Stop wasting time on things that don’t matter

Ramit Sethi

Here’s a classic email I recently got:

My response:
The result?

It would be easy to make fun of Scott, but I actually love that he had a hypothesis of what mattered (his beard), tested it (by emailing me), corrected himself, and then dominated.

It’s hilariously perplexing how many of us devise crackpot theories of what really matters, only to never test them. Invisible scripts guide our lives. We waste years of our lives pursuing the wrong strategies because we never sent one email to find out if our assumptions are true or not. For example…

Quiz: What is your earning potential? Choose the answer you agree with the most
View Results
  • MONEY ASSUMPTION #434: “I need to cut back on lattes.” Have they ever actually tracked how effective this is? Do they understand that negotiating their salary or automating their finances would be 1000x more effective? No. They’ve bought the assumption without ever questioning it.
  • LIFESTYLE ASSUMPTION #287: “I need to buy a house.” I cover why buying a house is often a poor financial decision in exhaustive detail.
  • INTERNET WEIRDO ASSUMPTION #998: “I need a high PageRank.” A guy came to one of my talks and raised his hand to ask about my SEO strategy. I responded that I have no idea and there are a lot smarter SEO people out there than I am. This answer evidently didn’t satisfy him (as anyone could see by his manic eye movements and oddly cocked neck) so I asked, “Why? What are you trying to do?” He told the room how he “needs” to improve his PageRank to make more money off his site. Again, I asked, “Why?” He stopped, realizing he had never examined his assumptions that PR is important. When I told him my PageRank sucks and I make more than most of my competitors combined, he did not know how to respond. His only response: “But…but…PageRank….” STOP ASSUMING

Question for you today:

Today, let’s pause and check some of our assumptions.

Tell me, what assumptions have you challenged in the last 1 year? (Example: “I’m not the kind of guy that can lose 40lbs” or “I could never make $75,000” or “I didn’t think I could take a 3-month vacation to Asia/Europe, but I did XYZ and I was able to…”).

Share yours in the comments below.

If you haven’t tested any, pick one and share how you’re going to test it.

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  1. GKV

    I tested my assumption that successful people are too busy to give me career advice, but I emailed several people using Ramit’s natural networking scripts and 80% of them were glad to give me advice.

  2. Brian

    Assumption: I need to focus on significantly increasing my primary source of income, rather than looking for ways to supplement it with side income.

  3. Rachel

    In the coming year I am going to challenge my assumption that the only place I can find a high-paying job is in New York or a similarly large, expensive city.

    • Alan


      This is a great idea. Here’s a little story to keep you motivated (yes, story, not carefully controlled and tested experiment). A family member of mine is a doctor and makes between 200-250/yr. They lived in NY, and now in VA. A friend of theirs lives in New Orleans (on the edge), but works in a nothing town about 45minutes outside of N.O. and makes over 300k (around 320 I believe). They have the same profession – and I believe similar specialties, meaning they’re the same “kind” of doctor. Point is, because the friend works in a not major city (where there are far fewer highly trained medical professionals), they make almost 100k/yr more. I suppose that the friend *IS* the supply, they just went out and found the demand.

      All the best,

  4. Debora

    I’ve been needing to lose weight for a very long time, but always resisted keeping track of my calorie intake and calories burned by exercise. I was convinced that it was too much bother and shouldn’t be necessary. But I never lost any weight.
    A few weeks ago I decided to test my assumption and started keeping track of everything. And now I’m finally and actually losing weight.

  5. Angie

    Assumption: I could never do a triathlon even if its a sprint distance.

    A friend of mine has been triathlons for a couple of years now and had been pushing me to do it. I had been running, but that was about it. I really didn’t think I could do it. Nor did I have the time that it would take to train. That was last year. This spring I jumped in head first.

    Result: I completed 2 triathlons this summer. One June 3 and the second on August 5. The second I took 5 and half minutes off of my time and it was more difficult course. The training didn’t take more than an hour/day on average.

    I’m taking a couple of months off to fix my running form and then back to training. First build up a stronger foundation and then build up speed.

  6. Stephanie @ Empowered Dollar

    I did something risky and challenged my assumptions that my digestive issues required a constant high dosage of medicine to control. My doctor always told me not to “rock the boat,” and if a handful of pills kept my issues at bay, I should stick with it. So I tried lowering the dose on my own and experimenting with my diet to see if I could cure myself naturally. Guess what? I’ve never felt healthier.

    Is going against your doctor’s orders slightly dangerous? Maybe. But it’s worth challenging your (and his) assumptions.

  7. Sally

    Assumption: I would need an expensive professional certification to get my ideal job, since all the online listings I saw listed it as a requirement.

    I tested this by passing my resume to a friend in a great company that didn’t even have openings for my ideal position. Two months later, I am working there, in my ideal position, and they’ve already paid for my certification course.

