Ramit Sethi, the millionaire entrepreneur behind the blog I Will Teach You to Be Rich, built an empire around answering the question, "How do I live a rich life?"
The New York Times bestselling author, a personal finance advisor and a co-founder of PBworks, a collaboration software company, has produced serious results with his blog and courses on how to live a rich life, with thousands of documented success stories. It’s no wonder he’s been featured on Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, PBS, CNBC, ABC News and NPR. It also explains why he has about half a million email subscribers and a large social media following.
I recently interviewed him, and broke down his answers into 10 do's and don’ts for success:
1. Don’t be afraid to break rules.
Sethi started making a name for himself by breaking the rules of personal finance. He realized that the standard “don’t buy lattes” type of advice was not working for him and his friends. This prompted him to start writing about methods that would work, based on basic psychology.
He’s still a rule breaker, according to today’s entrepreneurial standards. His emails are too frequent, his blog posts are too long, his products are too expensive, the list goes on.
“As an entrepreneur, you don’t need to do what anyone tells you. You need to do what’s right for you," he says.
2. Find what works.
There are a lot of “shoulds” in every industry. Sethi’s advice is to consider the person giving you the should and ask yourself "Is that person in a place I want to be in?"
Sethi spends years -- and millions -- on product development to make sure his courses produce results for customers. Then, he touts his students and their results, rather than his own income, team or list size.
3. Don’t waste precious cognitive energy.
We only have so much brain power each day. Sethi suggests you automate as much as you can, from your meals, to your bills, your business processes and more.
“To me, [automation] is just starting with something simple," he says. "Something as simple as where do your keys go when you come home? Then you can scale it to the million or multimillion dollar level.”
But what about variety and spontaneity? Discipline gives you freedom, Sethi says, because you’re actually present in the moment, freeing you to come up with better ideas. Systemizing your life gives you breathing room to make decisions, splurge or indulge.
4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
At the beginning of his entrepreneurial career, Sethi explained that he and his co-founders made “every mistake in the book.” Don’t sweat it, he says.
“It’s really valuable to learn what to do and what not to do,” he says.
5. Position yourself to succeed and be patient.
Like fellow New York entrepreneurs James Altucher and Matt Britton, Sethi advises “taking the leap.” He encourages entrepreneurs to start side hustles while building up their savings. The savings will give you the runway your business needs.
“If you’re under a time crunch where, say, you only have two months of cash left, you going to make bad decisions,” he says.
Take your time. Sethi blogged for three years, trying to add value, build relationships and listen to what his audience wanted. Only after years of creating and testing content did he start to sell products.
6. Don’t apologize for selling.
This is a big mistake many entrepreneurs make, according to Sethi. For example, if you’ve created an amazing product that solves a problem, why would you launch it at a 50 percent discount? Believe in what you’ve created and don’t be timid about selling it.
Another huge problem entrepreneurs often face is the realization that they’ve poured blood, time, sweat and tears into a product that no one wants to buy. The key to avoiding this is to listen, Sethi says. Send out surveys, read comments and encourage people to reply to your emails and actually read the responses.
“Focus on the customer," he says. "Understand what they truly want -- sometimes they won’t even tell you. You have to find it out like an investigator, and then give it to them."
8. Don’t go it alone.
Sethi credits the success of his first business to his co-founders and their efforts to build relationships. He explained they spent many of those early days going to meetings and events with other business owners and potential investors. Most entrepreneurs, Sethi says, are “stuck in their own heads.”
“Go out and ask five other entrepreneurs their story ... then go out and talk to five prospects. Don’t try to sell them, just listen," he says. "Have 10 conversations in two weeks, and you’ll be light years ahead of where you are now.”
9. Watch your words.
An unexpected nugget of wisdom from this interview is one about affirmations and self-fulfilling prophecies. Sethi says your words make a huge difference, so be careful about how you describe yourself. If you are constantly saying you’re overwhelmed, stressed and/or tired -- it becomes part of your identity.
“When you start using phrases to describe yourself in a negative way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," he says.
10. Don’t fall for excuses.
The two biggest excuses Sethi sees are "I don’t have an idea" and "I don’t have time." Sethi says you must realize that you find, capture or generate ideas. You can’t wait on them. Once you start the process you’ll have hundreds of them, he says, and then it’s time to “slice, dice and test them.”
To the second point, Sethi says: “Give me a break. If you say I don’t have time, that’s a politically correct way to say ‘this is not a priority.’”
If writing each day or exercising is important to you, it will show in your calendar and your budget, Sethi says.
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