Think Bigger

In defense of doin’ it for the likes

If I asked you, “What motivates you?” what would you say?

Last week, I asked people on Twitter. Here’s what they said:

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All of these are super logical, magnanimous responses. “I just want to help people!” Very laudable. IWT readers are so great, you guys.

However, how come nobody said…

  • “I want to be a millionaire”
  • “I want to make my ex jealous”
  • “I want to have sex with more attractive people”


This can be really uncomfortable to admit.

It’s extremely hard to be honest about what motivates us.

Recently, I conducted performance reviews for a bunch of people on the IWT team, and specifically asked them this question:

What motivates you?

Lots of them were stumped, so I prodded them along with some ideas. It could be:

  • Salary
  • Impact
  • Improving your craft
  • Social approval
  • Praise

Most people struggled with this question. And rather than admit what we want, we use canned responses we know are “safe.”

Think about it: Sure, you want to “help people.” But what else? Is there a private little voice in the back of your head — the one that says, “I really want ____” — that whispers something over and over?

Maybe it’s having $1 million in cash in your bank account. Maybe it’s getting a 6-pack so you can have sex more often. Or maybe it’s being recognized on stage in front of all your peers — and making them envy you.

For a lot of people, those desires are uncomfortable to admit. Sometimes, the desires are politically incorrect. But it is real.

So how do we drill down and discover the reasons that really motivate us?

One technique to use is the 5 Whys Technique, where you ask yourself “Why?” over and over.

I want to help people — why?

So that I can feel good about myself — why?

And on and on.

Often, the desires end up being very simple: safety, love, or greed.

Here are examples of the differences between what we say motivates us (e.g. our 1st “why”) and what we really want (the 5th “why”):

Example 1: Me in my 20s

Example 2: Writing my first book

  • What I said motivated me: “Writing a great book” and “Selling a lot of copies” and “Helping a lot of people”
  • What really motivated me: I wanted to write a New York Times bestseller so I could be recognized by my peers (no surprise, see above)

Example 3: Starting an online business

  • What people say motivates them: “I want to help people accomplish their dreams and reach their full potential”
  • The real motivation:

Notice how uncomfortable it is to admit that you want to post pictures on Facebook to make others jealous. It seems petty, doesn’t it?

And yet every single one of us is motivated by something like that. Maybe it’s photos on Facebook, or cash in the bank, or a better dating life, or peer approval.

For example, lots of people who graduate then go off to work at investment banks or consulting firms say the same thing: “I’ll just do this for a few years, get the experience, then I’ll have time to slow down.”

And even if you pointed out there are actually better ways to make enough money AND live an amazing life (like starting your online business), they wouldn’t give it a second thought.

Why? First, we do what others around us do. If your peers are going to work for management consulting firms, you’re likely to as well. Second, most of us are motivated by peer prestige a lot more than we like to admit!

Learn the subtle cues behind the Handshake Effect

And that’s fine!

I’d rather acknowledge the real motivation — and work to achieve it — than ignore it and mask my real desires in platitudes. (Click to tweet)

By the way, one of the greatest realizations I had was that you don’t have to tell everyone all of your motivations. You can have private motivations — money, desire, safety, love — and choose which ones to share publicly.

For example, you might want to have a million dollars in your bank account. Maybe your parents never had money, or maybe you want to have more than your high-school ex-boyfriend. Whatever the reason, you want it.

That’s fine!

You almost certainly have other motivations, too, like doing the absolute best work you can. It’s perfectly acceptable to keep your million-dollar goal private, and share your goal of “focusing on doing the best work I can.” People understand that, they get it, and you can move on. Nobody wants to hear about your stupid ex, anyway.

The difference is, you’ll actually know all your motivations — not just the public platitudes.

I’ll show you an example from my life. I recently posted a before & after workout photo. After training for years, I was proud of my progress.

A post shared by Ramit Sethi (@ramit) on

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One of my friends asked me why I posted it. Before I could answer, she pointed out, “You probably wanted the likes.”

My instinctive reaction was no — I literally started my response with “No!” I said that I spent a ton of time training and I’m proud of the results.

But as I thought about it, she’s at least partially right. I did love the social approval.

Why not just accept it?

Why do we force ourselves to create lofty reasons for doing things, when sometimes, we just do them because we want to look good and feel good? (Click to tweet)

This was a valuable lesson for me. I hope it is for you, too.

By the way, I’d love to know: Would you be willing to share one thing that genuinely motivates you…but you haven’t admitted it until now?

If so, please share below in the comments. I read them all and I know others will, too.

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There Are 229 Comments


Michael E. Brown

Praise for being told how smart and creative I am. Once I get that recognition — pffft. I don’t care about the work anymore. I got what I wanted.

If we are being honest, one of my biggest motivators are all the nay sayers who told me I would fail. It feels good to rub success in their faces when the are in the same place they were last year.

What really motivates me? Money. Specifically, financial freedom and security. I want to have the same lifestyle as my mother one day. She owns three businesses, gets to travel around the world, speak at conferences in places like Berlin, go on silent yoga retreats and whatever else she wants. She has a gorgeous apartment in Manhattan and a vacation house in Long Island. But none of it was handed to her. She works incredibly hard. She has inspired me to make enough money to achieve the same freedom and design my own lifestyle instead of adhering to a more conventional career/life path.

I would like to earn hell lot of money so that i dont have to worry about finances anymore

I want to have the freedom to choose what to work at, when and where to do it, and who to work with, the resto of my life.

This is why when people tell me money doesn’t buy happiness I scoff. It is just an excuse people who are not willing to work hard enough use to justify their failure.

The timing of this was eerie, because this entire weekend I was musing over the one AND ONLY reason I started taking IWTY courses.

I want to make it so freakin’ big that the ex who broke my heart into a million tiny pieces will not be able to walk 5 steps from his smug-ass apartment in the Mission without hearing my name or seeing my face.

This is literally gotten me farther than any other noble, socially acceptable goal (get fit! Help others! etc.) I’ve had.

Laura Topliffe

I want to be at least a millionaire. I want to be so financially stable, I don’t even know when payday is. I don’t want to be bound by someone else’s schedule for me, I want to decide where I go or what I do.

You technically have that freedom RIGHT NOW. How that translates to the financial side of things is another story.

Loved this post! Financial freedom excites me because I’ll get to travel more and create my own work schedule. A lot of my friends and family members don’t think this is possible but I’m going to prove them wrong.

Security & Legacy. I want to have a gorgeous house and money in the bank for my future family. My mom died when I was young and she didn’t leave much instruction behind. I feel like I never knew her creative side, her professional side, or how she became successful. No matter what happens I want to make a safety net AND a road map for my kids.

I want to be able to spend my time creating, learning, exploring, playing with the dogs, just follow my inspiration and be able to hire someone to do the repetitive tasks like cleaning, admin, shopping etc.

Sitting with the question, right now, what motivates me?I think the things I do will make me feel happy. By happy I think more specifically I mean I want that excited feeling in my chest from dreaming and creating hope.

I want to answer to someone I respect. Ultimately, this means answering to myself. Failure is not a fear of mine. My fear is wasting my life building someone else’s dreams. I enjoy supporting others in their pursuits as like helps like, but feeling forced to follow is my personal hell.

I want to quit my job and have the kind of financial stability that translates into my being able to just live comfortably. I sincerely don’t care for becoming a millionaire. I just want to not have to deal with the stress of making ends meet. I don’t want a mansion. I don’t want a Ferrari, I’m legitimately totally OK with a house in the suburbs and a Honda in the driveway. I just want to be at peace and not have to do something I hate for a living.

I want to a person that I’m sought out for expertise in my role and company… I want to be the person that people go to for consultation in my specific role. Having that “power” validates that I’m respected and being heard.

Thanks Ramit! Great post. Thanks for being so candid and voicing what I’ve been thinking and feeling all along (and I expect the same is true for many others)!

I would like to have my online business to have the freedom to work on projects I want during the moments I want. I have 3 young daughters and having to rush them (and get mad) every morning so I don’t arrive too late at the office is killing me. I still don’t see I have to work at an office anyway. I am getting mad just be tipping this 🙂

Pretty much. I also hear that phrase when people talk about living a life of meaning. You can have a lot of money AND have a meaningful life/meaningful relationships.

I think at the depths of my being, what keeps me motivated is my want to view myself as ‘successful’ in my Asian mother’s definition of success. Having both a successful (lucrative and intrinsically fulfulling) career and happy family life.

Nathan Romrell

I want to be able to see all of the cool things this world has to offer without worrying about being able to afford it.

Jonathan Vaudreuil

I want the daily flexibility to pursue what I want to do. I literally want it to be GREAT that I wake up every day and read for an hour or two. Second, that I work on projects I see direct personal meaning from and not because it’s expected of me. I’ve realized that I prefer to be near the dirt, near the actual work, than far away from it with legions of people under me. The more I have of those 2 things – flexibility and direct impact – the happier I’ve been.

I grew up in a “lower middle class” household (which means we weren’t living on welfare but probably worse off than those who were). So my motivation is to ensure I make enough money to not have to worry about finances, go on the “nice” vacations, and spend more time with my wife and son (and next child in a few years).

There are two things that push me very hard. One’s an ‘avoid’, and one’s a ‘want’.

