Alex Banayan’s story sounds like something out of a too good to be true Hollywood script.
From one day deciding to hack the popular daytime game show, The Price Is Right, to make extra cash to chasing legendary TV personality Larry King around a grocery store, Banayan’s journey to becoming a best-selling author is one you that you have to read for yourself to believe.
N’DIGO recently caught up with the much sought-after entrepreneur to learn more about his amazing story and his unbelievable book, The Third Door.
N’DIGO: In your own words, tell us who is Alex Banayan?
Alex Banayan: I’m the author of the national bestseller, The Third Door, which chronicles my five-year quest tracking down Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Warren Buffett, Maya Angelou, Steven Spielberg and dozens more of the world’s most successful people to uncover how they broke through and launched their careers.
As a kid, what did you imagine you’d be when you grew up?
I’m the son of Persian Jewish immigrants. I pretty much came out of the womb with “MD” stamped on my behind. By the time I got to college, I was the pre-med of pre-meds. But it wasn’t long before I found myself hitting snooze four or five times each morning – not because I was tired, but because I was bored.
What was your inspiration for the book?
My question of, “What do I want to do with my life?” eventually turned into, “How did the people who did know what they wanted to do break through?” How did Bill Gates sell his first piece of software when nobody knew his name? How did Steven Spielberg, who’d been rejected from film school, become the youngest major studio director in Hollywood history?
I went to the library and ripped through business books and biographies, searching for answers. But eventually I was left empty-handed. That’s when my naive eighteen-year-old thinking kicked in: Well, if no one has written the book I’m dreaming of reading, why not write it myself?
Did you already have this mind when you appeared on The Price Is Right and flipped the sailboat you won?
Absolutely. As soon as I decided to set off on this journey to learn from the world’s most successful people, the hard part, I figured, would be paying for it. Traveling to interview these people would cost money, money I didn’t have. I was buried in tuition payments and all out of Bar Mitzvah cash. There had to be another way. Two nights before final exams, I was in the library when I saw a post on Facebook offering tickets to The Price Is Right.
What if…what if I go on the show to win some money to fund the mission? It was absurd. The show was taping the next morning. I had to study for finals. And on top of that, I’d never seen a full episode of the show before. But the thought kept crawling back. It felt as if someone had tied a rope around my gut and was slowly pulling. I decided to do the logical thing and study. But I didn’t study for finals. I studied how to hack The Price Is Right. I went on the show the next day, executed a ridiculous strategy, won the Showcase Showdown, got a sailboat, sold the sailboat – and that’s how I funded the book.
Tell us about the book and what readers can expect when they pick it up?
I chased Larry King through a grocery store, hacked Warren Buffett’s shareholders meeting, crouched in a bathroom to get to Tim Ferriss…getting each interview was an equally wild adventure. And they were all packed with surprising lessons. Bill Gates taught me his keys to negotiating. Steve Wozniak showed me how to engineer sustainable happiness. Jessica Alba, how to use your biggest fears to launch a billion-dollar business. Even Pitbull gave unbelievable lessons about achieving and maintaining success and how he learned them drug dealing on the streets.
How do you decide to and then go about hacking Warren Buffett’s shareholders meeting or chase Larry King through a grocery store? Is it an opportunity thing?
One of my favorite quotes from The Third Door comes from Summit founder Elliott Bisnow and it answers this question perfectly. “I’ve learned that you have to go for it, even if there’s a chance you’ll fail,” Elliott said. “The planets are never going to perfectly align. When you see an opportunity, it’s up to you to jump.”
Do you think it’s fair to say the overall theme of The Third Door is that persistence pays off?
That’s definitely a thread throughout the book and even more interesting are the lessons about the dangers of over-persistence. It’s something I had to learn the hard way through my quest to learn from Warren Buffett.
Can you name one book that changed or really impacted your life and give a sentence about why?
Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Reading about Tony Hsieh’s journey – about the leaps of faith he took despite everything that could go wrong – helped me find the courage within myself I didn’t know I had. Reading about his dream fueled me to pursue my own.
Best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The only person whose permission you need to achieve your dream is your own.
Favorite quote or affirmation?
There’s always a way.
What’s next for Alex Banayan?
I’ll be continuing to share The Third Door mindset wherever and however I can. I’ve learned that while you can give someone all the best knowledge and tools in the world, sometimes their life can still feel stuck. But if you can change what someone believes is possible, their life will never be the same.
(For more information, visit www.thirddoorbook.com.)