The Third Door or the secrets to getting ahead in life from Alex Banayan

Wang Yip
4 min readOct 10, 2018

Alex Banayan has the most epic story ever of how he hacked The Price is Right. Instead of studying for finals, he studied how to get into TPIR and then figured out at the last minute how some of the games worked, lucked his way into the Showcase Showdown and then barely scraped ahead with the closer bid to win a yacht. He then sold his yacht to fund his way to traveling, interviewing some of the most successful people out there (including Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak) and publishing his book called The Third Door.

While I won’t go into all the amazing stories that Alex shares in his book, I want to share a few things that I learned and I also want to say that the book was an amazingly easy read — the many entertaining stories enthralled me and kept me riveted to the pages. Here is what I learned about the third door (Alex says that there are three doors in every situation, the first door is for the normal crowds, they line up, they may pay a cover charge, they get searched or roughed up by the bouncer and then they finally get in after what could be a few hours wait. There’s a second door where celebrities and VIPs go through. They don’t have to pay a cover, they get accelerated through the line, and they get all the primo spots at the club. Finally, there’s a third door — it’s the secret door, the backdoor, the entrance that few people know about. It’s the door where you know the owner of the night club, the one that not even the VIPs know about)

Everybody knows someone

Alex, when he tries to interview Bill Gates, contacts everyone that he knows that has some connection to Bill Gates or even Microsoft. He works his way up the ladder — getting to know ‘small’ fries and then working his way up to VPs, Presidents and GMs. The most successful individuals all network with other successful individuals — so getting your way to one successful individual can often break the impasse to get to other successful individuals.

There’s a fine line between persistence and quitting

You have to know when to quit but you also have to know when to be doggedly persistent in your requests or in trying to get your way. What I saw from Alex was that he erred by being as persistent as possible but there were also many times where that persistence drained his energy and motivation. He faced incredible rejection but he also reframed many things that he thought were failures into successes. For example, he tried incredibly hard to get an interview with Warren Buffett — sending personal letters multiple times, sending flowers to the assistant and when all of those options didn’t work, he eventually got an invite to the shareholders meeting and figured out how to hack the lottery system so that he and his friends could ask Warren questions (i.e., interview questions).

For the most successful people, you don’t get a second chance to interview them.

You need to take the opportunities as they come. You need to prepare for the right shot. The most successful people also get asked all the same questions — you certainly don’t want to ask the same ones. Alex did his research and found out everything there was to know about these individuals before interviewing them. He sometimes only had a few minutes to chat with them too so he had to pinpoint the right questions to ask in the limited time he had.

Successful people like helping other ambitious people

I never could really understood early in my career why anyone would want to help me. I didn’t have very much to offer them but I realized that as I became more and more ‘successful’ (it honestly means different things to different people), I found myself wanting to help others become more successful. I suppose that’s my way of giving back and paying it forward. I might be able to help those individuals that are more successful than me but it’s much more rewarding to help those that are just starting out to be as successful as you.

There’s a third door everywhere

Whether you’re starting a business, trying to get connected to a specific individual or getting a business off the ground, there’s the conventional way, there’s a VIP way and then there’s a backdoor way. The backdoor way is going to take sometimes more work at the start but in the end, you might shave off quite a bit of effort or money from the conventional way.

Okay, you may or may not be sold on the third door way — but how do you find these third door opportunities? Let’s just say as an example that you’re trying to get into a certain field of work but have no experience and no skills — here is what you can do to find those third door opportunities:

  • Find individuals that are in the field of work to ask them what their advice is
  • Find those rogue individuals who were like you — have no experience or skills but managed to get their way in — what advice do they have?
  • Find well connected individuals to help get your foot in the door
  • When you have all the conventional advice provided to you, sometimes try the opposite thing (Tim Ferriss suggests this) — are people applying through resumes and cover letters? Find an individual to help refer you in. Do most individuals only get in through referrals? Do free work for the company to prove your value.
  • Do the hard things in life. Do things that people would not normally do. Do people normally do phone or conference calls with you for interviews? Travel and meet them in their office / local coffee shop.



Wang Yip

Author of Essential Habits. I write about personal development, work and managing your career. Connect with me at