The Education Of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think And It’s Not Too Late – with Michael Ellsberg

Posted on Oct 28, 2011 - 9:30 AM PST

How do you earn money doing meaningful work that you love?

Michael Ellsberg is a professional author whose latest book is The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late. He also writes a blog for Forbes magazine on entrepreneurship.

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About Michael Ellsberg

Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Education of Millionaires, a bootstrapper’s guide to investing in your own human capital for success.

Raw transcript

Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Before we get started, tell me if you’ve got this problem. You’ve got a great product, but you’re not getting people to even try it, let alone buy it. Well, the problem is probably that you’ve got too much text on your site, but check out what these startups have done.

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All right. I’ve talked too fast and for too long. Let’s get right into the program.

My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. You guys know what we do here; I bring on entrepreneurs to talk about how they did it and to teach you what you can learn from their experiences.

Joining me today is Michael Ellsberg. The big question for this interview is how do you earn money doing meaningful work that you love? Michael Ellsberg is a professional author whose latest book is “The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late.” He also writes a blog for Forbes Magazine about entrepreneurship. Michael, welcome.

Michael: Hey, it’s so great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Andrew: You are actually not an entrepreneur. You and I talked about this in our pre-interview, but you’re thinking very entrepreneurially about writing and you’re interviewing entrepreneurs and you’re bringing back their lessons for other entrepreneurs. So I thought I’d bend the rules a little bit for this interview. I don’t want to be so rigid.

Let me ask you this first question. When did you earn your first million?

Michael: I have not earned a million, myself. I wrote a book called “The Education of Millionaires”. I spent the last two years traveling the country interviewing people who dropped out of college, who society probably said were going to end up flipping burgers or pushing a mop, and instead went on to become self-made millionaires, and even a few billionaires through building businesses.

Andrew: So, is the idea that someone’s who is reading this book will learn how to become a millionaire?

Michael: I think I wouldn’t have a lot of credibility, personally, to say: Here’s how you become a millionaire, but I do have a lot of credibility in that I, personally, have learned a lot from these people. I think we all can. My income has gone up quite a bit, particularly in percentage terms, from applying the lessons that I’ve learned from these people. But, not being a millionaire myself, I wouldn’t have a lot of credibility saying: Here’s how to become one.

Andrew: So, this is a book on how to earn a little bit more money by thinking like entrepreneurs?

Michael: It’s a book on how to apply the lessons of some of the most street smart people in the world into your own career and business, the result of which is very likely going to be more money, more business success, and more freedom. I’ve experienced that in my own life just from having learned from these people. Yeah.

Andrew: Give me the before and after. What were you earning before you did this research and learned from them, and what did you earn afterward?

Michael: I have quite a dramatic trajectory in this whole story. I’m 34 now. I’ve wanted to be a writer almost my entire life, since I was 15, really at the cusp of my adulthood. My whole adult life I’ve wanted to be a writer. As you know, it’s hard to make a living as a writer, and I went through almost my whole 20s in this kind of broke, wannabe writer phase. My first book was a memoir-ish type book. I had an agent for it. It got rejected 22 times. Some of the rejections were quite nasty; I still remember some of them.

There was a period where I was very broke. I actually moved to Argentina, not because it was some romantic getaway destination, but because it was literally what I could afford. I was earning like $8,000 a year on the cusp of my 30th birthday. At some point I realized, “OK. This isn’t working.” I wanted to meet the woman of my dreams. She’s not going to want to be with a guy who’s earning eight grand a year and has to live in the third world because he can’t live in America.

So, I got my act together in thinking, “I’ve got to turn this situation around.” Something that occurred to me was that I should be spending time around people who have money figured out. I had writing all figured out. Writing was great, but I didn’t have money figured out. So, I wanted to start spending time around these people and I got very fascinated about this subject about being around these street smart people. Just learning from them, getting them as my mentors, I’ve gotten very, very good at getting powerful, influential people to be my mentors, which is something we can talk about later in the interview.

I’m starting, obviously, from a very low base, but as I went through that process and started learning from these people, I went up from like eight grand, which is pathetically low for an adult to be earning, to 25 grand, which is still very low. I had two years which were 50 grand, which is starting to be… There are a lot of writers who’d like to earn 50 grand a year from their writing. I’m somewhat disorganized, I just got in my late 2010 taxes, I brought in $106,000 in revenue in one year and I spent some of that, so my net was close to $100,000, not quite.

Once you’re getting close to six figures as a writer, you’re in the top of the top there around writers earning money. Again, it’s not a millionaire. I’m not going to impress anyone with my incredible wealth with those figures, but I’m doing what I love. Everyday I’m living that clich?© that I don’t go to work. I wake up and I work my ass off, but it’s not work. I can’t remember the last time I did something professionally that I didn’t want to be doing. Everything I’m doing I love. So, to me, that is a form of wealth that actually doesn’t even have a price tag on it.

Andrew: Here’s a place where I’m actually going to get a lot of flack from my own audience because I’m going to disagree with them on this.

Michael: OK.

Andrew: They’re going to disagree with my point on this. I feel like congratulations that you’re able to earn money as a writer, which is not an easy thing to do. But then, to write a book with the word millionaire in the headline like you’re learning from these millionaires and you’re going to pass the lessons on, it feels a little bit like you’re over promising, promising something that you can’t deliver. You’re writing a book essentially on how to get rich quick and you haven’t done it yet.

Michael: Well, a couple things on that. One, if you’ve been in the publishing process, one thing you give up when you decide to get traditionally published is control over the title. They picked the title.

Andrew: But you’re also writing a blog on entrepreneurship for Forbes, and you’re not an entrepreneur either. One of my issues is – and I love your book and I’m going to go through all the points here, but I have to address this at the top because I think it sets up my feelings about this. I don’t have to always do interviews with people who especially agree with me and whose world view I share. In fact, I have to be challenged sometimes. One of the reasons why I invited you here is because I know that you’re willing to challenge me and you’ve got a strong point of view.

I feel like there are a lot of people dispensing entrepreneurship and business advice who aren’t entrepreneurs, who aren’t business people. There are a lot of people saying, here’s how to make it, and haven’t yet fully really made it. Why not wait until you’ve become an entrepreneur to write blogs about it.

Michael: I agree with you. There is a lot of that kind of crap out there. If you actually engage with my writing, I’m aware of that and I think you will see that there is very little that I write about that I haven’t done myself. You’ll notice, I’m not writing about raising multimillion rounds of VC or managing employees, or structuring venture investments. I would have zero credibility whatsoever writing on those topics, and I don’t. If you look at what I write about, it tends to be things like how to get out a rut. How to turn your life around.

I got out of a rut. I was in a major rut in my late 20′s and I have written quite extensively about that, and it wasn’t just financial. I was dealing with mental health issues, I was dealing with all kinds of personal issues and I legitimately turned my life around. My life at 34 is nothing like what it was four years ago. Financially I am on fairly solid ground right now. I’m in a great relationship, when I was a mess in that area. My health is in good shape. So, I tend to write about people who have turned their lives around.

Andrew: Why not focus a book and a blog and a message on either how to overcome mental health issues, or how to build strong relationships? Why focus on entrepreneurship?

Michael: I don’t mind any of this questioning, I’m glad that we discuss it openly. So, these people inspire me. I am a book author. I happen to have very good writing skills and I stand by the quality of my writing and my ability to engage an audience with my writing. Often times, people who know how to write and tell stories are very different than the people who go out and live these interesting stories. I am telling very interesting stories. I am basically telling one rags to riches story after the other of these people who, mostly were self made. None of them were born with wealth. Some of them were brought up in normal middle class circumstances, and became very wealthy. Others were brought up in absolute poverty and became wealthy.

These are people who I felt their stories needed to be told and they’re not writers. I would not necessarily trust any of the people that I interviewed to tell their own story in a very compelling way as writers. Maybe a few of them, but writers and entrepreneurs are kind of different bunch and I feel that if I can push back a little bit of you, if you think that there is value in entrepreneurs stories being told, it may not be the entrepreneurs themselves telling it because storytelling is it’s on skill that is different than going out and going in business.