My parents worried–and still worry–about money. Part of it was that they had a lot of kids, which are expensive. But as they’re getting older and retirement is approaching, I know they aren’t sure how they’re going to retire. I don’t want that. I want to be able to choose a job because I want to do it, and I want to be able to walk away if I don’t want one. That means I want to have a 1-year cash reserve on hand, so that if I lost my job, I’d have plenty of cushion while I found the RIGHT job.

The thing I want is attention. Specifically, I want organizations to want me to be a keynote speaker. I love public speaking, and I’ve generally been told I’m good at it. I want to be invited to organizations where the house is packed and people are interested.

Right now, I’m working towards those goals in two ways. I’ve already automated my savings, and even with job revenue alone, I can save about 18-25% of my take-home pay. About 10% goes to retirement savings, and the rest to my emergency fund. In addition, I’ve been working on a side business, and almost all of the post-tax revenue can go right to my savings. I anticipate making about $2,000-$3,000 in the next three months.

The second goal is a little more long-term, because it relies on being interesting. I had a false start with my first business, mostly because I made stupid mistakes Ramit warns against. However, as a side in my current job, several people have started approaching to ask if I’d do freelance work for them. (My employer encourages side hustles.)

What I love to do is build systems. I like to take an idea and turn it into an action plan. People often tease me about making complicated action plans for things that don’t need it, like trying to figure out the ideal itinerary for a vacation. Business people have stared asking if I’d be willing to do that for their expanding business, as they enter the phase where doing everything by notes on an envelope doesn’t work any more.

I think that this can be both a business and also an area where I can stand out enough that organizations would want me to be a speaker for them. My plan is to provide high quality content–probably podcasts since I have a nice kit already from another project–that brings in both views and business leads.

Honestly, I want a maid so I don’t have to do housework, and a nanny to help look after the children. I’d love some time to myself!

It’s funny that this blog post came into my inbox today, at this moment. I’ve been following this blog for a couple of years and I don’t think I’ve ever commented. Recently, I got into graduate schools. I have good – in fact, great – options, but was rejected from the two that I really wanted to get into. Those two are the ones whose names are recognized all over the world.
When I was in high school, I did well academically, but was never recognized, in Ramit-speak, as a “top performer”. I kind of flew under the radar. Socially, for a long time, I was made fun of for a LOT of things – being awkward, not particularly pretty, and also super weird/angry all the time. So when (mostly due to Indian parenting) I got into an Ivy League American university, and everyone felicitated me, it was a shocking and kind of addictive feeling.
I went through four years of college where everyone congratulated themselves and everyone else for being amazing. It felt great. I got good grades, was vocal in the classroom, was popular and present on campus.
But, due to a variety of factors, I had a major shift in direction/life upheaval in my last year and the two years after, which have been a career/mental health break. Essentially, now, I don’t have the education to get into the field I want to get into, and nor can I demonstrate any experience in that field because life has been such a mess for the last two or three years. I was hoping against hope that I’d get into the top schools for that field anyway, but it didn’t work out.
I miss feeling great about myself. More than that, I miss feeling like people respect me. I feel constantly paranoid that everyone else is judging me and my (lack of) achievements after college. I didn’t work at a McKinsey. I didn’t go to a fancy grad school straight away. Nor am I publishing profusely. Nor am I working in an Indian village helping marginalized people, or doing prestigious internships. I don’t even have an active or popular social media presence. I just worked at random places, and now, I got into graduate schools which a lot of people won’t have heard of. Or they’ll wonder why I didn’t go to the top ones after such a great education.
So, what motivates me? I guess for a long time I have been telling myself that it’s social justice, and at an intellectual level that’s true. But at a deep and personal level…it’s the approval of others. I want people to respect me as a person, I want them to want to hear my opinions, and to not laugh at me or dismiss me.

Well, this called me out on my shit.

Honestly, when I graduate, I would say my dream is to work at a humble company and provide for myself/my family… but it’s bs. Kinda.

I don’t want humble. And I don’t want to just provide. I want to learn from top performers all over the US, take my family all over the world to expensive hotels and live in a kick ass city w/ a hot top performer as a gf (fuck kids.)

The only catch it has to be super obvious my life is amazing to severely depress all the people who fucked me over or even just doubted me.

It’s a tall order and I expect it would take two decades but I’m ok with that.

Super f-bomb rich! It’s a power thing as well you see. Having power over money instead of the other way around.

I want to be able to KNOW I can have the lifestyle I want as I do love my chosen ZTL business. Living life on my terms and rekindling the power and freedom we had when we were younger is really my ‘I love to help other grow and succeed’ platitude.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my motivations in terms of a “utility vector,” i.e. a total magnitude calculated along many dimensions of experience. My “principal components” for that vector – the primary goals – would be a scaled combination of my Go world ranking, my income percentile, and the attractiveness/status percentile of my girlfriend. If I ask the five whys of those goals, it leads to my basic motivations: Go because I want to earn my own respect, income because I want the freedom never to worry about the cost of my experiences, and girlfriend because I want to inspire envy in others. Hardly noble, but nonetheless quite optimizable.

The perceived prestige that comes with working in consulting at a Big 4 firm. I don’t enjoy the work and am confident I could go further on my own (and make more money), but there is a certain reaction you get from people when you tell them what you do and where you work. My firm also has perks and travel policies that help reinforce these feelings: a fancy corporate card, nice hotels, first class flights and meals at expensive restaurants. Behind the scenes they aren’t particularly generous with other benefits that aren’t perception based (401k and health insurance, for example).

This recently clicked for me since prestige isn’t as important to me as living an interesting life, but it’s hard to think about walking away from the perceived glamour of an “up in the air” lifestyle.

What motivates me? My son and Money!! I want to be able to live the life I want with no financial worries. I don’t believe the “More money,More problems motto”. I know without money you are not able to live. So yes, I want to be a billionaire. Yes I said Billionaire!! Yes I want to be able to make sure I retire in the next 10 years so I can enjoy my life with no worries. Is it attainable and realistic? It is in this day and age.

Fear. Eery timing here as well. Just ended a relationship but fear of not having enough money has been big for me even before the relationship ended. The last thing I want is to be broke and lonely.

My motivation – I want to feel ‘comfortable’.
And that comes with having ‘enough’ money. Enough so I can randomly go out for lunch, or take a trip, or take care of my parents, or even be covered if I am in a bad accident. Having the constant gnawing worry taken away so I can feel at ease.
So I suppose my core motivation would actually be money then 😀

I want to show my in-laws, who think I married their son for their money, that I don’t need their money or their name to succeed! That I can grow up “poor and uneducated” and *still* come out better than them.

Shaina Keren

Love the question and all these answers! Inspiring in a real way.
I’m looking for control, over what I do, how I do it, how much time I spend on it, how much I make, what I spend it on, how I choose for spend the rest of my time, and who I spend it with. And so that the work retire doesn’t exist in my life, not because I love working- I do, but because I want to decide now what I do, not suddenly when I turn 65.

In my 20s I didn’t want to have sex with more attractive people. I wanted to have sex with *more* people, same attractiveness I’d been getting, at once.

I want to be lazy (when it comes to going to a “job”.) I want to be able to stay at home and do creative things that I like to do. Or go out and meet friends for lunch, dinner, a movie, whatever without worrying about the money or the time. I am actually not a “lazy” person, I just haven’t figured out how to get paid for what I like to do, which includes a WIDE array of things.

Honestly, I want a ton of money, because I’m having my first kid and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life sitting around in a cube watching the years tick by, waiting for retirement. I saw someone who worked hard all their life and were about to retire, and it honestly scared me. I don’t want to be the aging grandfather trying to scrape together enough time and money to go see the grandkids. I’d rather have the freedom to see my kids grow up, share that time with my in-laws across the country without worrying about expense, and help my kids grow up to experience the world rather than seeing it purely through the lens of the classroom or the 6:00 news.

Free time- on any given day want to wake up hours after the sun has come up, drink a coffee someone made for me, and proceed to watch the day disappear while I read a good book, all without worrying where the money comes from. I want to spend a day driving a fast car around a track and treat my friends to a night out, because it’s fun! Worrying about having enough money isn’t. Security- I want to know that if something happens so that I can’t work, I won’t have to worry about the house payment, or having the utilities shut off.

A lot of my motivation came from spite. I trained really hard in wrestling with the goal of being a District champ. In reality, I wanted to fuck up anybody who bullied me in the past. I also just wanted to do better than them. I ended up actually doing that and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I enjoyed embarrassing the guy. It’s also that pain from feeling like you’re powerless to stop people from bullying you. I never want to feel that way again, and thankfully I don’t anymore. I know a lot of combat sport athletes who started out like me. I think having that little darkness in me gave me an advantage too.

tarek zalat

I’ve set a few lofty goals in life. 99% of them are motivated by social approval. I’ll gladly admit that GENUINE compliments are my drug of choice. And it is highly addictive.

I would love to participate in a virtual reality program. One that highlights physical endurance and works
with motion capture technology. I’m 26 y/o and I began light weight training in 9th grade. The opportunity to expound on my knowledge in this area would be thrilling!

O que mim motiva é querer ter um negócio online, trabalhar em casa, e ganhar muito dinheiro. Para pagar escola de qualidade para meu filho, comprar minha casa dos meus sonhos, ter liberdade financeira.

I want to be recognized as being as successful and self-reliant as my Father.

