Ramit Sethi

Author of NYT bestseller, I Will Teach You To Be Rich

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 22, 2016


Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
I'm Ramit Sethi, the author of the New York Times bestseller, "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" and I write for over 1,000,000 monthly readers on my website, www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com, where I cover psychology, personal finance, careers, and entrepreneurship. My unusual combination of psychology, analytical testing, and irreverent style led Fortune Magazine to call me the “new finance guru on the block.” I've also appeared on ABC and PBS regularly, and periodically write for the New York Times. I studied social influence and persuasion at Stanford, and previously co­founded PBworks, a Silicon Valley collaboration startup.
Nancy Evans@nancy_evans
What invisible script are you currently battling with?
Neil Patel@neilpatel
You've sent thousands of emails and after a while your readers will naturally open your emails less and less. What's your number one strategy to keep your list hot, so that people always want to open your emails?
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@neil_patel Awesome question. We think about email very differently than most people: - Our emails are long, sometimes very long. - We write frequently. We've been sending 3-4 emails for 8+ years. Sometimes we send 2/day! (And people love it.) - We don't really spend much time testing subject lines. The reasons behind this decision are a totally different view of email than most people. We're not trying to sell anything in the vast majority of our emails. That means we're not micro-testing email A vs. email B. What we're focusing on is the relationship. The simplest way to put that is: When you see an email from Ramit Sethi or I Will Teach You To Be Rich, how do you feel? When I used to subscribe to Gilt, every morning I would LOVE getting their emails. As their merchandise quality dropped, I started looking less and less forward to it. Eventually, I unsubscribed. I always tell my team, we're ONE email away from someone unsubscribing. (And that unsubscribe can be worth $10,000+ to us.) That means every single email has to be superb, every time, no exceptions. So to do this, we: - Write stories, not just lectures. If you read any of our emails, you're going to find stories about weird business lessons I learned, how I'm afraid to use a bidet, or even my thoughts on parenting/relationships. It's not always trying to sell something - A lot of push and pull. Sometimes emotional emails. Sometimes, highly tactical posts. Sometimes videos or podcasts. Think of a retail store -- they love to keep it fresh. There's only so many times someone can sell you a damn ebook!
Pete Ross@prometheandrive
@neil_patel wrong. I've been on @ramit 's list for a year or two and every time I see his name in my inbox I read to the end. It's all about the content, and his is gold
Ashley Palmer@ashley · Girlboss @youtrition
@neil_patel @ramit funny, this morning I was just thinking there were only two people whose emails I read every single time they come... and here they both are.
@neil_patel @Ramit. I read all your emails but not others. :)
Leonardo Alvarenga@leonardo_alvarenga · Fundador, Vá Mais Longe
@prometheandrive @neil_patel @ramit me too! I always read and sometimes I save the e-mail on a "Pretty Good E-mails" to use as inspiration later! I think this is because of my connection to him and his work and a good copy!
Matt D. Smith@mds · Design Director, Studio Mds
What's the #1 limiting belief you've had to overcome as you've become more and more successful?
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@mds So many! - That selling is sleazy - That only "dumb protein-powder-using jocks work out" (https://www.instagram.com/p/xm4s...) - That formal education is the answer to everything - That everything should be testable and quantifiable I have a ton more. Let me know some of yours, too.
Idia Ajayi@iajayi
@ramit "That everything should be testable and quantifiable"... Can you please expound upon this? What changed this belief and what do you believe now?
Michelle Gaut Langley@michelle · Mad Kitty Media, Owner
@ramit @mds That rich people are somehow dishonest or exploitative
Zhishuo Jason Zhang@zhishuo_jason_zhang
You built IWT around you. Your personal story, what you learnt over the time and your network, your style of teaching. Since IWT has been growing to be that big. How do you envision the future of IWT. Do you think the company will still keep growing without your leadership?
