How to Learn to Be an Entrepreneur Without Wasting Money on College

How to Learn to Be an Entrepreneur without Wasting Money on College

Saying that college is necessary to becoming successful in business is like saying that college made Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all time or that John Mayer is a great musician because he went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Sure, college didn't hurt them but each of these guys achieved success in the same way most entrepreneurs do, by improving on their craft outside of the classroom.

No one buys John Mayer CDs because of his degree and Robert Kraft isn't going to ask Tom Brady what his GPA was when it comes time to renegotiate a contract extension. Those guys made themselves valuable in a way that college couldn't possibly do for them. 

No one is going to buy into your business because of your academic credentials, so why waste 4 years of your life and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars chasing a line on a resume no one will ever read?

If you're 10,000% committed to entrepreneurship, skip college.

Yes, I said it. 

You can always go back later. I promise, as long as they are making money there will be colleges until the day you die (they'd let you attend post mortem if possible too). 

If you've already graduated from college, don't sweat it, I did too. The curriculum I'm about to show you will teach you the things that college didn't, or at least, the things that you'll actually be ready and able to apply in the near future. 

These books will make you a money making machine. That is of course, if you apply the principles with intensity and consistency. 

About the Entrepreneur's Self-Education Curriculum 

I had a person in mind while I was writing this article. The person was the 18 year old son of my mom's best friend. 

He decided he wasn't cut out for college and wanted to learn business. Since my mom, like any good mom might, bragged about my business success and how I was also "not college material," when I was 18, his mom wanted to see if I'd mentor him. 

I told them I couldn't do 1 on 1 at the time since I was pretty busy as it was and teaching someone in person is a big commitment. I didn't want to half-ass it. So instead, I decided to jot down a quick game plan he could follow and get a head start on learning entrepreneurship on his own. 

My thinking was that if he couldn't at least get started on these recommendations (mostly books) he wouldn't make it as an entrepreneur anyway. 

This article started out as that handwritten list of recommendations I was going to give him. Obviously, being a content creator, I felt if it was worth sharing with him it was worth sharing with all of you!

Here it is, my curriculum for learning entrepreneurship without college. 

Quick Note on Layout

I'm nothing if not stylish when it comes to my writing, so I decided to add a little flare to this article and make the curriculum resemble one that you might find at a traditional college. I've broken the curriculum into categorized sections:


  • Work Study (The Most Important Part!
  • Pre-Requisites
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Outsourcing
  • Customer Service
  • Management/Leadership
  • Communication
  • Productivity and Time Management
  • Sales and Marketing

I truly believe if you learn and apply the concepts in these books you will increase your chances of business success well beyond your degree wielding friends. 

Work Study

I drove by my old high school with my wife a few weeks ago and I noticed some guys out in the front of the building picking up garbage. My wife thought they looked way too young to be doing court ordered community service or anything like that so she asked me what they were doing.

I said, "Oh yeah, that's the work study guys. Freshman do it to make money for school if they can't afford it."

She asked how I knew that. I said, proudly, "Because I did it!"

For me to attend my high school, it was mandatory that I did some of this "work study" each summer. It consisted of scrapping gum off chairs, cleaning ceilings (yes, they get dirty too) and other random things. 

Honestly, the "study" part of the whole thing was a bit ironic because I wasn't learning anything except the value of hard work, or, something like that...

I'm about to give you a bunch of books to read BUT they are worthless if you aren't constantly working on businesses in the background. 

So, your work study is to continually work on a business or multiple businesses. Don't worry, if they succeed, great, if they fail, that's great too. 

The books are great but you REALLY learn from doing. 

What will your work study be?

It can be anything...

  • Create a freelancing service
  • Create a blog or niche website and monetize it
  • Sell physical products on Amazon or eBay

Just work on SOMETHING in addition to the upcoming books that makes money or teaches you skills that will help you make more money. 

Simple. 

Now, the books...

Pre-requisites

These books help lay the framework for the entrepreneurship mindset. They don't include as much techno-babble or application as some of the other books we will cover later but they will get your mind right for what's ahead. 

Hopefully after reading these, you'll start noticing different possibilities and opportunities around you. You should also feel inspired to go out and take tons of action. 

The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

The most highly talked about book in the entrepreneurship/lifestyle design arena since its release in 2009. There are certain aspects that I disagree with, but this is by far the most original, game-changing book I have ever read on lifestyle design and creating small but efficient and lucrative businesses. This is one of the books that I have read many times and I always seem to learn something new each time.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

This book is full of motivational insights from one of the most interesting men in the world. James Altucher has made and lost millions of dollars several times in his life and discloses what he has learned about life, business, and even personal relationships. This is a very powerful book for anyone interested in improving their lives, but particularly for people like you and me who want to leverage entrepreneurship to poll vault the commonly accepted 9-5 grind. 

