Today is my birthday. Wisdom from 33-year-old Ramit

Ramit Sethi

Today is my 33rd birthday and I’d like to celebrate myself.

This year, my greatest accomplishment was not the tens of thousands of new students, or flying our entire team to Vegas for an awesome retreat, or launching an Instagram page where I post nutty emails from readers.

No. It was getting accused of using steroids. For a guy who used to weigh 127lbs, I’ve never felt so proud.


This is the best moment of my life. This random redditor accuses me of using steroids (PEDs = performance-enhancing drugs) because of how I look. It hurt my feelings so much I started crying at the gym

I also wrote some of my favorite posts in IWT history.

Stop wasting time on minor life decisions
Stop agonizing over optimizing small decisions that will have no meaningful impact on your life. Pick something and move on.

The Seagull Theory
How to listen for subtle “tremors” that point to surprising areas of life to explore.

How I spent over $50,000 on luxury services last year
How to go from saying you want more to actually making it happen (check out the image).

Surprising math of a dream vacation
How to afford your dream vacation in one year.

7 lessons after running IWT for 10 years

Second, the IWT team has expanded way beyond personal finance.

Finally, I started to tackle something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

On a recent Reddit AMA and a recent interview, I talked about how I haven’t done enough to give back to charity.

One of the interesting things about growing up in Indian culture is the expectation of service. For example, when I got into college, suddenly my parents told 20 of their friends to send their kids to our house so I could help them with their college essays.

  • Mom and Dad: “We invited Sukhjeet, Buljeet, Karamjit, Surinder, Jatinder, and Karminder you can help them get into college. ”
  • Indian Kid wants to say: “Mom, I don’t want to do this. I have to study for my AP test”
  • Indian Kid realizes he has no choice and says: “Ok Mom”

Growing up in that culture, it became normal to give back. But for the past few years, I’ve been heads-down building a company and, if I’m honest, I haven’t given back as much as I want.

My common reasoning was, “I already give away 98% of my stuff free. I have to pick my battles. I can’t do everything at once.”

But this is kind of stupid and it ignores my YES AND YES Principle: I believe if you ask, “Should I do X or Y?” a lot of the time, the answer is YES and YES: Yes, do X AND do Y.

With my birthday coming up, I found myself thinking about what my parents have always said:


“A year from now, you’ll be a year older. What are you going to do?”


I realized that with IWT, we’ve built one of the most amazing communities in the world.

ramitbirthdaypoststudentsThe IWT community in 2015: cooking classes, a shooting range, microbrewery tour, tons of other meetups around the world

Imagine what would happen if we directed our energy and resources towards helping other people for just a few minutes? Imagine how much good we could do.

I decided that since education has been one of the biggest influences in my life — from my parents teaching me about spelling bees, to learning from my mentors (BJ Fogg at Stanford and Jay Abraham)– I want to do give back consistently.

So I’m starting with education. I believe every person deserves access to an amazing education. And where you start in life shouldn’t dictate where you finish.

That’s why this month, the entire IWT team created a Pencils of Promise campaign to help fund schools around the world.

We’ve already raised $201,013, which builds 8 schools and helps to change hundreds of kids’ lives forever.


And because of IWT’s size, we can go beyond a normal donation: We’re matching 2-to-1 up to $100,000. That means if you donate $100, we’ll donate $200, automatically tripling your impact,  for a total donation of $300. (One person donated $14,500. We matched it 2-to-1 for an almost $50,000 donation.)

This is an unheard-of match. But because of IWT’s size and the success of our business, we can afford to do it. More importantly, I want to do it. This is the very best use of “leverage” possible: giving back to people who need it.

For my birthday, I normally ask you to share your successes with using IWT’s material (like in past years here, here, and here). But this year, I’m not asking for anything for myself. The only thing I want is your help in giving back.

If you’ve been following along with IWT and you’ve gotten any value out of my material, you know the power that education can have.

Let’s spread the benefit of education to the rest of the world.

Take a look at this video they just surprised me with this morning:

We’re closing donations today, so if you’re interested, we’d love to have your help to spread education to the world.

Click here to donate and get a 2-to-1 match from IWT.

Thanks for reading.


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