From saving time and money to negotiating effectively and making your savings work harder, Sethi covers a range of practical and empowering strategies for achieving financial success and happiness.
Join us for a conversation with bestselling author Ramit Sethi as he shares his wisdom on designing a rich, fulfilling life. From saving time and money to negotiating effectively and making your savings work harder, Sethi covers a range of practical and empowering strategies for achieving financial success and happiness. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from one of the leading experts on personal finance and start creating the life you want today.
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Srini: Ramit, welcome back to Unmistakable Creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us. Yeah, it's my pleasure to have you here. As I was saying before we hit record here, one of the things that I love about all the advice that you give is that not only is it grounded in actual research, not just anecdotal evidence, but it actually works. I can honestly say of all the courses I've ever taken from anybody I've ever bought them from, yours have produced the most tangible results. So I thought, okay, it a no-brainer to have you back, especially as we are going into a new year, and people are listening to this at the start of a year. But before we get into this idea of how to design a rich life in 2023, I wanted to start by asking what did your parents do for work and how did that end up shaping and influencing the choices that you've made?
Ramit Sethi: My mom was a teacher. She became a school teacher a little bit later in life. For most of our childhood, she was home with us, and my dad was a mechanical engineer. And one of the ways that this shaped my life was my dad was really good at math, and he expected me to be an engineer, but I don't have the mental chops for it. So I remember very vividly him trying to explain certain geometry concepts, and when I got into calculus, rotating coordinate systems and stuff like that, and I'm just like, all right, I'm trying, but I'm not getting this. It was really easy for him, even 20, 30, 40 years out of college. It influenced me in a lot of ways.
The fact that they set an example of going to work. They set an example of you being stable, right? We wanted a stable life. And I feel very fortunate that they gave me that stable life. Also, they weren't particularly wealthy.
Growing up, the son of Indian immigrant parents, also taught me a lot about what you really need to be happy, what you need to be successful, and also just a really fascinating contrast between Western culture and Indian culture.
Srini: Yeah. I started writing this article, which I never finished, about the advantages of being raised by Indian parents. And I alluded to some of this when I wrote that piece on Medium about my Indian matchmaking experience, which I called the South Asian arms race for impressive biodata. And the thing that I realized, only in retrospect, was that being raised by Indian parents gave me all these advantages, things that are not easy to replicate, like the value of intrinsic motivation. So I'm curious about you: both advantages and disadvantages. 'Cause I know there are disadvantages too, in my own experience. So I'm curious what are the advantages and disadvantages of being raised in an Indian family?
Ramit Sethi: Advantage number one is just, there are certain things you have to do, and you don't have to enjoy them, but you have to do them. I think that is inescapable and incredibly valuable. I remember my parents would be visiting some of their friends, and we would sit in the family room with them as they drank tea, and we would listen to the parents talking for hours. Every Indian kid
Ramit Sethi: Asian kid, exactly what I'm talking about, and you're not going off to play video games. No. You're gonna sit there, and you're gonna listen, and you might have to get two questions in two hours, and that's fine. You just sit there quietly. That's actually an incredibly valuable skill because fast forward to today, and there are a lot of meetings I have to sit in where I go, oh man, I really wish I could be on Reddit right now. I don't have to like it, I just have to do it now. I think that you know, I've grown up also in the western world, so I go, all right, let me try to create like a ratio. Maybe 90% of the stuff I do I should really like, and 10% I should just do it. I intellectualize it. But that's a very valuable lesson. Another valuable lesson is frugality. So I think that one goes both ways. My parents had to be frugal because we had a big family and one income primarily. So we did a lot of things, family trips were typically road trips. We would stay with family. I don't think we really stayed at a hotel while I
Srini: Yeah. It reminds me of my dad going to Costco to save 20 cents on gas. I'm like, you're driving an $80,000 Mercedes, and you go to Costco to save 20 cents on gas. And for him, it's just an excuse to go to Costco cuz he loves Costco, and I think all Indians love Costco. It turns out, I don't think this is isolated to my dad, but my dad is like the unofficial spokesperson for Costco.
And I can relate to what you're saying cause it was the same type of thing. My dad's a college professor, but he was a postdoc for most of the time when I was growing up, and I think the most valuable thing I got from that was resourcefulness. Cuz I remember graduating from business school, and I don't think I've ever actually told many people about this before.
And I was broke, completely broke. So I moved home, and I told my dad, I was like, dad, I can't find a job just sitting here looking at the computer. I gotta go to LA. He's like, I'll give you $50. And I had to make $50 last five days in LA. Now you live in LA now
Ramit Sethi: Yeah, I think that's true. I've definitely gotten soft.
