When dumb people want nice things

Ramit Sethi

A few years ago, I was doing a weekly ABC News segment.

One day, my producer asked me, “So how old are you?” I was 26 at the time.

“Aw, how cute,” she said.

That was weird. She was a 24-year-old Asian girl, so why would she call an older guy “cute?” It doesn’t make sense. She saw my quizzical look and said, “What? How old do you think I am?”

“You’re 24,” I told her. Duh.

She smiled. “I’m 34.”

On that day, I realized something profound: Asians never age.

So it was with great pleasure that I read an AP story about Asian people that’s remarkably related to what I write about on IWT every day.

How many people do you know that want the “simple” solution? It may not even work, but they prize simplicity over everything else. These are the kind of people who ask questions like, “What’s the ONE thing you’d recommend…”


Back to the article. It turns out that Koreans totally dominate the field of archery, so Americans have been crazily trying to get Korean coaches — any Korean!! — to coach their teams.

“The ‘must-have’ item for medal hunting archers at the 2012 London Games, Korean coaches have become a necessity rather than a luxury with the United States, Malaysia, Brazil and the Philippines among the countries paying for their expertise.

The clamour for their services is understandable — South Korean archers have won 30 Olympic medals, 16 of them gold, and hold every world record with the Olympic-style recurve bow.”

Why though? What do Korean instructors do that Americans don’t?

“Rabska said South Korean archery students continued to practise the most basic elements until they had perfected the technique and biomechanics.

“Those kids have six months intensive training before they shoot their first arrow.”

The approach in the West is much more direct. And much less successful.

“What we often tend to do in the West is just stick a bow in their hand right away and then spend the rest of the time trying to break bad habits,” added Rabska, who coached and worked closely with Lee at USA Archery.”

This is similar to so many things in our culture: Just get started! (Which is not always good advice.) Give me the one thing to do! What are some crunchy tactical tips??

Oh, you want me to learn about strategy? Hold on mister. You’re saying I need to take time — months, sometimes years — to perfect my craft? No! Get out of my way! Give me the life hacks so I can do it today!!

“You know, practise doesn’t make perfect. Practise makes permanent. The more you practise the wrong things, the more you lay on the hard drive and the harder it is to get rid of it.”

The Korean approach demands such sacrifice that it will not work with some athletes or sporting cultures. Some want immediate gratification in the form of medals or championships instead of long-term, long-lasting success.”

God I love Asians — and not just because they don’t age. Because they actually understand that extraordinary accomplishment comes from extraordinary work.

In a classic move, Americans completely miss the point of building deep expertise, creating long-term habits, and truly crafting mastery.


“Some countries were so desperate for the Korean archery magic dust they hired South Korean coaches — but from different sports, said Rabska.

“It’s unbelievable,” he laughed. “I won’t mention any team names but they are horrific as far as technique is concerned, with no understanding of the biomechanics of archery.

“It was like: ‘We need a Korean coach. Hey, there’s someone looking for a job from wrestling. Fantastic, we got a Korean coach!”

Yes, that’s right. They just hired a random Korean person hoping their Koreanness rub off on them. At least when we start seeing white guys playing cards, drinking, and singing Karoke on Christmas, we’ll know why.

This reflects everything that’s wrong with Americans in general, and in particular all the moronic people who want SUPER TACTICAL TIPS without understanding any strategy or the systems that support it.

I’ve written about this before, when I covered how I traveled for 3 weeks and made passive income. It’s why I insist that my students go through deep theoretical training when they take my courses. Then — and only then — do I give them my tested scripts and tactics. Only when they’re ready to handle them ethically.

If you find yourself searching for tactic after tactic, take an honest look in the mirror. How is that working out for you? Is it worth clicking to 50 new blogs every day to try to find that new productivity app?

Or is there perhaps something deeper beneath the surface? Something that your internet marketing friends don’t talk about? Something about not just HOW to do something well….but WHAT to do in the first place to live a rich life?

To put it bluntly, I could give you my most powerful tactics on negotiation, earning more, automation, and psychology, but if you don’t have the strategy and systems to use them, they will fail.

If you guys want to study how to integrate strategy AND tactics into finding a Dream Job, click here for a free mini-course.

If you want to learn how to do the same for earning money on the side, click here.

Or not. I don’t care. I’m going to get some food.

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  1. Alexander Boland

    Well said; I had a similar thought.

    As a disclaimer, I think Tim Ferriss is a very clever, successful, and interesting individual; but “The 4 Hour Workweek” has one big flaw. Ferriss knows HOW to execute the plan that he lays out–his experiences from studying at Princeton, studying judo abroad, running his first company, etc. All those things probably gave him a very deep procedural knowledge that helped him build his automated lifestyle.

    In my own experience, I’ve found that how “hard” I seem to be working on a project in the present isn’t the key factor. The make or break factor is whether I’ve had the I-Give-A-Damn to work at internalizing the fundamentals for an extend period of time. No shortcuts, no tactics; it’s about knowing what you’re doing. The difference is staggering.

    • Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach

      I agree that the knowing “How” is a lot harder than it seems.

      But in the 4-Hour Workweek, it also talks a lot about doing experiments and rapidly testing hypotheses as you develop your lifestyle business. To Ramit’s point, I think a lot of people want someone to “just tell them what to do.” But there are so many variables from individual-to-individual and situation-to-situation that regardless of what expert advice you take, you need to be willing to test and refine it to fit your life

      If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all answer to lasting success, you will constantly be disappointed. But if you’re willing to learn and apply the fundamental theories, you can constantly adapt and refine them to bring about the best results.

      To your brilliance!
      Elizabeth Grace Saunders

  2. Meg

    It’s true, Asians never age! I live in Flushing Chinatown, and I’ve gotten used to seeing women who look 15, but have 3 young children. It threw me for a loop the first few times because it just looked *wrong*.

