Tag Archive for: entrepreneurship

If you want to lead, you better read.

I didn’t always take that so seriously, but it’s true, you won’t meet successful people who aren’t readers.

Books can be your mentors — when you can’t meet or learn from someone directly in-person in real life, you can learn from them through books! Books can even be a window into the wisdom of the past, and you can learn from the greatest teachers who’ve ever lived — even if they’re not around anymore (you can even get inside the mind of one of history’s greatest emperors below!)

There are no secrets. They’re all just buried away in books.

Here are my “Most-Important Books” — or MIBs. These are the top 10 books I’ve read that have impacted me and influenced my life in a significant way for one reason or another, and that I recommend to anyone following a similar path. From what I’ve studied so far, if you read only 10 books after college, read these:

  1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki
  2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  3. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  4. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi
  5. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
  6. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term Travel by Rolf Potts
  7. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
  8. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  9. I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
  10. The Fourth Economy: Inventing Western Civilization by Ron Davison

If you’re just getting started, I believe reading these few wisdom-packed tomes from 1-10 in this order would be the most intuitive mindset change from beginner to advanced, and have the greatest impact on you.

Runners Up

  1. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber
  2. Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less by Sam Carpenter
  3. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen
  4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change – Stephen Covey
  5. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman
  6. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (learn from the master stoic and one of Rome’s five Good Emperors)
  7. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
  8. The Brand You 50: Or : Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an ‘Employee’ into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion! by Tom Peters (or one of his other books on personal branding)
  9. The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire by David Deida (for the gentlemen in the audience, at least)
  10. Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss

My Reading List for the rest of 2016:

  1. The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss
  2. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
  3. Financial Intelligence for Entrepreneurs: What You Really Need to Know About the Numbers by Karen Berman & Joe Knight
  4. Mastery by Robert Green
  5. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
  6. The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime by MJ DeMarco
  7. The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies by Chet Holmes
  8. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan
  9. MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins
  10. The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9-to-5 by Taylor Pearson

More recommended reads from the DNA Faculty & community:

From our first conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Cody discusses 10 of the most important lessons he’s learned after building three new media publishing businesses while traveling the world for 8 years.

Cody is an event organizer, small business advisor, new media marketing expert, and e-learning consultant who has worked with Sofitel, Le Méridien, Sacramento State University, Princeton Review, TEDx, Courageous Kitchen, Grand Dynamics, Exosphere, Syndacast, Documentary Foundation, Prosper Magazine, and more.

He is a loving father, husband to Jam Milcah, photographer, writer, and serial entrepreneur. He is slowly working on a book titled Chasing the Sun, about his travels across 35 countries, living abroad for 8+ years on four continents, and close encounters with everyone from Warren Buffett to ISIS. Read Cody’s full bio here.

Follow along with Cody’s slides below:

My top lessons learned so far:

  1. Don’t stay isolated
  2. Find Mentors (important lessons on finding mentors)
  3. Keep a MasterMind group.
  4. Practice gratitude (daily).
  5. Failure is necessary. (more about failure)
  6. Don’t stay married to your ideas.
  7. Don’t jump into bed with the wrong people.
  8. BUT…do collaborate with others. (how to find the right partner)
  9. Take care of yourself first.
  10. Never stop learning.

Sketch notes by Kat Ingals

Thank you to our sponsors Drip, Empire Flippers, Iglu and Digital Nomad Academy for making this event possible.

The 2016 Summit was co-hosted by Johnny FD and Cody McKibben. Click here to read the whole story.

 

I’ve been wanting to share a lot more here about the people and stories I find truly fascinating and inspiring.

The first on that list is someone very unique that I’d like to shine a spotlight on:

My closest friend in Bangkok — Dwight Turner — is the crazy changemaker behind the grassroots volunteer organization In Search of Sanuk (2016 update: now ‘Courageous Kitchen’)

He is an inspirational and unique character in the strange chaotic melting pot that is Southeast Asia. His love for others, and his dedication to helping children and families in need shines brilliantly in the darkness.

If you’ve been following me here at Thrilling Heroics for long, you will have seen his name before, but somebody with some skill finally picked up a video camera and followed him around Bangkok to get a real tactile feel for what he’s doing to make this little corner of the world a better place, working hard to help urban refugees in Thailand.

I’ll let this quick 4-minute documentary speak for itself, so watch it. If the video doesn’t appear for you, click here to watch it. It’s only a few moments of your time, and I promise it will be well spent.

