The Education of Millionaires

Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful

Michael Ellsberg
Rating: 8.0

“Michael Ellsberg’s book is provocative and wise. Tuition is skyrocketing, job prospects are grim, and the race for bogus credentials has turned into a runaway status competition for positional goods. The Education of Millionaires offers a renegade path for anyone who wants vital skills without the crushing burden of student debt.”
Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and first outside investor in Facebook

There is almost no relationship between academic excellence and success in your life and career. Insofar as it was ever true that the roadmap to success was to work hard in school, get a good entry-level job, and work your way up through middle management, it isn’t anymore. You need credentials for a few professions (doctor, lawyer, etc.), but these days you don’t need formal credentials for most things you might want to do.

There are certain practical skills that will lead to success in life—they just aren’t taught in school. This book teaches you how to teach yourself skills.

How to make your work meaningful and your meaning work

David Gilmour dropped out of Cambridge and being impoverished, ended up in a hospital due to malnutrition before becoming the famous drummer for Pink Floyd.

Anthony Sandberg dropped out of Dartmouth, tried several things and eventually became a successful sailing instructor (he borrowed boats from boat owners on weekdays to teach and hence, was able to start with zero initial capital).

Impact requires venturing into the unknown (whose risk most people avoid) and leadership (which acts as a multiplier of impact).

Four steps

  1. Get financial stability – get rid of debts, have some savings.
  2. Create room for experimentation – Figure out a job schedule which allows for experimentation
  3. Begin experimentation use money from step 1 to experiment around (while keeping the source of money around)
  4. Strike out on your own – Either as a part of the current organization or on your own, follow the direction set by a successful experiment from step 3

Entrepreneurship is like dating – failures are unavoidable and are a part of learning. What matters most is resilience.

Mike Faith is an amazing salesman, he made his first million and then lost everything (in the UK property market) in his mid-twenties. With his resilience, he moved to the USA with $1000, eventually founding

If the pursuit of a risky dream imparts useful business skills along the journey, then even in the worst case, the pursuer ends up learning useful skills.

How to find great mentors and teachers to connect with

Great networking is not about the back-and-forth, it’s about giving with no expectation of anything in return.

By introducing people when you don’t have the skills to help, you’ve made them a part of your network also. And this seems obvious enough, but how do you use your network to grow your network when you don’t have a network?

Michael recommends giving relevant and valuable advice. Even if you think you don’t have any advice to offer, you probably do.

People spend most of their time worrying about. Money, relationships and health. Very few people have all three figured out. If you can uncover the one they need help with and give good advice or connect them to someone where a connection could create a win-win potential for both parties, you’ll be able to bring them into your network. So how can you uncover their area of worry?

“Following are the two questions that, if you put them into use at parties, events, and conferences, will change your life forever and will grow your network faster than you ever thought possible:

  • What’s most exciting for you right now in your life/business?
  • What’s challenging for you in your life/business right now?”

Elliot Bisnow invited several CEOs on an all-expenses-paid ski trip to Utah (to build connections with them), later, he called corporate sponsors to pay for the trip. Today he is one of the most well-connected twenty-something and is pursuing the summit trips full time.


What Every Successful Person Needs to Know About Marketing, and How to Teach Yourself?

The general perception of marketing is that it’s sleazy and manipulative, the reality is that good marketing is making your potential customers know about you (or your company).

A lot of businesses fail because they are not able to reach out to the right customers.

For Ellsberg, marketing means direct-response copywriting. The way to learn direct-response copywriting is to model those people who are already good at it. He recommends signing up to the email lists good marketers like Copyblogger, Marie Forleo or Matt Furey and studying their copy.


People don’t talk about the best-writing author; they talk about the best-selling author.

One can get better at a particular craft but being able to sell oneself is equally important (successful people in a craft are not always the best individuals of that craft).

Success is a skill – it consists of the skill of marketing, the skill of sales and skill of leadership.

Sales are about knowing what customer needs and if you have a good solution/product, offering it.

Leadership is about being able to influence (not manipulate) people not control them.

Marijo Franklin – a single mother of three, reached out to a charter bus company and became its first salesperson, navigated several senior sales positions and eventually founded the California Leadership center.

Investing for success

John Paul Dejoria – was a single father and broke. He tried several jobs with little success. He learned sales while doing the door-to-door selling of encyclopedias (in the pre-Wikipedia era). Eventually, he bootstrapped hair care products with a friend Paul Mitchell.

Most people reinvest their earnings either into their business or learning new skills (as opposed to investing them in debts and equities).

Phillip Ruffin bootstrapped himself by doing small real estate business and keeping it growing. Eventually, he took the risk of buying Frontier hotel (which was having union problems, he settled with the union first before buying the hotel). The later sale of the hotel promoted him from multi-millionaire to billionaire status.

Matt Mullenweg – created WordPress, tried a few jobs and did not succeed much, eventually decided to focus full time on WordPress (most popular content management system in the world).

Learning as an adult: Adults need a reason to learn something, they are involved in planning as well as evaluation, more interested in subjects having immediate relevance, more interest in problem-oriented (as oppose to content-oriented), and prefer more self-directed education (as oppose to taught).

Building the brand of you

This chapter is about reputation. Ellsberg says personal branding can be summed in one sentence: “Your brand is what people think about when they hear your name.” “If people think ‘trustworthy, confident, intelligent, funny, hip, savvy, and up-and-coming’ when they hear your name, then that is your brand.”

“If people think ‘wannabe loser’ when they hear your name, then that is your brand.”

“And if people think absolutely nothing when they hear your name, then you have no brand.” One should have a website under his/her name to establish the brand.

Seth Godin wrote a blog post called Why bother having a resume? where he said, “Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for… those jobs don’t get filled by people emailing in resumes.”

Robert Scoble started blogging when there were ~200 blogs in the world. Worked in NEC sales dept, eventually hired by Microsoft (when he suggested corporate blogging to Steve Ballmer, then CEO of Microsoft) and that did not go well. Currently, working as the public face of Rackspace. His biggest credential being able to build his professional presence at the right time.

Entrepreneurial vs. Employee mindset

We don’t choose what happens to us, but we get to choose what it means.

Entrepreneurial mindsetEmployee mindset
Focus on contributionFocus on entitlement
Focus on outcomeFocus on output
Sort for what’s neededSort for what’s requested
Go towards big decisions (even without authority)Turn away from even the small decisions you have authority to make
See your circumstances as illusory and temporarySee your circumstances as fixed and permanent
The Entrepreneurial Mind-set Versus the Employee Mind-set

Work yourself out of your job, so that, you can take an even bigger role.

Caesar Ritz started as a waiter, but he looked at himself in a waiter role, as a transitional point, to hotel manager one day.

Entrepreneurial mindset people carve out their path as oppose to working on the path carved out by someone else.

Louis Marx fought hard with his employer (Ferdinand Strauss) to shut down the retail business and focus solely on toy manufacturing. He failed, so, he left and started his own company (Louis Marx and Company) which became the largest toy manufacturer in the 1920s.

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