Matt W. Kane

Education of Millionaires

The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College about How to Be Successful

Michael Ellsberg—2011.

Introduction: the craigslist test of the value of a BA…for. Why Practical Intelligence Almost Always Beats Academic Intelligence)

  • “He came to my house in a three-piece suit. I was talking to him about the website he was going to be doing data entry for at ten dollars an hour, and he was stuck in a very 1999 mentality about the Web. I don’t think he said the word IPO,’ but I’m pretty sure he said the word ‘liquidity’ at some point in the interview. “And I’m like, ‘Look, I’m looking for data entry and customer service. I want to make sure that when a customer calls, they feel taken care of.’ “And he said, ‘Well, you know, I think that we need to be strategic about which relationships we can leverage.’ And that’s kind of how the interview went. At one point he started saying, ‘So, there’s obviously several disparate paths involved and different priorities, so one of the things I’d do in my first week is build a priority matrix, so that we could reference …’ And I just had this picture in my mind of him building his priority matrix while I was doing all the work.
  • To get through such hallowed educational grounds, the focus of his education was probably on academic intelligence—how to do well on tests—not on get-it-done-now real world practical intelligence. Both men were highly educated, but one man’s education consisted—I am guessing—primarily of theory, which is the stuff most readily on tap in colleges and universities. The other man’s education (and it was self-education, not obtained in a formal classroom) consisted primarily of practice. One man’s education was bureaucratic, formal, and by the books; the other man’s education was gained on the front lines, often on the brink of personal disaster. One man was educated in the most prestigious institution in the land, the other in the school of hard business knocks. One man had focused on book smarts, the other on street smarts.
  • Which kind of smarts do you think wins in an economic downturn? Which wins when the economy picks up again? In the eternal debate between practical intelligence and academic intelligence, street smarts and book smarts, there’s little ambiguity about which side parents, relatives, teachers, media pundits, politicians push us towards when we are kids.
  • I can confirm: there is literally no job too shitty or low-paying for which you won’t get a river of BAs desperately asking you for the work. These degree-bearing applicants have attained the very thing society, their parents, their teachers, and everyone else around them told them they needed to attain in order to be successful—a credential certifying their achievement in academic intelligence. And yet, in Bryan’s case, the comparatively tame recession of the early 2000s had hundreds of these BAs, MAs, IDs, PhDs, and MBAs lining up for a $10-an-hour shit job posted by a scruffy young business owner without a college degree.
  • In his book, Gladwell shows that once a person has demonstrated passable logical, analytic, and academic skills, other factors have much more influence on real-world results—specifically, creativity, innovative thinking, and practical and social intelligence. To the extent that we develop these aptitudes in our lives, we tend to do so out in the real world, not in formal institutions.
  • What’s more, I wasn’t making solid money (somewhere around $75,000 as a freelance copywriter, plus additional money coming in from my own book writing, which pushed me over $100,000) simply because I had become good at writing copy. I was earning money because I had become good at marketing and selling my copywriting services. There are boatloads of good freelancers who are broke, simply because they don’t know how to market and sell their services.
  • The driving theme of the stories in this book is that, even though you may learn many wonderful things in college, your success and happiness in life will have little to do with what you Study there or the letters after your name once you graduate. It has to do with your drive, your initiative, your persistence, your ability to make a contribution to other people’s lives, your ability to come up with good ideas and pitch them to others effectively, your charisma, your ability to navigate gracefully through social and business networks (what some researchers call “practical intelligence”), and a total, unwavering belief in your own eventual triumph, throughout all the ups and downs, no matter what the naysayers tell you.
  • Education is still necessary to learn how to do the great work that gets you paid. But these days, almost all of the education that ends up actually earning you money ends up being self-education in practical intelligence and skills, acquired outside of the bounds of traditional educational institutions.

Success skill #1: how to make your work meaningful and your meaning work.

  • Bryan Franklin, whom we met in the introduction, defines leadership as “creating a feature for others which wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”
  • I walked the Berkeley Marina, saying to people, ‘Look, I’ll take care of your boat, and I’ll teach you how to sail, if you let me use it for my school during the week.’ I had my pick of the boats! Honestly, I think a kid could still do that today, it hasn’t changed a bit.
  • The Art of Earning a Living is the art of finding creative ways of bringing the spheres of money and meaning together and making them overlap significantly.
  • It’s often easier to get a far greater return with much less risk by investing in your own earning power via I sales and marketing skills, than is available on the stock market.
  • One of the capacities that will be invaluable to you as you begin to work through the Four Steps to Aligning Your Money and Your Meaning is developing a different—and I believe more realistic relationship to risk. Indeed, if there’s one single trait that sets all the self-educated millionaires I interviewed for this book apart from other people, it’s their relationship to risk.
  • I’ve seen that they have systematically and intentionally developed a style of working that allows them to take lots of small bets—bet after bet after bet after bet—all the while making sure that they don’t get wiped out of the game if one or many of them go south. In other words, I believe that for most of the people featured in this book a trait even more important than luck was resilience.
  • I believe this is a distorted view of entrepreneurialism. Most of the self-educated people featured in this book took pains to make sure that their “downside was not so exposed,” to use the parlance of investing: they made sure that a failed business would not mean total ruin; it would just mean a few scrapes, a few good lessons learned, and up they are again at a new one.
  • And I couldn’t buy what I wanted anywhere. I tried and I couldn’t get it. To me, that’s enough of a data point to say there’s a business there. Because if I can’t find it I know I’m not the only one. Other people can’t find it. There’s an un-served niche in the market, something people can’t find but they want.
  • The point is, if you’re learning valuable business skills while you also pursue your dreams, you win either way.
  • “Does spending your teenage years and in your twenties in a room practicing the violin teach you anything about being a violin teacher or a concert promoter or some other job associated with music? If your happiness depends on your draft pick or a single audition, that’s giving way too much power to someone else.” Learn the business side of your craft, and you’ll come away with applicable, marketable skills no matter what.

