Book Review: The Education of Millionaires

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It's an empowering feeling to see the road to your dreams unfurl before you, to know exactly what steps to take, and what landmarks to look for to confirm your progress. That revelation was worth much more than I paid for the book. I felt like I was reading some kind of top secret document that had been inadvertently leaked, and kept wondering, "How can he get away with telling all this to the world?" According to his book, he has been where I am -- graduated, unsure, frustrated -- so I have to believe his reason for writing this was to help others avoid what he went through.

The first part of the book discusses the problems with modern liberal arts education, a theme that runs throughout. It is the hook for the reader, but I don't think that the value of the book lies in its criticisms of education. Instead, it lies in the 7 Success Skills (one per chapter) that Ellsberg derives from his conversations with millionaires and entrepreneurs who didn't finish college.

By figuring out what made the difference for the millionaires in the book, Ellsberg presents a concrete set of skills that one should master to become a successful businessperson. These skills range from social development, to practical sales and marketing, to mindset and inner game. Not only does Ellsberg tell you what you need to know, but he also explains how to learn, how to go about applying what you've learned, and what you can expect to accomplish.

The author stops short of actually teaching you everything because the skills he recommends you learn are beyond the scope of the book (and there are better people to learn from). He does, however, provide all the resources you would need to teach yourself: books to read, people to learn from, blogs to follow, and courses you might take.

Those Who Went Before

The stories of these "uneducated" millionaires share a common theme: started off in college, got distracted by a business that they were already making profitable, dropped out of school to put more energy into the business, and never went back. There are a few outliers, such as Marijo Franklin, who got a job as a salesperson off the streets in Chicago, and David Ash, who never even finished high school and used his success to set up a last-chance shelter for women. There are also the graduates who became successful, all of whom point out that they didn't learn their success skills in the classroom.

Besides being highly instructive, these stories are very inspirational. Because the stories detail the early days for each interviewee, you the reader get a sense that they were right where you might be. It is very easy to imagine yourself on the verge of starting a multimillion-dollar business and changing the world.

The book reads like a good conversation, with Ellsberg sharing his own personal journey of discovery with the reader, as well as all the lessons he learned, the books he read, and the mistakes he made. It rambles a little bit, like every good conversation, touching on practical advice, social commentary, philosophical musing, self-help positive psychology, and even a bit of sales advice.

Just Another College Grad Without A Job

Ellsberg himself started off as a college grad with an entitlement complex before he went through a period of frustration and disillusionment with a society that wouldn't give him the break he felt he deserved. He eventually managed to become financially independent as a copywriter, learning the marketing and sales skills that would pave his road to later success.

His story doesn't come off as particularly exceptional, which makes it easy for the current generation to relate to. The fact that none of the stories he shares seem totally improbable is what makes the book valuable. Whereas so many "bootstrap your way to success" books simply provide you with anecdotes of people who magically charmed their way into boardrooms, Ellsberg gives his reader a glimpse into the personal struggles that accompanied each millionaire's first steps into business. Each of them is a regular person. What made the difference was a willingness to learn the skills necessary to succeed and a belief in their own ability to make a difference.

Having spent years dreaming of being an entrepreneur, but having never been able to wrap my head around just how to do it, I found Ellsberg's book infinitely inspiring. Every page was an "Aha!" moment. I could feel all these notions in my head clicking into place, and by the end of it, I had a clear picture of exactly what I needed to do, what I needed to learn, and who I needed to know in order to achieve the success I wanted.


If you're interested in learning more about Ellsberg and his approach to life, I recommend this blog post. It's a good introduction to the basic concepts, and will give you a great foundation to start your journey to success all by itself. You can also read his blog.