Dr. Ara Yardumian, Medical Success Story, Joins The Herd Has Spoken Podcast. Episode 9

Ara Yardumian, DO, was a Bally’s Personal trainer in his mid-thirties and is, today, a practicing doctor. Ara and Brad talk about how a question from an 18-year old turned Ara’s career path on a dime -- and how to deal with setbacks when going after something you really want.

Enjoy the conversation between Ara and Brad

Brad  

Dr. Ara Yardumian, welcome to the Herd has Spoken!

 

Ara

Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

 

Brad  

And we're really excited. And we're gonna get into the crazy path that you've taken to indeed become a doctor. But I want to start by going back to when you were around the age of say, 25. And you were working as a personal trainer at the age of 25. And I want to understand a little bit better about what your mentality was in terms of your career and where you wanted to to go next what was your thinking, because at this stage, you're a long way from going to medical school, doing the preparation that's necessary to get to that stage and going on and becoming a doctor. At this stage, you were 25 years old, personal trainer, what was going through your head from a career perspective?

 

Ara

I mean, I don't know, I had a great job that paid well, and I was happy, it was fun. People always talked about "oh, I'm only going to get a real job. And it's like, I make more money than you. I'm happier than you." And I don't know, it just seemed like something that wasn't really necessary. But now everything was good.

 

Brad  

So at some point in time, things went from being good to you saying: "I'm gonna make this what some people may say, crazy change late in life past when you're quote unquote, supposed to go to med school." So what was the moment? Or what were the moments that led you to think, well, I might be happy now, but I'm not gonna be happy in the future, or I need to trade in this happiness now for happiness in the long term that's going to be sustainable. What were some of those data points that went through your head over time?

 

Ara

Well, I mean, one big point, I had a close friend that was rethinking her career and was thinking about going back to school, and she had the idea of going to med school and become a doctor. And it's like, my dad's a physician and I had often thought about it before, but I was pretty sure I didn't want to do it. But when she started talking about it's like, huh, yeah, I guess, I guess never too late to do it. That's cool. And it seemed like a good idea. But it still really didn't click for me. And then I was having a conversation with one of my employees; young guy, 18. His enthusiasm motivated me. And it was a question I'd heard before many times, and I always had a smartass answer for but he asked me why I didn't become a doctor. I was like, no, no. So that night, on the car ride home, I kind of thought about it. And I decided I did want to do it. So I called my parents. And I asked them if they thought I was crazy. And that was a long pause. And they said, yes. And yup. And then shortly after that, like we're really excited for you. So that was the beginning of a few years of transition to that.

 

Brad  

So to recap, you have this friend, who may or may not turn out to be my wife.

 

Ara

May not. Maybe. Could possibly be.

 

Brad  

Who has this crazy idea that she should go back to grad school and it got you thinking. Yeah, a little bit. So that that's one component that I think is fascinating and we can come back to that is being surrounded by people who are going to push you or do different things or challenge your thinking. The second thing is, you had exposure to it, right? Like given the fact that your dad's a physician. Yeah, this was something that you were at least familiar with. Yeah. You'd known what being a doctor was all about. 

 

Ara

Yeah. 

 

Brad  

But also because you know what it's all about, you hadn't chosen to go down this path, which I want to come back to in a minute. And then the third thing is, you had someone on your team who was willing to ask you a challenging question. Yeah. And being surrounded by people who are gonna ask challenging questions can go a really, really long, long way. So I think that's an interesting theme where you kind of have two different people, one, Melissa, a friend of yours in your life at that stage who's thinking about going back to grad school, and another one, this this team member of yours, who works for you and was 18 years old, and winds up asking you a challenging question, at age 35, who totally changes the direction of your career, I mean how many people can say that they have had an 18 year old, 17 years or junior that asks them a question that totally changes the trajectory of their life? 

 

Ara

I don't know, but can't be a bunch.

 

Brad  

So I guess I'm curious about that. So one of the things I really appreciated about you is, you're very smart, but you're very open to different points of view and perspectives. And I'm curious to what extent that's conscious on your end to try to surround yourself with people who are smart, and always thinking differently, and willing to kind of ask challenging questions, like, is that something that you've ever thought about?

 

Ara

Yes, and I think I even started doing it before I thought about it. But when I started managing people, I took a management training class, and they kind of made you more aware of people's personality types and how they respond too, but to management to communication in general. And it started occurring to me, you know, my own characteristics now, how that impacts other people, but for sure, you know, I was limited by my own characteristics. So I started reaching out more to people that had different characteristics to try to draw out characteristics that would better round me, as a person or as a manager, whatever was going for at that time.

 

Brad  

So were those characteristics, being willing to ask those tough questions? Or what were those characteristics that you were seeking out and trying to surround yourself with?

 

Ara

I mean, whether it's being more outgoing, kind of putting yourself in a more uncomfortable situation, like it was more of a sales setting at that time. So, you know, asking hard questions was my job. So being, being better at asking them but still, in a polite way was a plus but... I don't know. It's just maybe just like, the hard work ethic probably was a lot of it. You definitely hit that point in your life, when you start looking at your friends, you start separating friends and acquaintances, people that are elevating you, and people that, you know, are just people that you go have drinks with. And I know what I just kind of draw from whatever is that makes them more productive or more, more positive in your life?

