Ramit Sethi Will Piss You Off. And Then He’ll Change Your Life.
Ramit Sethi is the author of the New York Times bestseller I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Every month over 1,000,000 people visit his site to learn how to start an online business, find their dream job, make extra money on the side, and improve their social skills. He inspires a very dedicated group of people that will read just about anything he writes.
As you start familiarizing yourself with Ramit and how he goes about things, you read his newsletters (or social media rants), he will begin to change your life — though a combination of counterintuitive teachings. When he talks about starting a business, earning more money, or optimizing your psychology, he is blunt, borderline coarse, and unavoidably disruptive. His opinions are anything but “typical,” but you can’t help but get the feeling that what he’s saying is true — and worth listening to.
Ramit joined Product Hunt for a LIVE Chat recently, and below are some of his most insightful answers. If you read this, one or more of his answers might piss you off. But then, if you let it, his advice might end up changing your life. Enjoy. :-)
What are some of the best ways to make money in blogging? — Lakey Babineaux
If your goal is solely to make money, you will lose. Anyone can slap up some junk content and throw a few ads up. You might make $0.35 or $10/month. I’m willing to bet that’s not what you’re looking for.
To really grow, you have to spend time understanding marketing, psychology, human nature — in other words, what people want.
This takes a lot of patience. If you go back and look at my early posts from 2004 or 2005, you’ll see that a lot of them aren’t very good. But I had a bigger goal than money. I felt I had a message that people needed to hear, and I spent a lot of time listening. If I had only wanted money, I would have given up years ago because it was way too hard.
Money is important, don’t get me wrong. But if your driving goal is money, it’s like saying “I want to be famous.” Very few celebrities wake up in their 20s and say that. They say, “I want to be an actor…Because I have to act.” Or I want to write about personal finance and human behavior…Because the world needs to hear what I have to say.
That pushes you through the tough times. Dim dreams of money do not.
I am amazed at the length of emails you send regularly. What are the systems you set up to write content /emails/ newsletters at regular intervals? — CA Srinivas Reddy
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 on Delicious, 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.
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.
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? — Neil Patel
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 [per week] for 8+ years. Sometimes we send 2/day! (And people love it.)
- We don’t really spend much time testing subject lines.
The reason behind these decisions is 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?
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 this is what we do:
- 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!
Surely you’ve got a long list of book recommendations from friends and colleagues (or even better, a stack of books you’ve bought but haven’t read yet). How do YOU decide which one goes to the top of the pile? — Jacob Thurman
OK, first, Ramit’s Book-Buying Rule: If you even think a book looks remotely interesting, buy it. So I buy them all. They’re all sitting on my Kindle or on my table.
Most of the time, reading books isn’t time-sensitive, so I have these pockets of time where I can decide what to read. Like when I’m flying somewhere, I’ll open up my Kindle and decide what I feel like reading at that moment.
The really big change has been strategically adding pockets. For example, if you’re eating alone, that’s 15 minutes to read a book. If you’re getting ready in the morning, that’s time to play a podcast. Or setting time before you go to sleep to read. On Saturday mornings, I have a TO REVIEW calendar entry.
I don’t want this to seem over-structured. Sometimes I get to it, sometimes not. But it’s great to know those “pockets” are there when I’m ready. This is how I read 2+ books a week!
What are your best levers for convincing people that now is the time to invest in themselves? — Ryan Robinson
1) Be Selective: If you start with the principle that you’re going to create world-class content — and you follow through — be extremely selective about who you allow to use it. Instead of chasing bottom-barrel customers like so many people, treat your material with reverence and teach your market to do the same. This means:
- If you truly have the world’s best product/content/material, why would you discount it 50%? Answer: You wouldn’t.
- Why would you play from a position of weakness by offering incentives, $1 trials, and all sorts of gimmicks? You wouldn’t.
- You would make some very careful strategic decisions about who you allow to use your material — playing from a position of strength — rather than who you can “trick” or “market” into using your material.
2) Be willing to give up the short-term dollar in exchange for a long-term relationship. We turn down millions of dollars by prohibiting anyone with credit card debt from joining our flagship courses. To my knowledge, no other company does this. It’s not a gimmick, it’s our actual values. Last night, we sold out of a new course way faster than we anticipated. We could have opened up more seats and generated $50,000 more. We discussed it for less than 60 seconds and knew that was never an option.
But we made sure to tell students what we were doing, so they understood our values and principles. By living this for year after year — not as some marketing hoax, but truly believing it and following through — people start to see they can trust you. And trust is super-rare in this world.
By the way, you might notice the corollaries between these points and dating. Instead of pickup tricks, one of the best things you can do is improve yourself. Once you improve yourself — getting fit, getting interesting hobbies, becoming more socially skilled — you can become more selective. And you can give up short-term tactics for long-term relationships with the caliber of person you want (more about that here).
You seem to be a master of psychology and human behavior. Do you find it easy to turn this “off” for your personal life, or do your friends and colleagues always think you have a bit of a self-serving end goal, no matter how sincere you are? — Adam Bloemink
I like to understand things. I think a lot of us do! That doesn’t mean I’m walking around with a clipboard and a rating scale for people. But I want to reframe your question: I think by understanding human psychology, you can actually be more focused on others. For example:
- When your bf/gf/husband/wife is upset, you don’t just jump in with a bunch of tactical responses. You can understand what’s actually going on.
- When your friend complains about her 50th bad relationship, you don’t just say, “Ugh, so stupid.” You see there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
- When you yourself claim you want to do something, but don’t — like lose weight, start a business, improve your relationship — you don’t beat yourself up. You dig into the why and systematically understand yourself.
Learning about human nature has taught me to be infinitely more compassionate about people. It’s taught me that intelligence has little to do with changing human behavior (e.g., intelligence and your intimate relationships are not very correlated). And the more I learn — the more our entire team learns — the more we realize how little we know.
A few people have told me that they always want to surround themselves with people more advanced than them. They say they always want to be the dumbest person in the room. What do you feel about that statement? What do you practice in your own life? — Naveen Dittakavi
My belief is you can learn from anyone. This is why I still buy books and courses from people whose businesses are a fraction of the size of ours, as well as learning from books in different areas (e.g., reading the book by Michael Jordan’s former trainer).
But I do think people at the top of their game can teach you things that others cannot. Sometimes, it’s a random phrase they’ll say, which turns out to have a million-dollar impact on your business. That’s happened to me by one of my mentors.
I also think more of us should learn from uncomfortable sources. I’ve heard people say, OMG, you read THAT site? Whether it’s Fox News, Jezebel, whatever…if you allow yourself to only exist in an echo chamber, how can you be the best?
Finally, in terms of “upgrading” I think of a few things:
- I love my friends for being my friends. It doesn’t matter that they don’t understand longitudinal tests. I just like hanging out with them. I don’t try to “upgrade” anything.
- In business, I’m very careful about who I hang out with. I think this is critical: If you hang out with people who are happy to create substandard products, that will rub off. Just as if you live in NYC or SF or New Orleans, certain values will rub off on you. Acknowledge it, plan for it.
- And I do think that the more successful you get, the more doors open up. When I started, I wanted to know who the world’s best copywriters were. Their names weren’t even public. Now that I’ve grown my business, I’ve learned more about the people and lessons that aren’t shared publicly. But that takes time. And there is always another level — don’t let it drive you crazy. Nothing worse than a social climber!
So, overall: I believe we can learn from everyone. I try to open my learning circle. But I’m also very careful of who I surround myself with because values — consciously or unconsciously — rub off.