Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Entrepreneur or Patient?
Resourcefulness: the ability to find clever ways to overcome difficulties.
Perseverance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Grit: courage and resolve; strength of character.
Ingenuity: the quality of being clever, original, and inventive.
Depending your perspective, you may think I’m describing entrepreneurs, when in fact, I am describing the patients I know.
My education of these qualities began as an infant, when I was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a debilitating chronic disease. It wasn’t until I entered the world of entrepreneurship that I realized the qualities I was forced to develop were the ones preached about on podcasts and in business books.
To connect the dots, I’ll share some personal stories.
When I went to college, a medication error my freshman year left me very sick and forced me to withdraw from my Spring semester. Well, that turned me onto summer courses, so not only did I catch up, but I ended up graduating early. With degrees in engineering and dance — because I wasn’t going to let my body tell me what to do.
During graduate school, a friendly brain tumor that had been chilling suddenly decided to grow rapidly and had to be resected. It may have set me back initially, but I persevered and ended up completing my PhD in record time for my department. Take that, tumor.
In fact, just 11 days after surgery I was back on my feet and on Capitol Hill, advocating for important legislation affecting patients. As a patient, you know the world doesn’t stop, and do what you have to to get back in the game.
You work hard, but you also work smart — because you know your max and have spent decades flirting with it to achieve your goals. While others may crash and burn, you know just how long you can push. And sometimes, you do have to fight like hell, but come out the other side wiser and more committed than ever.
Those with personal experience aren’t just motivated to innovate, they have the unfair advantage of knowing the problem from the inside. That’s what led my co-founder and I to start Savvy Cooperative, because we knew what the healthcare system felt like for patients, and saw the best way forward was to make it easier for patients to share their experiences to help companies make better products and services.
And we are by no means alone. There are brilliant patients out there, like Dana Lewis who designed her own closed-looped pancreas. Or the patient entrepreneurs who’ve participated in Lyfebulb-Novo Nordisk’s Patient Innovation Award.
Patients are forced to develop communication, time management, and financial planning skills. For this reason, those who grew up with childhood onset diseases are some of the most sophisticated individuals I know. Patients possess inside knowledge of the problem, can navigate complicated systems and stakeholders and have a proven track record for surviving despite the obstacles.
So next time you want to do a litmus test to see if an entrepreneur has what it takes — ask them if they’ve lived with a serious health condition. My advice to investors, is rather than shy away from that person, invest — because they’ve been "serial entrepreneuring" their whole life.