“Formal education has become a way to be on autopilot, and not to think about what you want to do with your life.” - Peter Thiel (cofounder of Paypal and first outside investor in Facebook)
The above quote may sound counter intuitive but in my experience I find this to be absolutely true.
In our current system of education (I’ve had the privilege of experiencing it on both sides of the pond – America and Ireland) we go to school, to get into college, to get a degree, to get a job, without ever really stopping to think why we are doing all of this in the first place. It’s the status quo. It’s what we’re told to do. And we do it.
Sit Ubu. Sit. Good dog.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go here because I just recently graduated from college myself. But it does seem a little odd that so few people are questioning the current paradigm and beginning to educate themselves, especially considering the rising cost of formal education and the wealth of information available to us via the internet.
‘The Education of Millionaires – It’s not what you think and it’s not too late’ by Michael Ellsberg, sets out to encourage us to break free from the the current belief that we must go to college and earn a degree in order to be successful, by interviewing many of the worlds most successful entrepreneurs who either dropped out of college or never went in the first place.
OK, so what are my key learnings from this book?
(For the purpose of this post we will define success as being affluent, making an positive impact on society and pursuing something that you are passionate about).
Success can be broken down into seven key skills:
- How to make your work meaningful and your meaning work.
- How to find great mentors and teachers, connect with powerful people, and build world class network.
- What every successful person needs to know about marketing, and how to teach yourself.
- What every successful person needs to know about sales, and how to teach yourself.
- How to invest for success.
- Build the brand of you.
- The entrepreneurial mind-set versus the employee mind-set.
1. How to make your work meaningful and your meaning work.
The first skill that I will focus on here is, as the subtitle to the first chapter suggests, ‘How to Make a Difference in the World Without Going Broke’. This is a major dilemma for many young people. Do I follow my passion and risk ending up being broke and unemployed, or do I take the “safe, predictable, boring path ….. ending full of regret …”.
The key lesson I took form this chapter is that it does not have to be all duck or no dinner. It is possible to resolve ‘the conflict of making an impact versus living a predictable life’. We can have the best of both worlds by combining “relative safety and security” with “passion, meaning, creativity …. and freedom that teenagers and twenty somethings dream about.”
How can we do that you ask?
Well here are four simple steps to get you started:
- Get on your feet financially. (Any part-time job)
- Create more room for experimentation. (Free up time in your day)
- Begin experimenting. (Self educate, try, fail, learn, try again)
- Strike out on your own. (Become a mini entrepreneur)
Try implementing these simple skills on a daily basis (as I will do) which will allow you to dip your toes in the world of entrepreneurialism without the fear of crashing and burning beyond repair.
2. How to find great mentors and teachers, connect with powerful people, and build world class network.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
If we are indeed an average of the people we spend the most time with, than it’s probably a good idea to hang around with some pretty awesome people (or just hang around with a bunch of retards, whatever). Increasingly in todays super-connected society it is becoming more and more important to have a great network of people with whom you connect with on a regular basis.
We must develop “connection capital”, something that can “… help you expand your network of connections, and is not significantly used up in expanding this network.” There are two main ways we can do this. By utilising our:
- already existing connections
- ability to give good advice
You can increase the size of your network by utilising your existing connections but also by offering advice or help to people whom you would like to be in your network. There is no better way to get to know people than to help them. “If you’re genuine, and you want to help people – give, give, give – it comes back around!” – Elliott Bisnow (Developer of the Summit Series)
3. What every successful person needs to know about marketing, and how to teach yourself.
“The breakthrough realization for you is that you are in the marketing business. You are not in the dry cleaning, or restaurant business … You are in the business of marketing dry cleaning services or restaurants … When you embrace this, it makes perfect sense to set your sights on marketing mastery.” – Dan Kennedy
We must realise that no matter what field we are in, we have to sell goods or services in some form or another in order to be successful. To do that we must market these goods or services in the best possible manner. It’s no good having the best restaurant in the country if nobody knows about it! Marketing is the ability to get people who don’t know about you to know about you. It’s that simple.
This is a massive field of study and I can hardly scratch the surface in just one short post, so here are some resources which will allow you to educate yourself on he subject of marketing:
4. What every successful person needs to know about sales, and how to teach yourself.
If marketing is the ability to get people who don’t know about you to know about you, then sales is the ability to take someone who knows about you and turn them in to someone who knows about you but is also giving you money.
Regardless of whatever field you are involved in, if you want to grow and succeed in business put your learning on hold for the time being and educate yourself on the subjects of marketing and sales. For marketing this can be done by reading some of the books and blogs mentioned above. For sales however, one book is recommended time and time again above all others, ‘Spin Selling’ by Neil Rackham. (I am currently studying this book myself and will detail my key learnings in an upcoming post).
In the words of Robert Kiyosaki, author of the international best seller ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ “It says ‘best-selling author’ not ‘best-writing author’ …. ”
5. How to invest for success. (The art of Bootstrapping)
If like myself you have somewhat limited funds with which you can invest towards your development, than you must be smart in how you spend. Learning the art of “bootstrapping” is all about making incremental decisions within your means. By building up your business and/or your education step by step, and constantly testing to see what’s working and what’s not you will allow yourself the necessary leeway for the inevitable failures that may occur along the way.
As the old adage goes: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Experiment and test your ideas. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and then test again. As we have all seen in the ‘The Social Network’ even Facebook grew incrementally, expanding from college to college as Zuckerberg and Moskovitz began to realise that they had something “cool” on their hands.
6. Build the brand of you.
“Your brand is what people think about when they hear your name.” – Michael Ellsberg
Part of the reason I have started this blog is to build my own brand so to speak. In order to succeed in todays society it is vital that you develop a strong impression in people’s minds when they hear your name. What do you want people to think when they see your name online or hear it in conversation? That is your brand.
“Create stuff. Sell stuff. Market stuff. Lead stuff. Make sure it’s good stuff, then make sure there’s a good google trail about it, so when potential employers or clients google you, the brand impression they come away with is, “This person gets shit done.” Or simply “Wow.”
Also, be sure to build the brand around your name not some shitty made-up company name to make you sound more important than you actually are. Names like “Tronflex Inc,” or “Prestige Worldwide” as ‘Step Brothers’ so brilliantly put it, don’t actually make you sound more professional. They make you sound ….. retarded. Many of the worlds most famous luxury brands bear the original founders’ name:
- Bang & Olufsen
- Dom Perignon
and so on ….
7. The entrepreneurial mind-set versus the employee mind-set.
The main difference between the super-successful people featured in this book and the many other people who are looking to bring more happiness and success into their lives is not that they are any smarter or came from better backgrounds. It’s that they chose “to do whatever it takes to create the lives that they want, including exercising the effort and initiative to figure out what “whatever it takes” is. These people exhibit an entrepreneurial mind-set in their daily life, although this does not necessarily mean that they are all entrepreneurs.
There are six key distinctions between the Employee mind-set versus the Entrepreneurial mind-set:
- Focus on entitlement
- Focus on output
- Sort for what’s requested
- Work to protect your job
- Turn away from even the small decisions you have the authority to make
- See your circumstances as fixed and permanent
- Focus on contribution
- Focus on outcome
- Sort for what’s needed
- Work yourself out of a job
- Go towards big decisions, even without authority
- See your circumstances as illusory and temporary
In whatever you pursue in life, look at the outcome that you want to produce and relentlessly focus on how to achieve that.