To me, Dwight is a shining example of the entrepreneurs — or social inventors — who are creating new realities that will shape the next century. 

He’s a selfless, hard-working global citizen who genuinely cares about making the world a better place, and people like him are doing it, one little bit at a time.

If this short documentary has you inspired, then find out more about Dwight’s project and begin your unconventional giving by donating today. Give just a few dollars, a small sum that could very well have a major impact on the lives of an underprivileged family living in poverty.

Dwight is just the first of many incredible social inventors and changemakers who we will highlight here at Thrilling Heroics… But  Bangkok certainly wouldn’t be the same without him.

You can also see the part In Search of Sanuk had in changing our good friend Ryan’s life, as just one example.

Help Courageous Kitchen (previously ‘In Search of Sanuk’) hit their “Fun-Raising” goals for 2012 by making a one-time or monthly donation here through PayPal.

If you’re feeling generous like I am, then let’s share with Courageous Kitchen to help them continue the good work they’re doing to improve lives in Bangkok.

Go here to make a donation.

A few weeks ago, my old blogging buddy Ron Davison sent me a copy of his new book The Fourth Economy: Inventing Western Civilization, which examines the pattern of progress from an agricultural economy to an industrial one, then from industrial to an information economy, and predicts what the next generation will see with the rise of an entrepreneurship economy. If you feel the same entrepreneurial rumble around you right now as I do, we’re only just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Already in the first few pages it had me absolutely spellbound, so I wanted to share. Ron’s thesis revolves around how the evolution of society has always depended upon invention… but he points out how we tend to think of invention solely as a technological act… when in fact there is another, equally important form of invention that almost invisibly shapes society: social invention.

I’ll quote extensively from Ron’s first few chapters, as he’s much more eloquent and academic about this important claim than I could ever be (emphases are mine):

“Money is only money because we agree it is money. As soon as we all agree that Confederate currency no longer has any value, it no longer has any value. When we agree that information on magnetic strips affixed to plastic has value, it has value. Whether someone is a slave, employee or part-owner of an enterprise is not inherent in any physical reality or dependent on any brute facts, but is—instead—true only as an institutional fact [i.e., a social invention –Cody].

[…] “A technological invention results in a product that can be seen independent of any agreement about it. While its use might require some instruction, instruction that might be something akin to declaration or agreement, its existence does not. A steam engine translates heat into motion and even if it requires an operator to do this, its existence falls more into the category of brute fact than institutional fact. By contrast, a home loan is a [social invention]. Without a contract specifying terms and even who owes what to whom, the loan makes no sense. Further, the loan assumes a whole other set of [social inventions], from money to banks to a real estate market to determine the value of the home for which the loan exists.”

…Ron goes on to explain the immense importance of social invention, including all the institutions that you’ve become accustomed to in your lifetime, in shaping society — nation-states, churches, banks, corporations, money, democracy. At some point in history, each of these things was invented, agreed upon, and eventually accepted as the status quo. But these things haven’t always existed, they haven’t always been the norm, as we tend to forget.

“A set of inventions defines a culture or civilization.

We recreate civilization in each child. We call it education. Look at the huge amount of time and attention we devote to ‘civilizing’ a baby to become a member of society. The gross effort it takes to recreate society in each child should be testament to the fact that a culture is not a ‘natural’ or spontaneous state; it is, instead a social invention that takes great effort—every time. Language and manners, what we question and what we accept, social roles—all of these end products represent the teaching of parents, teachers, and even the media and are essentially conventions that work to construct meaning, to create the modern life. Rather than see them as inventions, we often see social inventions as simply ‘the way things are.’ Should you want a reminder that social inventions are just made up, however, raise a child. Mothers know that the curious, rebellious, stubborn, and lazy child will challenge social inventions. My family lives close to the Mexican border and when my daughter was protesting her car seat, she would say, ‘Mexican kids don’t wear seat belts.’ She, like every child, knew that things could be different and questioned why they were not. And of course, travel, news reports, novels, and history all remind us that our social inventions are not universal or even stable. What makes you successfully fit into your neighborhood in Manhattan would make you stand out in Afghanistan. Or even Montana. What made you fashionable in 1972 makes you look silly in 2012.”

