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The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP #28: Why Physician Entrepreneurs Work Less & Earn More

It is no secret that there are a lot of physician entrepreneurs out there. And a heck of a lot more physicians who are interested, but don’t know how to get started. In this episode we discuss why physician entrepreneurs come in with an incredible skill set that set them up for success… while they also come in with some preconceived ideas that make them less money in business. Tune in to learn how to work less and earn more as a physician entrepreneur.

Larry Keller

Today You’ll Learn

  • How working harder and longer does not equate with earning more.
  • Why physician entrepreneurs are uniquely suited for success.
  • How to avoid replacing your physician job with another job,
  • And more!

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What if I told you that you could work less and make more money, a lot more money? That's right, I didn't misspeak: Work less, earn more. Whether you're a budding business owner or you are a full-fledged physician-entrepreneur, keep listening. This episode could change your life.

This is The Physician Philosopher Podcast. I'm Dr. Jimmy Turner, an anesthesiologist, online entrepreneur, and financial freedom coach for physicians. The Physician Philosopher Podcast teaches you how to create the life you deserve one thought at a time. Start before you're ready, start by starting, start now.

Hey, hey, hey, everyone. Welcome to episode number 28 of The Physician Philosopher Podcast, where we take an uncurated and unapologetic look into physician life and physician entrepreneurship. Before we dive in today's thought and really get going on this episode, you may have noticed that the introduction to the show is a little different. The reason is that while we are going to continue discussing important life and career coaching topics, I've realized that I need to step into who I am. I came from a personal finance background and my entire journey has been about teaching doctors about financial freedom and the reason why is because I want doctors to be able to live life on their terms. I want you to be able to own your life and create a life that you want, love, and deserve.

Why? Because that's the journey that I've taken personally from a budding and burned out physician to a business owner, and now, to a financially free physician-entrepreneur. That journey into physician entrepreneurship has really changed my life fundamentally, and so, while we're still going to tackle tough life lessons where I'll wax and wane philosophical, because this is The Physician Philosopher Podcast, after all, I'm also going to start jumping in both feet into this space and teaching you about financial freedom, so we're going to talk about money mindset stuff, we're going to talk about physician entrepreneurship, and to help you go from being that busy and burned out doctor to the financially free physician-entrepreneur. If you want to learn how to practice medicine, because you want to, and not because you have to, because of financial constraints, keep listening.

With that said, today's thought is this: The busy doctor can find personal and financial freedom they want by becoming a physician-entrepreneur, but first, you must learn that it is possible to work less and earn more. All right, my friend, so in medicine, we're taught this lesson all the time that the more time we spend on something, the more money we should make, like the more procedures that you do, the more clinic visits that you have, the more shifts that you take, the more money you make. In other words, being busy means being productive and being productive means earning more money. That's what medicine teaches us all the time.

For physician-entrepreneurs, people that are building businesses, or thinking about it, they want financial freedom through a physician side gig, this is totally the space where we have a lot of skills that we bring. We're super intelligent, we're really dedicated, we're hard-working people, all of those things help with entrepreneurship. But this one idea that we bring with us for medicine, that we've got to work harder to make more, when we think of that, it is completely unhelpful. That's not really how it works, that hard work and working more hours and doing busywork, doesn't make you more money in entrepreneurship, and really, as we'll discuss later, it just burns you out.

Are money and time intrinsically linked at the hip? That's really the fundamental question, right? Do we have to work harder to make more money? Is this really the best way to become a financially free physician-entrepreneur and to practice medicine because we want to not because we have to? The answer to all of these questions is no, it absolutely isn't. There are a ton of great examples of this outside of the physician space.

For example, Tim Ferris, best-selling author, he's made himself a name through writing books like Tools of Titans and through his eponymous... By the way, how do you say that word? Eponymous? Eponymous? His eponymous podcast called The Tim Ferris Show. One of my favorite books that Ferris wrote is actually The 4-Hour Workweek and he gives hilarious examples of this thing, about how to really get stuff done, just to get your work done. This comes from a regular business background, the idea of getting a 40-hour workweek into four hours, basically being so productive in your four hours and so focused on what actually matters that you can get that stuff done in four hours.

He tells hilarious stories, like keeping headphones on his head and pretending like he's listening to something so that when someone comes up, he tells me he's in a conference call. I just think that the idea is brilliant because he posits that if we work smarter and not harder, we can get more done in less time. That's why people gravitate to Ferris. He flips our hard work mentality completely upside down on its face, and that's why the book is called The 4-Hour Workweek, because he thinks you can get 40 hours worth of work done in that amount of time.