Success skill #2: how to find great mentors and teachers, connect with powerful and influential people, and build a world-class network.

  • He figured there must be some other young entrepreneurs in the country who had faced these questions, so he began doing some research. He found that, indeed, there were others out there. He came across lists like Business Week’s top 25 entrepreneurs under 25, and the “Top 30 Under 30” from Inc. “These kids became my new idols,” Elliott told me. Using the sales skills he had developed in launching three businesses (two of them failed and one was now successful), he began cold-calling young CEOs off the lists. If the key to great sales is to have a great product to sell, then Elliott had dreamed up perhaps the greatest pitch in all history: “Come on an all-expenses paid ski trip to Utah with me and a bunch of other top young CEOs, I’ll fly you out there first class, we’ll all meet each other, and we can share information and knowledge.” As Elliott says, “It’s not that hard to convince someone to go on an all-expenses-paid ski trip.” Beyond the skiing, most of the young CEOs had never met each other and were thrilled with the chance to meet other top young leaders.
  • Twenty CEOs joined together on that first trip, which occurred in April 2008. They included Josh Abramson and Ricky Van Veen, cofounders of CollegeHumor, Vimeo, and BustedTees; fellow college dropout Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes; and Ben Lerer, cofounder of Thrillist. The average age of the participants was twenty-six. Five weeks before the trip, Elliott was in the hole forty grand on his personal credit cards to cover the trip. Ever the enterprising mind, he used his self-taught sales skills once again to call up new corporate sponsors to see if they’d pay for the trip; he got the entire trip covered by sponsors.
  • We made these great friendships,” Elliott said. The trip went so well, in fact, that Elliott decided to do another trip six months later, for sixty young business leaders. Naturally, he found sponsors to pay for that as well. Dustin Moskovitz attended the second gathering, as did Tony Hsieh from Zappos.
  • Gatherings morphed into what is now Summit Series (
  • I asked Elliott how he accounts for his success in life at such a young age. He told me point-blank, “I attribute my success so far, 100 percent; to the people I’ve met and learned from. It’s not even a question. Motivational author and college dropout) Jim Rohn says, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ And on a bigger picture, you are a reflection of the twenty or thirty people who give you the best advice. Everything is about people. It all starts with you surrounding yourself with great people who you can learn from.
  • This turned out to be the most significant decision in my business career—to find someone who is massively successful and go to work for him. Through that, I got into the world of marketing and sales. I discovered a lot of the past marketing and sales geniuses, like Claude Hopkins and Eugene Schwartz and John Capies and David Ogilvy, and read all of their books. I read Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which was very impactful on me. “I started applying all I was learning about marketing and sales to consult with real estate businesses how to market and sell themselves.
  • So many people started asking him how he built his business SO rapidly, he opened a second division of his business, which teaches info-marketing skills to entrepreneurs (
  • Eben said, “Leadership is like a fountain. Imagine the leaders are the water near the top, ready to burst out of the fountain. The water about to burst out is being pushed up by water below it. If you want to succeed, find leaders who are doing amazing things in the world, and push them up. Find powerful people and help them reach their goals. If you’re of service to them, they will be of service back.”
  • Here’s a story about how I met a second great mentor in my life Bryan Franklin, whom I introduced you to in the Introduction. I had kept hearing about this guy Bryan ( through friends of friends. He was supposed to be one of the most successful executive coaches in the country. He was only thirty-eight, but he had been earning $1 million a year for the past ten years coaching executives at some of Silicon Valley’s hottest firms.
  • So, if you want to recruit powerful mentors and teachers to your team, the secret is giving. Giving. Giving. Support them. Figure out how you can help them, and do it. Be the water beneath them. Pushing them up the fountain. Be enterprising about it—figure out ways to give and to support them that will blow their mind.
  • The two biggest forms of connection capital are (a) your already-existing connections and (b) your ability to give good advice.
  • The more connections you have, the more you make still. For a simple reason: the more people you have in your network, the more they connect you to other people, and the Wore people who want to join it. Lots and lots of people want to be connected.
  • The second major component of connection capital is your ability to give relevant and valuable advice.
  • Eben says that the three areas of life the majority of people spend most of their time worrying about are money, relationships, and health.
  • I’m going to teach you 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:
    • 1. What’s most exciting for you right now in your life/business?
    • 2. What’s challenging for you in your life/business right now?
  • In particular, you should learn about direct-response marketing and copywriting, the type that Eben teaches. Direct-response is all about generating sales and revenue now (as opposed to “brand” or “image” marketing, which consumes large amounts of money to generate revenue in some vague, distant future, if at all). If you can help people generate sales and revenue now, you’ll never be a wallflower; you will always find people wanting to talk with you and wanting your advice.
