My first New York Times article is up: Money and willpower

Ramit Sethi

Today, I’m thrilled to announce the first of a 4-post New York Times series I’m writing on psychology, personal finance, and earning more (for their Bucks blog).

In today’s post, you’ll learn:

  • The latest research on how extraordinarily difficult it is to change your behavior…from personal finance to HIV/AIDS preventive care
  • The failure of willpower: Why most people believe they can “try harder” to save money or lose weight…and why this fails over and over
  • The surprising solution to actually changing your behavior, along with 3 examples of powerful psychological principles to use against yourself to change behavior today

What I want you to do

Some people dream about winning the Olympics. Others dream about climbing Mount Everest. My dream was to win a spelling bee (every Indian person’s dream) and to get on the NYT “Most Emailed” list. Cool huh.

1. Read my article.
2. If you think it’s good (it is), I want you to share my NYT article with 3 of your friends via the NYT’s “Email this article” tool in the sidebar (see picture).

(We’re sending a lot of traffic and their system is a little rickety, so if it crashes the first time, just try again.)

The interesting part is…this is an article about willpower. Since you read my blog, and you like my stuff, this seems pretty easy. In fact, this would take you about 30 seconds max.

And yet it’s incredibly hard to motivate yourself to use the willpower to do a simple “Share with 3 friends.” Why is that?

You can find out in the article…

…but then I want you to summon your willpower to share this article.

Observe the differences in your mind. It logically “seems” easy to share with 3 friends. But, assuming you think the article is good, can you take action to share it?

Forget about my dream of getting on the “Most Shared” list…I also just want to see if we can motivate ourselves to take action instead of simply consuming more and more information, and doing nothing,

If you think it’s good, share it with 3 friends.

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  1. Ben

    In order to email it to friends, I had to create an account which sucks because I’m definitely not a fan of that liberal paper (but Ramit rules so I’m willing to). Of course when trying to create an account, you have to be careful to deny all of the spam crap the NYT is trying to sell. When I click the logon button from any page on the site, the page just refreshes to the same exact page. When I try clicking the email this button on your article, the article just refreshes and nothing happens.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Sorry man, the NYT is aware of the issue and investigating. Sucks! But thanks for going through so much to do it. I really appreciate that.

    • Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach

      If you’re wavering on whether to share this awesome article, here are my encouragements to help you overcome psychological resistance:

      -I was able to share this article with others without a hitch. The tech problems seem to be fixed.

      -Consider e-mailing this article to people who are already pretty good with their money because:
      1. You’ll avoid offending someone with money struggles.
      2. You’ll share this info with someone who is interested.
      3. You’ll increase the empathy of people who are good with money in understanding how to help those with struggles.

      To your brilliance!

  2. Aim

    Well, I tried and tried, it would not let me email. Sorry. Your article did inspire me though, I did try, instead of think about it till I forgot about it.
    I did put it on my facebook page though.

  3. Joe Higareda

    Prepare for some criticism, Dude. I looked up your blog in hopes of emulating a winner (which you obviously are) because I’m about to launch my own website. Sadly, I noticed two immediate distractions: The photo in the ad depicts an anxiety-ridden man. Is he facing a firing squad? The second issue is with grammar and typos. Your first sentence begins with, “Today, I have thrilled to announce…” WTF? In addition, I would have added a semicolon after the word “writing”, in order to avoid confusion.

    I stopped reading after the first sentence.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thanks, fixed : )

      Don’t let the minor issues distract from the main point.

    • Chris

      Is there a story behind the “anxiety-ridden man”? I had been wondering about that…

  4. Athina

    There’s something wrong with their site I guess, it just won’t let you email the article…I even created an account an for you and I live in Greece!.. I will try again.

  5. Clare

    I saw this yesterday and shared it with friends before you could even ask! Well written.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thanks, Clare!

  6. Karina

    I loved it. And I will share. Gracias.

  7. Hamed

    Shared the article weith three people, including my bro, whom I have been trying to bring around to the way of automation for some time. Hopefully this will help.

  8. Matt

    Like other commenters, I’d email it to several people if I didn’t have to register with NYT to do so. I also tried to “Recommend” but that too requires a NYT account.

    I shared it the old fashioned way (emailed the URL around) and tagged it in Delicious, FWIW.