I’ve always been told that money can’t buy happiness and nothing good can come out of having money. That’s BS. Money and social approval is what drives me, and in doing so, I want to better the life of my daughter. I have very high standards for myself, and some of the goals I have, people said I will never attain. I want to prove them wrong. I want to live life on my own terms, not the constraints of the typical 9-5.

One thing that genuinely motivates me is having more money (for travel, blessing my family and friends, and having fun!) and that the products of my talents (writing and songwriting) are enjoyed by millions. Because that is what I’m good at, what I like to do, what God gave me, and so of course I want it to be what I spend my time on and have the satisfaction of knowing that people like it and that it adds happiness to their lives.

I think this has been one of my hold ups in ZTL. Deep down, I have very little interest in helping others (hate to say it out loud). I purely have an interest in enjoying my family and not spending so much time working. It’d be nice to gain recognition from peers but I could easily do without that. Waking up everyday to spend quality time with my family (not just play time, but teaching time with them) – knowing that I’m present in every moment – that’s my real motivation for doing any of this stuff. But that won’t pay the bills. 🙂

You actually answered my email a few days back, so I know you will read these comments as you say you will. Too cool. Being a woman, it is often perceived as aggressive or not lady-like to go after the money. It’s safer to put the nurturing things (kids, husband, love, etc) in the answer and bury the real item. I have always been a bit more direct and am quite sure that I am in it for the money. Period. I actually told my boss during my recent performance review that I am here for the money and it’s the money that motivates me. I figure she should know what motivates me and not have to guess.

Anyway, WHY I want the money is because I want to create a financial well deep enough that it will provide for me and my family through retirement. I don’t know if anyone will even like my art but that’s not going to stop me from trying! I am tired of rubbing two nickels together hoping they will start a fire, lol.

Yeah, I can ditto most of the comments. What motivates me – usually money. However, it still has to be made honestly and with integrity. I want the freedom that money brings. Not only to leave my soul sucking job, but to ‘treat’ my family to a wonderful getaway. Helping others makes me feel good, but I’m sure winning a million would also.

I am working on two things right now. My firefighter certification and building my cover music business. No secret motivation behind the music: I like being in the spotlight. Then it’s not difficult to see that I miss something from my time in the Marines. Yes, I brush off the “thanks for your service” with a “thank you. it was totally my pleasure”, but I secretly LOVE the hell out of it. Being a firefighter will allow me to continue to EARN that. I really enjoy the idea of public service, but the adrenaline, fire, and really helping people is what does it for me. Sure, the need for recognition is there, but I’m just eccentric enough to daydream that I’m receiving the key to the city.

I have always been liked and respected by my peers, and there is no one in my life that I have ever cared to say “haha I made it” simply because my professional peers took to me so quickly. I never had a problem getting a date or having a boyfriend so your examples really don’t motivate me. Honestly, the only thing I want and that drives me is that high I get when I am doing what I love. I am addicted to the high of working and being creative. I am addicted to laughing and working with talented people to solve problem. Its amazing. I am most addicted to that feeling of gratitude when I look around and say THANK YOU to my peers who i once only dreamed of working with who come up with a better idea than I could have and solve a problem for me. I am not being politically correct mostly because all the things that you said were “real motivators” I had early in life… This is why when people do get money, sex and accolades, they always it doesn’t fill the void. The only thing that makes people truly happy is gratitude. The way to be grateful, is to give and give thanks. I am not talking about God… I am talking about thanking people. Sharing experiences, working together and being grateful in the moment, will make you happy no matter if you are making 7 figures with rock hard abs having an orgy with Bradley Cooper and the latest Victoria Secrets Models or working out a problem for your passion project.

I want to start and build an online business that’s successful (enough that I can quit my day job and still live comfortably, travel, and buy a lot of synthesizers!) Because I want to prove all the people wrong who never thought I could work hard. Or the ones who laughed when I said I wouldn’t do a desk job my whole life. Here’s to you.

I guess I want people to feel jealous that I actually went after my dream instead of always living scared and choosing the safe path. Screw that.

It feels great to accomplish things that various people in my life told me I never would: family, exes, friends of friends, but primarily authority figures (usually teachers) from the unbelievably limited small town I grew up in. I feel that I’m often battling these figures in my head and the wins don’t always come easily, but every one is a stiff middle finger to my past.

The Main Motivation is Happiness. It’s the Game. The Hustle. The Pain. The Leap of Faith into the unknown that Pumps me with Adrenaline. Want to free myself from the Shackles of Daily routine. We can’t live one day Over n Over n call it a “Life”

Make enough money to take care of my children when they get older, I’m an older Mom and I think it about that often

What motivates me? Clothes and massages! Haha! In other words, rewards I’ve promised myself for accomplishing medium to large goals. Call it superficial but when I’m struggling for a goal and feeling tired, thinking about how much I’ll enjoy (and need) that damn massage or wasting 20 mins on mod cloth picking out what I might buy when I’m don’t totally helps! I have bigger and more important motivations but these are the ones I don’t usually admit. 😉

What motivates me? Money and the need to be successful to shove it the faces of all the morons who said I couldn’t do it. Why money? Well more is obviously better in my eyes. The freedom to take a vacation, pay bills and not have worry about living ‘within my means’. Screw that I want a crap ton of money so I can have some damn fun every now and then with my family or just by myself as well as pay off these student loans of mine.





I am a single mom. I am both mom and dad to three children. I want to look good in their eyes and ease their worries about taking care of me when I’m old. I have to be financially sound and at least look like I have it all together.

I am motivated by the goal of retiring by 30. I’m about to turn 24 and am already tired of the corporate desk job with the 9-5 hours. I am sick of trading my prime time for a small salary. That is my motivation.

To not have to set my alarm for 6am, if we where meant to get up that early we wouldn’t need an alarm!
To show those that have thought I wouldn’t make much of myself, that I’m far more capable then they’ve given me credit for.
To achieve the dream of having my own business, not having to put up with ego’s at work and making my 1st million.
The main reason however is to provide for my family without money worries (had plenty of them in the past) and to buy a house without having a mortgage.

What motivates me: being able to have a flexible schedule, not having a boss (I have authority issues), and being able to have the kind of money where I can buy whatever I want/need without worry. I want to be able to buy clothes, go on vacation, buy my dream home, and give my kids anything they may need without worrying or stress.

I want the feeling of approval from peers I respect. I want to feel great about myself and achievement. Also, I want to have a amazing and attractive gf to validate myself.

I have an unshakeable desire to be highly successful in every aspect of life… mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, and socially. I have always felt like somewhat of an outsider in society and family and this only adds fuel to my internal fire. I won’t stop until I prove how great I can be to everyone who ever doubted me.

Casey stead

I don’t want to be like my parents. They squandered money, their relationship, and people around them suffered because of it.

I have to prove to myself I’m not lazy and slowing down would likely bring out the lazy in me.

I hate debt or owing anyone anything. Being successful would allow me not have to worry about relying on people or put in a position of weakness…Even if that weakness is myself.

My answer sounds like one of the “safe, politically correct” ones, but don’t mistake its tone for dishonesty.

I want to be loved.

(And yes, in every sense of the word).

Objectively speaking, my lower-middle-class-for-my-city income puts me far above the threshold of the Global 1%. (It also helps that I don’t have student loans burning a hole in my pocket). So money is not too much of a motivator for me. Nor is esteem from my age group, as I’ve come to understand I can’t stand the company of that group.

But to be loved, that is, to have a reason not to grab the knife or the gun, is worth more to me than an olympic swimming pool filled with 24 karat gold.

Financial success genuinely motivates me. I want to be able to purchase experiences, big and small, without thinking about the balance in my bank account.

I do want to help people through my website, I Have A Dream Board, because that is what sales is about: finding success by helping other people find success. Selling a product that helps no one makes no sense.

Would there be anybody thinking of being richer than Ramit Sethi??
With so much bliss exuding from his persona?

Jokes aside, an average human being would want to be financially independent and as you get older you crave for good health in tandem.
However somewhere along the line, after acquiring so much, ONE great thing tend to be more appreciated than all.

And that is companionship!

You would crave for genuine friendship.
You would seek friendship.
You may even pay for companionship.

Of course this becomes a very sensitive issue as one approaches his or her middle age and beyond…

Needs and wants are relative as we sojourn through life journey…

I want to be able to own my schedule so I can wake up whenever the hell I want and take naps whenever the hell I want. It’s all about the freedom.

To prove the people in my life wrong. I’ve heard nothing but “No.”, “You can’t do that.”, and “That’s just not possible.” all my damn life, and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

Bah! Of course I can! Sure it will take time and effort, Rome wasn’t built with lazy builders. I refuse to mire myself with past regrets, and paralyze myself with the unknown, only to drown myself in booze and let life pass me by.

I’ve sat idle far too long, getting angrier and angrier as I watch my friends and family slide down debt holes, caught by the tangles of life, or burning themselves out until they explode like thin tires. I can’t take it anymore!!! And I refuse to be like them!

I will make an example of myself, and prove that “I can’t.” is wishful and doomed thinking.

Social accolade and approval. I care quite a bit about what other people think of me, especially my family. I somehow believe that being more successful than anyone I personally know will make me feel like I belong.