Andrew: All right, fair enough. It’s true that when I do interviews with people, I have to sit and talk to them for sometimes an hour before an interview starts to help them tell their story well. To shift them away from what they think is the way to tell a story, from their resistance to telling their story and opening them up to understand that the world does want to hear their story and their experiences and not just a list of facts that they want to bullet out over an hour.

Michael: I’ll give you one more counter example on this. The book that I think is a very powerful book on sales and is widely regarded as one of the most powerful books on sales, “Spin Selling”, was written by a guy who’s an academic. As far as I knew, he didn’t have a background in sales. He was approaching it as an outsider studying what did all of the sales people who did well have in common. He became an expert on sales through studying them, but he started out as an outsider.

I think there is some value in having people who have a mind that’s really good at synthesis, as seeing patterns, at seeing the big picture, come in to a scene and tease out the common factors and present that in a really digestible way. That’s what this fellow Neil Rackham did in “Spin Selling” and it’s very widely regarded as one of the best books on sales ever written.

Andrew: All right, fair enough. I remember when I asked Robert Greene, the author of “Power”, a similar question, I said, “You’re not a guy who’s craving power or has any power in the world, right? You’re writing about how to become a dictator, how to become a world leader, and you’re an author. You’re a guy who loves to sit around and read books. You probably don’t want to talk to me as much as you want to sit around and read a book.” He said the same thing. Genghis Khan is not going to sit around and write a book about how he got powerful, but it’s up to guys like me who are bookish to sit and analyze his process. All right, fair enough, I think I have asked that question deeply and meaningfully enough, I now want to get into the bulk of this interview, into the meat of it and find out what you. . .

Michael: Please do. I like total, open dialogue is what I live for, so great.

Andrew: Good, you know what I’m always shocked by who’s upset by these kinds of questions that I ask and who’s not upset. You have a right to be upset, I feel, by the way that I just asked that question, because I ask in a very confrontational mode. I’ve asked others in a non-confrontational mode; people who are so open for debate-people who have reputations for being open to debate and afterwards they’ve ripped into me-I can’t believe you asked that kind of question.

Michael: Look, I’m . . .

Andrew: Look, I thought you told me in the pre-interview to.

Michael: I am an author of a book, it costs like what? This book costs like twenty-seven, twenty-eight bucks; that’s a chunk of change, so I think people. . .

Andrew: I’m not editing this interview, how much. . .I’m not editing this out. How much, what do they call it, royalties did you get for the book?

Michael: The advance was a hundred and thirty-five thousand and the way that works is its cut into quarters and I got a quarter upon signing the deal which was getting up on two and a half years ago. It was spring of 2009. I think that’s right. Yeah, spring of 2009. Then, you think it’s an advance which means you think you get the money up front, but I got that quarter, that had to allow me to write the entire book, it was getting kind of hairy towards the end. Then I got another quarter when they approved the manuscript. And then I just got my third quarter when the book came out and I’ll get a fourth quarter when the paperback comes back in a year.

Andrew: OK.

Michael: And each of those is deducted, by the way, I’m represented by a literary agent. The take fifteen percent before I even see any of that. So, it’s really like a hundred and thirty-five becomes a hundred and fifteen something around there and then divided by quarters. . .

Andrew: OK.

Michael: Which, if you look, again, there’s different definitions of success. I think by the standards of a lot of your viewers that’s very-that’s chump change. By the standard of book writing, in the top roughly five percent of all books that get advances from New York publishers; which is already a teeny, teeny little sliver of the pie, of books that are published, of all those books only around five percent get an advance that’s six figures or more. So, in my. . .

Andrew:. . . You know what, I’ve got to dig into the meat of this book and go into the seven topics of the book, but now you’ve shifted my direction to this and I can’t move on without asking you this question. . .

Michael: OK.

Andrew: Why you? How does Michael Ellsberg end up getting what the top five percent of authors get for writing a book?

Michael: Because I’m passionately devoted to this game. I’m. . .

Andrew: They’re all passionate, every frickin’ writer I see is passionate. You have to be passionate. . .

Michael: OK.

Andrew: . . .about writing and poetry because God knows the world is rewarding enough [??]

Michael: OK, but I would challenge you on that and I’m glad we’re having an open discussion. There’s a-I meet people every week-can I swear on this by the way, or not?

Andrew: Absolutely. Rip into it, this is why I can’t get featured on iTunes but I want the reality, so…

Michael: OK. I meet people every fucking week who say I want to write a book, and, there’s a saying in publishing “Everyone’s got a book in them and that’s where most of them should stay.” And, like, everyone, everyone wants to write a book and they always come to me and say how can I get my book published? And really, the honest answer is like play this game for twenty years. I’ve been playing this game since I was fifteen wanting to be a serious writer, and I studied everything there is to study about book proposals, how to write them. I made my living for five or six years as a freelancer writing book proposals for other people, helping them get book deals and I learned enough about the form of the book proposal as a marketing document to be able to start writing them convincingly for myself.

So I’ve just been playing this game very passionately for a long time and it’s not pretty for, I mean, I’m enjoying the fruits, relatively speaking, now, but you know, as I said there were periods in my twenties when I was-I had nothing going on. I had literally had to move to Argentina so I could eat. You know, that, I mean, that was how it worked. So, it’s a long term game.

Andrew: All right, so what you’re saying is that the reason you got paid that much is because you stuck it out where they didn’t and you were willing to go through the process that you have to go through, including write the proposals and-

Michael: I’ve paid my dues. I major-I mean this book it just came out like ten days ago, like this is my baby. I spent two years on this book but really I think of it as like a twenty year process.

Andrew: Hold it up in front of the camera, I got to tell you one of the best authors who I’ve ever interviewed was Keith Ferrazzi, I think he was-there you go so we can see it. I don’t want to put words or thoughts into his head, but I think he was a little bothered that he even had to do an interview with me because he’s Keith Ferrazzi. They guy should be above doing interviews with small podcasters on the Internet. But he was very nice. I think he even included me in his book because we met through some event that I’ve been in. Anyway, what he did was even though it wasn’t like Good Morning America, he still took it seriously.

He was in his hotel room and still took it seriously in there. He put his book right over his shoulder, positioned it clearly, he thought about the camera angle to make sure that even if I sucked as an interviewer, even if this was another place to be, you would see his book.

Michael: [??]

Andrew: [??] All right. Let’s get into this thing. I’m going to come back and I’m going to keep asking you questions that will divert away from my outline because one of the things that I’ve learned now as an interviewer because I’m so freaking bullheaded and, so, I have to go where I need to go type of personality that sometimes I miss the tangents that are more interesting and more useful than the path I initially went down. So, I’m going to allow myself and the audience will, I know, allow me and be glad that I’m doing this to go off the path here.

But let’s use the path as just a guide.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: All right. First thing you say is people need to know and you break down seven things that you’ve learned from all of these interviews that you’ve done with super successful people. One of the things that you want to highlight for the audience is the need to do meaningful work. As an example, you talk about a guy name Mike Faith. Where was Mike when he started out and where did he get to? What’s his story?

Michael: Sure. All the people I interviewed don’t have college degrees and I don’t have different stories around why they don’t. That was a common denominator. So Mike actually doesn’t even have a high school diploma. He was growing up in the UK and like almost everyone that I interviewed, he found school to be a complete waste of time. He had all of these plans and creative dreams, and he’s sitting there in school being told to memorize facts and not doing well in school. He just left at 15 which is roughly the equivalent of our sophomore year, roughly, equivalent in UK.

He just started building businesses and these were these very scrappy, nothing very glamorous, kind of scrappy type businesses. I think he even started door-to-door selling, nothing that is very glamorous or exciting. But he started getting scrappy business skills, like, sales, marketing, managing. He got involved, I think, buying foreclosed property and then reselling it, just these type of businesses. He basically have started earning a lot of money for a 15 and had his own car.

He was living on his own by the time he was 18.

Andrew: From real estate he was doing all of this?