He's not the only one, right? There are other examples of this in other books that I've read like Cal Newport, his book on deep work. He basically describes that a lot of people will spend most of their life just doing complete utter busywork the entire time. They spend a lot of time doing basically nothing, or if it's time spent doing something, it's distracted, and what you could get done in an hour takes seven because you're not really intentional or focused or doing what he calls "deep work."

It is an interesting thing. When you really dive into it, the idea is the same between these two authors, right? Work smarter, not harder, learn how to build an environment that allows you to get more done in less time, and as a physician-entrepreneur, trying to build a business, whether that's in real estate, or maybe you're trying to build a blog, podcast, online course, or coaching, this should resonate because you stepped into this space to earn financial freedom so that you can practice medicine because you want to and not because you have to, and then when you get inside the business, you start working just as hard and burning yourself out in the business that you create, so why do we apply the same burnout mentality that happens in medicine to our business when we start building one?

Many of us leave medicine or go part-time to avoid burnout, and then we step into this realm and do the same recipe, build the same exact thing with the same exact pieces and hardworking hourly mentality, and all of a sudden, we're burned out and we're surprised. Why do we want that? The reason is that we have this idea it's deeply ingrained in us that working harder is the only way to make more money and we have bought it hook, line, and sinker, as my fishing friends would say. It's about to be fishing weather. My little boy is teasing me about going and catching fish again because last time we went out, the very last fishing trip of 2020, he caught a five-pound catfish, and he's super proud about that, which we put back very safely, for those that are friends of fish.

Here's the problem: As Einstein puts it, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," yet that's exactly what most physician-entrepreneurs do, right? People that are building businesses that I work with in this space usually do so for two reasons. We want financial freedom from medicine, and the reason why, the why behind the why, is because we want to live life on our terms. We don't want to depend on a clinical paycheck to live life.

The purpose of this is to regain autonomy and control of your life, to practice medicine because you want to, not because you have to. It goes back to that, the reason for financial freedom, money is just a tool, but we use that tool for the end, which is to live life on our terms, to create a life that we love and deserve, and that is the fundamental why behind the why, if you will. But yet when we step into this entrepreneurial space, what a lot of doctors do, we bring this idea that we learned in medicine that doing more surgery, taking more shifts, or seeing more patients makes more money, working harder makes more money. That's a problem, right?

Why is it a problem? I'll give you a few different reasons. The first reason is this: The reason that you stepped into this space is to take back that control of your time and your schedule, to have autonomy, right, to live life on your terms, and fundamentally, when you use the same recipe that you used in medicine, tons and tons of hours, now, I'm not saying burnout and moral injury aren't caused by other things because Lord knows that I totally believe that's a systemic issue, that's one of the reasons why I believe in sticking up for, advocating for, and empowering physicians, that's the entire reason The Physician Philosopher exists is to empower physicians to live life on their terms, create a life that they deserve, but when most physician-entrepreneurs I know start this journey, they add on a bunch of hours onto their already busy schedule, they're working 40, 60, 80 hours a week, and then they're going to add 10 to 20 hours a week on this other job?

If you hear most people that have been successful in this space describe their journey, they'll tell you, "Yeah, I was basically working two full-time jobs." I did the same thing. I was working like 1.1 or 1.2 FTE and then putting 20 hours a week into a blog, so I did the same thing. Most of us do. You know what that does? It just burns you out. I mean, you're burning the candle at both ends, right, so now, instead of getting destroyed at the hospital, you're getting destroyed at home and at the hospital. That is not a recipe for success, my friends.

Physician-entrepreneurs that enter the space do this because their business doesn't quite earn enough money to allow them to go part-time or step back or practice medicine, live life on their terms, and so what do they do? They work harder in order to earn more money and they grind it out because that's what medicine has taught us. That's why it's a problem, because we end up creating the same exact scenario, the same exact circumstance that led to a lot of our problems in the first place.

I'll tell you, from a personal example, I really wanted to step into this space and get my financial freedom for my business because I was missing things with my kids, like tee-ball games and tee-ball practice and all sorts of other stuff, and then I created a business in which when my buddy Mike texts me and says, "Hey, you want to go golfing?" and I have to say, "I can't, I'm recording a podcast," look what I've done. I'm doing the same exact thing, right?

