Alternative MBA: How to Get a $150,000 Education for $1.50

Status. Income. Network. Those are generally the three reasons most students give for getting an MBA. MBAs are now the most popular graduate program in the country. Well over 200,000 students will enter an MBA program each year. MBAs are now around 25% of all masters degrees earned in the US.

If everyone has one, is it still as valuable as it once was? Shouldn’t there be a better way? Can you get the income and network without effectively a two year vacation? That’s the goal of an Alternative MBA.

The return on investment for an MBA turns out to be pathetic. Seems like a giant joke to get the future business leaders of America to invest funds into a project that has a negative ROI. With the already inflated cost of education, adding in lost wages and the opportunity costs for the two years doubles the sticker price for most MBA programs. Take for example, Wharton or Standford, the true cost of an MBA can be $391K to $434K respectively. It means post graduation the increase in salary has to increase significantly to even breakeven over ten years. There has to be a better way.

“there’s no need to have a college degree…at all”
– Elon Musk

Reid Hoffman speaking to Peter Thiel on the Masters of Scale podcast explains, “I say, an MBA is a negative mark about whether or not I will invest — not overcomeable — but is a negative mark because it has this kind of, ‘I’m staying off the beaten path; I am reliably kind of going down this kind of path very similar to law school.'”

This brings in the Alternative MBA. It’s the business school for people who want a higher ROI. Even if you buy all the books in each of the lists, the ROI is both immediate and higher than any MBA program. Plus there’s no need to leave a job while you read all these books. This business school is 100% self-taught. There’s no entrance exam. There are no student loans. There’s no acceptance committee.  There’s no affirmative action. It’s 100% on you.

Business School = Curriculum * Case Studies + Network

Reading lists from some of the smartest people remains the curriculum, while case studies will focus on building a business, finally creating a network by creating something of value instead of networking.

Reading Lists (Curriculum)

13 of the Best Books on Strategy
Ah, strategy. From President Bush who coined the term ‘Strategery‘, to that VP who doesn’t seem to know or use any other word. Strategy is the effective approach to a goal. Any goal.  The better you are at strategy, the shorter the distance required to accomplish a goal. Strategy is about flexibility, options–putting people on the “horns of dilemma” because you have more strategic options available to pursue. Having multiple options nearly guarantees accomplishing at least one of the aims.

Why Do People Leave Companies? Management. 30 Books to Fix Bad Managers
“Managers are overconfident about their skills—and the worse they are, the better they think they are,” explains Adam Grant, author of both Originals and Give and Take.

Getting Things Done. Execution Methods
An HBR article’s title summed up the importance of Execution, “Smart Leaders Focus on Execution First and Strategy Second” This list of books focuses on building an executional foundation where strategy assists.

19 Best Marketing Books for Explosive Growth
It looks easy. And setting up an ad account is easy. Reading the case study with 33 tactics is easy. What’s not easy remains getting traction and finding the one channel. There’s also the issue of nailing positioning for a core group of customers. From there doubling down on what’s working. That’s the hard part. These books allow you to pour a foundation to build tactics and strategy on top of.

11 Books to Unlock Your Financial Wizard Mind
Warren Buffett became a better businessman after he became a better investor. But it also works in the reverse, becoming a better businessman means becoming a better investor. Learn from the financial titans in this collection of books to sharpen and unlock your financial wizard.

21 Books Will Show You How Successful People Make Decisions Differently
If decisions shape destiny, then learning how to make decisions improves the ability to shape destiny. These 21 books will show you how successful decision making happens. Learning strategies for better decision making could impact real-life outcomes more than IQ.

Communicating: The Art of Persuading, Moving and Getting People to Take ActionThis list of books will increase your ability to communicate–to get people organized, inspired and willing to take massive action in the right direction. It’s a list of three different communication skills: writing well, speaking well, and having direct 1-on-1 conversations.

10 Books on Startups that Will Make You a Better Founder the First Time
Startups success needs to have better odds. Even if you plan on starting a lifestyle business or a billion-dollar business. This list, created by listening to a ton of Tim Ferriss podcast guests, reading what others have recommended and then trying to boil it down to the best 10 books. This list will help founders increase his startup RBI.

10 Books That Will Help You Understand How Smart People Deal with Difficult People
It’s a contact sport. Business problems are people problems in disguise. This list helps both. Dealing with people isn’t a new problem. It’s been the same for more than 2,000 years. These books help show how smart people deal with difficult people.

68% of Self-Made Millionaires Read Biographies: Study History to Find Out What Works
Wealth and great careers are built on experiments, mistakes, and failures. Minimizing failure means figuring out what works faster and creates wealth faster. What better way to study and avoid past mistakes than reading biographies.

How to Manage a Career
There’s more to managing a career than asking for a promotion or hopping over to a new job with more responsibility. This list focuses more on who’s behind the career and becoming the person you need to be to have the job you want.

Business Schools Fail at Ethics: 9 Books to Build Moral Fiber
Ethical failures from MBA kids has been detailed by Edward Queen has he writes, “when business students are presented with an ethics case, that is a case where they have been told that there is an ethical problem, 20 percent to 30 percent of the students cannot find or identify the ethical issue.” That’s on top of studies suggesting Business school kids are more likely to cheat on tests. Here’s how to build a belief system that creates an ethical foundation.


Case Studies

A Full List Of The Best Ecommerce Case Studies (63+ Examples!)

A list of case studies to build your muse or a larger business. Learn from different challenges and how the founder overcame those obstacles.

How I Imported Gaming Glasses With Alibaba and Made $2,416.51 in 5 Weeks

Getting started might be the biggest challenge for most. This case study offers an in-depth look at how to get started and make a profit in a little over a month.


I always enjoy connecting with people. Check me out on LinkedIn. Below are two posts arguing for people to use a different method for building a network by not networking.

Good News for Young Strivers: Networking Is Overrated

If the very thought of networking makes you throw up in your mouth, you’re not alone. Networking makes us feel dirty — to the point that one study found that people rate soap and toothpaste 19 percent more positively after imagining themselves angling to make professional contacts at a cocktail party. Just reading that research made me want to take a shower.

Yet we’ve all been warned that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Success is supposed to come to the suave schmoozers and social butterflies.

It’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network.

How to Build a World-Class Network in Record Time

“The below audio is a presentation I recently gave about a better, more effective way to network. My suggestions might surprise you or seem counterintuitive–the best way to build a world-class network quickly is to spend very little time networking, at least not in the “ugh, gross” sleazy sense of the word.”