What doctors can learn from Jay-Z

By | June 16, 2019

Recently, Forbes named Jay-Z the first rap music artist billionaire.  There are a number of reasons that he is classified in this exclusive category.  However, his humble beginnings from the Marcy housing projects in Brooklyn did not hold him back.  He found ways along his journey, and received some good advice, that made him successful beyond his career as a musician.

Taking the time to practice your trade builds the foundation of possibility.  Jay-Z spent years practicing his craft which yielded some 14 albums over his career.  Of course, physicians spend quite a bit of time educating themselves and practicing their trade in the name of safe, effective, timely, efficient, and equitable care.  We are all accustomed to hard work.

If Jay-Z decided to simply make albums for the rest of his life, he would be on solid financial ground, as would any doctor that practices medicine their entire life.  Physicians who practice their craft for their entire career may make $ 6 to 15+ million in salary from an employer if they work for 30 or more years. This may seem like a lot of money (and it is), but few doctors get a taste of the millionaire lifestyle.  Conversely, the average full-time primary care physician generates about $ 2.1 to 2.4M in revenue annually for their employer.  (Remember this when you get that new updated contract to sign.)  However, there are a few lessons that we can learn from Jay-Z that can help doctors have better financial security and a more satisfying career.

1. Take your show on the road. Early in his musical career, Jay-Z hit the road for concert tours.  This allowed him to perform in cities outside of his hometown and generate additional fans and income.  Physicians often speak at conferences, grand rounds, and events, but many don’t leave their home institution.  Going on the road can add to your notoriety and credibility.  Additionally, speaking can be an additional revenue stream for most doctors.

2. Strengthen your personal brand. Going on concert tours allowed Jay-Z to strengthen his brand which allowed him to pursue other interests.  Doctors, on the other hand, typically go on the road to strengthen the brand of their employer.  When a new publication, a new book, or a new treatment is discovered by the team, the majority of the credit goes to the institution. The hospitals and systems love to slip intellectual property clauses in employment contracts to prohibit individuals to take their talents, systems, applications, and publications elsewhere.  Health systems love to brag about their smart doctors and publicize the inventions that they have created. (Think of all those “doctor pose” commercials you see.) There is not a problem promoting your organization, but doctors must look to brand themselves as individuals even in the shadow of large institutions.

3. Follow your passions. Jay-Z spread his brand to develop his personal interests including fashion, music, and beverages to name a few.  His love of music led him to create his own record label, clothing line, music streaming platform, a cognac, high-end champagne, and more.  He was not afraid to pursue his other interests even when he could be comfortable making music.  On the healthcare side, individual physicians tend to suppress their internal interests because it does not directly relate to seeing patients.  Frequently, doctors are told to “stay in their lane” (and keep seeing patients.)  The healthcare system is built on the assumption that doctors have one purpose; seeing patients. What is your passion outside of medicine?

4. Manage your finances. Investing money is not a foreign concept to most docs or the rap mogul himself.  The only thing that I will say about this point is to work with a professional to help navigate the tax system and plan for your future.  For instance, if you are working for a hospital system, 30 percent or more of your salary may go directly to your taxes.  The IRS does not care how much educational debt you have.

5. Celebrate your wins; tell people what you are doing. Jay-Z has no problem using his base to spread awareness of his other brands.  He is not shy about name dropping Rocafella (old record company) Roc Nation (entertainment group), Rocawear, Gold Bottle/Ace of Spade (Armand de Brignac champagne), D’usse (cognac) and many other products and services in his music or in the media.  Making people aware of your interests can lead to additional opportunities and partnerships.  Doctors do amazing things every day but rarely publicize their ‘wins’.  Taking a moment to celebrate about an achievement whether with a colleague or in a public forum helps build your confidence and makes you feel good about your accomplishments.  All too often, we consider “a job well done” as routine and ordinary while taking it for granted.  Taking care of patients is a huge privilege and we should take a moment to celebrate these everyday victories.

Most 40-somethings don’t become billionaires or rap stars.  However, using Jay-Z’s rags to riches story as an example, we can all find ways to enhance our careers and our lives.

Jarret Patton is a pediatrician, host of Licensed To Live, and author of Licensed to Live: A Primer to Rebuilding Your Life After Your Career Has Been Shattered.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


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