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The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  31,627 ratings  ·  1,067 reviews
Master the fundamentals, hone your business instincts, and save a fortune in tuition.

The consensus is clear: MBA programs are a waste of time and money. Even the elite schools offer outdated assembly-line educations about profit-and-loss statements and PowerPoint presentations. After two years poring over sanitized case studies, students are shuffled off into middle manag
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published December 30th 2010 by Portfolio (first published December 1st 2010)
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Popular Answered Questions
Rexemon King Before reading clear your mind.
Whatever you learnt before forget everything.
Start reading.
If it's your first book on marketing you will very much …more
Before reading clear your mind.
Whatever you learnt before forget everything.
Start reading.
If it's your first book on marketing you will very much love it.
I bought this many years ago.
Read it.
For me when I was reading I was in the mind of the author why he wrote this. Why he thinks like this.
After finishing I gave it to my younger one
For him, it is completely different.
Best of luck

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May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I wrote this book, so I may be biased...
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Risks are known unknowns...... Uncertainties are unknown unknowns." p.357

Do I believe, after having read this book cover to cover, that I have earned the equivalent of a MBA from a state college or university or amassed the same knowledge as one who has graduated with a MBA? No.

Do I believe I will grasp what the recent B-school graduate is saying as he/she begins spouting MBA-speak in the next meeting? Maybe.

Do I believe this book is a valuable beginners guide which arms me with the necessary i
Dave Bolton
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm studying an MBA at the moment (actually, for the last few years, almost done!) so I feel qualified to discuss this book.

To the book. It's a nice high level overview of a lot of the topics that an MBA will touch on, and quite a few that an MBA won't touch on at all. It is likely to be very helpful to all sorts of people. Anyone, even someone with an MBA, would be able to get something from this, particularly as it also covers "soft" subjects like personal development.

But be clear, this is no
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you're thinking of going back to school to get your MBA, read this book first. Kaufman's premise is that MBA programs are very expensive and teach outdated material. Unless you're going to a top tier school where its name on your degree will yield connections and ins to high finance, you don't need to accrue all that debt to learn what you need.

Kaufman started by compiling a reading list of the top 100 business books on his website, His book takes all the best pieces he learn
Jake Goretzki
Sep 18, 2012 rated it liked it
I’m a sucker for silver bullets like this.

It’s a pretty decent, digestible glossary of the most prevalent business terms de nos jours – he says ‘models and concepts’ but I think that’s an overstatement. It’s readable by virtue of no subject extending beyond a handful of paragraphs and it’s a pretty good reference, really. The sections on value and marketing are the best.

Its tone is also pretty likeable too – and I salute anyone who can tell me that any MBA is a waste of money (though I still do
David McClendon, Sr
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman is one of those “have to read” books. The whole premise behind The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business is the same as for the Redneck MBA. That is, one does not have to go to a business school or even takes courses on-line to have the equivalent of an MBA.

Kaufman provides explanations of many different concepts and defines numerous terms in a simple, easy to read, format. The only problem I saw with the book was that 8% of the bo
Apr 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
I don't know what went wrong with this book. I think I had my expectation way too high.

I was disappointed with the lack of depth of information. The entire book is about a list of concepts with some definition and a small example. This kind of information is completely useless. I'm a developer and it taught me the different types of marketing which does not help me in any way.

I think it's okay if you're into business and going to delve further in each topic discussed in the book. The book is lik
Mar 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Someone told me about this book and said that reading it was the equivalent of learning everything they teach in an MBA program, without going hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt. That’s exactly what the author touts in the first section entitled “Why Read This Book?”

I can definitely see his point. I found the format excellent: sections with clear goals and chapters illustrating one concept after another in an interesting and straightforward manner. As each concept was being explained I t
Leonard Houx
May 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
Cheesy and shallow.

To be fair, I was attracted to the prospect of a 400-page book that summarizes the most important ideas in business. But this was too thin and too soft. Think of a 400 page crêpe.

Worse – and despite the shallow familiarity – it read like something the author was pushing to finish as quickly as possible, which I gather he was. A case in point are the quotes with which he begins each passage: it's obvious that he hadn't collected these from his supposedly extensive readings bu
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Heavy on terms and aphorisms but light on detailed case studies or dissections of different management processes. The whole thing feels fluffy; each chapter is broken down into one- or two-page segments, with an introductory quote providing some borrowed authority.

