Being an entrepreneur is about serving others.
John Bielinski, Jr. conceptualized CME4LIFE after being frustrated by CME and conferences that focused on learning tools that were…well…boring. Who learns effectively through busy PowerPoint slides or yawn-inducing charts and pie graphs? There had to be a better way.
Growing up, John struggled in school and was labeled a “difficult”learner. He made his way through classes for children with special needs because he simply couldn’t digest information through traditional teaching methods. He felt inadequate and stupid based on the confines of a broken education system.
Feeling unprepared for college, John joined the United States Marine Corps and was soon deployed to Operation Desert Storm. John’s job was to quickly and accurately recognize armored vehicles to determine which were the “good guys”and which were the “bad guys.” Any mistake could cost American lives.
John had to learn quickly and effectively.
The military provided John with a unique learning tool – flash cards. One side of the card had a picture of the vehicle. The other listed identifying features. Reading and flipping the cards a few times, it clicked. John Bielinski learned the information. Quickly and effectively.
Where did the idea for CME4Life come from?
I found that not everyone learns the same. I started teaching a couple of college in Buffalo, teaching Emergency Medicine topics such as how to interpret lab, Victoria values, how to read chest x-rays, how to interpret EKG’s. I took my clinical background working in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care and put it into a perspective that I can describe as simplicity on the other side of complexity. I’ve taken really difficult concepts and made them easy to understand and apply when a patient is in front of them. Teaching this way became a favorite class among students. I therefore started lecturing theatrically at conferences, engaging people in a way that made the concepts memorable and easy to recall. It became popular enough that people were asking often “I wish there was a way I could watch your lecture again.” That was where the idea for CME4Life came from. We wanted a way that students could review content again and again. Therefore, we stared making books and videos, both DVD and online streaming.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have up time and down time. The up time is when I am live at conferences. We teach Board Review conferences and Emergency Medicine conferences. This is actively making the conference experience extraordinary for the attendees. I start the lecture at 7:30 am and at times I will go to 6:30pm teaching Board Review content. This requires a tremendous amount of energy, engagement, song, dance, and throwing a football. I believe passionately that the people can’t learn when they are sleeping. It is my job to keep them engaged. I use jokes, I use clinical stories, and I use mistakes that are made medically to keep people engaged for 11 hours. At the end of the day, they are not fatigued, they are actually energized because they are getting concepts. During down time, I develop new content. I am constantly looking for ways to better serve those who purchase from us.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a wonderful team at CME4Life where our administrative staff allows me to creatively learn and grown. I am constantly growing myself between learning new medical procedures, new medical techniques, new ways to teach, plus innovating ways to go outside of medicine to learn new techniques to be more effective. I am constantly looking for ways to take complicated concepts and make them easier to understand. This has to do with myself growing through learning and other domains such as leadership through influence and persuasion.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
It is very clear in the United States that our healthcare system is going bankrupt. Cost of medicine is going up faster than inflation and the American public and our healthcare dollars are those that are suffering. Forbes Magazine ranked being a Physician Assistant as the best opportunity in the United States. That excites me. Physician Assistants make money. We make money for those that hire us and we provide extraordinary care to patients. The fact that the Physician Assistant profession is a great job and it is growing so fast and we are serving such a powerful need fills me with passion. Anything that I can do to better strengthen the Physician Assistant population is inspiring me and it makes me get up early and stay up late.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Wake up early. Every morning I wake up early and every morning I use meditation and prayer and I look at my goals. I look at what I need to accomplish not just that day or that quarter, but I am constantly looking at where my life is going and what I need to do in a day to day basis to get close to those goals. This increases my capacity in four domains; intellectually, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I actively go to church on Sundays. I actively go to the gym and I love my Crossfit workouts. I actively learn through audio books and live conferences to feed my brain and to keep growing. I surround myself with other entrepreneurs being a part of a mastermind groups and entrepreneur organizations and the University Of Buffalo Center for Entrepreneur Leadership.
