The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

July 31, 2016
the personal mba cover

I’ve been reading a book a week since about this time last year, and I don’t write reviews of most of them. But The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman is one of the best books I’ve read lately.

My usual system of making marks in the margins next to important information (for quick, easy re-reading) had me marking something on nearly every page.

And the book itself is surprisingly easy to read.

But there are two specific things I resonate with: the introduction, where Kaufman talks about the reasons not to study an MBA, and the fact that Kaufman is also a blogger who created the book after his blog became successful.

Warning: Don’t study an MBA if you want to be successful

About the reasons not to study an MBA. I’ve talked to some people who have studied business and marketing. They’re full of information about what I’m doing wrong. They think I need a clearer brand identity, or something.

Maybe they’re partially right…

But the thing is, they’ve never actually had a business themselves. And they’ve never tried to sell anything.

They’re not really in the game. They’re armchair quarterbacks.

And that’s completely obvious from their strange and unrealistic ideas of how things work out there in the real world.

Do this instead!

Listen: studying business is very different than starting a business. If your goal is to get a management job in some big company, or be able to talk about theory, I guess you should go and study business.

If you want to start a business, on the other hand, just get started.

Going to one of these fancy business schools costs tens of thousands of dollars a year (or more). At the end you come away with a piece of paper saying you’ve passed.

You also have close to zero real-world experience.

Well, guess what? For much less than tens of thousands of dollars, you can start a business, run it into the ground, and use what you’ve learned to start a second and third business, learning from your mistakes.

Or better yet…

And I wouldn’t even recommend that approach, honestly. I’d recommend you just put up a website, buy some Facebook ads, and try to sell something. Your “business” would take a few days to set up, and you’d have nearly immediate feedback.

Then, read some books, develop a couple of products or services, figure out what you’re doing as you go along, save $120,000 in student loans.

Easy, right?

Well, not as easy as title-hunting, I guess. My version of an MBA requires you to actually grow a pair, and go out and do things you might completely fail at.

(But hey… good luck avoiding failure in your long career in business.)

More of Kaufman’s ideas about studying in the Personal MBA manifesto.

Bloggers unite!

The other thing I like about Kaufman, as I said, is the fact that he started out as a blogger, keeping his day job at Proctor & Gamble for the first few years of the project.

Apparently, he was working at it for quite a while before a shout-out from Seth Godin got him some major attention.

Good for him!

I love to see other members of the blogosphere succeed as authors. I’ve done it, in my way, and it’s been quite an adventure.

Just this week I celebrated the 5th anniversary of publishing my first Kindle book. Of course, when I sent that 7000 word opus off to Amazon, I had no idea what I was getting into. And that book was just the beginning of the hard work of making a living as a professional blogger.

It hasn’t been easy for me, and I assume it wasn’t for him either.

Actually, I’m deeply suspicious of anyone who wants to talk about how easy and fun it is to earn passive income online.

More reasons to read the Personal MBA

Another thing I liked about the Personal MBA is the fact that it has plenty of sections I wasn’t expecting to find in a book about business.

There are parts about Caveman Syndrome (the fact that we’re basically still monkeys with all the basic monkey-mind instincts living in a high-tech world), some of the different cognitive biases people fall into, and my personal favorite, Doomsday Scenarios.

Those are actually more optimistic than they sound.

It’s a mental exercise I do (and highly recommend) that involves sitting down and actually writing out the worst-case scenarios.

Say you’re undecided whether or not to do something. Your fears can get in the way…

But sitting down and writing out your fears is the first step towards overcoming them.

And usually, when you see your worst-case scenario on paper, it really doesn’t seem that bad. In my experience, the worst of the worst is something it would take me a few weeks or months to get over… at most!

So why not do it?

Anyway, The Personal MBA. Josh Kaufman. I recommend it.

And if you really must spend a bunch of money on a business education, make sure you’ve actually done something before you start telling me how I need to improve my business.

Keep it real, y’all!

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Want to read more book reviews from me? Want me to go back to talking about food and wine, and forget about business and digital nomadry for a while? Let me know, as always, in the comments.

P.P.S. Also, check out Kaufman’s list of the 99 best business books. If it were my list, there would be about 10x more Dan Kennedy. But that’s me. And while you’re at it, check out Anything You Want by Derek Sivers (who turned me onto the Personal MBA). Also highly recommendable.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. There is a point in the “people still being monkeys” thing. Some researchers say that with the advent of new technologies and things of the kind since ancient times, our minds haven´t had the time to evolve with our way of life, so we are still monkeys living inside a cave mind-wise. Some of them would even say that when you get nervous over giving a talk for a lot of people, it happens because your mind sees it as life-threatening. For your monkey-mind, those people may be members of another tribe who have to like you because, otherwise you may end up with your head smashed by a rock.

    I have read things like these. I don´t know what to think.

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