Michael: Yeah. Then, I believe he got involved in, there was a real estate boom. It was sort of like a lot of people got very wealthy in US around 2004, 2005 and it was drawing all of these people into real estate. There was a boom like that, I think, in the UK, I think this was in the ’80s he got involved with it. He got his first million at least on paper by his early 20s. Then lost it all. I mean, again, real estate is kind of like an up, down thing, came to America with $1,000, said, “Well, what do you do when you’re broke and you have a dream?”

Andrew: He was broke and had just $1,000 left?

Michael: $1,000 in his pocket, came to America and started, again, these very scrappy businesses where he would, one of his businesses was selling . . . Apparently, you have . . . legally you have to post a poster with employment law, like, it says what . . .

Andrew: I know. I used to have that in my office. It’s the dopiest thing, but you’ve got to have it up, right?

Michael: Yeah. So he started a business selling these things and was selling, like, hundreds and thousands of them per quarter.

Andrew: Are those little signs telling employees what their rights are?

Michael: Exactly. This is the kind of opportunity he was following and he would always just look for these little areas where, like, some need wasn’t being met and he could just build a business and start meeting that need. So one of those things in his business, he was never to get proper headsets, like, phone headsets. You just had a lot of trouble with this problem; could never get the right one.

He thought, “You know, if I’m having this problem, a lot of people are probably having this problem.” So, he started headsets.com which is not, if not the largest, certainly one of the largest online retailers of phone headsets and does somewhere around $30 million a year, I believe, in revenue. The reason I put him in that chapter is that he has a very different relationship to risk than most people who are considering starting a business. I think probably most of your viewers are more familiar with this way of thinking. But, most people who have never started a business, they hear the idea of starting a business and they see just ruin. They say, “Wow, if this doesn’t work out they’re going to be out on the streets. I’m going to have to mortgage my home. My kids won’t have a future.”

He from a young age accepted that there was going to be a lot of failure, and he did have a lot of failures, and he landed flat on his ass and was broke at one point. He says very explicitly in my book, “That was my college. Learning to deal with those failures and overcome them, that was my school. It was a very effective school. They’d call it the school of hard knocks.” He just accepted that that level of risk was going to be in his life, and he kept going, kept trying stuff, kept throwing stuff against the wall until something stuck, and it’s growing incredibly fast.

Andrew: That’s what I was thinking of when I read his story. Tell me if I’ve got his passion and his need to drive towards his passion. This Sunday I made brunch for my wife. We’re newly weds so we still do this stuff. I made some breakfast for her. We sat down to eat it and suddenly I see her snap up. She says, “Oh my god!” It turns out that my cat saw a bird right out the window, flung himself at the bird to go get it, knocking the screen out of the window which fell eight floors down, flung part of his body out of the building and just managed to get himself back in.

He didn’t even think about, “How high do I have to jump up? Am I going to fall out the window? Is the window fully open?” None of that. He just saw it and he had to jump out there. It seems like Mike Faith is that kind of a person. He just saw an opportunity. He didn’t think, “Well, if I go broke what am I going to do? Is there a huge market for headsets? Let’s work out the world market for headsets. Will there be a projected bigger market?”. No, he just flung himself at that opportunity.

Michael: Absolutely. Most of the people I interviewed did not write these very fancy business plans or have everything laid out with projections and financials and plans. There’s a word I like a lot, and you probably hear me use it, which is ‘scrappy’. That is just getting your feet wet, getting your hands dirty, and getting out there. It’s very related in my understanding to this concept of lean where you just get the minimum viable product out there and get it going.

My book is about education and the key is that there’s that learning curve from fucking up, and none of these people said that everything went well at first. They were out there in the trenches fucking up, getting experience, and that was their education. It’s very, very different from the education you get in say a business program or an MBA. It’s all theoretical. If things mess up it’s like your model on your paper messed up. It’s not that you get egg on your face in your real life.

Andrew: Number two you say, “Find great mentors”, and you give this great story of Elliott Bisnow. Where was he? Tell me his story and then, if the person listening to us is inspired and wants their own advisers, I’m going to ask you what they can do to get those advisers. As you and I have talked before the interview started, most people do it the wrong way. Tell me Elliott’s story, please.

Michael: So, Elliott Bisnow went to the University of Wisconsin, and he started several businesses, again, in the theme of what you were just talking about.

Andrew: Even before that he was working on his dad’s news letter selling ads.

Michael: Actually, this is even before that. He started a couple of student businesses; one was selling t-shirts, one was trying to get local businesses to hire college students to consult on marketing. They both completely flopped. He gained a lot of perspective from that. Finally third time around he decides he’s going to help his dad grow out this real estate newsletter business, that his father had started. Had great content on real estate investing, I believe, but it just didn’t have a lot of paid customers. So he basically said, “I’m going to learn the art of sales”. And he learned it and he just picked up the phone, and build this, from his dorm room, waking up at, I think, 4:00 a.m., because he had tennis practice on his scholarship at like 6:00 a.m. So he just woke up at these ridiculous hours and just start following up, sending out emails and cranking out cold calls. And build it to 7 figure business, from his dorm room.

And what happened was, at that point it was such rapid growth….

Andrew: Seven figures, over a million dollars, selling ads for his dad’s real estate newsletter? Do I have that right?

Michael: I believe that’s correct. Yes. Selling advertising in his newsletter. Here he was doing $30, $40, $50 thousand deals from his dorm room, and then he’s going to class to study, who knows what, Shakespeare or something. And it started to be kind of a little disconnect in his experience.

And it grew so quickly that he realized that he didn’t know what the heck he was doing. He needed to start having employees, he needed to formalize the business, have contracts. He didn’t know any of these. So he reached out, he found one of those under thirty type of lists, entrepreneurs under thirty. And he came up with this idea, that he said, ‘I’m going to put together a retreat of these top young CEOs and he basically using his sales skills called them up and pitched them on a retreat.

It’s not that hard to sell an all expenses paid ski trip. Put them all together in this retreat in Utah. Then using his sales skills got sponsors to cover the entire cost of the thing. So it was costless to him, in terms of finances. And started got all these board of successful CEOs as his mentors and that grew into what is now Summit series. Which I’m sure a lot of your listeners are familiar with. Which is the preeminent business conference for young entrepreneurs that’s happening right now.

Andrew: So he called them up and he said it first, “I’m going to pay for you to fly out to this event that I’m putting together, all expense paid. Even though you guys are just super rich and super successful, I’m going to pay for you, you all going to come together, you’re going to meet each other. In the process he was going to learn from them.” And then he said, “If I’m paying for all these, I’m sure I can get a sponsor once I reach these people. He got sponsorship to cover all those expenses.” So essentially he had all these guys as advisers to himself and to each other, network with each other and with him, and he did it all for free, and now he’s making good money off of this thing and building it.

Michael: Yes. It’s very successful business. It’s well into the millions of dollars in revenue.

And more important than that in my view Elliott Bisnow, I think, he’s 25, 26 now, has one of the best business networks of anyone on the planet.

Andrew: You said he was hobnobbing with Bill Clinton…

Michael: Bill Clinton, any kind of billionaire you can think of. The Facebook guy, Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, Markovitz.

He’s one to two phone calls away from pretty much any powerful person, in the world of business. And a lot of people in the world of politics.

Andrew: I saw by the way, I saw him back when I was living in California. I saw the turn. There was a point where he spend maybe about 10 maybe 15 minutes on the phone with me, in the early days of Summit Series, saying, ‘Andrew, you should come to this event’. I said, ‘Well, I like to stay here and work on it’. I like to stay here by my mike and do my interviews. And suddenly it turned and I was one begging him to come on here and do an interview, I said, ‘ Come on, do an interview, tell my audience how you did it’. He goes, ‘ I’m too freaking busy now’.

Michael: Yeah. I think that’s a really good example, I think that, of all the kinds of wealth you can have, financial wealth, different kinds of assets, real estate, I think that your network is a type of wealth and it is a type of wealth, that grows quicker than any other. Because I think it’s very nature is viral. In that people talk, what people do when they get together, they talk.

And so, Elliot’s started with seed of 30 people and it’s just started growing and growing and growing. And that, now he has this massive network that just sort of grew virally, if you will.