He implores the need for social progress, for us to become more conscious about social invention. And I love how he describes our opportunity to create a new social reality:

“Perhaps teachers and parents should add this to their list of admonitions and lessons: ‘Warning: contents of this society have been known to create feelings of anomie and alienation; provoke wars, homicides, and suicides; and pollute the habitat you need for survival. Most of what we tell you should be questioned and could be improved upon. This is, really, just the best we’ve been able to do up until now and it could be that improvement will actually overturn much of what we now accept and advocate. Learn about your culture and your place in it, but don’t cling too tightly to it. What we’re teaching you probably needs to change, and soon.'”

[…] “a hypnotist, in a matter of minutes, can program you to do things you don’t normally do and to believe what is not so. […] how much more powerfully can society program you during the course of your life, given that it has so much more time and so many more persuasive tools at its disposal than does a hypnotist?”

[…] “If social invention is to become more widespread [ie: and we are to harness our inherent abilities to pave our own destinies and craft our own world –Cody], the individual will have to become more aware of how his or her life is also an invention. Up until now, it is the few who have defined society and the many that have been defined by it. A few receive the divine revelation and many receive Mass. Think about a world in which the direction is increasingly reversed, a society in which the individual is less social invention than social inventor. Or, rather, imagine a world in which more people engage in acts of social invention. If social invention becomes to this century what technological invention was to the last, we’ll witness such a change. Or, rather, we’ll create such a change.

“If daily life is an invention, the question is, whose invention is it? It is hard to underestimate the importance of inertia in defining society. Yet entrepreneurs challenge this inertia and invent something new.”

[…] “an entrepreneur is a social inventor. Their work is to create a new social invention, an organization, an institution, a new market, or a new business. Social entrepreneurs might start a new non-governmental organization (NGO) or nonprofit or charter school. I’m going to include under my broad umbrella of entrepreneurs not just business entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Henry Ford but political and religious entrepreneurs like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther.

“The next economy will popularize entrepreneurship in the same way that the Information Age popularized higher education and knowledge throughout the twentieth century. As entrepreneurship becomes more popular and diverse in its expression and application, social invention will become as normal as technological invention.”

My wish for the years ahead is to see more interesting people building interesting things — projects, businesses, organizations, art, nonprofits, social inventions…

I am excited to see this become the new norm — to see many more people wake up to the realization that they don’t have to be a wage slave or an employee, but can instead choose to be creators, artists, shapers of the world around them, entrepreneurs. If you find these ideas and trends as fascinating as I do, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Ron’s book The Fourth Economy for a much more in-depth look at the entrepreneurial revolution he predicts will sweep across the world.

I only hope we can play a small role in this huge societal shift with what we’re doing here and at inside The HERO Project, by enabling many more ambitious trailblazers to use their inherent abilities to create and shape things around them to help move the world forward.

 

You are the pioneers of the Fourth Economy. Here’s to creating an improved, more connected, whole, healed, better society through entrepreneurship! 

personal finance wealth

Ramit Sethi was one of the earliest bloggers to inspire me when I first started writing my original site ‘Thrilling Heroics’ and building my professional network.

A Stanford alumni who studied technology and psychology, Ramit was one of the original co-founders of Silicon Valley startup PBworks, and runs the hugely successful I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog to help college students and young professionals take control of their personal finances and succeed with entrepreneurship.

I first met him in person in our hometown Sacramento, California, one chilly winter day in 2006 when he was home to visit his family, and I had the opportunity to interview him about his education, entrepreneurship experience, and his perspectives on new media.

One of the first bold moves Ramit made in his career was to call up Seth Godin and negotiate a job opportunity with him. He later consulted with Omidyar Network, the philanthropic social innovation firm started by Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar.

I Will Teach You to Be RichIn March 2006, Ramit published his definitive personal finance book, which immediately hit #1 on Amazon and made him a New York Times bestselling author. His educational background in social psychology translated well into a thorough guidebook that helps readers make real behavioral change:

At last, for a generation that’s materially ambitious yet financially clueless comes I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Ramit Sethi’s 6-week personal finance program for 20-to-35-year-olds. A completely practical approach delivered with a nonjudgmental style that makes readers want to do what Sethi says, it is based around the four pillars of personal finance—banking, saving, budgeting, and investing—and the wealth-building ideas of personal entrepreneurship.

This week Ramit is adapting his bestseller into a six-week online bootcamp

After meeting recently with him in San Francisco, I’ve been wanting to bring him on for a video interview to share what has changed in the last three years. Here’s our fascinating discussion:

Check out the full video interview here for the following:

  • How Ramit turned his writing and personal expertise into a 6-week personal finance training program
  • The massive importance of TAKING ACTION
  • The value of FREE content versus INVESTING in your success
  • How to use a blog as a laboratory for launching your own business and life experiments
  • What defines a RICH life? (what Ramit values most)
  • How to leverage failures to reach SUCCESS
  • How Ramit made the leap from blogger to NYT best-selling author
  • Personal finance & entrepreneurship tips for travelers & expats

lifestyle design Ramit Sethi interview

To learn more about Ramit Sethi, social psychology, technology in business, scrappy startups, and x-man abilities, make sure you also read my 2006 interview with him.