    • Sue M.

      Aww Meg, I’m well familiar with Flushing Chinatown. I didn’t think there would be a shout out to Queens on this web site!

  3. Erik Johnson

    That example of hiring the random coaches is hilarious.

    It reminds me a lot of people when they get on a health and exercise kick. They say they want to “get in shape” (what the hell does that even mean? Lose 10 lbs? Gain 5 lbs of muscle?) and “get started” by randomly running and doing arbitrary weight lifting sets 7 days a week. If they spent one afternoon defining a goal and reading a good fitness and health book or even just some legitimate articles, they’d be able to find the most efficient (aka, sustainable) way to get results. Of course, this abrupt change in their habits never lasts.

    It’s made a big difference for me that instead of doing things like healthy dieting and exercising 100% perfect for a month, I can do it at a sustainable 80% that builds habits to get incremental results for years and years.

  4. Justin

    Great post. Cal Newport at Study Hacks discusses this topic in depth.

  5. Sean

    I think the problem in our country is the instant gratification culture that has sprung up over the last two decades. If you aren’t rich and famous now…you’re a loser.

    Ironically most people achieve success after suffering for a while, enduring pain and sometimes ridicule.

  6. Richard

    Recently, I talked to a group of college-age composers. When I told them that what would have them fulfill on what they wanted to do as composers would entail 4-8 hours of composing per day, especially right now while they were in school, I thought their heads were going to explode. Many were happy with 4-8 hours per week! You’re not going to be Mozart or even a decent commercial composer with that little work on the fundamental craft. On the other hand, anyone that put in that kind of time with a competent teacher can be pretty darn good.

  7. AFL

    I really hope this is one of your ghost writers, cause the “asians do this and asians do that” comparisons are unwarranted and unnecessary.

  8. Chris

    Good post.
    I was watching the Olympic’s, Men’s Diving and the interviewer asked a British diver if he was disappointed to not qualify for the next round, his response was, “I cant be disappointed, my results are a reflection of my preparation”.
    It definitely struck a cord with me. How could I be disappointed with my monthly sales, for example, when I know deep down that I didn’t prepare to win?

  9. Yury B. Suertegaray

    This topic made me think about the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, when he explains that the best way to change a behavior is changing your paradigme.

  10. Tio Pedro

    I think The Last Psychiatrist (great site) nails it:

    “[Many people have] an unconscious, default hierarchy in the mind, I’m not an epidemiologist but you got it in you sometime between the ages of 5 and 10:

    is better than

    is better than

    You should memorize this, it is running your life. “I’m constantly thinking about ways to improve myself.” No, you’re gunning the engine while you’re up on blocks.”

    Change is hard, and many people will go to great lengths to avoid it.

  11. Sue

    Dear Ramit,

    I just read your mail. Thank you for sharing this. For me the key since my childhood has been observation and acceptance. It is amazing how much observing yourself and observing others can teach you about accepting and tolerating anything which leads to trying to combine and work with something instead of competing against something or someone. I think oftentimes the competition is the focus instead of alining yourself with what is.

    The example you gave with the archer to me is quite simple. When you watch people shining in whatever they do it usually is deeply connected to floating in that moment of time with all circumstances whatsoever being observed, accepted and then integrated in the work or art or craftsmanship.

    It means so accept yourself 100 per cent and therefore accept everyone and everything else. That way things suddenly become easy, suddenly open up to you, suddenly make you understand the missing pieces.

  12. Keith

    Great article! And I think that is why we need personal coaching to assimilate systems of thought. We can learn a skill without it, but we can’t always synthesize it. Westerners are not system thinkers culturally. But that is what it takes to be elite.

  13. Brandon

    One thing I’ve been using over the past two or three months is this video from Tony Robbins titled “Why Some People Take Massive Action and Others Don’t”. Frank Kern and John Reese come speak to Tony. He talks to them about fear and uncertainty and not following through. (i.e. buying a course/product and but not actually opening the damn thing up!)

    Tony breaks it down to using conditioning (a bit of a strong word) to rid yourself of the uncertainty through daily routines of small steps. Gathering information is good until it turns into information hoarding, so that mental change is what’s really needed to help yourself become more certain that what you’ve gathered/purchased will actually take you to the point of success and change that you want to be.

    I think it was Socrates who said that we are what we do on a daily basis. Routine is important, I think, not only to build structure, but to use to also train ourselves our minds for whatever we deem necessary.

  14. Mandana

    The book Yury mentioned above by Stephen Covey, is a really great program that tackles the almost impossible challenge of changing your own behavior. Worked wonders for me.

    Also, I wish you’d do video blogs. The way this is written makes the message hard to absorb if you don’t understand the humor behind it. Also, you’re a cutie so it wouldn’t hurt.

    Just a thought!

  15. IH

    Arguably, this is why I haven’t signed up for a course yet; admittedly, there are also financial concerns, but if Ramit’s courses are the “bow & arrow” that comes after spending time learning proper technique, I am still learning my stance.
    I believe that the courses are unparalled, but I know that I’m not ready for them. It’d be like putting me out on the archery range with a hangover. Still, I know enough to not be on the lookout for the one magical tip or app or whatever. The work that I have to do, and have been doing, means teaching myself new perspectives and undoing years of bad habits and misguided instruction. I’ll get there, though; in the year since I found Ramit’s blog and bought IWTYTBR, I’ve eliminated my credit card debt, started a Roth IRA, and automated my finances. The psychological boost that those actions gave me have moved me on to my next step of learning to build a system of productivity that works for me. So it might take me a while, but as I’m essentially changing my entire life one step at a time, I can’t expect that to happen easily or quickly.

  16. C.D. Allen

    Ramit, you just argued very well the thesis behind Cal Newport’s upcoming book, “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” which in a contrarian way, argues that individuals should abandon the rhetoric of “following your passion or dreams” and just spend focused time getting damn good at rare and valuable skills.