I’m motivated by a desire for unconditional acceptance. I was never very good at making friends or being good at anything, so when I found things I was good at, I leveraged them as much as possible to earn attention. I have all of these related barriers like “if I screw this up, I’ll lose the respect of others” which results in low self-esteem. So I play it safe with what I do to maximize acceptance and minimize risk/”screwups”.

I never want to spend another day
Doing anything that FEELS like work, or worrying about money, for the
rest of my life. Wow that felt good! I am open to whatever way that comes
about and I am willing to take the necessary action.

John Champlin

I am motivated by a few things
1. I want people in a few hundred years to know who I was because they still use what I designed.
2. Provide for my family, when my grand-kid’s grand-kid’s get to work in what they love, I will know I have done my legacy planing right.
3. Quality time with my wife.

I do it for the love. In former jobs (in marketing) I did it for the money. Now, I’m in the healing arts and while I am facilitating change and that’s incredibly rewarding to witness, I really enjoy the instant gratification I get when someone tells me how awesome it is working with me. It’s like that piece of chocolate – it just feels really good in my body when people tell me that they feel safe, they feel shifted and that I’m the reason they feel that way.

having authority in work and life motivates me to do more good in life.

Two things:
Being able to help people communicate with each other across borders and cultures and thus create opportunities for a better life and more rewarding career (I teach English as a foreign language online to professionals who work with Americans or live in the US) and have fun learning English (even if it’s English for meetings). That’s the vision, the lofty motivation.

The more personal reasons: If I teach online, I can teach from anywhere. That means, for example, I could go home and spend a few months with my parents and sister back in the US (I live in France now), and still keep working on my business. Or I can go spend a few weeks in a co-work space in a different country and continue working by day and visiting in the evenings (or vice versa).

As for creating online courses, it will allow me to multiply my revenue sources and not be dependent on one client, job, or project. And with time, build up my offers (and my income) so that I have the freedom to travel without having to spend 2 hours comparing airline tickets to try to save $200.

Freedom. To be financially able to do what I like, when I like.
Approval. To show the people who expect me to fail, or had no expectations of me that I can.

To never worry about money again and stand on my own two feet, beholden to no one and…

…silly but true, I want to be able to do an aerial cartwheel and I’d get there faster if I can afford more gymnastics classes per week.

Honest enough for you?

Having enough money and freedom to travel the world.
And then work in japan for the rest of my life as a successful engineer.

To prove people wrong. Especially now that I’ve switched careers into something I love, I know many people in my old gig used buzz words to classify me as “low performance”. The disinterest of the job was a factor, but I knew I was actually good at a job I didn’t like, and they recognized that and chose to invest in others while putting me down to justify said investments. Now I’m flourishing better than at any time in my career. Money is a strong motivating tool, but I can’t make a boatload of cash doing something I hate. Recognition from my peers both old and new, and having them eat crow is one of the strongest motivators in my life.

One of the motivations that I find hard to admit even to myself is that I want to make more moeny. Pure and simple. What I have is good – but if I have more, I can pay off my debts faster and be free faster.

Another one is that I want to accomplish something that not everyone does – something which is hard to do – because that gives me a sense of accomplishment and something to be proud of.

I wouldn’t say this is a motivation I’ve never admitted before, because once I realized it (several years ago) I did start admitting it to the people around me, but: I work hard at several different “hobbies” (that I’ve monetized to varying small degrees) as well as my job. I finally realized that one reason I get so passionate about maintaining these multiple areas of expertise is that I want to be better than the people around me in SOMETHING. So if I’m around a bunch of brilliant scientists and I’m feeling dumb for not being up on the latest research in that field, I can console myself by knowing I know a lot more about dahlia genetics and husbandry than they do. Around a bunch of dahlia experts? I can knit circles around them, and design patterns that they and all their knitting friends would pay money to buy. In a group of amazing knitwear designers? Every one of them is at least a bit awed and intimidated by my molecular biology PhD. You’re right: it’s far better to know what’s motivating me than to fool myself. It gives me the power to change that narrative for myself if, say, I’m growing dahlias just for the recognition and not because I actually enjoy it myself.

Hannah Brooks

I grew up without a lot of money, so everything was pretty practical. As an adult entrepreneur, I’m motivated to make good money because I (unashamedly) want to buy a 7K Cartier bracelet I’ve been eyeing for years, be able to live in any city in the world I want to, and be able to shower my family and friends with gifts and experiences. Sounds a bit superficial, but it’s insane how hard I’m pushing/dedicating myself with ZLT. There is LEGIT power in knowing true motivation. Thanks Ramit!

Amazing article, Ramit!

It’s sometimes hard to admit that my real motivations are “selfish”, but I guess without digging into what really motivates me, I can’t hope to fulfil those goals properly. Besides, the work we do isn’t made less valuable by the fact that the motivation behind that particular enterprise is personal. Possibly it becomes even more valuable.

Thanks for that!

Managing my work and responsibilities so I can spend the most time with my kids, two-year-old twins and five-year-old boy. I make great money working from home so I have a dream job that meets my needs.

My only motivation is simple. I want to have enough money so I can go and visit my family, who live on the other side of the planet, in a drop of a hat, without having to think about the finances or my other commitments.
And flying 1st class so that when I arrive, I’m rejuvenated and ready to rock instead of exhausted and tired.
And I want enough money to have fun.

I don’t want to have to struggle for money like my parents did. Pure and simple. My secondary motivation is that I want to be able to travel home when I want. Third motivation is that I don’t want others telling me what to do.

Chris Briggs

What motivates me is Independence and freedom. I hate people telling me what to do and how to do it. I want to quit my job. I hate working for others. Being micro managed. I want to be in a position to say to anyone who doesn’t like how I do things ” that’s alright, I don’t need you!!!!”

I’m not ashamed to say that it’s 100% about the competitive nature to have more money, better house/car whatever it might be vs my social circle. I want people to know that I’m smart and drive. To the point where I’ve earned more than them.

Why do I want to create a profitable online business?
I want to stop trading time for money. Why?
I want to be able to choose if/when to work without financial stress. Why?
I want to be able to go wherever and do whatever I want. Why?
So I can feel the freedom that comes from escaping the Rat Race. Why?
So I can become more confident knowing I’ve successfully conquered a challenge that so many other people are struggling with.

Ramit, you’re right: it’s a little hard to admit my underlying motivation is a lack of confidence.

I want to make the money to go to space one day, and to be able to continue exploring, traveling and helping people with what I’m good at without worrying about money or time (to be able to hire people to take unnecessary time-consuming things off my plate). Yet, to make money helping people. But not just any way… there’s a ton of ways I can help people… and I don’t want to do soup kitchens or give away time to anyone who’s in need. I wan to through the way that excites me which is through helping them become leaders on the web. To be able to work with inspiring people in the natural health space. To have the freedom to not just exchange my time and attention for money, so I can launch my own aspirations or go in on new ventures that excite me. I want to be inspired and growing, I want to see results I create, and yes I do want to be appreciated for that – the things that help others that I find meaningful.

I want to success because I have always felt a little undervalued. Plus I started late and feel like I need to climb fast to get where I want to be – I’m driving. I’m sick of having to say “we can’t afford that”.

I want financial freedom. A house. Something that I can build with my hands away from the rat race.’I want to hire a cleaner to take care of the boring day to day cleaning/washing that takes so much time away from my kids.

I always thought money motivated me but in reality that is not entirely true. I do enjoy making money. However, more than money having freedom to work different hours from your typical 9-5 is more appealing to me. I think another motivator is partaking in meaningful work. I have changed careers multiple times because I never felt satisfied. I like to feel I have a real purpose.

I want to sell my art to make the homes of people more beautiful, to add more beauty into their lives and to make money at the same time. Beauty + prosperity + validation + security

I love this, because I can relate to it. I want to show those rich kids who think they’re better than me what I’m made of.

I’m not even going to lie, I mostly want a lot of money so I don’t have to worry about finances and I want the social approval. Those are the base desires behind everything that I do. While I also really want to help people, even that is a selfish goal since people only help people because we get a dopamine response when we do. Also, it feeds our ego to hear how we’ve improved the lives of others. Thanks for telling it like it is Ramit. We do things for selfish reasons, but because we’ve been told that selfish=bad we try to make it seem like we’re not doing it for selfish reasons because we crave social acceptance. It’s mentally healthy to acknowledge, at least to yourself, the real reason why you are doing things. Knowledge is power (I don’t wanna hear “Power is power.” I don’t even watch Game of Thrones, but I know she’s not entirely right) and to know yourself gives you a heck of an advantage.

I like to think that the inner score card concept works well for me for the most part.
I hardly ever worry about what other people think about where I am at and what I have accomplished.

But maybe …. let’s see …

Easy to admit:
– Financial Freedom that would allow me to experiment and do fun stuff for a change
– Simply knowing how far I could go when I call the shots for once (regarding some kind of business endeavor)
– Being able to afford expensive new technology as soon as it hits the market (big-time technology enthusiast here)

Not as easy now that I think about it:
– The hope of getting laid at some point in my life might play a role somehow (but I guess robots will have to be the miracle here)
– My business related ambitions might be ego related to some degree (my subconscious seems to reject anything below a certain finesse / sophistication threshold)

I’m motivated by the idea that by being fully self-employed and having a sustainable business model that incorporates both info products and consulting services, I can have full control over my schedule – both short term (hourly / daily ) and long term, such as when I want to vacation and for how long or if there is an event I want to attend. I absolutely loath having someone else dictate how I have to spend my time. I’d almost rather be broke and jobless, than have someone else telling me how my day will be structured. Almost.

