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Self-Education and Self-Investment

My Interview with Peter Thiel on Self-Investment

In 2013, in the process of writing The Last Safe Investment, I got a chance to interview Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and first outside investor in Facebook, on the topic of investing in yourself.

This audio, now posted on my Soundcloud, has never been available before.

The text is available exclusively on SteemIt.

Here are some topics we covered:

–> The value of investing in relationships for the long-haul
–> Investing in your health and longevity as a way to increase your lifetime earnings
–> Why longer life expectancies should change the way you think about investing
–> The shockingly low rate of personal savings and investment in the US
–> My favorite part of the interview: whether we can reasonably expect the US markets to keep going up at their long-term average 7% per year after inflation, or whether that was a unique period of US expansion which won’t be repeated again.
–> The over-financialization of personal investing
–> How subjective types of value that are hard to measure, like relationships, health, and well-being, are priced inefficiently because they’re hard to value, and therefore may be an area for exceptional investments.

(Cover photo by Dan Taylor – www.heisenbergmedia.com – CC BY 2.0 – tinyurl.com/z2zjfla)

Drop Out of The System, Drop Into Success – The Dartmouth Lecture

[Below is an edited transcript. There is also an audio version available for streaming and download at the bottom.]

I’m going to open with a statement that I guarantee that every one of you in the audience is going to find shocking.

I think every one of you students in the room here should consider dropping out tomorrow.

Obviously I don’t mean that in the literal sense. If I did the people here at Dartmouth who brought me in to speak would get fired tomorrow, and I don’t want that. So what the heck do I mean?

I’ve spent the day here on this lovely campus, and one of the messages I’ve heard from various people—both students and faculty—is that there’s a kind of track going on here. It’s not unique to Dartmouth, but maybe it’s more pronounced here. That is a track of doing well in school, then coming here and doing well at Dartmouth, then going on to a “respectable” profession. The professions I’ve heard are really popular here are management consulting, investment banking, and law. So the picture I’ve gotten is of a place where young people are brought on a track from a young age and then are put into a “tracked” career.

I’m not trying to single out Dartmouth here. I went to Brown, where it’s pretty much the same thing. We have a slightly different relationship to conventionality there, but most of the people are still being groomed for, and going into, these kind of “traditional” careers.

When I say you should consider dropping out, I don’t mean that you should consider dropping out of this institution. Please don’t do that! However, I do think you should consider dropping out of that “track” I mentioned. What I hope to accomplish by the end of this talk is to instill in some of you a broader perspective on the range of careers that are possible for you after you leave this institution—which will still allow you to lead a happy, comfortable, and successful life. Continue Reading

My Debate in India, Sponsored By the Hindustan Times

Here is the video of my debate at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, New Delhi, India.

We had a lot of forces against us. I had been in India for 24 hours, did not know the local culture, was in Goddess-knows-what time zone, the motion was worded, for maximum debate fireworks, in a highly polarized way that didn’t work in our favor (“A liberal arts education is a waste of time and money.”) On account of that wording, by show of hands only two people voted, pre-debate, in favor of the motion (my wife and my friend), and most of the hands in the room, full of 500 of India’s most elite businesspeople, went up against it.

Nonetheless, I rained debate hellfire on our opponents. If you’d like to see what it looks like when a young tyke dresses down the headmaster of prestigious Wellington College (one of Britain’s most elite boarding prep schools) for perpetuating and promoting a system in which a year of education at his institution costs 40+ years worth of the average income of an Indian family, watch here.

I also got a chance to tell, to an Indian audience, the story of how my wife got her higher education, informally, traveling in their country on a budget of $6K, for 2 years in her early 20s. That made her a mini-celebrity for the rest of the conference.

We lost the debate (the audience was still overwhelmingly against our motion in the post-vote), but we went down swinging and fighting. Dozens of people came up to me afterwards and expressed gratitude for bringing up the issue of the costs of higher education, which are so pressing for Indian families (as they are for US families). And our opponent, Wellington College headmaster Anthony Seldon, graciously came up to me afterwards after our spirited debate, and said that he thought we won the debate. I was unrelenting and merciless, and had Seldon on his knees (literally! watch the video!) after my segment. He was a good sport and came back swinging in his own segment after mine. You can watch all the fun below.

My segment starts here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yoi-ixfqWkc&t=1h17m34s

The full debate from the beginning is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yoi-ixfqWkc&t=56m27s

And stay tuned on the same video (either link), after our debate segment, for a wonderful presentation by Darryl Hannah.

How to Hack Your Education: A Conversation With Dale Stephens

imgres-1These days, the “cool kids” at school don’t cut class and smoke weed in the back alley behind the school, like they did back when I was in school…

These days, the cool kids drop out, say F.U! to tens or hundreds of thousands in student debt and bloated tuition bills, start companies, and build lives for themselves, on their own terms, long before parents and professors tell them they now have “permission” to be adults.

