Billionaire Librarians

Today we have some wise words from Alan Donegan, founder of The Pop Up Business School which runs free classes on how to start / grow a small business. You could apply his advice to starting investing, starting a business, getting fit…or anything really. Enjoy!

If the answer was more information, then all librarians would be billionaires. 

Librarians have access to all the information you could ever need: books on sales, building businesses, health, investing, biographies of the greatest minds in history.  They are surrounded by ground breaking thoughts, ideas and inspiration from all of humanity.

In fact all of us have access to this knowledge.  We have YouTube, the internet, podcasts and a wealth of knowledge that our ancestors could only have dreamed of.  So why aren’t we all millionaires with Lamborghinis and philanthropic foundations that cure diseases?  Is more information the answer?

Stop thinking and start doing

The difference that makes the difference is action.  I have met so many people who have read the same books as me but are stuck.  They struggle financially, they struggle in their work, they struggle with life.   When I share an idea with them they say things like “I know that”…….

A recent conversation turned to investing; my friend said that he had heard of index funds and we chatted briefly about it.  He then said that he had just never started investing and that is probably why he is not as far forward as he could be.  He shrugged his shoulders and the conversation moved on.

It was only a few days later as I reflected on our conversation that it hit me.  He had heard of index investing.  He knew the power of it and what to do.  He had earned money and could have invested it but didn’t.  

He and I were about the same age but in very different positions financially.  What was the difference between us?  I had read the blogs and books about investing but also implemented them.  I had discussed it and debated it first but then got on with it and did it.  The fact that I had implemented the information from the books and blogs I had read explains the difference in our outcomes.

Have you read……?

I am a bit of a self-development nerd and have read a huge number of books.  But in this article I am going to tell you to STOP READING and START DOING.

I can not recount the endless conversations with entrepreneurs talking about ideas, strategies & thoughts where they will tell me “I know that”.  I hate the expression “yeah, yeah I know that”.  

I want to scream: “it’s great that you know it, but are you doing anything about it?  Are you implementing it?  Are you taking action?  Are you doing?”

I have to catch myself.  I am not immune to this mistake.  As I read a book I sometimes catch myself getting impatient and thinking “yeah, yeah I know this, come on”. I have to force myself to stop and ask the question “Alan it is great that you know it but are you living it?”

I have talked with countless entrepreneurs about the book The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and I ask them if they have heard about testing the market first.  They say yes they have read it.  When I ask “did you do it?” They will answer yeah I tried it once.

​You tried once?  Did you take that learning from the first mini-experiment and roll into into another test and try again?


How many times in your life do things work perfectly the very first time of trying?  Or do you have to practice, improve and learn?  

Just because you have tried things once doesn’t mean you should give up and stop!  I am not advocating reading a book and then trying the ideas once.  I am asking you to read a bog, blog article or listen to a podcast and implement it at least 10 times to see what you learn. 

I can hear you thinking: “Alan, what’s your goal for writing this article?”

My goal is to help you to make progress.  The difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful person that is stuck is the amount of stuff they have tried.  The successful person has probably failed more times than the unsuccessful person, they just got up again and kept trying and implementing. 

There are only two possible outcomes

When you try something new there are two possible outcomes; success or failure. 

If you succeed the first time you will keep doing it and get more success.  If you fail then you can try something else or try again slightly differently. 

Either way you make progress.  The only way you don’t make progress is sitting in the middle in indecision!  If you read the book and don’t do anything from it.  If you are faced with two hills that you could climb but you don’t know which one to work on first you have two options.  

Option 1: run up the hill to the right and see what happens.  You will either find success or know you the other hill was the right one to run up!  You can turn around and head towards that hill.

Option 2: sit in the middle and debate the pros and cons, think about everything that might go wrong with each option and wait for the perfect moment to start.  

By the time you have sat in the middle thinking I will have already run half way up a hill and have the answer as to which hill I should tackle first.  

Most people sit in the middle talking about the hills without ever getting in the game! 

Scared of failure? 

Simon (my business partner from PopUp Business School) and I created an episode of the Rebel Entrepreneur podcast all about failure.  It is entitled “You are going to fail! How should you respond?”

​If you are scared of failing then please listen to this episode:

If the answer was more information we would all be rich

The answer is not normally more knowledge.  It is knowledge applied.  

I would love you to sit down for five minutes right now and do this exercise.   The exercise is to define your problem, turn it into a question and come up with five things to do to make progress. 

Step 1: write down what one of your current challenges is.  Maybe it is making more sales?  Maybe you don’t have any money for Christmas?  Maybe it your lack of productivity in a day?

Step 2: take the challenge and turn it into a question.  In the three examples above I would write this:

  1. Problem: not enough sales.  Question: Who do I double my sales this month and have fun whilst doing it?
  2. Problem: Lack of money for Christmas.  Question: What can I do right now to earn more money for Christmas?
  3. Problem: lack of productivity.  Question: How can I get more done each day, faster & whilst feeling fabulous?

If you turn a problem into a question then you can find answers.

Step 3: brain storm ideas.  I want you to spend the rest of your five minutes brain storming actions and ideas to answer the question. 

Then finally at the end of the five minutes take one thing from your list and DO IT NOW.  You will find it incredible how taking this action and moving towards your goals unlocks energy and motivates. 

More information can be paralysing

All I really want you to do now is to STOP READING and to start working on your own life.  Please get off your phone, put down the laptop and take action towards the future you want.

The extraordinary belongs to those that create it.

Start creating the future you desire.   You don’t need more information right now you need to take action on what you already know.

Action creates motion in your life and sets wheels spinning.  Set some wheels spinning and get going. 



The Pop Up Business School is an amazing resource. It is FREE to anyone wanting to develop a small business or side-hustle. Check out their events here.



  1. As a podcast nerd, thank you for introducing me to another to add to my list for my daily commute or when I want to stick some headphones on in the office to avoid conversation 😛

    But I think you make a good point about taking action. That’s why I love The Maven Money Podcast. It’s all well and good offering tips on money management, but if those tips aren’t easily digestible so people can take away something they can action on then it’ll just get lost in amongst everything else they have to do and think about that day.

    The amount of times I’ve had conversations with friends down the pub about investing or savings accounts that have ended in “yeah, I should look into that”. That ‘should’ rarely turns into a ‘will’, and even more rarely turn into action. But being down the pub on a Friday I’d never want to be pushy and come across as this weird finance obsessed guy so I tend to just leave it.

    Hopefully they remember the conversation at some point later down the line.

  2. I think some of the blame lies with the education system that aims to stuff information into people’s heads and measures success by how much is retained. Twenty plus years of conditioning to be a passive absorber of information leads to this lack of initiative and motivation. It’s often the ones that the system considers as failures are the ones that go on to be the innovators and entrepreneurs.

  3. The dear Alan has a point in this. I am very happy that I can say, at least in investing, I know and I do!
    And to know my numbers, spared me a lot of worries this strange year of 2020.

  4. Great post. Especially quite current/topical in my life right now. I’m currently re-reading Ryan Holiday’s Ego is the Enemy (and yes, I’m taking action). I’m also a big fan of Seth Godin’s work. Both for the principles of “do the work, ship, practice”.
    This blog post is now added to that list of regular reminders to keep going.

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