  8. Jennifer

    I never had the balls to ask for more money in an interview, but I just had one last week. I liked the people I met, and I almost felt guilty asking for a higher salary than they were offering. All in all though, I deserve it, and this blog totally popped into my head,

    Jury’s still out, but I feel good about my decision.
    Thanks Ramit!

  9. Lain

    Probably the biggest assumption I challenge over and over is that I have to work harder or more hours to make more income.

    I’m revising my processes and outsourcing non-essential tasks in order to make more money (or the same amount) by working less. This feels like “cheating,” but I love it!

  10. Michael E

    The most important one for me was that I would never find an intelligent, beautiful woman to marry.

    16 years with Lily have proven that one totally wrong.

  11. andrew

    Before heading to Argentina this summer, I thought that learning a new language was impossible for me since I had been studying Spanish all throughout high school and college. After spending 2 months there I had a good grasp of the language and could have conversations with people who couldnt speak english which was one of my goals.

  12. Sarah

    I thought I could never lose any significant weight. I thought that I would just stay whatever size I was (aka slowly gain more and more) and that trying to control my body was pointless. I thought about my physical health the way I think a lot of people think about their financial health. But two years ago, I took control. I figured out that what I really needed for my *current* physical health was to actually exercise regularly, and that in order to do that I needed someone else to be in charge. For me, that was my girlfriend. We started running a couple times a week. Short distances at first, then gradually longer and/or faster. Over two years later, I have a better way to manage stress, I sleep better, I have a new interesting and engaging hobby, and OH BY THE WAY I lost 25 pounds and two pants sizes. If I had tried to do this by dieting I would’ve been miserable — the dietary equivalent of cutting down on lattes to get rich. Now instead of taking something away from my life, I’ve added to it, and I’m definitely the richer for it.

  13. david

    Before really engaging myself in career searches, I had thought it would like weeks to secure an interview at a company in which I could grow over decades. Using the briefcase technique, within one week, I have had three companies call me. Thank you Ramit.

  14. Dallas

    I’m hoping to test my assumption that I will struggle financially next year because it will be the first year I no longer have the safety net of a full-time job to support me as I start my photography business. Here’s to hoping (and planning, and testing) that I’m wrong!

  15. Tanuja

    Assumption: I never ever thought I would be allowed to work from home full-time at my current job. I have been wanting to work from home ever since I read The Four-Hour Work Week a couple of years ago.

    Test: I floated it out there to my boss that that I was considering a move to be closer to my family and wanted to know what my options were with respect to maintaining my role at the company.

    Result: To my great surprise, he said it would be totally fine. I had a backup argument in case he said it wasn’t (that 90% of our team – including managers – do not work in an office), but everything turned out great. Not only that, but he told me that he’s been super impressed with my work over the past year and I will be up for promotion next year and he has my back 100% to push for it. This was a boss I had major issues with in the beginning (I don’t deal well w/ ppl ordering me around), but we stuck through it and weathered the storm and now things are great…I am a trusted employee and I know he will always go up to bat for me as long as I’m doing my job well. I’m super excited to start my new work-from-home life!

  16. Caleb

    One thing I had always thought was that I couldn’t do public speaking (I get quite nervous). A last-minute chance came up via work to fill in as a guest lecturer at the local college for one class, and I made myself take it. (I was almost sick to my stomach when I sent the email agreeing to it.) I don’t think I hit it out of the park, but I didn’t fail either. The best part is, I found out after that every student in the class was supposed to submit 1/2 page paper of what they got out of the presentation, which gave me some good feedback on what worked and didn’t work in the presentation, and I was asked if I’d be available to do the same talk again next year.

  17. SarahS

    I tested my assumption that making more money would make me more happy, and that taking a lower-paying job would mean I was inherently worth less. I switched careers, I make 50% less money than I used to, and I am happier than I have ever been before.

    • Justaperson

      Cool! Which career made you happier?

  18. Melissa

    Assumption: I can’t live a financially stable life without my husband.

    It’s been a very challenging year as my husband and I decided to end our marriage. He is the breadwinner by a landslide. I am currently in the middle of testing my assumption. I am getting new ideas all the time to blow this lame assumption out of the water.

  19. Ben

    I could never lose weight as I need to speak every waking hour of the day working to keep up with my job in IT, a little over a year later I’ve lost 40 lbs and am more effective in my role than ever. I train twice a day six days a week often during work hours but thanks to automating and organising my boss couldn’t be happier with my performance.

  20. Mark

    A friend started to go to the gym 6 days a week to look better. He doesn’t believe when I say results can be obtained much easier (as I read from a book by Timothy Ferriss). He challenged me to prove it.

    Assumption: The courses offered by the commercial gym are not as effective as the methods described by Timothy Ferriss when trying to build Six Pack Abs.

    Action steps: I slightly changed my diet towards the Slow-Carb diet Timothy promotes (only partly, so it’s just a small step) and twice a week I do two exercises described in a chapter in the book.

    Results: Before I started, no muscle was visible in my abs. I’m about four/five weeks in now and there is some visible change since about three weeks already.