Ramit Sethi: I was very resourceful when I was younger, and then now I like the feel of CASH in my pocket. So once, once you feel that you're gonna lose a little bit of your creativity, I'll tell you what, though. All jokes aside, mom told me this story in my twenties, 'cuz I sat down and I asked her, how did you raise us on one income? What'd you do? And I think parents love the idea of being asked how they did it because it is so rare. I actually think anyone loves the example of being asked how they did it. I asked when we got married, my wife and I asked our married friends, what's the secret to a successful marriage? What lessons can you share with us? And many of them were taken aback because no one had ever asked them that. So I asked my parents, and my mom told me this story that I never knew when we were kids. We were in a lot of activities soccer is actually pretty expensive. We played public league soccer, but you have to pay for uniforms and registration and whatever. My mom couldn't afford it, so she called up the district, whoever, and said, look, I've
Ramit Sethi: My mom did that. I didn't know until I was in my twenties that my mom was out there chalking the field just so we could play soccer. An incredible story of resourcefulness, it just makes me think. Anything I complain about, oh, my Zoom link wasn't working yesterday. I'm just like, "Shut your mouth, Ramit. Shut your mouth. Your mom was out there chalking."
Srini: Yeah. No, I remember you told me that last time we spoke, and I was just like, wow. Yeah. I look at my parents, and I remember for the longest time thinking, oh, my dad's not rich. He doesn't have all this stuff. And I remember at a certain point, probably like into my mid to late thirties, I was like, wait a minute. They came here with nothing, and wow, this is remarkable how much of a head start all of us have on our parents.
Ramit Sethi: I rarely eat at a restaurant by myself. I feel so uncomfortable. I start sweating too much. Let's go to another country.
Ramit Sethi: It took me like three years to get the courage to go see a movie alone. I'm not kidding. I hated that. And finally, I was like, "All right, now I like it." But it took me a long time.
Ramit Sethi: The idea to be able to just go with basically nothing in your pocket and make it in another country, with different cultural expectations and not knowing virtually anybody. Wow!
Srini: Yeah, speaking of cultural expectations, and we talked about the advantages of being raised by Indian parents, what do you see as the downsides?
Ramit Sethi: I mentioned that frugality could be taken too far.
Ramit Sethi: One note of many. It's like only being able to cook with salt. It's not gonna taste that good. I think the more you become enmeshed in the world of frugality, the more you actually turn it into an identity. Oh, I would never buy that type of jacket, I don't need that. I'm so virtuous. It's not a virtue, it's a tragedy to live a smaller life than you have to. And so, for me, I speak to a lot of couples on my podcast about money, and I speak to people all over the gamut. Some have $825,000 in debt. That couple was wondering if they could afford to have kids. I speak to another couple where the husband is about to, his wife is about to divorce him after 21 years because he's too cheap, and their net worth is $13 million.
Ramit Sethi: So it's not a virtue to accumulate money and not actually have the skills to spend it. I think that's something that all of us are trying to encourage our parents if they've built up some financial stability: it's spend it. We don't want the money; we want you to spend it. I want you to spend every last cent you've got. That, I think, is an area that, as a culture, we could probably work on, which is really defining what our rich life is and then using our money to spend it.
Srini: Yeah. What about in terms of careers? Because I think that, for the most part, I'm guessing this is very similar for us since we're close enough in age where we had a sort of default narrative about how to go live our life: doctor, lawyer, engineer, and so on.
Ramit Sethi: I was going to, I should have been working at Cisco right now.
Srini: Yeah. You went to the store, right?
Ramit Sethi: Hi, everyone! I'm excited to discuss the latest research on saving money and achieving financial freedom. One of the biggest challenges we face is saving a large portion of our income.
Srini: Stanford. And I went to Cal. And I was just talking to Dennis, the co-founder of Mem, and he was talking about how people end up in these sorts of default paths, particularly at these elite universities. Cause I, and I've said this on the podcast before, you're at a place like Berkeley, and here you are surrounded by all these really smart, talented, amazing people with all these opportunities to explore and discover all sorts of stuff. And it somehow becomes this breeding ground for conformity where it just produces future doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, and management consultants. And I have a feeling there are probably some similarities at Stanford, right?
Ramit Sethi: In my graduating class, the vast majority—I would say the entire class—went to about six different professions. It was consulting, banking, grad school, and there were a couple of others.
Srini: Law school, probably.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah, and it was really fascinating to me. In fact, that was the genesis of my first book because I had a friend who had fantasized about working for this company, let's call it Company A, for three years. Then they got an offer from Company A and Company B, but Company B paid like $10,000 more, and they took Company B. And I'm like, why did you do that? And they go, "Look at the pay." I go, "$10,000? Remember, I was at Stanford, a junior or senior. To me, the way I thought about money, and I'd been investing already for a long time, $10,000 is not that much money. Especially in our early twenties, you're gonna make way more than that over the course of your career - like, way, way more zeros. So to make a career decision for $10,000 just seemed so incredibly shortsighted to me. And there was a lot of [what] was interesting, was there was conformity at the time. People went into these predictable things. Why? Because the stakes are high and when the stakes are high, people tend to become more conservative.
