How to Save Your Own Life
On this episode I talk to Vikas Shah MBE (@MrVikas), a successful entrepreneur from the age of 14 and investor. I met him at the World Health Congress for Europe that took place in Manchester where his presentation “How to Save Your Own Life” which touched a raw and emotional part of our world that so few are willing to talk about and share – suicide and suicide prevention. He is also the author of “Thought Economics” – that features a veritable who’s who of guests that include Will.I.Am, Buzz Aldrin, Noam Chomsky, Sir Richard Branson, F. W. de Klerk, Bear Grylls, Moby, Philippe Starck, Sir James Dyson, Garry Kasparov, Ai Weiwei, Maya Angelou, Usain Bolt, George Takei, Hans Zimmer, Jack Welch, Ed Catmull as well as nearly 20 Nobel Prize Winners and the Presidents and Prime Ministers of nations including Mexico, Portugal and the Maldives…wow!
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So you can imagine how privileged I felt to connect and have him spend time with me!
Vikas started out with a dream, to be an airline pilot and ended up being an entrepreneur. Along the way, his incremental step was to have a dream and then focus on what gets you there and repeat the same tasks importantly always learning. As he put it
For every 2 web sites he developed payed for 1 flying lesson
He created a lean business and importantly hired the best people, in part thanks to the humility and personal understanding that he did not know everything and needed to have the right people that could fill those gaps. This is a great set of incremental learning points for any business:
- Accept you cannot know or be good at everything
- Hire the best people you can find to fill those gaps
- Always be open to learning, un-learning, and re-learning,
- And my personal mantra always have fun
At the time he was building web sites they were coding in “basic” HTML (the first draft of HTML 2 was published 1995) and while there was skill it was not unique. Vikas, like several of my other guests, understood that his way to differentiate was to combine the technical skill with a design eye for building websites, recombining things in different ways. This is important in today’s age of changing job function – the skill to survive and be successful is in part combining different insights into new and unique solutions.
He failed along with many others to see the internet bubble bursting, which while it was hard to predict in hindsight this learning option was he should have built resilience into the heart of his business, and
“you need to have more personal resilience as nothing lasts forever”
The combined pressure of a failing business impacting him and his employees and his own personal investment in the business that had left him isolated from personal connections left him vulnerable.
While the business flourished his business gave him a reason to continue. He had a purpose but did not have other support mechanisms and so when the business died so did his reason for living as he put it he had
“nothing to live for”
and ultimately almost took his own life. For anyone in that circumstance, there are telephone numbers around the world. Here in the US, you can call 800-273-8255 and for other countries here’s a list of numbers. These are real human interactions with someone who can listen and be the voice and connection you need without any fear of being labeled. As he rightly points out the most important step you can take is
We dive into the challenge of brain health and the stigma attached. He compared it to the story around cancer that has been changed over the years. Talking about cancer did not cure cancer but it allowed everyone to share their experiences and ultimately has enabled better care and compassion and the same needs to be done for all brain health (see why I don’t use the term “Mental Health” here), depression, and suicide.
His incremental steps for coping moving forward:
- Diversification in business and your personal life (this post from Troy Hunt 10 Personal Finance Lessons talks about some step for this)
- Building personal Resilience
- Get involved and contribute to the community (some tips from another post on being happy)
Interestingly he still loves flying but the novelty and hence desire has worn off. So it’s important to reevaluate your goals and seek new exposures that allow you to decompress and have new dreams. He still finds riding a motorbike is a release.
Listen in to our conversation and to hear the details and the importance of travel to expanding the mind and building your personal community. As a dear family friend said:
There are two ways to invest your money. Either in the bank or travel. The latter will bring you memories to treasure.
About the Show
For years Dr. Nick van Terheyden aka Dr. Nick, has served as a voice on the impact of new technologies on healthcare, earning a reputation as a leading authority on where the future of medicine is going. Combining powers of observation and real world experience, Dr. Nick has seen many predictions come true and makes the case that innovations in healthcare can be accomplished incrementally, not just by moonshot events. Tune in to hear Dr. Nick: The Incrementalist and his guests discuss what the future of healthcare looks like, how we will get there, and what it will take to improve healthcare for all.
This article was originally published on the Dr. Nick – The Incrementalist blog and is republished here with permission.