It's not a bad book. The opening section is persuasive in arguing against assuming the debt of an MBA program (although that's not something I was considering anyway). The examples can feel slight, but Kaufman is good at harnessing the
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read
I just finished my third listen of the Personal MBA and still enjoy it alot. In short, it is a great high level summary of many important topics in both business and personal development. I does not go into detail about each topic, but gives you a primer on the most important elements. The book is focused around the mindset of entrepreneurs and teaches you the «first principles of business thinking».

The opening premise of the book is that MBAs are a «waste of money» if you do not want to work at
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book provides a very high-level overview of many different business topics. It is divided into short one-page definitions of terms you are likely to encounter in business literature. These terms are defined clearly and simply, with examples or anecdotes that highlight the issues at hand. Sometimes it is also accompanied by a short analysis by the author. It is generally very sensible advice.

For some, I'm sure this book will offer new, useful information, and I might keep it around as compac
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book this is a map and I think should be treated as such. It gives you a good overview of the terrain, allows you to start strategise about how to spread and move your forces, but, like any map, its not the real land and until you go into the battle you will never know what its really like.

And actually a real MBA is not a real battle either (its just a fancier 3D map). So this is to answer some of the negative reviews.

Josh quotes Seth Godin in the book saying that dedicated reading
Daniel Clausen
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I took this book out of the library and spent the afternoon with it. For a long time, I had been a fan of Kaufman's website. I have personally referred a number of business students to it as a tutor for a professional college. The book was just as easy to read and reference as the website. I was able to obtain everything I wanted from the book in about two to three hours of reading.

For me the most useful parts of the book were on managing one's self, analyzing systems, and marketing. More impor
Jonathan Fouch
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you're like me and never took a business class in college - but want to learn more about business - this should be the first book you read in the genre. It's a great introduction to all the critical fields of business: value creation, marketing, sales, finance, working with yourself, working with others, and systems. The subchapters, which are centered around specific concepts, are bite sized and can be consumed in a relatively short amount of time - perfect for the busy, working adult. The w ...more
Mahbub Zaman
Jun 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
I am in Chapter 11 out of total 14 chapters. So I think it's fair to predict my review for this book won't change a whole lot from what it is now.

The author claims this book summarizes the knowledge gained from a typical MBA degree. If this is true, MBA is the most worthless degree I have known to date. But I am doubtful an actual MBA will be so much useless.

In the end, I feel the rate of return (time spent vs knowledge gained) for this book is very low. Not that I disagree with the content, but
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly useful tidbits about entrepreneurship, management, leadership, etc. Nothing earth-shattering but the author does a good job with all his little summaries. Silly title.
Andrew Padilla
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Personal MBA was a journey. It took me about two years of on and off reading to finish but finished it is! After starting a new job that I knew absolutely nothing about, I did what any over-eager and naively enthusiastic young employee would do: caught the flu! So I had Satan, er, my girlfriend, go and pick this up for me in an effort to earn my MBA for the economic price of $17.99!... or whatever it was. Anyway, Kaufman got me all psyched on the fact that I was saving tens of thousands of d ...more
Katie Bayford
Jul 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
Did you know that if you run a business, you can't just look at all the money coming in, and that you have to subtract costs such as taxes, produce and labour? Did you know that if you buy something to sell on, and then damage that item, you won't be able to sell it for as much as you could have done whilst it was undamaged? Did you know that motivation sometimes runs out? Did you know know that if you price certain items too high, your sales might suffer because fewer people are willing to pay ...more
Chris Bumpas
I bought this book mainly for the finance section, so the rest was somewhat boring to me. Too much "self help" for my taste.
Even the section I was interested in was sort of elementary.
This book is marketed towards those who want to skip business school. However, I plan to get my MBA and still found parts of the book helpful for a general idea of things to know.