What advice would you give your younger self?
That’s a great question! I would say stay hungry and control yourself, control your ego. Know that the life you are living is to server others. The more you are inside your own head, the more you are getting fed by ego and selfishness, and the more that harms you and your value to service others. I’d tell my younger self that being an entrepreneur is about serving others. How can I help the employees that I hire? How can I be of service to my family and our customers? Remember, it is not about you. It’s about how you can serve others.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
I think gift cards suck and that they’re sucking the lifeblood out of the United States. Let me explain. People buy gift cards and they don’t actively think about what is a good present. They think “oh, I’ll just give a gift card.” Then they buy a gift card for $100 and give it to somebody. It’s lazy and it’s any easy way out. It poisons the people who get it. Gift cards are often given to kids and kids take them and put them on a dresser or in their wallets and they don’t think of it as real money. They look at it as fake money or a credit card. When they go to buy something they don’t know they value of it. They swipe a piece of plastic and a lot of times people buy crap that they wouldn’t have bought if it was real money. It dilutes the value of money and it creates people that are becoming conditioned to swipe a credit card to buy what they want. Also, it is an economic drain because people sell gift cards knowing that only 85% of them get cashed in and that they are getting an immediate 15% return on their investment for selling nothing other than a piece of plastic. I think it’s making our youth more ignorant, adults lazy, and I think it’s making businesses money that they really didn’t earn.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Goal setting and time to clear your brain. Every morning an entrepreneur should wake up and look at their goals, their life goals, their goals for the year, their goals for the quarters and what are the goals for the day and week. Prioritizing their life. Prayer and mediation get an entrepreneurs mind in the right state to optimize that. Every entrepreneur needs to increase their capacity. I find that if an entrepreneur is tired at 3:00 pm and they say “oh my gosh, I’m tired and I’ve had a really long day,” I want to say that your just out of shape. Get your butt to the gym and get more stimulated. No high powered entrepreneur should be fatigued at 3:00pm even if they’ve had a long day. So as an entrepreneur the one thing that I do over and over again and I recommend to everyone is to look at your goals. Understand your “why,” your passion, why you get out of bed every morning. Why are you working as hard as you are? Is it to have $5 million dollars? What do you want $5 million dollars for? If you want money just for money’s sake, you will end up sad. The quality of your life is the quality of your emotions. What are you using your money for? What are you pursuing that money to help you with? I think people mis-prioritize their life when all of the sudden they are looking at money as the end goal. Peace, joy, harmony, contribution. Those are the characteristics of a successful life. That needs to be planned out. That doesn’t happen reactively. That happens proactively.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
As a young entrepreneur, I knew I was a good educator and I was good clinically but I knew nothing about business. I had that self-awareness that I didn’t know about finance, accounting, marketing, or internet sales. I always had coaches. I’ve always had people around me that were very smart and I was always going to conferences to learn how to be a better entrepreneur, how to make better decision, how to recruit people, and how to retain people around me that were smart in different domains. One strategy I’ve always embraced is to surrounded myself with smart people. I can’t stress that enough to a young entrepreneur. You need to be in proximity of those that are very smart because you, as Peter Drucker said, become the average of 5 people you are around. I surround myself with very smart people and that has allowed my business to grow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure I had as an entrepreneur was surrounding myself with high quality people and not having a system in place to hold them accountable for business. I had people working for me and I didn’t quite know how to measure their performance and how to measure if they were a good fit within the business . That created real struggles when someone would do something that I didn’t feel was aligned with the direction of the business and I didn’t have a way to communicate that. I overcame it by spending a significant amount of time identifying what our core values are. I now understand that my company has four core values; Thought, Word, Deed and Heart. Thought is that we are always thinking honestly and transparently or talking to people that way. We are honest and transparent in all that we do. Word is “yes, and.” What does that mean? That means that we are proactive and optimistic about opportunity. We are not pessimistic. Third is Deed. We are results oriented. If you are given a task, you will finish your work on