Ask Ramit: “Should I change jobs or improve the one I have?”

Ramit Sethi

It’s interesting when people let their barriers slip out in their actual language. Usually, they don’t even realize they’re doing it. But Detective Sethi is on the case:

Guy 1: “So you started going to the gym?”
Guy 2: “Yeah, I actually kinda like it now.”
Guy 1: “So you’re saying I’d have to go to the gym every day for the rest of my life to lose weight? I could never do that!”

Guy 1 is demonstrating an example of an “extreme-reach barrier” — the assumption that if you want to do something, you have to go to the COMPLETE EXTREME to do it at all.

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This allows him to rationalize the fact that he doesn’t go, even though he could get benefits from going 2-3 times per week. I hate him.

Another way we do this is by creating false dichotomies. “Ramit, should I do X or Y?”

My answer is usually “Yes and yes.” This is the idea that top performers don’t do X or Y — they do both, and they’re better at it than everyone else.

If this is intimidating, go away. This site is about being the best, not about doing what’s easiest.

But if you want more details on how exactly to think about making tough choices, I recorded a new Ask Ramit video for you:

“I’m 52. Have I waited too long to try for a new or better career or should I focus on what I’m doing now better?”
-IWT reader Laura

Check out the video, where I dig in to highlight the barriers hidden in her question.

I take a lot of time to record these videos for you, so let me know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Mea

    Thank you for this response. I having been considering whether it’s worth accepting an offer to start a work related 1-2 year post graduate level course since I am considering a career change to a completely different field. This video has made re think my stance, which has been that it’s not worth taking up the offer…..are there any exceptions to the yes and yes rule?

    • Aliotsy

      Maybe you should reframe your question, to “How can I do A and B?”

      There’s a bit of a false dichotomy here, in that taking the course is a concrete action, whereas “considering a career change” isn’t actionable. So perhaps you can identify what the first step in a career change is–maybe, take two or three people in the other field out to coffee to learn more about it–and ask yourself:

      “Can I take this post-graduate course AND start networking in the new field I’m interested in?”

      My guess is that the answer is “Yes and Yes.”

    • Greg

      Mea – To answer your question…yes and yes!

  2. Todd Douglas

    Yes & Yes! Love it Ramit! Thanks for the video.

    As you said, you put a lot of time in these videos but I’m one of the people that actually get excited when I see a new video from you. I read all of your emails and notes that I get through my email but I feel the videos reach a deeper level of interaction and thus, benefit me more that just text.

    So thanks again for taking the time to put these out there!

  3. Brian

    Great video. Confirms that I’m on the right path – pursuing a career change with DJ techniques without taking my foot off the gas at my current job.

  4. Meg Sylvia

    This is a good mini wake-up call. It’s interesting to see pointed out, and I definitely can see in myself that I have a tendency to frame a question in a way that makes it likely to receive the response I want to hear. Will take a note to start thinking in terms of “how can I do a AND b” rather than “should I do a OR b”.

    I agree with Todd about the videos. I retain information best when I can hear and watch it being communicated in addition to reading it in a post or taking notes, so I find the videos very useful. Thanks for the hard work!

  5. Eric

    I love the combination of a post with a video. You’ve got a brash writing style that I personally enjoy, but might be presumed cocky by some. The video provides the content and represents your personality by allowing you to use your sarcasm/humor more effectively.

    Great job.

  6. Michelle

    Thanks Ramit! Glad to know I’m on the right track. I’m still pushing forward with the school I need to pursue economics, earning A’s and retaking key classes where I don’t at least make a high B, and doing some deep research before natural networking. I’m also trying to excel in my job at the CG. Hopefully I’ll be sitting the competitive exam in November for advancement. (Meritocracies are stressful, because this test is extremely difficult.) I’ve been studying and making flashcards, which is about the only study aid I’m clear to bring into work with me. Yes, it is hard. I’m creating far more work for myself than I would if I just picked one. But I could hit a point in one of these tracks at any point where I just want to throw in the towel, and by pursuing the other as well, I still get to keep moving forward when and if that happens.

  7. Bill

    I would even go further and find out to make sure that the problem is identified properly. Why is she considering changing her career? Is it because her current career isn’t what she wants it to be? Is there something she is significantly more passionate about? How about finding ways to make her current career more appealing by exploring new avenues within the field? Perhaps she will get to the same questions, but not knowing if she has gone through the discipline of defining the problem accurately may lead to the same dissatisfaction she is experiencing now.

    I am using the “Yes and Yes” method now as I just met with a mentor who asked me to do some work with his company as a consultant. This is my first side job lead! Thanks, Ramit, for pushing me toward action. There are other income streams I’m exploring as well. As I prepare to do this, rather than ask myself if I should spend more time with my family or start doing side projects, I am seeking the answer to: “How do I develop multiple income streams that will allow me to spend more time with my family in the long term?” Great stuff, Ramit!! Keep it coming!

