Give Yourself the Gift of the Personal MBA


We offer a lot of book lists here at Business Pundit. Business books give you access to some of the most successful business minds. You can read them at your own pace relatively inexpensively. And no matter what education you pursue, reading makes up a huge part of the learning. This is the logic behind the PMBA (personal MBA), which is essentially a huge list of great business books.

What is a PMBA?

Developed from an original list of books recommended by Seth Godin the Personal MBA is designed to help you educate yourself about advanced business concepts on your own time and without going into a classroom or into debt.

According to the PMBA site:

The PMBA is more flexible than a traditional MBA program, doesn’t involve going into massive debt, and won’t interrupt your income stream for two years. Just pick up one of these business books, learn as much as you can, discuss what you learn with others, then go out into the real world and make great things happen.

How Far Can You Go With Books?

I’m a huge fan of experiential learning. I really think most people need to get out there and get their hands dirty to fully understand something. So what good is reading a bunch of books? Presumably a person who’s going after this PMBA is highly motivated to learn the subjects the reading list covers. And presumably this person has a job – and it could be almost any job – that will allow at least some application of the new knowledge being acquired.

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You don’t have to be the head of HR to apply the techniques of team building to your current position. And you don’t have to be a CEO to practice strategy planning. Taking on challenging roles in the job you have now, or even in volunteer opportunities, can build experience into the PMBA.

What do you have to lose?

Oliver Roland at Books That Can Change Your Life is already a successful entrepreneur. He’s set a goal to read 52 books off the PMBA list in 52 weeks, and he’s blogging the experience. I dare you to take a look at this post and not be inspired to read more. Maybe you don’t need to commit to the whole list, but maybe you could do 12 of the books on the list in a year.

So what? Who cares if you study your way to a PMBA? If you don’t value knowledge and education for its own sake, just imagine the conversations you could start with – oh I don’t know – hiring managers?

  • Hi Lela and thanks for talking about the Personal MBA and my crazy project ;)
    I invite all the motivated readers who want to change theirs lives – not only by reading, but by applying what they learn – to share theirs thoughts, questions and advices on my blog or on the Personal MBA forum.

    Check out too the post that started all and where I explain my project :


  • Thanks for the mention, Lela – much appreciated! I’m also glad you pointed to Olivier – he’s doing stellar work, and is being very generous with his notes. (Also, a quick correction: the idea was inspired by Seth, but the original list and each annual revision is based on my own reading and research.)

    The major upside to self-education is entrepreneurship; it’s significantly more profitable than employment if you know what you’re doing. There are a lot of open-minded HR professionals out there who don’t look down on self-education, but it’s much easier to be successful if you focus on building your own business, even if you start it on the side while holding a day job. (That’s what I did – you can learn a lot from bootstrapping.)

    For people who are entrepreneurially-inclined, MBA programs are a complete waste of time. Self-education is where you get the most return for your money, time, and energy.

  • Lela Davidson

    Sorry about the error Josh. Great point about self-education and entrepreneurs. In fact, I’m pretty inspired by your project myself. I’d love to see a Personal MFA in Creative Writing. Alas, another project…. Maybe in 2009!

  • Great post! I’ve been on this journey on my own and didn’t realize Seth Godin had put something together. This is a valuable way that Entrepreneurs can learn the skills on our time. I’ll be blogging about this topic for my readers soon..

    Jared Lyda

  • In my previous post I gave all credit to Seth Godin, when in fact, Josh Kaufman is deserving of much credit for putting the list and research together. Seth spawned the idea and Josh did the work. thanks Josh!


  • Bekbolot

    Hi, friends. Please share with me your beautiful minds…