You’re a recent high school graduate with acceptance letters from second-rate colleges. Or you’ve just finished a worthless degree with no career prospects. Or maybe you’re an older fella, drifting through life and haven’t yet found a calling.
You don’t know what to do. You don’t have a clear path in front of you. You know that easy middle-class careers are hard to come by. You’re smart, ambitious and willing to put in the work, but you have no idea where to start.
If any of this sounds familiar, this guide is for you. It’s a one-year blueprint that will teach you the basics of business, finance, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Its goal is to provide a superior (and free) alternative to conventional undergraduate business and MBA programs.
Why not study business at a real college?
The average college business program is a complete waste of time. You won’t be challenged, there’s no risk of failure, and you’ll have enough free time to spend half your waking hours perfecting your game on the beer pong table.
For those who have the opportunity to go to an Ivy or equivalent, go for it; the prestige alone is worth the price of admission. But if you’re considering a more typical option, i.e. a mediocre degree from Podunk State University, here’s what you’re signing up for:
- Professors who have never actually earned a dollar in their lives and are completely out of touch with the modern business world
- $40,000+ of debt and four years of your early twenties wasted with no actual experience to show for it
- The majority of those around you will be painfully average
- A mind-numbing environment of political correctness and anti-white-male resentment
- A degree which confers no real benefit to your life and career
If you’re a young man contemplating higher education (or a parent of same), here is some required reading: Worthless, by Aaron Clarey, a comprehensive fisking of the outdated idea that college degrees from average schools are in any way a good investment in the modern world. If you’re on the fence, this book could save you from a costly bad decision.
On a personal level, I’m advising you not to study business at an average school because that’s exactly what I did. It worked out well for me. I had a full scholarship, worked 40+ hours/week year-round, and started a successful business in my junior year. I also met some great people and had a lot of fun – too much fun, at times. But even though my college experience was far better than average, I still consider it one of the biggest mistakes I made in my early twenties. Why? Because of the opportunity cost:
I suppose I got something out of my education, and it definitely opened up doors for me, but what about the opportunity cost? What else might I have done with those five years? At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, and after having made a career change into a completely unrelated field, I think I would have been better off if I had skipped college entirely.
Young men, the world is full of opportunity. Not much of it can be found on the politically correct diploma mills that litter the American continent. Unless you’re earning a marketable degree from a top school, skip college and go do something real with your life.
Who should ignore this advice
This is a guide for smart people who are not currently on an elite track. If you’re moving toward a lucrative career in medicine, wall street, consulting, law, tech, or whatever – stay on that track. If you have the opportunity to study at an Ivy or equivalent, take that opportunity.
If not, let’s get started.
Before we get to the meat of this MBA, we need to figure out how you’re going to keep the lights on. Conventional wisdom says you should go into student loan debt, but that approach is a) constraining, and b) not really an option when your education is self-directed. So, here are three strategies you can use to make money while you finish this program, without going into debt:
1) Pay for your car with Uber
Uber seems like a good idea for a man in your position: It pays reasonably well and your hours are flexible. You’ll never have to worry about missing rent or not being able to afford something you need. If you need more cash, just get out and drive.
If you haven’t already signed up for Uber as a passenger: help a friend out and use the Manosphere coupon code.
You can also use the time you spend driving to grow your skills and network. Consider the sort of people who take Uber; they are more successful and forward-thinking than the average schlub, and you are getting paid to meet them. Each time you pick up a new passenger, make it a game to strike up a conversation, make them like you, and quickly learn if there are any opportunities for you to help them achieve some goal in their life or vice versa. You can even get some business cards printed for when you meet people you want to stay in touch with. Try out different “scripts” with your passengers to see what behaviours lead to the best impressions and interactions. This experience alone will teach you a lot about sales and networking.
2) Pay for your apartment with AirBNB
Realistically, you can’t afford to live in a top-tier city (NY, SFBA, London, etc) unless you’re already making good money. On the other hand, you aren’t going to grow as a person living in the middle of nowhere. Second-tier cities are the golden mean.