  21. Sequoia

    I have assumed for the past THREE years (huge waste of time) that I need a very expensive specialized degree to get my dream job or start my own business in the same field. Finally I read the ciricculm of this oh do fancy degree and I can do 90% of it already and the other 10% I can learn for way less than 70k and way faster than 3 more years. But here’s my question: If I’m already much more qualified to do the job than a graduate of this particular program, why do I still feel like they’ll edge me out of the job because they have this piece of paper? Companies seem to more emphasis on degrees than talent and it shows in their output. How do I bypass the knuckleheads in HR with no vision and get my dream job? Ramit help me!

    • Shana

      Sequoia I can answer that question because I’ve done it and I am doing it now. Contact the person who would be your bosses boss. For me, that means contacting the CEO, Pres or VP of OPs.

  22. Brandon

    I tested the assumption that you had to live and work in a large city to earn a good living or do the type of work that I do. I have now lived in a small town about 1.5 hrs away from any major city. I work as an engineer and make a good living. With the connectivity we have today it is not that difficult to be highly productive in a remote setting. I would not have thought it possible a few years ago, but it has been a real blessing and I am glad that I pursued this lifestyle change.

  23. Tamara

    “I could never make money being a fine artist.” Truth is, I am a decent portrait artist, and could probably sell that skill to moms at my kids’ school. If I asked a few moms I know for images to work from, I might even sell the portraits I do from them, and if nothing else, use them as portfolio pieces.

  24. J. Delancy

    I assumed that I’d never be able to go diving with sharks off the coast of Nassau because I didn’t have the time to get SCUBA certification. I called Stuart Cove’s and lo and behold they had a snorkeling trip that included a shark feeding station. Viola! after three years of trying I’m in the water with these beautiful fish.
    How is this relevant? Put something impossible on your bucket list, get it done and then see how your levels of confidence change. Lots of time wasting tactics are based on the FEAR of doing that which is vitally important.

  25. N

    Assumption: I can never afford to just quit my job and go travel long term.
    By following Ramit’s simple automation techniques, I managed to debunk that assumption and save a chunk of money. I’m happy to say my last day of work is at the end of this month! Then I’m off to travel in Australia for 8 months!

  26. Melisss

    I often test/ disprove assumptions, such as: I could never live without dairy. I’m now 6 months vegan and surprised to say I don’t miss it at all. Example 2: my vet said my cat would never recover from kidney failure & should be euthanized. I did my own research, found a new vet, and 6 years later his kidney function is in a normal range.
    An assumption I’m dealing with now: I’ll never make much money working in non profit. I’m not sure if I should try to make more where I am or move to the for profit sector.

    • Monica

      My vet said the same thing to me. I ignored her advice, and ten years later my cat is alive and well!

  27. Marcus

    Assumption: I’ve noticed some pan-handlers down here in San Antonio trying to get money by making signs that say, “Need money for beer and smokes”. I’m ASSUMING they are trying to get money by being honest or telling people what they think the people think they will really use the money for. My test is to make a sign that says, “Need money to buy a power washer to start my own car wash company” and then not actually take the peoples money (I have a job) but just ask them how much they would be willing to give me and tally it all up for a two week period. What do you think Ramit?

  28. Lance

    Thanks to Ramit, I tested the assumption that I couldn’t lower my cholesterol without using statins. They are terrible on the body, and studies have shown that they don’t reduce heart attacks. In fact, they reduce CoQ10, which muscles need to stay healthy, and there is one muscle in particular that needs it for us to stay alive, the HEART! Come to find out, if I had just stopped eating the amount of fructose that I had been consuming, my liver would reduce the amount of cholesterol production. And, with the help of supplements, I used the cholesterol production of my unstatin liver to produce testosterone, which is also depleted by statins, and is also needed for muscles.

    So, now after getting away from my prescriptionist (he isn’t a doctor, because all he does is write prescriptions) and working with a naturopath, I am off statins. And, my cholesterol is 184 (from 335) and my testosterone is also up. I have more energy, which makes me want to work out; and, I am losing weight, lowering my blood pressure, which was getting high as well.

    The 60s saying of “Question Authority” should now be “Question Assumptions” because it would be more encompassing (and acutally useful)!

  29. L

    Assumption: I’m not (and never will be) able to run more than very short distances.

    Background: I am one of those people who never ran at all – always failed the running part of the physical fitness test as a kid. Never was fat, just not able to run without wheezing.

    Test: Joined a gym around Feb 1 and started working out 30 minutes on a treadmill 2-4 times per week. When I started, I was doing 90% walking with a few one minute “sprints” (slow jogs) thrown in there. I slowly started increasing the jog time. Now I am doing 80% jogging, including some faster sprint minutes, and a few fast walk recovery minutes in there. And I’ve found I LOVE it – I feel really good after my workout.

    Next assumption to challenge: I need the walk recovery minutes (vs. able to jog for 30 minutes straight).

