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The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business
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163 of 179 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2010
Having graduated from a top business school in Canada, I can safety say that I could have thrown out all my textbooks and used the money I spent on tuition to actually START a business, and used this book as a replacement to my business education.

What makes this book warrant such a strong statement is the fact that it's a comprehensive synthesis of all of the concepts you need to know to understand business inside and out. There are no complex models to learn or outdated theories to memorize just to get marks or pass tests. What you get is a comprehensive set of "mental models" or heuristics on all of the sub parts of creating, operating and working within a business. Why is this important? Because a mental model is like a rule of thumb for any possible scenario you might encounter in running a business - from value creation to delivery to marketing to finance. It helps you look at the world through the lens of what's most important (and thus no fluff to distract you) which ultimately helps you to ask the right questions and ultimately helps guide you to make the right decisions about maneuvering in business. These principles are universal and applicable for small business start ups to Fortune 50 CEOs because they're based on business fundamentals (the mental models) and not just tactics found in most other books.

In addition to a sound business knowledge what this book has is a very extensive section on working with yourself and with others. Achieving great strides in business is sometimes less about knowing the business aspect but more about conquering yourself - either with productivity, with working with people or with overcoming doubts and fears - all things I'm finding out as I work on my own venture. After having read dozens of psychology and self help books I can also say without a doubt that the section on working with yourself trumps them all. Josh delivers a well researched practical guide to understanding how you brain works and how to work with it rather than against it, so you can actually go ahead and apply the concepts in the rest of the book.

Highly recommended if you wish to know more about business, are thinking of starting your own business, or are thinking about joining an MBA program to climb the corporate ladder. Buying this book could end up saving a mortgage worth of student debt, so what have you really got to lose?
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182 of 201 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2011
The following is just my synthesized version of the first chapter.

Why?
So you know just what you need to know, gain confidence that business fundamentals are master-able and can be self-taught.
Improve and acquire new mental models to help you understand how businesses work (see Charles T. Munger)
Because the author spent a lot of time synthesizing material from a wide range of sources (there's a lot of junk out there)
Because Seth Godin and Lifehacker.com approve (and you read about it on reddit and digg)
Because a real business degree is usually a bad investment (there's a study that says so)
Because the material taught in most MBA schools is outdated and impractical (think "How to be an Industrial Age Captain of Industry")
Sometimes they even teach you the wrong stuff - see "direct incentives" and the book Drive by Dan Pink
Also, you don't have to build a behemoth to build a viable business
And number-crunching skills are not business-running skills. Create value, flam fraud.
And because small businesses are the new big business, holmes. Small, agile and lean companies are going to make your lunch and eat it.
But don't expect business schools to change until they feel the burn of mass rejection.
The one thing business schools can do is get you an interview
Cue Admiral Ackbar "It's a trap!" anti-college debt rant
Strum that familiar refrain: If you're smart enough to get into business school, you're smart enough not to need it.

What'll you'll learn (p. 32)
- how businesses work (ch 2-6)
- how people work (ch 7-9)
- how systems work (ch 10-12
You won't learn much about managing people (see chapter 9)
You won't learn much about managing money (read Accounting Made Simple and Essentials of Accounting, the McGraw-Hill 36 Hour Course in Finance for Nonfinancial Managers and How to Read a Financial Report)
You won't learn much about crunching numbers (read Principles of Statistics and Turning Numbers into Knowledge)

That's it. You're welcome.
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79 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2011
Unfortunately, the title may limit the market to "business" people. But we are all in the business of managing and selling ourselves no matter what our occupation.

The president of a major food chain told me, "We hire English Majors. They know how to speak and write. We can teach them all they need to know about our business in six months. The business schools are five years behind what is happening in our marketplace."

Josh Kaufman has produced more than the brightest, shiniest new thing. His book deals with today and the future. Targeted and concise but not too abreviated.

The collection of quotes used to start each section is worth the price of the book.

Find a section you want to share? Each section has a link for forwarding. Some sections offer more detail by logging on to the link given.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 15, 2011
Of the many reviews I have written here, writing a review for this text was among the most difficult because "The Personal MBA" has a large target market consisting of a wide variety of potential readers, and the vast majority of reviews here are very positive. Because of this situation, I fall back on my review philosophy, which is to write as objectively as possible, taking into account the claims of the author in terms of their goals, as well as comparing to other materials in the marketplace. What is not necessarily fair is to write solely based on my knowledge or experience, which often times does not match the backgrounds of the target audience.