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@zhishuo_jason_zhang I think this was a positive and negative, honestly. If I had to start again, I'm not sure I would choose the name "I Will Teach You To Be Rich." It's definitely punchy and instantly communicates my attitude, but it also limits certain areas of growth. For a long time, the site was all about me. A few years ago, I started referring to the team behind the scenes. We have an amazing team of people all around the world working on IWT. There's no way I could do this all on my own. As we've grown and built systems to scale, we've learned a ton. Hence our new site on business, www.GrowthLab.com. And we're showing people a Rich Life isn't just about what one person (me) thinks -- we have tons of other people who are already living it. I think you'll see me continue to share my ideas -- I want to keep pushing, challenging, trying new things. But we're also introducing different areas that aren't solely built around me.
Kyle Chupp@kylechupp
@ramit @zhishuo_jason_zhang I'm in the starting stages now of ZTL and wondering these same questions. How personal should a brand be, and how to limit what your brand represents. I don't want to be all things to all people...but trying to look into the future to start off on a good path. These questions keep tripping me up
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi thanks for being here today! What has been a pivotal moment in your life that has helped shape the way you approach dealing with struggles in your life /work and how that in turn helps you advise others?
I am amazed at the length of emails you send regularly. They are long and more importantly they are of top quality. You talk lot about systems as well. What are the systems you set up to write content /emails/ news letters etc at regular intervals. How do you ensure you write at regular intervals? Thank you
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@srinivas Thank you! One of the biggest misconceptions people have is the tendency to think nobody wants to read long emails. There’s this belief that we all need to “get to the point.” We’ve written 10-line emails and 10+-page emails. Long copy works, as long as it’s interesting and engaging. This is one of the biggest myths in all of marketing (especially for technical people)! We’ve developed a lot of systems to make sure we create material on a regular basis. In the old days, I used to just wake up and decide what to write about: taxes, tipping, weddings, etc. Now we have an editorial calendar. I also keep a massive list of random ideas, from “introductions to emails” to long ideas. I also keep 15,000+ bookmarks, with annotations, at http://delicious.com/ramitsethi/ which helps avoid blank-page syndrome. When I sit down to write, everything is ready to go. All links have been added. Outlines are there. Graphics are handled. I can just focus on writing. And the most important part is REVISION. Nothing is great the first time around. Our team spends tons and tons of time on revisions…sometimes months to get one page right. Thanks for asking!
Pouneh Eftekhari@deleted-426778
What's the difference between people who are successful with IWT courses (like ZTL) and those who are not? Is it discipline, fear, time commitment? What have you observed?
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@pouneheftekhari We've studied this a lot. 1. Having and building the support to succeed 2. Trusting the system 3. Patience Let me go into each one. First, having the support means having the time, financial security, and understanding of what this work means. For example, I believe everyone has 5 hours/week to focus on building a new skill. But you'll see people sometimes saying, "I'm totally overwhelmed! I don't have time to do anything new!" I immediately tell them not to join. We're not looking for harried, frenzied, overwhelmed people. No matter how good our material is, they will always fail, because they're adopted a self-identity of being overwhelmed. That means the first time something doesn't go perfectly, they're waving their hands around frantically, then gone to the next thing. Depending on the area, peer support also matters. If your family thinks it's "stupid" or "scammy" to focus on self-improvement, your chances of success go way down. This is one of the reasons we started building in community, and even in-person meetups around the world, in the last few years. If you're living in Kansas City and you're the only person who reads self-development...it can be lonely. What a blessing to discover there are other people out there like you. This is also another reason we don't accept people with CC debt into our flagship courses, a decision that costs us millions of dollars a year. We believe if you have CC debt, you shouldn't be joining $2,000+ classes -- you should be paying off your debt. We encourage them to use our free material and when they're ready, we'll be here for them. Once you get over the basics, then it's TRUST THE SYSTEM. Think of people you've seen in the gym running on the treadmill -- the people you've seen for years, who still look the same. Most people don't want to work out for years and look the same, so logically, you would think they might try something new, right? Turns out, a lot of people would rather continue doing the same thing -- even if it's not working -- rather than try something new and risk the POTENTIAL of failure. This is why we spend so much time testing our material and being selective about who we let in. When we find people who've gotten stuck, the single largest reason is not trusting the system. This can take the form of being too smart for their own good, trying to skip over certain sections ("because things are different in Spain"), or just gravitating towards what's comfortable rather than what's required. For example, in ZTL, one of the biggest examples of not trusting the system is when people do tons of online research...but never talk to a single person in real life. Finally, PATIENCE. You're not going to get ripped in 2 months. You're not going to make $1mm in your first year. Anyone who tells you that is lying. We'd rather tell the truth and focus on long-term change. For example, in our Dream Job course, a lot of people are surprised they don't start off week 1 by updating their resume. We tell them not to worry about everyone else sending their resumes out. In week 1, they might feel "50 resumes behind." But we're doing the hard work of research, networking, talking to real people and learning about real jobs. By week 3 or 4, a random person might have sent out 100-200 resumes. But suddenly, Dream Job students know exactly who to target. Wouldn't you rather send your resume to 10 Dream companies and get an 80% response rate...vs. shotgunning 100 resumes to random companies and getting a 2% response rate? These are some of the biggest reasons people succeed / fail with IWT material, and self development in general. On principle, we avoid the gimmicky short-term nature of most tactical approaches and instead do the deep, hard work of real behavioral change. And it works!