Steve Jurvetson, managing director for the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, says that there is a common human desire that ties philanthropy, raising families, creating art and literature, and entrepreneurship together. Stephen Covey talks about it. It is the desire to create a legacy — something that will last beyond our short time here on earth.

Successful entrepreneurs are rarely lone rangers, but more often come in dynamic duos, so Jurvetson recommends that students who are hopeful entrepreneurs pay close attention to their classmates — keeping an eye out for uniqueness, persistence, and infectious enthusiasm among their peers. After all, his own classmate Jim Yang went on to start up Yahoo! Most importantly though, he says to look for ways you can harness what you’ve learned from past experiences in new and perhaps unfamiliar territory. How can you apply the things you learned from Chem 105 to starting a new side business, for instance?

That is you shouldn’t let job descriptions discourage you when you’re looking for something new — if you’ve accumulated experience across many different job types it will lend itself to being a flexible team-worker in different settings even if you haven’t worked in that field before. And for students, experience leading teams successfully in your academic career will translate well into being a fair and effective leader in business. You take the lessons you learn, and just apply them in a new setting.

I’ve been working on a interview series over at IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com about women and their relationship with personal finance and business, featuring several successful female entrepreneurs, consultants, and freelancers. The first one-on-one is with Pamela Slim, a great gal from Mesa, AZ. Pam left the corporate world in 1996 to start Ganas Consulting, and she writes a great blog called Escape from Cubicle Nation, about transitioning from the rat race to independence! These women each have some amazing firsthand experience and a lot of great advice; they’re an amazing source of wisdom, and it’s really eye-opening to hear their viewpoints. Here’s a short excerpt:

What challenges did you have to overcome in the process of setting up Ganas? Did you face any hardships you think most men in the consulting business might not face?

I actually had it pretty easy when I started my business since I got a nice, juicy client right off the bat (Hewlett Packard) and a six-month project that guaranteed I could pay my bills without worrying about hustling for new work. Since I was selling my brain and not a physical product, there were no big start-up costs or financing hurdles, which is sometimes where you hear stories of slightly increased challenges for women to get VC funding or bank loans.

My challenge in the early years had to do with pricing my services appropriately, since I tended to undervalue my services and felt uncomfortable asking for “too much.” I know that this is something that affects many new entrepreneurs, but in my 11+ years of self-employment experience, I would say that it affects women at a much higher ratio then men. It could be that there is a big conspiracy by the misogynistic male white corporate machine that starts to disempower us in kindergarten and stop us from all kinds of things like getting into math, finance and engineering careers. I discount nothing, as I was raised with a healthy dose of skepticism and a fondness for theories of oppression.

Another likely theory is that females are raised in many societies to be in a “helper” and “nurturer” role, and to downplay material gain. Fathers historically talk to sons more about business and finance than they do their daughters. Women are taught to compromise and broker peace, not to engage in hardball negotiations. Whatever the cause of my beliefs, I had to get over some ineffective mental blocks in order to charge what I was worth. I am always curious what other women (and men!) think about this topic, so please comment here.

You say you went through a phase of self-employment evangelism. What are some of the more effective methods you found to encourage others to go solo?

My best experience with encouragement is through my blog. I call it the Magical Mystery Tour, because ever since I began to write it, I have experienced a strange and wondrous connection with thousands of people I never would have had the chance to talk to. I never know which topic or post is going to make an impact…sometimes what I consider the most off-topic or “out there” subjects get the most heartfelt responses. Perhaps my favorite compliment ever came from a reader who told me that I represented “virtual hope.” How cool is that? I would like to stress that my goal is not to have everyone in the world quit their corporate job to start a business. Some are not ready, equipped or naturally suited to self-employment. What I do want to do is demystify the process so that more people feel comfortable exploring the option to see if it is right for them.

Continue reading at IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com: Heroines of Personal Finance and Entrepreneurship #1: Pamela Slim.

“I don’t know if there is another place on the planet where people are so full of possibility – whether it be the possibility of reinventing themselves by a change in thinking…or body…or starting a business with which they expect to change the world and become rich.”