    Newport argues in this book that the process of mastery is not a romantic idea, but continuous refinement in one’s ability is the basis for creating a satisfying career. Deep knowledge and skill should be the focus, not the instant gratification-based feelings of dissatisfaction that may come as the natural process of beginning good work.

    Simply put, this generation most especially has to learn how to compete in this flattened, globalized economy and invest focused time in getting good at something that is hard, if not impossible to outsource and significantly valued by the market.

    Students and recent college graduates like me do not have the time to resort to endless job-hopping, mindlessly in search of some “passion” or “calling” when we honestly have mastered anything yet.

    Mastery of rare and valuable skills is the ONLY path to true happiness in my book.

  17. Rich

    Asian women are like Hondas. They look and stay beautiful for years and years. Then one day, everything breaks, corrodes and falls apart.
    Take a stroll to Toronto’s China town for proof. From beautiful to wizzled and hunched over with bad teeth in a day or two.

  18. Steve

    You’re wrong, Asians do age. But it doesn’t happen until they are 60 then they immediately go from 25 to about 90.

  19. Don


    I agree 100%. Do you know any Korean life coaches? Or anyone that’s Korean who would like to be a life coach?

  20. Enrique

    This is another generalization of cultures–Let’s change the example as to which country has the most billionaires in the world:It is still the U.S. I can guarantee you that all those millionaires in the Silicon Valley might have started “hacking” but eventually learned the specific skills to become successful in their field. It is both learning a skill and applying it.
    The assumption in this letter is that all “Americans” don’t have the discipline to learn a skill. As a culture,we might not be interested in becoming the best archers in the world as we are in basketball. I can guarantee you that our best basketball players have spend thousands of hours practicing to become the best in the world.

  21. debmalya

    There is a whole lot of misconception that is added by the media on entrepreneurship, especially on passive income. People are forced to believe that anything that is novel and put on the internet can make you earn a lot of money. With the global economic slowdown, competition for quality jobs have increased manifold. This has led people to believe, thanks to media, that it is easy to make money online and the idea of creating an automated money making system is a reality. It is a reality, if it weren’t then we wouldn’t have been on his website. But the hard reality is most of the start ups fail. People forget that the only golden rule, that one thing, for any entrepreneurial undertaking to succeed is that your product should ADD VALUE to peoples lives. If it can’t then it is doomed to fail. And most of the starters don’t have the patience dedication and discipline that are required to succeed.People like Ramit are learning and growth facilitators. They don’t have a magic pill that they will give us and we will be living a life like they do.

  22. Rinah

    What Mr. Sethi exposed is way so important. here in the bay area, there has been a trend to some schools I’m in touch with to question the importance of homework. PTAs has been advocating that rather than helpful it is harmful to have homework b/c kids have to do so many other activities after school…Note “Have to do”…. Some even say that today there has been by far more homework than in the “past”. Mothers want kids to do “other things” rather than in my view reinforce, implement and why not go towards the solidification of knowledge through homework. (read Bay are Parent magazine- Aug 2012-
    Interesting enough, I’m from Brazil- living in the US, and drives me crazy when I hear these things. In my elementary school time (in the early 80s), from 1 grade I had to study at least 1,5 hour a day. Extra curricula activities, I had them. When I was in 6th grade, I had to study at least 2,5 hours a day, doing sports 3 times a week and playing an instrument at least 3-4 hours a day. What makes me angry yet is that way too many Principals/ “educational leaders” in the US- in the BAY AREA- HELLO (BAY AREA) have abide by this non homework “rule” advocating that according to “recent research” had been proven that homework hurt kids and they have to do sports, music, foreign language after school instead- so based upon “that” they guide their administration. To make matters worse, our children go to a private school b/c it teaches about our faith religiously and historically about our people. So, with a lot of efforts we pay for this paid school, yet, when fighting for my rights I have become to the community “a black sheep”, a “problem creator”, a” problem maker”, The ignoramus” of the school b/c I do no “understand” these contemporary principles- the principals makes a huge salary and is a dead beat- he “listens” to me, overriding my speech- downplaying me, yet calling himself “democratic- But cash and donations are VERY welcome. And so say, if I”m so righteous/ wise about having my children to work from the 1st grade at least 1 hour a day- increasing year after year according to them, why myself I’m not the creator of Facebook, the ultimate genius of the Bay area..Why I’m not a bug mogul in Wall Street- who am I, right? I’n not rich- so I worth NOTHING.
    I end up doing a lot of homeschooling. And yes, one of my children is learning her -second foreign language (she will have 3 foreign languages by 4th and 5th grade), does swimming 2-3 times a week (NOT swimming gymnastics, ballet, etc.. like others), but serious swimming and will slowly start to be introduce to music and in her teenage time play an instrument- OK?
    Fortunately I”m not alone…In my community a couple think like me….
    So the rule is to be a vagabond….Your child will do Ballet, Gymnastics, swimming, chess, Spanish and music- wow what a SUPER child you have, and not have homework….And you child will not be in stress, right?- let alone will not go deep in any of these things so specialization in neither their goal….WOW…. :)))))))))

  23. Note

    I’m a big fan of the site who really appreciates all of the work you do for us, your readers. I understand that you’re using this archery article as a jumping-off point to discuss a larger topic. However, the conclusions you seem to draw from the article aren’t backed up by the article itself. Could you perhaps adjust the post to remedy this?

    Specifically, towards the end of the article, you write, “In a classic move, Americans completely miss the point of building deep expertise, creating long-term habits, and truly crafting mastery.”

    You support that with this quote from the article, “Some countries were so desperate for the Korean archery magic dust they hired South Korean coaches — but from different sports, said Rabska.”