  8. Julie

    This is an AWESOME video Ramit. It is a topic I have been thinking a lot about lately. I am 43, and in process of creating a new career. I had always approached it in my head in a whiney, victim way of ‘ I don’t like my job, I have to get out, I want a better career’. What I realized months ago is that I need create that better career and also step up my game in my current career. I don’t think we can choose to give it our all in one area of our life, people who are succeeders give their all in ALL areas of their life. I can do better in my career, get more out of it, which will feel better and bring in more money, as well as create my dream career. Then I will know I’ve truly succeeded. Thanks!

  9. Naren

    Thanks Ramit. This shows that one need to work double time to say Yes and Yes. I wonder if it’s strategic to spend more time on the existing when you want to learn as much as you can about the DJ?
    Folks who have children would find a challenge to do both at peak optimum level, maybe?

  10. Lindsey

    I’ve learned recently that life really is just all about how you frame it.

    For example, my self talk (the internal monologue in your head) tended to be overly critical of myself in work, sports, and life in general. I always thought that I just held high expectations for myself and nothing more. I never recognized how overly critical and negative I was to myself.

    Recently, I’ve desired to work toward increasing my self-esteem/confidence/worth, and to do that, I learned that I needed to consciously monitor my self talk. After consciously monitoring my self talk for a few months I realized how critical it was, nagging and sometimes berating. It was the best thing I could have learned. Since then, I have worked toward making more rational/logical self talk and smarter thought patterns.

    How does this relate to “Should I?”/ “How can I?” It’s all about how you frame it. “It” being my self talk or the question (should I?) of video topic. The concept of “framing” thoughts or questions is one of those truisms we all “sort of” know throughout life. Well, I sort of kind that I could be hard on myself. I didn’t KNOW that I was unnecessarily critical and being destructive. Re-framing my self talk has led me to be more accepting of myself, working towards more happiness, and even to bettering my golf game by 10 strokes!

    If something looks suspiciously negative, try to re-frame it and see how you can find a better truth out of the situation.

    Great video Ramit, and thanks for posting!

  11. Maria

    Loved this! It has far wider applications than A or B questions.

    Take a look at this pain point: “I want to lose X pounds so I can finally feel good about myself.”

    What is implied is that “I cannot feel good about myself if I don’t lose those pounds.”

    It also implies that: “I should have already lost the weight, so I am punishing myself by not allowing myself to feel good”.

    Yet, the answer is yes & yes & yes.

    Should you have already lost the weight? Probably, yes.
    Feel good about yourself before you have lost all the weight? Yes!
    Feel good about yourself after you have lost the weight? Yes!

    You don’t have to lose the weight to feel good about yourself. You can feel good about yourself, while you are losing the weight. And then you can also feel good about yourself after you have lost the weight (obviously!).

    Should you punish yourself for not having already done it? No.

  12. Susan

    I like it – a way to say YES & YES – sometimes the simplest things are the best – Thanks!

  13. Lisa Klow

    Loved the video, very helpful. Appreciate all the videos and emails.

  14. DSchulz

    Yes and Yes. I’m definitely adding this one to my “inner dialog”.

  15. Kerry

    The way we frame our questions is really important. By asking ” HOW can I do a and b”, it naturally drives us to think about finding the way, the solution. Whereas when asking ” should I do a or b” , I tend to compare the pros and cons for either the choice, but if it’s hard to make a decision, I will be in confusion and let alone to take action to do both and excel.
    Thanks Ramit for sharing your ideas!

  16. Tamar

    I’m a 52 year old lawyer, and I’m changing course with no questions asked. The secret absolutely lies in framing and reframing the question until you’ve removed the barriers.

    The questioner had already set up a series of barriers to her thinking: I’m 52. My best years have passed me by. I don’t think I’m performing very well at my current job. I think I’m too old to change.

    Thanks for a great video post!

  17. Ben

    Thanks Ramit,
    My barrier was thinking I could only choose one area of science to follow so it was “do I follow physics OR mathematics Or chemistry”.
    Well I searched around google for a bit and it turns out a field called Nanotecnology employs every field of science imaginable. Woohoo!
    Now I can be a Physicist AND Mathematician AND Chemist.

    Also one word: Hyperstealth

  18. Eric

    Sounds like top performers are the type who don’t settle for the old saying, “you can’t have your cake and eat it to.”

  19. Timothy Moser | ACE Productivity

    Yeah, “yes and yes” answers so many questions in life. I’m recently graduated and pursuing 4 different career opportunities at once right now, but it’s good to be reminded that I should strive to be a top performer in every area that’s important to me.

