Is Seth Godin's altMBA Worth It? That Depends on You.

It's been over a year since I completed Seth Godin's altMBA program, and for me, yes, that 30-day sprint was absolutely, 100% worth it. I implore anyone and everyone to apply because I believe it is a truly unique and worthwhile experience. That said, my situation is relatively unique: I'm a writer who also happens to run a small business online. And since this program is heavily focused on writing, I took to it like a duck to water; but even then, this program changed who I am, how I write, how I think, and especially how I collaborate with others. So, if you're on the fence about whether or not the altMBA is right for you, let me tell you a little about my experience in the hopes of convincing you to cross over to the "dark side." 

If you're corporate...

Let's start with the area I know the least about. I only worked in "corporate America" for about a year, and it wasn't in a leadership role, to say the least. So, for the more corporate-types seeking out information, let me share with you what people in my cohort shared with me. Most of my classmates with corporate backgrounds joined the altMBA because they were hoping to either: 

  1. Add a new skill or credential to their resume in the hopes of rising in the ranks
  2. Explore the idea of leaving the corporate world behind to start a business of their own
  3. Earn a raise through pursuing continued education
  4. Become better leaders and educators
  5. Understand marketing and digital communication from a fresh perspective 

(I'm sure there were other motivations, but, to my knowledge, these five were the most common.)

I knew people in the program who were juggling full-time jobs, families, pets, floods, and more - all while completing the altMBA. In contrast, I just had to run my small business, try to get some sleep at night, and focus 100% on the program. When the 30 days were up, I was exhausted, both physically and mentally, and I have no idea how these corporate folks did it. Some did miss assignments, or were late in submissions; but more often than not, they did the extra work to get it done, and that came with its own sense of accomplishment, I suppose. 

Plus, over the course of the program, fellow students found the courage to ask for that raise, decided to start their new business, chose to be more inclusive and collaborative with their co-workers, and brought new excitement and energy to their jobs. Very few people I encountered failed to take the program seriously, and no one said that they regretted the experience, despite the heavy workload. And even today, when I talk with the people I met through the altMBA, they are still out there causing a ruckus, with a smile on their face. To me, that's what makes the program worth it, even if it's 30 days of pure hustle - it triggers a change that compels you to pursue your passion for the rest of your life. And if you're meant to be in the program, you'll love it because it pushes you so hard to become who you are truly meant to be. 

If you're a freelancer or run a micro-business...

I tell every freelancer and small business owner I know to do this program. Why? Because, honestly, it's the only higher education program available for independent workers. Sure, you can take piecemeal classes here and there based on your specialty; but the altMBA is the only holistic program I know of that covers everything from writing, sales, management, strategy, video content, goal setting, coaching, decision making, customer service, marketing, presentations, and so much more.

It's insane how much material this program truly covers in 30 days, and it will take a while for the dust to settle. But, more than anything, this program will fill you with confidence in your abilities, and make you believe that you can make change happen in your life and the lives of others by simply causing a ruckus in your field. 

And while I was one of the few freelancers/small business owners in my cohort, I believe that as more and more independent businesses spring up, and power becomes increasingly decentralized, educational programs like the altMBA will become the norm. Honestly, if you're running your own business online, I can't fathom why you would need to spend $250K+ on a traditional MBA program, other than for networking. It just doesn't seem valuable outside of the corporate system, because when you're running your own micro-business, there are no gatekeepers to hold you back or to pick you. 

Instead, you must pick yourself, and live and die by your customers. A traditional MBA won't give you the tools you need to do that, and it certainly won't prepare you for the type of work you'll need to do to succeed online. That's why the altMBA program is so wonderful for independent workers, whether they're already in the trenches or considering diving into one. 

Here's why: From the very beginning, you are responsible for what you get done. If you don't do the readings, you don't do the readings. If you don't do your assignments, no one is going to chase after you. Instead, you have to be completely responsible for yourself, and if you choose not to participate, you need to accept that the only person you're hurting is yourself. There are no tests, no lectures, no points for attendance. You either show up or you don't. You either take it seriously, or you don't. And that's more aligned with the actual experience of running your own business than anything you'll experience in college. As a result, this program doesn't just prepare you for the work you plan to do; it also sets expectations for the type of person you'll need to become in order to be successful. 

If you're a hermit...

Okay, this one is mostly for me. As most of my friends know, I rarely leave my house, which is partly because Chicago weather for most of the year is horrible and I'm too Southern to handle it, and partly because I'm writing all the time - novels, poems, blog posts, business books, deliverables for clients, etc., etc., etc. And if I'm not writing, I'm reading. That said, human interaction is relatively low on my list of things to do. I mostly interact with people through books, blogs, Twitter, etc. And while I realize this is not exactly what you would call "healthy" behavior, it works for me in some ways, and hurts me in others. (I'm sure other freelancers or remote workers can relate.) But what the altMBA did was give me a point of reference. Like I said, I've never really worked in corporate America. (In fact, I've avoided it like the plague.) But most of my clients are corporate and I write a lot of content for them. In the early years of our business, our lack of experience in that particular bubble was actually a huge hurdle we had to overcome. 

You see, corporate-speak doesn't come naturally to humans. I think it's ingrained into our brains over time. And, in my opinion, it doesn't do well online either, which is why I never felt the urge to learn it. And since my points of contact were usually limited to specific individuals within an organization, miscommunications were occurring more often than not. This was a huge problem. Even worse, I was blinded to my own behavior which was causing a lot of these issues. 

Enter the altMBA...

I got to collaborate with people from all walks of life, read their content, comment on their assignments, help them dig deeper for ideas, challenge their way of thinking - and get the same done to my own work by my peers. Over the course of four weeks, I worked with four different groups of people. And like a chemical reaction, I noticed different properties about myself each coming week. 

For instance, in the first week, I was so nervous, I stopped breathing during a video chat, which left me dizzy and unable to catch my breath. (That was embarrassing.) Then, for the second week, I had a hard time articulating needs with my team, and I felt that the project was spiraling out of control. That caused me to be a complete control freak, who ended up losing it by the end of the project. Then, for the third week, still reeling from the second, I found myself cursing like a sailor and talking shit out of pure insecurity. Finally, by the time the fourth week rolled around, I was so exhausted from barely sleeping for a month, and filled to the brim with information, that I settled into my projects and pushed through like the goddamn professional I was supposed to be from the very beginning. It was as if I had magically transformed into a completely different person from the individual who had existed 30 days prior. 

And I'm still changing, every day. I continue to push myself to follow the values outlined by the altMBA. Sure, I'm not as active as I'd like to be in the alumni channels, and I'm still an awkward person who would rather read and write than interact with others; but this program completely changed me as an individual, and it's made my business what it is today. Over the past year, we've had more glowing reviews from clients than we've ever had in the two years prior to the program. We've worked on enormous content projects that I wouldn't have even been able to wrap my head around before the altMBA. And we've even started writing our own business books, which I'm absolutely in love with. None of this would have been possible without the altMBA. I'm absolutely sure of that. 

So what now? 

I can't guarantee that you'll have the same experiences as I did. Everyone is different, and every altMBA cohort is completely unique due to the people involved. I can't really tell you exactly what to expect, or exactly what you'll be doing. But I can tell you this: you will work harder than you ever have, you will meet people who will change your life, and you will ship work that you'll be extremely proud of - even if no one outside of the program cares to see it. The altMBA provides you with an opportunity to absolutely change your life, but only if you give it everything you've got and believe that it matters. Because, trust me, it does. 

-A.J.

P.S. If you're interested in learning more about the altMBA you can: