Alek Golijanin is a social entrepreneur and author. Alek is passionate about creating sustainable change across communities by leveraging tech for community building and development purposes. Alek is a key figure when it comes to leveraging tech in order to make publicly available resources more accessible to communities that have been historically left behind. Alek has also carried out international development projects in South America, the Caribbean, and the Balkans. Those projects included collaborations with elected officials, Embassies and Ambassadors, National Police Forces, professional sports teams, and other major organizations.
Where did the idea for DocConnect come from?
So, the origin story goes something like this…the World Health Organization issued a warning about rising rates of self-medication and addiction among youth. In Canada, access to health care is guaranteed for every Canadian and individuals can seek out a designated family doctor. The health statistic that got me was that the adolescents that are without a designated family doctor in today’s Canada tend to have two commonalties: they’re living in low-income communities and/or they’re members of racialized groups. Systemic barriers are still the leading reason as to why we have adolescents that are living without a designated family doctor, and that’s a matter of national urgency.
The reason why having a designated family doctor is important for adolescents is because it provides them with a consistent doctor experience where they can be open and vulnerable. The walk-in clinic experience of accessing health care is inconsistent because the doctors at these clinics work on rotation and it’s not uncommon for a patient to see different doctors. The difference between a consistent and inconsistent doctor experience can be the difference between a healthy adult life and going down a path of self-medication and addiction.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts with work, and I like to follow with a solid gym session right after. I like to end my day by browsing published research and skimming through abstracts for interesting reads or watching lectures/presentations on YouTube that are hosted by leading thinkers.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think being a big picture thinker and a dreamer helps. I try to free myself from constraints when thinking about problems, but I make sure to stay rooted in reality. I believe in setting out a malleable starting point that will change and adapt on the path to bringing ideas to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that excites me the most is the increasing access to tech learning tools and equipment that young learners have that wasn’t around when I was in elementary school. Introducing young learners to STEM and providing them with the opportunity to develop their skills is a game changer. It provides young learners from underprivileged households with the opportunity to grow with tech and allows them to dream big.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
If I’m really committed to something, then I’ll become obsessive about it until I become the best at whatever that might be.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There was a popular song in the 2010’s where Little John would sing “Turn down for what!”. I’d reword Little John’s lyrics and tell my younger self to turn down for something. Chasing big dreams requires a lot of focus and dedication, and the sooner you realize that the sooner you’ll begin to experience greater success.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that nothing great was achieved by embracing a healthy work-life balance. I don’t think negatively about the idea of a healthy work-life balance, but there’s levels to it.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’ve embraced a healthier lifestyle that involves eating clean and getting consistent exercise. After a few months you really begin to feel a difference and experience better health. The human body is designed to be active and our ability to experience success improves if we keep fit, and that’s a reality that society needs to accept.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The most important growth strategy has to do with people. During one of Simon Sinek’s presentations on people he said the following, “100% of customers are people. 100% of clients are people. 100% of employees are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.” Wherever your career takes you, remember that the most important things in life revolve around people.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In 2018 I had planned to carry out two international development projects in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The reason for trying to carry out two projects rather than one was due to the close proximity between the two countries. The challenges with both projects were similar, official representatives had differing priorities and the countries were very dangerous.
In the end, I was only able to carry out a project in the Dominican Republic. The big takeaway from this experience was realizing the importance of having the right partners and how difficult managing stakeholder interests can be.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Leverage tech to bridge existing resources with communities that have historically been left behind.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
So, Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes are seasonal drinks that can also be bought at certain grocery stores in instant sachets. One pack of Starbucks Instant Pumpkin Spice Lattes comes with five sachets and costs about what you would pay for a Venti at Starbucks. I was at my local grocery store, and I came across a bunch of packets discounted at 50% off. At that price, stocking up on a year’s worth of lattes was a no-brainer!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The greatest software/web service when it comes to being more complete has to be YouTube. YouTube is the greatest library ever to exist and it has treasure troves of valuable knowledge that can be accessed at the click of a button.
I like listening to lectures and presentations on YouTube that are hosted by leading thinkers across various industries in order to get a better understanding of real-world complexities. Having one-on-one time with the best and brightest minds is unrealistic for 99.99% of people. What’s possible is listening to them speak on topics that you want to learn more about.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d recommend Tim Grover’s Relentless. Grover is a legendary sports trainer who has trained elite athletes including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and he’s also considered the master of mental toughness.
For me, the book emphasizes the importance of being intense with whatever you do and to make sure that you always give max effort. The idea of work-life balance is positive and having a balanced lifestyle is important for healthy living. However, if you want to achieve excellence then you need to accept imbalance.
What is your favorite quote?
It would have to be, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I see this quote as a potential solution for much of the polarization that we see today.
The reality of life is that people from different walks of life will all have different life experiences, and realities will greatly differ from person to person. If your starting point for human interactions includes wanting to better understand others and why they are the way they are, you’ll have much healthier and more fulfilling interactions.
- Ideas: Ideas arise from intellectual curiosity.
- Timing: Perfect timing does not exist. Start today.
- Attitude: Positive attitudes are key. Ignore people that try to project their insecurities on to others.
- Hard Work: Be a life-long learner and always give max effort.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.