I don't have an MBA.
Nor do I know what an MBA curriculum really looks like.
Which, of course makes me perfectly qualified to write this post...
I also just used this title because I thought more people would click on it.
When I started writing this I called it “100 things I didn't learn in business school.”
But I got too lazy writing all of these things down.
I studied business for five years.
Well, maybe even more.
I don't really remember.
Give or take a year or two.
I'm not saying this to brag about it.
I'm even a bit ashamed that it took me so long.
I was just really, really slow.
And because you don't have to pay tuition in Germany I wasn't really in a rush to graduate.
I was constantly working jobs on the side.
I never really went to any classes.
I just studied the material at home.
At one point I even had two jobs at the same time.
And then I tried to build and grow a business in China.
Which was a a huge failure.
But that's another story.
So what did I learn during those five years?
I don't know.
I really don't know.
But I still passed all the exams.
And the first time I went out there into the real world I realized that I didn't learn a hell lot of things that I probably should have learned.
Things you just don't learn in class.
Things you can probably only learn out there in the fields.
By the way I'm not bashing any business schools. Or universities in general.
I just felt like writing down all of the things that I haven't learned back then, that I had to learn the hard way, which are pretty damn important these days.
Also, I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to go to university.
That I was born in a country where you can get a world class education basically for free.
Whatever it is that you do with it.
An opportunity that not a lot of people get these days.
Even though I don't really remember anything I've learned during those five years or use any of these things today.
I'm grateful nonetheless.
Because if I didn't go to university, I would never have ended up in China.
And if I never ended up in China, I would never have started a clothing company.
And if I never ended up in China, I would probably never have started writing.
And then you would probably not be reading this post right here or anything else I ever wrote.
Now whether or not that's a good thing is not up for me to judge.
That being said, nothing I do today has anything to do with the things I've learned during those five years...
# YOU GET A DEGREE TO GET A JOB
And not to build a business. When you study business you learn how to become an employee. And not how you build a business. Nothing wrong with that. But I'm not sure if a lot of people are really aware of that. I don't even think you really learn how to manage an already running business. So what do you learn? The theory. And nothing else....
# THEORY ISN'T THE REAL WORLD
When you're out there and you're trying to make business with Chinese factory owners or anyone else as a matter of fact or when you're trying to sell your stuff online none of the theories will hold true. When two human beings (or one human being and a company) interact with one another there are so many things you have to take into account. The other person's past, good and bad experiences, culture, emotions, available budget, time, what's going on in their families and on and on and on. Everything. Just like someone a lot smarter than me once said: “human beings aren't rational.” So why is that? Because of all of the above...
# CREATING SOMETHING
I didn't learn how to create something out of nothing. All I learned were some crazy abstract models for hypothetical businesses that only exist on paper. But was I able to create anything? No, not at all. And this is probably the most critical skill in the 21st century. Creating something out of nothing. But not just how to create something. But how to create something the market wants and is willing to pay money for. The world doesn't need more managers. The world needs people who are able to build something out of nothing. With nothing...
# DVERSIFYING YOUR RISK
All I learned was to get a good education, then get a good job and then I should just keep looking for opportunities where I could work for someone else for the rest of my life and all will be good. But that's a pretty risky bet. If you put all of your eggs into one basket and that basket breaks, you're pretty much screwed. You'll be too inbred. Or too old. Or what not. What do you do then? Jobs are disappearing and the world is changing. Maybe jobs will come back. But it'll be totally different jobs. Very different jobs. And one of the riskiest thing you can do in life, especially when you have a family and kids and maybe even a mortgage is to bet on one single thing. Even worse, when it's something you can't really control. You don't decide about the future of your job or career. Your boss does. And his boss. And then her boss. And if you're very unlucky, the shareholders...
Marketing? We'll pay someone to do it. Sales? We'll hire someone to do it. Strategy? We'll hire someone to do it. Designer? We'll hire someone to do that. Looks good on the paper. But what do you do when you don't have a budget? When you don't have investors? When sales don't come in and you can't pay anyone to do it? Well, here's what you'll have to do. You'll have to learn how to do all of these things yourself. And co founders who are willing to learn all of these things. Over the past couple of years I taught myself how to screenprint t-shirts. How to use a sewing machine. How to use illustrator. How do edit videos. How to do Wordpress websites. How to do email marketing. How to do copywriting. How to create sales funnels. And on and on and on. And nothing I do today has anything to do with the things I learned during those 5 years.
# RAISING MONEY IS DEBT
The only thing I learned is that when you have an idea that you think is good (whether or not that's really the case), you write a business plan, you raise money and that's it. You're good for life. Putting aside that this concept doesn't work anymore, raising money from other people is debt. That's all it really is. And it's never a good idea to borrow money from someone for a project that doesn't even have any real world market validation yet. Like people transferring money to your bank account. It's never a good idea to take money from someone who wants a 10x return on their investment. Or sometimes even 100x...
I didn't learn anything about creativity. How to come up with ideas. And even more importantly how to put them out there into the world. How to make them spread. How to come up with even more ideas to execute the initial idea. How to go from zero to one. And then, how to go from 1 to 100. And then how to go from 100 to 1000. And on and on and on.
# AFFILIATE MARKETING
I've never heard of affiliate marketing during my studies. Still, that's how most websites out there are making money these days. They get a cut from everything you buy on their site. When you book a flight on that flight search website, that website gets a cut from the airline. When you book a hotel on that hotel booking website, that website gets a cut from every hotel booking you make. This is such an important concept in today's world. Still, I had never heard anything about this in business school...
