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What I Learned From My 22 yo Entrepreneur Friends

I spent this week with 2 individuals whom I’m happy to now call friends. They flew out to Portland in order for us to collaborate on a project together. Not only did we get to work on something that we’re all incredibly excited about but I also got a chance to pick their brains.

 

22 Year Old Entrepreneurs

The back story with these 2 guys is that they became friends in college and even though both pursued different internships out of college they decided to collaborate on a project that caught their interest in healthcare. The pivotal moment was when a wealthy investor decided to financially back them.

Passing On Job Offers

They have both enjoyed a few chance connections, but nothing they have done with those opportunities has been serendipitous. Their determination, I believe, has led them where they are. I am excited to see where they end up once they are my age.

They each received job offers with annual salaries in the $500,000 range as project engineers. They both passed on the opportunity not because they had other options lined up but because they knew they weren’t in it for the money. They didn’t want to be defined by their jobs nor restrained by it.

They dreamed to create something bigger, something that would help society move in the right direction. They wanted it to be something that would give back to society long after they died.

I don’t think this is all that different from what sparked many of us to enter healthcare. The majority of us were also involved in research projects, hoping that our results could one day make a meaningful difference. However, quite a few of us got caught up in the job/paycheck cascade. 

Making Their Connections

Neither of them set out to build more connections or a larger network for the sake of profits or ego. They remained humble but worked hard to reach out to more and more individuals. They helped out every friend with any project that came across their radar.

They dream big and they produce results and are perpetually learning. This level of hard work and focus is what I believe their financial backers and mentors have recognized. They have a lot of wealthy eyes on them, banking on them and wanting them to succeed.

As soon as that great offer came from the wealthy investor, they decided to roll with it. This kind of seed money is what they needed to start their company and recruit the kind of talent needed to succeed.

Connections can be made at jobs as well, not just in business ventures. As an employee the mentality is one of just making it through the day, it’s harder to spark innovation often because the vision of the employer isn’t in line with ours. Healthcare professionals caught up in the workforce have a very limited way to express their individuality and their creativity; another factor that can lead to burnout. 

Finding Mentors

The billionaire who decided to back these 2 youngins obviously achieved his success because of being well connected. He also likely saw the drive in these 2 cats that he once had when he was younger. From what I have learned from these 2 guys, connections are made at these higher levels based on camaraderie, on the premise of how one person can help another person succeed. There is no implied reciprocity.

To find mentors, each started talking to a few successful individuals. They spent hours in meetings, flying out to work with and meet other entrepreneurs. Over a course of a few months each found 2-3 mentors, people they now connect with regularly and who are willing to brainstorm with these guys at any given time.

I never realized how important it is to have a mentor, regardless at what stage we are in our careers. I learned from my surgeon physician colleagues that quite a few of them keep their mentors from residency around, they discuss interesting cases with them and plan complicated surgeries. However, I haven’t seen that kind of back-and-forth with my non-surgeon friends. I’m curious to explore this topic more. Feel free to comment on it below. 

Living A Sustainable Life

This next part surprised me. Both of these individuals are ‘worth’ a lot of money. They each have made respectable money trading ideas/businesses/intellectual property. They can have millions of dollars at their disposal because there are others who believe in these guys so much.

Instead, they are waiting – they are perfecting their product and their business model before mobilizing that kind of money. I had a similar, recent vision of clarity when I realized how readily my network was willing to put cash at my disposal to invest in apartment complexes.

Despite this incredible wealth, they live in a shared apartment with 2 other individuals. They don’t own fancy clothes. They don’t own cars. They don’t even have the latest gadgets. They have no aspirations of having a large home, a nice car or anything that you and I would consider luxurious.

They don’t ‘party’ and they don’t show off their connections or their wealth. Their free time is spent reading, brainstorming, making connections with new individuals, and dissecting all the systems that exist around them. I found both to be incredibly well-read and genuinely inquisitive.

 

Entrepreneurs See Opportunity

Here is a fun story I’ve enjoyed telling a few times. We were out at a popular whiskey bar in Portland and this guy started playing the piano and singing. We weren’t wasted enough to be so wow’d but all 3 of us were looking at each other trying to gauge how legit this guy’s talents were.

I acknowledged the singer’s skills and go back to sipping my drink. Next thing I know these 2 guys go over to the dude and start exchanging information. I ask what happened and find out that they have a friend who recently started a record label and that this guy would be perfect for it.

We caught the guy on his break and it turns out that he recently started performing at bars for fun and for a little income. We bought him a drink and got to know him. I assumed that these 2 guys were hoping to see this guy succeed in order to profit from their investment in the record label – in fact, all they talked about is how great it would be if years from now this artist makes his dream come true and builds a sustainable career doing what he obviously loves.

As an update, I’ve gotten multiple texts from the guys telling me that this guy was successfully onboarded by their friend.

 

How Do You Define Success?

I asked them how they would define their own success. Each replied that it would be doing something they love doing and something that brings them happiness. Mortality is big on their mind and they see no reason to live this life doing things which aren’t aligned with their values.

At no point did they tie success to owning something, earning a set amount or being in a certain position in their life.

 

How Do You Invest Your Money?

They don’t have IRA’s, they don’t have 401k’s, they don’t have ‘retirement’ accounts. They barely have savings.

Their investment is in themselves. They are investing in their business, of course, but they realize that the business is just one entity and even though they want it to succeed, they are focused on being great at what they do.

 

How Do Your Diversify?

We talked a little about the fear of losing everything. It’s obviously much easier when you are 22 years old and have no dependents. However, they have so many other individuals who believe in them that they don’t see it as a possibility to fail.

Together they have established their own venture capital fund. They have created intellectual property. They consult for other companies. They volunteer their knowledge. And they are learning about other industries in order to make better investment decisions.

 

What Financial Advice Would You Give The Average Person?

Don’t get credit cards.
Don’t spend your money on things that don’t matter.
Really understand what makes you happy before you spend on something that you ‘think’ will make you happy.

They both believed that it’s incredibly important to have the least amount of financial responsibility when trying to make meaningful advances in life. And from what I understand from these guys, they will be perpetually wanting to make progress.

 

How Would You Invest If You Were A Physician?

“Uhm, probably a 401k?” We all cracked up about this one because it’s hard for them to imagine being employees.

Don’t always do as the successful say, do as they do. The Godfather might be telling us how to do backdoor Roth’s but I don’t think he has built the success that he is today by setting aside $18k every year.

 

How Do You Come Up With The Money Needed To Have So Many Projects?

Apparently money isn’t in limited supply if you know where to look. When it comes to interesting or meaningful projects, one of the guys finds it far more efficient to connect talent with money.

He mentioned a recent project which involved sending things into space. It’s not cheap to get a science project up into space. However, he had a great idea and thought it was worthwhile to reach out to his network and immediately found a person who was willing to invest that kind of money. Next, he found the right minds who could make it happen and now he’s set to get his project launched, literally.

 

What Is Your Biggest Fear?

Death. Yea, this was interesting because I didn’t think 22-year-olds would be fearing death. But it wasn’t just about no longer existing, it was about leaving this world without having made a significant enough impact on it.

 

How Do You Accomplish Tasks That You Know Very Little About?

One of the guys was telling me that in running the business he was great at coming up with really radical ideas and he knew just the right people he needed to consult with in order to figure out if they were feasible. However, when it comes to seeing the project through, that simply wasn’t something he was good at.

Instead of torturing himself doing something that wasn’t in his skillset he hired the right people who could do it. That’s how he has multiple projects running at the same time. He recognizes that some people are really good at seeing a project through its many changes and paying attention to detail.

 

 

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