Edit: Will graduate with my MBA from Texas Tech in December 2015 and this book just doesn't have enough substance for anyone to really
Apr 23, 2011 rated it liked it
There are a lot of great things in this book. Thousands of great ideas and things to think about, but unfortunately none of them are given the space to actually be discussed. This book feels more like a glossary of business terms and productivity advice, rather than a thorough business education. Although I enjoyed the writer's voice, I thought the format style of hundreds of very short "posts" was distracting and didn't allow for enough substance. ...more
Carolina Esteves de Andrade
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
This week I Just finished reading this great book called The Personal MBA written by Josh Kaufman, where the author explores the pros and cons of investing in an MBA course since even elite schools like Wharton and Harvard offer outdated programs that teach more about Power Point Presentations and unnecessary financial models than about what it takes to run a real business. The first part of the book is all dedicated to this discussion. I thought it was very interesting and an eye opener, since ...more
Alex Timberman

The book is quite ambitious. The author says if you want to save money on that expensive MBA education and if you are not going for the connections to get you your dream office job, that he will tell you everything you need to know about an MBA in his book.

I think he achieved a lot of what he set out to do. Of course, you can’t get that deep assimilation of knowledge without all the advantages of being around smart classmates and professors and with the added benefit of 2-3 years of continuous
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
I won this book in a giveaway. I thought it was going to be a book on MBAs and what they can teach you. It was yet another book on being a "Business Thinker". I've worked in retail for almost 20years and nothing in this book is a substitute for common sense and treating your employees with respect. CEOs, Business Leaders, Managers and College Graduates need a course in listening to ideas regardless of where they come from and admitting mistakes. Having a successful business depends more on those ...more
Rosie Nguyễn
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author made his effort to include most of the essential fields of business into a 400 page book, which may be long and heavy to capture all. But he managed to keep the business terms as understandable as possible. The examples are plain and mostly refer to his previous work at P&G, which can be tedious to some readers, as the author didn't have diversified working experience in business corporations. However, I appreciate his huge knowledge and his advocacy for lifelong learning, a good mode ...more
Ntombezinhle Nzama
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book has a lot of information, but I like how its divided into smaller sections. I have the audiobook and I feel I need to get the physical copy so I'm always able to refer. This is one of those books that enable you not only to understand how businesses work but also how people work and how you can be more productive. ...more
Jason Braatz
May 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Most of the information contained in this book is flatly wrong. There are much better books on the basics of a business and synthesize it much more accurately than this author does; The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It comes to mind, for example, as a great starting point for a business of any size. Understanding the use of capital in simple English is better explained in Rich Dad, Poor Dad or any of the early books by Peter Drucker .

Mr. Kaufman is a
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I was skeptical at first that it'll be a generic pop-management book but I decided to read it anyway and was very pleased. The book covers a wide range of subjects that comprise MBA curriculum at a very high level in simple plain-English and provided ample further readings if there's any specific section that interest the reader.

My favorite nugget was that the most effective testimonials to encourage sales is in the format of "I was interested in this offer, but skeptical. I decided to purchase
Luke Starbuck
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: top-shelf
One of the best general business books I have ever read.

Rather than present the author's theory, hypothesis or learning on a certain subject (like many business books do ie Crossing the Chasm, Lean Startup, etc), this is in fact more of a fact-focused book, that covers the full spectrum of fundamental business.

An amazing primer for anyone who wants to have good quality conversations at a business, and be recognized as knowing more than just their focus area of specialization.
Pete Roome
Jun 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
A genuinely interesting read.

The title of this book makes it sounds very dry indeed but the author does a great job of keeping his description of each concept brief and to the point. There is more than enough information here to whet the appetite. This has left me with lots of questions and intrigue which i will hopefully answer by reading the authors book recommendations in his notes.
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Josh Kaufman is an independent business teacher, education activist, and author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business.

Josh's unique, multidisciplinary approach to business education has helped hundreds of thousands of readers around the world master foundational business concepts on their own terms, and his work has been featured in BusinessWeek, Fortune, and Fast Company, as well as by

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“Business schools don't create successful people. They simply accept them, then take credit for their success.” 30 likes
“Every successful business (1) creates or provides something of value that (2) other people want or need (3) at a price they're willing to pay, in a way that (4) satisfies the purchaser's needs and expectations and (5) provides the business sufficient revenue to make it worthwhile for the owners to continue operation.” 24 likes
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