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This is a really weird thing that people do

Ramit Sethi

If you want to see an insane example of people telling you to settle in life, look no further!

Your Surrogate Asian Father, Ramit, combs the internet, to find examples of internet nutcases who think it’s OK to be mediocre at life. I don’t allow that shit.

For example, my mom used to ask me why I got a 97% on a test. It sucked back then, but in retrospect, it taught me how to push myself harder.

Here’s a post I stumbled across and couldn’t stop reading. In it, a woman asks this:

“I have a weird problem and I’m not really sure where to talk about it…Everything I do, I do it 90%. I’m a knitter and a crafter, and I went to art school. I’m fully capable of putting my all into everything I do and being wildly successful, but I get up to about 90% before I crap out and give up or cut back. I started weightlifting – again, the same thing. I started cycling and the same thing happened.

Basically, I want to be a hardcore motherfucker at anything I want – I want to ride my bike 60 miles a week and be hardcore. I want to knit 60 socks a year. I want to work hard and party harder, basically, but I have no fucking energy.”

What do you think the reaction is? Do people give her advice on how to build her energy, or master her inner psychology, or use systems to improve her life?


They tell her she’s overreacting and she should be happy with life. Why try harder? That’s a lot of work.

NEGATIVE NANCY COMMENT #1: “So you basically want to be a robot? Or superwoman? I’m only half joking! What actually makes you happy? These are perfectly valid reasons not to overextend yourself. Don’t burn yourself out. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

NEGATIVE NANCY COMMENT #2: “Giving 90% is plenty. Would you pour exactly 12 ounces of soda into a 12-oz cup? Should a 150-lb climber trust a rope with a 150-lb max? If you are giving 100%, you have no margin for error. It means that if anything else gets put on your plate, you’ve got nothing.
Also, life is filled with competing demands. You can’t put 100% into any one thing (because that would mean you had 0% left for everything else).”

NEGATIVE NANCY COMMENT #3: “90% is great. I hit 100% and burn out if I get that high. I have so many things I wish I could do and want to try to do but I usually hit 1% and quit out of boredom.”

Guys, are you fucking kidding me?

Notice what’s happening: People are telling her to be SATISFIED with herself…even though she’s not happy!

This person WANTS to improve, to become “hardcore,” and when she asks for advice, people tell her to stop wanting more.

Can you imagine if someone said she wanted to lose weight, and everyone around her said, “You look fine”?

Or if someone said, “I want to get into an amazing college,” and his parents said, “Why bother applying? You won’t get in any way.”

Actually, YES! A lot of us CAN imagine it because we have people around us who would rather we settle for safety than excellence.

I learned how to channel my frustration into personal development by surrounding myself with successful people. They taught me the ways they approached productivity, money, dating, entrepreneurship, education, even failure.

I listened to what they said, but I also studied what they did. And as I did, Jim Rohn’s quote became even more true: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Now I want to share their advice with you. I’ve found myself in the fortunate position of having friends who are CEOs, New York Times journalists, Navy SEALs, fashion designers, and a bunch of other weird, awesome people.

And through the wonderful power of this email list, where I usually treat these emails as a chance to tell dirty jokes and share embarrassing Instagram pictures, now I get the chance to share what they taught me.

So over the next few weeks, stay tuned. I have never-before-released material coming your way that I can’t wait to share.

The key thing to remember is this:

It doesn’t matter if you live in Kansas or Barcelona. This is the beauty of being alive in 2014 — you can have access to the best people no matter where you live, no matter how old you are, no matter what.


NO MORE LETTING PEOPLE AROUND YOU SAY, “Oh, why bother? You should be happy.”

Are those the people you want to surround yourselves with? Or do you want something more?

Talk to you soon.

P.S. Some articles that inspired my decision to share this advice with you:

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  1. avatar

    I had a whole load of negative Nancy comments ready! I was exhausted reading about what she wanted to achieve – but then we don’t all want the same things. I went through an enjoyable phase of learning reiki, doing workshops for women, creative art, etc.. but everything was about accepting yourself and working through stuff. After a while it was driving me nuts!
    Looking forward to the emails!!

  2. avatar
    Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Ramit,

    Wonderful! I just found your inspired blog 5 minutes ago. Bookmarked. Seared on mind. Follower, 4 eva, lol!

    This message kinda resonates with me. By like, 90%, ha! J/k of course…..because I just flew for 25 hours from Bali to New Jersey. We’ve been circling the globe for 44 straight months. I am Blogging from Paradise. Literally. We did Thailand, Fiji for 4 months, and Bali over this past year. Pretty sweet, right?

    During this past trip I published 10 eBooks in a 4 month period. I also received backing – i.e.s, pulled the wool over – the eyes of a NY Times Best Selling Author, twice, and I achieved some other neat things in terms of features/rewards, etc…..all related to my blog and lifestyle.