Here's the second reason why this is a problem: Even when you start earning money, you just build another job with the working harder means more money mentality. I cannot tell you the number of physician-entrepreneurs who start making nonclinical income through real estate or through online businesses. Like we've talked about who a year or two in realize that they've created another job, and so not only does that working harder means more money mentality impact just adding a bunch of stuff to your schedule, but because of that's how we think, that's actually how we ended up structuring our business that we create, too.

After all, most small business owners I know treat their business like their baby, and so there is an expression for things being called "your baby," and is because just like a baby, your business needs to be fed all the time, and your business should cost you to sleep just like a baby, an infant does, and hours away from your family, hours away from work, or whatever your other hobbies are. We call our business our baby because it often does the same thing.

Why do we do this? Because you believe that working harder means earning more money. This produces that never-ending to-do list that keeps you overwhelmed. People get out of medicine because they're overwhelmed and then they create a business that causes overwhelm. This is a recipe for disaster. You produce more content, there's more podcasts, there's more blog posts to write, there's more online courses to create, there's more money to make, you got to coach more clients to make more money, to get to your goals. We've got to make new goals, by the way, and then we got to buy more properties because we're real estate, and yada, yada, yada, so on and so forth. It just goes on and on and on. All the while, you're making yourself absolutely miserable.

Now, want to know how I know this, right? Because I did the same thing. I did it all; 10, 20 hours of work on my site, on my business, in addition to the 40 and 50 hours working, and sometimes 70 or 80, when I was on call. Talk about a recipe for burnout, right? It took me two to three years to learn this lesson. Hopefully, you can learn it in this 20-to-30-minute podcast, right? Let's separate this idea from hours spent working means more money made, right? We got to learn to do that. We've got to separate that, but right now, you don't have it separated, so it's a problem.

The third reason is that the successful physician-entrepreneur cannot operate in the same way as an employed physician, or even a private practice partner, so the more that you work in the business, the less time you have to work on the business. Let me say that again because sometimes that goes past people too quickly: The more work you do in the business, doing the work in the business, the less time you have to work on the business. In other words, the more time you spend as an employee, the less time you have being a CEO.

Now, when you first start your businesses, oftentimes in the early stages, you're going to be the chief executive officer or the CEO, you're going to be the chief operating officer, you're going to be the social media manager, content creator, and everything else that's involved. It's called being a solopreneur. It's a lonely space to be and most of us start there, right? We're just the only person in our business. We're trying to just get this thing off the ground. It is time-consuming. We are working in the business and on the business all at once and not at all is this scalable to help more people because you are so involved in your business that you can't work on the vision and the direction and what you're trying to do. That's why it doesn't work.

This applies to pretty much any business, right? Whether you're in the real estate space trying to help more people find a place to live, or you're helping other physicians learn from your online courses, or your coaching clients learning how for them to take back control of their life, no matter what you're doing, the work in the business has to happen, but it doesn't have to necessarily be done by you. For example, you might delegate tasks. You might hand things out to other people. You might ask, in fact, other people to step into jobs that you've previously done. That is how a solopreneur becomes a CEO of the business, by not working in the business, but by working on it.

The reason that we do that is because we have this mentality that working more means making more money, and so we refuse to make that transition from working in the business to on the business because we've been taught our entire life that working in something, providing the service is what makes money, and not being the vision or the why behind the business, the CEO of the business. We focus on the how and never on the why, and that's why your business isn't getting off the ground, is because you're focusing on the how and the what and not the why. The CEO focuses on the why. The how happens after the vision is created, so if all you're working on is the how you help people and not why, that's why your business isn't doing what you want it to do. That's why it's not making money. That's why it's not profitable.

The solution, if you want to take that transition from budding physician-entrepreneur to physician-entrepreneur who is financially free, right, the person who's trying to start, maybe you have a business, but it's not super profitable and you're trying to get it to the point where it's profitable and you're financially free through that profitable business, you have to rid yourself of this idea that working more hours means making more money because that's not true. It's totally possible to generate more revenue and profit from a business that you work on 10 hours per week than the money you made as a physician working 40 to 60 hours per week. That is a fact. This is done by working smarter, not harder. Busywork makes you $0, yet that is what most of our time is spent doing.