Srini: No, I feel like, particularly in the culture we grew up in, and it took me a long time to realize there was this validity to our parents instilling that narrative in us, because if you consider the context they grew up in, it makes complete sense, like for your parents' quality of life. It's okay, their life outcomes in India are binary. It's poverty or security. There's no room for taking risks in those situations.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. There's a friend of mine who says, "Our parents want safety for us, not excellence." And especially when you understand the context of where our parents came from, it makes perfect sense. "Become a doctor, become an engineer, or you will struggle for the rest of your life."
That makes a lot of sense. Actually. Now, I will give huge credit to my parents. I started, first of all, they encouraged me to make these unconventional decisions when I was like 12 or 13 years old. They used to say, "Why don't you just write it up?" Meaning, why don't you just take the thing you're talking about at dinner and write it up and send it to the newspaper? Now that's funny because neither of my parents is a writer, but they just had this thing like, "Share it. Share it." And we come from a lineage of education and educators. So I did, and I would start to write stuff up and send it to the Sacramento Bee. And once in a while, it got published, which was pretty cool.
It was a, and of course, my parents really bragged about it to all their friends
Srini: Yeah. I think that you were talking about friends who go on to work normal jobs. And one of the things that I had observed based on the thousand-plus interviews I've done and 10 years of being in the world that you and I are immersed in is that somehow there's this narrative that there's something wrong with a stable job that doesn't involve quitting your job, traveling the world, or Tim Ferriss' Four-Hour Workweek. And I remember telling someone, I was like, who's to say that's not a perfectly good life? And in a lot of ways, sometimes I think we plant these seeds of dissatisfaction sometimes where there aren't any.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah. American culture loves to do things that they think will make them happy, but very predictably make them unhappy. All right. It's just a litany of things, hey, move to a suburb where we can't see any of our friends or family anymore, and let's create a huge gate around our property, so it's impossible for people to come over and visit. And then let's wonder why we're lonely. Interesting. Let's retire, but move to a totally different state where we have no social support. Let's just bake in the sun. That'll be great. What a beautiful retirement. Oh, wow. I wonder why they're not happy. I remember my dad's funny lessons. You remember. My dad once said, don't get a big house. Okay, why, dad? He goes, if you have a big house, your kids will go to different parts of the house, and you'll never see them. If you have a small house, they're all gonna have to congregate, and that's how you build bonds. I was like, are you just saying that 'cause you didn't have enough money to get a big house? And he just laughed. I don't know if it was by choice
Srini: Yeah. Yeah. I had a friend who did the whole digital nomad thing. I think he went to Thailand and he saw a therapist while he was living there, and that therapist had said the overwhelming majority of his clients were all digital nomads. And he said the biggest issue here is that this whole idea is just a revolving door. You have no community and no social support. And at that time, and this was like 2009, 2010, when lifestyle design was all the rage, people would be putting up these pictures on their blogs of, the places they were living. And I remembered doing the same thing for six months in Costa Rica. And I was like, this sucks. I was like, there are no bookstores here. This town is boring as shit. The people are all deadbeats. The only thing to do here is surf. And when there's no surfing, I'm bored out of my mind. But I had only seen it through the version that I had read about and seen on, my Instagram feeds and stuff like that.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah. I, once in a while, get questions from young people. I'm talking like 20 to 25. Like, what would you do differently? What advice would you give to someone young? And I just feel totally unequipped because I remember asking that kind of advice, and some of the advice I got from people older than me, just didn't connect with me. But there is one thing that I would tell them if they really pressed, and this is a personal opinion, but I guess that's why they're asking my personal opinion, is if you are young, you should go where the people are. And what I mean by that is go to a big city, go to the hottest city you can possibly go to, and figure out a way to make it work there. Why? Because when you're young, the cultural capital, the social capital, the idea capital is in these big cities. It is where you're gonna, whether you're looking for a relationship, there are more people, whether you're looking for a job, there are more jobs, and there are more people who have those jobs so they can even tell you those jobs exist and how to get them. And the best part is when you're young, you
Ramit Sethi: That's what I mean by questioning it.
Srini: Oh yeah. I remember I spent the first month of the summer, I think it was June, in Brazil. I came back for a speaking gig and my dad's 70th birthday, and I remember a weekend to it. I told my dad, and I was like, "You know what? I'm gonna go back; I'll be back when the baby is born." And one of my friends said, "That's precisely what you should do. You're single, you don't have any responsibilities, and you have money. He was like, 'Go enjoy your summer. Don't spend it in Riverside.'"
Ramit Sethi: Yeah!
Srini: One of the best decisions I ever made. And, I came back, and now we're having the time of our lives with my new newborn nephew. There's something you said earlier about that $10,000, and it reminded me of an experience I had. This was, I think, probably around the same time, I think summer of 2000, I had one more semester left, and I had two job offers for an internship. One paid $25 an hour, the other was a lot less. I remember meeting this young guy in a coffee shop, he said he didn't have a lot of money. But you'll be my right-hand person. You'll learn, and you'll be involved in everything. And, of course, like an idiot, I took the $25, and that company went out of business that summer. The guy who I met in that coffee shop went on to start something like three different startups that ended up being worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ramit Sethi: What do you take away from that?