  30. Jeff Callahan

    1. Went from having to endure minimum savings balances and general dickishness from my local bank to automating my saving with ING Direct. (using your methods)

    2. Using your negotiating techniques while interviewing for my current job I was able to overcome my limiting beliefs and represent myself well, turning a lowball offer into making more money than I ever had before.

    3. Was always nervous about reaching out to people I admired for advice, but after having a few big wins in other areas of my life (Mostly using your stuff) I’ve reached out and talked to a few of my heroes.

    Thanks for everything you do.

  31. Phillip G

    A year ago I would have never guessed that I could lose 40 lbs by eating Paleo and hardly exercising, but here I am, 40 lbs lighter, loving my high-fat foods and rarely exercising. Can’t wait to show my doctor in a few weeks all my progress.

  32. SE

    “I could never make money investing since I am not savvy enough about how to invest. I would need to take a class before doing so.”

    The truth is I am afraid of making a mistake and losing money. Anybody can invest. Still fear keeps me form jumping in. Lame. I know.

  33. Stephanie

    Assumption: I could never make 6 figures off my art but many many others have.

    I’m going to look at the many ways there are to market my art, stage shows etc. to get back to where I was before. I’ve done it before and still didn’t believe. Now it’s time to use my full power and take back control of my life.

  34. Bonnie

    1. I always assumed that I couldn’t stay home with my kids. As an engineer, I made more than my husband. Then I got laid off 2 yrs ago. I didn’t want to find another job. So I sat down and looked at the numbers. Turns out, I could stay home.

    2. I assumed I couldn’t afford to start a business. Especially after losing my job and deciding to stay home with the kids. My friend and current business partner pushed me to really look into it. With great advice (from my CPA and SCORE) and a lot of planning, we opened our business in May 2011. It’s been hard and we have still have a ways to go, but we love it.

  35. Mel

    Assumed that because I’m a SAHM I could “do it all” myself and couldn’t justify the expense of hiring outside help. Decided to bite the bullet and hire someone anyway, and discovered that while we paid her $400/mo, it was only taking about $250/mo out of our budget because I was doing less retail therapy or buying expensive food. Plus, the sanity I maintained (and lack of resentment towards husband) was well worth the money.

  36. Christina shields

    I can’t become a desirable fashion photographer because I don’t live in NYC or LA.

  37. Susan

    These comments are so inspiring. I have heart disease with genetically programmed high cholesterol. I can’t tolerate statins, so the doctor just threw his hands up and has watched me go through 3 heart attacks. Reading Lance’s comment, I am going to try non-prescription alternatives to lower my cholesterol. I’m already taking CoQ10 and eating lots of natural fiber, but will work harder on eliminating all sugars from my diet. I hope this works for me and thank you Ramit and Lance for the suggestion about fructose!

  38. Eleanor

    1) I never thought I could afford private horseback riding lessons regularly, but I just started to and am enjoying it more and learning faster.
    After spending hours doing various Excel comparisons, I finally went for private lessons as I felt stymied in group ones. The new instructor even proposed that I share the cost of a horse (renting it) with another student & get to ride 4x/week instead of 2! How can I afford this? I got better at managing time & money: immediate investment became a passion, and got a side job (earn 1k) that keeps me on retainer for an extra $800/month.
    2) I never thought I’d be able to travel overseas 4 times since last August. Thanks to the accrued mileage, I’m now in a higher level with my frequent flyer program earning more miles per $ spent + got a free ticket for this fall! Again, better financial control (wiser spending, automated credit card payments and streamlined bill payment), got better at investment, ensuring that I immediately invest available cash, and because I negotiated a better fee for a project, my finances have improved. Also, the trips let me network for better paying jobs.
    c) I never thought I’d get to the interview stage. Now I’m testing interviewing and just came back from my first one. Instead of only going for my #1 choice (that’s in another country), I decided to use any interview opportunities (within reason) to see how I come across. Today seemed successful as the recruiter said she was going to definitely recommend me for the 2nd round.
    Made many little steps to improve finances and streamline investing, and am now able to do things I never dreamed of doing AND I don’t feel like I’m dead-tired and over-worked. To be honest, as I write this I’m still amazed that the sky hasn’t fallen in.

  39. Martha

    I tested my assumtion that, although I have marketable skills, I wasn’t really “expert” enough to freelance, and besides, how would I get a client. Got a lead through one of my networks, responded, was chosen out of many that responded. I believe in my abilities more now, and need to expand my network.

  40. Mary

    5 years ago, I assumed I was too old to travel & spent time in my back yard, rather than travel. All that changed when I met people on youtube who inspired me. I started travelling, first to Manhattan, then to India; I have been all over the world & to India 3 times ! Egypt twice and glad I did (before the revolution), NYC Manhattan often, California, Mexico.