If you live in a nice, central one-bedroom in a decent city, you should be able to earn ~10% of your monthly rent per night on AirBNB. Coordinate with a friend to couchsurf on nights when you have a guest, or just pull off the 21st century sharing economy trifecta: rent your place on AirBNB, then call an Uber to spend the night with a girl you meet on Tinder. The primary benefit of earning side money with AirBNB is that it will allow you to live a better lifestyle than you could otherwise afford. Just as Uber justifies and pays for a decent car, AirBNB requires that you live in a grown-up apartment in a good area.
If you can get work at an upscale place, bartending is a great way for a young man to earn money, learn about the world, and meet interesting people. Just don’t get caught up in non-stop partying, burning cash on booze and drugs, and letting yourself lose sight of your mission.
Between these two or three sources of income, you can easily afford a modest but professional lifestyle that won’t interfere (much) with your studies.
This program is demanding and difficult (much more than any regular undergraduate business program) so you’ll need a strong foundation before you begin. This foundation will keep you healthy and productive and give you platforms to synthesize everything you’re learning.
1) Build a productive routine
Routines and rituals impose order on your life and schedule. The more aspects of your life you can relegate to autopilot, the more mental energy will be free for important tasks. Your goal is to lock in a healthy sleep, exercise, relaxation, and social schedule so you’re free to focus on your work and studying outside of those time blocks.
There are hundreds of books on performance and productivity, and I’ve read most of them, but here are two that stand out: Getting Things Done, by David Allen and Getting Results The Agile Way, by JD Meier.
Both of these books are essential for anyone who cares about getting the most out of life. Getting Things Done is a classic that has been used by countless high-performing people to create productive and stress-free routines. Getting Results The Agile Way is more obscure, but I found it even more valuable than GTD. Fortunately the systems and advice are complementary, so you don’t need to choose one or the other. Read them, implement their systems, and keep them on hand to use as a reference throughout the year.
2) Build a website
A personal website with a blog is a valuable tool to organize your thoughts, practice writing, take notes on what you’ve learned, create a personal brand, and connect with like-minded people.
Building a personal website will also force you to get comfortable with basic web design. If you find that you really enjoy this, keep pulling on the string – learn more about web development, and consider studying one of the more marketable programming languages – Ruby on Rails, for example.
Even if you don’t naturally take to programming, you’ll learn how to build basic WordPress sites, manage a mailing list and social media presence, and understand how online marketing works. These are valuable skills, no matter what field of business you eventually get into. If you don’t have a natural aptitude for programming, don’t force it beyond a certain level. There isn’t much money out there for bad hackers, but there is plenty for hustlers who know enough to have an intelligent conversation with technical guys.
Creating a simple website is easy and cheap: Sign up with Dreamhost with the coupon code THUMOTIC (25% discount) and follow the instructions for a one-click WordPress installation. Use the free WordPress 2015 theme to get started, and figure the rest out as you go.
Reading and Lectures
The first four months of this program are devoted entirely to reading and lectures. During this period, you should be able to put in 40 hours/week of studying, while driving for Uber and renting your apartment on AirBNB to pay your bills. You’re also going to make excellent use of your time, because you’ve read and implemented Getting Things Done and Agile.
Unlike a mainstream undergraduate business program, we’re not going to focus on the nuts and bolts of running a business (accounting, law, structure) since these are easy for smart people to figure out on the fly. We’re also not going to waste time learning airy academic theory-masturbation: organizational behaviour; Keynesian economic models; marketing practices that are completely irrelevant in the 21st century; or other assorted time-wasters with which most colleges fill their lectures.
Basically, we are not going to learn about business from slouch-backed academics making 40k/year working 80-hour weeks as adjuncts at the age of thirty-five. Instead, we’re going to learn from people who have actually become successful, who are successful today, and who are teaching the smartest people in the world. The internet makes this possible, the world just hasn’t caught on that it makes zero sense for anyone to pay for a lecture about business from some washed-up academic at Podunk State, when you can watch lectures online (for free) taught by the most accomplished people in the world. But we’ll get to all that below.
Right now, here’s an outline of your intensive reading and lecture schedule for your first semester:
- Month #1 – Soft skills: Networking, sales, making friends and influencing people
- Month #2 – Mindset: Giving yourself permission to make money
- Month #3 – Business Basics: Classic texts on business and entrepreneurship
- Month #4 – Thinking like a Startup: Studying the most successful businessmen of the 21st century
Below are your detailed readings, lectures, and practical assignments for the semester.