    Honest to goodness Ramit, all this stuff happened WELL outside of my comfort zone. Hell, all of it did! I may have screwed up along the way, and continue to do so, but on my tombstone, it won’t say, “He gave 95%, some of the time, but at least he didn’t suffer from burnout :)”

    I figure that if you enjoy your ride, and sneak out of your comfort zone daily, and more than anything, fall in love with the idea of being free, you can do the average, ho hum things I’ve done, like, going from a laid off, broke-azz security guard who travels the world as a full time, island-hopping, pro blogger.

    I resonate 135% with this post. I added extra to 100%, to make up for readers reading this, who are afraid of burning out 😉

    Thanks Ramit for kicking butts! So happy I found your blog today 🙂


  3. avatar

    Those comments are disappointing, but not surprising. Often people who leave comments (as people do in real life) try to empathize with the poster rather than thinking about what they need and to speak harshly/bluntly to them if that’s what they need.

    Whilst she is complaining about not being able to become 100%, she clearly isn’t asking how to become 80% or 50%, which is what these comments suggest.

    Like you say, she needs people around her who will tell her how (and why) to get more energy or enthusiasm to jump that final hurdle! This is why surrounding ourselves with the right kind of people has such an impact on our results. Even if its only via following your blog, I’m happy that I’m surrounding myself with you Ramit when I read “are you fucking kidding me?” – they were my thoughts exactly!

  4. avatar

    I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for posting this. I’ve already shared it with folks.

  5. avatar

    I don’t completely disagree with the Negative Nancys. The woman posting has a job she loves and gives 100% to, although it is demanding. She has a part-time seasonal job that makes good money but wears her out. Yet, she wants to give 100% to knitting, and to cycling (like her boyfriend) and weight-lifting (like her boyfriend). Later in the comments she says the boyfriend is using performance-enhancing drugs that are not healthy. Maybe she feels like she’s not giving 100% because these are not things she really wants to do, just things she thinks she’s supposed to do. Or maybe she is giving 100%, it just doesn’t look like his 100% because of the artificial methods he’s using. Meanwhile, he is giving 100% each to work, school, cycling, and lifting with no days off. I think they BOTH need to figure out what they really WANT to do, because they might not even be doing it.

  6. avatar

    In general, this is a line to walk. If you don’t care about something, but just need it to get done, it is absolutely acceptable to do 85%. If you are doing too many banal, worthless tasks, you will burn out. You rarely hear about people burning out who do crazy, amazing things with their lives. I am coming to notice in my life that it isn’t putting in the effort that burns me out, it’s pretending to care about things I don’t care about. Giving 100% to something worthwhile is rewarding and refreshing, while giving 50% to something that is a waste of my life makes me fall asleep in my chair.

  7. avatar

    I would make the kid take a gap year and make her prove herself. Or, at least show me facts about what she will be willing to do when she is in school and after she graduates.

  8. avatar

    “Whilst she is complaining about not being able to become 100%, she clearly isn’t asking how to become 80% or 50%, which is what these comments suggest.”

    Yes…and you know why those people are suggesting that she become 80% (or even lower)? It’s because their own standards are low. They can’t even fathom getting to her current level, much less the “hardcore” ideal the OP is trying to reach.

    It’s getting past empathy at this point and heading into the subtle sabotage category.

  9. avatar
    Mark Lilly

    While we’re at it, why go 90%? You could go 80% and save that extra 10% energy for something else you probably won’t use it on.

  10. avatar
    William Cosentino

    Hey Ryan, nice to see you, it’s been awhile!! Ramit is a badass and I love his work.
    Great accomplishments you’ve done since we first met. Congrats man!

  11. avatar
    William Cosentino

    In many cultures, pushing ourselves to be our best is foreign. I hear lots of people say “just do your best”. What the fuck does that mean? It’s such a generic statement with no real meaning. Someone might be doing 1/2 ass work and think it’s “their best”.

    How about we get around influential people who are on their game and follow them. Like the Jim Rohn quote you mentioned. THANK the heaven’s I learned that concept awhile back otherwise I’d still be living “average” and mediocre. Center of influence and getting uncomfortable are two critical components to kicking ass.

    Thanks for this post!

  12. avatar
    Steve Kobrin

    Excellent, excellent point. The people with whom you surround yourself can bring either the best or the worst out in you. You pick your influences.

  13. avatar

    This is exactly what I needed today thanks for the great article! You remind us to keep kicking ass I cannot wait for the new articles!!