If you're among some of the lucky ones like me who failed a few exams you sort of get a feeling of how to deal with failure. But that's nothing compared to what's going to happen in the real world. When your project totally fails. When you have to shutdown that business. Or when your life seems to be falling apart.
# BUILDING YOUR BRAND
This is probably one of the most important things. Just like every other thing on this list. And when I say building your brand I don't mean creating a CV with tons and tons of nice sounding names on it. No, what I'm talking about here is how do you get people to know you even BEFORE you send them your CV...
# DIVERSIFYING YOUR INCOME STREAMS
I didn't learn anything about the concept of multiple streams of income. I haven't even heard of it. But I think it's such a critical concept to make people understand as early as possible. It's a very simple concept. The more things you start working on early in your life, the more things will work out. And the more things that work out, the less dependent you'll be on one income stream only. Sure, it takes a lot of time. And it's a lot harder than simply applying for a few jobs. And getting a new job once that old one is gone. But it really is the only way to diversify and spread your risk.
# BLENDING IN
I've learned how to pass tests by putting in insane amounts of information into my brain that I haven't even used just once over the past 6 years since I graduated. Things that I forgot the second I left that exam room. But what I didn't learn is how to stand out. How to not compete with billions of other people out there who are putting the same exact same information into their brains.
I didn't even know what this was when I graduated from university. But I realized that this can be the difference between selling a product for $100 instead of $10. It all comes to this. And nothing else...
Being an entrepreneur or starting your own business isn't about freedom. As a matter of fact it's the complete opposite. When you work a job you have a boss. And then your boss has a boss. And on and on and on. And no one really knows where that money comes from that pays your salary. And no one really cares about your salary. Because they're not paying you out of their own pockets. It's magic company money. It's just there. On the other hand, when you take money from an angel investor, from a VC or from your customer you usually take their own money. And they care a lot about their hard earned dollars. So instead of having a boss who doesn't give you his own money, you'll replace it with money from people who will give you their own hard earned dollars. And that's a totally different story...
# REAL WORLD MAKETING
I didn't learn anything about how to build something from scratch without having a budget for marketing. When you have to hustle. When there's no one who's funding your marketing. When all you can do is to put out your work. I never heard about the concept of content marketing before. The type of marketing that doesn't need a single cent, but it's probably the most effective way of creating something out of nothing. It's probably the most effective way of marketing anything these days...
# GETTING PEOPLE'S ATTENTION
You don't learn how to get people's attention. If I wrote 22 things I didn't learn at business school, you would probably have skipped it. So I just wrote down whatever I wanted to. To make it sound more appealing. And that's how you get people's attention. Which brings me to the next point...
# YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT TO
It doesn't really matter whether or not someone has ever done this before. Whether or not this is right or wrong. Whether or not that's not the way things are done here. As long as you do stuff that no one else is doing, as long as you try to create your own rules (without breaking the law), you can do whatever the f*ck you want.
# HOW TO TURN A "NO" INTO A "YES"
You'll get plenty of “Nos.” As a matter of fact, it'll probably be 99 “Nos” for a single “Yes.” And the only way to tun a no into a yes is to stop asking people for permission. And instead do it on your own. Don't ask for people to write on their blogs. Start your own instead. Don't ask people if you can work for them. Work for yourself instead. And one day people will come to you and ask you to work with them. True story. I've seen it myself over and over again...
I didn't learn a damn thing about sales. How to sell a real human being something that I've created. Sure, when you're an employee you don't really need to do that. You just create a product that your marketing and sales guys will then try to sell to already existing customers. But how do you sell stuff if you're starting from scratch with no customer base and without a big brand name or any budget? That's the real challenge these days. Everybody can create stuff. But selling is a whole different story. No one ever told me that.
You have to focus. Otherwise you'll never make it. That's what they say. But how the hell do you know what to focus on? How the hell do you know what works and what doesn't? Well, you have to unfocus first. You have to get out there on the market and figure out what works and what doesn't. Do as many different things as possible until you find that one thing. And once you know what really works, once you've found that one thing, then you can start focusing...
# BUILDING AN AUDIENCE
When you don't have an audience, when no one knows who the hell you are, when no one trusts you, when no one knows your brand, well then the truth is that no one is going to buy anything from you. The most critical thing these days is to know how to create and build demand in the real world. How to create an audience. A community. But it's probably also the toughest thing out there. You have to build a community before you build a solution. That's the only way you'll know what people are really struggling with. I didn't learn anything about that...
# PLANS ARE USELESS
All plans are based on assumptions. And nothing else. They don't have anything to do with the real world. The only thing that has anything to do with the real world is to get out there and see what the market does with your ideas, products, services or what not. Plans are fake progress. Doing is real progress...
# CASH IS KING
Sometimes I dream about the days where I had a paycheck coming in at the end of each month. This is real freedom. You never hear about the years and years of struggle. All you hear about is those folks who've built multi billion dollar companies. But you never hear about the ones who don't make it. You never hear about the dozens of times people failed before they got to where they are right now.
Strategies are a dime a dozen. But what really matters is the implementation. The execution. How you make things happen. And when all you've got is a strategy without being able to implement it and execute it, well then that strategy is pretty much useless.
# NOTHING IS PROVEN
Until the market says so...
Alright. I think I wrote more than enough.
And I can think of hundreds of more things that I didn't learn.
But I guess you get the deal...
The most important thing to realize though is that you don't learn how to build a business from scratch or how to build something out of nothing when you go to business school. Or any other program as a matter of fact.
You don't learn the skills.
And the only way you'll ever be able to learn all of these things is to put yourself out there, to start doing, to experiment, to figure out what works and what doesn't.
You can only learn these things by doing.
There really is no other way...