Review: The Money Tree by Chris Guillebeau


First up, disclosure: I read a pre-release copy of The Money Tree, and Chris Guillebeau is a friend. I’m also an author and I know how much time, heart, work, risk, and courage it takes to launch a book. Launching a book during a worldwide pandemic? Well, there’s no map for that, but I can at least join the bucket brigade of helpers. What follows is my honest, unsolicited-by-Chris review.

I love myself a good how-to, whether it’s a class, article, or self-help book. I was an enthusiastic student, sitting in the front row of the lecture hall scribbling notes in my loose-leaf binder. I’m a nonfiction reader and constant Googler for instructions on everything from dividing perennials to organizing my time. (You’d think I’d be more motivated to learn about SEO given its impact on my daily life, but alas.) I’ve written (and recorded) hundreds of pages and podcasts about what I’ve learned as an evolving human.

But there’s something uniquely compelling about a story. When someone offers to tell me a story, I immediately want to pull up a mental chair and listen.

I’m more open to lessons when they’re wrapped in stories, and I’m more apt to remember them later.

The Money Tree is a story

Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The Money Tree, is unlike anything he has written before. Chris is a bestselling business author with a bent for non-conformity and a passion for helping people bootstrap their dreams. His recent books (The $100 Startup, Side Hustle, among others) are packed with tips. But instead of writing yet another guidebook, Chris took a bold creative risk by releasing a work of fiction.

The Money Tree is a modern fable about how to to create financial independence. We hear the story of 28 year-old Jake Aarons, a good guy with no place to live, a job on the verge of evaporating, and student loans to pay back. Jake needs to make money now. But how? I’ll let you read the full synopsis on The Money Tree website (or just read the book).

It’s a simple story, as all fables are. I read the whole thing in an afternoon. What it’s not: a fawning devotion to “bro hustle” or getting Internet rich and/or famous.

It’s about more than “hustle”

No thanks. (via GIPHY)

I have zero interest in another tale about a guy who follows ten easy steps, watches a few web analytics, writes a few CTAs and sales funnels and then POOF, in thirty days, makes $10,000. [Insert eyeroll emoji, with bonus barf emoji if you’ve never heard of a CTA or a sales funnel.] NO MORE GURUS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

What I appreciate most about The Money Tree (and Chris’s approach in general) is that it’s centered on people. Yes, it’s about scrappy entrepreneurship, making money, working hard, and becoming financially independent. But the heart of the story is why. Service, interdependence, integrity, pride, and generosity are all threads that bind Jake’s story together in ways that go beyond the usual startup buzzwords.

Becoming financially independent is a worthy goal, especially right now, when our career assumptions have been turned upside down by the pandemic. The Money Tree is a story about working toward that goal in the larger context of community and contribution.

It helps you ask the right questions

When I want to learn how to do something, I want answers. I want someone to tell me what to do. If it’s a simple task, like dividing a perennial, that works out great. Give me the steps!

But when the task is more complex, like organizing my time, no one can simply tell me what to do because the steps are unique to me. What I really need is help asking the right questions and encouragement to answer them for myself.

Reading The Money Tree allowed me to observe someone going through the trial and error of asking and then beginning to answer his own questions about about how to gain financial independence. Days later, I found myself pondering similar questions and growing curious about the glimmers of answers that began to emerge.

Such is the magic of a good story.

Buy the The Money Tree now at Amazon

Want to learn more? Chris had to postpone his book tour due to the pandemic — so instead he’s live-streaming every day on YouTube. The theme: Building Security in Uncertain Times.

Book photo credit: Chris Guillebeau