Month #1: Soft Skills
Many smart people take a haughty attitude towards social skills, but social behaviour is a system like any other. If you’re smart, you can get good at it. If you’re good at it, you can accomplish more than you would otherwise. So, let’s get good at it:
The Curmudgeons Guide To Getting Ahead, Charles Murray
If you’re young or have never worked in a professional environment, there are a lot of arbitrary social norms that you’ll need to learn and implement in order to appear ‘professional.’ The Curmodgeons Guide To Getting Ahead is a comprehensive guide to understanding those norms and succeeding in a business environment run by ‘curmudgeons’, i.e. old successful people. (Ed: As of Oct 2016, Murray has revealed himself as a #NeverTrump cuck. Sad! Skip or steal this book, as seems fittest to you.)
Never Eat Alone is the best book on networking and relationship-building (also known as being a good person and making friends) I’ve ever read. It seems to be out of print so you may have to get creative to get your hands on a copy.
How To Win Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie
In 2015, someone publishes a new book about networking and success every five minutes. How To Win Friends and Influence People has stood the test of time and is still used often in corporate training today, because it is still better than almost anything that has come after it.
The Mystery Method, by Erik von Markovik
Here, we aggressively depart from any standard business curriculum in existence. And why not? Sales is seduction, and seduction is sales. The pick-up artist’s approach to social behaviour (i.e. treating it as just another system to be understood) is the most useful frame for intelligent, analytic men. PUA culture gets a bad rap because it seems incomprehensible and vaguely unfair to socially adroit midwits.
* * *
As you read these books, write up a separate blog post for each one. Include a summary, the notes you took, and any key takeaways that you were able to apply to your life. Don’t worry about making this summary useful to other people; the purpose is just to force you to read each book critically, take notes, and retain what you learn. Continue this habit for every book throughout this program.
Your first month’s lecture series is the Tim Ferriss Podcast archives. Listen to every single one. These podcasts are not directly related to sales and networking. Rather, each week is a new guest who is either a very successful person, or an expert in some field you can use to improve your life. Tim Ferriss always asks good questions and keeps the podcast dense and information-rich; you can learn as much from the questions he asks, as you can from the guests’ answers.
Each month will include a practical exercise designed to test and reinforce what you’ve learned. This month, your practicum is simple: have 100 positive interactions with strangers. These can be cute girls in a nightclub, strangers in a coffee shops, Uber passengers, or anything else you can imagine. Keep a journal of each interaction and make a note of why each interaction went well, and what elements of it you can reproduce and make a part of your natural personality. Once you finish this assignment, write another blog post with your results, but try to make it much better than your rough book summaries. Put effort into making this one interesting and readable to an external audience, and try to share it with other potential readers on social media.
Month #2: Mindset
The goal of your second month is developing the right mindset to be successful in work and life: learning to be positive, giving yourself permission to make money, and overcoming self-limiting beliefs that might hold you back. We’re not going to go too far off the edge and adopt the saccharine feel-good positivity of internet marketing scam artists, but you’re going to learn that making money through entrepreneurship is something that smart people can do fairly easily.
The Four-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss
This book will change the way you think about work and life. If you are interested in making money online, living a location-independent lifestyle, and long-term travel – Tim Ferriss is the man who taught a generation what is possible in a globalized, digitally connected world. Much of the practical advice in 4HWW is out of date, but this book is still the definitive introductory textbook for the location-independent entrepreneur.
Choose Yourself, James Altucher
Choose Yourself is a good book about charting your own path in a world without job security and stability, and a meditation on the importance of openness and honesty for happiness and good mental health.
Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
The original and best book on the mindset, attitude, beliefs, and habits that lead to success. The author researched the book over twenty years of studying highly successful people, watching what they did and identifying their common traits.
The Seven Habits Of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey
Personal development classic and essential reading for anyone interested in getting more out of life.
