What’s Better Than Sitting in Silence?

What’s Better Than Sitting in Silence?

How long can you sit alone with your thoughts? Imagine you are sitting in a room. There’s a chair you’re sitting on and a table. And a button. No phone, no paper, nothing else. 


Just you and your thoughts. Oh, and the button. The button when pressed will send you an electric shock. Yes, it will hurt. You’ll be in that room for 15 minutes. What do you do? Do you press the button? Sit there in silence? 


This was an experiment done in a bunch of college students. A surprising 67% of the men and 25% of the women decided to shock themselves instead of sitting there with their thoughts. We’ve talked before about how we could be our harshest critic. So these students could have been in a room alone with their worst enemies. 


It’s no wonder that some of them would rather be shocked. 


Our own worst enemy


When we are alone with our thoughts, we will often focus on what is going wrong in our lives or what we are anxious about. This focus on our negatives served us well as a survival mechanism in the past. If we tried something new and survived, we were lucky. We shouldn’t push our luck. 


Now the stakes are lower. That fear before a speech serves us only briefly. It reminds us to prepare, but after that just acts as a hindrance. The feeling before it is still the same. Our body screams to not do it. We regret signing up to do it. This is despite how well we know it can help our career.


Or during the preparation, we sabotage ourselves. Not work on it to the best of our ability. We do this because even practicing for it, our brain tells us that it’s not safe. We should have taken the easier path. 

Learning from Books

Focusing on failures

Focusing on our failures is similar. It is on the front of our minds because of how harmful failure could have been in the past. Imagine trying a new trail or hunting technique and almost starving. Better to stick to a tried and true method. Even if it isn’t that great. 

Any type of incremental improvement was not worth it. A 10% improvement in the food you got would rarely be worth it even if there was a 5% risk of getting eaten. However, now the stakes are much lower. Yes, you can totally bomb your presentation and feel bad for a few days. But if it went well? You could get a new promotion or even more. 

Retrain your brain


It’s hard to get over this fear of silence. Of being left alone with your brain. One technique that has helped me is consciously focusing on whatever was negative or went wrong. Instead of avoiding it, try to hone in on what went wrong. 

Try to glean anything you can and adapt. Know that you’ll be better next time. It’ll be painful at first. The difference between that and what you did before is the intention. Before it was like a papercut, you’d avoid it and then check on it again. Yep, still embarrassing. Still feel bad about it. 


Instead, you’re intentionally thinking about what happened. What went wrong. From beginning to end. What went well? What went poorly? How will I improve next time? By the time you are done, you’ll have thought so much about it that your brain will give you a break. You’ll be able to sit in silence. Satisfied. Knowing you’ll do better next time. 



All the Best Plans Include Ice Cream

All the Best Plans Include Ice Cream

When was the last time you allowed yourself to eat ice cream? Not when was the last time you ate ice cream. When was the last time you allowed yourself to eat ice cream? A birthday? A celebration? For me, that was a few minutes ago. And it was guilt-free. 


Before the last couple of months, it had been awhile. My adult whole life would associate ice cream and guilt. My diet never seemed to fit in ice cream. 


This would lead to a couple of likely scenarios.

1. I’d be good for a while and eventually give in and eat a whole tub of ice cream

2. Or would give up the diet because it was too restrictive 


I’d eat ice cream. And it was good. There’d be a small bit of satisfaction. And then shame and guilt. This was the only way I knew to diet. The only way to focus. It was all-or-nothing.


If I got distracted, I thought, well might as well check a few more things. Let me check my email really quick.  Now that I’ve already lost concentration. There’s plenty of stuff I’ve been avoiding. Text messages. Slack messages.


Let me reconnect with the real world. A few hours later either a whole tub of ice cream has been eaten or I finally reached the end of new content on my instagram feed. 


It all changed when I got a nutrition coach


All a sudden there was a cookie allowance. Or ice cream. How did that make any sense? To be honest, I was pretty hesitant at first. But I was paying for this advice. I figured I should at least try it his way. My way super wasn’t working. 


So I did. I looked at the box of cookies and see that I’d be able to eat two. Two before working out and two after. It’s been awesome. My pantry has a ton of cookies now. I even got a bunch of ice cream as well.