Pouneh Eftekhari@deleted-426778
Thanks, @ramit! I think the only thing holding me back is 'trust the system'. No offense, I trust you and do believe all the testimonials about your courses....but being unemployed makes it (psychologically) challenging to make the investment. But intellectually, I believe that with discipline, I can and will be successful. My husband and I move around a lot (we lived in 3 countries last year and by December 2016 will have lived in 2 this year). So an online income source would be a dream come true. Thanks again for the thoughtful answer. - Pouneh
Phillipp Aube@phillipp_aube
Just please tell me this ironing technique- seems to consistently be a priority.. On a serious note- how long ago did you realize that your initial IWT blog would be successful? What age were you and could you give us a briefing on where you were at that time?
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hey @ramit! If you had to live in one hotel for the rest of your life, which hotel would it be? And does quality of iron/ironing board have any influence on your choice? 😀
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@mscccc I love The Four Seasons in Chiang Mai (http://www.fourseasons.com/chian...) or the Ritz in Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico (http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Pr...). I love hotels...see more at http://delicious.com/ramitsethi/... And you better believe I check out their ironing board!
Katherine Alexandra@deleted-426794 · Various
@ramit @mscccc so what's the deal with ironing? is it like an art?
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
@ramit @mscccc Going to Chiang Mai in May before heading to SF for the summer at PH HQ 🙌. Four Seasons may be out of my budget. Any recommendations for daily activities, places to eat, etc?
Karl D Kelley Jr@karl_d_kelley_jr · Product Development
What is the metal bracket you wear? I have noticed you always wear it, even in your high school years. Is it medical? Or does is have some other meaning to you? Also, I have noticed you have had a Senior Project Manager position open for a while. What is the top quality that has been missing from your applicants?
Michelle Huber Banga@michelle_banga
@karl_d_kelley_jr Here is my guess about the bracelet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka... My husband is Punjabi too.
Karl D Kelley Jr@karl_d_kelley_jr · Product Development
@michelle_banga Thanks for the reply.... That is so interesting, I do not know anything about Punjabi.... Looks like I need to do some reading.
Wendy Ellsberry Doris@wendy_ellsberry_doris · House Flipper struggling to finish ZTL
Do you have any advice for those of us (me) who struggle to finally launch something out of fear of having to maintain a product indefinitely? This could be due to any host of factors: running out of content, becoming bored with the content, never feeling like completing a project because it's ongoing, becoming frustrated with ongoing maintenance, etc....
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@wendy_ellsberry_doris This is a really interesting question. This is a particular type of fear, where you are already planning to be SO SUCCESSFUL that you can't even get started! Lots of engineers do this: "I don't want to launch this thing because I'll get SO MANY CUSTOMER SERVICE EMAILS!" It's like, dude...if you're getting tons of CS emails, that's a good thing. You can throw money at the problem and hire it away. Your biggest concern should be building something that people actually care about. You should be so lucky that your product requires ongoing maintenance. 2 things to think about here: - "Don't try to be 40 before you're 40" -- we talk about this in ZTL. So many people focus on all these advanced problems, like A/B testing time intervals, when they don't even have a product! Know that you'll learn as you go, and be more equipped to handle challenges as you get bigger and encounter new problems. - You're in control. If you decide you don't want to produce content, you can hire it out. Or change your business model. Or shut it down! You are in control. But the first challenge is doing your research and building something people actually care about.