    Also, I assumed I had no will power to lose weight, so I didnt take responsibility to do it. I found out you don’t need will power to lose weight. just a commitment to health. I chose a life-style change four months ago and I’ve lost a lot of weight 40lbs!, all the weight I never thought I could ever lose, without a diet. I made every bite count, an apple instead of a donut, a cucumber instead of crackers. etc. I also use simple meditations for weight loss which I learned on youtube! I just say no to artificial food and eat simply.

    People assume youtube is a waste of time. It’s one of the best places to use for research and learning new skills. Ramit is on youtube and he can really get us thinking.

  41. Su S.

    Assumption: Because business is still bad for the company I primarily consult for, I can’t do anything to improve my pay there.

    Testing: I submitted my last invoice with a 20% increase in my hourly rate, pointing out that my consulting rate (for them) had not increased in 4 years.

    Result: Everybody said “No problem with your rate increase.” It will take a little while to collect it all (they owe some back pay) but they know they need me and not to undervalue my services.

    Thanks for the continued assertive support and techniques, Ramit!!

  42. Mike Evans

    Assumption: I am a year graduated out of college with a music performance degree, and I am also deeply interested in marketing and psychology. My assumption was that no one would hire me for entry level marketing positions since I do not have the ‘textbook’ qualifications.

    Test: I networked to find creative, marketing folks that understand my position. I found a great entry level job, and a little added charm and some of Ramit’s negotiating tactics, I started on the high end of the pay scale.

  43. Mihir

    Assumption: “I don’t have time for or can handle after-work activities since I have a family/kids at home”.

    Tested: I joined a local Toastmasters Club (the city’s first, and in downtown, away from my work and home) to brush up my public speaking skills. It’s twice a month and I just have to set aside an hour or two extra per week to write and practice a speech. I just informed my spouse of the timings so our family schedule isn’t disrupted (e.g., no karate or piano lesson schedule those nights). Assumption disproven.

    Takeaway: I took the attitude of “let’s just try this for a month or two”. If you treat the testing of assumptions as a short-term (e.g., 1-month) “experiment”, you’ll be surprised how much of your assumptions aren’t really true.

  44. Jonathan Vaudreuil

    I assumed that everyone believed in the magic of Pareto and 80/20.

    While that might sound odd, that’s how I determine what to do at work. We lived by it at my previous employer. When you’re a small Direct Marketing firm with limited resources and grand expectations, how do you maximize results? 80/20.

    I’m finding many people believe that lots of things matter. They love the 80% that get 20% of the results. Don’t know why they do – but having to deal with that is frustrating.

  45. Michael

    I assumed I could never go vegetarian for a full month without eating meat because I’ve been a carnivore all my life. This was 2 years ago.

    I tested my assumption by stating on Facebook to all my close friends that I would be going meatless for a full month. Some of my friends were very supportive about my decision. Now I’m starting my second “meatless for a month” journey and I have to tell you I’ve never been happier!

  46. Sue Menon

    Yay, I’m doing this right 🙂 You have to be ready to go w/ whatever momentum comes your way. Awhile back, the firm I was working at partnered w/ Habitat for Humanity and offered employees a chance to go to South Africa to build homes for people with HIV there. It would have been easy to say, I don’t want to get the shots to go there, I don’t want to take the time off work, it’s scary to go so far away. Or just, I’m not the kind of person that builds homes in South Africa. (And I’m a goofy Indian girl, so that’s fair) But I didn’t make any of those assumptions. I was ready to go, go, go!!

  47. Roberto Lebron

    Assumption: “I could never do an extreme physical fitness program like P90X. It’s too tough.”

    Reality: I’m on my 11th week, working out 7 days a week, I haven’t missed a day, even though I was sick for a week, and the benefits are in plain view. Not only am I more fit, I’m also in a better mood, and more productive. Once again, Ramit is Right!

  48. DK

    Assumption: I’ll never be great at windsurfing because that honor belongs to my brother. I’m mediocre and should be happy that way since I was never athletic.

    Results: Just got back from my windsurfing vacation. Not only was I whizzing by with top speed and control, but I was also enjoying myself immensely more. How did I do it? I finally told myself, “I’m tired of this – I want to get really good,” took a private lesson for the first time in years, paid attention and bam, in less than 2 hours, I was practically chasing motor boats going by.

    New assumption: I can’t make more money or even get a new job because I don’t have time between my commute and grad school studying.

    Results: TBD.

  49. Scott

    I assumed I wouldn’t be able to make $45k more when this job offer came along. (I honestly thought they’d only offer me $5k or $10k more.) Turns out I was pretty wrong.

  50. Ralu

    I assume I won’t be able to get a raise at my current job since my boss already gave me a bonus and probably expects me to shut up for a year.

    Going to challenge that in 2 weeks when he will be coming over to the local office.

  51. Elaine

    I assumed I could never have a cut/athletic body since I was always a little “soft” growing up. My boyfriend had a similar situation growing up, but in the last few months he has completely changed his physic (dropping 30 lbs, now has six-pack). We were living in different cities last year, but now that we’re living together again, I’m testing my assumptions by completely following his diet and work-out plan.