The Danger and Play podcast covers a wide range of topics including physical fitness, performance-enhancing drugs, marketing, writing, conquering anxiety, and mindset training. It’s impossible to summarize the scope of D+P, and most of the early podcasts focus on health and fitness, but it’s all essential listening.
In the Four-Hour Work Week, each chapter closes with an exercise designed to get you out of your comfort zone. Do those exercises.
Also: I’ve written previously about NLP Exercises. This one is called The Switch:
Choose someone you admire and respect, either a real-life mentor, a famous person, a historical figure, or even a fictional character. Let’s use Elon Musk as an example.
Now: close your eyes and imagine you and Elon Musk magically swapped bodies, resulting in two new people. One of these is in a bad situation that will end with SpaceX early adopters dying horrible fiery deaths, but forget about him right now.
What happens to the mind and soul of Elon Musk in your old body?
Chances are, Elon is not impressed with the situation he finds himself in. He gets up from the couch, brushes the potato chip crumbs from his chest and does a quick tour of his apartment, piecing together various aspects of his new life. He asks questions like:
- Is my living space clean, organized, and conducive to productivity?
- What does my body look like? What food is there in my fridge? Am I a healthy man?
- What books am I reading?
- Do I live in a city where I have opportunities to actually do something interesting with my life?
- What’s my cashflow situation? Do I have the financial cushion to pursue interesting new ideas, or am I broke and living paycheck to paycheck?
- What is the most important thing that I should be doing right now, to get my life back on track?
The purpose of this exercise is to make you look at your life through fresh eyes. Forget how you see your life, and focus on what Elon Musk would see. More importantly, think about what Elon Musk would do.
I can’t answer this question for you. Maybe it’s as simple as getting off the computer, doing the dishes, and going to bed at a reasonable hour. Maybe you just realized you need to save some money and get out of your Podunk town. Would Elon Musk be stressing over how long it’s taking some girl he hasn’t even met to message him back on Tinder? I don’t think so.
The point is that if Elon is reasonably impressed that you’re making the best of your current situation, you’re probably on the right track. If Elon (or whomever) is shaking his head at what a self-destructive twat you are… well, go ahead and ask your projected simulacrum what lifestyle changes he would recommend.
Your second assignment is write a short story in narrative form, about Elon Musk (or some other high-performing hero of yours) waking up in your body. What does Elon Musk do with your current situation? To make this exercise more useful, you are free to impute your own desires and values on Elon-as-you. For example, if your goal in life is to be a professional actor, Elon-as-you can wake up with a strange new yearning for the stage. Put some effort into this story and try to make it as readable as possible. Publish it on your website and try to get as many people as possible to read it.
Month #3: Business Classics
The books in this selection have been selected partly on the basis of quality, but also because they will give you a well-rounded overview of everything you would have actually learned in business school. Will this be useful for an actual career in business? Yes, absolutely. But as a bonus, these books will also make sure you always have a basic idea of what everyone else is talking about in a room full of business school graduates. Depending on where your career ends up taking you, this might be among the most useful skills you learn.
Good To Great, Jim Collins
The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker
Security Analysis, Benjamin Graham
Competitive Strategy, Michael Porter
Like Tim Ferriss, James Altucher is a smart and interesting guy who gets impressive guests on his podcast and tries to figure out what makes them tick.
Reach out to five successful business owners and try to learn what made them successful. Develop a few interview-style questions and try to make them interesting and creative. You can tell them it’s for a class project, which isn’t entirely untrue. Compile your answers into high-quality blog post and try to share it with as many people as possible.
Month #4: Thinking Like A Startup
You’re (probably) not going to start a $50B company while completing this program. If you have the brains and the opportunity, by all means go for it – create Uber for strippers, LinkedIn for pets, or Tinder for people who want to get in a fight. Work hard and toss a few points my way when you hit the big time. But whether you’re working on a sexy new app or a more traditional brick-and-mortar business, the fundamentals of entrepreneurship remain the same: creating value, finding customers, capturing some of the value you create. So: in the final month of the first semester, you’re going to immerse yourself in the culture and best practices of the smartest and most accomplished minds in Silicon Valley.