Srini: My biggest takeaway from that was that you shouldn't choose a short-term payoff. It was like, don't sacrifice the long-term gain for the short-term payoff. And I saw it again in publishing when I got book deals. And I remember before I signed with Portfolio, I was talking to another publisher, and I was waiting it out, and I got something like ten times the advance.
Rami Sethi: What advice do you have for young people looking to get into the tech industry?
Srini: The other publisher was
Ramit Sethi: The most important thing is to get started.
Srini: Keep in mind the advance from the other publisher was shoddy.
Ramit Sethi: Oh, alright. Alright.
Ramit Sethi: A big difference, but okay.
Srini: But yeah, that is a lesson I've seen over and over again 'cause even when I wanted to do a book deal, there's this woman named Betsy Rapaport. She told me, "You're not ready." And this was probably in 2012.
Ramit Sethi: Good advice.
Srini: That was the best writing advice I ever got because it gave me two years to, one, develop a habit of writing on a daily basis. I basically built the chops to be able to write a book. And I think from that lesson early on, it was like, never look at the short-term payoff and sacrifice the long-term gain.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah, I think so.
Srini: It's hard to do that. But that lesson I just kept coming up, coming across, over and over again. I saw it in 50 Cent's book, and I was like, I sat in Robert Greene's book and was like, "There's something here that's stayed with me."
Ramit Sethi: That's true. Great advice on the book thing, and I totally agree about the money as well. I also chose a publisher that gave me a lower advance than some other options I had, but I'm so glad that I did.
Srini: Yeah. Let's talk about the concept of designing a rich life. The thing you alluded to earlier was these invisible scripts. And first, how do you figure out what the heck they are? Because I feel like there are so many of these things that are guiding our behavior, but we're just completely unaware.
Ramit Sethi: Well, scripts, first of all, let's talk about what they are. Invisible scripts are beliefs we have that are so deeply embedded, we don't even realize they're there. So here are some invisible scripts that may or may not connect with you. I mentioned one, you need to buy a house in order to be successful. You need to buy, have kids, you need to go to college. There are also other ones. I should be busy in order to reflect that I'm successful. That's an invisible script. I should always pick up the check. That's an invisible script for certain people. Education, education is a good thing. That's an invisible script. So you can see that some of these invisible scripts are actually probably pretty good, but some of them may not fit. They may not fit where you are today versus yesterday. They just may not fit your lifestyle, or they simply may not be right for you. For me, do I need to go back and get an MBA? I don't think so. So in that way, more education might not be right. However, I continue to self-educate and take courses and things like that. Really wanna interrogate these. So how do you
Srini: Wow. You know what, speaking of invisible scripts, I wanted to bring back a clip from our previous conversation that I think really is relevant to this idea. Take a listen.
Most of us have been raised to ask $3 questions, right? Should I buy lattes or alkaline water? Ooh, I don't know. I want this LaCroix, but the generic one is 13 cents cheaper. I was raised to think about those questions myself, but we really should be asking $30,000 questions. The big ones, that's what these rules are about. Those rules include things like, do I have a good job, and am I paid well? That's important. Spend time developing those skills. Am I automatically saving and investing? That's important. That's gonna be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Have I married well? If I'm married, or if I'm in a relationship, is it with the right person? That is massive. That's actually one of my money rules, which is probably the most controversial one of all. Yeah. But most of us we're asking these questions, should I buy a latte? Should I get an extra large instead of a large one? When in reality, if we get these five to 10 big wins in life, right? We never have to worry about lattes or cheesecake or any other $3 question.
Srini: The reason I wanted to bring that back is I remember the first time you told me that I thought back to all the full amount of time I wasted on Amazon comparing things that were like a dollar cheaper. Remember, the example I came back to was reusable post-its. and I'm like, why the hell am I wasting time comparing something that cost $15 versus $16?
Ever since that conversation, I literally have a rule of if anything is less than $20, I just buy the thing that I see that I like unless I need it to serve some actual function. That's usually, the only time I actually dig is when I'm trying to see if it has a functionality, but it's almost never about the price.
Ramit Sethi: I love that. First of all, I'm thrilled when anyone applies my material, so thank you. It's the greatest gift I can receive is somebody using my material. I think that what you just said is an example of something I call the worry-free number. Everybody should have a worry-free number. That is the number below, so you simply don't worry about how much it costs. Let me give you an example. When we're young, a pack of gum is like a buck. That's a worry-free number. We pick it up at the grocery store, whatever. I want some gum. I'm gonna pick it up on my way out. It's not gonna change your financial future. It's not gonna hurt you in any way. It's just a dollar. Here's the problem. Your financial wealth increases, and people never adjust their worry-free number. So they'll still pick a pack of gum up, but now they're making 50 grand a year, 60 grand, a hundred grand, 500 grand. Some people, like the ones I talked to on my podcast, have millions of dollars they are still price comparison shopping for strawberries. I don't know what it is, but rich people
Srini: Ah, yeah, I noticed it was an Amazon of all places where I had a tendency to do that, and I was just like, this is a freaking waste of time. So now it's just okay, if anything costs less than $30 or $40, particularly when it's stuff for my business, like supplies, I'm just like, all right, I'll order the thing. Other than when I'm looking for specific functionality, I don't do that anymore.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah, that's good. For me, first of all, the reason that you do that is super normal and very common. On Amazon, it's really easy to compare things.