1. The bigger my success the greater the evidence (for me and others) that I don’t need to rely on anyone else for: an income, to fight for my position or worth within an organisation, decisions on what will work or not. I want to make strategic decisions and mistakes for myself.
2. Income mentioned above but specifically flashy things not important to me but makes me want more money to more easily demonstrate that – particularly to my 10 yr old who is so seduced by sports stars and bling. And to give me options if I do get more comfortable about ‘squandering’ it?
3. Want to show my son a good example in terms of changing what we want to in life. Secretly I’d be thrilled if he thought I would as ‘cool’ in one area at least, though that’s probably not going to happen?

Actually, the research shows that money (beyond about $76-78K – i.e. the amount needed to have most of the things you need) doesn’t buy happiness, which, in fairness, does not mean that it shouldn’t be a goal. I’m absolutely one of those people who wants to have $1 million in the bank.

Money *can* buy your time back, which can in turn buy you more freedom to do the things you want to do and/or attain things you’ve always wanted. These things can make you happier – though, research shows, that eventually your happiness level will return to what is was before (this is usually a 7 out of 10 for most people). Is this something I’d like to personally test? Sure.

This is true for people who win the lottery and also people who suffer horrific accidents (they don’t typically stay that unhappy).

The one way money can buy happiness? Spending it on others. (Check out Michael Norton’s research).

It can also have the opposite effect. Seneca has a quote, “Slavery resides under marble and gold.” In other words, what good is money if you have to do things you don’t like to get it: kiss up to people you don’t like, wear a suit every day, refrain some saying things you believe (or, worse, saying things you don’t believe).

Why do I want more money? Because my hope is that it affords me more time/freedom to read, think, and make more money off of my reading/thinking/consulting.

Revenge. I had a great job…and then I had kids. When I returned to work I found that my position in the company had changed. I dint get to go to conferences, I didnt get any of the new training, i didnt get any of the new projects. So my motivation is to be awesome at my new job, present my work at a conference and look at my previous boss and co workers and to just smile.

For years I thought I wanted to just be free of work then do what I wanted, be free. Retired from the military and have enough income to ‘get buy’, and still did not find that happy freedom. Not enou money, and bored to tears. I obviously want more than not working. I want a large income so I can do exactly what I want. I have a desire to help others, but if I can’t help myself, I find the desire to help others seems above me. Annnnnd…despite my desire to not be petty, I also have that little voice that wants to be somebody. Sometimes it’s because I want to prove, to all the people in school, in my family, to everybody, that I am the shit. That I did great despite how much I was made fun of, picked on and belittled, and damned straight I want to look damned good doing it! Even though that meanness didn’t happen much after school, it stills kicks me more often than I ever expected. So it’s still a deep seated desire to show off and look great. And yet the fear of being recognized and torn down again still keeps me on the sidelines, terrified of judgement. Which makes me want to make it even more, and fear it even more. But I stillwant to be rich, successful and show everybody who ever was vicious to me, and not feel like an idiot for it!

1. Smashing the patriarchy / also buying into it at the same time. I want to “have it all” — I want to have a family and a healthy income stream, and I refuse to get into the ridiculous mess of corporate America and its lack of maternity leave, mommy tracks, and expensive child care.

2. I want to stick it to the people who look at me askance and say, “From this you make a living?” and the people who think that the only “real” ways to make money are on Wall Street, at a big law firm, or by being a doctor. I want to say “Fuck yes, from this I make a living AND from this I pay for YOUR retirement — and in the process, not only am I not making myself miserable like you’ve done for 35 years, but I’m making myself happy and making a difference in the lives of others.”

Chris Smith

I want to be rich so that I can show I’m not useless

I’ve spent hours and hours—years even—trying to prove to myself that I’m smart. I was worried that no one would like me if I wasn’t’ smart, even myself. It feels so good to have learned that, accepted it, and grown out of it. I no longer feel compelled to pour myself into some b.s. subject just to gain approval. I can spend all my time now on things that really inspire and satisfy me.

Barbie steele

What motivates me is I want to be the person everyone else wishes they could be 🙂

Since Ramit asked for reasons we have never told anyone before:

So I can stop cleaning the freaking house and have it still be clean. Because of someone that I live with, this would mean daily help, maybe twice daily.

This of course would be trading my labor for someone else’s labor. I wonder if there isn’t a better way to do this.

I’ve settle more and more in my career until I found myself in a job that, while the work can be challenging and fun, makes me dread spending 8 hours a day in an office.
I want a job where I’m in more control and have the freedom to finally travel.
I want my husband to quit his job.

A few privately-held motivations come to mind:
– Freedom from unnecessary personal friction: worrying about how to adjust your personality to fit with the person you end up reporting to. In my 8 years of working for other people, I’ve found it shockingly rare to find a boss that you both (1) like & more importantly, (2) respect. I’m done leaving this up to chance.
– Dating at a higher caliber: This sounds selfish, but I don’t care. I want to date women that are more attractive, physically & mentally. I spent too much time & energy in my 20’s trying to make things work with people who weren’t interested in improving themselves. I work to continuously improve myself partially because I want the person I spend time with to possess that same mindset.
– Creating abundance: I want to create abundance (ie. multiple income streams, online business, freelancing, etc.) in order to shift my focus away from simply surviving to tackling more interesting, high impact work. I work in a project based industry (film & TV) & now more than ever, I recognize the need to eliminate the desperation for the “next gig” in order to make room for the “best gig.”

Asri Septarizky

I’ve always bern selfish (and probably still). What motivates me to do what I dream is because I want to prove myself that I can be selfless too. I want to be good and feel good.
Also, financial freedom obviously. I want to travel the world!

I want to be famous and highly influential. I crave recognition and being looked up to

I’ve always had the gnawing compulsion to be like a mystical and mischievous gnome, anointed to penetrate and savor the ripe fleshy fruits of my forest nymphets as they slumber, but I’ve always been afraid of the negative social sanctions.

Recently however, I’ve just stopped giving a fuck.

I am The Master of Masters, The Duke of Debauchery, The Primal Prince of Perversehood, The Commander in Cunt, The Impeccable One, DM13, THE Dragon Master: DragnMastr13!! And today, as tomorrow, I choose to LIVE.

Social approval is huge for me since I don’t always know when I’ve done a good job. I look to others to validate it before I can breathe a sigh of relief and feel proud of what I do. When I trained for my first Half Ironman I got this huge rush from having my friends, teammates, and coach cheer for me. When I completed my first race on two major injuries, having come back from life-threatening surgery the year before, I was hoping for all my teammates to be at the finish line to give me the cheers and photos and hugs. Except that everyone was either still out on the course or wiped out in the shade. All I got was a tired, “Hey, good job.” It taught me a lesson though, not to look to others for validation. So I set goals and learned to validate myself. However, I know that I am HUGELY motivated by social pressure so I have accepted that. I enjoy it when it happens, but I’m not devastated when it doesn’t.

I want to be wealthy enough to live the life I want. I want to be able to choose my own work schedule and be home with my family for dinner and kids bedtime every night. I want to travel the world and create memories with those I love.

I want to make a difference, yes ~ in the lives of others, so helping them, if you will. But I also want to make a difference in my life. I really do. I don’t want to be the mother of three that loses herself to wake up thirty years later wondering what the hell happened to her dreams and life. I don’t want to be the stereotypical housewife that walks around in yoga pants all day.

I want to be that woman that people remember. How I look, how I dress, how I treat others, all of it – finances, hobbies, business, education; all of it. I want to stand out above the crowd and make people remember my name.

I don’t know why. I just know that’s been my goal ever since I was a teen. I want to be the girl that everyone wants to know.

So popularity, yes. But more than that: IMPACT. I want my life to have IMPACT.

I want to have enough passive income to do whatever the f*ck I want, whenever the f*ck I want to.

I also want significance, not just meaning and legacy, but approval and adoration.

There are a lot of things that motivate me. Here are my top 3 reasons:

1. Retire Early – I want to retire in 3 years. I want to build my beach house, spend time there entertaining friends and family. I want to be able to have the time doing more creative things. I want to stick it to them that this can be done.

2. I want to be financially secure. I hate that I oftentimes wait for paydays ( because Im broke), and it really pisses me off that this is happening. Not to worry if I can afford a trip or a gift to my children, or not feel guilty because of a random shopping spree. I want to have 1 million dollars savings! I want to stick it to everyone that even though I did not graduate from a prestigious school, I can kick ass!