  • It’s almost a cliché and an inside joke among my friends now. Whenever I meet new people, I compulsively start finding out what they’re up to, and then giving them unsolicited marketing advice on it. Maybe it’s cheesy. But I’ll be damned, it works.
  • If you know a lot about vintage wine, or gourmet cooking, or fine tequila, or tango dance, or travel in Latin America or Southeast Asia, or Buddhist meditation and philosophy, or massage, or kite boarding, or social media marketing, or contemporary art, or some other interesting, cool, hip, unusual, sexy hobby or interest. It’s very likely you’ll be able to share your gift among people you want to connect with. (Of course, more “straight” hobbies like sailing, football, and baseball can work too. Though there’s a bit of a “join the club” effect with these, which makes it harder to stand out and truly broaden someone’s horizon. Are you really going to tell someone something they don’t already know about baseball or football?)
  • Another great resource, which adapts some of these strategies for the digital and social media age, comes from David Siteman Garland ( In his article “From Tim Ferris to Seth Godin: How to Interview and Build Relation-J ships with the Most ‘Influential’ People in the World,”
  • It is possible to learn these things in college, but they are usually learned through extracurricular activities such as student government; leadership in cultural, charitable, political, or Greek organizations; sports teams; peer support groups; and so forth. Yet extracurricular are essentially a form of free (or low-cost) self education. The more you focus on these, the less you’ll be focusing on the formal curriculum you’re paying (and going into debt) to study in college.
  • “Elliott has decoupled his labor from his capital, and focused on building some pretty amazing capital for himself: a world-class tribe of people he helps and who help him. He has become a capitalist—a capitalist of giving and service to others.
  • “The amount of money you earn is the measure of the value that others place on your contribution. … To increase the value of the money you are getting out, you must increase the value of the work that you are putting in. Earn more money, you must add more value.
  • The problem is, the concept and skills of “helping other people get what they want”—which is the main method by which we can connect with powerful mentors and teachers in life, as well as by which we will earn the money we want to earn in life and achieve what we want to achieve—is nowhere to be found in our formal educational curriculum, from elementary school through college. We learn how to study abstract things, rattle off facts, take tests, write academic papers, and basically follow instructions.
  • In turn, Eben, Elliott, and the other people featured in this book focused their self-education on gaining skills that allow them to contribute to other people, in higher-leverage and higher-impact ways. Specifically, they’ve focused on the ability to provide valuable, high-impact, high-leverage advice and leadership in the main areas of concern we’ve identified earlier: money and business, sales and marketing, spirituality and purpose (which often are expressed in the business world by the word “leadership”), and health and relationships.
  • These are the areas people tend to “want things” in. If you learn how to help them get what they want in these areas—as the self-educated entrepreneurs we’re learning about in this book have done—you can connect with anyone you want to. And you can earn a lot of money as well. Because these are areas near and dear to people’s deepest desires, fears, worries, and dreams—and they’ll want to be around you and connect with you, if you can help them with these areas.
  • OK, OK, you’re really persistent on this point! Well, worry not. There is a great answer. The answer is: if you’re just starting out on your path, and you’ve got nothing else to give, then give your enthusiasm and your willingness to implement other people’s advice. This is worth a lot more than you think.
  • “I get too many requests from kids who will reach out to me and say, ‘Mr. Ferrazzi, I saw your speech, or I heard you on something or other. Can I have dinner with you or coffee with you, and pick your brain on things?’ And this is totally the wrong way to go about it. I want to say to them, ‘Read my books, then talk to me.’ The rudeness of wanting me to regurgitate what I’ve already written down and spent years telling people is ridiculous. “The right way to go about it is to be generous with the person you want to connect with. And in this case, the generosity is: you tell a story. Tell a story about how you drew inspiration from their teachings and their example, how it impacted your life, and all the ways you’re passing that gift on to others now. If you move me enough with what you’ve accomplished with my teachings and how you’re serving others, then yes, of course I want to help you. I’ve helped all kinds of young people who have reached out to me with their stories of the amazing things they’ve done applying the concepts in my books. When I invest my time and effort in helping a young person, the dividend I receive in return is their gratitude, and their success.’
  • Keith told me a story of how he put this concept into action when he was the young person seeking advice from a powerful mentor. “When I was kid, I built a relationship with the chairman of Baxter International at the time, Vernon Loucks. At least once a quarter, I would ping him, send him a simple update e-mail, and let him know how his advice was beneficial to me—how I applied it, how it’s been helpful, then thank him effusively, praise how much I respect him, and then follow up right after that with another question. A quarter later, I’d tell him how I applied that advice, and what happened then. It was a lovely cycle.

Success skill #3: what every successful person needs to know about marketing, and how to teach yourself.

