What I believe but cannot say

Ramit Sethi

I want to write a book called What I Believe But Cannot Say.

It would contain all the things I believe, but can’t say because they’re too politically incorrect.

You know what I’m talking about. Take your single friend who really wants to meet someone, but is perennially confused why s/he is still single. It’s obvious to you and it’s obvious to everyone — maybe they’re too picky. Maybe they dress like a Victorian hobo. But you can’t say anything.

I actually sent a text message to 10,000 people asking them some things THEY believe but cannot say.

“What I Believe But Cannot Say” (text responses from IWT readers):

  • “Too many people assume monogamy is the only option.”
  • “Having a sex partner for the sole purpose of getting better at sex is okay.”
  • “Women who want to dominate their men cannot truly be happy.”
  • “People saying they don’t have time to do XYZ are really saying they don’t care enough to make time.”
  • “In relationships, almost invariably, one person is more in love than the other. I’ve been on both sides. It’s rare to find two people who are both at the exact same level of love, commitment, whatever.”

Personally, I LOVE this topic. Here are some other kernels of truth I want to write about one day:

  • Why 90% of Redditors believe they have social anxiety…but they really don’t
  • Why your future kids will dump you in an old-folks’ home
  • Why your metabolism is not the reason you’re overweight (give me a fucking break)
  • Why your “sleep problem” is really too much caffeine and laptops
  • Why it would be better to apply 1 book than read 20

That last one is a big shout-out to all the people who have been reading blog post after blog post for 5+ years…yet do nothing!

I would rather read — and apply — 1 book than sit comfortably by a fireplace and read 20. In fact, you’ll notice that some people use “I need to learn more” as an excuse to not take action.

Next time somebody tells you they’re learning a lot (about diet/exercise/dating/money/whatever) ask yourself two questions:

  1. Has this person implemented anything they learned 6 months ago?
  2. Is there an obvious next step they’re avoiding — because learning feels safer?

This is like my friend who understands all the differences between Paleo and Atkins and Whole30…but is still overweight.

“I’m learning a lot” is like a social shield for smart people. It lets you SEEM to be progressing. After all, who could look down on learning? Learning is amazing!

But learning and changing are two different things. If we’re not careful, “learning” becomes endless avoidance of the work in front of us.

That’s why I loved a recent interview with John Paul DeJoria (the billionaire owner of Paul Mitchell hair products and Petron Premium Tequila.)

My favorite part is when the interviewer asks: “So, John, how did you learn to be a successful entrepreneur?”

John’s response:

“I don’t think it’s learning how to be a successful entrepreneur. I think it’s being able to DO something and know you have the ability to do it. The human race — all of you — have the ability to do 10x – 15x more than you’re doing right now.”



First, imagine the indignation of your friend — who complains about his “crazy week” on Facebook — after you tell him he’s capable of 10x more. Please email me when you do this.

Second, notice how John could’ve listed a bunch of business books. Or that Teddy Roosevelt quote everyone says. But he didn’t. Instead he told the truth: entrepreneurship is about demanding more of yourself. Not mind-mapping. Not some new customer retention tool. Sheer hard work over thousands of hours.

You can’t get this interview publicly yet. Luckily, my mentor (Jay Abraham) got permission for us to listen early. I think it’ll be the most eye-opening hour of your week.

Listen at 3:42.


P.S. Just for fun: What do YOU believe that you cannot say? Leave a comment and tell me.

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  1. zayn

    “Its ok to have sex before marriage”. Grew up in a South Asian household, lost my virginity at 24 and was a bit dissapointed because it was nothing big. To all my South Asian people, its ok to have a girlfriend while you are in college and highschool. You can do both, have a girlfriend and get good grades.

    • Aleena

      “Because it was nothing big.” Pun intended? Ha!

  2. Alhaji Mahama

    Those who do not care initially ,care about end. Because they used their life time roughly as they are notice something they become last so they used their rest life to work. Which is not good . There is time for work and time for rest(enjoyment).

  3. MJ

    There is too much focus on getting good grades. It makes people prepare for approval from the outside. Once they then leave education, they are not prepared for failure

    • Ian

      I strongly agree with this statement. I have gotten excellent grades in college but I hate the fear of failure that it has instilled me with.

  4. Priscila

    “In bussines and in life you always need to effort, but not exactly to suffer to succeed” People around me keep telling me bad things have to occur, beacuse just if you suffer, you will get a reward. I simply can´t agree this thinking…

  5. Will in DC

    – You MUST buy a home or you’re throwing away money.

    – Grades and test scores are irrelevant for your life if you’re fortunate to be middle class or above (if you’re from a disadvantaged socio-economic situation I’d say you at least need average grades).

  6. Mr. SIfuentes

    How mediocrity is celebrated and why it’s becoming the death of aesthetics.