— Ron Davison

I LOVE this article by Ron Davison! The Bay Area and the Reinvention of Self.

I think I love Ron’s musings about Silicon Valley and the Bay Area because they reflect my own. I am SO drawn to that region because of the tremendous number of creative people! It is a hotbed for startups, entrepreneurs, and young-at-heart companies–the kind I love, that toss out the traditional rules! There seems to be (at least a bit) more sense of collaboration as opposed to competition. People are less afraid of failure. They are more passionate about their ideas, and doing whatever is necessary to make them become reality! These are not people who give up easily.

And it’s not to say that the region is the only one with determined, creative professionals. I think what actually happens is that those sorts of people are attracted from all over the world to come and work together in this centralized area. Actually, I KNOW this is the case. When I’ve visited Stanford, and interviewed with small companies down there, I meet people from all around the globe. It is a creative center. Take a minute to read Ron’s thoughts as he visits Silicon Valley.

He won’t just teach you to be rich…he’ll also teach you the skills to get into college, get a great job, bargain for what you want, and so on. Ramit Sethi is one of my absolute favorite bloggers. He’s based out of Palo Alto, and is known for IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com. But aside from being a personal finance guru, Ramit is a graduate of Stanford University, he’s founded several companies such as his latest, PBwiki, he has two books coming out in the next year, and he’s just an all-around nice Silicon Valley guy.

Now, part of my own personal mission is to start interviewing people who are doing what I want to do, or people who are experts in their fields–in business, finance, environment, technology… So, here is the first of what I hope to be many.

Ramit was kind enough to sit down with me (outside on a freezing Sacramento morning no less!) for a cup of coffee on a recent trip home to visit his family. I am so grateful for the time and thoughtful answers he gave me! We had such an amazing discussion, but here are the highlights.

Ramit, how would you say your essential self differs from your social self? In other words, if you could be living your dream, independent of how others might perceive you for it, what would that look like? Do you identify yourself more as the IWillTeachYouToBeRich teacher, or as something else?

Actually I think I’m lucky enough to be able to do whatever I want right now, and I’m doing it! Some of that involves trying to build a great company with some other guys, some of that involves writing a great blog that’s completely my own, and I can say whatever I want–no editorial control or anything. I don’t think there’s much of a difference between what people see on my site versus my personality. What my readers see me talking about day-in and day-out though is personal finance and entrepreneurship, and really there’s a lot of other stuff that I’m interested in–I don’t talk about college recruitment, and I don’t talk about my travel that I do on a personal basis. And if there’s one thing my friends would say about me that’s a little different from what’s on the site is that maybe I’m a little bit louder, a little bit more vulgar in real life, but pretty much what you see is what you get. The biggest compliment people give me is that they say, “When I read that I can actually hear your voice!”

It’s hard to put me in a bucket though–like, personal finance over here, wiki over there, college recruiting over here. That may be a little confounding, but my general goal here is to find what I’m really interested in, get really good at it, and then turn around and teach other people. That’s what happened with personal finance, that’s what happened with the musical instrument I play–the tabla… Teaching it absolutely helps me learn it better, because people challenge me all the time when I’m teaching things. That to me is pretty exciting, because I can read all the blog posts and all the books, but there’s nothing like having somebody with an individual question I don’t know challenge me, so I really appreciate that.

What sort of background do you come from and how did your childhood influence the person you’ve become?

We’re sitting here right now in Sacramento–we’re about a five minute walk from my house. I grew up very middle class here, my parents were very modest. They were immigrants from India, and what they taught me were things like “just ask”–ask for a discount, or ask to get published, just write it up and send it in to the newspaper! They taught me the scrappiness of “just ask–there’s nothing wrong with asking”, and not to fear failure. I manage most of my life through my email, and I have a folder in my inbox called “failures.” And for me, I say if I’m not getting 4 or 5 failures in there a month, then I’m not trying hard enough. When I was in high school it would be like applying for scholarships, in college it was applying for grants or projects, now it’s applying for jobs, etc. Learning from your failures is like: what did you do wrong? And what could you do better?

What was your experience like studying at Stanford University? How do you apply what you learned about psychology and technology to the business world?

I loved it! I had a great time there. I did my undergrad and graduate work there. I studied technology and psychology. It was about the people. The way I prioritized my work was: number one was my friends, two was my own business stuff, then third comes my academics. I don’t know if parents will like hearing this, but if it came down to me working on an essay that was due next week or going out with my friends, I would almost always choose going out with my friends. I don’t know if that’s for everyone, but it worked great for me, because I spent all this time meeting all these different people that are now all over the country that I can visit anytime, and they taught me more than any book could teach.