  • In the end, I learned more from him than in all of my schooling. He was a salesman, to the bone. He taught me the importance of sales. What I learned from my grandfather was, the key to making money was to cause something to get sold. Whether you sell it yourself, or you employ someone to sell it and you get some of the money. He would always say, ‘The only way to make money is to buy something at one cost and sell it at a higher cost. If you do that, and you hustle, you make as much money as you want.
  • Frank began rooting around for different businesses he could start. Eventually, he found his way to the writings of Dan Kennedy. And something happened to Frank, which also happened to me, and pretty much everyone else who finds their way there: everything changes after you first encounter Dan Kennedy.
  • At some point, if you’re interested in money, and the making of it, you should immerse yourself in the work of Kennedy ( He will piss you off, infuriate you, make you shake your fist, make you slam down his book at some point, but still, you need to read him.
  • In Kennedy’s words: “The breakthrough realization for you is that you are in the marketing business. You are not in the dry cleaning or restaurant or widget manufacturing or wedding planning or industrial chemicals business. You are in the business of marketing dry cleaning services or restaurants or widgets or wedding planning or chemicals. When you embrace this, it makes perfect sense to set your sights on marketing mastery.
  • Whenever Cameron Johnson has started one of his dozen-plus profitable businesses, many of which he’s sold for nice payoffs, he 3sJcs a few simple questions: “What do people in this industry need? What’s bothering them, hassling them, costing them money, keeping them from getting what they want? . . . Customers with needs come along every single day. There are always people and niches with unfulfilled needs. With this approach to business, you don’t need to rely on luck, timing, or the fickleness of fads and crazes—just on your own ability to observe and create. Choose a niche, find a need, and then see what could help those people do “their job better.”
  • In turn, if the product or service is designed to solve a specific unsolved problem or meet a specific unmet need, and if the message is targeted well, so that you happen to be someone with that unsolved problem or unmet need, you will be happy to hear about the product or service.
  • Sean spoke to me with utter clarity, purpose, and passion about the problem he set out to solve. “There was no global, persistent. Legitimate concept of identity that traveled with you from site to site. There was no single sign-in or authentication system. There was no verifiable notion of identity.”
  • That was the big unsolved problem Sean wanted to solve. “Microsoft tried it with Microsoft Passport. No one trusts Microsoft enough to do that. AOL tried it with Magic Carpet. Sun tried it with Liberty Alliance. They were these big top-down efforts, and I felt like the only way this was going to happen was through a bottom-up movement. But the bottom-up movement was going to have to come through some other application.
  • “I took one hack at it with to online address book Plaxo. It was the wrong answer, though. When I saw The Facebook, it seemed like the right starting point, a piece of clay that could be molded over time to solve the right problem. The founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was the most ambitious and smartest person I’d ever met who had built a social network. He was also the most receptive to my feedback in terms of where I thought we needed to go. If you look at Mark’s actions even after I left the company, in terms of creating Facebook Connect and the authentication network, and getting other websites to use Facebook’s data and trying to take your friend network elsewhere, he’s executing that vision flawlessly. And now that the platform’s built, he’s answering the question ‘How do we integrate it into the fabric of the Internet?’
  • Seth Godin writes in Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, “starts with a problem you can solve for a customer (who realizes he has a problem!).” Good marketing, in other words, is not something you do after you create the product; the fact that most marketing is done this way is why we hate the word ‘marketing” so much. If you start with marketing—that is, with thinking about, anticipating, and meeting the needs of a market in an original, effective, compelling way—then that market will be glad to hear about what you’re offering. Once you’ve designed a product that actually solves someone’s real problem (rather than just solving your own problem of needing more cash!) you’ll still need to let those people know about it. The specific type of communication Dan Kennedy teaches, and which I recommend for most small businesses, is called direct-response marketing.
  • Marketing is a mentality. It’s a worldview that puts customers’ emotional reality first, and inquires deeply about their needs, wants and desires.
  • Employers love rainmakers. They hire rainmakers first, and will never, ever fire them, so long as they continue making rain. Learn to be a rainmaker.
  • “Understand that no matter what you’re doing, even if you want to be a ballplayer, a rapper, a movie star—nothing happens until something gets sold.
  • The key to making money, and therefore living a life of less stress, is to cause someone to joyfully give you money in exchange for something that they perceive to be of greater value than the money they gave you.
  • The crucial turning point for me was listening to a recording that was part of Eben’s “Guru Mastermind” home study marketing course. The recording was called “How to Write a Killer Sales Letter” and featured Eben’s main copywriter, Craig Clemens, who has generated over $50 million in sales through his copy.
  • The key revelation from that recording, for me, was that when you’re communicating with a marketing message, you need to get inside the heads of your prospects, figure out what matters most to them in their lives, and talk to them about that, not about what you I want to sell them. They don’t care about what you want to sell them. “If you aren’t talking to your prospect about their strongest and deepest wants, needs, and desires, you are doing them a disservice,” Craig said on the recording.
  • Good marketing, in turn, speaks to the prospect about their deepest emotional realities, their innermost desires, and about helping them achieve what they want in those realms. Thus, the best marketing is all about human connection, on a genuine level. If you can truly help your prospect achieve their deepest wants and desires in the area your product or service addresses (and if you can’t, you shouldn’t be marketing it in the first place).
  • The recording gave a specific process for getting inside of the heads of the people you’re communicating with, so you can talk with them about what is most important to them. If you talk with them about what’s most important to them (instead of talking about your pitch, which I guarantee is low in the list of what’s important to them), they will listen, and they will trust what you have to say. The process Craig offered was simple: make a list of your prospects’ biggest fears, frustrations, desires, dreams, and nightmares around the issue your product or service helps them with. List twenty-five answers for each of these categories.
  • She created a beautiful portrait of the inner emotional reality of her prospective clients, via the answers to this exercise. And with that portrait, I began constructing an e-mail to send to her list, which spoke directly to her prospects’ most urgent needs:
    • Are you absolutely, positively sick of constantly feeling self-conscious of your body?
    • Are you tired of looking into your closet and seeing all the clothes you wish you could fit into again?
    • Do you feel that your weight is holding you back from doing what you want to do in life?
    • Do your cravings feel “out of control”?
    • Do you feel bogged down by lethargy as a result of carrying around extra weight?
    • Do you fear that you’ll never manage to lose the weight?
    • Does the fear of diabetes or heart disease lurk in the back of your mind?
    • Are you afraid that you will be relegated to a “small life” because you don’t have energy to be out and about creating something large?
  •  (, I, run by Brian Clark, is an absolute treasure trove of free information on high-integrity marketing.
  • One of my favorite picks on the site is a series on “How to Right Magnetic Headlines.”
  • Lynda ( has proven herself to be one of the great marketing minds in history.

