The Principles of 'Good' Business
business khaled allen michael ellsberg self-education seth godin the education of millionaires tim ferriss warrior spirit
The first book, The Education of Millionaires, featured a series of interviews of very successful people who had never attained a college education. The main argument of the author, Michael Ellsberg, was that the promises of academia are hollow and that the education we get in school doesn’t prepare us for real success. His book reads like a syllabus for real-world success; it doesn’t include all the details, but it maps out how to get there and provides all the other reading material.
That’s where I got the other two books I read, Seth Godin’s Linchpin, and SPIN Selling by Neil Rackhan. Linchpin was a crazy ride of a read, and covered topics ranging from the uselessness of a resume to the meaning of art. Basically, I took this lesson from the book: the best way to get value from a community is to give as much value as you can, which you can do by approaching your job or craft as art.
SPIN Selling, despite it’s misleading title, is actually about selling with integrity. It’s main thesis is that successful sales are those in which the salesperson makes a real human connection with someone who needs help solving a problem. Sales is about problem-solving, and good salespeople are those who help others think their way to a solution, and then providing that solution. The main point is to be helpful.
So why am I sharing this with you?
Business with Integrity
Besides the fact that these books contain really useful information, what I like about them is that they present a form of doing business that is as much about right intent as about right action. Linchpin is about following your muse and creating art. SPIN Selling is about helping people. The Education of Millionaires is about becoming influential so that you can have a more positive effect on the world.
I’ve never really trusted money. Maybe it’s because I thought it would be too hard to become really wealthy, so instead of figuring out a way to make it, I decided to abhor it instead. Instead of facing my fears, I decided to pretend they weren't important.
The truth is that making a difference in the world requires mastery of some of the same skills that make you successful in business. Inspiring people know how to sell and market their message, for the betterment of those who read them.
Besides just having those skills, making a lot of money can help you make the biggest difference possible. The more power and influence you have, the more people you can help.
Being well-intentioned is great, but it doesn't count for much if you can't get it out of yourself and into the world. Successful business is about taking an idea out of your head and bringing it to the world. The rules of our society mean that doing that means doing business, even if no money is being made.
- Fame: well-known and well-liked among my community of peers.
- Wealth: making more money than I can use myself, so that I have some material resources to give to others.
The New Aristocracy
When the only image you have of money and fame is sleazy, of course you’re going to want to avoid those things.
But a new kind of wealth has arisen, associated with free-spirited, independently wealthy leaders like Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillebeau, and Michael Ellsberg. These young, ambitious people are merging the adventuresome idealism of my generation with the wealth and influence of the social elite. And they are becoming successful by sharing the secrets with everyone else! What a concept!
They are a kind of aristocracy. They even have their own followings, much like medieval lords.
The difference is, they didn’t inherit their influence. They created it by following their own dreams of freedom and sharing them with others.
But (and it’s an important but) they didn’t deny the necessity of doing good business. They realized the importance of good marketing, strong sales tactics (with integrity), and maintaining a high valuation of their own work.
It’s good business, both in practice and in intent.
I have finally come around to wanting to be wealthy (it seems weird to think I actually didn't want that), so I’ve undertaken a self-education on the principles of business, starting with the books mentioned above. I started a small business to learn with that is currently going nowhere (though at least not costing me anything). I need a mentor, badly, as I see in myself a complete lack of understanding. Even with all the theory, I have no idea how to apply all that I’ve learned.
How do you feel about money, wealth, and fame? Do they inevitably corrupt, or can they come as the result of idealistic actions, and serve positive social ends? The answer still isn’t clear to me.