Cheers, Ramit,
I have read your stories for years. I enjoy, vicariously, reading about what you have accomplished, because you have done, and enjoy, what I always wanted to do, and enjoy.
As a child, my mother hated to cook, and let me go hungry for food. My father wanted an athlete, and my mother wanted a girl to cook for her, and clean her house. I grew up sickly, weak, and mentally challenged, the smallest boy in my class. Starved for food, and positive feedback, I could not please either of his parents, and I wanted to please my schoolteachers, who advised me to go to college. Both my parents resented me for wanting to be ‘smarter’ than them, and ridiculed me for wanting to attend college.
In college, when I took an aptitude test in a psychology course, I saw the questions that I answered pointed toward my wanting SECURITY in my life, which I thought of as always having enough food to eat, and recognition for academic excellence, because I could not perform, well, athletically.
The test results concluded that I should seek a career as a police officer, because the idea of a high-paying JOB as a police official appeals to millions of Americans.
The idea of working, where I could get killed, easily, having to deal with criminals, daily, and intimidate, and force, people to do what they do not want to do, goes against my idea of security—I still laugh, when I think that millions think that a secure life can involve the chance of getting killed, any minute, with no chance of gaining financial freedom at the end of their careers.
Instead, I chose a business career to gain financial security, and hope, someday, that people will see me me as a genius, as millions, including me, see you—I define genius as the ability to get people to follow your advice, and your example.
I want to entertain millions of people with my success stories, and have friends like you. I have read your columns for years, because I want to have what you have, and enjoy.
Thank you very much for inspiring me, and millions of others to realize our dreams.

Never having to wake up early.

Never having to be somewhere “working” (i.e., running down a time clock) when there is nothing useful to do (I’ve got plenty else I could be getting on with, productive and otherwise).

Spending time with my loved ones.

I don’t think I’ll ever retire — great work can be very, very fulfilling — but I sure as hell hate being told what I “need” to do.

So, autonomy, freedom, and love. Probably in that order…(though as someone who has always felt securely loved and valued, it may be that that particular need has always been met).

I want to be a millionaire so that i can buy a house for my parents to stay. They couldn’t afford to buy their own house while their siblings all owned a house. I want my parents to be proud of me as their daughter and i want to be able to provide for them to travel around the world and make other relatives jealous. I want to be better than all my peers in terms of knowledge and financial status.

I want to be a charismatic recluse who most of the time goes unnoticed and uninterupted. However, when those important to me, whether individuals or a cause, need me I appear and come through in the clutch. When my work is done, I’d retreat to my privacy like the old gunslinger in western movies or a Batman-like hero.

Jacob Bear

I want to at least pretend I’m living heroically, like a character in a movie or a novel. Even as I’ve begun to enjoy some money and success, I still feel mediocre by almost any standard.

What motivates me is having more money and having the freedom to work according my schedule and rules.

1. Fear of missing a deadline and look awful in front of peers / boss

I’ve always been a leader during my undergrate and I want to continue that as I believe that a leader must be success before the others for his/her words to be valid.

Being my own boss. And yes to be at bora bora on a Wednesday .. I don’t do much social media announcements so that’s that.
Back to being my own boss .. I’ve tried it all multiple times full time jobs/consulting/contracting and have made a sh$tload of money doing all of that… but I really want to escape the 9-5!! I have ZTL and yet to figure out how to launch – sucks for me dude!

It’s a lot of fun! The hard part is cultivating a circle of reliable partners. Totally worth the effort though. ❤️

I’m intrigued by the idea of ‘motivation’. Is it a bullshit term people toss around or is it a real thing?

I asked some Facebook groups I’m in what people thought about how to find motivation and got some amazing answers. I shared them in a podcast I created:

I don’t think motivation is something that can be created without hard work and struggle personally. I think of it like a fire: you have to collect the sticks and find the dry wood and arrange it all just right…when you finally ignite it then the motivation comes.

I’ve been motivated by all the corruption I see in our society. I want my kids to know I at least tried really hard to break the mold and speak up about what matters. That’s why I quit my job and started my own business. Unluckily I haven’t achieved my goals yet…in fact I am broke right now.
But I’m not even close to giving up.

Thanks Ramit, for giving me inspiration and ideas to keep trying.

I want people to know how smart I am, and often proof of that is to make more money than they do, get better projects than they do, etc.

Love. To have somewhere stable to come home to, people there who are happy to see me, a place I can’t wait to go back to, a life I don’t need a vacation from…that’s the dream.

I have free time. I have money enough to be comfortable. I have the skills I need to function independently, and then some. I have great friends scattered around the country. I travel too much (it’s boring when you’re always alone, preoccupied with work, or on the outside looking in). I’m investing in myself and my relationships this year.


I want to get rid of the anxious feeling I get every time I need to solve someone else’s problem as if it were my own.

To be lazy. I want $millions to be lazy. So i can sit and do nothing all day.

I kinda do that now. It’s hard to get motivation.

Unrelated but I just saw a YouTube video of your brother in the tank telling Kevin O’Leary to fuck off with his negative vibes. Well done. Do business with people you like and trust.

I want to be able to buy what I want when I want to. Go where I want when I want want. I want to be able to take or buy for who I want when I want. Decent paying job now, just soooo friggin’ tire of the corp/gov bullcrap.

You are providing an alternative perspective. But I find it more helpful acknowledging both perspectives.

Acknowledging that yes, I want to help people to achieve their dreams.
and yes I want to become rich so I don’t need to worry about money.

What you are saying seems to be asking us to accept the second reason and saying that the second is reason is the one that really motivates us. As if the first reason is fake and the second reason is real.

Well, what if both reasons are can be real?

The second reason, the more animalistic and egotistical reason (money/personal gain/sexual conquest) can help us to get us into action during the moments when we are not wanting to take action.

But in the first place, the reason we don’t want to take action is due to lingering negative thoughts/feelings at the back of our head. (Thoughts are the obvious ones that we can identify and argue with. Feelings are the vague ones but nevertheless influence our actions.)
Those lingering negative thoughts/feelings came from a place of hiding / denial / self-preservation / animalistic instincts.

But you know what? The negative background sentiments do not last forever! So by saying those are the REAL reasons that I do what I do, that’s like defining yourself by your moments of anger and jealousy and hatred. What about those moments when you are motivated by the smiles on people’s faces? Or by seeing the growth in the people around you?

Yes, the selfish instincts are there, loud and clear. But they do not last forever and certainly they do not define us.

Somewhere along the way when we have enough experience along the path of business to show ourselves that most of our fears are illogical or exaggerated, our animalistic/self-preservation tendencies will mellow down. And at that time the selfless reasons will start to have more power.

In short, when we don’t want to take action, throw in all the money and sex and fame. That will get us started.
But once we are already taking action and want to take better action, throw in love for customers, love for society and love for serving others. That will show us how to reach the next level and help us to get there.

Have you ever tried like literally sitting and doing nothing all day? Should try one day just sitting at home. The next day go to a customer service center and sit there all day. The next day go to a fire station and sit there all day. The next day go to a library and sit there all day.

Try different locations. Chances are, after several days like these, you would gain some inspiration for a piece of artwork. Not kidding.

You also remind me of some of my classmates. During exam periods they would use tend to use facebook and social media more often while lazing around. Yet, after exams are over, they spend less time on social media. So I wonder is it that they are using social media as a temporary relief from exam preparation?

So you may not literally need to laze around all day. It may just be a break that you enjoy from whatever else that you feel obliged to do. But once you are really free from that obligation, you may not find lazing around at home so appealing.

But sure, just try it. Laze around at different locations. And don’t forget the airport and train stations too!

I love to swing dance. But beyond just being good or the best at one style, I really have a goal of being such a good leader on the dance floor that any girl who dances with me walks away feeling like they developed a special connection with me over the course of the song and can’t help but come back for more.

I want a life like Iron Man. Getting to create, work and take risks on whatever projects I want, without having to worry about anything else.

Freedom to do anything I want, without seeking approval of anyone. It motivates me to be creative and do unconventional things and not be a slave to money and what the world perceives of my ability

This resonates with me a lot. Getting the praise, respect & power. And also having such a good financial situation that I wouldn’t have to think about whether I have the money in the bank when an urge to get something comes.

It was tough, reading this and admitting the truth to myself. I’ve thrown out those noble reasons so often, and it’s a knee-jerk reaction to shy away from my real reasons, which are:
1. To be a billionaire. I want to have so much money, I never have to look at an item I need and not be able to afford it.

2. I really want to make my parents prouder. They’ve been to hell and back for me.

3. I want to stick it to a couple of people who said I’d never make it very far in life.

4. Yes, for the likes. I love when people validate and acknowledge my work/efforts.

Phew! Feels good and terrifying at the same time to write that out. ?

Beautiful perspective. You wrote this in a way I was unable to express. All our reasons are valid.


I want to be world foosball champion, because I want to feel powerful.

I want to feel powerful because I want to feel superior to others.

I want to feel superior to others because I want revenge on the people who bullied me in middle school.

I want revenge on the people who bullied me in middle school because I hate their guts and I want them to feel ashamed and humiliated by my great success and how far I’ve come as compared to them.

My motivation is to have 1 million in the bank account, so I can feel save. When something bad happens I don t have to care about money at the first place.

What really motivates me is people telling me I am creative. It actually reminds me that I am and makes me feel like pushing my boundaries. I strive to and can expand my creativity in different domains. So, now I am admitting that I like sharing what I do to people and hear them telling me how creative I am.

FEAR. The fear of wasting life, missing out, relying on a boss who isn’t up to the job, of poverty in old age, not knowing what financial help family members might need, Brexit, stretched health service…are now all stronger than the fear I used to have about taking the leap. Feels good to realise that ?

There are only three things that always motivate me..
I want to earn passive income.
I want to travel world Once.
I want to have a big house in a Ireland and a Lamborghini.

My high school teacher pulled me aside after getting a C and asked me what my major would be. I told her I was going to be a journalist and she told me, “the highest level of math you can achieve is algebra,” and it pissed me off.