Listen here to a special call I did with Dale Stephens, author of the new book from Penguin, Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

Dale Stephens is a Thiel Fellow, has been featured in every media outlet you could imagine, and is the founder of UnCollege.org. He and I were both featured in the New York Times Sunday Styles article “Saying No to College,” and we shared the stage at TEDxSF on the failure of the higher education system.

Dale is an expert on the new youth-led alternatives that are now popping up like flowers amidst the college loan wasteland that parents have made of their children’s lives (parents have done this by foisting on children outmoded, out-of-touch, retrograde notions of education.)

Screw debt and five-figure tuition bills: get educated on your own, says Dale. Listen as we take this issue head on, and teach you real-world skills for educating yourself, the secret methods that out-of-touch parents, teachers, and professors don’t want you to know about, because they fly in the face of every bureaucratic notion that the older generations still rally around like lemmings jumping off the Titanic.

This recorded call is for you if:

  • You are a parent or prospective parent (Listening to this call may save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in college tuition that you won’t need to save for- and it may save your child from becoming a victim of indentured student-hood, via our nation’s broken and bloated perpetual student debt fiasco.)
  • You are thinking of plunking down hundreds of thousands of dollars on a graduate education. (HEAVEN’S NO! THIS CALL MAY SAVE YOU!!!)
  • You are currently a college student and want to learn how to get the most out of your student years, for the least amount of money.
  • You are currently a student and are thinking of getting the hell out of dodge, and joining all the other cool kids, by saying “No thanks” to your parents’ antediluvian ideas about education.

Listen to the call below. 

And, while you’re at it, order a copy of Dale’s great new book Hacking Your Education.

How to Make Your Work Meaningful and Your Meaning Work: Chapter 1 of The Education of Millionaires

(How to Make a Difference in the World Without Going Broke)

[Note: For the full Introduction to the book, click here.]

A twenty-one-year-old singer, songwriter, and guitarist named David found himself in a hospital in Paris one night, being treated for malnutrition, in 1967. The reason he was malnourished was that he was not making a lot of money and couldn’t afford proper foods, as he played gigs at bars, nightclubs, and dances across France and Spain.

No gig tonight, no eat tomorrow.

Two years before, he was in his sixth form in Cambridge, England (equivalent to the last two years of high school in the United States). David simply stopped going to his A-levels, the series of exams that determine university entrance in the UK. All he really cared about was rock music, and he dove fully into it, playing in local bands and eventually living by his wits, gig to gig, in France and Spain. Had you seen him in that moment in Paris, sickly in the hospital at age twenty-one, lacking funds to feed himself properly, you might not have thought he had made a good choice leaving his A-levels, or that he had any decent prospects in life.

And while that judgment may be correct for most starving artists, in the case of this particular artist—who was starving not just figuratively but literally—such a judgment would be as off the mark as you could get.
David returned to the UK, and later that year, a drummer he knew named Nick Mason asked him to join a little band they were putting together called Pink Floyd. The band went on to sell over 200 million copies of its albums over the next forty-plus years. The Dark Side of the Moon, the band’s most famous album, has sold upward of 45 million copies worldwide and ranks among the greatest-selling, most critically acclaimed, and most influential albums of all time. As lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist, and songwriter for the band that produced so many hits for over forty years, David Gilmour is easily one of the most important musicians in the history of rock. Continue Reading

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The Craigslist Test of the Value of a B.A.: Introduction to The Education of Millionaires

[Here is the full Introduction to my forthcoming book The Education of Millionaires. Since this piece is being made available here a month before the book is being released, Penguin has asked me to include the following proviso: “These are unrevised and unpublished proofs. Please do not quote for publication until verified with the finished book.” Thank you. Enjoy! –Michael]

You’ve been fed a lie. The lie is that if you study hard in school, get good grades, get into a good college, and get a degree, then your success in life is guaranteed.

This might have been true fifty years ago. But it is no longer true today.

If you want to succeed now, then you must also educate yourself in the real-world skills, capabilities, and mindsets that will get you ahead outside of the classroom. This is true whether you’ve been to college or not.

This book shows you the way.

Why Practical Intelligence Almost Always Beats Academic Intelligence

A thirty-seven-year-old Harvard MBA and a twentysomething college dropout, the latter a few credits shy of a film and theater degree from USC, are sitting across each other in a job interview. The MBA is wearing a crisply pressed three-piece suit with a yellow tie. The twentysomething is wearing jeans and a pullover sweatshirt, with no shirt underneath. The twentysomething is unshaven, and the state of his hair suggests that not much grooming had occurred between his departure from bed that morning and this interview.

The interview is going very, very poorly. The interviewer is entirely unimpressed with the academic background the interviewee brings to the table, and feels the interviewee doesn’t have enough experience to provide tangible value in the chaotic environment of a real-world start-up. Continue Reading

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