Ramit Sethi: You end up opening like 30 different mops. You go, let me do a feature comparison on this mop. Then it's 3:00 AM, and you're like, what am I doing? A better solution might be to say I'm simply going to go to Wirecutter, and whatever they recommend, that's what I'm getting.
You end up opening 30 different mops. You go, "Let me do a feature comparison of this mop." Then it's 3:00 AM, and you're like, "What am I doing?" A better solution might be to say, "I'm simply going to go to Wirecutter, and whatever they recommend, that's what I'm getting."
Srini: Yeah, I've done that.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah. Or, if you want to be particularly extravagant, you go, "I'm gonna get the top two mops; I'll just give away the one I don't like best." That would actually probably save most people a huge amount of time and money in the grand scheme. Okay. But the key, just dating, especially online dating: is when you quantify something, it becomes really easy to compare and value in our culture that which can be quantified. So if you put numbers in front of somebody, they love it. "Oh, did you say I can compare height? Did you say I could compare this and that? Did you say I could compare the different features of this vacuum cleaner?" But it actually does not matter; that's not what matters. And so it's super important. Your $30,000 question is to decide, "What are my criteria for deciding if this is important? A mop: what's the worst that happens? I get a bad mop."
Ramit Sethi: Another mop. Cost you $20. But things like expensive things, your car, your housing, and more importantly, the partner that you may end up with - those are big decisions, both financial and otherwise, that you really want to be deliberate about. But a mop, who cares?
Srini: Yeah. Yeah. There's one thing in particular that was probably my favorite thing about the Rich Life course you had talked about this idea that your rich life should fit you like a velvet glove. And you say that money dials are a way to diagnose what you claim is important versus what's actually important, and to build a life that allows you to spend extravagantly and unapologetically on things that truly matter, but cut costs mercifully on things that don't. And that really, you told me about that last time, but when I took the course, I realized, I was like, oh, this is what's important. I was like, I want to travel. I wanna spend money on my ski passes. And I knew there were certain things where it was like, you know what? I'm not gonna have a budget for this. For books, for example. And from what I remember, you have certain things where it's just unlimited in terms of what you're willing to spend. Because books basically are effectively my career. I spent half my day talking to authors, and that knowledge makes its way into everything I do.
Ramit Sethi: Completely. I do believe that we should all have some things that we are willing to spend an unlimited amount on. Now, interestingly, most of us already do this. We just aren't explicit about it. And part of living a rich life is you have to be honest with yourself and honest with the people around you. What are the things that are important to you? If it's a face cream, awesome. If it's a certain type of jacket, awesome. If it is the type of car you drive, or being able to travel to see your parents every holiday, we've got to be honest about what's important to us. I find that we often subject ourselves to this duality of, first, this puritanical belief that we shouldn't spend money on anything. And so we feel guilty, oh, I shouldn't buy that cream, I should just get the generic one from CVS. Yet they end up going, buying the expensive one anyway, versus the sort of YOLO, go get whatever I want. And I'm on Instagram, and everyone's in Bora on a Wednesday. Frick it. I'm gonna go there too. This two tear at us, they tear us apart
Srini: Ah, yeah. I think that the thing that struck me most about the way you structured the course was it all started with the psychological aspects and didn't even get into the tactical aspects. In fact, those were the easiest parts.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah, look, everybody has seen a compound interest chart. Everybody knows they should be saving more money, they should be investing, blah, blah, blah. And I think that stuff is really important. That's why I wrote a whole book on it. But if you don't have a vision of where you want to go or what your rich life is, then it's gonna be very difficult to get the average person to set up a Roth IRA.
Do you know what's interesting? I bring people on the podcast, and they always have some very esoteric problem when it starts, oh, I don't know, why can't we get this type of Christmas gift that I want? I go, oh, God. All right, tell me about the Christmas gifts. But I know that it's never about that, so at a certain point, I'll ask them, what's your rich life like? And they go, they go, I know I wanna do what I want when I want. I'm like, oh, wow, that's so creative. So what do you want? And then they get silent. And everybody has a certain thing, if you ask somebody on a dating profile, what do you like to do? They go
Srini: The other thing that struck me as I was going through this, as I remember the story. There was one story that stood out to me. This is the one that just came to mind about these people who were buying $8,000 mountain bikes, and they didn't make a lot of money. And that stayed with me.
