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Author Explores How the Unconventional ‘Third Door’ Can Lead to Success


Failure, they say, is an orphan. Success has many fathers. But it also has many forms – and some of the most celebrated, accomplished people achieved what they did because of the unconventional way they pursued their passions.

A new book from author Alex Banayan is full of insights from successful people, from Larry King to Lady Gaga, Jane Goodall to Sugar Ray Leonard, and Steve Wozniak to Bill Gates.

It’s called “The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers.”

  • Alex Banayan with Jane Goodall (Courtesy Alex Banayan)

    Alex Banayan with Jane Goodall (Courtesy Alex Banayan)

  • Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, left, and author Alex Banayan. (Courtesy Alex Banayan)

    Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, left, and author Alex Banayan. (Courtesy Alex Banayan)

  • Interviewing Larry King (Courtesy Alex Banayan)

    Interviewing Larry King (Courtesy Alex Banayan)

  • With Lady Gaga (Courtesy Alex Banayan)

    With Lady Gaga (Courtesy Alex Banayan)

Banayan joins Chicago Tonight for a conversation.

Below, an excerpt from “The Third Door.”

Thinking about what Bill Gates accomplished felt like standing at the base of Mount Everest and staring up at the peak. All I could wonder was: How did he take his first steps up the mountain?

Before I knew it I was flipping through the biographies of one successful person after another. Steven Spielberg climbed the Mount Everest of directing, so how did he do it? How did a kid who’d been rejected from film school become the youngest major studio director in Hollywood history? How did Lady Gaga, when she was nineteen years old and waiting tables in New York City, get her first record deal?

I kept returning to the library, searching for a book that held the answers. But after a few weeks, I was left empty-handed. There wasn’t a single book that focused on the stage of life I was in. When no one knew their names, when no one would take their meetings, how did these people find a way to launch their careers? 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 just write it myself?

It was a dumb idea. I couldn’t even write a term paper without half the page coming back covered in red ink. I decided not to do it.

But as the days pressed on, the idea wouldn’t let me go. What interested me wasn’t writing a book so much as embarking on “a mission”—a journey to uncover these answers. I figured if I could just talk to Bill Gates myself, he had to have the Holy Grail of advice.

I ran the idea by my friends and found out I wasn’t the only one staring at the ceiling. They were dying for answers too. What if I go on this mission on behalf of all of us? Why not just call up Bill Gates, interview him, track down some other icons, put what I discover in a book, and share it with my generation?

The hard part, I figured, would be paying for it. Traveling to interview all 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.


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