Success skill #4: what every successful person needs to know about sales, and how to teach yourself.

  • On the coffee table sat a copy of my first book, If You Want to Be Rich and Happy, Don’t Go to School: Ensuring Lifetime Security for Yourself and Your Children. I picked it up, as well as the notes she had jotted down on her legal pad. “Do you see this?” I said pointing to her notes. She looked down at her notes. “What,” she said, confused. On her pad, she had written “Robert Kiyosaki, best-selling author.” “It says ‘best-selling author,’ not best ‘writing’ author….I am a terrible writer. You are a great writer. I went to sales school. You have a master’s degree. Put them together and you get a ‘bestselling author’ and a ‘best-writing author.’” Anger flared from her eyes. “I’ll never stoop so low as to earn how to sell. People like you have no business writing. I am a professionally trained writer and you are a salesman. It’s not fair.”
  • I love education—but education that makes me rich. In my first job after leaving the Marines, I went to work for Xerox. I was formally trained by Xerox to sell. Every day, five or six hours a day, I’m being trained to sell. How to overcome the fear of rejection. The biggest lesson I had to learn was how to fail faster. That was the biggest one because every day, I’d take three sales calls, take three rejections. So all my rich dad said to me was. You’ve got to increase your rejections.
  • That’s because success is its own skill. There’s the skill of the craft. Then there’s the skill of success.
  • In my experience, the skill of success breaks down into three things. The skill of marketing. The skill of sales. And the skill of leadership.
  • You just have to learn effective marketing, and effective marketing is really simple. It’s the ability to get people who don’t know about you to know about you. That’s it. If you can get people who don’t know about you, or your service or your company, to become aware of you, then you’re successful in marketing.
  • When sales is done well, it’s a really simple discovery conversation. The conversation basically follows the following contours: “Hey, what do you really want? What matters to you? Well, this is my ability to provide that.
  • The third skill of success is leadership. Leadership I boils down to the ability to change the hearts and minds of people. Not controlling people; it’s a myth that the leader has control. Your leadership consists precisely in your ability to define a future you don’t have control over. The leader doesn’t have control over what the employees do, they have to influence the employees to do what they think is best.
  • What I still didn’t realize—and what most people who are resistant to learning sales don’t realize—is that there’s a lot of room between just hanging out your shingle and hoping people show I up, on the one hand, and forcing and manipulating people to buy things they don’t want, on the other hand. Most people, for reasons of integrity, don’t want to do the latter. (And thank goodness.) But they think the only other option is to do the former, so that’s what y they do to sell themselves: diddly-squat. This is where the mistake lies. There’s a lot of room between these two poles, between pressuring people and doing diddly-squat. Between those two poles lie Options that both close the sale and exhibit high class and integrity.
  • The basic answer is quite simple and refreshing. Everything you thought sales was about, including the scripts, pressure, pitching, gimmicky “closing” techniques, sleazy guilt tripping, truth stretching—in other words, all the stuff that makes you want to run the other way when you hear the word “sales”—doesn’t actually work very well. Particularly not on “major sales” in which the buyer perceives the price point as significant, the sale happens over many conversations, and the buyer is likely going to have an ongoing business relationship with you or your firm after the sale.
  • What works then? It’s simple. While we normally think of salespeople as fast-talking slicksters, it turns out that the more the prospect talks—about their problems, their fears, their frustrations related to the needs your product or service addresses—the more likely they will want to do business with you. Which means, effective sales isn’t about spewing off a slick pitch. It’s about asking a lot of questions. The right questions. And then listening.
  • What are the right questions? Any question that gets the prospect deeply connected with their frustrations, fears, and desires around the problem that your product or service addresses.
  • Victor demonstrated his approach on Jena. I was astonished. He knew very little about Jena’s business, weight loss, yet simply by asking the right questions, he was able to sell her very effectively on her own services! In this improv dialogue, Victor spontaneously played the salesperson, and Jena played a hypothetical “prospect” in her business:
    • VICTOR: So how much weight do you want to lose?
    • PROSPECT: About twenty pounds.
    • VICTOR: And why do you want to lose that weight?
    • PROSPECT: I want to feel good and attractive.
    • VICTOR: And why is feeling good and attractive important to you?
    • PROSPECT: I’d like to be in a relationship, and I just don’t feel confident around men. I walk into a room and I feel like I’m invisible, or like my body’s disgusting. I feel so out t of control around food.
    • VICTOR: And if you did have more confidence in your life— walking into the room and not feeling self-conscious how would that impact your life?
    • PROSPECT: Well. Hopefully I’d set into a relationship and have more friends and be less lonely. And hopefully it would benefit my career too.
    • VICTOR: Let’s talk about the first one. Talk about being lonely. How does that feel right now? What is it like?
    • PROSPECT: It’s terrible. I go home and just eat cookies for company. It’s a vicious cycle because all I can think of is the cookies. After I eat the packet of cookies I feel sick and I don’t want to go out, even if my friends are calling me to go out.
    • VICTOR: What would happen if this problem didn’t get resolved?
    • PROSPECT: I’d be alone, I’d be miserable, I’d have no kids.
    • VICTOR: And how would you feel about that?
    • PROSPECT: Terrible. I want to be a mother. I want to fulfill that role.
    • VICTOR: And what you’re telling me is, the weight today is quite possibly getting in the way of your life, the unfolding path of your life. What is it worth to you to fix that problem and have the life you’ve always wanted?
    • PROSPECT: A lot.
    • VICTOR: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not important at all, and 10 being extremely important, immediately, where are you?
    • PROSPECT: 9.5.
    • As we went more into this sales demonstration, Victor commented to us: “You see, I haven’t ‘sold’ anything. All I’ve done is ask questions. But the questions go beyond the superficial. They go into the deepest levels of why they want this change in their life. “The reason this method works is that people’s underlying motivations are very different. Two people could walk into your business wanting to lose twenty pounds, but for very different reasons, at either the conscious level or the unconscious level. If you say, T can want it, then you’re no different from anybody else. But if you can get into the underlying motivations—they’re not buying the twenty-pound weight-loss coaching. They’re buying a new career. Or a shot at having a great relationship. Or a shot at being a mother with kids.
    • And if you can talk with them about that, and help them solve that problem—the underlying motivation—then they’ll want to do business with you.
    • If you try to sell a solution before you mutually agreed on the problem you’re trying to solve—which is what most salespeople do—people mostly aren’t interested.”
  • And sales becomes—breathe a sigh of relief—an honest conversation between two authentic human I beings. Once Jena and I began honestly talking with and listening to our prospects, on an emotional level, about their deepest wants. Needs, fears, and desires, rather than subjecting them to some sales ‘pitch” about our services, our businesses began flourishing. It turns out—surprise, surprise—people don’t really want to be “pitched” at. They want you to listen to them; they want you to hear them; they want you to get them; and they want to trust you’re your integrity that you will only sell them something they’ll end up being happy with, so that you can continue to do business together in the future.
  • The originators of SPIN Selling: (http://www.huthwaite.coin) also offer two-day sales trainings all around the country for around $1,600.

