise

    I love this question! For me, my tripod of stability has always been:

    1. Relationship with God
    2. Relationship with family (husband, children and immediate family)
    3. I used to think it was “vocation”, but now I know it’s health and wellbeing.

    I’m willing to start taking new risks when it comes to vocation. That’s why I signed up to ZTL. I also want to keep learning new things, not necessarily related to my vocation: gardening, crotcheting, vegan cooking, a new language… All things that enrich my life and hopefully the lives of those around me.

  58. Eric B e.z.

    Tripod of stability~

    1. Happiness
    2. Security
    3. Health & Fitness

    Risks I would like to take involve putting myself more completely in social situations elevating shyness.

    • Eric B e.z.

      Alleviating ^^^…..oops,

  59. SS

    1) home
    2) income
    3) fun!

    Risk Area: Business

  60. April

    This seems to me to be one of those things that is obvious when you’re reading it, but that many of us are probably not already thinking. Or, at least, it becomes more powerful when you have it articulated and become intentional about it. I know that my spiritual life, marriage and daily habits are very important areas for me, but thinking of these as my “tripod of stability” — there is just something powerful about that word picture. I think having this idea in mind can help those of us who need to learn to be better at risking because we see more clearly where we have safety to fall back on, and then the risk factor need not be so threatening.

    So, my tripod is:
    1. spiritual life and relationship with God
    2. marriage and family life
    3. daily habits that produce health in me and my loved ones

    I see that creating and maintaining stability in these areas will allow me to feel much more secure about risks in other things. As long as these areas are healthy, losses in the other areas won’t seem so deep. I want to build a creative brand and business of my own, but like everyone, I get so scared about it, but even the worst case scenario there won’t shipwreck these three things, and I will still be OK.

    This is so good for keeping perspective!!

    • April

      Oh, I forgot to add my areas of risk!

      Right now, it is:

      Creativity – especially creating to share with others and bring them value. What if they don’t see any value there? But what if they do?! I have to believe that what I see in my mind is there because someone out there will find value in it, once I create and bring it to them.

  61. Hilari

    Tripod of stability

    1. Health (physical and mental)
    2. Relationships (most importantly, with my husband and teenage son)
    3. Quality of service to clients

    A couple of comments on 2 and 3 the tripod. (Item 1 is obvious.) Most of the work on item two happened when I picked my life partner. (I have made lots of dumb decisions in life, but this one I got right!) But with a child and a job, it’s a common mistake to let that relationship slide. So I am careful to nurture my relationship with my life partner on a daily basis. As for my son, I started working half time when he entered kindergarten, so that I could devote my full attention to his education after school. As a result, he is now in pre-college program at a music conservatory and a world class boys’ chorus, he has read more works of great world literature than most college graduates, is getting great grades in school, and is a happy, well adjusted middle schooler. Having this after school time with him has been an amazing luxury, and I am grateful for it. But soon, I want to start making up for the financial hit we have taken because of my reduced work schedule.

    As for item 3, I haven’t done marketing so far. (Though I may in the future). All of my business comes from referrals from clients and colleagues who know my work.

    Area of risk: I want to expand my practice and hire staff. My son will be going to college in five years, which will free up a huge amount of my time, so I want to plan for this.

  62. garv suri


  63. Sérgio P. B.

    1- Health
    2- Job
    3- Relationships

    Area of risk: having a side income.

  64. Jodie

    This is such an excellent concept for personal reflection and assessment. You’ve really made me stop and think.

    I’m in the middle of taking some massive life ‘risks’ at the moment. To summarise… My fiancé and I are launching an online business together, in a totally new field of work, all while we’re backpacking around the world (currently in Turkey). We have no family around us, no friends, no stable income, we don’t speak the language (I’m studying, but I have a lot further to go) and we have no prior business experience. We’re down to our last couple of thousand dollars, we’re on the opposite side of the world to home, and we don’t know where we’re going next.

    When I look at it like this, it seems like a hell of a lot of risk. And yet, I don’t feel unstable. So your question has me thinking – if I don’t feel unstable, what’s my tripod? It’s not home, it’s not my job, it’s not immediate community, it’s not my car or financial situation.