Did you know that high-quality ice cream is soft and ready to eat right off the fridge? I had no idea. I thought all ice cream was the same. Hard as a rock when you take it out of the freezer. 


And they ship ice cream now. Yes, ship. I recommend Wanderlust Creamery or Salt & Straw. Mmm, delicious. 


I had something to look forward to on a daily basis. It was a small reward. Sometimes, I’d have eaten some ice cream and get a sudden urge to not work out. It happened sometimes.


But most of the time, I was able to find the motivation to do it. And then I got the reward of a little bit more sweets. It’s the small wins in life. 

Learning from Books


How often do you give yourself a small win?


I’m a simple person. It’s hard to go through the day like a monk. Abstinent. My willpower is only so strong. Eat right. Sleep enough. Exercise. And then on top of that: avoid all potential inputs so you can do deep work.

The latter might be the most difficult. We have so much on our plate that you can almost always convince yourself you are doing something productive. Replying to emails? Productive. Reading a book? Educational. Checking the news? Infuriating. But feels like you are being a well-informed citizen. 

All the while, your big goal for the day is sitting there not being done. Whether it be eating healthy or working on that blog post. 

Those draconian measures worked. At first at least. No sugar. It lasted for weeks. But I knew I couldn’t do it forever. Every time I’d go into work it felt like a challenge. There were donuts. Or cake. You know hospital call rooms. It’s odd if there isn’t something sweet within a few feet from you.

I would give in eventually. And then keep giving in. Because the day had already been ruined. Might as well finish that pint of rocky road. 

I needed those small wins to keep myself from just giving in completely. 

So what does ice cream have to do with productivity?

Do you give yourself treats for doing well? Maybe, it’s not ice cream. It could be a little Instagram. Or the news. There’s always something going on in the world, right? 

I used to think that the only way I’d get anything done was to have huge chunks of time. That I wasn’t able to do anything other than focus on one thing. I know some people that can do that. 

I know I can’t. But with something to look forward to, some digital ice cream, then that period of work just feels so much easier to do. 

The Best Ideas Are Those Cooked to Perfection

The Best Ideas Are Those Cooked to Perfection

The best Ideas take time to make. Like a perfect vintage of wine. Effort, time, and luck.


There’s a handful of times a good idea has struck me. Just a few. But I think back now. Was it really luck that idea came to me? Probably. Destiny? Maybe. But there were people that seemed to have good ideas on a regular basis.


How could I become one of those people? How did I have good ideas? Would I have better ideas if I intended to? There was only one way to find out.


How I created fertile ground for good ideas?


Good wine starts with good grapes. These come from fertile ground.


I try to set the right atmosphere for great ideas. Remove distractions. Water the ground. Remove the weeds. Pray for a great harvest. The rest of those early times our out of our control.


I have two separate processes for this depending on the types of ideas that I am trying to have. Am I trying to come up with an idea that is outside of my comfort zone or an idea for a subject or process that I already know?


I try to set up the environment to match this process. If I’m working on a current project such as a blog post or a new video. Something that is a continuation of a current project then I’ll go to a familiar spot. Set up for comfort. Somewhere I know well. The rest of the process is the same.


Turn off notifications. Block off some time on my calendar. Free me from distractions or what I call mental weeds. They come up and choke life and sustenance from our fertile ground. Then do the hard part. Sit there in silence and think.


Now if I’m trying something new, a new project. Something outside of my comfort zone. I’ll try to go to a new place. I don’t have much space in my small apartment so will try working somewhere different.


Maybe I’ll stand instead of sitting. Or sit on the ground. Usually, the ground is left for serious problems when all the other places aren’t working. When was the last time you sat on the ground? I rarely do. It really feels different. 


We have the most control in the beginning. Think about a color. I’ll wait. What was it? Why did you think about that color? Now think about another. What color was it? Any idea why that one came up instead of green. Or maybe it was green. Why wasn’t it blue?


What comes to us after we sit down, we have little control over. But our mental state and environment at least we have a little power over.

Learning from Books

Feed your creativity


Great wine comes from happy grapes. You can’t just plant in the best ground and expect good grapes to pop up. You have to be careful with what you feed it. From the day the seeds go in till the day you pick them, the nutrients you give it will affect its taste.


So how do we feed our brain so that it has good ideas? You feed it with good ideas from other people. Something challenging. Or maybe outside of your knowledge base. I try to read, listen, and watch stuff from wide array sources. Of course, there are a few from stuff that I’m trying to learn.