Andrew: All right. You inspired audience and giving them an example of what’s possible if they find mentors. Now they’re sitting there going, ‘What the hell do I do in order to get, I don’t want to build a summit series, but I’d like to have some mentors who I could call up and say hey, I’m having this trouble with my business, help me out.’

Give me one piece of advice for someone who’s in that situation right now.

Michael: Actually, I’m going to give you two . . .

Andrew: Yeah, more is better.

Michael: This is a perfect example. I just got this the other day. A guy emails me and says, ‘Hey, I’ve read your book. I really like what you’re up to. I am an expert in cloud computing.’ He gives me a site, and it shows that he’s an expert in cloud computing. ‘If you’re every curious about how to best use cloud in your business, I’d love to talk with you, I’ll help you out.’

I’m a successful author; I get emails from people who want to be authors all the time. Saying hey, can I pick your brains, can you spend an hour helping me on my thing? It’s not that I hate them for asking it, but I’m just so busy it’s not a priority for me.

Now here’s a guy who does it the opposite. He doesn’t say hey, what can you give me? He says, here’s what I bring to the table. I’d be happy to help you on this.

If you have some niche thing like that, and I’ve had people write me and say hey, your YouTube channel sucks, and I know everything there is to know about YouTube. Do you want to talk? There’s always ways, if you know a lot about something, you can write to a powerful person and say, ‘Hey, your Twitter sucks. Let me help you get your Twitter better.’

Or, “Your Facebook page sucks.” Anything like that. If you have credibility on that, they will listen, and they’ll want your advice. That’s one example. And I did talk to the guy, and he was great. We talked for like 90 minutes yesterday.

Andrew: Just because he said hey, if you need help using cloud computing to grow your business, I’m the guy to go to? What’s your need for cloud computing?

Michael: Well, I’m really curious. I’m not really a tech guy, just a writer. I sit in front of Word all day and write. I am curious about the difference between MobileMe and iCloud and Amazon and Google Docs. This stuff is all . . .

Andrew: I see. You’ve been hearing about this cloud computing and all those different tools, and you’re saying, I am curious about how it would work for me.

This is one of the questions I was going to ask you in this interview. Look, the person who’s going to be listening to us who specifically, who most needs this advice to find mentors, is the person that’s the least to get mentors. You’re saying no, we all have something, even this cloud computing technology, might be normal or more common technology, [??].

Michael: Exactly. Let’s say you’re a young person . . . and my book is really written for young people. Let’s say you’re in your teens or your early 20s, and you feel like you don’t have anything to offer. Well, a lot of these businesses are trying to reach people in your age group.

If you’re 20, and you look at their site and you can tell from that special radar that young people seem to have, like, hey, you, you’re mis-stepping on how you’re speaking to young people. Can I give you some feedback on how I think you can better reach my age group?

Most people who want to reach that age group will listen.

Andrew: Actually, we did a course on Mixergy with this guy, Ruben Gamez. Super, super shy, I’ve know him forever. He said no to doing an interview even though he’s a good friend. But I managed to convince him to do both an interview and a course, and the reason I wanted him to do it is because, he had this great job that he left when he created this company, Bidsketch.

In order to make his business work, he needed help from others, because he wasn’t an experienced entrepreneur. And somehow, he got people who I can’t get to come here to do an interview, who I can’t give free ads to in exchange for stuff, he got them to help him out.

I said, how did you do this if you’re such a shy person? He goes, ‘Well, I work the Internet.’ That’s not enough, give me specifics. And he says, what he does is essentially what you do. He finds something that he can give them. They become so freaking grateful that they end up helping him, and he ends up with these top entrepreneurs helping him.

For him, it’s things like well, he didn’t have much entrepreneurial experience, but what he did have was he could be a great beta tester. He’ll beta test the hell out of your new product, and he’ll give you these detailed notes on it. For an entrepreneur who’s got this new product, to be able to get frank, detailed feedback, it’s just manna from heaven.

Michael: Yeah. So I have a little plug for the book here, but chapter two in here, I really break this down on how to find ways you can give to potential mentors that will get them interested.

Andrew: You give them specific ways to jog their understanding of this.

Michael: I have a lecture people can look up online. Type in my name, Ellsberg, and then Thiel Fellows, I gave a lecture to the Thiel Fellows which were young people that Peter Thiel paid to drop out of college to become entrepreneurs. I have an hour long lecture. It’s on the net for free, that really dives into this in quite a lot of detail.

Andrew: I like what you said there. And I think that’s maybe the first chapter you guys should read, if you’re going to read the book.

Michael: And let me just give one other way that people, let’s say you really don’t have anything you can possibly give. So this one actually Keith Frazier told me this and I think it’s absolutely true, I found it true in my experience. You actually do have something to give, which is your ability to be a kick ass mentee. And every powerful, influential person wants to have mentees. I haven’t met a powerful person who doesn’t like having mentees. So you can prove that you’ll be a great mentee. And the way to do that is, let’s say there is some expert, some CEO, some author, some influencer that you want to mentor you. You need to, A, do your home work, read everything that person has ever written, offline and online, and then write a really passionate email, that shows, not your whole life story, your sob story, and why you need them to mentor you and like,”Wam, wam, wam”. That stuff gets deleted. But if you write an email that says, “Hey, I’ve read your seven books, and I have applied them in X,Y, Z ways, however there is just one piece I just don’t get how this one chunk of this book, would apply to my situation.

And here’s what I’m trying to build, here’s the impact I’m trying to have on the world. And if you would just give me an answer for how I can apply these to my situation, I would be very grateful.” That kind of thing, most people will pay attention to, to someone who’s done their homework. I mean, you be surprised, I’m not even at the tops of the top, in turns of authors, but authors who are like way bigger than me, are like shocked when they get a letter from someone that demonstrates clearly that person has read their book and absorbed it. It’s actually quite rare, and you’d be surprised how far that will get you.

Andrew: All right. I love that point. I can actually spend a whole interview just on that section on how to find great mentors. But I want to give coverage to some of the rest of the topics here.

Including how, I was going to, maybe skip over marketing. Which is another thing that you say, “You got to learn marketing,” no matter who you are, even if you are an author. So I was going to skip over it. But then in the pre-interview, you said something about, and I wrote this down, because the way you said it, “My relationship with my wife was in dire straits, because my wife’s business was in trouble.” And I said, “You know what Michael, looks like the guys are going to be open about this.” Tell me about that.

Michael: OK. Great. So I got together with Jennette, who is now my wife. We got together in May of 2008, as boy friend and girl friend. And it got serious pretty quickly, we moved in fairly quickly together. And in September of 2008, I think, everyone watching will remember that month. It was quite a shocking month.

Jennette runs a wellness center in Manhattan, there’s a lot of overhead, it’s definitely a brick and mortar business. She had like $20,000 a month in overhead. And essentially, the clients just disappeared. I mean there wasn’t a lot of demand for wellness services, when everyone was wondering whether they were going to get to make the mortgage on their house, at that point. So this is a very young relationship, we’re what, three, four months into our relationship, living together, and boom, this bomb just go off in the economy and she’s coming home every night crying, thinking she’s going to lose her center, where she spend like two years building and sink a lot of cash into building out the center.

And I have never really got involved with her business, because it’s like one of those, keep love and business separate, kind of things and I just didn’t want to get involved. She had a board of advisers, they had MBA’s, they just seemed to know more than I did to help her. So I never got involved. But it was like our relationship was on the rocks. Not because we were fighting amongst ourselves, but there was so much stress on us, financially. That I think a lot of people probably experienced some stress in their relationships during those months.

And that was the only time during our two and a half years together where I wasn’t sure if this relationship was going to last. It was just such intense pressure cooker. And I said, ‘You know what, this is the woman I want to be with, I got to do something to try to save this situation’.

I had just learned about direct response copy writing. I’m a writer myself, and I’m always curious about ways you can make money writing. So, I had learned about this field called direct response copywriting. I had literally just learned about it, like maybe two months before all of this. I said, “You know what? I’ve never written a direct response sales letter, but now is the time.” I mean, if there ever was a time to do it, now is the time.