Hackers and Painters, Paul Graham
This collection of essays is far-ranging and not always directly applicable to succeeding in business, but it is an entertaining look in one of the greatest minds alive today. It will also help you develop a passing familiarity with hacker culture and how technical people view aspiring pointy-haired bosses like yourself.
Zero to One, Peter Thiel
If the United States of America appointed itself a CEO tomorrow, Peter Thiel would be my first choice. Zero to One is based off his lectures at the Stanford How To Start A Startup course and it is short, dense, and practical. The most important theme of the book is cultivating the ability to recognize opportunities and gaps in the market.
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs may not be a great role model in all respects, but he might be the most impactful CEO in the history of business. Whatever else anyone might say of him, he got results. His biography is a fascinating portrait.
The Lean Startup, Eric Ries
My main takeaway from this book: whatever business you’re in, it’s easy to get caught up in endless development of your product or service. In most cases, the best thing to do is just get out there, start selling, and figure out what your clients want and how they want you to sell to them.
This month, you’ll complete the YCombinator video and reading series: How To Start A Startup.
The course is geared towards high-tech startups working on world-changing technologies, but the majority of the course is directly applicable to smaller and more traditional businesses:
- Identifying opportunities
- Identifying target users (i.e, customers) and getting feedback from them
- Choosing cofounders (i.e, partners)
- Factors that separate successful businesses from unsuccessful ones
- Common pitfalls of new business
- Sales and marketing
Some parts of it won’t be directly applicable to more traditional types of businesses (you probably won’t be raising money from VCs) but the majority of the content applies to any type of business, and the teachers are some of the smartest and most successful people in the world.
For this month’s practicum, you’re going to find a mentor. How do you find a mentor? This is a big topic that deserves a post of its own, but in brief:
- Be someone worth mentoring
- Reach out to people you admire and offer value in the form of ideas, introductions, and articles relevant to their interests
- Ask for advice, then implement it and tell them what happened
- Follow up, be grateful, keep offering value, keep taking their advice, and always look for opportunities to help them achieve their goals
- Tell your mentor about what you’re reading. Offer to lend him books after you’ve finished them, and send him your summaries and notes
- Make a commitment to look for opportunities to pay it forward when you’re at a more advanced place in life
You can learn a lot from books, blogs, videos and tutorials, but there are many problems that you can solve in one minute by asking a real-life mentor that would take you a day of solo research.
From Theory To Practice
You didn’t think we were just going to sit around and read for a year, did you?
At this point in the program, you’ve learned more of value in four months than a typical undergraduate business student will acquire in four years. We’re going to keep reading and learning over the next eight months, but we’re also going to start putting what we’ve learned into practice.
The next eight months are going to be less structured, since there’s only so much a structured program can do once you’re on your feet and moving. Once you actually start your own business, everything you’ve studied will become tangible, and you’ll find yourself revisiting the books and lectures you’ve absorbed, but this time with fresh eyes and hard questions that you need the answers to. This is what real learning feels like.
What kind of business are you going to start? Easy question. Business-to-business services is where you want to be, partly because it’s where the money is, but also because it will force you to learn how companies operate and how to pitch to them. Selling to business owners will elevate you and make you smarter; selling consumer products to bored housewives and gullible idiots (i.e., most internet marketing) will have the opposite effect. The best way to make a million dollars is to help someone else make a billion dollars. This applies on a smaller scale. If you want to earn $100,000, find a million-dollar business and help them increase their bottom line by 10%.
So: What are you good at? what can you do that other people will want to pay you for? This is a question only you can answer, but here are three possibilities:
Read a few books about basic accounting and learn a small business accounting program backward and forward. Now you can approach business owners and offer to set them up with a new accounting system that will save them X dollars and Y hours per year. The better you get, the more value you can deliver, and the higher of a rate you can charge.
How many local companies can you identify that have terrible websites and a poor online presence? How much more business would they earn if they got that fixed? The answer to both questions is: a lot. At this point you’ve already taught yourself how to build a website, so start doing that. Then you can branch out to other digital marketing services: PPC, analytics, content, email, SEO. As you learn more, you’ll get a better sense of how much value you’re providing.
