A Glimpse of the Future, and Why You Should Just Start Today

#Startuptruth: I wasn't going to post today, but I thought I'd share some thoughts.

Entrepreneurship is all about ups and downs; facing your worst doubts; and questioning yourself. The startup mentality has helped me understand our thinking in medicine; with our careers; with setbacks and triumphs in life beyond med; and how universal this all is in any journey we're on. 

I've been having a hard time lately. I couldn't work during most of my locum as my hands were so painful and pinched, it was excruciating even to hold my phone or turn a tap, let alone typing up admissions, inserting cannulas and all the other stuff that happens on the wards. I'm pretty sure everyone at work thought I was a softie who couldn't take it (which was a joke; it was busy, but there are way busier and harsher places to work as a doctor!). Luckily I called in sick for the rest of it rather than pushing on through the pain and potentially causing permanent damage. And even then, I hated doing it, because there's this huge stigma in medicine that when you call in sick, you can't just rest in bed; you mentally have to gear up to get well as soon as possible, so you can resume your work and offload the weight that everyone in your team must be feeling because you're unwell. (It was good news that another locum was found quickly.)

So that fear has been playing along for the last few weeks. What if I could never use my hands again? What if I could never play piano, because it was hurting so much when I played even simple things? What if I couldn't type- and most of our work these days involves a significant degree of typing, especially with EMRs, Excels and all being so prevalent now? What if I could never work again?

That led to a huge cry episode the other night. (You weren't expecting that, were you?) You see, I love my work in medicine. I really enjoy it and love seeing the changes in patients from just the tiniest roles we play in their lives. 

But I've longed, longed for so long to share music with the world; to play piano and other instruments and write my songs properly; to produce and touch people through my words and sounds. And even if it never takes off, just the thought of never being able to play piano for myself, ever again, is devastating, like death itself. 

The Medical Startup has been really "meta", as one journalist humorously described it (thank you, Zelwan!), because while I've been interviewing founders; writing up conferences; sharing insights into the medical life to help you on your journey; and creating things in the background; it also has been a way for me to learn about startups; to reflect upon my own startup journey; to teach myself resilience; to face my darkest fears; and to become stronger, more confident; and hopefully, leave something beautiful and helpful for you guys to be inspired by, no matter where I go in life. 

I've finally got the confidence. After three years of blogging, after nearly a lifetime of doodling song ideas; after nearly five years of teaching myself about the fashion industry; as time passes by, it's increasingly apparent that I should have done things yesterday.

Within two hours, I accomplished stuff I'd been dreaming of for years. 

I launched my music YouTube channel, "Louise Teo Music." Just one song. A piano cover of a Prodigy song. (The Prodigy and Keith Flint are inspirations. I was really cut when I heard of Keith's passing.) It already has significant views and Likes and comments (none of them forced from friends or family!). Maybe not significant to you, but huge for me. It was easy to do, it was fun, and I can’t wait to do more.

I launched my Incredible Wearable Instagram, which is a project I've had in my heart for possibly longer than The Medical Startup. It is a small step, but a huge one in my heart. My soul is free. I am no longer bogged down by "what if" and "I should have." Now, it's about being present, and what I can do in the moment. 

And I wrote yesterday's piece on fashion and sustainability, and Legacy Summit.

I am so happy, because it took me countless hours over the years to figure out that I didn't need permission from anyone in or out of medicine to write about fashion and launch my YouTube. I just needed to let myself do it!

I have so much coming up for you. An eBook on locuming. An eCourse on getting started with stuff. Podcasts for both The Medical Startup and Incredible Wearable. And lots, and lots, and lots of music practice, preparation and producing! 

It's true that we should try to focus, and cut out the unnecessary in life, in order to get things done. So I'm going to do that. By cutting out my self-doubt, which is incredibly draining, soul-sapping, and unfortunately, can affect others, even though I don't mean it. 