Success skill #5: how to invest for success.

  • You want to be in the reorder business. Big difference. My goal is not to sell something to somebody. My goal was to sell something that was so good, they want to reorder it again. And that’s the idea that we came up with,” John Paul told me.
  • They spent their $700 on designing the bottles in the company’s now-iconic black-and-white—because it was cheaper to print than color. The rest of the materials were purchased on thirty-day terms, which gave them a very short window to make the company work. John Paul and Paul believed in their products and—using John Paul’s sales skills—hustled the hell out of them. “I went knocking on doors, beauty salon doors, door-to-door selling our product and Paul did the same thing off the stage when he did beauty shows. And we kind of worked together as grass roots on      finally when the bill was due … [w]e didn’t have enough to pay the bill, so it was, ‘The check’s in the mail.’ Five days later. We had just enough to pay the bill.” John Paul told me, “No one wanted to invest in us. But once we were under way, it did grow organically. It took us about two years to pay our bills on time and have two thousand dollars left in the bank for my partner and me. Initially, that’s how we knew we were successful at John Paul Mitchell Systems.” The company kept growing organically, and growing, and growing. It now does over a billion dollars in annual sales, its products are sold in over one hundred thousand salons in nearly a hundred different countries, and the company employs thousands of people.
  • She stayed initially with her aunt I in Jamaica, Queens. A serious violinist since she was a little girl, Jena supported herself in those early days by playing violin for tips during her hour-long trip each way into Manhattan and back. She’d make $50 during —each, direction in rush hour.
  • Quentin’s Friends,, is one of the best personal and professional networking resources I know of.
  • At that point, she began plowing her savings heavily, not into stocks and real estate, but into learning how to increase her own earning power. She invested in studying with all the marketing and sales teachers I mentioned in Success Skills #3 and #4. And that is when her own earnings—and net worth—took off.

Success skill #6: build the brand of you.