    My whole life, I’ve actually always been a risk taker. It comes naturally. So I think my tripod comes from something deeper…

    1. My sense of self. Trust in who I am. Self-love. Which I honestly beleives comes from…
    2. My parents/family. No matter where I go on this planet, what I do, what mistakes I make, there’s a little patch of home waiting for me, with two people who love me unconditionally. And even when they’re gone, that ‘place’ will still be there – the loving, compassionate way I was raised means that tripod leg can never be taken away from me.
    3. My trust in the world – that people are, for the most part, inhernetly good, that there’s incredible amounts of abundance and joy when we look in the right places, and that there are true miracles of existance everywhere (I mean evolution, the big bang, and the incredible complexity of chemical reactions happening in your body every second – it’s mind-blowing, non?)

    So thanks for this little inner reflection. Recognising it, especially in this ‘risky’ time of my life helps me to feel even better about our new venture and it’s unknown-ness.

    This is my first time on your blog, but oh, I’ll be back. So much more than just ‘personal finance’, which I’ll be honest, was what I was expecting.

    True insightful and inspired thinking, Ramit. Rock on.

    In gratitude,

  65. Hudson Handel

    1. Job
    2. Home
    3. Personal Relationships

    I would like the ability to risk enough to open my own CrossFit affiliate.

  66. R

    Interesting way of looking at things. I have been building areas of stability as steps to enable me to get to the next thing i want to work on. For instance, creating a budget to pay off debt and build savings. Paying off debt meant I could afford to join a program to lose weight. Losing weight to gain confidence and energy to improve my health and overall happiness. Each step leading to the next. ” Ok, now I’m going to focus on __________. Tackle that and move on.
    I had not taken into consideration that already having a stable job, and place to live, and a minimum of personal drama ( my tripod) gave me the ability to deal with these issues.
    In the end I am wanting to change my job. Whether to transfer location, change the way I cope with my job, change industries completely, or going for a masters. Or a combination

  67. Nkechizalu

    My tripod stability are


    I would like to take a risk in online business

  68. Zach

    3 areas that need to become more stable:

    – my job
    – my friends (who I hang out with and enjoy being around)
    – my COUNTRY (need to get back home and put down some roots)

    1 area I want to take more risks:

    My art. I want to have disposable income to pay for private tutors in cartooning, music theory, etc. And I want to share my work and TEST what resonates with different audiences.

    Can’t f-in wait.

  69. leslie

    Tripod of stability:
    1. Personal Wealth (assets, recurring income, savings, etc.)
    2. My family’s health and happiness (what’s the point if you have no one to share it with)
    3. Leisure Time (if I have enough, well then, sky’s the limit on what one can do with oneself)

  70. Marjolein

    Thank you Ramith. My tripod is:

    1. Love for myself
    2. Love for all the people in my life
    3. Love for all the things I see or use and activities I do

    Challenges for me:
    Start networks of women who garden, create jewelry or clothes or other beautiful things creating their living while at the same time learn to respect and love themselves by teaching and with activities like singing. In India or other places.


  71. Carola

    What a great concept! Made me realise that my trinity of stability is my home, my family and my finances. But having just started my business the latter isn’t stable at all, and that’s very scary and makes me take less risks with my new business – but playing safe is never going to create the business I want it to be. So risks I will take in order to stabilise my finances through my business ☺

  72. Aminah

    Thank you for a thought provoking article.

    My tripod of stability:
    1) My Husband
    2) Friends + Family
    3) Personal Wealth (Savings, Paying down Debt, Investing)

    An area I would like to take more risk:
    Have the guts to create an online business to create passive income and do what I love.

  73. Russell

    1) Relationships
    2) Finances
    3) Home

    I am stable in all of these areas.. So wtf have i not signed up for ZTL yet???

  74. Iris

    The first tripod that comes to mind is:

    1. My net worth
    2. My freedom (i.e. indepence)
    3. My intelligence

    Maybe I’ll find different values after thinking about it for longer. The list is interlinked – having a positive and growing net worth means that I have the freedom to choose a path in life, not being forced into a job or location or even dependance on others. This approach comes forth out of intelligence – boy, does that sound arrogant… – because that enabled me to look at life and consider all my option, in the end choosing for the challenge rather than routine.