So, I interviewed her. I got in the mind of her prospect and I wrote a classic direct response email. It was like 20 screenfuls, you know, do you have this problem? Do you have that problem, like really targeting for her target audience. She was really freaked out by it. She was sending out these nicely formatted, you know, here are the services we offer and buy now if you want to. It was this kind of brands type emails. She was freaked out by this. Her board of advisers flipped out. They said, “This is going to ruin our brand. We spent years building this brand. This is like this schlocky late night infomercial crap. You can’t send this thing out.

But, how far had her brand gotten her? She was on the verge of closing the business. She didn’t have a lot to lose. She sent this email to her list. She generated $8,000 in future coaching business. She delivered it over months, but she got the revenue right up $8,000 in a week. She had never seen anything like that in her business and she was an instant convert to direct response marketing and basically turned her business around.

It essentially replaced most of the brick and mortar revenue with online type coaching, online programs revenue. So, the revenue numbers stayed the same, but the brick and mortar kind of disappeared. She very quickly built up the online revenue and is doing like $300,000 a year now in revenue and is very happy with her business. We’ve just celebrated our one year anniversary this summer, so obviously our relationship survived that.

I really credit learning direct response myself, and then her getting enthusiastic about learning it as saving our marriage, even though we weren’t married then. It saved our future marriage.

Andrew: You know what? The story I pulled out was Sean Parker’s story because I thought his name would be so impressive that the audience would pay attention. I’m so glad that you directed toward this story because it’s much more impactable. It shows what really can be done when you can master marketing. I can understand, actually, that she would want this kind of writing.

First, actually, when I read it in your book, I said, “What’s wrong with this? I don’t even see how this is sensitive.” Then I said, “No. Stop, reread it and see it through her eyes.” And yes, I could see how you were touching on vulnerabilities that she would have had and her customers would have had.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: In that spirit it felt it was real.

Michael: Right.

Andrew: This is not just marketing. This is intimacy, you’re seeing…

Michael: So, they’re saying there’s a range of direct response. There’s a lot of sleazy stuff out there. I mean, it has a bad rap for a reason. There’s a lot of cheesy junk mail and late night infomercials. You know, get a free set of Ginsu knives and that kind of stuff, but there also is really, really well-done direct response copy. The stuff that’s well-done, for lack of a better word, it grabs the prospect by the balls. It touches those hot button issues where they just get riled up. It’s like, “Yes. This person has my number. They understand the emotional issues I am going through. I want to do business with them because they’re talking about what’s actually important to me.”

Andrew: OK. All right. In your book, in “The Education of Millionaires”, you don’t claim that you can teach everyone marketing within this one chapter on marketing. You give them a good understanding of why they need it. You give them some direction about how to do it, and you also give them a lot of books and resources. Can you give me a handful of books and resources that my audience, which just heard your story with your wife, could go and learn a little bit more about marketing?

Michael: Yes, absolutely. You can learn a lot for free. Here’s the one thing that I recommend everyone do. Create an email address that is not your main email address, that’s only for this purpose, because you’re going to get a lot of email to this address. Get on the lists of some master copywriters. Some people that are just masters are Eben Pagan, who’s a mentor of mine, E-B-E-N P-A-G-A-N. He has a $30 million a year info marketing business, absolute master copywriter. Dan Kennedy is a master copywriter. Who else? Matt Furey, F-U-R-E-Y, look him up, get on his list, master copy-writer. From a different perspective, Marie Forleo, F-O-R-L-E-O, she kind of brings in a more feminine touch to the art of copywriting and does it totally different style but she’s great. And who else? Jonathan Fields, I think, was a guest of yours. I think he’s a great copywriter. He’s much more of a soft sell. So there’s this whole range, like Dan Kennedy, an extreme hard sell.

Andrew: Did you say Jonathan Fields is a great copywriter? The guy from [??]?

Michael: I think, yeah. If you read his e-mails. Like, he is, his . . .

Andrew: I’m going to have to sign up.

Michael: . . . their like super . . . he’s a master at very sweet, authentic, like you would, there’s just no sleaze with him at all. Whereas Dan Kennedy, he’s pretty open that he’s, like, sleazy. Like he just, he goes in for the kill. And so there’s this whole range and you want to get exposed to the entire range so you can find the right sweet spot for you. Get on all these lists. It’s free and read what they send you. These people are masters and you can just read their e-mails and see how they do copywriting.

Then there’s a book I highly recommend, it’s a classic, it’s called “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples, and anyone who’s really into direct response copy-writing will point to this book as a classic. I think it was written in the ’50′s. This guy was a master in his field and you can probably get it for $15 on Amazon. And, you know, this is an example of, you don’t have to go and take these multi-thousand dollar weekend workshops.

A lot of it, a lot of those, like, $5,000 weekend workshops is just people regurgitating what’s available in these classic books. There’s a couple classics: “Tested Advertising Methods”, “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins is another classic. I think it’s free, or you can get it on-line for $0.99 or free even, on Kindle. “Tested Advertising Methods”, “On Advertising” by David Ogilvy, that’s a classic, he basically created modern advertising. Then there’s a book called “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz. That one is a little more expensive. It’s like $100 because it’s been out of print and they brought it back in this very expensive edition, but still $100, that’s different than $2,000 for a workshop.

So for, you know, a very reasonable price, you can get an education in copywriting. And I wouldn’t say for a lot of people, in my experience, again, you say, “Oh, well, you’re not an entrepreneur. What credibility do you have?” Well, true, I’m not an entrepreneur, but I am a copywriter and I . . . most copy sucks and most copy of your audience members, and I don’t even know them, but just, from my experience, most of it probably sucks. Like, there is a huge blind spot among entrepreneurs where they’ll invest all this time and money building an incredible product, an incredible team and then they’ll have, like, some intern write their copy. And it’s like, “No! Your copy is you interface with your customer. Like, you, without good copy, you don’t get sales.” So this is an area that, in my experience, is profoundly, there’s incredible lack of attention in this area in most businesses I’ve seen.

Andrew: Let me put this out there to you, Michael. You and I just met today, I don’t know if you like me or don’t like me, based on the way that we started out this interview.

Michael: I like you.

Andrew: I could see that you were rolling with it. If you weren’t, I would have pulled away but . . .

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: It’s nice about video that I can get a sense of where the line is and just go close to it but not over. I put this out there: If you would like to come back and teach copywriting in any form, I’d want to have that because I think that last point that you made there is dead on. We will spend tons of money and tons of time developing the right software, the right product, and then we will hand off copywriting to someone else because we’re not writers. We’ll do it ourselves in our spare time, you know, bust our humps trying to figure out how to do it, we’ll just write something that’s meant for us . . .

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: . . . but not understanding the audience. You have an open invitation right there in the audience to . . .

Michael: . . . and I think the angle actually that would be best useful for your audience, your audience, they’re business entrepreneurs, they’re busy entrepreneurs, they’re not going to become full-time copywriters.

Andrew: Right.

Michael: But I think most people know that it’s easier to outsource and delegate something that you have at least a basic understanding of.

Andrew: Right.

Michael: In my experience, I get better results delegating things that I at least know enough to know what a good job is and what isn’t. Most entrepreneurs, the vast majority of entrepreneurs that I’ve met do not know enough about copywriting to even be able to tell what is good copy versus bad copy. Forget doing it themselves, they can’t even tell what good copy is.

Andrew: I want you on, we’ve got to work something out, I want you back on. And by the way, in the personal setting, these guys who are good copywriters, even in their emails to me, they use copyrighting skills to get me to do what they want. I feel like sometimes I’m a freaking puppet on a string, because they send me these emails and then boom, they got me. What do you want? Do you want me to take you out to dinner? I’m ready to do it. You want me to make a phone call to your friend? I’m ready to do it. You’ve sold me.

Michael: Most people conduct their businesses by email, not by phone. And email is a written medium. You have, like say all of your business is being funneled through this written medium, and there are people who don’t understand the A, B, Cs of persuasion via writing and they’re not…

Andrew: Let’s hope we didn’t just lose him. We might have just lost him.

Michael: In their business results they could. Hello?