For example, I listen to a bunch of podcasts on medicine to keep my skills sharp. But even then I try to keep it varied. I’ll listen to internal medicine podcasts. ER doc podcasts, critical care.


I also listen to podcasts on online marketing or history. You never know what can spark a good idea so I try to keep the nutrients that I feed my brain well-diversified.


On the other side, I also try to limit the junk food that I give my brain. I limit the amount of TV I watch and am more intentional with where I get any of my inputs.


That’s not to say all TV is bad. It’s more likely that I’d get a spark for a good idea from an article from a blog I follow or a podcast than I would from a TV show.


Sometimes it’s not enough


Now you’ve started off with fertile ground. Fed your brain the best of nutrients and you’re sitting there without an idea at all. Sure, you may have some not so great ones. What should you do?


As much as I’d love to say there was a solution. There’s no way to force good ideas to come. Rain doesn’t come no matter how hard we wish it. 


We need to wait. Give it time. Some of my best ideas have come when I was doing something else. Not even thinking about what I needed to come up with an idea for. So what gives?


The missing ingredient needed was time. I needed to give my idea a chance to grow. My brain was working on coming up with a solution that I needed in the background. My grapes were growing. 


So how do I put this into practice? It means that I’m not waiting till the last minute. I need to sit down and work on my big projects on a regular basis and give my brain time to come up with the ideas I need.

My Entrepreneur Journey

My Entrepreneur Journey

Bottom Line: Your best life is out there waiting for you to create it. 


I was always told to focus. There was little to be gained by doing more than one project at a time. Little did they know… that they were right. Well, they probably did know that. My advisors in residency had been advising people for a while. Who was I to try something different?  


Fortunately, they had the grace to not say I told you so after I didn’t get a fellowship. Twice. However, they couldn’t have known that it was the best thing that could have happened to me. 


I was told my resume didn’t show that singular focus was required to get into fellowship. That I would wake up and think, “How am I going to get closer to getting into fellowship today.” Most days in residency I just woke up hoping to survive.


On days that I had more strength, I had hoped to learn something along the way. I had always seemed a bit scattered in residency. Working with the heart doctors, the lung doctors, and even the pharmacists. I kind of just went where I saw something interesting.


In residency, everyone and everything was interesting. Not much different than now. As you can see, curiosity is a strong suit of mine. For better or worse. When I graduated I had a choice, to double down on that curiosity or to start focusing. 


When my life changed?


I decided to double down on my strengths. I decided to start an online course. I had to basically teach myself critical care because my hospital was one of the many that did not have in-house intensive care doctors.  In my free time, I taught myself the basics of creating a course and created the foundation of a course. Not knowing if it would turn into anything, at least I was learning something new. 


Around that same time, I made a conscious decision to put myself out there. Out where? I didn’t know. I just would be more willing to whatever life had to offer. I had joined a few online physician communities and thought they would be a good place to find some kindred souls.


There were plenty of other docs that were where I wanted to be. Fellowship wasn’t in my cards, but maybe something else that they were doing was. There was a post about a local meet-up in Los Angeles, and that was my chance. I offered to host it, set it up, whatever was needed. 


What happened next was mostly luck and a little intention. I believe that you increase the surface area of your luck by putting yourself out there, getting over your fear, and being intentional. My current business partner reached out to me after he saw my post. He was trying to put himself out there too. We instantly bonded. 


We had a lot of shared interests including education. He had a blog where he taught doctors how to earn passive income. I thought, hey I’d like to learn how to do that, and maybe I could help you get your message out through an online course. 



Since that time, we’ve created an online course on commercial real estate taken by hundreds of doctors, had a live in-person conference, and another virtual conference with over 12,000 attendees. Based on those successes, we’ve also created an online accelerator for physician entrepreneurs. 

Learning from Books


What I’m working on now?


My Blog


Throughout this process, I realized that there weren’t many people who had documented their journey. I knew a few docs who were pretty successful but they had started blogging later in life. Or blogged about other topics, not how they got to be where they were. 