    It does feel like relationships need to be part of this – I have to work on building a solid foundation, so that the strength of my relationships will overpower one of the current tripod legs. Expanding relationship values will also make my tripod less solitary, less me-focused and more planted into the world around.

  75. ALM

    I’d like more stability in these areas:
    1. My home
    2. My 2 yr old daughter’s complete and healthy growth
    3. My time management

    I’d like to risk more at work and get what I’m worth and have earned… or just be strong enough to walk away if more money to be more stable in life is not an option.

  76. Laura

    1. Taking care of my health. Routines are well established here, but that doesn’t mean there’s less of a commitment to reinforce, merely that I’ve got the systems in place here. For me these include: attending weight watchers meeting every week no matter what, biking to work, practicing yoga, eating mountains of produce, and getting enough sleep.
    2. My kids. Loving them is a no brainer. Nurturing them into becoming good human beings- that I’m working on.
    3. Financial fitness. I can support my family. I save for retirement and emergencies.
    Risk: I’d like to make more money and have more fun doing so!
    I’d like to be more engaged in my community.
    Peace, all!

  77. Caren

    1. Relationship with God
    2. Job
    3. Finances

    Doing my own business

  78. Kai

    Thank you Ramit for the article. I did not realize it but I already have my Tripod of Stability. I’ve been giving excuses for not being really brave/persistent in chasing my business goals.

    1. Job- Well paid, excellent perks, and tasks that are fulfilling
    2. Wife- Engaged to a virgin and married her (!), similar background and likes, very responsible spouse
    3. Car & Home- Big car, and new home.

    No debts except for mortgage and car loan. Not even from marriage; just married last year.

    All finances automated. Emergency fund for 6 months, retirement fund contribution (11%), employer matching (+17%), monthly savings into investments (40%), tithing to charities (4%), pay over the monthly requirement for the mortgage.

    You already sense I am Asian. *nods at Ramit*

    My question- Ramit says he reads every email. I’ve yet to receive a reply to my email (sent 1+ years ago) on how to succeed in a third world environment. I asked about how to sell B2B. This year is the the Year of More- so privately email to me already.

  79. Dave

    I watched that HBO special, too. It is really eye-opening to see inside the process these guys go through. Having the confidence you can only get from expecting to fail is a powerful thing!

  80. Grace

    Oh, I feel SO sad about this. I don’t have a tripod of stability. I’m highly creative and innovative, but highly unstable. It requires enormous effort to maintain stability, but I crave for it. Perhaps, my tripod of stability consists of the things I am passionate about. They are my interests. My knowledge funds. Help :/

  81. Gina

    1. My home. 2. My partner. 3. My health. Would love (and am) taking risks with my safe, little (and barely profitable) business of ten years. Thank you for this clarification.

  82. Doug

    My tripod of stability:

    Emotional health

    A calm and soothing home environment

    Combined Exercise and concentration outlets like mountain biking, skiing and whitewater kayaking that keep my mind sharp and balanced through achieving flow states.

    1 Area I could use more instability: relationships and pursuing shared experience.

  83. mark tilden

    My Tripod:

    1) Steady solid income
    2) Own my own home
    3) Regular excercise

    Area I need to risk: my fear to execute

  84. Russell James

    I love that conversation between those comedians you linked to. I tried my hand at a comedy course here in London once and it was the most awesome experience.

    One thing I did learn is that some people are taking comedy very seriously and are out there 5 to 7 nights a week, refining their act.

    From this post, I’ve realised I’m risking pretty big in every area. . .no wonder I’m spread too thin.

    The tripod I’m committed to getting right:

    1. My relationship
    2. My Finances
    3. My business

    If those 3 are solid, I’m a different person.

  85. Ian Martinez

    What a fascinating concept. Get the big things absolutely right and don’t sweat the small stuff, rather, use the lesser experiences as Charles Kettering described: “finger posts on the road to success.”

    My tripod is built on these supportive “legs”:

    1. The ability to build and maintain meaningful and coherent relationships.
    2. The ability to build and maintain multiple streams of income that are location independent.
    3. The ability to understand and implement proven strategies that will enable me to retain more of my earned and accumulated income, and use it to build wealth.

    Clearly, I have many other important goals stacked high upon the tripod, but building this solid and strong foundation would sustain them all.