Dr. Ron Mason, an anesthesiologist, joins our show today. He has plenty of medical and business experience. Even though he still practices medicine, Ron has founded a number of businesses and is an experienced real estate investor. Listen in as he shares lessons learned from his residency, working in a high security prison hospital, and from the rest of his career.
Bobby: Thanks for joining us today Dad, Dr. Mason. I’d like for you to start off by telling us some of your stories from med school and residency.
Ron Mason: In the old days, we used to work really hard during our residency. We would work 36 hours every third day. One year when I came home for the holidays, I just watched everyone laugh and have a good time. I remember sitting there and couldn’t relate to others. It took me about a year after residency to adjust to normal life again.
Bobby: I think some people fail to recognize how much work doctors have to put in. Their money is well deserved.
Ron Mason: Well now they have laws that limit hours during residencies. But back then, you would wake up and start around 6AM then not get any breaks until 7 or 8PM. You couldn’t eat or anything most days. I would interview patients and fall asleep mid conversation. We wouldn’t sleep for 36+ hours all the time. In residency, I would drive home from work and usually fall asleep in my car because I was too tired to make it to my bed. There’s nothing I did other than work and learn.
And it’s high stress work. I remember one day we had a man who got shot in the chest. His mom shot him because there was drug abuse involved. The mom was there at the hospital yelling at him saying she hopes he dies. There can be a lot going on at the hospital.
Bobby: So you also worked in a prison, right?
Ron Mason: Yes, that was the greatest. It was a high security prison hospital in Texas. It was very interesting. Guys would try to make weapons out of anything they could get their hands on. We would have guards all around and we were given syringes full of a solution that could take an elephant down.
Bobby: Sounds intense. Then you also worked with the Coast Guard or something?
Ron Mason: I worked as a doctor in an emergency helicopter for some time. That was plenty interesting too. The pilots were mostly Vietnam vets who were not scared of anything. There were some crazy drivers.
Bobby: So tell us about some of your other projects outside of medicine.
Ron Mason: I can tell one story, before I went into medicine. I always planned on being in business when I was younger, especially because my dad was quite the businessman. There was a time in college when I wanted to open some nursing homes but I needed someone to cosign the loan for me. When I asked my dad if he would, he told me that I would be happier if I did everything on my own. So, after that, I decided to go into medicine instead of business.
I remember my dad telling me that I would always be comfortable in medicine but I could become much more successful in business. Looking back at it, he was definitely right.
But some things I’ve done outside medicine… A ways back, I was asked by a friend if I wanted to be an initial investor in a new coffee chain from Seattle looking to move into the Twin Cities market. Well, I didn’t see how they could charge customers $4 per coffee. Little did I know they were actually selling sugary drinks that were practically malts. I never invested and now that company is all over the place (Starbucks).
Later, I became a major investor in a bagel restaurant. We were very successful with our first two restaurants but then I think management got a little pompous and made some dumb decisions. A little after opening our third location, we lost everything. I lost all my money. But you live and learn.
My partners and I also started a billing and consulting company. The key to this business’s success was our first CEO. We hired a great guy who was confident and smart. Initially, most people on the board did not want to hire him because he had such a clear direction and wasn’t afraid of telling people what to do. He was ultimately, and still is, the right man for the job. You cannot be afraid to hire someone smarter than you. That’s how you become successful.
Bobby: Awesome. One thing I want to talk about is how good you are at staying down to earth and meeting everyone at his or her level. You used to drive this old beater car; people would always be surprised that you were actually rather successful because how humbly you have handled yourself with others.
Ron Mason: Yes, this is a key to success and happiness I think. I could be happy with nothing, living in a small apartment. I do not need stuff to make me happy. And I don’t think anyone should.
Bobby: Definitely. Quick fire questions now. What would the world be like if it were filled with male and female copies of you?
Ron Mason: I would not want to live in it. It would be pretty boring. The world needs a lot of different people in it. But one good thing is how honest the world would be. For instance, if Menards forgets to charge me for something, I will go back and pay for that item. And in return, I would expect that if Menards charged me for an item I did not actually purchase, then they would give me my money back. The world would be such a better place if everyone were honest.
Bobby: That’s great! Next question, what skills does a young professional need to have to be successful?
Ron Mason: To me it is integrity. You have to be willing to hold your integrity even if it takes you down the most difficult path. Another story: We were taking care of a patient with AIDS and there was a mix-up with nurses. A new patient walked in, and part of an antibiotic that was used on the AIDS patient was then used on this new, non-AIDS patient. There was probably a 0.5% chance that this patient would have AIDS transmitted because of the mix-up. All the nurses said that the patient would be fine and didn’t want to tell her.
But I made the decision to tell her instantly and put her on anti-AIDS medication that we paid for. This was precautionary. It was a difficult discussion to have with her and her husband, but all you have to ask yourself is, “How would I want to be treated?” That’s a part of integrity. And I believe having integrity is a part of being successful.
Bobby: What do you believe you have to sacrifice to become successful?
Ron Mason: I mean you first have to figure out what you are willing to give up to become successful. We always look at success in a worldly fashion and miss out on what is true success. We miss out on things that cost no money but are the very things that make us happy. Success can mean being connected to your family and kids. So know, before you spend your entire life trying to obtain wealth, that this is not necessarily success. For example, I have partners who are spending their entire lives just trying to retire. They work until life is gone and never got to enjoy the journey.
I like this saying: When we are young we spend our health to obtain wealth, but when we are old we spend our wealth to obtain health. In my mind, success is a balance of knowing what is truly important to you.
Bobby: Great answer. Last question: What is one life hack that listeners can do this week to become successful?
Ron Mason: I would say work hard, be focused, and know where you want to go. Figure out this week where you want to take yourself in business. You have to be sure about your goals right now so that you don’t waste a bunch of your life running on a track that you don’t want to be on. Develop a clear understanding of what will bring you to where you want to go.
Some reminders from this podcast:
1. Integrity always wins. It may not always make life the easiest, but it will make life the best.
2. Know what success means to you.
2. THIS WEEK: Figure out what you want to get out of life as a business person. Write these things down and put them on a wall. Then be ready to work hard and stay focused. and internalize this mindset this week.