Teach Yourself What You Need to Know to Succeed: Lessons from The Education of Millionaires

January 25, 2012 · 10 comments

Every college kid and recent grad should go out and buy (or borrow) Michael Ellsberg’s new book, The Education of Millionaires.

Really. I feel so strongly about this that I’m sitting here thinking about who I should buy it for.

The Education of Millionaires

I heard about Michael and his book via Mixergy, an educate-yourself website full of interviews with entrepreneurs, and through an interview my colleague Jaclyn Schiff did for Brazen Life — both worth listening to.

(Before I continue raving about this book, a quick book-marketing lesson from Michael for all you aspiring authors: When I tweeted about how much I enjoyed that Mixergy interview and how I’d just bought the book, Michael responded to my tweet, thanking me for the positive feedback and offering to send me a free copy to give to a friend. He never sent the free copy, but I jotted this down as an excellent marketing and interaction strategy for when my own book comes out.)

Back to the book! The Education of Millionaires is up my alley for two reasons:

1. It’s chock-full (yes, writers, that’s chock-full, not chalk-full) of practical, actionable tips, which is my bread ‘n butter on this blog and in my products. He offers advice we can all follow right now.

2. It’s all about the importance of educating yourself. Because you can gain nearly all the skills that are important to your career on your own, if you’re smart about how to learn them.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the title. Yes, this book is about millionaires who didn’t finish college. But more than that, it’s about having a go-getter attitude and learning the skills you need to succeed by getting out there and doing the work.

This is SUCH an important point, because too many job seekers whine about not having the right experience for the job. The truth is, nowadays you can get nearly any type of experience you need simply by going out there and doing whatever you want to do. Start out by doing it for free, then transition to paid clients. Or write a blog about the topic to show what you know and what you’re learning. Or go beyond your job description at work and learn valuable skills through a side project. Stop waiting for a company to hire you or ask you to work on what you want to work on, and just start doing what you want to do.

Most of the millionaires in Michael’s book did just that, which I found motivating and inspiring.

Other takeaways from this fabulous book:

1. Learn how to sell. Everyone needs this skill! Because if you’re not selling something for your job, you’ll still have to sell yourself, especially in this increasingly digital and gig-based economy.

I’ve known for a while that selling is my weak spot, but now I’m even more convinced that this is the next skill I need to learn. After all, how am I going to sell more guides and courses if I can’t write a persuasive yet not in-your-face sales page or newsletter? Spin Selling, a book Michael recommends, is already on my night stand.

To really sell, Michael says, you have to get at your buyers’ biggest fears and dreams. They don’t want to lose weight just to lose weight — they want to feel better about themselves, maybe find a spouse, maybe have a family. Likewise, people don’t want to buy my social media consulting guide just to start taking on clients — they want to build a financial cushion so they can pursue the career and life they really want. Right?

2. Experiment — and even fail — if you really want to learn. I figured this out early in the entrepreneurship game, which is why I’m always trying new things. I can afford to experiment with ebooks and courses and newsletters because my client work pays the bills. But Michael’s right when he says most of us are super risk-averse and determined not to fail — which often leaves us stuck in a rut, not moving forward.

Of course, that’s largely because that’s how our education system teaches us to operate. “[We are] conditioning kids to be averse to making mistakes, rather than teaching kids that going out, trying lots of ambitious stuff, making a ton of mistakes in the process, and learning from those mistakes is the essence of how you become good at something,” Michael writes.

3. A shift in mentality might help you succeed. Stop cramming yourself into the box society offers, and instead create your own path. Transition from the employee mentality to the entrepreneurial mentality, Michael says.

This does not mean you need to work for yourself. It means that even if you work for a company, you should push the envelope, create great things, go beyond your job description and learn new skills.

One of my favorite parts of this book is when Michael says that people with both mindsets can work incredibly hard. Yet guess who goes farther? That’s because in this new world of work, working hard isn’t enough. You’ll only really succeed if you get outside of that box.

Check out this quote from Seth Godin that’s included in the book: “Most people don’t see that they have options beyond what society tells them to do… They honestly believe that compliance is the shortcut to success.” In truth, creating your own path is a far more effective route to get where you want to be.

4. Make sure there’s a Google trail for whatever you’ve accomplished. We should all know this by now, but the way Michael phrases it drives the point home. More and more, it doesn’t matter what you do if there’s no Google trail.

“Create stuff,” Michael writes. “Sell stuff. Market stuff. Lead stuff. [Lexi's note: You can do this while working for a company or for yourself.] 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 (as they all will), the brand impression they come away with (the thoughts that come to mind when they hear your name again) are, ‘This person gets shit done.’”

And we all know that employers, clients and, well, EVERYONE wants to hire or work with people who get shit done.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures January 25, 2012 at 9:13 am

Wow sounds like a powerful read!

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Girelle January 25, 2012 at 9:28 am

When my googlereader shows a new article from your blog, I get all giddy. This is because your writing always inspires me to seek more, to pursue my dreams, and to work hard to accomplish the life that I want. Thank you for recommending this book. Just ordered a copy from the local library.

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Alexis Grant January 25, 2012 at 9:32 am

Aw, thanks for the kind words, Girelle! That made my day. If you like to be inspired, this book is perfect. I kept saving it to pick up when I was having a down day, because just reading a few pages made me excited about my business!

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Shae January 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I agree with Girelle – your blog is one of the few I get real excited about when I see an email in my inbox. Anyway, I ordered Spin Selling a week ago and I’m waiting for it to arrive any day now. It’s been recommended a number of times to me from a couple of different sources. I will also order this book because I also want to be excited and inspired about my business.

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Alexis Grant January 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Aw, thanks, Shae! So you and I will be reading Spin Selling at the same time… We’ll have to compare notes!

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Andria January 25, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Great post! Sounds like a book I definitely need on my shelf. I’m a person who struggles with the personal sales pitch too. It’s been hard to get over feeling like I’m imposing on someone if I’m asking for a good word for a new job, or if I’m submitting an article or query. If we feel strongly enough about who we are and what we have to offer, we should feel confident pitching ourselves – whether the result is success or failure.

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Alexis Grant January 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm

You’re right — It’s just that feeling of IMPOSING that’s difficult. Just gotta get better!

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Shae January 26, 2012 at 5:11 am

I’ll be happy to compare notes. I look forward to your blog post about it :)

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Michael Ellsberg February 1, 2012 at 12:44 am

Thanks so much for sharing about my book Alexis! I love your enthusiasm- and I think you gave a great summary of the book here.

And also, so sorry about spacing out on sending you the book–I didn’t intend to not send it– but things got rather crazy in the midst of book launch and I let more fall through the cracks than I’d like.

I just dropped you a copy in the mail! Thanks again.

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Alexis Grant February 1, 2012 at 8:19 am

Hey Michael — Glad you liked it! And no worries about the book. You didn’t have to send a copy! But thanks :) Maybe I’ll use that as a giveaway for readers. Cheers!

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