I dropped out of traditional high school and enrolled in a self-learning program, taught myself higher level math and now I’m a very successful engineer.

I wanna have geographyc, financial and time freedom. I want to show my father and the nay sayers that you CAN have success as an entrepreneur and that this 9-5 culture is ancient history. I want to be recognized as a reference in copywriting.

I want the homophobic people in the world who criticize people who are different to know that gay people of color can be extremely successful and aren’t invisible.

I love doing what I am doing (living off of my digital business) in great part in order to prove do anybody that I don’t have to follow the path they told me to succeed.

That is, I like being able to show them all (family, friends, teachers, former colleagues) that I was right all along.

I’ve never said it out loud, but I know that my biggest motivator is financial safety. I want enough money/income to keep me and my family afloat even if I’m jobless for months.

Ryan Kelly

I do the things I do for all those reasons that are discussed in the article, both the good an the bad. We all of an inner narcissist that we don’t often like to acknowledge and even less frequently want to bring up in public, to others. However that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still there no matter how much we try to suppress it.

Something else I have found is that when you do acknowledge this, and you own it w/out apology, just how uncomfortable it makes others. They ask you why you feel this way, how selfish are you, aren’t you afraid of what others will think, and tons of other questions that imply a certain self-righteousness when they look at you. I believe that the reason this happens is because you are showing strength to do the things that they themselves are afraid to do, to admit and own what they are scared to own and admit, and it causes a sense of admiration and jealousy that they cannot fully grasp or understand, and want even less to acknowledge publicly or in private. Consequently, your admitting these things and living in this way almost forces them to face it and realize it, that they too feel all of these same things you feel yet are too scared to talk about publicly. So instead they judge and deny as a coping mechanism to help them feel better about it to others and to themselves.

Curious if anyone else has seen this in their lives or if there are any disagreements w/my belief on this. I’d love to hear about your perspectives.

I’m reasonably good at manifesting what I want. What I have learned is this; freedom is not something external and once you have this external freedom you will realise how empty it really is. I chose to be an at home mom and over the years I have seen first hand how little respect there is for those of us who choose this path. Some days I think that what I want is respect and recognition but in grasping for respect you do no more than hand your power over to someone else. No thank you. Maybe because I am older and I don’t have the energy to push a boulder uphill… what motivates me is to be aligned with my natural, God-given strengths so that I may 1- earn money and 2- feel the joy that comes from the flow of being connected to and utilizing what comes most naturally to me. Thanks for asking this question, I had to dig down through the layers to answer it.

Karen GRACE Brooks

To no longer feel a burden to my predecessors.. To prove I am worthy of the privilege and position I have sought out for and have now been blessed to improve upon it again, since those years I had lost my strength and wisdom to maintain stability..
To know that I have finally made myself proud and continue making a difference so that others will be proud of me.. In return I continue to inspire as they inspire me..

things I do “for the likes”:
– work out a lot so I look hot, and 99% of all men I meet look at me with desire
– eat really well, avoid sugar, and drink loads of water so my skin glows and I can impress every girl I know and secretly look down on people with acne
– never talk about my anxiety so everyone thinks I am a success
– wear a diamond on my ring finger so women think I am engaged and “got the guy”
– trained myself to have really good manners so everyone thinks I am an aristocrat and treats me with more respect
– ramrod posture, to command respect (and definitely not because it’s good for the back)

on the plus side, because of doing all of these things, I gained TONS of self-confidence which helped me to do:

(things I do not do for the likes…aka, things that terrify me)
– tell my boyfriend I love him, he lights up my life
– open up my heart to his love, realising I light up his life. vulnerability, man oh man.
– meditate every single day, and be okay with all the thoughts (and worries)
– love (read: ADORE) my body no matter its state, even post-bread-binge-weekend
– tell my close friends and family how much I love and appreciate them regularly
– remind myself to keep going with my business, even on the rough days
– cry when I want to, and not worry about the tears or spectators.
– celebrate EVERY SINGLE LIKE on my facebook posts
– celebrate EVERY SINGLE LIKE on my Instagram photos, which have helped me get sooo much better at photography.

Karen GRACE Brooks

You are right.. It is our duty and obligation to honour those feelings and emotions that are brought by negativity just as equally but never relentlessly less than those from the positive.. Or else we go against everything that is natural to us, to our well-being..

To prove all the nah Sayers including my friends and parents wrong, in many of their beliefs about money and making money.

Reasons why I want a successful business:
– To afford to eat at as many fancy restaurants as I want, as often as I want, and choose wines with 5-figure price tags without flinching.
– To finally have the assurance that I don’t have to depend on some irresponsible employer for my livelihood and that of my family

But the REAL, honest reason is that I want to be able to spit in the face of that bitch who fired me from my job just one month before Christmas, because (she said) I’m too smart for the job. I had lost two other jobs in the previous 2 years due to redundancy, and I was really struggling to make ends meet. That job had been a breath of fresh air, but because of that bitch, I couldn’t even afford to buy my son a Christmas present.

Of course, I still did what needed to be done. I rolled up my sleeves and took a job waiting tables, because I refuse to let my family suffer. But eventually I want to make enough money to walk up to that bitch and tell her, “Look, I made it even without that shitty job you took away from me when I needed it the most.”

Ryan Kelly

Respect for being brutally honest and open for all of us to see. Whatever your motivations are for doing what you do, keep doing it and being the best, most kickass person you can be.

One of my primary motivators is the idea of being set apart — achieving recognition and admiration for my uniqueness. I want to be one of those human beings that is somehow understood to be a superior human being. Perhaps the word “genius” is what most compels me.

My father died when I was 19 years old. He was 44.
His life was way too short and his dreams were unfulfilled.
I am motivated to live the life that he wanted and to be around for my wife and family like he wasn’t.

Haha, nice one Ramirez. Hadn’t thought of it this way before! I just realized that my motivation for wanting to be fit us not so much for being healthy (as I tell myself and others) but I actually want to be so hot that my boyfriend’s friends would tell him that and he’d appreciate me more. Sad but true! 😀

By the time I’m in my 80s, looking back, I would like to say that I have done all the things I wanted to do. A smile! No regrets!

Alex Gitlin

“Making difficult things look easy” – Richard Yates, “Young Hearts Crying”

I’m motivated to make enough money to pay for big family vacations every year. I mean several weeks and international locations.

I tell most people I “got into” working out to help my performance on the baseball field in college. And that’s true… to an extent. My sophomore year in college a few senior sorority girls took a liking to me because as they put it, I had the best abs they’d ever seen. It was a good motivator. Since then, I’ve modeled for many major fitness brands and I now run my own personal training company. It helped affirm my passion for fitness 🙂

My dad works for the Coast Guard. In lieu of Trump cutting their budget, his boss told the whole company he had no idea what was going to happen.
So my motivation – make so much money that everyone is debt free, can fully retire (if they want), and do whatever they feel like that day. No plans? No worries.

So I will likely be one who holds a very different viewpoint here, and that is because selfish reasons alone are NOT a way to create happiness and fulfillment! Just ask anyone who has lots of money, lots of (fill in the blank of wants/desires bla bla bla) while having sold their soul to do so. They are not happy, and even if they say they are as they are taking their pills from their high blood pressure because they HATE their choice that seemed easy enough at the time, but it’s a trap! So, no – I will disagree. Now, pretending to be a Mother Teresa type alone won’t help either, as noted here. It is one thing to BE Mother Teresa who truly walked her walk, and quite another to lie to yourself pretending you don’t have needs and desires. But ONLY doing stuff for selfish reasons while not having a great purpose for others is freakin’ EMPTY – throw dollar bills at that all day, it will NOT create happiness. We may THINK it does, and let’s face it; it makes GREAT copy Ramit!! “Get your (choice of selfish need) here!” But nope, I won’t buy it. Not on this principal alone anyway. I am better than a meat suit with consumerist hedonistic desires. I instead say that BOTH things are necessary to create happiness and fulfillment and while I agree with you that we need to get real about the parts we may view as selfish, we also need to get very real about the exchange (or sacrifice, depending) toward getting the selfish stuff, and hopefully the whole exchange process is a joyous, uplifting experience for yourself AND others in some balanced way, instead of a life-sucking ploy meant to create eternal misery. We can learn from those who were on their death beds that never truly enjoyed life and there they are wishing for – more of their selfish desires! Really? Is THAT how you want to go, is that the kind of legacy you want to leave in the world? Sure, it is anyone’s prerogative, but I for one have decided years ago I will have NO regrets when this time comes – regardless of my so-called accomplishments. While I want to live a “rich” life which I think you understand too, as it is about our experiences ultimately, consider this; Love is truly the ONLY thing we take with us.

This was one of my favorite articles. I really used to struggle with this. Growing up I didn’t have anything except love and I honestly felt guilty about wanting to have nice things.

I can say that I don’t struggle with admitting what I want anymore. I am a recovered addict and I just got my 7 years sober. I started my business because I make a terrible employee and I secretly wanted to show everyone that used to make fun of me or call me a loser or a “junkie” what I was really made out of.

Now, I’ve built an agency and a very popular website that helps people in get sober or create community for people in recovery. I love it. It’s amazing that I get to make money by doing something I love and that provides value in people’s lives.

I get to live my life and I get to be of service in return. Before I would lie and say my intentions were all about other people, now I see that making a good living by helping people is the. Eat career choice I could have. It’s the best.