I was always looking for virtual mentors, ones whose path I could read about to help me guide my own. I was encouraged to make my own path, and that’s where the idea for this blog came to fruition. This blog will document what I’ve learned along the way and the many failures that will inevitably happen so other people can learn from my journey


Consulting service


I have started a few projects from scratch that have been fairly successful. I’ve realized a passion of mine is to help other people get up and running on their interests inside and outside medicine. To help with that, I have also created a consulting service to help other physician-lead companies and startups. My strengths lie in helping either myself or others with the beginning stages of growth so my consulting service will help with that. 


I’m currently working with an established venture capital fund to help them grow their educational platform and also a few docs who are just starting to help establish their brands. 


The Concierge VA


I’ve quickly reached a saturation point in the amount of shallow work I can do myself on a daily basis. To help with that, I’ve hired a virtual assistant that has made a day and night difference in my entrepreneur journey. I can barely imagine how I was able to manage life before hiring her. 


When we were getting acquainted and getting her up and running, I found that there weren’t that many great resources on how to best utilize a virtual assistant. The material was superficial or just out of date. I wanted help with the day-to-day. How do I structure the job so she could be her best self? 


There was so much I learned in just the first few weeks of working together that I think I could save someone else countless headaches and time. To help others along this process, I’m partnering to create a virtual assistant company for other physician entrepreneurs. We will work with the physician to match them with a VA just for their needs and to help them with onboarding.  The service is called The Concierge VA and will be launching soon. 

The Most Important Life Skill They Don’t Teach You in School

The Most Important Life Skill They Don’t Teach You in School

The solution to most problems is a Google away. These days you can learn almost anything online. Pretty much any solution is a quick click away. You may even find a step-by-step guide on Youtube that details exactly how to solve your problem. Even the exams we take after we finish are open books.


Now think for a second. How many of your friends and family’s phone numbers do you know by heart? A couple? Probably less than ten. There’s no reason to memorize more than a few anymore.


We’ve been off-loading knowledge work to our phones. This also works with people. Couples who have been married together for a while will have difficulty remembering events that they went together in the past. The details of the events. Yet, if you ask about the event when they are both together. They will fill in each other’s memory blanks.


Our brains are lazy or efficient depending on how you look at it. They only store facts and memories that it thinks it’ll need in the future. It’ll archive or get rid of the rest.


So what do you do if you’ve forgotten something? Or never learned it in the first place?


Learning from Books

Learn to Google

Think when you want someone to search the internet for something, what do you tell them to do? Google it? Google is such a part of our culture that it encapsulates all internet searches.

I can’t tell you how often I’m able to find a solution to a problem I have at home or at work with a quick Google. Car showing a dashboard light? Google. Need to check the adverse effects of a medication? Google.

There is an art and skill to internet searches and it boils down to two factors:


1. Your initial search phrase

2. Picking the right result

The initial search phrase is made up of the words that you put into Google. If you were to put, car engine dash light you’ll get millions of results. While if you put: “Honda Accord 2012 yellow wheel dashboard button meaning”, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting the correct answer in the first few posts.

The more specific you are the better. I try to be as specific as I can and only be more generic if I don’t get many results. You also want to use words that are in the same domain as your problem. For example, if the icon on the dashboard in my car is a tire or wheel, I’d have much better results than if I typed in a yellow circle. Or a round thing.

Next, and as important is to pick the right result. Depending on what the problem is I’ll try to point it towards a certain direction. For simple things such as household or car issues, I’ll add the word forum. Or I’ll look for forum results. Forums are small communities usually of enthusiasts that help each other. I’d find the problem with my car on some type of Honda forum. Instead of looking for the forum directly, if I type my search into Google, It will look through many forums for me.

Now, instead, if I’m looking or a medical question then a forum won’t do. So I’ll add Google Scholar to the search phrase and be much more careful with the type of result that I pick. Often times, Google is even better than the search features on a website. So you’d be better off typing your search into google and adding the name of the website to your search phrase.

Of course, not everything is on Google. I won’t be able to find an exhaustive list of treatments for a rare disease for example. However, if I was able to just find a case report or two through Google. That’s enough. Then I’d be able to look at the references in that case report and be able to find more substantial research. I’ve saved countless hours using Google to start my medical research search than starting off with Pubmed.


Instead, had I gone to the library and tried to find the articles I needed, I could have been there all day and still not found what I needed. The power of Google and internet searches, in general, make learning how to use it by far one of the most important skills we have.