  52. Matt

    I’m testing my assumption that can’t get a payrise where I work now. All the ‘normal’ signs say ‘no way’: Budgets are cut, the whole company is in the process of being rearranged, my own boss left 2 months ago,passing me on to a manager who doesn’t understand my role……But…..Ramit says Play Poker with em and pull out the briefcase, so that’s what I am doing. I have a 1:1 with my new boss in September and I am running a side project which will prick her ears up.
    Question: The 1:1 is a normal scheduled occurance (I only see my boss every 4-6 weeks, so we have a scheduled hour together), but do I forewarn her that I want to talk money, or hit her with it when we meet?

  53. Ellen

    This year I challenged my assumptions about getting a job and began a year-long online course in healthcare. I never had a science class in my life and this is diffficult. But it is a fabulously engaging effort, and I believe I can complete the course and therefore be employable in a whole new field.

  54. Annika S

    Hi Ramit,
    The assumption I’m testing & struggling with is: “I need to have formal qualifications to make money.” I just launched my exercise and diet coaching site yesterday, so we’ll see whether it’ll turn out to be true.

  55. Noel

    Assumption: That I can never loose my belly fat and run a marathon. Its taken a whole year and after starting out only doing 2km runs, I am now running 20km every weekend and have entered a marathon at the end of Oct. The belly fat is slowly dripping away….

  56. Joy

    I assumed that I just wasn’t good at sports and I’d always be unfit. I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to afford to travel overseas until I retire. I assumed that everybody would laugh at me if I told them my crazy aspirations.

    Three months ago I ran my first marathon. On the Great Wall of China. And nobody laughed.

  57. Lindsay

    I tested the assumption that there was only one way to restrict calories and discovered other methods such as intermittent fasting, and got better weight loss results.

    • R.Singh

      Same here – a calorie is definately NOT a calorie.

  58. steve ward

    assumptions i have tested:

    1) that it is impossible to reach people who are suppose to be unreachable: This assumption is interesting it not wrong in some ways. See it how you approach the person that counts after that it was easy to approach most people a little hard to approach all people.

    2) that i can loose 30 pounds in 6 months: While this was a little tricky my mind thought it was impossible, yet by just changing my food a little i dropped those pounds fast.

    3) that it would take a year to write a book (you can kill yourself now Ramit because it was in part because of you =P) Over all not only did it take less time 5months but, im working on a biding war do to a few tech that you teach ramit.

  59. R.Singh

    Ramit, the barrage of emails you send out are terrible.
    There are some key things you’re doing, that are preventing you from getting to the next level:

    1. Emails are too frequent
    2. Email look unprofessional (font, layout, everything)
    3. You don’t provide any FREE PROVEN material that works – example, I purchased Tim Ferriss’ “4 Hour Body” because I used the Free Slow-Carb diet on his blog, which worked. I figured if that worked, the book must be great.

    I purchased your book, which was awesome – but, have had no inclination to be upsold on anything else that you pitch – Take this for whatever you think its worth.

    • Aaron

      No free material? Not proven? How long have you been reading this blog, dude?

    • Agota

      This is hilarious.. 😀

  60. James

    I haven’t challenged any assumptions, which is probably part of the problem. I think it’s time to start challenging some assumptions …

  61. Harsh

    I always assume that I can start my own business instead of wasting my time on 9 to 5 job where most the time wasted in chit chats and other stuff than actual work to do.But always I got stuck at where to start and who can help me in this and then answer always came is go back to job.

  62. Aaron

    My assumption was that I needed to finish my Master’s degree to get a great job. I forced myself to apply anyway, got the job, and have now stopped worrying about the degree.

  63. ZSN

    I have testing my idea on money. For years and years and years, learning from my parents, I always thought 36-45k job was a decent job. Value is different from person to person. I saw this as a big value. I decided to switch my mindset and saw this as a low value, and put a value of 75-90k (double) as the same value. I was just transferred to the sales team of our company, Base salary + Commissions. Base is already within my new new value. Assumptions = destroyed.

  64. Anca

    With the Dream Job course I first had to test the assumption that a stranger would never positively reply to a request to meet for coffee to talk about their work. But I met with several college alumni in my industry, and talked on the phone with someone who was basically a 3rd connection (introduced via repeated closer connections). Another alum offered to introduce me to a VIP via email because coffee wasn’t very convenient.

    The second assumption I had to test was after I didn’t get a reply from that VIP after several days (5 incl weekend). I was worried I would seem rude or annoyingly persistent if I emailed again, but I understood I had nothing to lose and plenty to gain, so I swallowed my fear and looked up your script “Following up with non-responders” and sent it off just now.