I studied a lot of bargaining and persuasion, and combined that with technology. In general I think it helps me understand things like, “Why are my friends saying this or acting like this?” In business, what are the levers that would motivate people? I’ll give you an example: Some people are really, really motivated by money, and that’s okay–they’re open about it. Other people are more motivated by ego, while some people–a lot of engineers, for example–are motivated by a challenge, like “How difficult is this problem? How big is the impact?” So, it’s like, you figure out those motivational things, and you work with the person to get what they really want. If someone came to me and they offered me a lot of money, it probably wouldn’t be the most motivational thing, because money is not as important as other things to me right now. So, it’s really important to understand people’s motivation and then turn around and apply it.

What would you say are the most valuable lessons you learned from your education that have helped you become successful since?

I learned that being smart is not the most important thing–I’m a big proponent of that. There are people who are way smarter than I am; probably most of my friends are way smarter than I am. And that’s good if you want to, for example, get into law school. But for my path, being book smart is not the most important thing by any means; it’s about, “How do you get things done? With really limited resources?” If I wanted to write an e-book or start a website, I’m not too technical, so I would need to persuade people to help me, and I would need to create this passion in them. Or how would I go around the bureaucracy of a university and get what I want? That was the most important stuff I learned. For me, what I value more than anything when I’m hiring somebody, it’s not your GPA–I don’t give a damn! It’s “Show me some examples of where you’ve gotten something done.”

What experiences outside of your education would you say have been essential? What skills are there that you think business-minded individuals need that aren’t taught in school?

Number one is taking initiative. In school it’s so easy to get by if you do the papers, take the tests, and get an A or an A- or whatever. You’re done, you’re satisfied. And to me, that’s like the bare minimum. I would rather get the B or a B- in a class, and have done something really cool outside of class. So taking initiative to really find what you’re interested in, talking to the right people… Like you emailed me and here we are meeting up! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I do that all the time. I did that in college, I do it all the time with CEOs or anybody I think is interesting. Take them out to lunch, take them out to coffee. They teach you something, maybe introduce you to their friends. And that’s the way that I’ve been fortunate enough to really come further than I thought I would have been able to.

What motivated you to start blogging?

When I was a sophomore–this was around 2002 in college–I came up with this idea called IWillTeachYouToBeRich, and I came up with the framework for a one-hour class, which I still use. And I went around to my friends telling them, “Hey you guys have got to take this class! In one hour, I will teach you how to be rich!” People would be so excited but they would never show up. I was so frustrated, so finally I thought I’d just start a blog, and I’ll just write–I’m gonna make it funny, I’m gonna make it how I really talk in real life, and I’m not going to make it really pedantic and boring like the old white men at Wells Fargo and Fidelity. There’s really cool stuff to be taught here; there’s so many lessons! And I can learn as I teach. So I did that, and for the first six months there were very few comments–like maybe one or two comments per post. And I just kept writing because I liked it. After six months I had all this that I had written; I was like, “I’m on a roll.” People started commenting, and maybe about 8 or 12 months into it there was some sort of click and a lot of people started commenting. In the background I was also doing a lot of marketing to spread the word. I was covered in the Wall Street Journal and a lot of people started coming to the blog, and then it really started building into a community.

College students and recent college grads are my core audience, that’s who I go after. But what’s interesting is that I have all these people I had no idea about. I have a very large group of 30-40 year olds, and I have high schoolers, and I have people who write me that are senior VP at a Fortune 100 company and they’re reading my blog! And it just happened because the word spread.

How significant do you think blogs and podcasts are as a new medium of communication?

I think they give everybody the ability to write something interesting about what they do, or communicate something interesting. I always say, everybody has an X-man ability… everybody’s got at least one thing that they’re amazing at—-they’re an X-man! Somebody’s got the piano, somebody’s an entrepreneur, someone may be a Westinghouse Scholarship winner, whatever it is. Everyone’s got something. If everybody just put their one thing, or their passion, on a blog or a podcast… I’ll tell you IWillTeachYouToBeRich was probably the best business decision I ever made. Now I have a huge reach, and I feel very fortunate about that. Business opportunities have come my way that I never would have found. The ability to start a blog–which you can do in like ten seconds–is great. It’s letting the really passionate people come out and spread the word.

What was your first company and what was it like founding and running your own business for the first time?