 

Brad  

Well, as we record this, we're up north in northern Michigan, got the pleasure to spend a couple of days together getting away. And I was in the other room, and I heard my wife mentioned to you and your wife, something I thought was interesting, which is a philosophy of mine, which is you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with. Yeah. And I'm curious to hear your reaction to that. And if that's something that you believe, or you would poke holes in?

 

Ara

Oh, yeah, no, very much, very much. And I think I, someone wrote a book about that.

 

Brad  

People who are a lot smarter than you and me.

 

Ara

Right. And I think I'd started reading it years ago, and it already occurred to me, oh, I'm already doing this. I'm fine. And I don't think I can finish the book. But it was like it was a very clear, very obvious message. I don't think it could be any more any more true.

 

Brad  

Yeah. And I think that's one of the things that's interesting with guys is that I know one of the challenges that I have is like around control, and always wanting to be in control. And I think the danger of that which I know a lot of men face is surrounding yourself with "Yes Men" and "Yes Women", and people who aren't willing to challenge you. 

 

Ara

Right. 

 

Brad  

And ask those questions. And that is a dangerous trap to be in. And I think you are like the poster child for someone who is smart enough to know like, yeah, I need to be around really smart people who are going to not necessarily challenge me every day in terms of asking me tough questions, but they're doing good things. They're thinking deeply in ways that are different than what you might be accustomed to. Yeah. And it's going to bring out more and different thinking.

 

Ara

Yeah. And it might not surprise you, but your wife is one of those people that asks the challenging questions that makes you think about what you're actually, you know, thinking or doing is whether it's what you want to do

 

Brad  

Well, as part of MuskOx. We know that biologically, the herd is led by a single strong female and so thank goodness for Melissa and her strength to deal with me. But I want to go back to another point that you said that I think is really interesting, which is the fact that you knew that your father was a physician. And for 15 years after undergrad, you chose not to go to medical school like so clearly, you're familiar with this. So why was that that you had that exposure early on, but chose not to go down this path.

 

Ara

The best theory... people have asked this question many times also, and the best theory was, I come to the conclusion, I didn't like school. And I think it took me 15 years to forget that I didn't like school. And a part of it was I saw how much medicine consumed my dad and how much time it took, and how passionate he was about it. And I was just pretty sure at the age of 22, or 23, or 24, all the years in between. It never really, it didn't just pop up one day. Like I was waiting for it to happen to me. And in hindsight, I think it's easier to see now that I kind of made it happen to me. And but it just, it didn't really click until the sequence of events we talked about earlier. But I thought maybe it was maturity, maybe it was just where I was at in life. Maybe I was having too much fun to really consider having to take the next step, but not 100% certain if there was any one major characteristic, but those are, those are a handful of the reason.

 

Brad  

Yeah, it's funny, because I remember, when I went to grad school, I went to grad school for engineering. And I had a project, which was my master's thesis, which was an hour away in rural Iowa. And I was just doing it for a year, you know, I'd go out there, I'd collect my samples, I do the analysis in the lab, something were to break and kind of take stock. And then a week later, you know, I'd go back out there and try to fix it. And generally speaking, it would be down for 10 days or two weeks before things were to get fixed. And at some point, a flip switched and a switch flipped.

 

Ara

Yeah, good word.

 

Brad  

Yeah. And for some reason as guys, I feel like that's kind of how we operate is that there's just a moment and we make our minds up. And at that point is like, you know what, this project doesn't matter what it was like this project is mine. And the second, it broke, because things did continue to break. I went to the local hardware store in rural Iowa, talked with 15 different people, figured it out and I fixed it within 3, 4, 5, 6 hours, right? So then being down 10 or 14 days. Yeah, I finally decided like, no, this is my project, and I'm going to own it. And in part of me like, recognizes I didn't come to own my career entirely until many years had passed. And so part of it for us, it's like, wow, like being a physician: that's a lot of work. And my dad's really into this and like I kind of like it. And I really didn't spend that many hours on this? Probably not right. I mean, there's always an element in my head that so much of this comes down to hard work, like how much are you really willing to dedicate? 

 

Ara

Yes. Yeah. 

 

Brad  

And the part that I find really fascinating about your story is it's not like you made the decision and then you could start applying for med schools right away?

 

Ara

Yeah, no, it's I mean, there are a lot of classes, you have to have ahead of time, and I had a good majority of them. But I was working a pretty heavy workload at the time and just fitting in, you know, four or five classes wasn't going to happen anytime. So I just did one class at a time. I had to wait sometimes for the class, I needed to be offered at the location that was going to be convenient to my workplace and eventually got it done. And then there was the MCAT, which was an enjoyable experience, multiple times. Because it was a little bit more enjoyable each time.

