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Ramit Sethi

A friend of mine started a magazine on fear a few years ago. Every month, she would interview someone and ask them about their fears — what was holding them back, how they overcame them, etc. One time she asked to interview me, and I just stared at her, blinking. I didn’t really have any fears — or at least I thought so. She pressed me: “Come on, Ramit. Everyone has fears.” But I genuinely couldn’t think of any.

It took me years to figure out why I was being so stupid. I used to think fear was actually a physical, animalistic sensation of rapid heartbeats and quick breathing. And we don’t live in an era of large animals chasing us down, so what’s there to fear? But what I’ve finally realized is our fears are much more insidious and pernicious.

I actually crave stability in most parts of my life, so I created a concept I call the Tripod of Stability:

This basically means that I try to keep the big things in my life ultra-stable — car, where I live, relationships — so I can afford to be ultra-aggressive about other things. This alone has had a huge effect on my ability to take on risky and new projects all the time.

But this manifests in REALLY weird ways in my life.

For example, I HATE eating alone. I’ve gone to a sit-down restaurant alone once, and I was literally sweating. I just get weirdly self-conscious. Same with going to the movies alone. When I find someone who does this, I’m like a kid meeting an alien. “Do you buy popcorn? Where do you sit? Do you feel sad?” I ask them questions and they stare at me.

Once, during college, I went to interview at this hedge fund in San Francisco. During interviews, I’m notorious for asking tons of questions about weird lifestyle issues — all essentially designed to figure out if I’m going to have to eat alone at lunch.

So when the first half of the interview day wrapped up, they said, “Well, we’ll see you in an hour! There are some lunch places downstairs.” They left me to fend for myself in my ill-fitting suit. I sat on a park bench outside and wanted to cry. Then I realized I was interviewing for a highly lucrative position where I would fly around and take CEOs out to ballgames and try to extract information from them, and I realized I had it pretty good. That last sentence did not happen on that forlorn park bench.

Same thing with my gym: When I switched gyms a year ago, do you know what made me most nervous? It was the LOCKER ROOM. Where are the lockers? What if I don’t know how to fit my lock into the locker? Will they have towels? Weird stuff like this.

The point is: THESE ARE ALL FEARS! They’re hidden behind polite phrases (“Will I feel self-conscious about eating alone?”) but ultimately, deep down, they were me being scared.

I WANTED to get a job. I WANTED to work out at this new gym. But I had these heavy anchors on my mind, expressing themselves through inane concerns.

How many of us have these fears?


This is so obvious to most people, but as a guy who’s always been able to be calm and stay focused, it actually surprised me to realize that even I have fears. Not the rapid breathing, sweating kind of fears…but the kind of cerebral fears that smart people have (yet rarely admit to having).

Some are just weird and silly, like my fear of my lock fitting in the new locker.

But some are serious and detrimental…like fear of failure.

Or the fears of…

  • Saying the wrong thing (“I know I should meet more people…I’ll just do that later though…”)
  • Never believing in yourself (“There’s no way I could do that…)
  • Investing in yourself (Q: “When was the last time you enrolled in a course after college to learn something?” A: “Never”)

Would your 18-year-old version recognize you? What would he say to you?

See, we don’t start life off thinking of the ways to LIMIT ourselves. But in time, those fears grow and grow, slowly taking over our unbridled ambitions until we say things like:

  • “It’s fine, I didn’t really want that anyway…”
  • “That would be cool, but I don’t have time…”
  • “Yeah he did it, but he has (a degree from a better school / is better-looking / is more socially skilled / other reason)”

Now, 3 questions for you:

  1. What are you afraid of? This is a tough one. As recently as a few years ago, I would not have been able to answer it.
  2. How are your fears holding you back? Be specific.
  3. What have you specifically done in the last week, month, or even 3 months to overcome this fear? This should take you at least 60 seconds to answer.

A week ago, I told all the “info addicts” to get off my list. My peers — a lot of whom subscribe to my email list — were shocked. One wrote, “Feeling aggressive today?” That’s because in my field, you never, EVER tell your subscribers to unsubscribe — it’s like lighting money on fire.

But I’m playing an entirely different game — just like I’ve been teaching you. I can afford to tell wannabes and skimmers to get the hell off my list, because I’m only interested in writing for people who are ready to take action even if they’re afraid. And when they do…they get results like THIS:

LiClick to watch Dream Job students share their success stories

This Dream Job Success Stories site is brand new, by the way. I thought you’d like to see what it looks like to see ordinary people who took control of their lives. Watch the videos and read their stories. It’s fascinating.

I’m looking for people who ACKNOWLEDGE they have fears (like it took me so many years to do)…and then are willing to take action.

When I asked people who hadn’t taken action to unsubscribe, many left. In fact, my analyst sent me data showing that we had TWICE the normal unsubscribe rate. Other people who have email lists would be depressed. I was happy. Those people don’t want to be here, and I don’t want to waste their time. It was the right thing to do.

We started the month off by fixing our biggest productivity mistakes. We learned about simple social skills and practiced them. Then we took them to the professional level and I showed you actual teardowns with real students, where I gently corrected them from speaking too fast…rambling…oversmiling…and even being too aggressive.

Today, I’m taking things to another level again.

After this post, this blog is going quiet for a while. That’s because I’m giving 100% of my attention to my email subscribers and I’m sending them two weeks of amazing new material.

I’ll be giving them a level of attention I’ve never given my blog readers — all because they took action by subscribing.

That means they’ll be getting…

  • A private webinar with direct access to ask me questions (and get answers to their specific questions)
  • A word-for-word teardown of the actual resume that got me job offers at Google and other top companies.
  • A sneak peek at an entire module from my Dream Job program on how to land a $5,000 raise
  • How to avoid the classic mistakes I’ve made in networking, interviews, and even figuring out what my Dream Job is

If you’ve been enjoying this material, I’ve only given you 2% of what I have to offer. I WANT to share more…but you have to do something for me, too.

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