Thank you if you've read to here; I am going to be blogging more than Instagramming with The Medical Startup again, which is something I've missed!  I would love it if you followed Louise Teo Music and Incredible Wearable on Instagram; and The Medical Startup and Louise Teo Music on YouTube (nothing on The Medical Startup channel yet, but there will be soon!). 

And I hope this post helps you if you've been too scared or stuck to do something you've held dear to your heart, too. Please start today! You won't believe how liberating it is and how much confidence you'll gain, and how much you'll learn. 

Is #BalanceForBetter? International Women's Day 2019

This International Women's Day, and for all the days after it:

- I pledge to be kind to myself, because I know I haven't been; 

- I pledge that I will look after my health and wellbeing as well as I look after others'

- I will cheerfully accept that as women AND men we can't "have it all" or "do it all" at once, and enjoy knowing there's a season for everything

- I will take more walks, see more trees, swim more seas, and relax with Mother Nature

- I won't worry about the future; it hasn't happened; the past was a kind teacher, but the present is where we need to be

- I relish the journey, and enjoy each minute, being patient for the destination;

- I see "balance" as a continuum, as not equal halves or thirds or quarters in life, but more as a "flow" and that relieves pressure for women everywhere; 

- I am content and happy, and hope that you all are, too.

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

#BalanceForBetter  #IWD2019

Empowerment through eLearning in Medicine

You may have noticed on Instagram- I’ve been working on developing online courses.

The courses will have a difference to what’s existing already. There are literally thousands of fantastic courses online that will help you learn to code, sew, speak Spanish, and more.

But nothing out there exists specifically for medical workers and the entrepreneurially-minded out there, from a medical perspective, from real experiences.

How does startup thinking apply to you as a doctor, nurse, physio, engineer and so forth?

Where do you start when a great idea comes to mind?

What’s the truth about how clinicians really feel at times- burnt out, exhausted, demotivated, self-loathing even? How is this similar to how entrepreneurs in other industries feel? And how can all of you learn from these experiences and overcome them, or at least start to tackle them when you’re on the go, on rotation in the middle of nowhere, a busy parent on night shift, or taking a gap year overseas?

I realised that, by exploring all these topics the last three years, even when it wasn’t clear to me at first (this whole blog started by accident, after all!), the whole journey has helped me in my own personal and professional life.

I went through all of this myself, was burnt many times, and know what lies are out there, what superficial constructs have been built supporting the “Silicon Valley mindset”, how toxic this can be to you as a compassionate person who works in healthcare or wants to start in healthcare, and how the medical world is similar to this.

And also, what’s changing about these worlds, to accept more human elements, more authenticity, more vulnerability, and more real sharing of experiences and ideas.

Thinking of your path as your own Startup is one way to start healing yourself, to build resilience, and to encourage yourself when you’re alone, when you feel misunderstood, and things seem tough. Even if you never start your own tech company, it doesn’t matter. We can all learn from startup thinking, even if your pursuit is actually in art or music or sport.

And that’s the thing. From Day 1, I was keen to feature people who are like me- creative as well as in STEM- to help transform the dialogue in medicine, that we are just what our job roles say- RMO, RN1, Dietitian, and nothing else beyond that. What happened to the extracurricular activities we loved in school, and how they were promoted as part of our curriculums there?

I felt ridiculed and even stupid for having a strong creative passion from childhood, and trying to marry this with medicine, which I also enjoy. Really, we all use creativity to some extent in our daily lives. From showcasing interviews with photographers, magicians and jewellery designers, to gaining confidence for my own journey in the creative industries, and to being approached to help start other ventures, this journey has been incredible and taught me a lot that I can share with you, too.

I’ll keep you posted- best is to sign up to the Mailing List at the bottom of this page, and/or follow on social media; if any questions about what particularly you’d like to learn or are struggling with, please send me an email at info (at) themedicalstartup.com.

Thank you for being part of our journey throughout, can’t wait to share more!

Cheers,

Louise

Success At All Costs?

I touched on this briefly in my New Year’s post.

What saddened me when I dug deeper into medical startups in 2016 was that, quite often, success was seen as something to achieve at all costs, with no respect for customers, colleagues, or the wider community.

