Strive to have every day be a little better than the day before.
Dr. Akmal Makhdum is a native of Pakistan born in the Ancient City Multan. He was raised in the rich culture of the three-thousand-year-old city of Lahore by a family of academics. His father was a distinguished professor of psychology who established country’s first psychology department and psychological care center in Pakistan. His mother was a scholar of literature and a master of Arabic, Persian, Saraiki and Urdu languages.
Dr. Makhdum’s distinguished lineage provided entitlement and social privilege and grace enjoyed by academics and dignitaries throughout the country. His academic brilliance granted his attendance at the most prestigious universities.
The entitlement of the esteemed family coupled with the academic aptitude of the young Akmal Makhdum endorsed his entrance to the University of Cambridge, as a psychiatric trainee in the United Kingdom. He earned his post-graduate and advanced-graduate degrees during his attendance. He traveled to Ireland and achieved his degree in Psychological Medicine. After completing his degree he obtained his diploma for Membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, London.
Dr. Makhdum completed his basic medical education and after two years of training in psychiatry and emergency medicine, opened a detox and rehabilitation center in Islamabad. It was during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and he dedicated his time to combat the surge of heroin-dependency that was sweeping across the country. Some years later he was encouraged by his father and encouraged to return to accredited training in psychiatry, something that he always wanted to do. He had planned to stay in England for four years, compete his degrees and training and return to Pakistan to continue the work of his father and to train new mental health professionals. But, the sudden passing of his father devastated the him and caused him to reevaluate his plans.
The United Kingdom was experiencing a shortage of qualified psychiatrists during those decades. It was clear that he had the expertise to train, manage, and organize virtually any psychiatric facility. Ultimately, upon being offered multiple and attractive job offers, Dr. Makhdum and his family returned to the United Kingdom. He continues his career assisting in the guidance and governance of psychiatrists and services in the country.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I was raised in a family of academics. My father was the first professor of psychology in the country and a most distinguished scholar of philosophy, education, literature and mysticism. He was internationally renowned for his academic brilliance and intellectual stature. He established the first psychology department and counseling facility in Pakistan. My mother was a scholar of literature and master of Arabic, Persian, Saraiki and the Urdu languages. Becoming a doctor was never an aspiration, but a mental health professional was. As a young man, all of my friends were in pre-med. So, when our group sat the exams, we all got into medical school. But I always knew that I would never use a knife as a doctor. That was too impersonal. I always knew I wanted to work with people closely and try to understand the mind, as much as possible. I wanted to become a psychotherapist, like Freud and Jung, people whom I had heard about so much as a child, at home. Becoming a psychistrist came quite naturally to me once I joined medical school.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I strive to have every day be a little better than the day before. As you may know, the United Kingdom has a state health service. It is a heavily regulated and a highly bureaucratic system. In the past, there used to be patterns of referral systems that were tardy and cumbersome. Communicating amongst doctors from the GP to Consultant was fraught with delays. Without the advantage of email and cell phone systems, doctors would communicate by mail. It would take days or weeks for the service to begin to serve a person, or not. I created a system of communication then, using a fax machine to consult and provide instructions. I would screen the communication, triage, and decide how quickly each patient should be seen. This method of service served everyone quicker and more efficiently than had previously been done. I have made improvements in the industry throughout my career. I have a constant desire to see efficient system get established, and improve, no matter where my focus may be. That way of management, innovations and efficiency made my service one of the best in the region. Neighboring services were approaching us to be managed by us, as we were the best service in the area. In fact, the service in Norwich declared publicly that they wanted to be managed, years before the merger. That was a service not in our own county, yet, they proposed to be managed by my service. These things kept me productive in creating innovations and efficient models of care.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas and solutions come naturally to me. If someone comes to me with a problem, I devise solutions very easily. I start working on it, create a plan, work it through in my mind, I reflect, and solutions are brought to life. My bran creates solutions easily, to the most complex problems, as long as those re not mathematical. Organizational and clinical problem solving is my forte. Innovation in service and creation of newer models is something that comes naturally.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that excites me is social media and self-publishing opportunities. You don’t have to rely on an advertisement or a celebrity to get your point across. Mobile phone apps have opened many avenues for everyone. I created several surveys for depression, manic depression, or bipolar disorder. People can do a self check if they are suffering from depression or bipolar symptoms. It provides scores indicating the level of depression they may be dealing with, and how you may address it. I am working on developing an app for Autism and have already completed work on another app for clinical outcomes. These are extremely exciting opportunities. Social media helps to make anyone available to everyone in the public. My work may have been better known if social media was available to me thirty years ago. I love to write articles on all aspects of life, form mental health to politic,m history and faith. Recently, I wrote about artificial intelligence and how man was behaving as though he were a god. God created highly intelligent beings. We are the result of that creation. Man is now inventing artificial intelligence. That will result in a sentient being. There were many issues that would pose challenges and excitement for many. Social media gives anyone the ability to share thoughts and information. That is exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that I have is being a nocturnal person. I have a love for beautiful fountain pens and nice paper. When it is quiet, I sit and write with an old fountain pen and ink. I write my ideas on beautiful paper, that is bliss. I do this as often as possible. I have done many articles and many books that I first wrote in ink, with fountainpens and on paper..