Admittedly, this text is very well written. The writing style and organization of Kaufman contributes greatly to readability, and I enjoyed this aspect of this book. Many business works have a lot of fluff, and in general most of this text provides substance that will be appreciated by many readers. In addition, the history behind this book is interesting in that it came about as a natural step after the author created a heavily visited blog listing books and resources he had found valuable in his studies, so readers can be assured that this text was not written from an ivory tower perspective but resulted directly from reader interest.

The author writes at length in his first chapter as to why this book should be read. It is not easy summarizing this chapter in a few short sentences, but Kaufman mentions that what he provides here is "a set of foundational business concepts that you can use to get things done. Reading this book will give you a firm foundation of business knowledge you can use to make things happen. Once you master the fundamentals, you can accomplish even the most challenging business goals with surprising ease." Later, the author calls this text "a self-directed crash course in business", and provides an extensive discourse as to why the traditional MBA does not provide significant value.

Neither the author nor myself has an MBA, although we have both gone to business school (and I also have a graduate degree). While I cannot speak for the author, in my opinion there is substantial material in this text to provide to the business neophyte. However, I was unfortunately not overly impressed with the material Kaufman provides after chapter 6, which is midway through the book. The author makes up on this aspect to some extent by providing an appendix entitled "How to Continue Your Business Studies" that lists dozens of texts in a variety of business topics, although this list serves as a reminder that, as communicated in the introduction, what the author provides here is an introductory text.

If you do not have time to read this whole text, I recommend reading chapter 2, entitled "Value Creation" on creating value for customers. The summary that the author provides on the "Twelve Standard Forms of Value" (product, service, shared resource, subscription, resale, lease, agency, audience aggregation, loan, option, insurance, capital), for example, is very well done. The "Ten Ways to Evaluate a Market" is also especially well done. The author obviously summarizes and synthesizes material from disparate sources very well, but the reader needs to be aware that much of the content provided is just that, a CliffsNotes-styled survey of what the author has determined is fundamental to studying business.

From the perspective of a consultant, be aware however that this material is sometimes overly summarized and synthesized. For example, in his 3-chapter presentation on understanding systems, analyzing systems, and improving systems, many important topics are glossed over, and unless the reader understands the substance that is waiting for them within the reading lists the author provides, they may minimize the importance or complexity of the topics. For example, the definition that the author provides for "Return on Investment (ROI)" is limited to "simply dividing the amount of money you collect by the amount of money you spent, then subtracting by 1.00."

However, there would be no need for texts such as "The Consultant's Scorecard: Tracking Results and Bottom-Line Impact of Consulting Projects", by Jack Phillips (see my review), where several ROI calculations are detailed at length, if this calculation were so simple. Fortunately, Kaufman points the reader in the right direction, and presents in an entertaining manner, and so this book is recommended to anyone new to business topics, especially aspiring entrepreneurs. One of the best features of this text are the many quotes from other sources that introduce each of the subtopics in the 12 chapters provided here, and for this reason alone this book is worth a read.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2011
I was not familiar with the formal movement of "The Personal MBA", but I was curious when I saw this book advertised. I finished my MBA in 2007 and had the good fortune of having my company reimburse me for the costs. This was an experience and process I feel will serve me well. As my MBA education lasted me two years, I finished knowing I did not know everything about business and all of its core elements (I still had a lot to learn).

Since I have finished I have followed the philosophy of personal learning and trying to improve key skills related to the art of business. This book is a good starting point and has some good references and passages I found interesting. I did not find the chapters on Finance, marketing, sales, or the Human Mind overly helpful (probably in this order) as they operate at the highest level and cover the most basic elements of each core competency.

The areas I found most helpful were Value Creation, Value Delivery, Working with Yourself, Analyzing Systems, and Improving Systems. The last passage from B.C Forbes and Appendix B are great. Each short, but I found these to be the most thought provoking parts of the book.