Andrew: Yeah, sorry, we lost connection there for a moment. OK. I’m going to come back and have you on, but I’ve got to have a little more time to make a couple of points here, with your book. You say sales, you’ve got to learn sales. Let me see who I can come up with, you and I have talked about this story before the interview, about Mary Jo Franklin. What about her?

Michael: Great. So, she is a woman who was a single mom in the sixties, she got more or less, asked to leave her high school, when she was showing a bump in her belly. She was a teenage mother, she married very young. She was a homemaker, bringing up three kids, until 25. She got a divorce, her marriage ended, she was a single mom now at 25 of three. No business experience whatsoever, and basically needed a job, to support her kids, at this point.

The father was not paying alimony or child support or anything. So she was desperate, this was in the ’60s. She somehow, I don’t know, I should ask her, but somehow she made the realization she needed to get a sales job, because she had no college or high school diploma. Really, the only field that you can make any money, especially in those days, without a credential was sales, because all that matters is that you can sell. So she took $0.25 out of like just the couple of dollars she had to her name at that point, took the Chicago train into downtown, walked into basically the first place she found off the train-station, and it turned out to be a company that rented school buses. It was like a school bus contracting company, to the local school board.

She basically said, “I need a job selling.” The guy was basically “Well, we don’t have a sales force,” and she just kind of off the cuff, said “Oh, well that’s why there’s so many buses parked in your lot.” Again, that’s the kind of scrappy, like street smart thing that these people I interviewed excel at. It’s just like no respect for decorum at all. Well that got his attention and he was kind of riled up, and she said “look, if I got you these accounts, what would be the accounts if I got them for you, you could get me a job?”

He kind of laughed and said “Well, OK. Let’s see what you got lady” and wrote down five or six really big accounts. And one of them was like, a local school board, one of them was the local hockey team, or something like that. She went and she more or less went to these places, and more or less, begged and pleaded, she used her sob story. She said “I’m a single mom, these are pictures of my kids, I need this order.” She is a very charming woman, if you talk to her. She used her charm, and she got these purchase orders, from these businesses. Then she came back to the guy, and he couldn’t not give her the job, and she went on, through learning sales, and I can tell you her technique, but she learned very high integrity face to face, kind of consultative sales, and has gone on to make millions and millions of dollars.

She became a national sales rep for the national chambers of commerce, works doing sales training for them. Then, became an executive coach, and was coaching high level male executives in Silicon Valley, in the 80s, before the field. Now everyone’s a coach right? This is in a time when you said you were coach and people said, ‘Well what sport do you coach?’ So this is an example to me of just how far you can get if you learn sales skills.

Andrew: And yeah, I would like to learn that. How much can you teach us in the short amount of time we have here for an interview?

Michael: I can teach a mindset shift. I don’t think I can teach how to go do it, but I can teach a mindset shift that I actually learned indirectly through Mary Jo [SP]. I’m very good friends with her son. Her son is also a college drop-out who went on to become a multi-millionaire in business. He picked a lot of sales from her. He teaches sales so I’ve learned a lot of what I know about sales from him.

And the key mindset shift is that you just got to scrap the idea from your mind that you’re pitching some predefined. So most people, they have a product they want to sell. They know what they want to sell and they’re just trying to find people that they can pitch that thing to. And that’s why most of us hate the word sales because we have experience sales people just pitching shit at us and it doesn’t feel good. So the word sales is a very dirty word.

What Mary Jo and Brian taught me is that most of sales should be a conversation centered around the prospect, a global view of what their problems are in their business and really getting into it. Like spending an hour talking, inquiring them. What are the hot button things? What is really getting your goat here? What is that thing if you could change it you would be ecstatic? And it’s almost like becoming a consultant where you use your global sense to recommend courses of action that will solve those hot-button issues. If what you offer fits into that, great. That’s fantastic and you can explain how what you offer fits into that. But even if it doesn’t, become a consultant where you refer them to your connections.

You say, “Oh, OK, well for that piece of what you’re facing, I think this guy would be really good. For that piece of what you’re facing, I think this person would be really good.” What I offer, what I think would fit in really well for this specific piece but not that for that piece, and almost become their free consultant right there so they see that you are really good at: A. Getting what they actually care about because they don’t care about your product. They care about their problem. So you show that you get their problems. And B, that your commitment is to them solving their problems and not to you selling your shit. And once they get that you have that commitment, they’ll want to do business with you.

Andrew: All right. And in that chapter, I think it’s section 4, I don’t know if it’s chapter number 4.

Michael: Yeah, it’s chapter 4.

Andrew: You even show a dialogue where this takes place so people can actually watch how it works. And this is the section that you mentioned earlier where we can talk about spin, that’s spin selling.

It’s so interesting, I went to work for Dale Carnegie in college in college, I volunteered. I said, “I love you guys, I want to work for you guys. What do I need to do?” They brought me on and they said, “You need to learn sales.” I said, “Great. I already bought the Dale Carnegie book on sales that the company put out.” They go, “No, no. You don’t need to read that. Read ‘Spin Selling instead’.” I couldn’t believe they recommended ‘Spin Selling’ instead of their own book.

Michael: Yeah. This book is fucking good. I’m religious about this book. I have no business relationship with that organization at all.

Andrew: I don’t really care, by the way, if you have a business relationship. People should not hold that against you, but I do appreciate what you’re saying. People love the book and it’s a tiny book, ‘Spin Selling’ in your bookstore. I’m sorry to keep moving this on, but I’m feeling inadequate because I can’t hit all the points here, but I at least want to get one other one: investing. Now to be honest with you, I was going to skip over this chapter because I said, ‘I don’t want to learn investing, I don’t think my audience needs to learn it.’ And then I saw what you did with it and I realized that this was a chapter that was worth reading.

Can you teach this chapter by telling the story of John Paul DeJoria and then I’ll ask you why is he the guy to talk to or to learn from about investing?

Michael: Right. OK. So John Paul DeJoria had a very rough upbringing. He was brought up in the [inaudible] in east L.A., flirted with gang life briefly in his teens. Did graduate high school barely, but didn’t go into college at all. And again, had this set word again, scrappy. Had a very scrappy upbringing selling, I think he was selling greeting cards door to door or something. Learned from a young age how to hustle, how to sell stuff, make money and found himself, in his twenties, in a very hard place in his life. He was divorced. He had a young child. Basically, he more or less got kicked out of his home.

I don’t know all the details, but he ended up with custody of this child and was essentially homeless, lived out of his car, not once but two different times, with a son, was collecting soda bottles for the $0.05 reward, so this is about as hard scrabble as it can get. But he somehow got involved with a hair dresser called Paul Mitchell, before Paul Mitchell was “Paul Mitchell”, he was just a hair dresser and somehow they hatched this idea to create a hair care formula and they each scraped together, like, $700.

I think he got a job at one point and was more stable and was able to put $700 into this business, and they each put $700, and then they created a formula and they just sold the shit out of it. This guy was a guy who had a background in sales and he just went, not door to door, but salon to salon, saying, “This is our stuff. Take it on consignment. Try it. Only pay if you like it.” And he just went around and built up this business, no outside investors, no outside debt, and built it up to a multi-billion dollar business. Now, you know, it’s for sale in 100 different countries. It’s a multi-billion dollar business.

John Paul DeJoria is a fixture on the Forbes 400. He’s got a net worth in the several billions and the reason I think he’s relevant for this chapter, so I talk about boot-strapping your own human capital. So, I’m sure your listeners are familiar here with concept of, you know, boot-strapping a business versus getting venture investment. And I believe that the same terminology can be used in our own investments, in our human capital. And most people would do it in a kind of, well, I would call it, VC model of investing, where you’re essentially financing your own human capital.

You know, you go, there’s all this up front investment of time and money, in particular, to get an education and the average student now graduates with $24,000 of debt. That’s a lot of money for a 22 year old to have in debt. There are horror stories of people now graduating with $100,000 in unsecured debt at age 22. I mean, that is a shitload of money to owe at age 22 with no asset whatsoever, no physical asses to back it up. Anyways, so that is, like, VC investment. When you’re putting all this attention and money up front and you hope you may get some benefits in the future out of it, versus boot-strapping, which is what John Paul DeJoria and really all the people I interviewed did, is they got their education . . .

