24 Things I Learned in the First Year of Ramit’s Brain Trust

In November of 2012 I decided to join professional network/entrepreneurial brain trust.

The rationale was simple, successful people don’t succeed on their own.

There are two parts to the program:

  • Monthly interviews with a wide array of brilliant people, masters and advisors that have helped countless people with productivity, health, psychology, and more
  • Membership to an exclusive community of ambitious professionals to hold you accountable, encourage you, and help you live a Rich Life

I read as much (or more) than anyone I know (sans Ryan Holiday and Shane Parrish), but reading is a time consuming endeavor.

This brain trust provides access to knowledge, wisdom and proven strategies that top performers use to…

  1. Get more done
  2. Stay focused
  3. Earn more money

Below are 24 of my favorite takeaways from my first year as a participant in Ramit’s Brain Trust.

James Altucher

1.) Build Your Life Around Themes, Not Goals

  • Goals focus on outcomes, themes on the process
  • Goals = Not satisfied with where you are. You achieve it once and then not satisfied anymore.
  • Themes = “I want to provide value that will reward me financially.”
  • Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, has some great thoughts on goals vs. systems. So does James Clear. And Rohan Rajiv.

2.) Build Your List, But Also Connect Your List

  • When you introduce two people who hit it off, you’re the meta connector, the common factor.
  • They will always remember you and you’ll always be on their mind for future potential connections they can make that would be useful for you.
  • Introduce two people with an idea in mind. If you can help two other people make money then eventually, good things will happen to you.

Learn more about how to deal with your fear of failure.

Charles Duhigg

3.) The Power of Habit

  • Human willpower is limited; it gets depleted over time
  • Like a muscle, you can strengthen it by using it more
  • You should try to change behaviors into habits (e.g brushing your teeth is easy because it’s a habit)
  • Developing good keystone habits (exercising, financial discipline, etc.) creates chain reactions — permeating other areas of your life and changing and rearranging your other habits as you integrate the (keystone) habit into your life.

4.) The Three Parts of a Habit

  1. Cues (starts behavior)
  2. Routine (behavior itself)
  3. Rewards (how brain learns to encode for the future)

Learn more about the power of habits.

Rob Kelly

5.) Create a Qualities of Achievement Document

  • This is a simple way to increase your confidence
  • This should be a blueprint to achieve future success
  • Learn more about how to create your own here.

6.) Turn Ideas into Reality

  • Leverage your competencies. What are you really good at? What do you love doing?
  • Deposit your content about the topic into the universe.
  • Set up a feedback loop, measure what is going on.

This echoes Austin Kleon’s 3 reasons you should show your work.

Learn more about how to find your purpose in life.

Chris Yeh

7.) Networking is Not Transactional

  • If someone is smart/interesting, take the time to meet with them.
  • It is about relationships. Meet with smart people and stay in touch.
  • Calling people keeps you top of mind.
  • Talk to people –> Find out where there’s a need –> Prove you can fill that need

8.) The Architecture of Top Performers

What’s your foundation? It needs to be sturdy so you can build on top of it.

What are your non-negotiables that have to take precedence? Things like your family. What other non-negotiables need to be in place to ensure you’re doing your best work? (Exercise, Sleep, etc.)

Learn more about how to think like top performers and leaders.

BJ Fogg

9.) Create Tiny Habits and Eliminate Barriers to Inefficiency

  • Design for laziness (e.g if there’s a full water bottle on your desk at all times you’ll drink more water)
  • Incremental improvements are more reliable and robust for long-term behavior change

10.) Do Hard Things Now to Make Future Things Easy

  • Motivation only has one role in our lives and that’s to help us to do hard things.
  • Build a system to make it easy even with low motivation.
  • A great example would be to prepare all your meals for the week in individual Tupperware on Sunday when you have energy so that during your (busy) work week, when your motivation to eat healthy is low, you can just grab your food and heat it up.

Learn more about how to get out of a rut and find the motivation to change.

Ben Casnocha

11.) Career Plans Limit Your Options in Today’s World

  • Sheryl Sandberg says, “I don’t have a career plan”
  • 3 things to keep in mind when thinking about your career:

12.)When Making Important Decisions, Use the Regret Minimization Framework

Clearly I made up a new word, “minimalization” in my commonplace book notes.

Here’s 5 Ways to Evaluate Tough Career Decisions.

And here’s the Heath brothers four-step process designed to counteract the array of biases and irrationality that disrupt our decisions.

Learn more about how career builders choose the right path.

