Gary Michelson’s Unconventional Way to Learning to be a Billionaire

The medical innovator’s success didn’t come easy, however in this exclusive interview, he shares the values that got him there.

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Whenever we think about most billionaires, we imagine founders of software companies in Silicon Valley, hedge-fund mavens and even oil tycoons. Most of them are simply just heirs to the billionaires who came before them. In any case, it usually is difficult to relate with them. Many of them are far smarter than we’ll ever be, while some are born into families we’re able to never have. It certainly makes you wonder be it even possible to result from a modest background and be a billionaire if whatever you know is effort and passion. Renowned medical innovator Gary Michelson is living proof that it’s.

Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with Michelson, who was simply once a 17-year-old from the streets with two dollars to his name. Eventually, after putting himself through college, he began his career as a spinal surgeon, and from there, a thirst for innovation and a big break put him in relation to becoming among the richest people on the planet.

Here’s what that unconventional path appeared as if.

Related: 7 Billionaire Entrepreneurs Who BEGAN Dirt-Poor

AN EARLY ON Interest In Medicine

Michelson’s journey to learning to be a billionaire started during his childhood, when his interest in medicine and innovation developed. His grandmother, who struggled with a spinal disease, was a big inspiration in his life. Michelson recalls: “The medical part really began with my grandmother, who had syringomyelia. I recall the scene from my childhood when she didn’t observe that her hand was burning while cooking at the stove. She thought to me, ‘When you feel a health care provider, you will fix me.’”

That memory cultivated Michelson’s passion for medicine, and the only clear path toward having the ability to help those individuals was to become doctor.

Overcoming Early Challenges

There are challenges and struggles that everyone will face at one point or another within their lives, but why is certain people stick out from others is how they handle these struggles and apply them to challenges down the road. Michelson’s parents divorced when he was nine, and he spent a lot of his life with out a father figure. Additionally, he had to place himself through undergraduate and medical school by working multiple jobs. When I ask Michelson about the adversities he faced, he describes that, “There is something about that degree of adversity that toughened me up and forced me to grow up rapidly. Later in my own life, there have been some real battles to be fought, and at least one was a war. I really do not believe that without that hardening, I’d have been in a position to endure those challenges."

The ways he learned to adjust to them eventually helped him plan the critical business challenges he’d face later in life.

Putting Himself Through School

Many have a tendency to think that billionaires obtain focus on help from parents and friends. This is not very true for Michelson. He explained most of the struggles he faced before he even started his undergraduate degree. “When I was 17, I came across myself out on the road with two dollars in my own pocket and a little bag of belongings," he recalls. "Those were rough times. I recall bagging groceries and washing cars at a dealership to get sufficient money to eat every day."

During his entire time at school, he juggled multiple jobs to pay his tuition and spent the majority of his leisure time at the library because he couldn’t afford to get textbooks. Not forgetting, even the dean of his medical school didn’t have confidence in him, remarking that he previously never seen anyone successfully graduate while holding a normal job. But Michelson stayed headstrong and believed in what he was doing, and ultimately graduated and began what would become an illustrious career.

TAKING A STAND for Himself

While in medical school, Michelson faced a hardcore moral situation where he was necessary to practice surgery on live dogs who weren’t treated with painkillers. “On the 1st day of this merciless lab, I said, ‘I won’t do this,’" he affirms. "I was told that the lab was compulsory and that easily did not participate, I’d be expelled.”

Michelson didn’t care — he previously a clear moral compass. And he ultimately avoided expulsion following the director of orthopedic surgery at Moffitt Hospital in SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, where he previously completed an externship, wrote a compelling letter to the dean. And it’s really a very important thing, because as Michelson tells it, "That summer, just a little boy had can be found in with a condition that the standard treatment was amputation. I visited the medical library and read all night, then returned to the person who was simply running this program with a concept for a surgical procedure that had never been done before. These were intrigued and accepted my plan, which saved this boy’s leg.”

In 2001, Michelson encountered a straight bigger problem; he had been sued for $863 million by a lot of money 500 company. “3 years later, on the eve of trial, they returned and offered what they said will be more money than I possibly could spend for the others of my entire life," he explains. "But [with the contingency] to allow them to still take what they wanted and for me personally to still disappear completely."

Michelson wouldn’t normally accept the company’s long-standing claims that he was a cheat and a fraudster, not for just about any sum of money. So he stood trial against the business, and affirmed, he finished up winning.


Michelson made a lot of money through what can really be attributed to effort. But along with his billionaire status, Michelson doesn’t just spend luxuriously; he finds methods to give back. He’s the founder and funder of three private charities: the 20MM Foundation, which funds the dissemination of free, peer-reviewed, openly licensed digital textbooks for essential college general-education courses; the Michelson Medical Research Foundation, a $100 million initiative that funds cutting-edge medical research; and the Found Animals Foundation, which gives grants for the rescue and keeping shelter animals. Michelson can be part of the Giving Pledge, that was started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet as a mandate for billionaires to donate at least half of their net worth to charitable causes.

Related: 6 Money Tips From Self-Made Billionaires

The journey for Michelson to access this aspect has been tough, from working multiple jobs to place himself through school to undergoing a lawsuit with a significant company. But Michelson stuck from what he believed in rather than gave up. Though he’s now in a totally different place than he used to be, he clearly hasn’t forgotten his roots. Undoubtedly, he has made a lot of money for himself, but again and again he has made a decision to share that fortune with those that need it most. In so doing, he has truly gone far beyond just being truly a billionaire;

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