The key to boot-strapping is you get money coming through the door quickly. You start small, get your minimal viable product and get stuff moving quickly, get money through the door and you just keep investing that money and growing it, like snow-balling it without a lot of debt, without a lot of outside money. You just get something going and you just keep growing it, little bit by bit by bit and that’s what all these people did.

Andrew: All right. There’s so many people who you and I talked about in the pre-interview, I’m only going to mention now because I feel guilty that we talked about them in the pre-interview and there’s no way, now that I think of it and look at my notes, there’s no way I could have fit them in, even if all I did was keep us on target. So here’s, if you guys get the book, and I’ve got no interest, of course, in the book, yada, yada, yada, “The Education of Millionaires”, here’s what we left out: there’s a great story about Anthony Sandberg, wanted to build a boating business. He said, “Where am I going to get boats? How am I even going to get to rent boats to use for my business?”

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: He said, “Well have you ever seen an empty marina?” It turns out, they’re boats in the marina the whole time. If you could just rent those boats, you could just build a business on the back of that. And what I love about that story and the reason why I wanted to include that here is that, he’s seeing something the rest of us just ignore . . .

Michael: Right.

Andrew: . . . this opportunity that’s just sitting there and what was it? His business was just teaching and sailing, right?

Michael: Yeah, it was a great opportunity. So most people want to sailing school and they think, “Well, shit, I’ve got to buy some sailboats. This is expensive. This is a capital intensive business. I’ve got to get some investors.” Here’s a guy who dropped out of college, at Dartmouth, had very little money to his name, but knew a lot about sailing and he wanted to start a sailing school. He starts walking around the Berkeley marina and he realizes there’s all these people who have boats as, sort of, status symbols, which is probably like 80% of sailing boats are purchased for that reason. And they don’t know how to sail. So he said “listen, I’ll teach you to sail, and I’ll even take care of your boat, I’ll maintain it, if you just let me take it out on weekdays while you’re off at work and teach people to sail, on your boat.” And he had his pick of this entire marina, and he had the pick of the boats. So, essentially he had an entire fleet of boats at his disposal, with no upfront investment, whatsoever. Again, that bootstrapping mentality, that is the mentality that the people I’ve been speaking to excel at.

Andrew: Yeah. That story I didn’t get to, I didn’t get to Sean Parker, I didn’t get to Frank Kern on marketing, who was in the book. I didn’t get to David Ash, who created the Vivian. The Vivian is a non-profit, right?

Michael: Yes, that is right.

Andrew: Let’s not even tell the story, let’s just tell people it’s in the sales chapter, if they want to get the Vivian, it’s a non-profit that he started that uses sales tactics. What else did I not talk about? I didn’t talk about Marian Schembari, who decided she wanted to get a job, instead of creating another resume she did something a little different, she bought an ad on Facebook, and I won’t give away the whole story. Robert Scoble, is also in that same section on branding yourself, and thinking entrepreneurial.

You and I wanted to talk about Joe Polish, the guy who created, it was a vacuum business, right?

Michael: Right. Well he started out with a carpet cleaning business.

Andrew: Carpet cleaning, excuse me. Right.

Michael: And it was bombing, he wasn’t doing well in his business. And again, he’s another example of someone who had a very rough upbringing, he grew up in parts of his life in a trailer park, dropped out of college, had this very hard scrabble, carpet cleaning, that was a very salt of the earth type, blue collar kind of business. And it wasn’t going well and his life was basically a mess, and he had a kind of come to Jesus moment, where he realized that his life was not where he wanted it to be, and that he was making all kinds of excuses as to why his business wasn’t working, and blaming it on the customers and the competition, and the this and that.

When he basically, again, the power of mentors, he found a successful businessman who just gave him a wake-up call. He said, “No, you have a workable business, the reason it’s not working is you, and you need to take responsibility for it.” And this is the final chapter in the book, I call it the entrepreneurial mindset, versus employee mindset. And it’s basically a spectrum of how much accountability, do you have me there?

Andrew: Yeah, the connection is going a little funky, but I’m dealing with it.

Michael: OK. It’s basically a continuum of how much accountability you take for the results that are around you. And there’s extremes on both ends, so there’s a lot of new age stuff out there, like the secret where they’re almost like if you walk across the street and get hit by a car, that’s because you were somehow sending out cosmic extremes about that. And I think that can get bullshit, if it goes too far in that direction, but most people air too far in the other side, and they just don’t take responsibility. Like, I am creating my reality, right now. I’m creating my financial reality and the power is not with other people, the team members, employees, the customers the whatever. I have the power to change the situation, if I want to.

That may or may not be true from an objective standpoint, but my experience is that the people who just act as if that’s true, they get the results in life. Because if you think about it, you can’t really change the stuff out there, that much, really the only thing you can change is your internal ecology. And if you develop facility of changing that, you can change a lot of what’s around you, and my book is just full of people who have that experience, and Joe Polish is one of those stories.

Andrew: Well, I’m glad that we got to include him in this interview. I think his story is tremendous, I’ve heard so much about him over the years, and I think the first time I actually got to read his story, clearly, was in your book.

All right, the book is of course, it’s called “The Education of Millionaires” and the website is what?

Michael: “The Education of Millionaires”, find out more about it on my site which is Ellsberg.com.

Andrew: Congratulations for getting the .com of your name, by the way. Not a .org, .net or .[??].

Michael: Yeah, I did that like 10 years ago. And by the way, I have the introduction and the first chapter are available for free on my site. And that’s roughly 25% of the book, it’s a very long first chapter.

Andrew: The first chapter? What’s the first chapter, “Meaningful Work”?

Michael: Yeah, it’s about how to overlap your sense of money and your sense of meaning….

Andrew: Exactly.

Michael: …I think it’s a really important chapter. It’s free on my site, so yeah.

Andrew: All right. And I’m going to say this. If you heard about how to network or connect with people and want to take this a step further, and you’re a premium member, Reuben is the guy who I talked about earlier who created Networking for Introverts. He’s a shy freakin’ person, I don’t know why, the guy’s brilliant, but he’s shy and he’s an introvert. But he somehow has been building these networking relationships with people who help him out, who won’t even return my phone calls or emails about doing an interview. And it’s a really great interview and it’s worth watching. Actually, I kid about that. These guys have really been great to me.

I can’t always, I know that I can’t have somebody come and do an interview just because I’m ready for it and what I’ve found is in time, they all do. I think even the founder of Drop Box, months and months ago a mutual friend introduced me to Drew, and I didn’t get a response from him. He sent me this great email yesterday saying sorry for the comically late response, I just have been going through, I don’t know what he said, but sorry for the comically late response, let’s hook it up, he’s coming on to do an interview. I know that sometimes it’s not always right to do an interview. I think at the time he was getting beaten up by people for privacy issues or something. I can understand that he wouldn’t have time to do an interview.

But anyway, if you want to know how to connect with people, Reuben Gomez is the guy to talk to. It’s in Mixergy premium, you’ll see Networking for Introverts. If you want to know more about copywriting, I’m going to have Michael come back on, but until he does, Dane Maxwell did an excellent job teaching copywriting, and it’s also available at Mixergy.com/premium. All included in your premium program if you’re already a premium member. Those and so many other entrepreneurs who are teaching you. If you’re not a premium member, I hope you join us. I just did that thing way too quickly and also, I think I could’ve given it a little more copywriting, tactics and…

Michael: I’ll help you but…

Andrew: Excuse me? Copywrite finesse in the way that I talk about…

Michael: …I’ll give you a free once-over on your own copy…

Andrew: Sorry?

Michael: I said I’ll give you a free once-over on your own copy, selling your premium services.

Andrew: You mean right now?

Michael: Not right now, but it’s a…

Andrew: OK, all right. I’d love to have it.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: I’m also feeling a little pressure because the internet’s going wobbly and I’ve got another interview in about 25 minutes, but I want you back on. I want to go more in depth on any one of these topics, specifically I’d love to learn about copywriting and if you want to give me some feedback and my audience feedback on their stuff, dude, we’ll kill for that.