    Then, you write, “Yes, that’s right. They just hired a random Korean person hoping their Koreanness rub off on them.”

    And, finally, “This reflects everything that’s wrong with Americans in general…”

    The problem with these statements is that the U.S. is not among the “some countries” in the quote. The person being quoted, Don Rabska, is an American, who earlier in the article was described as “over the moon” when South Korean archery coach Lee Ki-sik “agreed to coach USA Archery from 2006.”

    Rather than Americans completely missing the point, everything in the article makes a strong argument for the American archery team being a great example of a group who understood “building deep expertise, creating long-term habits, and truly crafting mastery.”

    While the article did say, “The South Korean’s biomechanical approach to the sport, coupled with his devotion to discipline and technique, did not initially sit well with some in USA Archery,” it immediately continued, “but scepticism was overcome and the results speak for themselves.”

    In fact, the American men’s archery team left the London Olympics with a silver medal, after upsetting the South Korean men’s archery team in the semifinals. And, even before the London Games, the U.S. could claim the number-one-ranked male archer in the world: Brady Ellison, who is trained by South Korean coach Lee Ki-sik.

    • Evan

      Ramit clearly isn’t working with a South Korean archery coach. Had he been, I am sure he would have insisted on him completing the basic step of proofreading for moronic statements and incorrect information, which clearly he did not.

  24. saray

    I totally agree with your approach Ramit,

    I practice capoeira, a martial art which involves acrobatic movements. You get people starting (generally guys) and asking straight away: I want to learn back flips and acrobatics. My response, you need to improve your flexibility before even thinking about it and also learn the basic techniques and how to play appropriately and use the moves in context and then, only then, can you look into it (talking about years of practice).

    Most of them turn away and ask the next advance student: how can I learn backflips?

    Very irritating!

  25. mike

    There are no shortcuts. The western world has forgotten that the best way is the hard way

  26. Rinah

    Forgot to say in my previous message: When I once more confronted the Principal, asking why this non sense attitude- of not giving homework, or giving enough to be started and done “in the car”, on the way to their extra activities, he answered that
    “This is the way Americans do”…”This the way we do in America”….If I do not like it or agree with it, I should in the first place have researched about the American educational system, and so not having comen to America, but now that I’m here, yet do not understand these rules, I’m more than welcome to LEAVE”…I’m “free”….Most of all, to be social is more important than acquiring so much knowledge… Investing in building contacts/ relations work better for life than being a geek….
    (while I agree that it is imperative to have “contacts”, so is to be exceptional in your field or in two fields- social can change in a heart beat- you well worked brain is an asset of yours that nobody can steal- and helps you even build new contacts).

  27. Wes

    Wow, Ramit’s finally crossed the line from abrasive to down right offensive. Americans “completely miss the point of building deep expertise, creating long-term habits, and truly crafting mastery”? BS on every level. First, as another commenter pointed out, it wasn’t even the Americans who hired the South Korean wrestling coach to coach archery. Second, the US actually beat the South Korean team in archery head to head in the Olympics. Third, the US DOMINATED the overall medal count in the Olympics (again), including the top four individual medal winners – how did India do, Ramit? I’ll tell you – India got 6 medals, including ZERO golds. Maybe they just don’t truly crafter mastery in India.

    It’s a classic Ramit strategy, though – belittle your customers into making them beg you for the product, to prove they’re not as stupid as he says they are.

    • Evan

      Once and a while Ramit posts something really interesting, which is why we are all here, but he clearly missed the target with this article. I mean, he didn’t even hit the haystack… frankly, it appears as if he has just shot randomly into the crowd! Amazingly though, his dedicated fans don’t seem to mind. LOL

  28. Ryan

    “Or not, I don’t care.” haha Ramit, your direct delivery is priceless. Keep it up.

  29. Nahyan

    I liked this “You know, practise doesn’t make perfect. Practise makes permanent.”
    It’s possible, probable in many cases, to perfectly make mistakes again and again…

  30. Eric


    Eff some of these commenters. This is one of my favorite posts EVAR. Call out the bullshit when you see it. That and I love being Asian. 😉

  31. Ornella @ Moneylicious

    Having trained in basketball and in a Korean Marital Arts – Kuk Sool Won (back in the days), discpline and practice, practice, practice, practice are essential. Before you even attempt to shoot for a basket you need to know the proper stance and the same with Kuk Sool Won–before I could even do a back kick I needed to know the stance. The stance had to be perfect. Wish I was able to conintue the marital arts, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I learned!

  32. peachfront

    With a twitter teaser called, “When dumb people want nice things” I expected something different. When dumb people in Louisiana want nice things, we go all out. We once had a guy who decided the counter guy gave him a cold hamburger. So he shot him. Dead. Another time, this couple decided they wanted a cockatoo. No problem. They traded their kid for it. Now those are examples of dumb people wanting nice things! Some guys deciding they want a Korean coach so they hire a Korean coach…that’s a pretty weak example of loserness if you want me. They didn’t even craft mastery of their own loserhood. Strictly mediocre! If they wanted a Korean coach and hired a Mongolian talking cockatoo, then I’d give ’em props for creativity.

  33. Carleton

    Race, ethnic, religious, gender stereotyping, all such group stereotyping,is borne of ignorance and fear…including “Asians don’t age.” I choose to think you are better than that, Ramit.
    I once asked a master potter how long it took him to master a particularly exquisite, burnished red glaze. He paused, tilted his head, and then replied simply, “Not long, really, about thirty years.”

  34. Eric

    Hey Ramit,

    I am from Singapore, which is in Asia, the other side of the world from America., the funny thing is that we to us we think we can tell when someone is aging where else we think that westerners even when they age they do not look old.

