Have you heard about the “Real Life MBA”?

Tim Ferriss, author of several NY Times #1 bestsellers (Tools of Titans, 4 Hour Work Week etc), investor and podcaster brought the term into play.

In his younger years, he was faced with the question of whether he should sign up for a highly recognized MBA program on top of his academic education at Princeton or not.

Instead of simply following this “classic” predestined path, he did the following thought experiment:

Instead of paying $160,000 that an MBA would have cost him what would happen if instead he invested that money into a couple of promising Startups and got actively involved with them.

And the question he then asked himself was:

“If after 2 years (that’s how long the MBA would have taken) all the money is gone, what will I have learned? About management? About the market? About business dynamics? What valuable relations to people will I have built? And how does this ‘worst case’ result relate to what the ‘real’ MBA would have given me in return?

So he gave it a try and went after the ‘Real Life’ MBA instead of the classical one.

What can be learned here?

For sure it is not that MBA programs are not worth the money or are a bad career choice. Rather the contrary is the case in my opinion. There is no doubt for me that they are an excellent growth path as well.

For me this example just perfectly illustrates a very powerful concept or mindset when it comes to decision making:

Systemic Learning!

It considers an aspect that is often neglected when making an important choice:

What can be learned on the journey and what value can this have compared or in addition to the more obvious factors such as money or recognition?

It can be applied when you go onto an entrepreneurial journey, but also in a lot of other different contexts (projects to take on, corporate career choices, even decisions in your private life).

“I never lose. I either win or I learn” (Nelson Mandela)

So if you want to make ‘Systemic Learning’ part of your own decision making process, the question you could ask yourself would be along the lines of:

“Even if, after (fill in the blank) years, this is not going to be a financial success, what will I have learned?”

I am always encouraging people who ask themselves whether to step on an entrepreneurial journey or not to reflect upon this question. No matter if they are recent graduates or are considering a transition after a long and successful corporate career…

Back to Tim Ferriss:

What was the aftermath in this example?

The 160k USD that he had mentally written off in advance had not even gone. He had in fact invested into companies such as Uber, Shopify or Twitter at a very early stage…

Sometimes you even learn and win at the same time!

What are your thoughts on this? Have you experienced something similiar as well? In business or elsewhere?