  14. avatar

    It all comes down to setting goals for yourself, CREATING A PLAN, and then executing THAT 100%. I think the original commenter claims are achievable. She wants to ride 60 miles, great, create a training program using an app that will give you a schedule to achieve that. Same thing with knitting goals. If you want something, FOCUS on that, create a plan, and then kick that plan’s butt!

  15. avatar

    “Your Surrogate Asian Father, Ramit, combs the internet, to find examples of internet nutcases who think it’s OK to be mediocre at life. I don’t allow that shit.”

    That’s hysterical, Love it! No one should allow that shit. Give it your all or don’t do it at all.

  16. avatar
    Dan J.

    I agree. Ramit says ‘Can you imagine if someone said she wanted to lose weight, and everyone around her said, “You look fine”?’ Well, that depends. If someone weighs 250 pounds and wants to lose weight, then absolutely encourage them. But if someone weighs 150 pounds (or whatever’s appropriate for their height/frame) and does indeed look fine, then why shouldn’t I tell them that? If someone is trying to get into Yale and they have a middle-of-the-road GPA and average SAT scores, there’s nothing wrong with trying to temper their expectations. Sure, apply if you want but realize that you very likely are NOT going to get accepted and make sure you apply to other schools where you have a realistic chance of success.

  17. avatar

    if the original asker of the question wanted sympathy/empathy, she got some from the sob sisters of the negative nancys. that said, if you read the comments in the source link, not all of them are as bad as those Ramit excerpted.

    it sounds like this woman is having trouble with self-manangment & energy-management. none of the nns asked more on-point questions like “where’s you diet at?” “are you getting enough sleep?” “what ELSE is going on in your life?” there is one commenter who mention nutritional supplements. however it’s kind of funny how the neg nancys, in their quest to be empathetic, miss out on what she’s asking about in her post.

    “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” i think General George Patton said that. and his life was pretty hardcore. or at least he had it together and was most busy with some pretty damned meaningful stuff!

    but what is this ‘hardcore’ thing? that definition seems best summed up as portrayed in most nike commecials since the 1990s. the truth of such is, A the hardcore portrayed is compressed into a 30-90 minute tv spot. B. in real life that athlete’s hardcore is spread out over many hours of many days which they are working very hard by themselves. the ten minutes of stadium cheers in that athlete’s life is balanced by hours/days/months of workout introspection ALONE.

    to me, the best definition of ‘hardcore’ would be getting up earlier than i’d otherwise like, knowing where i’m supposed to be for every hour of the day until i get to bed a little later than i’d like. and in meeting someone new: seatmate on train, someone in line at coffee place, person at party, that i have something i can enthusiastically share about to most people as to what i’m involved in & why.

    the definition of ‘hardcore’ as put forth by a nike commercial or such is likely a fantasy & anyone who tries to live by that will either collapse in exhaustion or simply be really unhappy with themselves.

  18. avatar
    City Gardener

    Perhaps those things she wants to be great at don’t really interest her, and she needs to find her passion. It’s great to try things…until you find something you can throw your whole heart into. Try things! And don’t stop trying things, because it it likely you’ll be learning things and gaining skills, which will make you more ready for whatever that thing is when you are ready for it, at which point, it will you on fire, and it will be a joy to do it 100%
    As someone who liked lots of different things but didn’t master any, but got set on fire an activity at age 50 and am throwing myself into master, if you notice that you don’t want to do more than 90% , move on (unless it’s your Masters or PhD, you should just get that over with, LOL!) , but keep the learning with you. There are very few things I tried that I don’t use in this thing that is now my passion. Keep trying things until the fit is good – it’s fun.

  19. avatar
    Sara Korn

    I completely agree Evar. Doing work that you enjoy and that challenges you in a good way makes you feel invigorated. Doing work that is a drag feels much harder than it actually is. I think the person who asked the question (wanting to go above 90%) hasn’t hit on what really inspires her yet. And apparently, neither have those Negative Nancys!

  20. avatar

    This is good stuff. I’m 31, haven’t really focused on anything for mastery, and I’m starting go get the hang of the fact that the many things I’ve left behind are constantly contributing to the things I’m working on now. It’s not the wasted time that it seems – I have to look at the big picture and realize that I’ve been laying a foundation for what’s ahead, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

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  22. avatar

    Story of my life, being a peak performer and knowing I can do better, wanting to do better, wanting to move my skills to another level.
    “Quit being so hard on yourself!!!”
    “Progress not Perfection”
    “Be Happy that you even showed up”
    All of which is fine and dandy, I get it, I would have liked to have heard something like, “Ok, let’s try doing this” or “Do you think maybe you can take something away that would improve your performance?” Or “Ok, let me see what you got, and then we can assess where you can improve!” Those are the words that I will move people to move mountains, If I want to helo-drop for some epic skiing, I must get off the bunny slopes