As we approach a weekend that will be filled with virtual graduations, it’s another reminder of something that the coronavirus has taken from us and our children. There’s something about walking onto a stage and receiving a document that signifies your achievement and then walking down from that stage toward what lies ahead. It’s closure and a new beginning in the span of about 100 feet.
I’ve graduated a lot. High School, College, Graduate School, Medical School and most recently, a PopUp business school hosted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in partnership with SOURCE River West Entrepreneurship Center. PopUp Business school is a United Kingdom based program that travels the globe offering a free two-week business school for startup hopefuls. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the one in Indianapolis last November. I was nervous, excited and ready to study again. The long path to medicine has certainly prepared me for life-long learning.
The foundation of Ahimsa is based on education, clinical medicine and life experience. I wanted to create a company that was an educational platform that took our conversations with parents from the pediatric office to the kitchen. Ahimsa is an educational platform that comes in the form of super cool stainless steel plates that encourage healthy eating habits in childhood. But in the process of trying to teach others about childhood nutrition, I had to first learn how to create, run and grow a company.
On the job training is essentially what we do in residency. You are a physician - led by another senior teacher and an attending teacher. It’s the passing down of knowledge in real-time. Well ... in entrepreneurship, there is a lot of knowledge to be learned and it is completely “on the job training,” but without a teacher. I was used to curricula, formats, teachers, tests and evaluations of performance. Now, I stood alone without a teacher to figure out product design, regulatory procedures, manufacturing, supply chain, website creation, taxes, business structures, patents … and the list goes on. Now leading a team, together, we are figuring out funding, search engine optimization, marketing, sales funnels … and the list goes on even longer. And we have only just scratched the surface given the infant stage of Ahimsa.
However, each day I wake up eager to learn more. Just as we launched, we entered into one of the most devastating and unpredictable economic and healthcare crises in our world’s history. And somehow I got myself right in the middle of it on all fronts. Caring for sick children in the hospital on the COVID unit - learning along with my fellow physicians in real time about a virus we knew nothing about. Homeschooling our three children - suddenly learning along with my fellow parents about how to be a teacher (and gaining a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation for teachers). Trying my best to figure out how to overcome a complete disruption of our supply chain as India remains on lockdown - learning along with my fellow business owners.
COVID may have robbed families of milestone events, memories, income and stability, but it cannot take away what we can learn during these times – how we can enhance our knowledge and understanding for when we come out on the other side of all of this. It cannot take away what we can do with our gained knowledge. I am confident we will get through these challenging times because human nature is to learn, absorb and problem solve.
Medicine and business models are already changing as we’ve learned how to improve and create solutions to the problems we are facing in the healthcare and economic crises. We are learning in real-time how human behavior so significantly affects our environment as our skies turn clear from the lack of mass pollution. Social inequality is being highlighted in such bright lights that our nation must recognize the systemic racism that persists in America.
Our graduates will emerge as the innovators, the leaders, the activists and the role models we will one day look to for guidance. This ability and willingness to learn cannot be taken away by COVID. It cannot rob us of the human spirit but rather fuels that spirit to continue learning and motivating us to BE better and DO better.
Alexander Graham Bell put it pretty perfectly when he said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
Let’s all continue to look for that open door. Turns out, there are many - so choose your door and “be the change you want to see in the world.” Gandhi has always inspired the core mission and values of Ahimsa. Now more than ever, his words guide us from the darkness to a brighter era ahead of us.