  7. KL from KL

    Most things that we cannot say revolves around taboos, most infamously self-image, sex, body, religion. Since we’re talking about it, here are things I believe but cannot say:

    1. The sexualization of underage teenagers stem from people experiencing sex early in their teens, hence clinging the image of the ideal body type (pre-adulthood). If your first experience was with and as adults, you are likelier to have affinity for adult body types. As more teenagers engage in sex earlier and earlier (12? 14?), most likely they will develop affinity for those types. I also believe this is the reason why child sex abuse victims are likely to become abusers (due to early exposure and they sort of cling to their earliest experiences).

    2. Too many people consider longevity of relationship as a marker of success. I think the longevity of relationship is a mark of patience, loyalty and character, but not necessarily the goodness (success) of the relationship itself.

    3. The human mind has infinite capacity, and we only use a small fraction of it. We can tap into it but we don’t, because we don’t have enough time, resources or fail to prioritize. To a less extent, our bodies have a lot more potential, too. We don’t use the full potential of our physical bodies either. You may not be Usain Bolt, but so what if you aren’t Usain Bolt you’re using that as an excuse to not train at all? Most people don’t even try. Can’t touch your toes? With sufficient stretching you can. Can’t do a pull up? Bullshit. Low metabolism? That can be changed with training. Not good at remembering names? You’re not even trying. Most people just don’t try because they think they are inherently not good at something.

    4. There will be more newly-rich, people can be richer, but status and legacy wealth persists beyond 20+ generations, over 600 years. The 1% will keep getting richer. (Not what I believe and cannot say but has been said on WSJ May 19, 2016 – “The Wealthy in Florence…”)

  8. infmom

    Someone I know is fighting depression because he never learned to manage money and is now 60 and almost destitute. He always believed in magical thinking and that the money would just come from somewhere or the jobs would just fall into his lap.

    What I’d love to tell him is that if he counted up the money he’s spent over the years on pot, alcohol, gambling and concert tickets he’d really be depressed.

    Larry Winget had this guy in mind when he wrote “You’re Broke Because You Want to Be.”

  9. Ricardo

    I believe human beings are simply an enhanced version of apes and that the movie Idiocracy will become reality sooner than we think

    I believe you’re wrong about how you see real estate as an investment tool

    I believe schools are mind controlling facilities that make you subservient and submissive. Both are necessary to maintain social order

    I believe humans don’t have free-will. We’re simply tagging along a pre-determined path (still, no excuses for not getting things done).

  10. Matt Spillar

    Great post, really thought provoking. I love the quote “some people use ‘I need to learn more’ as an excuse to not take action.” I’ve definitely seen that in my own life before, and plenty of times in my interactions with people. “Why aren’t you setting up your 401k?” “Oh, I need to learn more about all the particular investments before I can start.” etc etc. So many examples of this, it’s an easy cop out, but it keeps people from making any progress in their lives.

  11. Shanae

    The vast majority of Muslims are good people, but the cornerstones of Islam are not.

  12. Nims

    I believe people get offended too easily and that political correctness has gone too far.

  13. Cat

    The most common comment I’d love to say but rarely can is: “You created this.”

    We are all blind to how much our previous actions create the reactions that we don’t like. As if one is separate from the next.

    How we approach other people effects how they react to us. How we react to them continues the cycle. When we expect a result we often get it- because we helped create it. When we look for a result we often get it… The senarios may change, the person controlling them doesn’t. We control our thoughts, expectations, what we see and what we ignore.

    And, we rarely want to know we have that power over our own lives. (I say we, cause I am including myself).

  14. Carmen

    People really don’t want to change. They just want to speak of changing for accolades and to hear themselves talk.

  15. Joy

    Haha I have no trouble saying whatever I believe in, much to the annoyance of people around me!

    But I totally agree with the comment about people being capable of 10-15x more than they are currently doing. People think I’m crazy because I just started a full-time science degree as a full-time mother of a 2-yr-old with no knowledge of science whatsoever (me, not the 2-yr-old. She probably knows more about science than I do). I just think “I’m sure I can make it work somehow…”

    You know who I think is crazy? My friend who is right this very moment sleeping in a tent in a field in Mongolia en route to Istanbul via Russia. On a bicycle. And I’m sure he knows people who are crazier than he is.

    We should all be more crazy. It’s kind of fun.

  16. Pablo

    “You can be serious and not solemn. You can be committed and yet a have a good time, not a straight face.”

    “Those motivational quotes you put on Facebook? You aren’t like that. It’s just a way of validating or hiding your own insecurities and you will really NOT follow what it says.”

    “Instead of showing that you work, WORK.”

    “Oh, you taking a selfie in the bathroom, on your own? How MAAAAAAAAAAAAANLY.”

  17. Kim

    I believe –

    a convicted pedophile or rapist should be casterated

    I convicted murderer or serial killer should get the death penalty.

    As should any human engaging in extremist terror activities

    Anyone torturing and/or killing animals also should get the death penalty.

    Offenders of domestic violence should be flogged as much as the pain they’ve inflicted on others.

    Any of this behavior should not be tolerated in any society. Yet it is.
    So it keeps going.

