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Jul 1, 2018

Alex Banayan

Alex Banayan is an entrepreneur and author of The Third Door (Crown/Penguin Random House, 2018), which chronicles his five-year quest tracking down Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Warren Buffett, Maya Angelou, Steven Spielberg, Jane Goodall, Steve Wozniak, Jessica Alba, Larry King, and dozens more of the world’s most successful people. Tune in to find out what motivated Alex to set out on this quest, and to learn how these iconic individuals used the “third door” to achieve their success.

I believe if the world’s most successful people come together—not for press, not to promote anything—but to share their best wisdom with the next generation, people can do so much more.

Alex Banayan

Episode Highlights


Now, your book is coming out, and it’s called The Third Door. Explain the title to us.

So after this seven-year journey…I wasn’t looking for a single silver bullet for success, because I don’t really believe in that. But after dozens and dozens of interviews, it doesn’t matter if it was Maya Angelou for poetry or Jane Goodall for science, Jessica Alba, Pitbull…I realized there was a commonality.

Through every single story, to me, because I was 21 at the time, it sort of reminded me of how you get into a nightclub. There’s always three ways in. There’s the first door, where 99% of people wait in line hoping to get in. The line curves around the block, and they just stand there, hoping the bouncer lets them through.  Then there’s the second door, the VIP entrance. The billionaires and the celebrities slip through. School and society like you to think that those are the only two ways in, but what I’ve learned is there’s always, always the third door. It’s the door where you have to jump out of line and run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, go through the kitchen. There’s always a way.


I’m curious: how many interviews in on this journey did you start to see that there was a thread you can pull?

I remember the first time, it was Pitbull. I started off the interview thinking that I would just talk to him about the third door analogy and then ask my first question. What ended up happening is I mentioned the third door analogy to him, he sort of freaked out. “That’s how I live my life, man!”

After that came Jessica Alba, where we talked about the third door analogy and again, she, her eyes popped up and she said, “You know, me and my co-founders always talk about how we’re looking for specific people to hire for our companies, and we have these 10 different attributes we’re looking for, but really it’s one attribute: it’s the third door.”

She said, “I don’t care where you went to college. I don’t care what your experience is. I care about how you find a way to make something happen. I care about how you take the third door.”


What actually does motivate you if it’s not awards or recognition?

I would say the most recent shift happened about a year ago, about 11 months ago, when my father passed away….One of the things that experience gave me was realizing that in the end, nothing matters.

As an 18-year-old kid who set out to track down the “world’s most successful people,” I probably was on the complete opposite of the spectrum, thinking everything matters. I had this subconscious belief that if you can change the world the way these icons have, life is different for you. It was experiencing my father’s death that I realized, at the end, you’re not going to take any money with you. You’re not going to take any possessions with you. All you have on your final days is your breath, your heartbeat and your connection to those you love. So that experience completely shattered my constructs of how life works. How priorities should be made. Again, it’s hard to say words like I’m grateful for the experience because it’s still so raw and the wounds are still open, but my life has been refocused in a way that I am grateful for.

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