5 Life Lessons From The World’s Youngest Billionaire
“When it is hardest is when it matters most to stay the course. It is in getting up over and over again when we are knocked down that something great happens.”
If there was one thing Elizabeth Holmes hated, it was needles. And she knew she was not the only one. According to her research, almost 60 percent of people ignore doctors’ orders to get a blood test because of the inconvenience and financial strain involved. But instead of joining the crowd she decided to disrupt the system.
Elizabeth believed that getting a blood test should be a “wonderful” experience. This unusual vision led her to build Theranos, a blood testing company that needs only a pinprick of blood to run up to 70 different tests at a fraction of commercial prices.
Last year Theranos was valued at $9 billion. At the time of publishing, its 31-year-old founder and CEO was worth $4.5 billion, making her the youngest female self-made billionaire in the world.
Here are five life lessons we can learn from the Californian girl who made saving others her life’s mission.
1. Overnight success is a myth
In her commencement speech at Pepperdine University in May 2015, Elizabeth recalled how she started Theranos alone in a tiny basement. She gradually moved to a tiny office that also functioned as a laboratory and that could fit no more than six people. Later, they moved to a bigger office.
“Over the entry to one of the buildings was a sign that read, “Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” We named our project The Edison because we felt we would have to fail 10,000 times to get it to work the 10001. We set ourselves on fire. There is no short cut.”
2. When a door shuts, knock again. And again.
Elizabeth, who speaks fluent Mandarin, wanted to take summer classes in Mandarin at Stanford. The program does not accept high-school students but she refused to back down and repeatedly called the admissions office until the exasperated program head spontaneously conducted a Mandarin test over the phone.
She was accepted on the spot and went on to complete three years of college Mandarin while still in high school. She later told Glamour that it was like building a company where you make a decision to “figure out to do this, and if they say no to me a thousand times, I am going to keep on trying for the next thousand.”
3. Your vision will never lead you to the wrong decision
Elizabeth was 19 when she dropped out of Stanford University to start Theranos. The dean at her chemical engineering school tried persuading her to complete her degree first, to which she replied, “Why? I know what I want to do.”
“The decision was not hard at all because there was no way I could make a greater difference with my life. When you find what you love, you do it. That’s it.”
4. Opportunity lives in every tragedy and fear
By the time Elizabeth’s uncle learnt he had cancer, it was too late to save him. The loss spurred her to find ways of developing a better method of early disease detection. Her fear of needles, meanwhile, led her to revolutionise phlebotomy.
“When I started Theranos someone said to me, define what is non-negotiable to you. What you are willing to fight for, die for and most importantly, live for. For me that is our mission – realising a change in a world and in an industry that has stagnated for decades, and resulted in so much loss and pain. A change that would mean that one day, people would not have to say goodbye too soon to those they love.”
5. Revenue and responsibility can go hand in hand
Not only does Theranos’ clearly list its affordable prices online but it also gives people access to their own results so they can have a better understanding of their health.
“I started Theranos because I believed that building a business is a vehicle for making a difference in the world. That you can do well by doing good.”
What important life lessons have brought you to where you are today? Share them with us in the comments below!
(Image credit: Theranos)
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