  • In August 2009, I saw a tweet from a famous publishing industry exec I’d been following, Debbie Stier (, then senior vice president of digital marketing at HarperCollins, which read, “Will Somebody in Publishing Please Hire This Woman?” Intrigued, I clicked through the link, where 1 read about a recent college graduate named Marian Schembari, who had just done something remarkable. Like many recent liberal arts graduates, Schembari dreamed of working in a major publishing house. And like many recent graduates, she was not having much luck. “I graduated from college in May, and by mid-August, I was ready to slit my wrists, be- I cause nothing was happening. 1 had applied for jobs with all the major publishing houses and even the not-so-major publishing houses in New York. Basically, 1 was just doing what my college career center told me to do. I had a really great resume. I would spend two hours trying to personalize a cover letter and make it I perfect, then send it out, and then hear nothing. All of the things that people told me to do in order to find a job didn’t work; no one called me back. I was just getting lost in the abyss of thousands of desperate job seekers. I applied for a job in a small publishing house and the guy told me they got five hundred applications. It was not the greatest job, it didn’t pay anything and he had people trampling over each other to get it,” she told me. Marian tried to take a different tack. She spent $100 on Facebook ads, with the headline “I want to work for HarperCollins” where the company name mentioned was custom-targeted to people who had listed one of the six major New York publishers as their place of employment. Debbie Stier, who worked at HarperCollins at the time, saw one of Marian’s ads pop up in her own Facebook page and wrote a post praising Marian for her initiative and ingenuity. Now this fresh college grad had one of the most respected names in U.S. publishing openly urging her colleagues in the industry to hire her. Word of her employment campaign went viral within the publishing industry. Marian later wrote on her blog, “At least one person from every publisher 1 focused on e-mailed me to tell me they passed my resume on to HR, wanted to meet, or even just to say they liked my idea.”
  • In the year and a half since she struck out on her own as a freelancer—and just two years out of college at the time I’m writing this—Schembari has created a lively and popular publishing industry blog for herself that routinely gets fifty or more comments every time she posts (, powered, of course, by Matt Mullenweg’s WordPress); has attracted thousands  of Twitter followers who retweet her material constantly; has been quoted on ABC News, CNN, and Time; has been cited as an expert on networking on MSN;
  • Marian’s advice to recent grads? She told me: “Every industry, from what I’ve found, has the top 20 blogs and people who are the online influencers.
  • Your brand is what people think about when they hear your name.
  • On this theme, Seth Godin told me: “If you decided to go out, and instead of finishing school, decided to learn things on your own that you thought were important—then that’s your story. Everyone needs a story to get a job. On the back of your first book [pointing to my book The Power of Eye Contact], it says you went to Brown. That’s your story. Your story could be that you have the most popular blog on airline safety. And if you really have the mos1 popular blog in the world on airline safety and you’re looking for a job doing PR on airline safety, that’s a really good story. That’s better than the story that you went to Brown.”
  • ‘Here’s what I did with the four years instead. I have the brains to get info Harvard, and I have the initiative to get a Harvard-quality education on my own, and 1 think outside the box. Hire me.” Think more than a few forward-thinking employers might be intrigued?
  • Scoble interviewed over five hundred people at Microsoft, everyone from the janitor to fellow non-college-graduate Bill Gates, and blogged about what was going on at the company, from an insider perspective. Eventually he got tired of restrictions on his blogging, so he quit in 2006. Not too many people who have such comparatively free-ranging corporate jobs choose to quit, but such is the power of having an incredible personal brand—you can write your own ticket. He quickly found a job at a podcasting start-up, then was wooed by Fast Company, and now works for Rackspace (, the world’s largest Web hosting company. I asked him what his job duties are. “I’m the public face of Rackspace in the Valley. The company is in Texas, so the executives can’t be here every night. I’m an ambassador and connector for them. I go to a lot of events, conferences, parties. I also know every tech journalist in the world. I build relationships with press people. If we have a press event, I know whom to invite—and I have their business card. I also travel around the world and interview the leading-edge start-ups. 1 understand what’s going on in the industry, and if 1 see something happening, I tell the executives. ‘You better kick into gear in this area.’” If Robert wants to travel somewhere to pursue a hot lead for the company, he just goes. “I don’t even ask anymore. I’m going to Davos next week.
  • Sounds like one of the greatest jobs anyone could wish for. Not too many people have corporate jobs like Robert does—complete freedom to travel when he wants, go to which events he wants, and talk to whomever he wants, whenever he wants. And the reason is, not too many people have been as passionate, savvy, and persistent about building up their personal brand and network of connections as Robert has. He’s become one of the most influential tech bloggers in the world, and lives life completely on his own terms.
  • His career advice? Build up your presence as much as possible on new platforms, media, and communities as they arise—the ones that already exist, and the ones we can’t even imagine yet, that will no doubt burst onto the scene. “ didn’t exist five years ago. TechCrunch didn’t exist five years ago. YouTube didn’t exist six years ago. Facebook didn’t exist six years ago. Twitter didn’t exist five years ago. That’s the world we’re living in now. Why don’t you build a LinkedIn page instead of watching TV all night long? The savviest kids today already know how to build networks that work for them.” Robert believes that time spent building your presence and network of connections online—your personal brand—is one of the most important things you can do. Because it will open doors for you that simply wouldn’t open otherwise.
  •  She always looked for the highest-leverage thing that could be accomplished in that moment, and then got it done, j never waiting for “permission” or “instructions” to make things J better. She just did it. “I just kept doing big things, then asking for promotions once I did them. Doing, asking, doing, and asking.”
  • Danielle held “Fire Starter Groups” in sixteen cities to help teach budding entrepreneurs to start the fires of their own creativity. “1 held groups in pole-dancing studios and in boardrooms. Whatever it takes! I did hundreds of one-on-one sessions to develop fresh teaching material.” She then parlayed this material. Into an e-program, “The Fire Starter Sessions,” which grossed $170,000 in the first year.