First one was right out of high school, called Scholastic Advising, which still operates with the involvement of my parents. When I was in high school I got so frustrated because so many people would say, “Oh I’m not going to apply to Stanford, because even if I got in, I couldn’t afford it.” This is exactly the wrong way to think about it. The right way to think about it is “I’m going to apply everywhere. I’m going to do a great application, and if I get in, then I’ll think about the money.” And usually what happens is if you’re good enough to get in, then they’ll take care of you. I saw a lot of kids doing this and it made me sad. My parents were very middle class and there were four kids in the family. They told us, “You guys have got to get scholarships, otherwise you can’t go to college.” So we did! And there’s no secret, it’s the same things I talk about: take the initiative, be patient, learn from your mistakes, that sort of stuff. So Scholastic Advising was an advisory company, a consulting company. We helped high school students get scholarships and financial aid, and with admissions. That was what we worked on, and it’s still continuing through my parents.

You’ve done some consulting with Omidyar Network and Storm Ventures. What has that taught you? And what do you think of the whole “web 2.0” phenomenon?

Pierre Omidyar was the founder of eBay. He’s very wealthy now and he wants to give back to improve the world. I was brought on to do some social psychology consulting. I would evaluate deals and make suggestions–“I think this is good, I think you should invest this much…” Similar thing for Storm and I’ve also done some consulting for a capital firm called Gemini. Mostly they want to get in and learn about this web 2.0 stuff and what young people are doing these days.

I think one thing a lot of young people don’t realize is that they are experts at what young people are doing! If you use instant messenger, Facebook, Myspace…you are an expert, and older people have no idea what’s going on! And that is a marketable opportunity. So, I turned that around and I marketed it, and they hired me as a consultant to teach them about blogs, social networks, photos, music sharing, all that stuff. A lot of companies are stuck in the past and they’re just buying big billboards, and they don’t understand young people don’t care about that anymore. We care about personalized recommendations, we care about what our friends say, we see it on Myspace and blogs and YouTube. And these older folks are struggling to understand that, so I think there’s a humongous opportunity for young people, if they’re smart and they package it right, to say “Here’s the things you need to know, here’s what I’m getting on a daily basis, and here’s the things you should be doing.” Older companies are paying a lot of money to have market research firms come in and instruct them, and I always just say why not get together a group of 5 or 10 people and just talk to them?

You’re also a co-founder and VP of Marketing for PBwiki. Tell us about PBwiki and where you hope it might lead you in the next few years?

It’s a scrappy startup that I love! We all co-founded this, there’s three of us, three Stanford grads. PBwiki means it’s as easy to make a wiki as it is to make a peanut butter sandwich. And a wiki is an easy-to-use website that lets a lot of people edit it together. You may have heard of Wikipedia; that’s a good example of using a wiki as an encyclopedia. So if you have a group project you might say “Hey Mike, you put the information about Thomas Jefferson, I’ll put the information about Susan B. Anthony.” Or if you’re taking a vacation, “You do the airfare, I’ll do the hotels, and we’ll put it all together and see what everyone has done.” And of course businesses are using it, educators are using it in the classroom… If you go to PBwiki.com it takes about ten seconds to set one up, we host it and manage it, and it’s free for you! And if you want to have more features or more space then you can pay us a small subscription fee. So we’ve hosted over 140,000 wikis in about a year, and it’s growing very quickly. We got offices a few months ago, which is a big step for us. And we just hired somebody else on, and have taken some funding. The goal here is: wikis for the masses. Most people still don’t know what a wiki is, and we want to share that, because if you’ve ever sent emails back and forth a hundred times editing this and that, why not just put it on the wiki where everyone can see the changes and everyone can go back in time to see past revisions?

You’ve co-authored a book on college recruiting coming out — Recruit or Die, scheduled for release July 5, 2007! And the big news is that you just signed your second book–this one to go along with your personal finance blog! What will be in your forthcoming IWillTeachYouToBeRich book that is unique from the online resources?