The reading list is good, but some really important books are missing that may help further one's "business education". Think about what you need to learn and create your own list of 100 books (some from Josh's list would certainly be included).

As people have noted this will never replace the value of a formal business education, but will be a value reference for people who need business skills to complement their hard skills and don't need to go through 2-3 years of rigorous training, plus the potential expense and opportunity costs.

I would have liked to see core areas like project management and quality discussed further along with IT and related subjects. Maybe tie together business and IT as the book had this potential, but fell a little short (but in truth, this was not the author's objective).

All in all, the cost of the book was minimal and provided a lot of food for thought and directions to follow and explore. This may even be a recommended read for those entering business school and those who just finished.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2011
First of all, let me say this, I do not generally review books publicly, partly because I am not that much of a cheerleader type person and secondly, there are not that many books that I come across that have me jumping out of my seat because it gave me a huge "a-ha moment".

I bought this book because I had come across the author's recommended reading list on the web. I wanted to enhance my knowledge base of business means and methods, what I did not realize when I bought the Kindle version was how much information about everyday life I would also be gaining! I have read some disparaging comments regarding how the information is presented or how much is being charged for the electronic version as compared to the hard cover, obviously these individuals are more concerned more with what they have to give up than what they are receiving.

Two reasons I can see for the brevity of the topic chapters, Josh gets right to the point on a particular topic; what it is, why it is important and how best to utilize it. Keeping it short so that we can move on to the next topic of information, he is utilizing the novelty principle to keep the reader engaged. Secondly, with the wealth of information that the author is sharing, if he wasted words to fluff up each chapter, we, the readers would be burdened down by trying to digest and understand a 1200-1600 page encyclopedia tome (I had to look up that the paper book is 416 pages).

This book is one of those great books that you will go back to over and over again using it as a resource to continually streamline and upgrade your personal and business systems. You might even want to flowchart or mind map the book to allow yourself to have a tool that will help you address and deal with any challenge or issue that you may face in the future.

I do not even know how many times I have text, tweeted, told and email my friends and family about this book, it is that good. Just the sections on "Working with Yourself" and "Working with Others" makes it an invaluable tool to smooth out our day to day interactions and head-scratching missteps.

Buy this book, read it and USE it, you won't be sorry.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2011
As a voracious reader of business books and cheap skate, I go to torrent sites to look for e-books. So I came across the Personal MBA manifesto pdf. Read it, made sense and didn't contradict other great business sources. So I went to the website. Saw the reading list... every book on the list that I read (many of them), were top-notch definitely could tell time was put into the list, not just thrown together.

If you're thinking about going into business or going to business school to get a MBA, please do yourself a HUGE FAVOR and start your journey with this this book! You will save yourself a lot of money, time, and frustration. The book has the distilled knowledge (hard gained experience) from over a hundred amazing books, that you would would need to cull through thousands to find! So pretty much, Josh and his contributors are giving you a thousand-book head start, thank them for providing that value by buying this book! I bought this with my barnes and noble gift card for double what it is going for on Amazon and it is worth every penny!

If you like this review, please select that it was helpful. Thanks, Luke.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2011
Coming from a computer science background with no MBA, I wish I had read such a book when I ventured into business with a classmate back in college. While the end result was financially fulfilling, I believe we could have done things differently and more efficiently, in terms of sales, service, etc. I have since moved on to working in corporate America and learned a lot of the fundamentals laid out in this book through trial and error. After reading the book, I believe that anyone armed with knowledge contained will benefit greatly as an enterpreneur or a career person.

The material is solid and easy to grasp yet doesn't feel fluffy. It provides a good synthesis of various concepts, some of which can be readily applied before finishing the book. It also works well as a reference guide which the author suggested early on in the book. I will not rehash what is already mentioned on Josh's site as far as topics covered in his book. I do have two comments for the next edition - perhaps add a section on networking which I believe is useful in all aspects of business - such as working a salesperson or in management, etc. One of the major draws for MBA is networking. I'd like to hear how this can be applied from Josh's perspective of self-reliant learning. Another, albeit minor, is to provide a better mapping of the book recommendation list in Appendix A vis-a-vis the topics as laid out in the table of contents.