  9. Hannah

    Your desperate plea for your readers to email your article is pretty lame. Instead I am summoning all the willpower I can manage to leave this comment. I have talked your book up to some friends but come onnn even my grandparents are over that chain letter “email this to three people you know” nonsense.

    • Kay Ballard

      Well said, Hannah.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Then don’t do it. Nobody is forcing you to do anything!

  10. Dean Walsh

    what a pathetic attempt to make people think that by promoting your writing they are actually doing something to help themselves. I am dissapointed that hubpages would work with such a dodgy conman as the person who write this article.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thanks, Dean. I take it you didn’t get anything out of the article…?

  11. Alex

    Your Youtube Link worked in IE for me but not in Firefox but not in Firefox 3.5 which is pretty standard, you may want to look at it.

    • Alex

      Your Youtube Link worked in IE for me but not in Firefox 3.5 which is pretty standard, you may want to look at it.

  12. Honey

    I have tried for 20 minutes to do this; I had registered for NYT access before but couldn’t remember the password and the password reset feature didn’t work. Then I registered using a different email address but when I click the “email this” button it just refreshes to the same screen.

  13. Jim

    For me, it’s less about willpower. I just don’t like to send unsolicited email unless it’s persona. My dad does this, and it drives me nuts. In fact, if he sent me something worthwhile I’d never know because he sends me so much other crap it’s hard to tell the good from the bad. I will share it on Facebook, though, as that’s less of a bother to people.

  14. Patty

    Unfortunately, the email this function is still not working on the site, so I’m unable to send to three friends. I’ll keep your article in my blog reader and try again over the weekend.

    I enjoyed the article, and I am glad to see you sharing your tips and tricks with another national audience. Like willpower, you have to keep telling the story. Thanks!

    • Ramit Sethi

      Yeah, I’ll try to write about the crazy tech issues soon. Thanks for trying to share it.

  15. Frank

    This is straight from your book. = \
    Also, I’ve received this in an email from you.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Nope : )

      I’ve written a lot about willpower and psychology, including a couple points I make in the NYT article, but this isn’t something you’ve seen from me before

  16. Gal @ Equally Happy

    The links at the bottom of the article include an option to share through Facebook. Both those options worked well for me and did not require an NYT account. Maybe instead of striving to be on the most emailed list you could work towards being on the most FB’ed or retweeted list. It would be easier for readers than the shoddy NYT email system. Besides, email is sooooo 2009 🙂


    • Ramit Sethi

      Haha, that’s what you think : )

      Bonus points to anyone who can guess why I don’t care about being shared very widely on FB.

  17. Cameron

    Well it is now 03-DEC-2010 and the NYT email this problem persists. Too bad really, I was summoning all my willpower to do it and NYT presented a roadblock.

    The article is good and I am looking forward to the next 3 installments. In fact I am now motivated to call up TIAA-CREF and increase my contributions (something I know I need to do, but I keep making excuses).

    Keep up the good work Ramit.

  18. Elizabeth

    You don’t care whether your articles are viral or not on Facebook because the types of content you publish isn’t suitable to the insta-refresh FB crowd, and certainly not the tweeters who operate in 140 characters or less. Your in-depth, 4,000+ word articles are best consumed when served warm in the inbox.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Kinda, but nope. There is more subtlety to it

  19. Ely

    re: Facebook… maybe because all kinds of worthless crap floats around FB/Twitter? NYT most emailed list is seen & clicked by more thoughtful, intelligent, and interested people than zomg I bet I can find 1M people who think Ramit is hot…

  20. Tina Portis

    OMGoose! I attempts to share the email link and it did not work. I did email the link though. Since marrying in May, I’ve been away from the blog and truly needed the NY Times message. We’re moving and I’ll be working from home and we have a great opportunity to save 100 percent of hubby’s income. We need to build up the savings and take a vacation!

  21. Brian Drolet

    Fuck the haters Ramit. You give incredible advice. But you already know this

  22. Diana

    Hey! I’m so thrilled for you! Just as ppl have mentioned (and I’ve emailed you about), the “email this” button just refreshes the page. Update… someone’s probably tried to fix that, but it STILL doesn’t work–it now just brings us to the log-in page again.
    I’ll just send the link to ppl. I want them to know about you!