  65. Matt Ortolani

    Love the Lifestyle Assumption… I spent most of my life trying to understand why a massive debt that is “supposed” to allow you to build equity but could bottom out (like any other investment) was the best logical step for a young person, or any person for that matter…
    Buying a home is a MYTH… and I get constantly slammed by people who are of the old school style of thinking and cannot get out it and into the creative stages of seeing the future… I now just reference this blog and a few other resources and let them do their own research while I continue creating the future I am in line for…

    Excellent blog and excellent information! Keep it coming!

  66. Doug_Holes

    My depression could not be fought, because my situation makes it impossible for me to fix any aspect of my life. My debt will ruin me and I will lose my job because I cannot focus on work.

    How I challenged it:
    My illness was causing me to think irrationally about money and work.
    I asked a *very* good friend to take my bank card and manage my account with me. (this removed the money management worries (not necessarily the automation Ramit speaks about, but what I needed at the time) and allowed me to focus on work)

    I *stopped* freelancing. Yes, a number of the people I did work for were unhappy about it, but they were not paying me enough to cover my housing. (this allowed me to focus on my day job and improve greatly, to the point that I am no longer under permanent review).

    I am less stressed and able to see some of the more beautiful parts of life without the illness clouding everything. Not a financial win, this is true, but a huge win for an individual who has been clinically depressed for over 20 years.

    The next assumption to challenge is that I cannot manage the money by myself and to take back my own life in the process.

  67. Greg Campbell

    I used to say that I’m not the kind of guy who could win Ramit’s $1001 contest. I am testing my assumption by posting this response and hoping he reads it and proves me wrong! I really could use the money.

  68. Motivated

    I want to challenge the feeling which I had for the last years that I reached carreer and money wise already my full potential. I have been the last 2-3 years keeping busy staying at the same level which is much more that I ever expected … this was wrong.

    Busy now being part of a really challenging start up (leaving a big, incumbent, good paying company) and staring up an own business on the side

  69. Brent

    I dealt with my invisible script that “Not having a car means I cannot go out and have fun.” I started planning things, and then my friends with cars would offer to drive. Another script I am working to overcome is “I didn’t introduce myself and now it is too late and would be too awkward to do so.” I’m starting to realize that the other person is just as scared of the awkwardness as I am, and so when I introduce myself, things as just nicer all around.

  70. Marc

    Assumption: I couldn’t do Intermittent Fasting while building strength and getting into the best shape of my life.

    I’m 5 months in and already seeing better results than I did with P90X.

  71. Lucy Ra

    Was assuming my portfolio art sells only at a specific price range. Just got a buyer who is paying 6 times my asking price. Glad it went that way and not the other 🙂

  72. Ornella @ Moneylicious

    I assumed I couldn’t write a book because I don’t know the first thing about writing. I had the idea that I wanted to write a great fantastic personal finance book for Gen Y, but thought I had to be superb at writing.

    After awhile, I was upset with myself for thinking that I couldn’t do something because of my poor assumption. So I started to write, took my time, and introduced my manuscript to an editor. And then my world changed! I love how editors can keep the tone, my personality, and humor while adding on or adjusting the context in the manuscript. Needless to say, my book has been published.

    I threw out my hidden script by proving to myself I can accomplish it.

  73. Micah

    Assumption: I would never have a European vacation at my age, in my middle 30s, since everyone else had already done it.

    After years of being jealous of everyone taking long trips to Europe after college or in their 20s, I finally did what it took for me to see the major European countries including the trifecta of London, Paris and Rome. It wasn’t cheap and it was definitely tiring but I’m sitting here in England writing near the end of my 3 month journey across the continent satisfied at my results!

    So how did I do it? Lots of little jobs here and there, being frugal for the right things such as not going out to eat when I could have, and doing my best to keep the cash flow coming in. Putting yourself out there whether it’s recruiters or through networking. Part of my timing was luck when things worked themselves out for me to be here but I’m never going to regret that I did this.

  74. Still_floating

    I assumed that I could buy a boat to live on with my girlfriend, I tested it. Now I’m single but I have a boat..

  75. Jon

    Assumption: You have to wait for the perfect suitors before you will have a healthy relationship.
    Related Assumption: You have to either be lucky or have a lot of money to have women or to get laid.

    Tested: I slowly began to challenge many of the beliefs that I picked up along the way. I saw my parents with the messy divorce, and other examples of grown ups in ‘failed’ or drama relationships and I always had a fear of being ‘trapped’ by having kids with the wrong partner, or being in a marriage contract where I am locked in indefinably [in theory]. I did also see a [very] few examples of drama-less relationships, but the conclusion is that ‘its extremely hard work’, or the person just got lucky. What I really wanted was a renewable marriage contract, every 3-5 years or so. This would force people to be more honest about what they want. To this day that has never happened statutorily.

    I ran into a book called The Four Agreements. I began asking for what I wanted. I began to see how full of crap I was, and how much other people lie. But it wasn’t to judge them or judge myself. But to evaluate and make a choice. Objectivity was not limited to everything else except romantic relationships. I began cutting loose all those women who had no desire to mate. Deleting numbers from the phone (had “lots of numbers” from women I asked out years ago), and eventually met new women who I had fun with and didn’t seem to want any drama.