 

Brad  

Okay, so the MCAT is the test that you have to take to be able to get into med school, right? It's part of the admission process. And so you'd spent two years taking classes at age 34-35. Before you could enter into med school.

 

Ara

Something like that. Yeah.

 

Brad  

Okay, so the MCAT. That's the test that you need to take as part of the admissions process to be able to get into med school. And so you mentioned you did that several times.

 

Ara

Yeah, I think it was three times. All lots of fun, all no stress, and everybody had a good time there. So...

 

Brad  

Yeah, I just want to recap this because I think this is a fantastic point. So age 34, age 35. You make the decision, you want to go back to med school, you spend two years, taking programs, taking courses, night and weekends, just to be able to have the prerequisites to apply and then you go to apply. And the big kahuna here is the MCAT. And you take the MCAT. And it doesn't go the way you'd hoped. No. And at that point, what's going through your head here, man, are you ready to throw in the towel at this stage?

 

Ara

I never really thought about quitting, I never really started creating a backup plan, I guess. I was fortunate to have already been living the backup plan. And I already knew I wanted something else. So I never really thought about not quitting just figured out what I had to do differently, whether it was study courses, or spending more time on it or finishing the study course I didn't use the first time. But um, it's uh, ya know, there's just really no, no doubt it was gonna happen eventually.

 

Brad  

Was there any part of you that thinks you could have stuck through it like this? Had you chosen to try to go to med school in your early 20s instead of your mid 30s? If you'd experienced this sort of adversity at that stage in your life?

 

Ara

No, I guess probably for the same reason I never really strongly considered it I just the commitment wasn't there. Maybe it was maturity, me I'm not really sure exactly what I was lacking. But no, the 22 year old version of me: no.

 

Brad  

Well it's perspective? Yeah. And you've worked really hard as a personal trainer to get to a good spot. And at some point in your career, and I've experienced this, I realized that it doesn't matter what you're trying to do, you're gonna have to work your ass off in order to be successful. So whether that's a consultant, whether that's making fantastic men's clothes, whether it's being a doctor, whatever it is that you're trying to do, at some point, there's just a hell of a lot of heavy lifting that has to happen. 

 

Ara

Yeah. 

 

Brad

And I think the earlier we come to realize that and become comfortable that not talking about an inspiration, and a hype sort of way. 

 

Ara

Yeah. 

 

Brad  

But like really coming to grips with it, the better off we are. But that's hard to get at age 22. 

 

Ara

Yeah. 

 

Brad  

And what I'd love to hear, what advice would you give to someone who's in their mid 20s? And they're at this point where they're saying, I like my job, it's fine. But this isn't the career path that I want for me, in the long run? How can you start to get towards something that is what you want in the long term,

 

Ara

I mean, just, I guess, keep it simple, but don't accept limitations based on, you know, generic standards you've created for yourself, or others have created for you. You know, regardless of what you're doing, if you have some feeling you would like to do something or would be interested in doing something pursue it. If people tell you that it's not reasonable, find out why. Maybe they just think you're not willing to work hard enough for it. Because I can't think a lot of things if you're not willing to work hard enough for it with 100% dedication that you can't make those things happen.

 

Brad  

Yeah, and this is coming from the guy you know how things work, if you want to go to if you want to become a doctor, you go to undergrad, you graduate from undergrad, you go to med school, you don't you don't take 15 years off and become a personal trainer. But you know what you did? And someone asked you a challenging question said, why aren't you doing this? And you had to come to the realization and be humble enough and be vulnerable enough to say, I don't know, like, there's no good reason as to why I'm not doing and I think that's just fantastic. And an accomplishment that I really look up to. And I think there's a lot that we all could learn from. Do you have any regrets about making a commitment so strongly at that moment in your life? 

 

Ara

No, none. And in fact, probably the opposite. Looking at my peers in med school, a lot of them had studied all through their childhood, or, you know, their high school like college, they knew from an early age, they wanted to do it. They studied all through college, they had so little fun. It was very sad to hear. And they tried to squeeze all that fun into like the breaks you get during med school, which is like 36 hours. And it was limiting and they got residency. And for the girls that wanted to have babies, they had to arrange that into their lives then and there. And it's like, their lives pretty much started and ended at the point where they start once they finish their training, their life is pretty much ended. And all they have to show for it's hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. I was fortunate to have lived my life, save a little money and come out ahead of the game.

 

Brad  

I think that's great. Because, listen, you had exposure to your father in the medical practice. So that's great, but you're still open minded; you didn't feel obligated to follow into anyone's shoes, you explored things, you probed a little bit in terms of different careers, you surrounded yourself with people of different mindsets and asked good questions that were trying to make themselves better. And at some point you got hit in the face with a question that you didn't have a choice around that. I just think that's fantastic. So I really appreciate you sharing your story with us today and for being part of the MuskOx Herd.

 

Ara

I appreciate you having me.

 

Brad  

Yeah, of course, of course. Well, Ara again, thank you so much for for joining us, and we will see you out roaming freely around the world.

 

Ara

You got it. Thank you.


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