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself not to lose my temper and to have more humility. There were times when I achieved a lot and I developed a bit of hubris. Outwardly, I appeared humble but inwardly, I was extremely confident, possibly arrogant. I would tell myself to be circumspect about things like that. These were pleasures of ego and vanity that I never really addressed. These are human weaknesses that are difficult to surmount. It is nice to achieve and feel high and mighty, but this is where I should have told myself that it was a double edge sword.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Unintentionally, or intentionally, our lives are determined by our social, religious, and racial identities. I know as a fact that religions were once primarily liberation forces. These changed into repressive forces in society because of the ecclesiastical institutionalization of organized religion. The original force that brought it all out was liberty and freedom. It was the slaves, the lepers, and the wretched of the earth who were attracted to religion. It was liberty for the weak and the poor. It was not the rich, the lords, or the kings who converted to religion for its philosophy and liberty. That is what I see each time I read from the ancient, original religious texts. The theme of liberty was hijacked long ago, by organized religion. It seems that the more religious people are the more oppressive they become. That is a contradiction that not many people understand, why?
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I believe one thing that everyone should do is to resist or stop temptation. Not everyone is always on their best in resisting temptation. The thing that can help you resist temptation is to think of how you would hurt loved ones if you gave into temptation.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
There were two strategies that helped me to grow. I always felt that energy is contagious. My approach to anything that I do is to go with a great deal of energy. The second part of my success was in passive-crisis-creation. I met the CEO of one of America’s largest hospital corporations, he was also a high ranking official of the Veterans Administration. I asked him how he got things done. A Crisis will always get things done, he said. I realized that I always did that every time something had to be done. A CEO, who perceives a crisis and wants to avoid it, will show up on your doorstep with a cheque in his hand. There was a time when I was just handing out solutions to people, without realizing that they dd not respect that. Some even actively sabotaged and ridiculed that. That is the curse of mediocrity that it cannot see anyone come up with ideas they cannot. I had to stop and passively watch as everyone came to a crisis. Then, I could actively bring the crisis to the outcome that I wanted. I brought expansion to my services in Suffolk, making my service a highly respected and efficient health service tot eh people of Suffolk. Later on, the new managers who came from a different county, in their mediocrity laced with hubris, destroyed it totally and the ruins of that are now serving the people of the county. When I first came to this facility It had a single psychiatrist in whole service and a part time junior. When I left, it had four, specialist teams and full inpatient and outpatient services across the whole country. Those four county-wide services were resourced with a complete complement of specialist resources.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure was with my own hubris. It resulted in a degree of a low-intensity clashes, with powerful people. I did not realize it at that time. At that time I was driven by energy and the excitement of developing new services, bringing new ideas to fruition, creating systems that were new services for the people of the county. I realized, albeit a bit late that I couldn’t fight the whole Primary care trust of the county or its chief executive, the regional health authority officers, whom I knew did not have the best interest of the people at heart. They cared about their own careers and the bottom line of the budget, and the hefty farewell packages they negotiated with themselves upon retirement, and post retirement contracts they got from their previous colleagues. I did not release that degree of corruption. At that time that I did not realize that I could not fight the establishment of people in power who close ranks. I had to realize, rather late, and after paying a huge price of paying with my life and reputation, that there were some arguments, with some people, I was never going to win, no matter how right I was. I’ve learned that late. We sometimes see many truths, but only in hindsight.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Provide bespoke-care in the community for those people who would be locked up in the hospital. Create a service in the community to help the people who are in highly restrictive, expensive locked hospitals. CRTL is a program that I evolved. It stands for Community Rehabilitation and Transitional Living. It can be used with success in each community. It has huge nationwide or even international business potential.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I love inexpensive, rare, mechanical, antique watches and fountain pens. I found a magnificent Avia watch from 1966. I am absolutely over the moon about it! And it was not even $100. It was only $78.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use twitter. It has taught me discipline on how to write a lot of thoughts into a few sentences. It is a very attractive app for me.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Listen Little Man by Wilhelm Reich.
What is your favorite quote?
I will take the liberty of quoting two:
On who save one life as if he has saved all humanity.
One who lives by the sword dies by the sword.
• It is nice to be achieving and feeling high and mighty, but truly, it is a double edge sword.
• Do not lose your temper. Have genuine humility.
• Strive to have every day be a little better than the day before.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.