The Art of Standing Out from the Crowd

Have you ever noticed that the minute you start trying something new, the entire world tells you what you should do?

If you’ve ever tried to change your diet, you know what happens: Your boss, your aunt, and your garbage man all start giving you their advice:

  • “Do Paleo! It’s the best way to lose weight.”
  • “Don’t bother, our family is just big boned. It’s genetics.”
  • “The only thing that worked for me is this green juice cleanse.”

The exact same thing happened to me when I first started my business, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Most people ignored the excellent content, or that I was telling people the exact word for word scripts they could use to get themselves out of debt.

Instead, they told me:

  • No one would take such terrible design seriously
  • To go buy people McDonald’s meals so I could ask them personal finance questions
  • That the name of my site (and book) sucked

I remember thinking two things: First, never go to the general public for business advice. Everyone thinks they’re a business expert after watching Mark Cuban for 30 minutes on Shark Tank.

Second, I thought that if I ran and grew my business and was successful, all the critics would shut their mouths and bow down to my feet. Man, I was so naive back then.

After more than 10 years of running my business, I discovered the more successful you are, the MORE critics you get… and the criticism just gets more inane:

  • “Ramit, you really need to get on Facebook.”
  • “LOL $99? Maybe I’d buy it if it were $0.25 and had a 30-year-guarantee.”
  • “So you’re just one of those scammy e-book guys who writes those long sales pages?”

Here’s an unexpected lesson I learned:

The world wants you to be vanilla. They will always push you to look and act the same as everyone else.

If your business is going to stand out and succeed, it’s up to you to push back.

So I’d like to share 3 ways I learned to separate I Will Teach from the rest of the pack

1. Stand Out by Dropping Some Extra “Fucks”

My friend Tim Ferriss and I were talking about business, and he mentioned he was worried that if he sent an email without concrete takeaways, he’d have massive unsubscribes.

I reminded him: People signed up for your list for a reason. They would love to hear the stories of lessons you learned, failures you had, what happened this weekend, and interesting insights that came up.

The same is true for any business, brand, or writer. Not everything is transactional. Not everything is “how-to.” A lot of times, people are happy to share stories and interesting ideas.

And for the people who unsubscribe from your list, or choose not to do business with you because you shared your ideas, here’s how I think about it: It’s my gift to you and it’s your gift to me.

If we’re not a good fit for each other, I wouldn’t want to waste someone’s time, and I don’t want them to waste my time either. That’s why I regularly encourage people to unsubscribe. I put the link right there. I say, “Look, if this is too much, if this is too involved for you, here. Maybe we’re not right for each other. Unsubscribe.”

And people do! Tons of people unsubscribe, because who says that? But the people who do stick around, they’re highly committed and engaged and they ultimately buy from the business.

Tim laughed and told me he sometimes does something similar:

“If I’ve had a long day and maybe too many glasses of wine, I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m going to write a blog post and I’m going to put a couple of “fucks” in there, because I’m so tired of people chastising me for my language.’

“So I’ll write a post and drop a few extra few “fucks,” just so that if someone is easily offended by that stuff, they effectively opt out of visiting the blog because I don’t want to deal with their mom-like scolding.”

2. Stand Out By Becoming Obsessed

Author, journalist, and psychology expert Charles Duhigg says one of the best ways to stand out is by “indulging in your obsessive compulsive disorder.”

“People who are successful are people who are not ashamed to say, I am super passionate and interested in X and I’m going to indulge that. Yes, I’m a weirdo. But I’m going to figure this out, and I’ll figure out what I like about it, so that I can share it with you.”

Think about the most successful people you know:

Elon Musk was obsessed with battery and solar power, which led to creating Tesla. Howard Schultz was obsessed with the barista/customer relationship he discovered in Italy, which led to Starbucks. Steve Jobs was obsessed with functional yet beautiful design, which led to Apple products like the iPod and iPhone.

They stood out to the world because they became obsessed.

I’ve found out that people who I went to school with — who are now successful entrepreneurs — indulge this obsessive compulsive disorder.

3. Stand Out by Setting the Bar Higher

I talk a lot about how I don’t accept students with credit card debt, because it’s important everyone knows this rule before trying to join a course.

