My $40,000 DIY MBA

How I chose myself

Listen to an audio version of this article »

9 years ago, I considered going to business school. But I made a calculation that made me decide to do otherwise.

I considered going to business school because I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I saw my roommate go through the process of applying for schools, and — since I was newly unemployed, I figured it could be a good next step. The idea of learning all of the elements of business one-by-one was appealing.


I looked at my Ameritrade account, and I had about $130,000 in stocks. I felt very lucky. I didn’t have any debt, and I had bought GOOG and AAPL sometime around 2004.

I still don’t know what a good business school costs, but I figured it would cost me all of my money, plus two years of my life. Three, if you count a year of applying to schools.

I also figured that business school would be a great idea if I wanted to work up the ranks at Procter & Gamble, or be a consultant. I knew I didn’t want to do that, though.


I thought back to the reason I had this nice financial padding in the first place. In 2002, when I was living in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, everyone was house crazy. My boss would come up to my desk every day say “so, when are you going to buy a house?” My friends would parrot “it’s the best investment you can make!”

That didn’t make any sense to me. I was 23 years old, and living in a town I wanted to get out of. The best investment, I figured, was in myself.

So, with my $13.50/hr wages, I ate 80¢ Banquet frozen dinners every day, maxed out my 401k, and invested the rest of my money in stocks. I figured they were more liquid and portable than a house.


I had the luxury of this decision because I had decided to invest in myself. So, I doubled down.

I sold $40,000 worth of stock, and gave myself a year to just learn whatever I was curious about, and build whatever business interested me. I figured I’d learn more building a business and failing for a year than I would spending all of my money, and having my hand held for two years.

For good measure, I bought The Ten-Day MBA, which gave me a nice overview of what I was missing. I also started a brunch series, in which a select group of friends invited entrepreneurs to brunch. We had brunch with people like Sam Altman and Andrew Mason.


I’ve been self-employed ever since. Monetarily, was it the best investment I could have made? If I had been interested in working at P&G, I doubt it. But, in terms of freedom to follow my curiosities and carve my own path, yes, 1000x.

Business school may be the right choice for you, or it may not. Just be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and not because it’s what everyone else is doing. There are other options. Choose yourself.

James Altucher will be on my podcast in November, talking about how to choose yourself. Subscribe so you don’t miss it »

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