IWillTeachYouToBeRich, the book, won’t be coming out for a while. In fact, I’m just starting to write it. But if you’ve read my blog, you know that I have a no-nonsense style. I’m not about platitude, I’m not about being bought by any corporate interests, I’m just about telling people the best things to do. And I offer some different ways of thinking about things: for example one thing that I encourage some people to do is buy a new car instead of a used car. And that’s different than a lot of personal finance people, and I explain why. If you like my reasoning or not, at least you understand it. IWillTeachYouToBeRich the book will have a combination of personal finance and entrepreneurship, and you’ll be able to pick it up and finish it and say “Man, I know what to do tomorrow, I know what to do next week, and I know what to do for the next 30 years.” You can never finish learning, and I’m not saying this should be your only book, because of course it shouldn’t. But in terms of getting your strategy together and getting started, in the one or two hours it takes you to read it you will know exactly what you need to do. That’s the difference–I am very tactical. I could give you a lot of generalities like “start early” and “diversify,” but that doesn’t mean anything if you think “Shit! What bank account should I get?” Or, “What do I do with this debt?” I’ll be saying: here’s the steps, here’s what you do, and here’s what to look out for.

You’ll be able to see excerpts of the book on my site. And it’s not going to be just a book. I’ll be letting my readers contribute to it and actually add some of those stories to the book, and I’ll be asking people to actually help me shape the way the book looks, give me links, tell me what you think should be in this book. So it’s going to be a pretty collaborative effort. And there will be some fun stuff that I won’t announce yet, but stay tuned.

In your opinion, who are 4 of the most authoritative experts (other than yourself, of course) in the personal finance field today?

One I really admire is Suze Orman. I’m actually a big fan of hers. Some people are not a big fan of her style, but I don’t mind someone’s style so much if they have good things to say. Every time I watch her show I learn something. What I like about her is that she encourages people to manage their own finances. One of my core tenets is that almost everyone can manage their finances without a financial advisor. And she teaches you that you don’t want to be paying fees to these financial companies–you want to learn a little bit, and do it on your own.

Another guy I really admire is Jonathan Clemens at the Wall Street Journal. He’s saying “Think long term.” And a lot of young people are very stupid–they’ll say things like “I bought this stock and I sold it for a 20% profit.” And they don’t realize that–no they didn’t–they had to pay a huge amount in taxes on that, and they didn’t realize their gains as much as they could have, because if they just held it and read the research, long-term investing beats short-term almost every day of the week. He focuses on getting started, putting your money away and diversifying. It isn’t sexy, but there’s a difference between being sexy and being rich.

JLP at AllFinancialMatters is great. And J.D. Roth, who just started up a new blog called Get Rich Slowly, has just been around for a few months and he’s doing very well–he’s got great readership and great articles and it’s not a surprise. I think these guys are doing a phenomenal job. I think it’s interesting you have these experts like Suze Orman, but then you have just these regular guys doing everyday blogging, day-in and day-out.

To top this all off, do you have one financial tip you think everyone should know?

I don’t do that. It’s pretty sensationalistic to say I have one tip. IWillTeachYouToBeRich is a sensationalistic enough title! If you go to the site, you’ll be surprised because it’s not about any secrets. There are no secrets, but I’ll tell you a few things that I think work. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, you just have to get started early. And what I mean by that is you have to understand your financial accounts. You have to look at how much you are spending–most people don’t even do that!–and I will teach you to do that. And then you say “Alright I have one credit card; I need a few other sources of credit and I need to use them effectively.” And then you can get a free E*trade account and you can start trading a little bit and investing in index funds, which are a pretty good bet. And don’t be stupid! A lot of people just watch MSNBC and read CNN Money, which are some of the most hyped-up, unbelievable things, and they buy stocks that they read about in Smart Money. Big mistake! Because those magazines and those TV shows have to sell something. And I’m not out to sell anything, it’s just about picking something that you know and you love, and you use. Finally you need to learn to track these things, whether you use a pen and paper, or Excel. Tracking exactly what you’re making and what you’re spending is a way that you can get rich over a long period of time.

I have a very boring investment strategy: evaluate my diversification strategy, understand that I can take a lot of risk because I’m young, buy stocks or index funds and let it ride. If I think there’s a good value, buy some more. I’ve hardly ever sold. That’s not sexy, but at the end of the day the question is: do you want to be sexy or do you want to be rich? My basic message here is you don’t have to be the smartest person in the world, you just have to get started. And taking that first step will put you above 99% of other people your age. If you do start early and you are sensible, I think long-term you will be rich. That’s it, it’s as simple as that.

Well, again I want to thank Ramit Sethi so much for taking the time to meet with me and discuss his successes and experiences. If you’d like to learn more about Ramit and what he does, check out his blog IWillTeachYouToBeRich, his company PBwiki, and his upcoming book Recruit or Die. Students who’d like to learn more about personal finance can start with this article on Thrilling Heroics, Six Simple Money Tips to Get You Back on the Financial Track.