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« Physicians + Lifestyle Design | Main | Christmas Video For Docs: Do They Know It's Christmas Time? »
Thursday
Dec222011

Investing In Yourself

The difference between people who invest in themselves... and people who just whine.

Believe me when I say this; there's an endless list of doctors who "say" they want to make more money, improve their website rankings, revise their staff training or improve their customer service... but never actually DO ANYTHING to get there?

Here's a simple litmus test: If you say you want something but haven't done any systematic work to achieve your goal in the last 14 days, you're deluding yourself. Really.

If you want to get something done your choice is actually very simple; (1) start taking action or (2) acknowledge that your goal really isn't that important to you, and give up.

Of course both of these options are perfectly viable choices. There's nothing wrong with making a coherent decision to give up on something that you decide is actually not that important or that the opportunity cost is too high. For example, I used to kill myself to try and answer my phone or return phone calls immediately (or within an hour) — that was my goal. After a while,  I was just unable to keep up with that schedule and it became more of a distraction. So I gave up on it. If someone calls me now it will almost certainly go to voice mail and I'll get back when I can. It's a huge weight off of my shoulders and removes a constant distraction. (In fact, my voice mail says to leave a message only 'if it's important". That one change makes everyone who calls me self-censor and has cut my vm messages by 90%. But I digress...)

The point? Give up on whatever you're not going to do and focus on taking action on those things that you've decided you want.

The best things to focus on are those that deliver the biggest bang for the buck are that you can build out as a system that works over and over again. 

Top performers constantly invest in themselves

If you look around, you'll find that the very highest-achieving people are also voracious consumers of personal-development materials, whether books, podcasts, courses, or personal tutors and consultants... even this community. (By 'personal development' I mean anything that you consume to learn from or improve your lifestyle.)

Personally, I spend thousands of dollars per year on self-development. In the last 12 months I've spent more than $20,000 on online courses, webinars, books, attending conferences, and taking people out to lunch to learn from them.

A specific example: I have a full time staff of seven that work for me personally. I started with one full time hire in India a few years ago. To maximize my productivity with outsourcing I spend thousands of dollars on online courses that teach outsourcing, read any number of books and blogs, and ended up actually building out an entire training site and hiring an additional six full time employees. The up-front time investment and cost was substantial, but I now have a system that allows me to manage my staff and have them performing in a way that SAVES me huge amounts of time and removes a lot of things that I used to have to do myself. An estimate of the total cost to get where I am now? Three months of my full time work and $25,000.

What am I looking to invest in for myself next? Here's a list off of the top of my head.

  • Spanish: I speak enough French, German, and Japanese to get me into a fight. I'm looking to learn some Spanish since it's both; becoming more prevalent in the US, and needed for traveling around South America. I'm thinking of buying 'Rosetta Stone' (Anyone have experience with this?) and hiring a local tutor.
  • Freelance MD: Our new community around physician lifestyle design. There's been a huge amount of investment in this site. I don't know where the payoff will be but I've learned the power of communities so it's a leap of faith.
  • Uncommon Student MD: An offshoot of Freelance MD that's built for medical school students.
  • Travel & Networking: I'll be headed out to San Francisco a number of times over the next few months to get some face-time with some of my technology buddies and meet some people. I'm also arranging a tour of Google and want to check out the food.
  • Travel: I'm fortunate enough to be independent of location, so I'm trying to talk my wife into leaving the horses for a few months and moving to the Philippines for three to six months.

Of course you don't have to spend money to invest in yourself. At times my budget has been a lot smaller but I still contacted people, attended networking events and joined organizations where I could learn.

Every top performer I know are, without exception, is constantly investing in themselves personally with education, reading, courses, and networking with interesting people.

"But I can find all the information I need online, for free!"

Well... there's a qualified 'yes' to that, but do you?

Oh, and by the way, information by itself isn't enough (though people tend to take the rational perspective that if we simply had the right information, we'd do the right things. Complete nonsense. If information were enough then no one would smoke or get fat.)

Taking action and making changes is about far more than just getting information. It's about motivation and skill and many, many other factors.

When you pay for a course, or a tutor, or a coach, you're not just paying for commodity information that you can read on Wikipedia. You're paying for access to their skills and expertise... their depth of knowledge in a field that you'll never have the time or inclination to reach. It's about speed and opportunity cost. When I hire a book editor, all they do is book editing stuff. She's far more knowledgeable that I ever want to be.

In addition, when you pay for something, you're also psychologically committing yourself to value the goal more. For example, we're building  out both a free deals page for medical spas as well as a paid medical spa marketplace for physician courses, and medical spa products and services. In both cases you're making a commitment to gain access. For the free courses you have to become a Member, and for the paid courses you're going to have to part with some cash. If this were simply to provide this information as a free set of "tips" that I emailed to you, you would just skim it and go back to eating your bagel. But as a paid product, you actually derive more value from it. (And it actually makes sense to produce it for us as a business.)

You're paying, so you're actually motivated to do it. This is why the Princeton Review and Kaplan make so much money from their courses, even though their books have much of the same material.

The Personal "Am I Really Going To Take Action" Test

Are you likely to take action on something in the near future.  Just ask yourself this: "Have I actually started to do this in the last month?"

If you're answering that you haven't actually done anything in the last month, you're not likely to put much action in it this month. Next month's not looking too good either.

The best indicator of what you're going to be doing in the future six months is not what you're planning on doing, but what what you've done in the past. (People hate hearing this since it confronts them with the fact that they're not achieving their 'goals'.)

If you're ever faced with taking a lie-detector test you won't be asked questions like, "How often do you work out?" because (1) People will lie by greatly exaggerating their achievements and (2) people will actually believe the lie. 

Instead, a better question is, "Tell me every time you went to the gym last week." which will evoke a host of "I couldn't on Thursday because X, and not on Friday because of Y... and you're find that they went once last week.

In every sense, a historic black and white view is far more realistic of what you'll be doing rather than your 'plans'.

Of course you already know this. You know that there are any number of things that you would be doing if you were only motivated enough or had more time, but the smart person asks, "What is realistic?" and focus on taking action only on those.

Investing in yourself, even in what is perceived as a huge amount, is likely to pay off handsomely. There's a reason why successful people don't think twice when it comes to investing in themselves or their businesses. It's because the cost of the right investment is MINISCULE compared to the results.

What's the best investment you could make today, not just with your medical spa or clinic but with your lifestyle? Who could you take out to lunch to pick their brain? Who should you connect with on LinkedIn? What conference could you attend that would improve your skills? Can you hire a tutor for something you want to do? What courses can you take that will let you make better business decisions?

Conclusion: Are you really investing in yourself?

What's the take-away here? Here are two damn simple steps:

Step#1: that you should get away from all of the junk that you know you're never going to take action on. Just kick it to the curb and free your mind. You'll sleep much better and you'll be able to move on to step #2 which is...

Step#2: that you should actually invest in (and by invest I mean pay for) those things that you want to take action on. Paying for it in any form will mean that you'll act faster, lowering your opportunity cost, and be more motivated to take action. The most successful people know that acting with speed (In business they use the term 'velocity') is absolutely critical for success. If you're not willing to spend money on something kick it up to step #1 and get rid of it.

I'm anxious to learn from you. Please share your thoughts or experiences with this in the comments.

Reader Comments (1)

If you're not continuing to learn and invest in yourself.. what would you ever expect except to be working for someone else your entire life.

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