CRM and Sales Funnels
Most businesses do a sub-optimal job of collecting client information and following up with them for repeat business. if you learn everything you can about customer relationship management (best practices and software) and offer to implement a CRM that will increase a company’s lifetime customer value XX%, you can do very well for yourself. A good extension from this is to study sales and call scripts, so you can offer sales training as well.
Whatever you choose, there are just two things that will determine your success: 1) get really, really good at what you do, and 2) get really, really good at sales.
These three examples above are off the top of my head. There are a hundred ways you can help a successful business perform even better. Find one that matches your interests and talents, start getting really good at it, and start closing deals.
Getting started will be hard. People will be wary to hire an inexperienced kid to play with their core business tools. That’s why you’ve got Uber to keep food on the table while you grind: work for free, tap your personal network, work ten hours for every one you actually bill, and generally put in the sweat equity until you get to a point where you can deliver an insane ROI while charging a high rate for your services.
Building a business will provide context and real-world reference points for everything you’re learning in the lectures and reading. You will have countless moments of “Ahh, that’s what he was talking about when he said…!” Books and lectures are valuable, but ultimately business is like sex: you’re not going to learn it from a book or a blog post.
Just because you’re working non-stop building a business doesn’t mean you get to stop reading.
You can’t grind in a state of hard focus every waking hour without sacrificing quality. When you need to unwind, pick up one of the books below for some education and inspiration. These are some of my favourite biographies of successful businessmen and I’ll add to this list over time as I find more:
Losing My Virginity, Richard Branson
How To Win At The Sport of Business, Mark Cuban
How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big, Scott Adams
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Ben Franklin
Education of a Bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Winning, Jack Welch
How To Get Rich, Felix Denis
Keep Writing Your Blog
Your blog is not a business. It is a personal journal and a tool for self-development. Maybe one day you can make a living by creating web content, and your current blog will be good practice for when that day comes. Right now though, you’re focused on a real business that provides value to people in the physical world.
That said: keep using your blog to record summaries of books you’re reading, mind-dumping thoughts and experiences on your journey, and demonstrating to the world that you’re not just another schmuck playing video games and jerking off in his mom’s basement. Build a website that portrays you to the world – accurately – as a smart, hungry, knowledgeable hustler.
You’re also going to continue to elevate the quality of your writing. The ability to communicate clearly and quickly in writing is invaluable, and a personal blog is the best tool to develop that skill. Most of your growth in this area will come with practice, but here are a few excellent books about writing to help you refine your craft:
Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott
On Writing: Memoir Of The Craft, by Stephen King
The War Of Art, by Stephen Pressfield
The Elements Of Style, William Strunk
One year from today:
- You will have at least as much money in the bank as you do right now.
- You will have ingrained productive work habits, self-discipline, and the ability to focus.
- You will be healthy, happy, and in good physical shape.
- You will be an expert in a specific field of B2B consulting, or whatever else you’ve chosen.
- You will own and operate a profitable business.
- You will have a powerful and successful mentor who can help you navigate your next steps
- You will have far more practical and theoretical knowledge of business and entrepreneurship than business school graduates from everywhere but the top business schools in the world.
- You will be a fast and eloquent writer.
- You will have a written record of your journey, and an easy-to-reference collection of notes you’ve taken along the way.
This program is far superior to 90% of undergraduate business educations available in the USA, most of which are run by professors who have never actually worked for a business and are entirely focused on churning out research papers and selling you a new edition of their $200 textbook every semester. This program is also much cheaper, and it will only take you one year. Perhaps most importantly: this program doesn’t support a corrupt academic establishment run by Social Justice Warriors who are actively hostile to your goals in life. If you feel revulsion at the sight of these people in positions of power in the world, eschewing their diploma-mill institutions for the program above is a small but significant act of rebellion.
A friend recently asked me what I would do, if I were eighteen years old today. This program is my answer.
Maybe you’re not looking for an opportunity to completely reboot your life. If so, I hope this page provides some valuable resources for your ongoing self-education and growth. Maybe you really do need a reboot, but you’re afraid to take the leap right now. If so, keep this page in mind and return to it when it’s time. But if you’re a young and intelligent American man and you’re up to the challenge, take a year to give yourself a comprehensive education in business and entrepreneurship. Set a starting date, order your first month’s reading materials, and get moving.