The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg

This book further stirs the debate of which method is most conducive to success, formal schooling or something else. You know how I feel about college and entrepreneurship but Michael Ellsberg eloquently explains why you shouldn't feel bad about skipping college in lieu of something better (like this curriculum you're reading). 

Accounting

I've always thought it was weird that we learned how to do math that only has application on the space program yet weren't taught anything about basic accounting or taxes. 

I loved accounting in college but honestly, it didn't prepare me for the types of accounting work I'd be doing for myself when I was a new entrepreneur.  

Small Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes, and Stay Out of Trouble by Bernard B. Kamoroff C.P.A.

I do not recommend attempting professional services like accounting on your own without professional assistance, but it is in your best interest to brush up on current practices so you can better discuss with whoever you work with.

This book is not intended to replace a CPA! That is the best source of tax/accounting related information. Remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

Finance

You can spend a fortune on a college degree that promises to help you earn money but never teaches you a thing about how to keep it or make it grow. 

I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

This is not your typical finance book. Ramit has great insight into saving money without losing your mind. His approach focuses on cutting expenses on the things you don't care about (for instance premium cable) and then going all out on the things that you love like your hobbies and passions.

Economics

My second college degree was in economics (my first was in art and I wear it like a scarlet letter now) so these books hold a special place in my heart. 

I read dozens of books on difference economic theories but two really stuck out to me as applicable to entrepreneurs.

Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan

Get to the heart of economic principles without spending hours in lectures. We read this book my senior year of college and I remember being genuinely excited to get to class to discuss it. Nerdy? Yes.

Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data by Charles Wheelan

Written in the same style as Naked Economics. A fun way to see real-life statistic principles in action. Whether it seems relevant or not now, having a grasp of statistics will help you as an entrepreneur when making sales and marketing decisions (among other things). 

Outsourcing

The closest thing to learning about outsourcing I got was a few human resources courses. Those books definitely didn't tell me where to find virtual employees (which is now almost a requirement in internet business) how much to pay them, how to manage their hours etc. 

Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker

This book changed the way that I look at outsourcing and building a team around my businesses. There are many highly actionable takeaways in this book and it is impossible to not get something out of it.

Customer Service

Unless you worked at a coffee shop part time on campus, you likely didn't learn much at all about creating a great customer experience. 

As an entrepreneur, you need to provide wold class customer service. 

Raving Fan by Ken Blanchard

At the heart of every lasting, successful business is fantastic customer service. This book is a must-read for anyone who works with customers in anyway (hint: everyone does!)

Management/Leadership

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

This book nails what being a great leader is all about.

Entreleadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is a financial guru and personal idol of mine. He is eccentric, but I enjoy that. This book draws on his years of experience building and nurturing highly effective teams and growing leaders beneath him.

Communication

The Art of Public Speaking

The ability to stand and deliver in front of an audience is a game-changing skill. This is one I am focused on right now.

This book is full of great, highly actionable tips for anyone looking to persuade others to their point of view. Get your point across without being confrontational or a pushover.

Sales and Marketing

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk

There are few people on this planet that understand marketing and customer service like Gary Vaynerchuk. This book shows how to give value to the point that selling something is welcomed full-heartedly. I know that this works because I will buy just about anything that Gary puts his name on.

Productivity and Time Management

Getting Things Done by David Allen

The recent update to his popular release in 2001. David Allen puts the process of human achievement and productivity into easy to understand steps.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

Real estate guru Gary Keller shares the principles that make him and those who work for him so successful. Warning, if you're a multi-tasker, this book will hurt your feelings!

A Final Word on Self Education

Just reading the following books means nothing.

Have you ever found yourself just going through the motions on a book? You're turning pages but nothing seems to be registering? Trust me, I do this constantly. What I do though is different: I go back and start over from where I lost focus. It sucks, but doing this helps prevent me from doing it often.

You need to read critically, apply regularly and revisit frequently.

Success in entrepreneurship (online and off) requires hundreds of hours of real world experience and selective, targeted learning. In my opinion, college is about over-learning, entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is about precision learning and developing the mindset and habits that are conducive to success.

Note:  I recommend re-reading good books before reading new ones if you aren't sure what to read next.

When you’re an entrepreneur your learning power is truly your earning power.

Remember, there is no alternative to application and practice. Brush up on the basics a business owner should know (mentioned above) but don’t waste too much time avoiding real world application. Focus most of your attention on your craft and how you can improve it, but these books will get you headed in the right direction.

About the author

Nate McCallister

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his two kids Sawyer and Brooks with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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