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The Third Door Book Summary, Review, Notes

The Third Door by Alex Banayan tells us about the journey Alex took when he was 18 years old to interview one of the most successful people in the U.S. In a span of three years, he interviewed Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Jessica Alba, Steve Wozniak, Maya Angelou, Larry King, Quincy Jones, and many other successful people.

Book Title: The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers
Author: Alex Banayan
Date of Reading: October 2018
Rating: 6/10

Table of Contents

What Is Being Said In Detail:


The Third Door means the following:

Life is like a nightclub and there are always three ways in.

The First Door is the main entrance where most people wait in line to get in.
The Second Door is the VIP entrance, which is reserved for billionaires and celebrities.
But nobody tells you about the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you jump out of line, run down the alley, climb over dumpsters and fences, and crack open a window to sneak. The point of the Third Door is that there’s always a way to do something and Alex did just that with his book.

The book is divided into five chapters called steps:


The book follows Alex’s life through the years of interviewing people, how he gained access to the most powerful people in the country, and how he got to his dream interview in the end– Bill Gates.


Most Important Keywords, Sentences, Quotes:




“When I received my admissions letter from USC, my mom told me I couldn’t attend because we couldn’t afford it. Although my family wasn’t poor and I grew up in Beverly Hills, like many families, we lived a double life. While we lived in a nice neighborhood, my parents had to take out a second mortgage to cover the bills. We went on vacations, yet there were times when I’d see notices on our front door saying our gas was going to be cut off.” 

“The Price Is Right for even thirty seconds and has heard the announcer say “COME ON DOWN!” knows the contestants are colorfully dressed and have wild personalities that fill the television screen. The show makes it seem like the contestants are randomly selected from the audience—but at around 4:00 a.m., as I’d Googled “how to get on The Price Is Right,” I discovered it was far from random. A producer interviews each audience member and picks the wildest ones. If the producer likes you, he puts your name on a list that’s given to an undercover producer who observes you from afar. If the undercover producer puts a check mark by your name, you’re called on stage. It wasn’t luck: there was a system.”

“He flashed a smile and turned to his assistant. She scribbled something on the clipboard.”


”Mom, I’m sorry, but you just have to trust me.” “If you’re not going to be a doctor,” she said, “what are you going to do with your life?” “I don’t know.” “What are you planning to do with a business degree?” “I don’t know.” “So how are you going to support yourself?” “I don’t know!” “You’re right: you don’t know! You don’t know anything. You don’t know what it’s like in the real world. You don’t know what it’s like to have to start over in a new country with nothing. What I do know is that if you become a doctor, if you can save people, you can do that anywhere. Going on an adventure is not a career. You can’t get this time back.”

”Your mom wants a life for you that we never had. In a revolution, they can take your money, they can take your business—but if you’re a doctor, they can’t take away what you know.” 




“Many times the hardest part about achieving a dream isn’t actually achieving it—it’s stepping through your fear of the unknown when you don’t have a plan.” 

“1. Jump off the tour bus. 2.Find an Inside Man. 3.Ask for his or her help to bring you in.”

”Uh, excuse me, Mr. Spielberg. My name’s Alex and I’m a student at USC. Can I…can I ask you a quick question as you head to your car?” He stopped walking and swung his head over his shoulder, his eyebrows shooting over his metal-framed glasses. He lifted his arms in the air. He gave me a hug. “I’ve been on a college campus for hours and you’re the first student I’ve seen all day! I’d love to hear your question.”

“Perhaps 99 percent of the world hasn’t heard his name. But to a certain niche, and probably everyone at this event, Tim Ferriss is bigger than Oprah Winfrey.” 

“But after I got home, days turned into weeks, and there was no word from Tim Ferriss. What I wasn’t aware of was that Ferriss had replied to my original interview request a month earlier, telling the DonorsChoose CEO, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I guess the CEO didn’t have the heart to break the news to me, so I wouldn’t learn this until years later.” 



