Josh Kaufman’s – The Personal MBA

As part of my reading for my Personal MBA, I am documenting my key lessons from The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business. It is not intended to be a summary or review, rather a reflection of how the book has influenced my thinking.

I love this book. Of course I do. It is perfectly aligned to my mindset, principles and ethos.

When building my prospectus, I came across “The Personal MBA” and now a significant amount of my extensive reading list for this year has been sourced from Josh’s recommendations.

It is an unfortunate consequence of the title, that it may limit itself to readers who were/are considering an MBA. It is much more than that. It meets an individual’s needs far more broadly than an MBA.

The “Personal” in the Personal MBA

The emphasis should not be on the “MBA” part of the title, but rather the “Personal” part. It crams key concepts from hundreds of books on business and personal development into one. I imagine that a lot of the personal development segments would not be seen in a typical MBA, which doesn’t make them irrelevant, to the contrary. We like to compartmentalise our lives, this is impossible (at least for me), the lines are too blurred.

The Sythensizer

Having read about many of the concepts before, there was very little new to me, instead it was an ideal refresher for ideas that had slipped from my recall. I immediately liked the style, feel and philosophy of Josh, as it aligns with my own thinking. He uses the same approach that I used with my book, we are both synthesizers by nature and he wrote his notes for himself, with a secondary consideration that they may be useful for others. He links concepts across topics to show how the pieces of the puzzle(s?) fit together.

According to Josh, the majority of business practice requires:

  • Common sense (thinking, not just doing!)
  • Simple arithmetic
  • A few important ideas and principles

I’d add that you may need to engage with people who take action and ownership, as well as think things through. From first principles being effective in doing business can then be summed up into 4-5 simple concepts.

You don’t need to know everything, provided that you know enough to get the broad picture. which then allows you to ask the better questions. If you can do that, it is enough to put you in the excellent category, in terms of performance at work.

The relatedness is often more important than knowledge and facts in play. Following a multi-disciplinary approach, this book will help short-cut your learning. If anything particularly piques your interest, you can read more extensively on that later. The book provides an awareness of concepts that would otherwise take years to accumulate.

The Borrowed Lecture Notes

Reading this book is like missing all the lectures at University and then grabbing someone else’s notes. Perhaps not as good as attending every lecture, but a hell of a lot quicker. The book is a primer and a filter. There is so much rubbish written and published, at times even quality and innovative ideas that could fit into a 2-3 page blog post, get dragged out to fill the length of a book. Which means they become repetitive, mundane and simply, boring. It follows then that 80% of the value is often in the first 20% of the book. When it takes too long to get concepts across it ends up being a terrible ROI and people can become fatigued in their love of reading and seeking knowledge. Longer books are not better.

When Woodrow Wilson asked how long he needed to prepare for a speech, he responded with one of my favourite quotes:

“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” – Woodrow Wilson

The Takeaway

Virtually everyone battling through their career in this increasingly competitive working world would benefit from reading this book. I read it as a primer and refresher, and no doubt will read/listen to it again (and again).

As a precursor for the Personal MBA, for those entering the working world or looking for a change in direction, take a look at my book:

Who Let Me Adult? – 20 Lessons I Wish I’d Learnt Before Entering the Working World


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