Michael: Let’s do it.

Andrew: All right.

Michael: Sounds great. Thank you so much.

Andrew: Thank you. Thank you all for watching. We’re looking forward to your feedback on this interview. Bye.

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  • Dave

    Michael said that he collected the thoughts and wisdom
    of millionaires and as a writer put them in a book.  20 minutes
    of cringy-ness of grilling for no reason at all.

     

    It would have been easier to to say Michael is not
    a millionaire. He’s collected wisdom of entrepreneurs and who
    are millionaires and put them in a book. I’m warey of the book, but
    lets get into the book and Let’s get to the value sooner. 

    Your past interviews are greatly improved since the last
    time I complained! Maybe there should have a 5
    minute interrogation limit as default. Again, I like what you’re doing;
    I’m still a subscriber to the premium area. 

    I’m actually implementing allot of stuff I’m
    learning from your premium courses and I recommend others sign up also. http://mixergy.com/premium/

    It’s just painful waiting 20 minutes before you
    get one nugget of value from the free interviews. 

  • Jeremy

    Thank you for sharing and love the interview.

    I like the story about the direct response marketing and would love to see that example of what you wrote.

    What kind of marketing did you do for this book?

    thanks

    Jeremy

  • Cameron

    This was a very timely interview. I just finished reading Michael’s book.

    What I liked about his book was that Michael gives you actionable items to go do/research on your own. I read it with the computer next to me at all times to learn about all the people he talked about through out the book.

    Ironically I had bought SPIN Selling and his book at the same time and am currently into that book and looking forward to finishing.

    Great interview Andrew. What started as you making Micheal defend/validate himself ended with you asking him to come back to teach a course.

    It would be interesting to find out if Michael plans on eventually starting his own business with all the knowledge he has gained or if he will continue to write.       

  • http://www.highballblog.com/ Constantin Gabor

    I love this interview!!! The way I see it, Michael in an entrepreneur – a writer who’s selling his product (stories, books). And the way he helped his girlfriend with her business is just awesome.

    His book is a written replica of what you’re doing here Andrew. He got entrepreneurs to talk about their experiences.

    Gonna get the book. Thanks for doing this Michael & Andrew!

  • http://aarontrank.com Aaron Trank

    Wow… That is some serious dedication to writing!  Thanks for the interview.

  • http://betacandy.com Eric Ingram

    I feel like I say this all the time, but this is one of the best interviews I’ve heard here. Really enjoyed Michael’s openness.

  • -IH

    I completely agree that the writing instinct is very similar to the entrepreneurial instinct– i.e. the desire to create something out of nothing. In the writer’s case, that “nothing” is a blank sheet of paper. In the case of the entrepreneur, it’s creating a new product/ service. I completely get this, personally, because when I was young I was almost 100% certain I was going to be a writer/ journalist. And now I realize that being an entrepreneur, today, fulfills exactly that seem desire for creation.

  • http://twitter.com/queersotv Queers on the Verge

    Loved the tough questions that you asked at the beginning, Andrew. Those were the same questions that I was asking while debating whether or not to turn off the interview. Glad I stuck around.
    Michael Ellsberg’s right on target about copywriting. Copywritring I’m comfortable with. Sales… got my work cut out for me. Thanks for a great interview.

  • http://www.dejtingsverige.se Johanna

    Great interview, loved the first couple of “hard” questions you asked. I would have been afraid of asking so straightforward, to the point.

  • student_of_the_trade

    Hi Andrew. Interesting range of perspectives in the comments section, eh? I’ll take one far end of the range with my own perspective that you knew, or were reasonably expected to have known…..prior to the interview…..whether or not Michael had ever in his life been a millionaire, and thus the hard hitting start was a wee bit contrived on your part. However, even if this was the case…..and I’m not passionate about my own perspective on this one……I do absolutely believe it was done by you with the intention of adding value for your audience….and not to confront Michael just for the sake of doing so. The only support I have for my loosely held position that you sorta’ knew ahead of time is that you indicated several times during the interview that you had, at the very least, already done a reasonably thorough skimming of Michael’s book. Presumably there wasn’t even a single ambiguous reference to his financial status and history. 

    To be clear, I don’t think you did anything with only serving your ego in mind…..nor do I think you did anything with only attacking Michael in mind. You two clearly have a good rapport!

    CHEERS!

    David

  • http://www.iamvishal.com Vishal

    Hi,
    I would like to read spin selling too but there are many books with the same title on amazon. Pls advice which is the correct one

    Cheers,
    Vishal

  • http://viktorsblog.com/ Viktor Nagornyy

    Good stuff in the interview. Will have to add the book to my queue to read, once I get through the current list.

  • Mohd Shahnawaz

    I am reading Micheal’s book and here is the link describing his past http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2011/07/18/how-i-overcame-bipolar-ii/

    Jim Collins author of Good to Great who analyzed companies but himself did not run a great company though most of the book claims were debunked in the book “Halo effect” , it still provides many insights.

    Andrew loved those upfront questions you had. I guess like Barbara Walters you can ask them in the end as initially interviewee wants to warm up.

    Great interview

  • http://www.facebook.com/kellyreid Kelly B. Reid

    This book is absolutely phenomenal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DwightLPeters Dwight Peters

    I loveeeee his book! Well written.

    Its a book that makes you really take a critical look at the education system. Higher education is big business. Being an entrepreneur IS NOT FOR EVERYBODY and thats ok, but for those that are entrepreneurs it makes you consider if going into debt to pay for college is your best bet. If you have a passion and a great idea, maybe you should go for it.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Dave you’re 100%, esp about this:

    “It’s just painful waiting 20 minutes before you get one nugget of value from the free interviews.”

    I’ve been noticing that I’m taking too freakin’ long to get to the useful parts of interviews. I need to be much more discipled about that and not allow my curiosity to distract from the point of the interview.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks. I was imagining myself in the audience and knew I’d have similar questions. Still, I need to move on quicker to the meat of the interview. I’m working on it.

  • Cameront21

    Loved this interview.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I’m getting a lot of compliments about it. Thanks. It helps me know what kind of interviews I should do.

  • Emmet

    I love these interviews, but I feel like you’re (Andrew) cutting the subjects off too much.  Reminds me of when Kara Swisher would cut off people like Steve Jobs or other big honchos while they’re in the middle of a thought.  The subject should always be the focus in my opinion.

    To be fair, this may be more of an issue with Skype interviews since there is a small delay and it’s harder to see the person is talking or waiting to talk.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    The problem is that I can’t tell when cutting off is good because it keeps things moving and when it’s bad because I’ve interrupted a speaker who’s about to hit gold for you.

    I think I’m getting better at it with practice and experience, but along the way I sometimes go too far in one direction or the other.

    I’d like to rely on the audience to guide me — like I do for most things — but I’m not sure it’s the right approach with this issue. It’s hard for the audience to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

  • http://www.reedge.com Reedge – Personalization Tools

    Hi Andrew, indeed I skipped to minute 21 and then at the end I was like… NOOO do not let him go! To bad, but Michael has to come back.
    Dennis

  • http://www.ownpages.com Deven

    Good stuff. Liked the way he held his own against your initial line of questioning, but wondered why he did not draw parallels to what you do at Mixergy. A less confident fellow would have got crushed.

  • http://twitter.com/gregormckelvie Gregor McKelvie

    I just listened to this interview. One of the best. And I just bought the book.

  • Trin Salaloy

    I love case studies and examples. Especially of millionaires. haha , the book should be a good read.

  • Dan J Mckee

    Great interview. Thanks for this Andrew. Need more writers on the program! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.clinckett Adam Clinckett

    I think if you’re curious, there’s a good chance that people in your audience will be curious too. 

    It did seem like you were giving him a hard time, however, I really thought Michael showed fanastic character, he didn’t get frustated (kudos!) and he gave you some absolutely golden answers ie. Genghis Khan is not going to sit around and write a book about how he got powerful.

    Anyway, that one quote was enough for me to buy his book.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    He did have great character, but give credit where it’s due. I’m the one who said that about Genghis Khan. Check the transcript ;-)

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