Even if a brand has a carefully constructed facade, it will all fall apart behind the scenes if you don’t genuinely care.

Coming from the similarly ruthless world of physician training, I found it very disappointing, especially when startups and the entrepreneurial world are trying to attract more clinicians.

Most clinicians are attracted to healthcare because of the caring aspect. They genuinely want to help make a great contribution to people’s lives, through direct patient-clinician contact.

That compassion and vulnerability can be misused by unscrupulous individuals and companies, and even with a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, the WHY behind the company can be lost.

Is any industry safe from this?

No.

But it’s up to us, the individuals, to keep our values in mind, and live them.

For real.

Are you living your Mission Statement?

Thank you, 2018 :)

It’s strange sitting here, 1.5 hours before midnight in my home city, 2.5 hours til 2019 in my current one.

But it’s a great time for reflection, particularly when you and your other half saw the Early fireworks as he’s oncall tonight.

2018 was a huge year for me.

One of my faves, Ariana Grande herself said it best- “I find it interesting that this has been one of the best years of my career and the worst of my life.”

I guess personally, it wasn’t the absolute worst it could have been for me, but it definitely had a huge amount of challenges that really rocked me- but also gave me the extraordinary chance to reset and reframe the difficult situations in my personal life.

You can dread each day and its challenges, or you can reframe it to be uplifting for someone else who’s going through a hard time.

Every day counts.

I really believe that, no matter what challenges your career throws at you, you and your loved ones come first.

They’re your anchor, they’re your reason, your “Why” in most cases.

And you should never be ashamed of putting your wellbeing first.

Because no matter how big your career gets- and I believe that your career is your startup - you’ll enjoy it more when you respect yourself.

If you need more time before saying “Yes” to a project, ask for it.

If you feel pressured to work weekends and public holidays because that’s “the startup way,” but you’re actually more productive just working on odd weekdays, go ahead and set your boundaries.

If your personal circumstances mean it’s more favourable for yourself and your family if you work a bunch of part-time and casual freelance roles, go ahead and do it.

If you feel your co-founder’s doing something dodgy, reassess and consider trusting your instincts.

If someone’s being two-faced, don’t be afraid to call it out.

If you love doing several other things along with medicine, allow yourself to do it.

Give yourself permission.

And many more examples like this.

Everyone will be better off for you owning your power.

—-

Someone wise I met recently gave me that wonderful piece of advice.

“Own Your Power.”

Own your decision-making capability, your strengths and skills, your relationships, your identity.

People will try to take advantage of your vulnerability.

So-called “friends” and “partners” in startups and medicine will show their true colours to you, even when the rest of the world can’t see it immediately.

It’s disheartening. It can be isolating, and you can question yourself and your perception, wanting to believe you’re wrong.

It’s okay, because questions are healthy, and I’ve learnt how valuable it is to be mindful, and become more self-aware.

It’s a great defence mechanism, mindfulness. I’ve found it’s a great decision-making tool, productivity booster, and mental health balm. (Ooh, I should package that! Next to the lip balm jars!)

But I guess my rambling here right now is to say,

THANK YOU.

Thank you, 2018, for teaching me even through my weaknesses and dark times this year.

Thank you for giving me the chance to grow stronger.

Thank you for helping me to speak my truth.

Thank you to every single one of you who stumbles across my page; who reads my articles from way back when; who follows and likes (for real) my stuff on social media; who has become a true friend from this crazy journey; who has bumped into me at some event or clinic somewhere around the world and said hello; who believes in me even when I don’t; who believed in me even when it doesn’t all make sense.

I can’t wait to share 2019 with you all.

Have a wonderful New Year and enjoy the celebrations :):):)

*I think I am serious about the mental health balm!

Deceleration as a Tool for Identity and Preventing Burnout

I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show (his podcast), Episode #295, where he goes into “The 4-Hour Work Week Revisited.” If you’ve read any of his books, or even if you’ve just heard of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” I highly recommend listening to it. He has some thoughtful insights from the unprecedented response to his most famous book on working well, productivity and “lifestyle design”, and answers some of the most commonly asked questions he’s received since first publishing it over ten years ago.