And then I remember, I finally set up all the automation when I got back from Brazil. 'Cause I was waiting for an Amex card, and I was like, we're spending all this money on the services for our business. What the hell are we doing? If I wanna fly back to Brazil business class, then I should just run this all through the Amex card.
And I set it up exactly as you talked about. And this year, I had all the money I needed to be saved for everybody's Christmas gifts, money for car registration, and money for my ski pass, which is like $700. All of it was there. And I think I started something like, if I remember correctly, I enrolled in the course while I was in Brazil. So it couldn't have been that long ago. It was probably in June.
Ramit Sethi: Amazing!
Srini: Yeah, yeah.
Ramit Sethi: It really shows that when you're ready, you can make transformational results in a pretty short amount of time. And that goes for anyone. It could be somebody who has $150,000 of student loan debt. It may take years for them to confront that number. 90% of people I talk to don't even know how much they owe, and 95% of them do not have any idea when the debt will be paid off. Okay? So it takes years often for people to be ready to make a change with their money. But when they are, when they go, "Okay, this is my priority. I am ready. I will do anything. I'll get a book, I'll join a Ramit's program. I am ready to make changes," you would be shocked. I guess you, of all people, would not be shocked because, within three to six months, you can see a complete transformation, and that is a magical moment.
Ramit Sethi: There you go. That's a very interesting and visible script, right? I need to do this on my own in order for it to be meaningful. And I think that the fact that you talk about the help that you received is pretty amazing. I wish more of us talked about the help that we received. And I think that at a certain point in life, all of us need a helping hand. It might be that we don't have enough money to pay for the holiday gifts we're buying for our kids, and so the person behind us in a line pays an extra 20 bucks. It might be something as large as your parents help you pay off debt or kids helping their parents if the parents didn't save enough. When they get older, there's always a certain point, and not everyone is fortunate enough to receive that, but we all need a helping hand at some point, and I think it's cool that you share that and take away the shame that is implicit.
Srini: Yeah, I, I think we last spoke, my dad, helped me clear some of my credit card debts, and I was like, all right, cool. He's like, "My sister was like, listen, we're helping you. Don't have any ego about this. She was like, 'We want to see you thrive.' I had to let that go. I remember I was so ashamed of that. I was like, "I wanna be self-sufficient." They're like, "We're trying to do this so you can be."
Ramit Sethi: That's a good question. Some of it is just vibes-based, it's like, what am I feeling? I observed my own season of life, and, for example, in my twenties, it was hardcore growth and learning about my business, right? So reading every book, talking to other people, coaches, all of that. I think at this point in my life, it's also about my relationships. It's also about continuing some of the stuff I've been doing, physical fitness, things like that. And then things like hobbies, things that I'm not even ready to do. And I'm like, it's kinda like flossing. You're like, 'Ah, I really should do that,' but I'm not, but I know I should. I feel some of those things in my life right now, like hobbies. And I wait for the moment when I'm ready. Recently I started working on a big project, and I'd been dancing around it, thinking about it for a year or two. And I remember, I finally felt ready because I started searching out other people's work habits. Like when do they work, how do they structure it, what do they do? And that's when I
Srini: Yeah, so one thing, this is completely unrelated to the whole money idea we were talking about. Learning and coaching - how do you go about choosing what you're going to study and focus on to continue learning and growing, whether it's in your business, or personally? And then, how do you go about creating plans for what you want to learn outside of just reading a book about something?
Srini: Yeah. The reason I asked is we've had this very bizarre obsession lately with solving the Rubik's Cube, and I've been at it for six months, and I was just like
Ramit Sethi: I need to read a bunch of books, and I'll do that as well. That's how I think about it. It's, I guess it's a little less, maybe, than what other people would do. It's a lot of just asking myself, "Do I feel right?"
Ramit Sethi: I like that.
Srini: You know what? I was like, this is getting ridiculous. And I resisted looking at YouTube tutorials 'cause I read Erno Rubik's biography that he wrote, and he was like, "Don't watch the tutorials." And I realized the tutorials would be pointless because I didn't want to learn just how to do it. I wanted to learn why it worked. And
Ramit Sethi: This sounds like hell to me.
Ramit Sethi: You want to learn? I don't, I hate this stuff. All these games and mind games.
Srini: It is, it's for me, it's just like a fun, creative exercise. I was like, can I do this? And I, and finally, I was like, okay, you know what? I'm going to find a book on how to do this. I looked at some articles. I was like, oh, there's a Udemy course on how to actually do this. And somebody made an electronic version of the cube called the Go Cube. I finally ordered it. It's actually supposed to show up today. I was like, you know what? I wanna learn how to do this just because I want to know how to do it. As I want, it's one of those stupid things. It's a stupid party trick. It's like somebody hands you a Rubik's Cube. You could look at it and be like, yeah, here
Ramit Sethi: God, I admire that you did this. You definitely are a better man than I am. Cause
Srini: Oh yeah!
