Elizabeth Holmes may not be a household name yet, but it is soon to be if her vision pans out. At 19 years old, Holmes dropped out of Stanford in the hopes of revolutionizing the blood testing industry. And her vision is finally becoming a reality 11 years later, as Theranos blood tests are becoming available at select Walgreens locations. Of course this is just a start. The hope is to have Holmes’s labs in hospitals, army bases, and “within one mile of every city dweller”according to (www.fortune.com).
So what exactly is this revolutionizing technology? Holmes keeps the actual technology quite secretive but claims they use “the same fundamental chemical methods” as existing labs. Currently, 10 ml vials of blood must be painfully drawn to run blood tests, but with Theranos, one painless finger prick can deliver up to 70 blood tests. Theranos is hoping to make blood testing convenient and painless, so people can detect and treat illness as early as possible. Not only is Holmes making blood tests painless, she is also making the results transparent by giving people access to their own blood test information.
Theranos technology can save innumerable lives by enabling early detection of certain diseases and by giving people constant access to what is happening inside their bodies. The hope is to have people tracking blood information the same way they track weight, daily steps, heart rate, and sleeping patterns. Anomalies and testing errors will also become easier to detect with more data points making the information even more valuable.
Curious about how you can apply the philosophy of Ms. Holmes to your life?
1. She makes short term sacrifices for long term gains
An important part of Holmes’s success is that she was able to make short term sacrifices for long term success. Rather than hastily raise money with investors who were eager for quick returns, she patiently waited to attract investors who understood her mission and long term goals. In addition, she was able to retain 50% of Theranos, now valued at over 9 billion dollars, placing her at 110 on the Forbes 400 list. Unlike many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, she isn’t eager to find an exit strategy. Rather, she is eager to continue revolutionizing the diagnostic lab business so that soon everybody can have access to potentially life saving information. This idea seems obvious, but in the moment most people opt for a quick return. Waiting for a reward is difficult, especially when it isn’t guaranteed. But if you can continuously remind yourself of the greater payoff associated with achieving your goals, you’ll be more likely to persevere.
2. She found work that motivated her internally
Although she is the youngest self-made female billionaire, her motivation stems from her desire to profoundly impact humanity not to make money. She believes in using business as “a tool for making change in the world.” This has been said too many times to be meaningful but it is true. The most successful people are motivated by more than solely money. While you may not be able to find meaning in making 1000 copies of a document or entering data, try to understand a way your work contributes to a greater picture.
3. She automates trivial matters to focus her mental energy on work
Ms. Holmes is a great admirer of Steve Jobs and is known to dress in a black turtleneck each day similar to him. Jobs was known for his black turtleneck look and claimed he liked the “daily convenience and signature style” it offered. While Holmes did not state her reason for dressing the same way each day, other magnates including Mark Zuckerberg also have a signature style partly to reduce the number of unnecessary daily decisions. The idea is the less mental energy you exert towards unnecessary tasks, the more you have to focus on important work.
4. She goes substance free (…. yes this includes caffeine and alcohol)
As noted in Fortune, Holmes seems to follow an ascetic lifestyle. Holmes works 16 hour days, seven days a week, and fuels herself with green juices rather than coffee. She abstains from animal products, caffeine, and even alcohol – a rarity in today’s society. While the majority of Americans wouldn’t consider working before their cup of coffee, perhaps it is worth trying to go a month substance free even if it’s just to prove you can. You may surprise yourself with greater mental clarity by the end.
Featured photo credit: Forbes via forbes.com