But most people don’t know about all the courses I run. At any given time, I’m launching and testing different ones for months — or even a year — before I mention them publicly. This way, when I do a public launch, I know my products are 100x better than anyone else’s on the market.

Years ago, I was running a course called Beyond 1K, a follow-up to my Earn1K course on earning money on the side.

It was generating several thousand dollars a month — most of it pure profit — but after a year of testing, I wasn’t satisfied with the results I was getting, or the results I was generating for my students.

So even though students continued to pay me a LOT of money, I shut it down. Here’s the email I sent:

I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to discontinue Beyond 1K — tonight will be the last Ass Kicking call — and I wanted to share my reasons for doing so.
My entire philosophy revolves around Big Wins — focusing on the most important and highest-performing actions you can take.
Not only do I apply this to my personal finances, I also apply it to my personal life (my Tripod of Stability) and my business.
To be blunt, Beyond 1K is not performing to the levels I want it to. I only want to create the best products, and focus on the highest and best use of time — for me AND for you.
I also want to take a minute to highlight the meta-lesson here. I’ve got a fully automatic system that is paying me lots of money each month with Beyond1K. It would be easy for me to coast and continue making several thousand dollars per month from Beyond 1K, but that’s not what I want to do. That’s not a Big Win for me or for you.
Sometimes you have to cut things out of your life that are performing well… just not as well as you WANT them to.
When I shared this news with a couple of friends (who don’t know my business too well), they were shocked. “Why don’t you just keep it running?” they asked.
They don’t understand the idea of only focusing on things that are providing EXTREME value for my students and for my business. I can provide “good” value and be a mediocre performer. But I want to only provide EXTRAORDINARY value. I’d rather refund your money and focus on something that is going to take you 5 levels forward.
That’s why Earn1K is so good (and costs so much).
And that’s why I’m going to be working on several new products that are of such extraordinary quality, you’ve never seen something like it before.
As usual, you put your trust in me, and I want to honor that. I’ll be refunding any unused money for Beyond1K. Any amount paid for Beyond1K after 11/21/2010 will be refunded in full. If you purchased the annual subscription of Beyond1K, you will receive a refund as well. You will get an email with the exact amount from the B1K team in the next 2 days.
Thanks, and I appreciate your help, support, and trust.
— Ramit

That email cost me over $75,000. And I’d do it again tomorrow, because I put the success of my students above profit. That’s how we stand out in our world, where most people are just looking to make a quick buck.

(By the way, that’s not lip service. I’ve shut down multiple products because I felt they underperformed and under delivered — even when they generated over $1,000,000. You can read more about it at growthlab.com/your-move.)


Do Business Your Way

As I ran my business, I thought that I’d learn about the super-secret tools that successful entrepreneurs used once I made made my first $10,000, then $100,000, then $1,000,000 and beyond.

But actually, I learned two very different lessons:

My first lesson was that business isn’t just about creating money. Of course, you need to get paying customers. And when you launch, you should be fiercely focused on building an audience of people who love what you’re doing (and are delighted to pay). Ultimately though, every successful entrepreneur I know looks for more meaning than another $100 of revenue.

My second lesson was that you can create a business your way. There will always be people who criticize you for charging too much. Let them complain. They’re not buyers.

There will always be people who criticize you for charging too much. Let them complain. They’re not buyers.

There will be people who tell you that you “need to” set up a Facebook page, or Twitter account, or Instagram. I didn’t have those for years. And even if you took all my social media accounts away today, it would make zero difference to my business.

We’re fortunate to continue to grow, to continue to hire, and create new products. All the tools we have helped. The tactics mattered. But ironically, this didn’t come from chasing revenue.

Instead, it came from running the business our way. It came from standing out when everyone else was doing the same things, and never swaying from our core beliefs.

That’s how you build a business that stands out from all the rest.

This article is an excerpt of the best-selling ebook Your Move: The Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business. The ebook is based on author Ramit Sethi’s 10+ years of experience growing a multi-million dollar business. Get your copy of the book here.


If you enjoyed this story, please recommend and share to help others find it! Feel free to leave a comment below.

The Mission publishes stories, videos, and podcasts that make smart people smarter. You can subscribe to get them here.