    I believe factory farming should be stopped immediately & local, small farmers come back into operation. There should be tough laws prohibiting the suffering & torture of any farmed animal & all operations should be forced to have an open door policy to its consumers.

    I believe there should be no further deforestation of any forest in any country.

    Poaching of wild animals – even those bred in captivity for that purpose should also be illegal with heavy international penalties.

    I believe animals kept in captivity & exploited for human entertainment, remedies etc should also be internationally not tolerated & heavily punished.

    Too many crimes against animals, the environment & humans go unnoticed or are even endorsed for political & monetary gain.
    I believe all this needs to stop before we destroy ourselves & our planet altogether.

    • Ramit

      Yo, what are YOU doing about it?
      Sounds to me like you have a lot of anger trapped inside …time to see a therapist babe!

  18. Deb

    First of all, thank you for the podcast interview of JP Mitchel. Amazing story and man! The number one thing I can’t say, but would love to, follow a bit of JP’s philosophy. Listen – when you hear accusations or complaints that are directed at you, try to dig in and listen. Often, what is being expressed is a statement about that person-not you! However, this is something you cannot say, and if you did, it would not be productive for the other person. It is however, a read on the person complaining/accusing and provides excellent insight. Try it!

  19. Jigish

    Children, in USA, are being mollycoddled to the extreme. As a result, they’re not at all prepared to face the real world once they graduate school. Graduation ceremonies for passing kindergarten / elementary / middle school? How low of a bar can you actually set for a child?

  20. Carter

    I believe that I’ve wasted 4 years of my life going to university! I want to say to my girlfriend that she shouldn’t go to university, and rather start her own internet business.

    The universities are made to draw money out of people and could be optimized/more efficient! I can’t remember anything I learned from uni, and I’m not applying anything of it at my current job (just simple math and economics, the rest you learn when you start, as every job is different).

    There should be a more respected alternative where you could just take/pick the useful courses (copywriting, economics etc.) and distill it down to a year.

  21. Enigma

    When people start talking about their problems.
    Why do we bother talking about problems? I didn’t ask and they are all excuses. I have solutions for yours and vice versa, yet neither of us is really listening let alone take the advice and actually do something with it.

    When people say they need a drink first.
    So you aren’t enough to have a good time with, should I have one too to be able to tolerate you?

  22. Anne

    1. When I see obese people on Instagram posing with their obese children, I want to tell them they’re setting their kids up for health and mental issues, no matter how great their pictures look. Comments like “such a beautiful family” really piss me of. There’s nothing beautiful about being unhealthy.

    2. Most feminists in western societies are acting as sexists in disguise. They don’t realize it, but that doesn’t change it. They just want to talk about their “problems” while being part of the problem. For example, they make a group for “female entrepreneurs” to empower women. Entrepreneurship isn’t about body parts, so everything that makes such a group seem “feminine” can only be derived from current stereotypes of women. They’re actually taking stereotypes like the color pink and glitter and reaffirm them. Hint: Not every woman likes glitter and there are men that do.

    3. People who claim they would never have been slavers, nazis etc in past societies, are probably very wrong. Humanity always finds someone to enslave, whether it’s black people, women, etc, justifying their actions with phrases like “they’re not like us” and “we’re superior”. Right now it’s the farm animals that suffer, so the ones who could be right about such a claim are living a vegan lifestyle.

  23. AD

    “The internet is largely a waste of time.” As Ramit has already said, what have you implemented from what you read online, or listened to from a video or podcast? When my primary desktop computer broke down and I refused to replace it, a lot of time opened up in my schedule. I started to calm down, gained patience, did a lot more around the house, and rid myself of time urgency (that feeling you have when you don’t think you have enough time to get things done, so you hurry or just worry about it, like speed-reading 20 books on a topic because you think you’ll be wasting time by slowly absorbing one book, “But, but, I have to read my 100 books this year! Yeah, give me a brief synopsis and 1-2 great points from the last 5 books you read”)

  24. princely

    I Belive poverty is what keeps a man away from his destiny and it only talks bravery to change all that and be count

  25. Scuda Martinez

    I believe pedophiles should be castrated.

    An 18/19 yo should not get jail time and tagged as a sex offender for life for having sex with his 15/16 yo girlfriend. They probably started dating in high school.

    God probably dabbled in homosexuality. If we are ALL created in his image then he might have been a little gay.

    All drugs should be legal. If people want to kill themselves using drugs let them. It is called natural selection. The war on drugs is a complete waste of taxpayer money.

    American Companies that outsource should be levied incredibly high taxes to import their products. You want to take the livelihoods away from Americans then you should have to pay for it.

  26. peter michaelson

    I find it amazing that people believe in the miracles which are the base of all religions.
    I am a believer in GD or the force in this universe, i don’t believe in any of the stories associated with the manipulation of people through fear and guilt in all religions I am amazed that society actually financially emotionally spiritually invests in buildings wars etc all in the name of fabricated stories.

  27. Georgette

    I believe and WILL say is Its a good thing to make mistakes – just dont let that be the reason not to start again.