    I agree with you about getting prepared well and it takes time, lots of time to get there. It is the journey that we should be focusing on not just the destination

  35. S. Chang

    Awesome shout-out to the archery fans. I geeked out and asked Kisik Lee for a photograph when I was at the London Olympics. I don’t remember the last time I did such a thing.

  36. blah

    When are you going to address the fact that the US men’s team beat the korean men’s team this year?

  37. Ramithasasmallpenis

    Race, ethnic, religious, gender stereotyping, all such group stereotyping,is borne of ignorance and fear…including “Asians don’t age.” I choose to think you are better than that, Ramit.
    I once asked a master potter how long it took him to master a particularly exquisite, burnished red glaze. He paused, tilted his head, and then replied simply, “Not long, really, about thirty years.”

  38. jacquie

    “Practice dont make perfect, Practice makes permanent” I love this quote. Its so true and makes so much sense. Im typing it out and pasting it on my computer.

    Now about the asians don’t age thing. There are alot of other people who are not asian who dont age/wrinkle.

    This is a fast food, quick fix, convenience society, of course they arent going to think about mastering skills over a series of time. Every year it gets worse.

  39. Andrew Richardson

    While I agree with the fact that working at the fundamentals before proceeding to the main event is good advice I think the way this article has framed this is flawed.

    You present an opposition to people who “just get started” or want “just one tactic” but both parties you compare (Korean and American archery teams) are “just getting started” and in fact Koreans are focusing on “just one tactic” more so than the Americans. The difference is actually in their process not really their mindset. One (Americans) starts at the end and works their way back, and the other (Koreans) start at the very beginning and work their way upwards.

    While I appreciate the advice of “There are no real shortcuts” it’s about as worthwhile as saying “You need to work harder”… Okay… That’s basically saying “Your unhealthy and you need to lose weight or you will die”, you’ve talked about that before and know how well it went over!

    I see tons of value in your work Ramit but this seems like a rant and at the end of the day, hasn’t added anything to my life.

    • Evan

      Well said…

  40. john L

    Ramit: I like your stuff including this one though some commenter detected stereo typing of Asians. The fact that American Olympians got the most medals shows that this melting pot somehow has the best outcome in the game.

    Nonetheless, aside from the misinterpretation of stereotyping, the underlying truth of practice (good practice) makes perfect has been validated by a book of experts spending a minimum of 10,000 hours doing what they do. I bet you are a prime example. Keep the good work and help more people to make their first million besides doing what they enjoy the most.

  41. Zachary

    Fundmentals are very important and being specific.

    Do homework, is very general. Do Match factoring homework so that you know how to factor better is specific. Do homework to gain insight and prepare for a test, because you have the test at the end of the month. Strategic planning for a test.

    Get a job, way too general.

    I agree that you need to address basics, the problem is that people don’t realize or see the longer term plan that eventually helps oneself attain a goal. I think that is what Rambit is saying. As well to do effectively and cheaply would be better than putting all your money on the table and blowing it away.

    Want to play poker with a friend that dosen’t know how to play. Don’t play for money, to do would be only unfair. And ripping off your friend!

  42. Sheila Lawrence

    Good post. I’m sure you hit a lot of nerves. I know I felt it. It is true, we Americans are always in a rush to the end result. We have a lot of energy and are optimistic, lack focus sometimes. The internet is a perfect match to our tendencies in that sense.

    Buckling down, being present, and paying attention to the details pays off in lots of ways, not the least of which is in the capacity to appreciate someone’s work who has truly achieved mastery.

  43. Jesse

    I’ve jut started Ramit’s Dream Job course. While reading this, all I could think about was how much preparatory work we are doing before even talking about sending out applications or tweaking resumes (AKA the olympics of job hunting). The Korean team front-loaded all the work by making sure they had proper grip, stance, etc.

  44. Shiri DH

    I agree strongly about the fallacy of dumbing down advice to the “ONE” thing that works, when in reality top performers need so many moving parts working in concert — the strategy in place, the right goals, and the focus and productivity to achieve them. (Ramit’s Dream Job student — just heard Noah Kagan’s master class last night, can you tell?)
    As another example, I started reading about money and investing when I was 16, reading David Bach’s “Finish Rich” series (yes, the oft-criticized latte factor! Sorry, Ramit, you hadn’t written your book back then!). It took me three years to make my first investing move, but when I did — boy, was it good (if I do say so myself). But I was very surprised, years later, when he came out with Automatic Millionaire as the “ONE” solution, which I felt glossed over the strategic aspects of aligning your money with what you want to do — the same pieces I found so appealing when I read the originals — the same pieces I loved in your book (discretionary spending).
    I guess some people just can’t take complexity — and simplicity sells better despite not being as effective. Go figure.

  45. Alex Alviar

    Hi Ramit,

    I agree with the need to place our focus on mastery of skills, but this post seems to be at theoretical odds with the rest of your work, especially your book IWTYTBR. I am confused because the gist of that book was to quit theorizing and trolling for perfection, and “just get started” instead of doing nothing.

    Getting 80% there and “just starting” a business venture or new habit was lauded as far superior than waiting to have it all perfected one day because such a person will ultimately do nothing. The metaphor of the korean archer spending months of intensive training before ever drawing a bow is honorable and required training to become a master athlete, but if we’re supposed to extend that metaphor to some kind of pre-launch preparation for our personal finances (or starting a business), none of us would ever get past your book chapter on credit cards or banks.

    Ramit, I have always taken most of your approaches to finance or time management or entrepreneurship to be heavily biased toward action. So wouldn’t “just getting started” be something you would applaud?

    In my own experience working with your book and the “Your first profitable idea” course, it went like this–Get a small dose of theory, get started, apply it and see how it works, and then pivot into new directions whenever necessary until it succeeds. That’s a whole lot of action, initiating, and “starting” (and “re-starting” because of inevitable learning curve, f-k ups along the way). So what’s wrong with “just getting started”?