time. You are held accountable. We don’t want excuses. And the last one in Heart, meaning that we love our customers. We take good care of them. After spending about 6 months to identify our core values, I now have a language to talk to the employees to say “this is how I expect you to behave with customers even when I am not there.” When someone violates these core values I now have a language to hold them accountable. It’s a real gift to our business to know that no one has ever quit. They are either still working for us or we have fired them because we have well-defined core values. Therefore, during the interview process we let them know exactly what to expect and how they are going to be evaluated. Core values are not a Hallmark card that says “hey, this looks good on the way.” A core value is something that is deeply engrained. It is a lighthouse that does not move. They boats may move, the waves may move, the clouds may move. The lighthouse does not move. Our core values are lighthouses.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I know that Diabetics have all sorts of problems. Diabetics have high blood sugars and those high blood sugars cause havoc on their blood vessels. They lose vision from it, they have heart attacks, they have kidney failure and they get ulcers on their feet and therefore require amputations. These amputations are due to the fact that they lose nerves in their feet and when they have a cut they don’t feel the infection starting. Here’s my idea. You get some kind of camera that sits on the floor. You get the diabetic to put their feet over the camera and push the button on their smartphone and it takes a picture of the bottom of their feet. Then the picture is automatically sent to their Podiatrist. It’s recommended that Diabetics get frequent evaluations at their Podiatrists. If this is a subscription service where these pictures are being reviewed by the Podiatrist regularly, that’s an idea that could be a multi-million dollar idea.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I was supposed to fly back from a conference at 9:00 pm. I had the flight switched to 2:00 pm so I could fly home to be with my family and watch the Super Bowl at home instead of being in transit. That was the best $100 I spent recently.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
One of the things that I do is sell information. If you ask me, “John, how do you sell information?” I do it primarily through video. One bit of software that has worked tremendously well is to learn video edit. For that video editing I recommend Final Cut 10. We know we are in an era of people being unwilling to read. They want to watch. That is why YouTube has become so popular. We make our own videos and we edit them. This allows people to get a lot of information by watching a 2-3 minute video clip.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend everyone should read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It’s a pillar of character development and personal development. Every highly effective person has 7 habits and these need to be studied and cultivated to a higher degree of self-awareness. When you understand that the 1st habit is per proactive you realize how that plays into other people’s lives. Without knowing that you will miss opportunities by being reactive instead of proactive. Habit 7 is to sharpen the song. That is the habit of renewal. You have to know that you can grind as an entrepreneur. You’re supposed to grind as an entrepreneur. However, you have to take time to recharge our emotional, mental, spiritual and intellectual batteries or you will fizzle out. Stephen Covey did and unbelievably good job on the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” After you’ve studied that book, he wrote a second book called “The 8th Habit.” That book is equally as good. I rarely find someone who can write a great book followed by another great book. But Stephen Covey did that.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is by Albert Einstein and Albert Einstein says, “The solutions we face today cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that got us here.” When I first heard that quote I knew it was profound but I didn’t quite understand it. Later, I heard that quote a slightly different way and then it came to life for. The quote was this, “real solutions will emerge when the questions become more important than the answers.” What does that mean? That means we have to change our thinking. We have to change how we think about a problem to find the real solutions. The way to do that is by asking higher quality questions. If I am struggling with something, “why me, why me, why is this happening?” That’s too poor of a question and that is going to disempower you. However, if you ask a questions like “what am I supposed to learn from this that will make me stronger down the road?” Now all of the sudden you look at it in a different way. Too often we immediately think of solutions instead
- Being an entrepreneur is about serving others.
- Every morning an entrepreneur should wake up and look at their goals, their life goals, their goals for the year, their goals for the quarters and what are the goals for the day and week.
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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.