This is what Tim Ferris would tell you to rid from your life. He's telling you focus on the things that matter. In the physician world, this means the things that don't matter, for example, in the physician world, this means committees and book chapters and meetings, because we all recognize that if you want to get absolutely nothing done, you should just form a committee, or Fred Allen puts it "A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done." That's how Fred Allen puts it and it's so true. You don't get anything done by yourself and then let's get together and then we can all agree that we can't get anything done. That's basically what a committee is, in my mind.

You have to learn how to stop thinking like an employed physician who goes to committees and meetings and become the CEO of your physician-entrepreneur world. If you want to go from a burned out and budding business owner to that financially free physician-entrepreneur, you have to accept this. What I mean is this, is that you have to learn how to stop working in your business and start working on it, like I said before, to focus on what actually changes people's lives, what provides your clients value, and what stops destroying you in the process, because we, as the physician-owner, we will destroy ourselves. We will keep feeding the monster. I know million-dollar coaches who do not have a business that makes profit. We'll talk about that in some other show, about how to make profit in a business. They make a million dollars and revenue and don't pay themselves. They destroy themselves through the thing that they created to provide them freedom. That is not okay.

When you start working as the CEO, this will allow you to truly experience all the reasons you originally stepped into the space, right? It will help you remember that why. This will give you more time, make you more money, and allow you to enjoy more of your life doing what you want with who you want. You will not be constantly available because you're not working in the business, you're working on the business. Your business will make more profit. You will learn to delegate responsibilities, to spend more money where it makes sense.

After you really dig into this idea, you will find that you can work 10 or 15 hours a week on your business and earn as much as you did as a physician. How crazy does that sound to you? 10 to 15 hours a week. Let's call it 20, even 20 sounds good, and earn as much as you do as a doctor. This is going to require you to do a few things, right? It's going to require you to define your hell yes policy. We talked about that in episode 20, which involves saying, "Hell no," to a bunch of stuff that doesn't fit the life you're creating. If you want to live a life on your terms, create a life that you love, you have to say no to a lot of things, because anytime you say yes to one thing, you're saying no to something else, so for me, anytime I say yes to something, I'm usually saying no to my family, my friends, or my business, which I'm no longer okay saying no to.

It's also going to require you to learn the art of deep work, which we will discuss at some point in another episode, but the art of really being present and intentional with your time and doing the work that actually needs to be done. It's also going to require you to determine what is necessary for you to focus on and what you can instead, delegate to other people or hire out to allow you to become the CEO of your business. Finally, it's going to really require you to be intentional with your time.

We talked about scheduling and stuff like that, but you're going to notice, all of this goes back to being intentional about what you say yes to, intentional about what you should be doing versus someone else, and finally, intentional about your weekly schedule and ridding yourself of that overwhelm that we talked about in episode seven. All of this goes back to being an intentional physician-entrepreneur. If you can learn how to work deeply and intentionally, you will be able to work less and earn more money.

Early in the journey when your business is starting to make money, this is going to grant you some financial freedom to potentially go part-time, if you want. Once you truly become a full-fledged physician-entrepreneur who is financially free, this is going to allow you to practice medicine as much or as little as you want. I now have no hesitation saying that I practice medicine as much and as little as I want. In order for you to do this, you have to be able to fundamentally accept that it is possible to work less and earn more if you take these things and apply them, right? You have to believe it in your bones to dig into this exactly where you need to spend your focus, to be intentional about your time, how to outsource tasks that don't require your vision.

Great businesses have both a why and a how. They don't have to be performed by the same person, so if you're the CEO with a vision, focusing on the why and the trajectory, it might be someone else that's performing the function of the how, and in most great businesses, that's actually the case. This requires you to get clear on your why, and that requires you to work on the business and not in the business so that you can work less and earn more. But first, you must accept that it is possible to work less and earn more. Otherwise, that freedom and autonomy you're originally looking for when you started your physician side gig will not become a reality for you.

Today's thought is this: The busy doctor can find the personal and financial freedom they want by becoming a physician-entrepreneur, but first, you must learn that it is possible to work less and earn more. Until next time, my friends, start before you're ready, start by starting, start now. I'll see you next week.

My dad, Dr. Jimmy Turner, is a physician first, a personal finance blogger, and a life coach for doctors. However, he is not your physician or your life coach. He also isn't a financial advisor, financial planner, or accountant. Anything discussed in this podcast is for general education and entertainment purposes only. Life coaching is not a substitute for therapy, medicine, or medical treatment. However, if you're a doctor looking for a life coach, you can reach out to my dad at [email protected]

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