    • Evan

      To quote Ricky Ricardo… “you got some explaining to do” Ramit.

  46. Cindy Siow

    Well said, Asian are more hardworking probably because we come from a predominantly farming community in the past.

    The theory that you ‘reap what you sow’ probably has been hard-wired in us for generations and generations after, hence we may sometimes be slow, we work for more sustained success so we can pass it on to the next generation to expand upon it.

  47. biswashree

    Thank You. I have been meaning to start my own business for sometime now. I always heard the advice “first shoot, then aim”. I tried to do it but it didn’t work out because I realized I lacked some very basic skills I needed to acquire before I started a business. This post gave me direction that I am doing the right thing by learning the basics before I get my hands dirty.

  48. Kyoung

    I know extactly what Ramit is talking about.
    Everyday experience for the past 15 years in Accounting field…..just do it, we will fix it later. Americans (I don’t wnat to include myself because my approch is different) spend most of their time to fix problems later on. I couldn’t understand how their brain works. Now I understand why after the article. That’s how they have been trained. Just-do-it American culture!! No wonder why Nike is doing so well. 😉

  49. Dangdang

    Yellow fever!!!

  50. Evan

    This seems like a clear case of cherry picking. With most things in life, you are much better off just getting started. Unlike archery, many things we do in our lives require diverse and constantly evolving skill sets with desired outcomes that are rarely as clear as a bulls eye. The target can shift in real life and adapting on the fly is paramount to one’s success. Try to master all the basic skills before starting your business and you will be left behind. The Zen approach to life and mastering tasks certainly has its place and it is definitely worth applying when and where it is applicable.

    It is important, I believe to point out, that the USA walked away with the most gold and overall medals. Despite not having the most populous nation or running government sponsored training camps, which recruit children from an early age. Yes, it helps tremendously that the USA is a wealthy and stable nation, but what I love about Americans and I think you should too, is that when we see there is someone that is clearly superior to ourselves at something we are cable of asking for their assistance and being flexible enough to adopt their ways. The USA men’s archery team finished 2nd overall, ahead of Korea, China, Japan…India! and Italy! walked away with the gold. That wasn’t in the article.

    How does “Asians never age” relate to the theme of this article? That is an honest question, as I fail to see the connection. Also, when people say Asians never age, they are not referring to people from India. When they say Asians are good at math and science, then India is included. I say this only because I think there is some rampant cherry picking going on here.

    The “asians never age” intro reminds me of an email Ramit sent out a while back where he starts things off by announcing to everyone that he thinks girls with short hair are ugly. It had nothing to do with anything and only caused to lower the self-esteem of a handful of his readers. I bring it up only to remind everyone that not everything Ramit says is gold. He is not some old weathered sage near the end of his life handing out pearls of wisdom that we can meditate on. He is clearly, like all of us, still figuring things out. So, when he posts an article like this, don’t be so quick to jump on the wagon as it might be headed for a dead end.

  51. Claire

    This is so funny. Yep, I am 35 and recently a yoga teacher asked me if I wanted to join her teens class. Some Caucasian people guess my age 10 years younger than Asian people do. Also, not only do Asian women not age but we can eat 3 times as much as other women and still weigh 100 pounds.

    Interesting that the Korean coaches approach archery like a martial art. I’ve tried several tai chi teachers/classes and the best teacher made me practice walking and such for several months before starting any form. Other teachers immediately teach forms and wait a long time before giving a few corrections by which time students have practiced bad habits. The first class attracts fewer than 5 students. The other classes have 20 students.

    In a kungfu class, a white guy immediately asks the teacher to explain the applications, implicitly criticizing the teaching method, as if he can’t do the form without understanding the application. The monk just laughs and says you learn the form and movements first before learning the application. Like the Karate Kid didn’t know what all that wax on / wax off stuff was all about until later.

    Here’s an article about “the difference between ineffective and effective practice”, “between mediocrity and mastery”:

    The Myth of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’
    It’s not how much you practice but whether you’re quick to fix your errors that leads to mastery

    “’the most notable differences between the practice sessions of the top-ranked pianists and the remaining participants,’ Duke and his coauthors wrote, ‘are related to their handling of errors.’
    The best pianists, they determined, addressed their mistakes immediately. They identified the precise location and source of each error, then rehearsed that part again and again until it was corrected. Only then would the best students proceed to the rest of the piece.”

  52. GS

    Reading this after a 72 hour work week is a bit ironic. Many times during the week I wrestled with trying to understand why my fellow coworkers didn’t want to do the job right but chose the path of least resistance even when in the end it meant going back to redo the work in some cases.

    Watching the people stand around and say things like “the government needs to fix this or the government needs to make that better” is another example of one of those simple solutions.

    I think this is much larger then pointing out a few facts in your article or a few like I’ve stated above. I truely believe we as a society have fallen prey to the down side of our success. If we don’t start mastering skills in what ever area they are we will soon be a society like that of the dark ages.

    The more I look around the more I become keenly aware of traits fading away because of the need for instant gratification. I learned this lesson the hard way and have had a self awareness lately.

    Deciding to learn how to sketch I practise one technique for several weeks every day until I feel I can move on to the next building on each skill. I looked at a picture I drew in the beginning and another one just today. I’m amazed at my progress just becaused I practised technique.

    Wax on. Wax off

  53. Pragati Sethi Goswami

    Woo hoo Sethi Saahab kya maze ki baat kahi….
    from one Sethi to another

  54. Steve

    Great article. Something I am learning more about every day. That “one” thing is an illusion. It must be holistic.

  55. Tom

    Sorry to post a comment here, but on the page i wanted to, the comments are closed.
    ON you mention a podcast/presentation with Tim Ferris at SXSW (Tim’s talk at SXSW (“Secrets of Doing More with Less in a Digital World”) – actually this link doesn’t work anymore.
    Do you happen to have a working URL for this? Would be nice to listen in what TF had to say then.
    Thanks in advance and keep up the good work at this blog. Much learned from it

  56. Jesús

    Don’t let your brain take the control, clearly identify what you are doing wrong, recognize it, and change it. And this into a try and check cycle.