Gretchen Rubin

13.) You’re Probably Happier Than You Think

The first step to greater happiness is to acknowledge how happy you are now, then deliberately think about what makes you happy to add more of it.

The best way I’ve (personally) found to do this is to start a gratitude journal.

Here’s four rituals to keep you happy all the time.

14.) Negative Emotions Play an Important Role in Happiness

If you have strong self-knowledge, negative emotions provide signals of things you need to change in your life.

  • Whom do you envy? Why? (e.g. I envy writers because they have more flexibility to work from home; therefore, I’m going to try and shift my work priorities to work from home more often to increase my happiness)
  • Make things you envy a priority to obtain
  • What steps can you take to make that happen for you?
  • What do you lie about?
  • If you’re uncomfortable telling the truth, perhaps there are steps you need to take to change (e.g. you tell everyone you moved closer to work so you could walk, but you still drive in everyday)

Learn more about how to be happy for life.

Michael Ellsberg

15.) Your Level of Success is Dependent on How Open you are to Feedback

  • It’s not about you (personally); it’s about your performance
  • Actively solicit how you come across to others
  • When asking for feedback, tell others/your boss, “I want your hardest shot and I won’t be offended”

16.) A Network of Relationships is Essentially a Network of Trust

  • Act in a way that a large number of people will trust you
  • Proactively suggest some ways to help those in your network; be very specific
  • Sometimes busy people are busy (take a long-term approach)
  • Trust is currency. It reduces time and cost of doing transactions
  • Your brain needs diversity

Learn more about how to network and invest in yourself.

Ron Lieber

17.) It’s Imperative to Understand the Strategies and Tactics Required to Elevate Your Career

  • Take the time to study the people who came before you
  • Focus on people’s biggest pain points and/or their largest expense
  • Come up with original answers for old questions
  • Make complicated things “make sense”
  • Be conversational: Start at the beginning/from scratch
  • Help relatively smart people understand something
  • Look for emerging areas of interest (cast a wide/eclectic net)
  • Stunt + aspirational + useful + service to people = success (e.g Julia Child’s recipes blogged by Julie Powell)
  • Start with your obsessions, then move at half steps to find your beat or niche

18.) A Great Way to Build Instant Rapport is to Write Smart, Thoughtful Dashes

  • Send notes letting people know what you like and/or admire about their work; be very specific and detailed
  • Example: “Hey I read your thing and I liked/noticed/appreciated…”

Learn more about how to build instant rapport and make it to the top of your field.

Chris Guillebeau

19.) 4 Ways to Manage Criticism

  • Recognize the struggle around focusing on the one negative comment amidst many compliments.
  • Recognize that criticism is often a project of the giver. It might have nothing to do you with you.
  • Take the time to step away, then separate the point from the emotion. There might be truth to the criticism.
  • Adopt a long-term focus. Critics are interested in battles; whereas, you want to win the war.

20.) 3 Keys to Achieving Your Goals

  • Start with internal motivation
  • Then add public accountability
  • Be consistent and persistent

Learn more about how to set goals, crush them, and live a better life.

Josh Kaufman

21.) How to Acquire a Skill Rapidly

  • 20 hours is the critical threshold of practice
  • Deconstruction: Break down the skill. What equipment? What micro skills? (Consider Tim Ferriss’ DiSSS method)
  • Learn just enough theory to (self) skill correct. Less research, more practice
  • Remove practice barriers
  • Practice, not research, for 20 hours

22.) How and Why You Should Systematize Your Life

  • If you spend more than 5 hours/week on something, you should create a system
  • Do it once. Do your best. Document it. Systematize it.
  • A system is a repeatable process with repeatable results. Awareness and flexibility to tweak processes and get results. Makes it easier to diagnose problems
  • Example: Hiring a housekeeper. Washing dishes = X amount of time (repeatable), but what if we used that time to write a blog post? (lasts forever)

Learn more about acquiring any skill rapidly.

Pamela Slim

23.) How to Be Invaluable at Your Job

  • Be hyper-aware of market dynamics, not just trends
  • Think of your boss as a client
  • Be in charge of how you maintain employability and generate revenue
  • Ensure you’re in a position aligned with your natural strengths
  • Study your craft inside and outside of your company
  • Clearly define the people you want to emulate
  • Get very specific, clear feedback (and learn how to take it)

24.) Don’t Undervalue Yourself:

  • You MUST charge what the market will bear
  • If you think it’s “too much,” invest it back into yourself
  • Use it to increase your influence
  • Use it to buy your time back
  • Or just give it to charity

Learn more about becoming invaluable at your job.


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