Thanks Ramit. (P.S) I just posted an IG video of myself doing burpies w no shirt on. It was probably for the likes. 🙂

Biggest motivators:

– Worry that I won’t be able to pay for my mom’s retirement, I’m 30 years old, I got 2 more years of school left and I haven’t made my mark yet. Wasted a lot of time doing deadend jobs that went nowhere, living in the one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world (Vancouver. But I’ve since moved), followed really bad life advice from people who are “qualified”, and wasting time with loser friends -the belief that you are your 5 closest friends really hit home for me on this one.

Being around these young guns in university really motivates me to be something, I have a real feeling of not wanting to fail, simply because I don’t have the time to. I’m 10 years older than most of these kids and I don’t have the life I want or expected. While I do feel a seething jealousy when I see my FB friends or friends on IG post their party photos, and travel photos, it makes me angry enough to do something about it. And yes, I too would love to post stuff on my social media that would give me a ton of likes and approval.

– An insecurity that I’m not enough. I haven’t had as much sex as I wanted despite being good looking, I’m not making enough money to support my mom into retirement (she’s over 60 FYI) and go travel to see the world, I don’t have enough friends that I can go party with if I wanted to blow off steam. As much as I could’ve or envisioned myself, I’m not living to my full potential.

Yes partially, I’d love it if I could get more approval from my friends, family, whatever. But in the end, I’m not going to splurge on a Ferrari, or a nice penthouse condo in downtown if I could afford it.

My family was poor growing up so I want to have a lot of money and never have that feeling ever again. So, I have 3 small businesses that I try to juggle but I have learned to focus on one at a time.

Fasuyi dotun

Hello Ramit, nice write up, i grow up from an average family here in Nigeria, so know what managing things are !!! my motivation is to wealthy and humble at the same time… my target is to financially free and secured. my business is booming this days the target is almost met..

Dress up very smart so that women can notice & turn their heads when I go past
Have sex more frequently even though I’m 37yrs, believe me my hormones are still raging.
Being wealthy really motivates me, I still dream about having 10 million in my bank account.

Being able to do what I like to do and how I like to do it, being able to travel and earn money. Having enough money to have special experiences frequently, these special experiences make me feel like life is worth living.

Then also what has been coming into my mind lately is that I need to explore sexuality more and some bdsm related experiences too. I think it’s a great way to get to know myself more, and to recognise parts of me that I haven’t noticed/known before.

Becoming and independent human being who’s able to love and to accept love from others, finding balance between the different parts of life (eg. work, family, fun, etc)

Feeling like I’m doing well and I achieved something I didn’t think I could achieve.

Being able to dispense social justice as well as being able to get an assload of glory and praise right alongside the pleasure of telling my naysayers to go f*ck themselves ‘cos I got the money, the results , and they ain’t got sh*t.

Meeting interesting people, recognition and spending my time on fulfilling tasks is what motivates me. To me it’s really about what I do day to day and making the most of my time.

I want to teach because I want people to look up to me and I want to be worthy of being looked up to.

What a great comment, Lisa – I agree 100%… a few sentences away from your brilliant final words, I was nodding along thinking ‘yep, you can’t take it with you.’ We are singing from the same hymn sheet all the way and won’t have to lie on our death beds with shrivelled up hearts 😉

Acknowledgement from my family that I am going to be much more than just another Starving Artist. I also want to see every corner of the world and would love to be able to afford to take our boys with us when they’re young so I can give my boys an education around the world… I want to wake up with the warm breeze blowing through the sheer curtains of our beach hut on a tiny quiet island…

Socially acceptable answer: Starting my own business to be my own boss. Actually, while that is true, if you drill down- it is that I don’t like being told what to do. If someone asks me, great…I’m all over it…but tell me what to do and there is kickback (internal and sometimes, external). I want to decide what to do, I want to decide my schedule, I want to determine the path, and while I value collaboration and others input, I want that final decision.

Socially acceptable answer: I want to help people through my business. Real answer: I hate my current job of almost 19 years, and want to be my own boss in a year. And I need money to get married.

A separate example of mine: I ran my first marathon last month. I told people I want to try to see if I can do it. Deep down though, I know I can do it. I just want the vanity of doing something most people won’t and couldn’t do, to show that I am different from most people.

I totally would love to quit my day job and make enough money online to be able to travel the world and not give a f*ck about anything else.
I said it.
So sue me.

This is brilliant Ramit and something I need to put some thought into. Every has some bullshit tagline like ‘I want to help a million people’ but do they? Maybe every selfless act is actually selfish! I think when we are proud of something the goal is always social approval/appreciation (awesome gym picture by the way!) That’s my goal sometimes when I feel like I need a timeout from the grind and some appreciation can be just the boost you need. But it shouldn’t be the main goal for doing what you do. Everybody ultimately wants a sense of importance and I am exactly the same. I’ve just set up a copywriting agency as a side hustle in addition to my blog and maybe the tagline should be ‘we don’t give a shit about our clients success, but we care about our own. So we will make you successful to be successful’ maybe one day customers will welcome this sort of approach but I’m not sure the world is ready yet!

okay, my turn.. I want to be rich AF to prove myself that I can do it + stop thinking about finances every day

I’m in it for the freedom. I’m tired of having to ask permission from my boss to go hiking on a Tuesday. I also want as much automated income as possible because I don’t want to be forced to work just to survive. I want to work on what I want when I want.

I feel this way too, Bilal: “that excited feeling in my chest from dreaming and creating hope.” Other than a craftsman house and a garden with chickens in it, that feeling you get when you’re dreaming and creating and finding a way to make those dreams real – that’s what I want. Hope and light – the opposite of the despair that sets in under a crushing mortgage and the golden handcuffs to a dangerous job you hate.

Mimi Ghosh

I want to feel like the smartest, most special kid in school again! But, in a room full of successful adults, and with seven or eight figures in the bank. I want to be ahead of everyone else again.

That is hard to admit. But because you know your worth, and your potential, you want others to see it too specially that X. Which in a way, I’m sure you’re WAY better off without! Go show yourself off!

I want to be mobile. That is, have enough financial freedom that I don’t have to be stuck to a certain region and rely on a schedule. Just pack up when I’m bored and explore a new place without worrying about “Vacation Time” or “losing my job”

I totally would love to quit my day job and make enough money online to be able to travel the world and not give a f*ck about anything else.
I said it.
So sue me.

Hi Ramit
I’m doing the course zero to launch for three reasons.
1 definitely for the money
2 Definitely for having flexibility (I don’t hate my job)
3 Definitely to leave some of my knowledge behind when I die (to help others)

The biggest motivating factor for me would be money. I never want to have to depend on anyone and I want to be clear of student loan debt. I want to take care of my grandparents (they raised me) and bring my grandpa to see Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (he’s a huge history fanatic) and my grandma to Italy so she can see where her heritage comes from. My second biggest motivating factor is freedom and taking life in my own hands. I know the life I want is achievable, other people are doing it and they don’t have any special super powers. I want to be able to work from Bora Bora and meet inspiring people from the entire globe. Lastly, I want all of this to show people that it IS possible to do what you love and to help wake people up to living up to their potential and stop conforming to what “realistic” is. Realistic is doing what your heart tells you, not what society thinks you should do.

Yessss, “maybe every selfless act is actually selfish”-please tell me you’ve seen that episode of friends when Pheobe explains this so perfectly.

Hi, Ramit.

Greetings from Malaysia. I post this comment late, but I wanted to post it anyway.
Ten years ago, when I was 25, a fresh university graduate, I said, ‘Money can’t buy happiness’, and I perceived wealthy people as materialistic. I’ve always been kind of a dreamer – it probably stems from my artistic, sensitive side. I must’ve probably gotten it after watching romantic soap operas where the hero and heroine ends up together after going through all sorts of trials.

However, now at 35, after having to make the rough, uncomfortable decision of leaving my job at a private firm to care full-time for my elderly mom, I don’t feel happy at all. There, I said it. Of course, I’m around to watch after my mom, but there’s nothing romantic about leaving hand to mouth every month, and struggling with debts. There’s nothing romantic about not being able to give my mom the best. There’s nothing great in not being able to help my friends who are in financial difficulty. In short, it makes me feel that I’m totally useless.

Money does buy happiness – to a certain extent. If you don’t have to worry about paying your bills, you’re able to afford medical insurance, you’re able to bring good food to the table, you have the freedom to do your hobbies without worrying that you won’t get money from taking time off, then yes, money is good. Boy, I really learned this the hard way after life throws a pile of bricks at me.

Ironically, I came to your website because I was depressed with my finances. I needed some guidance. And yeah, we can be frugal only to certain limit. But there’s no limit to how much we can earn. That’s what I learned here. And there’s no shame in admitting that we love money to enjoy more freedom. There’s nothing materialistic about that. It’s everyone’s right, but we have to work hard and smart for that right.

Thanks, Ramit and the team of IWLYTBR.

I train super hard in the gym so I can be in better shape than anyone else. Also, I love making people notice me working my ass off and make them feel bad about being lazy so that they may actually workout and not just talk the whole time.

I want tons of money in my bank account, so I have time to share with my friends, read, go to the theater, movies and shopping the most beautiful dresses, shoes and handbags every season. And I want to achive all those stuff by working in something I’m passionate about… and also legal 😉

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