Why Books Are Better Than College

First off, I apologize to all of my college professors.  I have spent 7+ years taking college classes at 3 different colleges and I have enjoyed every minute of it.  In fact, I plan to take more classes in the future and wish I could constantly take classes.  Unfortunate I am currently short on both time and money, two key items to continue to enroll in classes.  I love to learn and universities are a fantastic place for it.  Additionally, the only book I actually read in high school was “The Great Gatsby” and I didn’t read a book while getting my undergraduate until a friend convinced me to read “The Automatic Millionaire” towards the end of my senior year.  I despised reading and did everything I could to avoid it.

So if I love college and barely ever read any books up to and during college, then why am I making the claim that books are better than college?  Let me explain.

I received my undergraduate degree in Computer Science from SUNY Oswego in 2006.  State schools are quite a bit cheaper than most private schools.  I can’t remember the annual tuition from when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree, but if someone was to get a 4 year degree from a New York State university* today, it would cost ~ $90,000 to live on campus and ~$62,000 for an in state commuter.  Now hopefully students can get financial aid and scholarships to offset some of the cost, but that is still a pretty hefty bill for most students.  In exchange for this cost, they receive 4 years of classes (both in their major and in general classes), live class sessions, the experience of meeting a lot of different people and a degree.  Assuming 5 classes per semester, or a total of 40 classes, each class costs somewhere between $1,550 – $2,250.

Now lets take a look at books.

I am a big fan of Amazon (see my post Why I Love Amazon Prime).  I read ~30 books a year, most of which I purchase from Amazon.  Most of the books that I purchase cost between $10 – $45, so the average price of a book is usually $20-$25.  So assuming I read $30 books a year @ $25 per book, I would spend $750 a year on books.  This is between $29,990 – $14,690 less money than it would cost me to attend one year at a SUNY school.  The chart below does some additional comparisons between college and books.

Criteria 1 Year College 30 Books
Cost $29,990 – $14,690 $750
Topics Studied 10 10-30
Knowledge Sharers Professors: From Adjunct, Part Time – PHDs Authors: Any range of education/background/experience
Time Commitment 6-10 hours/day** 30 minutes to several hours/day
Ability to Work Potentially Part Time Part Time or Full Time

Additionally, here are some other benefits of reading:

  1. Improved Reading Speed: The more I read, the faster I am able to read.  This helps reduce the amount of time spent reading a book and helps save time in the rest of my life.
  2. Interesting Topics: I get to choose the topics that I want to read/learn about.  I can read 3 books on the same topics, or each book I read can be on a different topic.
  3. Learn New Ideas: Most books are written by different authors, with different background and experiences.  With each book that I read, even ones that I do not like, I get a variety of new ideas and insights.
  4. Improved Knowledge: I love to learn.  With each book I read, I expand the basis of my knowledge.  There is a great quote that I love – “We learn at the boundary of what we already know.”
  5. Conversation Starters: The more I read, the easier it is for me to talk to others and continue conversations.  I have a great basis of different ideas and knowledge in a broad range of subjects.
  6. Learn from the Best: Where else, other than books, can $25 get you the inner thoughts and years of experience from some of the greatest minds?
  7. Read When You Want: With books, you can choose when and how you want to read.  You can read each night before bed, right when you wake up, between meetings, during lunch or at the gym.  If you like audio-books, you can listen in the car, or while you are doing many other activities.

What are some of the downsides of college?

  • You are forced to take specific classes (ex. introductory classes, general education classes, specific classes for your major), many of which may not interest or benefit you.
  • It is a big time commitment**.  You most likely will not be working, or if you do work it will be part time.  This restricts your ability to make money during this time.
  • It is a big financial commitment.  Most students will graduate with an average of $35,200*** in college related debt.  This has to be paid back, with interest.  Building on the previous example, you also will not be earning maximum value from any job you are working while going to school full time, which sets you back further financially.
  • Getting a college degree does not necessarily mean you will have a job.  Many people I know are not working in their field of study.
  • You do not get to choose your professors (typically only 1 or 2 professors will teach a specific class), so you may be at the whim of the educator currently teaching a course.

With that said, I do think there is a lot of benefit to pursuing a college degree.  I also think you can get much of the same knowledge (and more) for a lot less time/money buy reading books.  It is up to each person to decide which one is right for them (and maybe the answer is both college and books like it was for me).