    Also, I like the insight about finding out what it actually means to be a top performer. You have to be proactive. What values, realistically, are the most important for you to be providing? Identify those values and focus on them, and excellence will be yours.

  20. Vincent

    Even before watching the video, I noticed an interesting issue with Laura’s question: both parts of it give an excuse for why she shouldn’t step out of her comfort zone. She doesn’t say “Am I too old, or should I go for it and try something new?” She says, “Am I too old, or should I just keep doing what I’ve been doing.”…see the difference? The second one doesn’t have an option to change anything. It gives the impression that she wants to change, but it’s really just two excuses to keep doing the same thing. She’s already rationalizing why she SHOULDN’T change.

    Before I found out about Ramit’s work, I did the same thing.

  21. Eric James

    I’m going to take the negative view and say that I found Ramit’s answer a bit of a cop-out. “Yes and yes” sounds like an exhortation to do everything, which usually means you end up doing nothing particularly well.

    Ultimately, you have to set priorities. An hour spent on a class to improve job skills in your current career is an hour not spent networking with people to explore the new one. And as Ramit’s own classwork points out, energy, attention and willpower are all finite resources — the more you divide them, the less effective you will be.

    I think the real problem with the question was its lack of specificity, and a more useful response would have revolved around setting up a framework to understand the choice better. Beginning with: “Why do anything?”

    There’s apparently something about her current situation she’s unhappy with, but it isn’t clear what. Is she seeking more money, more autonomy, more impact, more respect, more security, or what? Once that’s understood, she’s in a better position to weigh the full menu of options.

    I can see “yes & yes” as a part of that strategy — talk with your boss and see what it would take to be a top performer, talk to some people to find out if the career you think you want is really all that, etc. But at some point, I think you have to commit to one path or another.

    The only way I know to achieve a big change is to commit to it and hammer away at it every day. And you just can’t do that with very many things at the same time.

  22. Renee Lindsay


    I really appreciate the way you dissected the language and structure of Laura’s question as being leading, framed in a way that will get her the answer that she wants. Your attention to language is one of the key reasons I value your material.

    But I’m confused as to what you’re trying to achieve when you introduce your video with language like “I hate him” and “If you’re intimidated, go away.” What are your motives for using this kind of language? I feel dismissed when I read it, especially the latter remark. Am I intimidated? Of course I am. Is that going to stop me? No. But, when I read “go away,” I have to wonder if you’re only interested in folks who don’t experience intimidation, or if you lack respect for those of us who step into a position of vulnerability and take a risk, even though we’re scared. Doing this is part of what makes us top performers.

    Reading words like “go away” makes me wonder who it is you’re actually talking to. It seems disconnected from the entire beginning portion of your DJ course, which is focused on facing fears and managing them. Being intimidated is a constructive place to start, not the time to give up and “go away.” Again, you emphasize the importance of fears as teachers in the Dream Job program.

    To me, the intro to this video sounds obnoxious, but I’d revise my opinion, I think, if I understood what you’re trying to say.

    By the way, writing this comment is intimidating. But I’d much rather ask you what you mean to gain a better understanding of your message than just roll my eyes and tune out. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • Renee Lindsay

      To clarify: The reason I brought up your introduction is because I was so turned off by it I almost didn’t watch the video, which had valuable material. Instead of drawing me in to something you put a lot of work into, your intro left me with a feeling that I had to pass some sort of test before I could access your video. Just wondering what you meant by it.

  23. Mary Catherine George

    Ramit! Loved your breaking down language use!! Yes!! Recognizing that sometimes how I frame a question is more about leading for the response I think I want to hear. LOVE IT!!

    Keep the video facts coming!

    Thanks – MC

  24. Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa

    I like the idea of removing the OR from many of the perceived options we have in life. This applies to so many different aspects of daily living.

  25. Adam | Track Training

    what a wake up call, I always thought you should just put your efforts into one thing. just because you want to do something else doesn’t mean you can’t be the best at what you are doing right now. thank you ramit.

  26. Chris Edenbo

    This video works as a good prompt. For me it comes at a good time to receive this prompt. Thanks.

  27. Khaled

    “If this is intimidating, go away. This site is about being the best, not about doing what’s easiest.”

    a man after my own heart 🙂

  28. Paul Gibson

    Many of us have this false illusion that we might be late for so and so thing, while on the other hand one is never late for trying out greener pastures. All one need is some common sense and practical perspective of real-life scenarios.

  29. Raphael Soares

    Great perspective.

    Keep the good work

  30. Nelson C.


    It was recently brought to my attention that my employer offers a roth 401(k) option. Where would you rank this option on the Ladder of Investing?

  31. Emma

    Love this video, makes me re-think some of the own questions I’m asking in my life right now.