For the price it's selling in Amazon, this is a bargain. I have since been promoting this book to my friends and relatives who are starting in their careers. I trust it will serve them well.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2011
When you consider what else you can do with the $15 or so it costs to buy this book, the value proposition feels downright ridiculous. For $15 you can buy 3/5ths of a baseball cap, order a round of watered-down drinks or pick up a 1/3rd of a video game. Or, for the same price you can get over 350 pages of clearly explained, entertainingly presented, essential business concepts that will directly and meaningfully enhance your knowledge of business. If you're new to business, it will take the stark raving terror out of the process. If you're a veteran it will help you focus and enhance any venture you're working on and likely inspire more profitable ideas.

One of the many stories Josh tells in the book is of a hospital that incorporates simple checklists to prevent infections from developing in patients. These checklists include basic things like reminding doctors to wash their hands. Though almost laughably simple and obvious, the mere act of incorporating the checklists lead to the complete elimination of infections at this particular hospital. The Personal MBA book is the ultimate checklist for all business decisions - as an entrepreneur, investor or even as someone running your own career and household financial system. Anyone who reads this book will have a practical guide to avoiding financial catastrophe and identifying the most promising opportunities. If I had this book a decade ago I would have saved myself from a very unfortunate business experience that cost me over $50,000 in losses and limitless wasted energy.

Josh, who is stunningly still under 30 years-old, has a wisdom far beyond his years. He is fiercely intelligent and despite a very pleasant demeanor as a writer, he is a rebel in the best sense of the word. His tone is always moderate, respectful and his arguments are always meticulously researched, expertly and passionately presented. He talks softly but he carries a big intellectual stick. Make no mistake about it. The title of this book is not a gimmick. He thinks business school is a terrible investment and clearly has walked the talk, building a successful career without it. He has a gift for simply articulating complex concepts and has a deep-seated passion for analyzing systems, particularly the workings of the human brain. His tone is never cloying, condescending, egotistical or obnoxious - as so many heinous business and management book titles are. He presents his views with an inspiring confidence that will fuel your business or business-to-be. While reading it I constantly had to put the book down to jot down new ideas.

Think of it this way. After absorbing what Josh calls the "mental models" in this book you will find the world of business presenting you with opportunities everywhere you go. It is a lot like buying a car and then seeing that model everywhere. As you adopt the mental models into your own thinking you will feel a shot of inspiration and be empowered to act thoughtfully, and confidently. I recently interviewed for a job and couldn't help but notice interactions that were playing out exactly as described in the book. You know that scene in The Terminator, where Arnold Schwarzenegger sees a menu of options scroll down before his eyes? And he chooses his response from that list? This book is like having a long list of useful ideas to pull from as you make decisions.

The concepts articulated in The Personal MBA helped me make progress as an entrepreneur (launched a Website that made a modest profit last year), landed a job in a completely different field that I enjoy and moved to a city better suited to what I really want. I highly recommend making the Personal MBA (both the site and the book) a major part of your studies. The risk is you spend $15 and sell it for say, $8, and lose seven bucks. The potential reward is you create a business you love, earn massive profits, increase your opportunities, avoid disaster and contribute something meaningful to the world through your business. If there's a better risk/reward profile for a $15 investment, I'd love to see it. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2011
Reading "The Personal MBA" was one of the most helpful and relieving things I've done while running my online venture. Having come from a non-business background, Kaufman's holistic approach and method of breaking down business concepts is easy to understand and insightful, and I often find myself remembering key principles as I make the daily decisions of my business. It's the fundamental business that you need to survive as an entrepreneur, not any of the fluff and platitudes that most business books give you. Each chapter has concepts and quotes to help you remember the business lessons and I particularly enjoyed the "Working with yourself" section, which shows Kaufman's sound experience and insight on what it means to work in business and run your own gig. The fact that Kaufman can see the whole picture, including the barriers of working with your own habits as a businessperson, makes this book that much more valuable beyond the core information he provides.

I wish I would have read this when I started my venture a year ago, and I highly recommend it to anyone who feels they need to understand business a bit better or if they're contemplating going to business school or starting your own company. It's well worth it and will save you the angst that comes from not knowing if you're doing it "right!" Kaufman shows you that you are and that you can, with this book.
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