Ramit Sethi: So she pulls it out, and I was like, "Oh, man, I hate all games like this. All of them. And I've realized there's something spatial missing in my mind. I'm not good with directions, I'm not good with packing, and I'm not good with these types of games; I can't gamble at all. So she pulls it out, and I'm just cursing myself. So we start playing, and she just demolished me. Every day we pull this stupid game out, and it's like the sound it would be like pulling out some sound that a dog doesn't want to hear -- the dog just runs away. That's how I was every day. She pulled out this game, and I'm like, "Kill me right now." So we kept playing for I don't know how long. It seemed like a year, but it was probably like two weeks. And then one day, she was undefeated, by the way -- I never won once. I couldn't figure out the game. And she finally destroys me again for probably the 20th time in a row. And she just pushes the board away, and she goes, "We're done. Don't come back until you learn how to play this game
Ramit Sethi: I was like, "Thank you, God. I love you so much, babe." And we never played that godforsaken game again.
Ramit Sethi: I had to tell you something. During Covid, my wife and I, had nothing to do, right? So my wife was like, "Let's play Connect Four--that game with those little red and yellow chips.
Srini: That's hilarious. That's like me and my dad playing Scrabble. I thought I would have this huge advantage over him. It's like I read all these books; I'm an author. My sister's like, "You'll be good at this. You have a massive vocabulary." I've yet to beat him at Scrabble.
Ramit Sethi: So wait, what is it? What is the conclusion from this? The rich life is just one humiliation after another with our loved ones.
Ramit Sethi: All right, so I just wanted to jump in and say, "Hello, everyone!" I'm really excited to be here today, and thank you for joining us. I know we have a lot of topics to cover, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions.
Srini: Yeah, exactly.
Srini: Yeah. No, I, as I said, I think that for me, when it comes to the things I wanna learn, and even when it comes to podcasts, everything is just based on morbid curiosity. And I'd watched that Speed Cubers documentary, and I was like, okay, I'm not gonna be a speed cuber. I just want to know how to do this thing. And I was like, okay, I've been racking my brain for six months. You know what, and what it was, I was going back to listen to my interview with Scott Young on the ultra learning process, and I was like, I need an ultra learning project. And I was like, you know what? I'm going to do a series on my blog about UL Ultra learning projects. And I was like, solving the Rubik's Cube will be one of them.
Ramit Sethi: I like this. Okay. Even though I hate the idea of a Rubik's cube, and I hate that you're doing this, I like the idea that you're just picking out something that's interesting to you, and you're going for it. That's cool. That's something that you lose around your early twenties. Suddenly it's all "what am I doing? What's my strategy? What's my plan, blah, blah, blah," and we lose a little bit of that playfulness.
Ramit Sethi: I think about the people who are the coolest, my mentors, who, they're older, some of them, and what I think is especially cool about them is that they've still kept it real over the course of an entire career. A career can grind you down. Life can grind you down so that soon your entire world vision shrinks down to, do we have the paper towels? Did I answer my email? and can I watch an hour of TV? That's what life often shrinks us down to. And I think what you just said with the Rubik's Cube is a great example of saying, you know what, I'm gonna fight back against that. And even if it's something as small as learning how to do a Rubik's Cube, 'cause I just think it's friggin' cool, then I think that's cool. And I hope that we can all get inspired 'cause I'm getting inspired just listening to you.
Srini: I have just defaulted to that even when I choose podcast guests. That's how you end up with bank robbers, drug dealers, porn stars, and presidential candidates on the same podcast.
Ramit Sethi: Of those, am I?
Ramit Sethi: Alright, let's get started.
Srini: I don't think you've fallen into any of those categories, unfortunately, unless you're planning on robbing a bank, which, as a joke, I can say if you want to rob a bank, run for president or become a porn star, I can either introduce you to the people who can make it happen or tell you how.
Ramit Sethi: Hearing which one of those I am, but
Srini: Yeah. But no, that served me well because I learned this very early on when I had this initial thesis, which is like the stupid thesis of all people who start new podcasts. I'm gonna interview all these famous people, they're gonna tweet my interviews, and they'll go viral. I learned in three months that wasn't gonna happen. And from that point forward, I was like, you know what? I'm gonna make every single choice I make, even if it comes at the cost of my metrics. And that means turning down some very well-known people that everybody listening to this knows we've turned down Gary Vaynerchuk three times.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah, yeah.
Srini: Yeah. Do we lose a couple of hundred thousand downloads because of that? Potentially.
Ramit Sethi: I recently read an article about how the average person spends more time on their phone than they do sleeping. It made me realize how much of our lives we spend on our phones, and it’s really quite alarming!
Ramit Sethi: I recently read an article about how the average person spends more time on their phone than they do sleeping. It made me realize how much of our lives we spend on our phones, and it's really quite alarming!
Ramit Sethi: This.
Srini: At the same time, I'm making this choice based on personal curiosity.
Ramit Sethi: Exactly. And don't this remind you of building a rich life that fits you like a handmade glove?
Ramit Sethi: Your podcast fits you like a handmade glove. I'll give you an analogous example from my own podcast. I'm late to the podcast game. I only started a year ago. All my friends were like, "You gotta start a podcast."