    I was no longer afraid of women with kids. I never had a ‘problem’ with kids per-say, but always assumed that there would be more expected of me that i might not be prepared to deal with. I practiced asking what she wanted for her kid, and found out the answers ranged. Most wanted a father figure, and some didn’t want you to have anything to do with the kid. Mathematically, most women (or men) you meet will not be virgins anyway, and you have to accept that. I realized that I might not fit what other people wish or think a father should be, but I could only be who I was; you either take it or leave it. You cannot be all things to all people. You have to make a choice, even when it is unpopular.

    Conclusion: You must have the courage to assert what you want or don’t want out of a relationship. From the beginning, determine if the person wants to go in the same direction as you. Do this as quickly as possible. I later learned that the world will never live up to my image of perfection. Why? It’s already perfect. I was just blinding and shielding myself with my own fears and lies. Trying to stall for the perfect circumstances, and you not only waste an incredible amount of time, but you miss out on all the other opportunities that pass you by in the mean time. People wear an incredible amount of social masks to hide who they really are or what problems they are dealing with….especially in Western countries. You can’t avoid taking risks, and all the barriers that we setup to avoid risks can often times lock us inside.

    By not making assumptions, we can see the situation more clearly and not fall trap to emotions. Regardless of what people say, we must have the courage to walk forward and TEST to see if the compatibility is there. A physical problem cannot be solved conceptually, yet so many people’s egos want to win the intellectual battle (argue minutiae details as an excuse to stall). Don’t be ashamed to ask for what you really want. And let go when you see someone or something is not what you want. Oh, and I traveled to other non-Westernized countries and saw the women were more friendly, and didn’t need a lot of money. I saw examples of people who didn’t need all the drama to walk together successfully. You don’t need luck. Instead, depending on how straightforward you want it, you either need a brothel or just a large variety of people who want to go in the same direction as you.

    I practice Mastery of Love [Don Miguel Ruiz] almost daily, as it is a systems approach to understanding why assumptions are not the best choice, and offers a better approach for communicating with your partner. You don’t have to keep betting on luck and superstition to get results. And while you might delegate/outsource help to various 3rd parties, YOU finally take ultimate responsibility for your choices. NEVER make someone else responsible for your happiness.

    In regards to marriage, I respect it solely as a statutory contract with certain statutory privileges/benefits. I don’t blend it in with other abstract concepts like love and commitment. I don’t practice making false promises that I cannot keep (I’ll love you for ever and ever and never leave you, etc”); and in this way I cannot set myself or my partner up for future suffering. So if Everyone Else is doing it, then that’s Everyone Else’s problem, and you need to go ask Everyone Else what the best methods are to an assumption-free and hell-free marriage.

    I hope this helped someone.

  76. Justaperson

    I tested an embarrassing, specific, unjustified fear (which counts as an assumption!) that’s been keeping me back by forcing myself to gradually confront it within the framework of a 30 day trial.

  77. Ly-ann

    Over the last 12 months I decided to challenge my own assumption that I did not have the mental wherewithal to run anything more than 3K. I worked on it slowly, not trying to give myself too big a goal. 3 months through, I realized I probably had more mental tenacity (and physical endurance) than I gave myself credit for. I signed up for the 21K and 12 months later am considering if that just simply should be an annual thing I do.

    There’s a ton of other stuff I’ve challenged myself to try
    – get paid gig to write. Check
    – start-up a company. Check. Failed. But at least I tried I know I may not have that kind of acumen.
    – Learn a new language. Check. I used to fail badly in highschool but I realized how fun it was now that I took up learning 3!

  78. Erin

    I tested my assumption that running was not a form of exercise that I would ever like or do voluntarily. A few months ago I started running with my boyfriend, and it was tough at first. But I rewarded myself with a piece of chocolate after every run and started improving week by week. Now I don’t need to have a chocolate afterward, but I usually do to keep the positive reinforcement going, and I even run when my boyfriend isn’t here to make me go.

  79. Patricia

    I’m going to test whether a fat girl, weighing over 230 lbs., can run a marathon, never having run more than a mile before in her life.

    – I am creating an training plan based off of a book called “Non-runner’s Marathon Guide”

  80. N.

    Assumption: The interview process is a just like being “under the microscope”, where prospective employers test, evaluate and measure your worthiness over another candidate.

    Test: First, change your attitude to one of confidence – you have what they want, not the other way around. Second, prepare a Briefcase Presentation on each company you interview with… showing you’ve done your research but also filling it with questions. You are interviewing them too… do they measure up to your worth?

    Result: Immediate spike in freelance work and then, weeks later, after repeated meetings with a choice company in my area – a job offer! All this after 3+ years of “under-employment”.

  81. Jerry

    I didn’t think I could squat 250 lbs, let alone 400, but I’ve already done 255, and I’m well on my way to beating 400 by the end of the year.