The Personal MBA: Interview & Book Giveaway

I have a confession. When people ask me why I started Life After College five years ago, I tell them it's because I felt lost and lonely at age 20 and wanted to help other graduates get on their feet faster. But there's another reason too. I thought I needed to start a business so that I could get into business school (run my life according to the mysterious admissions office gods...great plan, huh?), so I launched this website two years before it became a blog. I've never told anyone that because I don't want to take away from the passion I feel for helping others, and I'm somewhat embarrassed by the less-than-pure beginning.

I felt like business school would give me some magic credibility, validity and career success. But after I bought 4 GMAT/MBA books that I didn't even crack open ONCE in the span of a year, I realized I couldn't stomach going into $150K of debt just for a degree that I wasn't sure would deliver what I was wanting.

Enter Josh Kaufman and his The Personal MBA project. Josh has a blog and book that provide comprehensive business-education resources to help people "master the art of business without mortgaging [their] lives."

I've had the pleasure of interviewing Josh, and am excited to announce another book giveaway! Leave a comment below by Thursday, 12/23 and I will select a winner using to receive a copy of The Personal MBA.

Josh KaufmanInterview with Josh Kaufman

Many of my readers are twenty-somethings and recent college grads. What would you advise those who are on the fence about getting an MBA? What about those who don't really feel like they need one, but feel pressure (from parents or society) to get that extra credential?

Save your money - you can do much better by investing a little time learning the basics on your own. Research indicates that getting an MBA doesn't really help you in the long run, and getting an MBA can be enormously expensive, particularly if you attend a top school. On top of the direct expense, student loans restrict your freedom and flexibility in ways that severely limit your options. All told, the very limited potential benefits aren't worth the massive risks - particularly if you're interested in starting your own business.

Getting an education and obtaining a credential are entirely different things. You don't need a credential to do well in business, since there are no legal requirements that force you to get a credential before getting started. Your customers don't care whether or not you have a degree if you can give them what they need or want.  Provide enough value to people who want what you have enough to pay for it, and you'll do quite well, degree or no degree.

You do, however, need a world-class education if you want to do well in business. Fortunately, you can learn what you need to know on your own, without mortgaging your life in the process.

If you're feeling pressure from other people to obtain a credential, it helps to remember that they aren't living your life. You owe it to yourself to figure out what you want, and the best way to go about getting it. Other people may have opinions, but they're just that - opinions. Ultimately, you live with the consequences of your actions, so make your own decisions.

I often use the phrase, "If you're not learning, you are obsolete." How do you hope to change the business-related learning game with this book? Personal MBA Book

My goal is to help people interested in business learn the essentials - the very small set of ideas they need to understand in order to do great work. I call these ideas "business mental models," and my job is to help you learn them as quickly as possible.

As it turns out, the 80/20 principle applies to learning too. Learn the 5% of concepts that provide 95% of the value of business study, and you'll do quite well. Once you know the fundamentals, you can go surprisingly far, whether you're staring your own company or doing great work for someone else. My book is designed to teach those fundamentals.

Most people assume business is complicated, and as a result, they find it difficult to get started. The wonderful truth is that business isn't complicated - it's just not taught very well, so it's intimidating. Business isn't rocket science, but you do have to know what businesses really are and how they really work if you want to do well.  Once you've mastered the essentials, you're in good shape.

If you could give the Life After College community one piece of encouragement or career advice, what would it be? Experiment constantly - there's no faster way to learn. Side projects, diligently pursued, can benefit you more than even the best degree. If you have an idea for a business, figure out how to start making progress on the side, using your own resources. Speed and flexibility are your friends - just keep making little improvement to discover what works.

The Personal MBA started as a side project - I wanted to learn how to do well in business, so I started learning in my spare time. Six years later, I'm a professional business teacher with clients all over the world, I have no debts, I have the freedom to live however and wherever I want, and I've published my first book... all because I decided to start a crazy side project, experimented constantly, and stuck with it for years. Without experimenting, none of these things would've occurred, and my life would be very different.

What has been your biggest failure-turned-success or blessing-in-disguise story (in life or business)? A little over a year ago, I decided to offer my first business course. I thought that bringing a group of people with similar goals to learn and discuss important business concepts via phone would do very well.  I prepared my launch materials, published them, and waited for the signups to roll in.

Radio silence... nothing. In the end, only one person signed up after a week of promotion. My expectations were high, so I was devastated.

After recovering from the disappointment, I tried to figure out why it flopped - so I asked my readers. As it turns out, people were interested in the learning part - they just didn't think they'd be able to commit to meeting regularly at certain times, so they didn't sign up. That was a Barrier to Purchase I could fix.

Two weeks later, I launched the Personal MBA Business Crash Course. It was the same learning material, with a different structure - an online video course that my students could take at their own pace, no matter where they lived around the world.

Almost immediately, over 200 people signed up - far better than I expected.  Since then, the course has developed into a very active and dedicated community of business learners from around the world, and is a cornerstone of my business education company.

Keep experimenting, and you'll inevitably find something that works. In a very real sense, there's no such thing as failure - just experiments that provide you with more data to use in the next iteration.

To enter to win the book giveaway: leave a comment below by Thursday, 12/23 and I will select a winner using to receive a copy of The Personal MBA.


On a related note: want to network without the pain of small-talk?

Brazen Careerist's Network Roulette is one of the most innovative developments I've seen recently in the networking space. You can sign into Brazen Careerist and get paired up with a new person to chat with for three minutes at a time. If you enjoyed talking to each other, it's easy to send a follow-up note afterward.

Ryan also recently announced a daily lunch hour (12EST, 9PST) called Community Karma to "make sure everyone gets the help that they need through 3-minute conversations with me and other community leaders on Brazen Careerist." I highly recommend trying a Network Roulette or the daily karma hour - it's a great way to meet a lot of people with similar interests in a short amount of time!