I was like, "Yeah, okay." But I don't know what to do. I don't want to interview people. I'm not even good at it. I don't enjoy it. I'm done. So I just sat, and I let it germinate for about seven years. Then this couple came to me on Instagram, and they were like, "We're both vets—veterinarians. We have $525,000 in debt. Can you help us?" And I was like, "All right, I'll help you, but you have to do it on Instagram Live with me, and you have to share all your numbers." And they were like, "Okay." I was like, "What? Okay, let's do it." So we just jumped on IG Live. A bunch of randos was watching, and it was—it was unbelievable. You'd never seen people talk about numbers like this, so I was like, "This is it. I
Ramit Sethi: We have amazing stories with couples who are willing to share every number: how much they make, how much debt they have, who's hiding a secret credit card, everything. And so we did that, and we found the stories, and we figured out how to encourage them to share it 'cause sharing it publicly was fair. You'd never heard conversations like this. Once we had the stories, we were like, "This is it!" And so yeah, 10, 15, 20 episodes later, we fixed our audio, but that was not the most important thing. It was the thing that really mattered and drove it, knowing you could always work the other details out later.
Srini: Yep. It's funny you say that because I think we probably did 200 episodes with the default mic on my MacBook, and then one of my listeners literally said, "Srini, I love your show. The sound sucks. I'm sending you a microphone in the mail."
Ramit Sethi: Oh, but that's cool.
Ramit Sethi: That.
Srini: Yeah. Literally, mine started very similarly. Like, I literally had this guy named Sid Savara, who was the 13th person I interviewed. He emailed me back when I asked him about starting a multi-author blog. He replied, saying, you're not a very good writer, and that's a terrible idea, but your podcast series is good. Take it out and spin it out into a separate site. He was great. He was my first partner. But here's the most important part of that story. One hour later, with my limited design skills, and knowing absolutely nothing, I mocked up a version of a website called Broadcast fm. I replied back to him and said, is this what you had in mind? When do you want to start? Literally, an hour after I got that email. That's how it all started.
Ramit Sethi: Amazing!
Srini: Yeah, but to your point
Ramit Sethi: Right? Like, they're so weird.
Ramit Sethi: It's not like sitting in front of 300 monitors like Batman to analyze all that data after watching what's going on in the city.
Ramit Sethi: It's just, oh, two veterinarians reached out, and I dared them to come on Instagram Live, and they said yes.
Ramit Sethi: What?
Srini: I think you're talking about that Vision Doc, like we have an About page that, if you go to our contact form and try to fill out the pitch form, it's like a job application. It really grills people. And if you say that you haven't listened to an episode before, it redirects you to a page that says, "We don't accept people who've never listened to our show."
Srini: It literally, we gotta get to the point. 'Cause I was getting a lot of bad pitches from publicists, and I was like, all right, that's it, I'm done. I'm gonna filter this all out. And literally, it says, we turn down more people than Harvard, Stanford, and Yale combined. Take some time to write this pitch. Read every detail here carefully.
And then there's another thing that says, tell us which episode you listen to and what you learned from it. And PS, if you try to bullshit us, Srini will know because his brain is like an encyclopedia of this archive. So it's the most obnoxious page. And not only that, there's a thing that says click to tweet, and it's basically he sends out a tweet saying The Unmistakable Creative is so obnoxious that they don't accept people who don't listen to their show.
Who do these guys think they are?
Ramit Sethi: I like that.
Ramit Sethi: Oh, that's funny.
Ramit Sethi: Like that, you're really building character into the most mundane of things. That's really cool.
Srini: It was because I was getting fed up with people who gave me shoddy pitches.
Ramit Sethi: I like that.
Ramit Sethi: Fits you like a glove.
Srini: Yeah, exactly. Dude, I could talk to you for hours. So let's do this. I want to finish with my final question, which I know I have asked you before. What do you think it is that makes somebody, or something unmistakable?
Srini: Amazing. As always, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us, to share your story, your wisdom, and your insights with our listeners. Obviously, people know your books and your website, and we've been referencing this Rich Life course multiple times in our conversation. Where can people find out more about that?
Ramit Sethi: Having a point of view. I think it is. The rarest thing in the universe is to meet someone with a point of view. It's so hard to have a point of view because so much of the world wants us to be vanilla. The minute you are vanilla, it abandons you. But when I meet people who have a point of view, even on something I don't know anything about, like camping—whatever—and they're just fired up. This is how I do it. I always go here first, then I go there. I always get this type of backpack, but never this. They're excited, and I get excited by their point of view. So, to me, that makes somebody magical, unmistakably magical.
Ramit Sethi: Okay, so they can search. Now money coaching, which is where I've included a bunch of the material you saw in that program, and I do coaching every month with people live with Q&A, so they can just search "Ramit Sethi money coaching," or go to iwt.com/money.
Srini: Awesome! And for everybody listening, we'll wrap the show with that amazing.