Business schools do not have a monopoly on worldly wisdom. If you care more about increasing your effectiveness at work than a diploma and a few lines on your resume, the Personal MBA is for you.
What is the Personal MBA?
“ You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.” — Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon), Good Will Hunting
The Personal MBA (PMBA) is an experiment in educational entrepreneurism. This manifesto will show you how to substantially increase your knowledge of business on your own time and with little cost, all without setting foot inside a classroom. The PMBA is more flexible than a traditional MBA program, doesn’t involve going into massive debt, and won’t interrupt your income stream for two years. Just set aside some dedicated reading time, pick up a good book, learn as much as you can, and go out and make great things happen.
It’s all about the books
“ If I read a book that cost me $20 and I get one good idea, I’ve gotten one of the greatest bargains of all time.” — Tom Peters
“ The difference between where you are today and where you’ll be five years from now will be found in the quality of books you’ve read.” — Jim Rohn
At the core of the PMBA is a list of 42 books and periodicals. By investing time and effort in using these resources, you will progressively develop a greater understanding of business and increase your effectiveness at work. Even if you only read a few, you’ll get a substantial return on your investment.
Thoughts on traditional MBA programs
“ Whatever be the qualifications of your tutors, your improvement must chiefly depend on yourselves. They cannot think or labor for you, they can only put you in the best way of thinking and laboring for yourselves. If therefore you get knowledge you must acquire it by your own industry. You must form all conclusions and all maxims for yourselves, from premises and data collected and considered by yourself. And it is the great object of [our educational institutions] to remove every bias the mind may be under, and to give the greatest scope for true freedom of thinking.”
— Joseph Priestly, Dedication of New College, London, 1794.
The debate concerning the value of traditional MBA programs is long and involved, and this manifesto won’t close the issue.a For the sake of brevity, here’s a short Q&A on the pros and cons of business school:
Can a traditional MBA program help you? Yes. You’ll meet a lot of great people and get acquainted with a few professors and corporate HR recruiters who can help you land a new job. You will also sink very deep into debt. If you decide to enroll in a full-time program, the opportunity cost of lost wages and future investable savings is huge
Will a traditional MBA teach you anything you can’t learn by yourself? Probably not. Classroom discussion can be beneficial, but there’s nothing presented that you can’t learn by studying a good book on the subject.
Is a traditional MBA worth the time and money? Sorry — there’s no universal answer. If you’re looking to go into advanced corporate accounting, finance, quantitative analysis, commercial real estate, consulting, venture capital, or investment banking, an MBA or MS in a business-related field may be expected or required. In those cases, caveat emptor: once you decide to attend, the only certainty is that your bank account will be significantly smaller. If you decide not to go to business school, the Personal MBA is a low cost way to educate yourself about business. (Even business school graduates can benefit greatly from reading these books.) Before we get to the list, however, allow me to set a few reasonable expectations about the PMBA….
By Josh Kaufman