During the course of my multiple decades of medical practice, I have met some amazing people, particularly those in the business arena. I have had several patients who have run relatively (or seemingly) mundane businesses such as roofing and janitorial companies. They dress daily in jeans and T-shirts, yet are worth millions of dollars.
One roofing contractor I know pointed out to me that he barely had a high school education, but was worth more than most of the doctors in our town. He claims that fact is because most of the local doctors he knows “were stupid about money”.
To that end, I thought I would summarize some of the lessons I have learned from these unlikely millionaire mentors in my community in the next several blog posts. These lessons are relatively universal and can apply to many professions and lines of work.
Becoming a self-made millionaire is no simple task. For those who accomplished this goal, they all had a process or a set of guidelines that they followed on that path.
Lesson #1- Make It A Game. One elderly patient I know who owns multiple single family homes and apartment building rentals has accumulated his real estate empire slowly over many years. When I asked him about his philosophy, he basically always looked at his business as a game to be won.
When the money to buy a large apartment building or office building got big and he was nervous, he thought about it as “Monopoly money”. As long as he could clear enough to pay the mortgage and expenses, he knew he would be OK and the rest was gravy, or would go into the next acquisition.
Lesson #2- Never Get Comfortable. This is a problem too many doctors have in their careers and their financial lives. Many business people have told me that stopping on the journey to the top to say ” I’ve worked hard enough. I can slack off now,” is the kiss of death.
When you meet your goal whatever that is, you need to set another goal further out. Sitting on your laurels is a dangerous thing. Either the rapidly changing world will pass you by or the financial eggs you have accumulated in your basket will shrink a la the Great Recession.
Lesson #3- Continue To Study and Work Harder Than Anyone Else. Even those in fields like roofing and hardware tell me that they need to continually read in their fields, go to trade shows and keep up on the latest innovations. There is always someone somewhere who is trying to get an edge in the marketplace.
Doctors unfortunately seem to feel insulated in their niches, but if they don’t keep up, it is bad for their careers and worse for their patients. No matter how talented you are or how advanced you may feel you are in your field currently, you will never reach your full potential or a mastery level if you don’t continually “sharpen the saw” more than others.
Sara Blakely of Spanx fame has told the story that her father used to always ask her what mistakes she had made or failures suffered during the day when they sat down for dinner each night. He was always disappointed if she didn’t at least have one, because to him that meant that she was not trying enough things outside of her comfort zone.
The failure or mistake is not the problem. The problem comes if you do not learn from the mistake and grow from it.
I have made many mistakes in my medical career, especially in this business side of running a practice. However, I always examined what happened, took it as a learning experience, brushed off my ego and moved forward.
My mother always used to say you can go anywhere if you know how to read. Try to read a wide variety of books, including novels, self-help, biographies, history, and anything else under the sun.
You can always learn something and frequently apply that to some aspect of your life and business, even if it is simply inspiration. I have had business mentors tell me that they found lessons that they used in their offices from reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s great biography of Lincoln, Team Of Rivals.
I have several more lessons that I will continue to impart on you in next week’s blog post. Suffice it to say that medical professionals and doctors have lots of lessons to learn from those in other industries and lines of work.
If we can learn and integrate these lessons, then our lives, our patient’s lives, and our profession will be greatly rewarded on multiple levels.