“Dear So-and-So, I know you’re really busy and that you get a lot of emails, so this will only take sixty seconds to read. [Here is where you say who you are: add one or two lines that establish your credibility.] [Here is where you ask your very specific question.] I totally understand if you’re too busy to respond, but even a one or two-line reply would really make my day. All the best, Tim” 

“He told me to never email someone and ask to “jump on the phone,” “get coffee,” or “pick your brain.” “Put your question right in the email,” he said. “It might be as simple as, ‘I’d like to discuss a relationship of some type that could take this-and-this form. Would you be willing to discuss it? I think a phone call might be faster, but if you prefer, I could throw a couple of questions your way via email.”

“Thanks in advance!’ It’s annoying and entitled. Do the opposite and say, ‘I know you’re super busy, so if you can’t respond, I totally understand.”

“Qi Lu grew up in a rural village outside of Shanghai, China, with no running water or electricity. The village was so poor that people suffered deformities from malnutrition. There were hundreds of kids, but only one schoolteacher. At age twentyseven, Qi Lu was making the most money he’d ever earned—seven dollars a month. Fast-forward twenty years: he’s president of online services at Microsoft.” 

”By the way,” he said, “thank you for doing what you’re doing. What’s motivating you to go on your mission is, in some ways, similar to what motivates me. Every minute of every day, it’s about empowering people to know more, do more, and be more. I think what you’re doing, in many ways, is a great example of that.”

”Yes, you absolutely should have a chance to talk to him. I’ll mention your book to him.” “Maybe I could write an email?” Qi smiled. “I would be happy to forward it to him.”

“Qi wasn’t born on Qi Time—he chose to do it.” 

“As the days of fall dragged on, I felt more and more despondent, each rejection beating away at my self-worth. Getting up before sunrise morning after morning, just to get rejected, felt like I was lying on a road so a truck could run me over, reverse, then run me over some more.” 

“After attending his book signing and getting pushed aside by security, I used the Tim Ferriss cold-email template to reach out to someone who did public relations work for Sugar Ray. We met and she became my Inside Man. I wrote Sugar Ray a letter explaining that I was nineteen, and after reading his autobiography, I sensed his advice was exactly what my generation needed. As soon as my Inside Man passed along the note, Sugar Ray invited me to his house.” 

“I didn’t have the experience,” Sugar Ray told me, “but I had the heart, the discipline, and the desire.”

“You may have the heart—you keep fighting, you keep fighting, you keep fighting—but your mind is saying, ‘Man, forget this. I don’t need this.’ The head and the heart aren’t going together; but they have to go together. It all has to connect. Everything has to connect to reach that level, that pinnacle. “You may have a desire, a wish, a dream—but it’s got to be more than that—you’ve got to want it to the point that it hurts. Most people never reach that point. They never tap into what I call the Hidden Reservoir, your hidden reserve of strength. We all have it. When they say a mother lifted up a car off a trapped child, that’s that power.”




”So, you want to interview Bill, huh?” On the line was Bill Gates’ Chief of Staff. Stefan Weitz, my Inside Man at Microsoft, had managed to arrange the call. To preserve the Chief of Staff’s privacy, I’ll leave his name out”

”I love what you’re doing,” the Chief of Staff said. “I love your initiative. I love that you’re doing this to help others and I’d love to support this”—just hearing that made me feel like I was 99 percent there—”but, the thing is, you’re only about five percent there. I just can’t take this to Bill. You don’t have enough momentum.” Momentum?” 

”Did you read the ‘Star of Ardaban’ chapter? Did you even open the book yet? Or can you not even handle reading two chapters on a day’s notice?” “I read it,” I said, “and I finished the whole book.” Elliott finally looked up. He put his phone away.” 

“instantly: Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. His book Delivering Happiness was still on the top row of my bookshelf. Elliott continued walking. “You see that guy over there,” he whispered to me. “That’s Larry Page, the CEO of Google. That guy to your left is Reid Hoffman. He’s the founder of LinkedIn. Now look over there. The table in the far back—the guy with the glasses, he created Gmail. On your right, in the blue running shorts, that’s Chad. He’s the cofounder of YouTube.”

“Elliott put his fork down. “Hold on. You’re telling me that we’ve been together for over two hours now and you never told me that you funded your entire adventure by hacking a game show?” I shrugged. “You idiot!” he said.” 

”Everybody has experiences in their lives,” he added. “Some choose to make them into stories.

“Page was drying his hands. I had to say something. “Uh, you’re Larry Page, right?” “Yes.” My face went blank. Page looked at me, confused, and then walked out. And that was that. I dragged my feet back to the breakfast table where Elliott was waiting. I slumped in my seat.”

“Immediate action was at the core of Elliott’s life. That, plus relentless hard work, added up over time. Just ten years after Elliott sold his first ad, he and his dad would sell Bisnow Media to a private equity firm for fifty million dollars in cash.” 

“Elliott cold-called companies and asked if they wanted to sponsor a conference of twenty of the greatest young entrepreneurs in America—and they said yes.” 

“he met a Goldman Sachs executive who said he might be able to get his firm to sponsor the second Summit event. Elliott told him Goldman didn’t even have to pay as long as Elliott could put the firm’s logo on the “sponsors” page of the event website. Elliott then called other companies and said, “Look, it’s almost impossible to get to be a sponsor of Summit right now. We’re working with very few companies, and our most recent client is Goldman Sachs, so if you want to be serious, let’s be serious. We’re only working with the best.” It was another example of Borrowed Credibility. That Goldman Sachs relationship enabled Elliott to lock in other sponsors, which led to a lot of the eventual success of Summit.” 

“But Elliott didn’t wait for my answer. “All right, let’s get to the point,” he said. “You’re making a huge mistake.” “What?” “You’re not going to stay nineteen forever. You can’t live off game show money the rest of your life. You need to stop focusing all your time on getting these silly interviews.There needs to be a point in your life where you step it up. I think you’re ready. Quit your mission and come work for me.” I didn’t respond.” 


Alex Banayan Quote 2: “No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”


“so I could land a book deal and get to Bill Gates. “So far,” I said, “every agent I’ve reached out to has said no.” “Dude, I’ll introduce you to my agent,” Ben said. “Talk to mine too!” Miki said. “She’ll love you!”

”I don’t think anyone can tell you what you should do,” Dan said. “It’s a hard decision. The only person who knows the right answer is you. But maybe I can share something that might help.”

“A wide smile spread across his face. “I love Summit,” I said. “And I’ve never had a mentor like you in my entire life. But at the same time, I don’t think I can live with myself doing two things half-assed. I need to do one thing right. And it has to be the mission.” Elliott’s jaw clenched. He slowly lowered his head, as if trying to suppress his anger. “You’re making a huge mistake,” he said. But then he stopped himself before saying anything else. He took a heavy breath and let his shoulders deflate. “If that’s what you have to do,” he said, “then that’s your decision—and I respect you even more for making it.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “And just know,” he added, “you always have a home here. I love you, man.”

Ego isn’t particularly healthy,” Tony continued, “but what’s worse is having it and lying to yourself that you don’t. Before you start thinking about marketing tactics, become self aware of what’s motivating you below the surface. Don’t judge the motivations as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Just ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Choosing the right tactics becomes easy once you know your end goal.”

”No one smart actually drops out of school,” he went on. “It’s a myth. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t drop out the way you think they did. Do some research. You’ll see what I’m talking about.”

”You did school,” Elliott said. “Now it’s time for you to do you. It’s time for you to finish.”




“My agent had told me rewriting the proposal would take thirty days. I finished in eight. When your back is against the wall, you learn what you’re capable of. I emailed her the 140-page document, prayed she could work her magic, and then, just eleven days after I’d turned in the leave-of-absence form—I got the publishing deal.” 

“When Buffett was about to graduate, he decided not to take a high-paying corporate job, which most MBAs did, but to try to work directly for Graham instead. Buffett asked Graham for a job, but Graham said no. Buffett then offered to work for free. Graham still said no. So Buffett went back to Omaha and worked as a stockbroker again. But he continued writing letters to Graham, visiting him in New York, and in Buffett’s own words, after two years of “pestering him,” Graham finally gave him a job.” 

”Let me make it uglier,” he said. “You go home, you’ve kissed every frog, and you’ve got nothing but warts on your face. You’re lying in bed thinking, ‘I kissed every frog. I still don’t have a solution. And I don’t even know where the next frog is.’ “But then,” he continued, “you roll around in bed thinking, ‘You got into this because it’s a really big problem. You knew it would be hard. After all this time and effort, if you give up, it’s because you’re weak. You’ve lost your vision. You’ve lost your courage. Sooner or later there’s going to be an answer. The only reason you’re going to give up now is because you’re a coward.’”

“He said that the best way to raise money before you have a track record is to do it from people who already believe in you and trust you, because they’ve seen you do other things in the past. Those people can be family, friends, college professors, former bosses, or even the parents of your friends.”

“As we continued talking, the most inexplicable coincidence of my journey occurred. A black Lincoln with tinted windows pulled up to the curb and parked in front of us. The door swung open—and out came Larry King.”




“He grew Microsoft into the world’s most valuable company in1998, making him the wealthiest person on the planet. To put that in perspective, Oprah Winfrey is incredibly rich; so are Mark Zuckerberg, Howard Schultz, Mark Cuban, Jack Dorsey, and Elon Musk. Well, at the time I was preparing for my interview, Bill Gates’ assets were worth more than all of theirs combined.”

I tossed my notepad to the side. “What’s your most memorable, crazy, funny hustle story from early on?” Gates took a moment to think.” 

“You asked dozens of people, and because of an external factor you couldn’t have predicted, one of those things worked. You have no way of knowing what’s going on in the lives of the people in your pipeline. You can’t anticipate their mood or how generous they’re feeling. All you can do is control your effort.”

“School and society make you feel like those are the only two ways in. But over the past few years, I’ve realized there is always, always…the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, sneak through the kitchen—there’s always a way. Whether it’s how Bill Gates sold his first piece of software or how Steven Spielberg became the youngest studio director in Hollywood history, they all took—” “—the Third Door,” Matt said, a smile spreading across his face. “That’s how I’ve lived my whole damn life.”

“Matt continued swiping—a photo of him at a golf tournament with Condoleezza Rice, skateboarding on a half-pipe with Tony Hawk, ringing the NASDAQ opening bell with Shaquille O’Neal, backstage at a show with Jay-Z, and then sitting on a couch with Nelson Mandela.”

”Bingo,” Wozniak said. “I’m happy because I do what I want every day.” “Oh,” his wife said, laughing, “he does exactly what he wants.”

“Wozniak would fit in on the executive team. Jobs asked him what position he wanted. Wozniak knew that managing people and dealing with corporate politics were the last things he wanted to do. So he told Jobs he wanted his position capped at engineer. “Society tells you that success is getting the most powerful position possible,” Wozniak said. “But I asked myself: Is that what would make me happiest?”


Alex Banayan Quote 3: “Young people are always chasing. It’s because they think they’re in control of everything. They have to learn to be connected to the universe. Just let it happen to you.”


”My dad just got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” I blurted. The first time I had ever said those words, I couldn’t get them out without tearing. As weeks passed, I could say the words, but I didn’t believe it. Now I just felt numb. Through all my stages, the reactions I got were the same. Most people put their arms around me, saying everything was going to be okay; others gave me that kind, soft-spoken “I’m so sorry”—which left me totally unprepared for Alba’s response. She slapped her hand down on the couch and said, “Oh, shit. Fuck.”

“Quincy was making me realize that I’d spent the past five years constantly looking up—up at the richest man in the world, up at the most successful investor, up at the most famous director. And now it was hitting me how badly I wanted to go wide—to travel and explore and absorb the magic of the far corners of the world. Quincy was instilling a new hunger in me. It felt like as one stage of my life was closing, a new one was beginning.”

“Dumbledore says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” It’s our choices…far more than our abilities…”

“While Qi Lu and Sugar Ray were both born with remarkable abilities, what made them stand out in my eyes were their choices. Qi Time was a choice. Chasing the school bus was a choice.” 




”You swore on her life and broke the promise,” Cal said. “It needs to be said.” I was reluctant, but I still went to my grandma’s house one night to have the talk. We were halfway through dinner when I finally mustered the courage. “I don’t know if you remember,” I told her, “but years ago I swore to you I would finish college and get my master’s. I said jooneh man.”

“My grandma put down her fork. She looked at me silently, as if she’d been waiting years for me to say these words. “I broke the promise, and”—tears welled in my eyes—”I’m sorry.” The silence that followed made me feel even worse. Then my grandma said, “It’s…okay.” She took a heavy breath. “I hope…I hope…I hope… that I was the one who was wrong to have asked you to make that promise in the first place.”

“Elliott would call multiple times a day to check on my dad’s progress and how my family was holding up. As my dad’s condition worsened, Elliott flew to LA more often, visiting my dad and sitting with him under his orange tree in our backyard. Elliott and my dad bonded over that tree. Elliott made a website for the tree. His brother, Austin, wrote a song about the tree. His best friend, IN-Q, created a poem about the tree. Elliott made two-dozen baseball caps with a logo of MR. BANAY ORANGE TREE on the front. No AN’S matter how much pain my dad was in, each time he was under the orange tree with Elliott, he’d light up.” 


Alex Banayan Quote 4: “There’s a statute of limitations that’s expired on all childhood traumas. Fix your shit and get on with your life.”


“On the fourth afternoon, I was sitting under the orange tree with my sisters, searching for a pocket of calm amid the chaos of emotions. As the sun began to set, my aunt came out and asked us to come to my dad’s bedside. At the exact moment I stepped inside, Elliott walked through the front door. He saw the look in my eyes and followed silently to my dad’s bedside.We all stood in a circle around my dad —me, my sisters, mom, aunt, uncle, and Elliott—and held hands. A minute later, my dad took his final breath.” 

“It was as if my dad wanted to tell me, just a minute before he was set into the ground, that in life, there are friends, there are best friends—and then there are the best friends who carry your dad’s casket. Thank you to Kevin Hekmat, Andre Herd, Jojo Hakim, Ryan Nehoray, Brandon Hakim, and Corwin Garber, who’ve redefined the meaning of friendship, and who’ve proved that it truly is the most powerful force in the world. I love you guys like family. Because you are family.” 


Book Review (Personal Opinion):


The entire book is a recollection of things that happened to Banayan through the years of him trying to interview the most successful people. It’s fairly easy to read so you can give it a go.


Rating: 6/10


This Book Is For (Recommend):


  • A college freshman who wants to know what it takes to talk with the “big shots”
  • A starting entrepreneur who wants to learn about the ins and outs of networking with business people
  • A millennial who has a mission to change the world


If You Want To Learn More


Here’s Alex Banayan talking about his book at Google.
Google Talks


How I’ve Implemented The Ideas From The Book


There’s one thing that really stuck out from this book to me and that’s not selling out. Banayan had the opportunity to forget his mission and start working for a successful entrepreneur, but he held his own and didn’t sell out.


One Small Actionable Step You Can Do


Look at a problem that you’re facing now in your life and think about a “Third Door” solution to it.

The Third Door by Alex Banayan - Book Summary Infographic