Approximately midway through the episode, Tim discusses what he believes is the most important and overlooked chapter, “Filling the Void.” In a nutshell, the chapter is about what the reader could do after finding their success on their terms; automation, fantastic cashflow, a great team, flexibility, low stress; as detailed in the book. However, Tim has found that people too often mistake the chapter as being a treatise on the benefits of lifelong idleness after achieving “success” in this manner. Furthermore, he believes people who misread this chapter may misunderstand how to relax well.

“It’s about contribution; getting yourself out of a ‘me, me, me!’ focus, so that you’re hopefully putting a positive dent in the world, in a way that extends outside of yourself and your immediate family, and hopefully has some persistence over time,” says Tim. “And taking the tools you’ve developed in a business capacity, and applying them to impact in some fashion. I expect many people skipped (the chapter) because they don’t expect to succeed…. But (perhaps) what started out as a party or a celebration ends up being really lonely, they feel isolated and don’t know how to address that…. and by thinking about filling the void, about starting to incorporate those pieces into your life, BEFORE you end up in a challenging psychological position where you end up being reactive, … since you haven’t filled the void with anything non-business related, you’re going to continue to work for work’s sake. This is really common for people who succeed in any capacity. .. It’s really rare you see someone who’s been in sixth gear for a very long time, who then retires and is really good at chilling out. Learning to relax and enjoy other aspects of life, and engage with people around you- friends, community or built community- those are skills you need to practice and develop, just as you need to develop and practice the skill of split testing (ie. A-B testing) to anything else. It’s not a default ability you have as soon as you stop.

“They can be really existential (issues) for someone. If the business has been your identity for a long time, and all of a sudden you want to replace that, if you don’t have a compelling replacement, you’ll just continue working because you don’t want to have to sacrifice that identity.”

(If you don’t have a business, feel free to replace it with “work” in the quotes above to apply to your situation.)

I think this is why people have trouble taking a break; even if you haven’t felt that you’ve reached your ideal of “success” yet; even if you’ve failed or had a hard time and wanted to distance yourself from your work for a time; in order to recuperate. If your identity’s so wrapped up in your work (and don’t worry, you’re not odd- it’s very common in medicine and startup land), you’ll feel that strange sense of time stretching out, empty and unfilled, and you’ll perhaps feel guilty for having that free time, and try to keep “busy” by filling it up with quick dopamine rushes, which may be simply starting a bunch of new projects with too much zest (who doesn’t love enthusiasm?), or at their extreme, can include overspending, binge eating, even drugs and so forth.

Or maybe you don’t experience any of that, but you think that to fill that void, you have to go back to work ASAP. And if that work environment was toxic for you, or you had issues to work through that you didn’t get addressed while having time off, those issues can quickly reappear, or be amplified, creating an even worse situation for yourself.

And the worst is that you may feel you’ve trapped yourself.

But there’s always a good way out.

You can be proactive about this.

As Tim suggests, no matter where you’re at in life, you can start today by asking yourself if you’re enjoying enough time with your friends/loved ones; if you’re doing something meaningful to you that is part of your identity, like a hobby that isn’t directly related to your work; or you can start something new, a new activity or hobby that helps build your identity beyond your medical life or startup life. You need to know that you’re valued beyond the workplace. And if you do find that you want to go back to work, that’s okay, but you could consider an option of trying a different work environment; working fewer hours/part time; or changing your work style in some other way. (A burnt-out, bullied doctor shouldn’t necessarily jump straight back into the exact same workplace; locuming a couple of days in a different workplace, or volunteering your compassion, integrity and other qualities into a tutoring job for homeless children, let’s say, could help you recuperate and feel fulfilled beyond your initial job description.)

It takes time to decelerate; even a car doesn’t do it gracefully when the brakes are slammed on! Patience with yourself will go far.

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!