For anyone interested in what my reading list looks like for a year, here is an example:


  1.  First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
  2.  The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer
  3.  The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
  4. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience
  5. Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think
  6. Atlas Shrugged
  7.  Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Law School
  8. Cracking the Communication Code: The Secret to Speaking Your Mate’s Language
  9.  The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security
  10.  Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0: How to Stand Out from the Crowd and Tap into the Hidden Job Market Using Social Media and 999 Other Tactics Today
  11. Small Business Start-up: Your Comprehensive Guide to Starting & Managing a Business
  12.  Quality is Free: The Art of Making Quality Certain
  13. The Complete MBA for Dummies
  14. De-Railed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership
  15. Shipping Greatness: Practical lesson son building and launching outstanding software, learned on the job at Google and Amazon
  16. The Real Estate Investor’s Tax Strategy Guide
  17. The Art of War for Managers: 50 Strategic Rules
  18. The Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life
  19. For Better or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families
  20. No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Productivity and Sanity
  21. Wealth Creation for Small Business Owners: 75 Strategies for Financial Success in Any Economy
  22. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course
  23. The Courage to Be Rich: Creating a Life of Material and Spiritual Abundance
  24. Essential Skills for the Agile Developer: A Guide to Better Programming and Design
  25. The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive
  26. Weekend Millionaire’s Secrets to Negotiating Real Estate: How to Get The Best deals to Build Your Fortune in Real Estate
  27.  The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
  28.  Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership
  29.  The Power of Personal Accountability: Achieve What Matters to You
  30. Go For Gold: Inspiration to Increase Your Leadership Impact


*Yearly tuition rates taken from https://www.suny.edu/student/paying_tuition.cfm

**Time commitment of college http://www.cornellcollege.edu/academic-support-and-advising/study-tips/How%20Much%20Time%20Should%20You%20Devote%20to%20Studying.shtml

***Average college related debt in 2013 http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/17/pf/college/student-debt/index.html

Building a Home Gym Version 3.0

In the first post of this series (Building a Home Gym Version 1.0), I started the creation of my home gym in a storage room in our basement.

In the second post (Building a Home Gym Version 2.0), I cleared out the room and added some new equipment.

Version 3.0

The gym was coming together, but I wanted more.  I wanted a gym that I enjoyed working out in.  Additionally, since I primarily work out alone, I needed to upgrade my bench to a power rack so that I could do some of my heavier compound lifts safely (ex. Squat, Bench Press).

When I started looking online for power racks, I quickly realized that the more affordable ones were not very durable and the commercial ones were quite pricey.  With a little research and some help from Google, I found plans to build your own power rack for ~$100.



I think the rack turned out great and was definitely a big upgrade from my bench.  My mother-in-law then founded me a leg machine at an estate sale and I found a dumbbell rack on craigslist.




I decided to finish off the room, so I drywalled the walls, gave them a coat of paint and installed 4 can lights.






Overall I am happy with the gym.  Most of the equipment was purchased used or I built it myself.  Weight plates or dumbbells  generally sell for $1 per pound.  All of my weights were purchased on craigslist for .50 cents or less per pound.  The foam flooring was also purchased on craigslist and helps warm the room and cushion the weights.  The mirrors were purchased on craigslist for $10 each.  I would highly recommend building a home gym for anyone who is interested in working out, has space and wants to save money on a gym membership.

My Favorite Post-Workout Shake

This is my favorite post-workout shake!




  • Blend

Results (May vary slightly depending on your ingredients):


  • Calories: 430
  • Carbohydrates: 16g
  • Fiber: 9g
  • Fat: 7g
  • Protein: 77g

If you are looking for more meal replacement shakes, check out ideal shape reviews.

My Top 10 Books

I read a lot of books.  Most of my reading is not “fun” reading (as my wife would describe).  I generally read books on the topic of self improvement, motivation, finance, business, software development, etc.  I really enjoy learning and improving myself.  Below are my Top 10 favorite books that span many of those topics.  There are a ton of great books out there, but the below are my recommendations if you are starting out your bookshelf.  I typically reread each of these books every few years and almost always pick up new ideas or remember ones I have forgotten.


Tom’s Top 10 Books

1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

               What it is About: Robert Kiyosaki describes his “2 Dads.”  His “poor dad” is his biological father who is educated but is in the “Rat Race” and acquires liabilities.  His “rich dad” is his friend’s father who uses his financial literacy to acquire assets.  Throughout the book, Kiyosaki describes the different mindset of his 2 fathers.

              Why I Recommend It: I grew up in a lower middle class home.  My parents did not go to college and both of them worked.  I learned some basic financial lessons from them, but realized that I needed to do things differently in my life to achieve my goals.  This book changed the way that I think about assets vs. liabilities and is the basis for financial decisions that I make in my life.

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People

               What it is About: Dale Carnegie discusses how to get along with people.  Regardless of your occupation, goals or ambitions, everyone needs to build relationships.  This book describes how to build relationships, care about others, provide feedback and motivate them.

              Why I Recommend It: As with most of the books on this list, this a classic.  It changed my life when I read it and I go back and re-read it every few years.  The way I approach personal and work relationships has vastly improved after reading this book and I am a much happier person.

3. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap – and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

               What it is About: Jim Collins and his team spent years studying companies.  They looked at similar companies and compared/contrasted ones that were merely “Good” and one that make the leap to “Great.”  Through this analysis he describes the key characteristics of great companies.

              Why I Recommend It: I believe that good is the enemy of great.  When things are bad, people know a change is needed.  But when things are good, people have less motivation to become great.  The research in this book provides solid concepts (backed by lots of data) into key characteristics/actions that truly great companies employ.  Whether you work as part of a company or own you own businesses, the recommendation in this book will benefit you.

4. Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring out the Best in Themselves and Others by Justin Menkes

               What it is About: Some people fall apart when under pressure, and some excel in these circumstances.  Through interviews with 60+ executives who excel under pressure, Justin identifies 3 key traits that these leaders successful: realistic optimism, subservience to purpose and finding order in chaos.

              Why I Recommend It: We all face challenges and stress in our life.  By understanding and employing these traits, you can learn how to not only be able to deal with these situations, but be able to excel in them.  Whether for personal or professional reasons, being able to succeed when the pressure is on is very beneficial.

5. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

               What it is About: Time management is something that it seems like everyone wants to get better at.  David offers a time management process that focuses on organizing all the “stuff” in your life so that you get it out of your head and work through your tasks in an organized manner.

              Why I Recommend It: Being more effective/efficient with your time is a very desirable skill to have.  I have used several systems and this is the best one that I have found.  One of the benefits is that it is a system (theory) and there are many ways to implement it, so you will be able to find one that works for your specific situation.  After implementing this system for several years, I have reduced my stress significantly and and improved my efficiency.  This allows me to spend more time doing what I want.

6. Think & Grow Rich by Napolean Hill

               What it is About: Napolean describes the mindset of many successful people and provides a case for the power of positive thinking.  There have been many books published on this topic (ex. The Secret), but the is the original and my favorite.

              Why I Recommend It: Many people are afraid of failure.  Many are also afraid of success and don’t understand how to achieve their goals.  This book will aid you in becoming successful.

7. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful! by Marshall Goldsmith

               What it is About: Many people reach a certain level of success in their life/career and then stall out.  They seem to lack something required to “get to the next level.”  Often times, the issue is not realizing that you may need to do some things different to be successful at the next level, compared to what made you (or you think made you) successful at the last level.

              Why I Recommend It: Understanding concepts like causation (this action leads to this outcome) and knowing that each level of success requires different actions will allow you to progress towards your goals with more speed and discipline than most.

8 .The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It by Michael Gerber

               What it is About: Gerber discusses why most small businesses fail and provides valuable insights into how small businesses can be successful.

              Why I Recommend It: I had always heard that most small business fail within the first year.  This initially scared me away from starting a small business, but after reading this book I gained a much better understanding of the real reasons why most small businesses fail.  I use this as the basis for running my multiple small businesses.

9. The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins

               What it is About: Watkins identifies 4 types of transitions when you get into a new role: Start-up, Turnaround, Realignment and Sustaining Success.  He spends the book looking at each of these transitions and guides the reader on how to make the first 90 days successful for each type.

              Why I Recommend It: We all face new roles, either in our personal or professional lives.  Understanding how to address the current situation and adjusting your approach based on this will start you off on the right foot for your new role.

10. Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit by Tom & Mary Poppendieck

               What it is About: Lean concepts started out in the manufacturing industry but are relevant in most areas of business.  Tom & Mary walk through each aspect of lean and describe how it can be applied to software development.

              Why I Recommend It: For years, software development has been plagued with waste.  Mary & Tom provide a very detailed explanation of how lean concepts can make software development much more efficient and effective.  Even if you don’t develop software you interact with it every day.  Seeing how lean concepts can be adapted to work with software will also allow you to see how they can be adapted and applied to other areas of your life.

BONUS: I had such a hard time narrowing down the list to only 10 books, so here is an extra!

What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know... (1)

11. What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cashflow… And 36 Other Key Financial Measures by Frank Gallinelli

               What it is About: Frank walks through 37 financial formulas that apply to real estate investing.  He provides the formula, background and examples of each to make it very easy to understand, even if you failed accounting.

              Why I Recommend It: The basis for any investment is a financial analysis.  I see too many real estate investors not understand how to properly analyze properties and get into trouble.  This book will be the best investment anyone can make for their real estate investing business.  And for those who don’t invest in real estate, many of the financial calculations will still apply to your business (ex. calculating payback period of an investment).


Building a Home Gym Version 2.0

In part 1 (Building a Home Gym Version 1.0), I showed the initial home gym that I created.  This gym worked out well for a while, but over time I need to upgrade my equipment to support my workouts.  Below are some of the upgrades that I made in version 2.0.

Version 2.0

In the first version of my gym, my equipment was crammed into a storage room in our basement.  This made me claustrophobic and did not give me much space to do various workouts.  So I decided to relocate everything stored in the room and create a dedicated space for the gym.

The first step was to clear out the room and apply Drylok Masonry Waterproofer to the walls.



I then put down foam tiles over the concrete.



I then added an 80 lb Everlast Heavybag that I found on craigslist for $15.



These were some great improvements.  I now had a dedicated place to workout with some space for things like P90X, yoga, etc. The heavy bag was a great addition to add some cardio at the end of my strength training workouts.  But I was not satisfied.  Stay turned for Version 3.0!