  57. Kevin

    Wow, that article nailed it.

    When I started out GoKarting in the mid nienties, there were two brothers, who were on top of their skill. They were driving everybody else into the ground, no matter what everybody else was doing.

    The first weeks, I thought they were from another planet and that feeling continued until 1998. Three years in and I was better than they had ever been.

    When that somebody would have told me, when I started out, I would have declared him a fool.

    Practice makes mastery.

    I feel, now we live in a world, where everything is on our fingertips and literally just a click away. That makes it hard to embark on a journey to mastery.
    Nevertheless, I think it is still possible, when we recognize that everything short sighted leads to short sighted results.

    When people train train muscles over a short time and enhance the effect with steroids, once they’ve stopped their muscles will vanish as fast as they were built.
    When we train hard long hours for an extended period of time, our body will adapt to the new situation. Our hormons will change and ultimatly our body.

    Long term practise makes mastery. There is no way around it.

  58. Chris

    Amazing Ramit. I’m still recovering from an article called Why Blacksmiths Are Better At Startups Than You, by Amy Hoy. You’re exactly right and it’s absolutely the tough medicine I’ve needed for a long time.

    Many of us wannabe entrpreneurs think we’re going to accomplish part time that which requires a craftsman’s commitment. Especially on the basics, such as mindset, focus, etc.

    Thanks for all the tough love man.

  59. Lewis LaLanne

    I love your response to people who seek the “One Thing” like the Electroshock Ab Belt to melt away all the fat and give them six pack abs while they stay in Jabba The Hut mode welded to their couch with the dominant hand permanently coated with cheese dust, chocolate or grease.

    The billionaire and co-founder of Amway was asked about whether or not he was worried about competitors copying Amway, starting their own company and running them out of business. He said that anyone with a half a brain can find out everything about their business and how they run it. With that being said, almost no one will do anything with what they learn because the process it takes to keep that business churning is so damn complex.

    And all these years later he’s proven himself right. There is no “One” Amway secret to success. There’s a books worth of secrets.

    One of my marketing mentors Dan Kennedy talks about people ask him this question relevant to driving a ton of leads into your pipeline.

    He tells them, “There is no one thing I can tell you to do. The most successful people I coach do a whole lot of things simultaneously to attract customers – they telemarket, they direct mail, they voice mail blast, they use email marketing, they have a blog, they use webinars, they speak from the stage, etc. And each of these contribute to the outcome of success.

    The other added benefit to not relying on just one source of leads is that if one goes down in flames, there’s seven others humming along to pick up the slack.

    People worry about keeping competitors at bay. If you want a sure way to keep your colleagues beneath and behind you, make your marketing funnel it complex and make sure that you’re EVERYWHERE. The elaborate is THE one thing that will make the lazy piss their pants with fright so take advantage of this if you want the edge.

  60. Harry @ PF Pro

    There is definitely something to be said with the Asians dominating the more finesse type sports at the olympics. How are the chinese so good at diving?!! It’s not even fair..

  61. Jenna

    requires consistent humility and self discipline

    Not attributes that are easy to come by in large amounts

  62. Brian


    When people ask you for “ONE THING”, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re losers. Maybe your readers really want to know everything, but they recognize how busy you are. So they ask for one thing you’d recommend, as a starting point.

    Also, not to call you out, but I found an email from July 9 where you ask your readers: “How has IWT changed your perspective on behavioral change? Whether it’s money, health, relating to friends, persuading yourself to change…what’s ONE thing you’ve learned on this site?”

    You asked us for “one thing”, and I don’t think you’re a loser. I believe you did this because if you asked us for everything we learned, then no one would take the time to answer. (Or maybe some kooky people would write you a 200 page dissertation.)

    Anyway, I guess my point is this: If you ask for “one thing” expecting a magic bullet that will solve all your problems, then yeah, maybe you are a loser. But there are legitimate reasons that people (including Ramit) may ask for “one thing.”

    • Miranda


    • Miranda

      PS Looking forward to reading the results of your 08/14 $1001 survey / giveaway. I’m still cheering for JoEllen and the bottle of hot sauce, and I want to know if she won.

    • Agota

      “When people ask you for “ONE THING”, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re losers. Maybe your readers really want to know everything, but they recognize how busy you are. So they ask for one thing you’d recommend, as a starting point.”

      Good point.

  63. Pat

    Totally disagree. I think analysis paralysis and the pursuit of perfection are some of the most crippling things holding people back from change, greatness or realizing their goals. Top producers are in pursuit of constant progress, not perfection; they take action first; they get going, then get ready. Look at working out – you just need to get to the gym and start you work out. Perfection or analysis or having all the right systems will forever stall you. Action + progress breeds desirable results. And often progress comes from one or two take aways.

  64. Kaz

    Many people refuse to plan. And I don’t just mean long term. If they don’t know what they are doing wrong, how can they ever change it? From my limited experience most people want a placebo instead of surgery that will fix the underlying issue. I’m no different and succumb to easy payoffs a lot of the time. I’m working on it though.

  65. Sarrah

    Sticking to the subject, I’ll comment on how practicing the basics has helped me. When I seriously started studying ballroom dance as an adult, I kept interrupting my coach to ask for flashy choreography that I saw pros or open dance pairs performing. He insisted I learn the basics first, which included body weight distribution on the feet and how to walk. This meant hours of collecting my back foot to my front foot, then bending the knee to create a triangle, and pushing ball-heel to the floor. It was tedious. But I won my first competition thanks to the fundamentals, bypassing another dancer with a more famous coach with fancy torso actions.

    I was also super offended when my coach once commented “You’re working hard.” It was his way of commending me, though I took it as insult meaning I wasn’t talented enough and had to rely on hard work. He responded that hard work is more commendable than natural talent.

    The lesson was: Talent is overrated, hard work pays off. I believe this is covered in Geoff Colvin’s book Talent is Overrated.

  66. Fabian

    Reality check!! Very insightful article, thanks for sharing.

  67. Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach

    Excellent point-

    I’m just starting to make the plan for my first book launch and was starting to feel overwhelmed by the process. My first reaction was to focus on bringing on lots of people to implement an immense amount of tactics. (It’s the American in me! Bigger is better!)

    But then I read this post (which includes your excellent advice):

    And decided that bringing on a whole bunch of people so we could all be super busy doing things that will bring little results was ridiculous. So instead, I’m re-reading this Forbes post every day this week to focus my mind on what works. Then working on developing a book marketing plan centered on the fewest number of movements, executed in the most precise manner, to bring the biggest results possible.

    Thanks for speaking truth to bring us back to our senses!

    To your brilliance!
    Elizabeth Grace Saunders

  68. Frank T.

    I disagree with the statement “Top performers want everything.”

    The real Top Performer wants the ONE thing that he can DO right now. Then he wants the NEXT ONE thing, he can do then. A series of steps, but always focusing on the now. A step by step plan. He will ask enough people about “the ONE thing” people will say and after asking 100 people, he will have enough answers to run the show. And not only that, he will know 100 people who already answered one of his questions. And likely, since they answered, it will be a very specific question that might have been useful.

  69. jason v.

    I once moronically agreed to move foward with a business without systems and processes in place. Against my better judgement! The biggest mistake was not having a plan. The gut reaction to create a website, hand out business cards, and hang the open sign is the typical “just get started” entraprenuerial insanity. On the other flipside there’s no way to have 100% of the facts to get started, or nothing gets started. I couldn’t agree more that tactics and strategy w/o systems and processes, is certain failure.

  70. Nathan Meffert

    Ramit, et al. Question.

    I’m hard at work on implementing the investing strategies in Ramit’s book. I’ve followed the rest of the book to a “t”, and I’m trying to do the same here.

    Ramit says to pick an aggressive fund to invest in with my 401(k). That makes sense.

    FIRST QUESTION: Is he suggesting that I invest in only one fund?

    Also, between my 401(k) and my Roth IRA, I am contributing a total of 10% of gross income (after taxes) to investments. (6% towards 401(k) and 4% towards Roth IRA.)

    SECOND QUESTION: If, say, I choose a 100% domestic equity fund to invest in with my 401(k), should I factor that into my overall asset allocation strategy described later in the chapter – or should that be treated as a separate strategy?

    I’m sure someone here has something good to say about this, so thanks in advance for any help you can offer.


  71. missy

    I would say only perfect practice makes perfect.

  72. Jon

    I think what Ramit is trying to say is that while taking action [now] is important, you must be taking actions that will get you to (or closer to) your goal. This is more obvious to some people that others.

    The problem is that people tend to latch on to PREFERENCES and look for something exotic to deliver ‘perfect’ or ‘instant’ results. The same core values and processes that it takes for those Korean (or any) archers to be successful is the same core processes that it takes to run a business. After mastering or being proficient at the core level, then yes you will want specific strategies for your niche. These strategies may be off the shelf, they may have to be built manually, or a hybrid of these extremes. Systems always follow the same core development cycle process.

    There are no guarantees, but you do your best and take calculated risks. This comes from wisdom (discerning truth from falsehoods). It’s amazing how much people are trying to shorten the long way (usually holding on to their superstitions and false judgement), instead of taking the short path. Let me guess: everyone else is [not] doing it?

  73. Elizabeth

    The same thing is evident in fencing: in 2004 women’s sabre was an olympic sport for the first time. Americans swept the podium because American technique is to train Americans in sabre without focusing first on footwork or learning foil. It was the first US Gold medal in fencing in over a hundred years,the first women’s gold medal and the first gold medal in women’s sabre. The rest of the world was at a disadvantage because they went through a formulaic route. Except this year the US didn’t even medal because their technique of throwing people into a weapon and training them doesn’t compete in the long run with spending the first year focusing on footwork before even touching a weapon.

  74. Jeremy Tadman

    I think the most successful people are people who master their domain for the sake of mastery rather than those who do it for other people. Why else would you give up your entire being to the goal of achieving that mastery? Perhaps that’s the culture difference.

  75. Eleanor

    Had a good laugh – same thing goes for people who want to learn how to do jumping with horses (eventing). Instead of learning the key basics of riding, I see so many people worried about how “high” they can jump w/o considering whether or not they jump well, and end up breaking a bone or 2.

  76. Marie at Family Money Values

    There is a lot to be said for developing good habits and practicing. However, I doubt that many people learn by NOT doing. There is such a thing as too much prep and too much planning (and this from a project manager!). At some point, you have to take action!

  77. Takeo Mori

    Nice article. Yes, we don’t age and it is harder for us to get fat (American sized fat), and the long term thinking comes from Confucian/Buddhist background of most Asians. Especially Buddhism.

  78. Tommy Walker

    This is something I try to instill into my online marketing students, and tell them straight away, if you want “tactics” i’m not going to be the right coach for you.

    What most people don’t seem to take into account is that all the “tactics” and “techniques” were all conceived because of someone else’s willingness to experiment.

    The journey is often what fuels those tactics, but that gets lost, because deep thinking doesn’t lead to easy traffic (or being a better archer, or having a healthy relationship with finances) or at least we don’t respect our reader’s intelligence enough to trust that it will.

    Straight tactical might work, but it isn’t sustainable, and any success that comes from someone else’s tactics isn’t really yours.