Wendy Ellsberry Doris@wendy_ellsberry_doris · House Flipper struggling to finish ZTL
@ramit good point. It seems so dumb when I actually see the fear in writing. Thanks!
Lena Levine@iamlenalevine · Creative Director @ Lena Levine Studio
Ramit, if you were to meet yourself 10 years ago. What business/life advice would you give to yourself? Edit: In addition to asking for help :)
Leonardo Alvarenga@leonardo_alvarenga · Fundador, Vá Mais Longe
@iamlenalevine he sent an email about that a few days ago... eheh
Lena Levine@iamlenalevine · Creative Director @ Lena Levine Studio
@leonardo_alvarenga heh, so what was the advice?
Leonardo Alvarenga@leonardo_alvarenga · Fundador, Vá Mais Longe
@iamlenalevine ask for help
David Benfield@david_benfield · President, Brightside Bamboo
What are your favorite apps and services to use for your business? CMS, email marketing, payment processing, video replay, etc.?
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@david_benfield Here are a few: Mail Delivery: Infusionsoft & Maropost A/B Testing: Visual Website Optimizer & KISSmetrics Webinar Hosting: Ustream Landing Page Platform: Leadpages Live Chat: ZopIM Customer Support: Zendesk Blogging: Wordpress Blog Hosting: WP Engine Wistia for video Personal: TripIt for travel, Overcast for podcasts
Zhishuo Jason Zhang@zhishuo_jason_zhang
About abundance mentality you mentioned. You are always teaching but also always learning. What the percentage of time you allocate for each in daily routine?
Ali Khan@ali_khan · Business Developer
What is your ironing technique? I'm serious. Also, how often do you cook your own meals? Which recent books do you recommend most highly? Did you ever take any classes that taught you how to improve your copy? I'm surprised your emails are lengthy but equally punchy. Tea or coffee, and which type? Do you smoke? Thank you.
Mohit Dhawan@mohitdhawanm
I have a really hard time getting motivated to do anything, I can dream and see the lifestyle I want but somehow always end up not doing anything about it...what are some techniques that you suggest I can use in everyday life to motivate myself to change?
Jake Kempen@jake_kempen · Student, Entrepreneurship Major
@ramit How important do you think GPA is in college, and should I sacrifice actual learning to achieve it? I would rather spend my time reading thought leaders’ books, taking your courses, and getting real world experience than sitting in a classroom regurgitating material I know I won’t use,
Jake Kempen@jake_kempen · Student, Entrepreneurship Major
In one of my classes, my teacher reads definitions off PowerPoint slides for three hours straight. It’s a joke, but it will be an easy A within my major. I'm an MBA college student on full scholarships studying entrepreneurship and sales. I'd love to hear your take on college.
Ramit Sethi@ramit · CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@jake_kempen Here were my priorities in college, in this order: - My friends - My own business/entrepreneurial stuff - My school work But let me add one more thing. When I was a senior in high school applying to a bunch of colleges, some elite colleges had this FAQ: "Should I take the harder class and get a B, or the easier class and get an A?" Their answer: "We always encourage our applicants to take as challenging of a class as possible. With that said, most of our students take the challenging class and get an A." WOW! I love the audacity of that answer. YES AND YES. Should I do X or Y? YES AND YES! I want you to examine the subtext of your question. Look how you framed your GPA: "Regurgitating material I know I won't use." The honest truth that a lot of people don't like to hear: You should feel free to focus on friends and entrepreneurial self-learning...but top performers almost always get great GPAs, too. In other words, should you focus on entrepreneurship or GPA? YES AND YES.
Ashley Palmer@ashley · Girlboss @youtrition
what was the fate of IWT fit? Are you planning to run it again? Why or why not? What lessons did you learn from the experience? How do you feel marketing to fitness consumers compares to marketing to freelancers/entrepreneurs?
Navid Moazzez@navidmoazzez
Hey what's up Ramit. Just working on something pretty epic for my blog, and I'd love to include your insights on the following topic: What are your top 3 list building strategies that are generating subscribers for you today?
Ling So@ling_so · CEO, Eat2healthyweight.com