Success skill #7: the entrepreneurial mindset versus the employee mindset.

  • At some point in his sales career, he had learned about a concept called “the five-minute rule” from one of his sales mentors. This mentor, a high school dropout and now a successful sales manager, had told Hal: “You’re going to have customers who aren’t going to buy from you. Some might be rude to you or cut your appointment short. You’re going to have days when you don’t reach your goals. And it’s OK to be negative sometimes. But not for more than five minutes. You’ve got to live by the five-minute rule. Bitch, moan, complain, vent, get it out of your system, whatever you’ve got to do. But just for five minutes. Beyond that, there’s no benefit to dwelling on it. Instead, focus 100 percent of your energy on what’s in your control.
  • “Dad, I thought you knew me better than this. I’m great! In fact, I’m grateful. I can’t change what happened to me. There’s no point in feeling bad about it. If I feel down on myself, or sad or depressed, that doesn’t change anything, it just makes me miserable.”
  • After I made all these excuses to this guy as to why I wasn’t successful, he said, “Well, if there are other people doing well in your industry, and you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with the business you’re in, there’s something wrong with you,”
  • He said, “Look, young man. You’re like most people. You think the grass is greener on the other side. What’s going to happen if you go into another business is you’re going to spend another six months, another year, another two years, learning the technical skills of another industry, so you can go out and repeat the same bad business habits that have caused you to be a failure in this business.
Focus on contributionFocus on entitlement
Focus on outcomeFocus on output
Sort for what’s neededSort for what’s requested
Work yourself out of a jobWork to protect your job
Go toward big decisions, even with-out authorityTurn away from even the small decisions you have the authority to make
See your circumstances as illusory and temporarySee your circumstances as fixed and permanent
  • The people in this book did not assume that, by going to class five days a week and dutifully doing homework and papers and studying for tests, some wonderful outcome was going to arise from all this diligent output of work, just like parents and teachers and society said it would. Rather, they engaged in deep inquiry about what outcomes they specifically wanted to create in their lives, and then relentlessly engaged in only the activities directly related to producing those outcomes in their lives.
  • Those in the employee mind-set, in turn, feel satisfied if they just work harder and harder and harder—in school, at a workplace, in a business—without paying much attention to whether all that effort is directly producing the specific outcomes they want.
  • If you look for and take care of what’s needed in a situation, rather than what’s requested by your boss, your teammates, or your clients, you’ll always be the first one up for promotions, the first one to win new business, and the last one laid off.
  • What’s the best way to ensure you never climb to the next rung on the ladder in your workplace or business? By clinging desperately to the lower rung as if it were your salvation in life. How do you become a leader in your workplace or your business? By making yourself obsolete in your current role and finding a higher-leverage role to play. And then making yourself obsolete in that and finding a higher-leverage role to play. And on and on.
  • The people in this book are successful because they didn’t wait around for someone to tell them to be successful. They didn’t wait around for someone to tell them they could make big decisions in their lives, and have a big impact.
  • This last point might risk getting too philosophical for some readers. But I think it’s important. A key aspect of the entrepreneurial mind-set is seeing the world around you as largely made up. Sure, there are societal rules. But those rules are often arbitrary and outdated, and can therefore frequently be broken, bent, bypassed, or just plain ignored, to good effect.
  • Nearly every person I feature in this book started out their working lives in low-status “dead-end” jobs, from fast food to waiting tables to door-to-door sales and telemarketing to manual labor. But they sure didn’t stay there. Why not? In a wonderful book called 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education by Charles Sykes, Rule 15 is: “Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity.” Sykes writes: “You live in a country with extraordinary opportunity and income mobility: if you start at the bottom, that doesn’t mean you will stay there. The important thing is to actually start.”
  • What distinguishes the guy who’s the waiter, who then goes on to own the hotel, and then a chain of hotels, versus the guy who just remains a waiter and stays bitter and angry about being a waiter for the rest of his life? ‘Well, the guy who ends up owning the hotel never sees himself as a waiter, first of all. He only sees himself in the role of the waiter, as a necessary transitional point, to get from being a waiter, to being the manager of a hotel one day, which would give him the necessary knowledge to maybe own a hotel.
  • If you always asked yourself how you could make a greater and higher-leveraged contribution to the people you work with and the situations you find yourself in; if you focused like a laser on actual outcome of the projects you’re involved with, rather than the output of your time and effort; if you were relentless about taking care of what’s actually needed in your workplace or team, rather than just doing what was requested of you; if you started running toward the big decisions in your organization, rather than away from them, whether or not your job description called for it; if you became a diligent student of the ways in which social reality is more flexible and malleable, and less predetermined, than you think it is—if you did all these things, is there any chance you would come out behind?