Don’t Be Hard On Your Kids

Cut Me Some Slack, Dad!

As a professional, my expectations of others are high. There is no way around it. I work hard on a daily basis and have worked hard for many years, and consequently, I expect those that work with me to display a similar level of dedication.

As a father, I don’t want to compromise the standards that I hold my kids to. I want them to be high character individuals that work hard and are known for their integrity. That part is non-negotiable.

However, that does not mean that I need to be overbearing. Sometimes it is ok for kids to be…kids. My son is not going to become a genius or a soccer star tomorrow. When he comes home from school, it is probably time to just play rather than practice dribbling the soccer ball around the house.

Outside of my own life, I have seen other physicians act the same way with their kids. We have to learn how to balance our deep desire for our kids to succeed with the need for kids to be themselves. Your son or daughter still has the chance to become the next great neurosurgeon, even if they don’t do their vocabulary flash cards every day. Enjoy your kids. Teach them in an age appropriate manner. Both of you will be better for it.

Do you have high expectations of your kids? Have you ever gone overboard pushing them? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

You Don’t Owe Anyone Your Career

Doesn’t Care What Anyone Thinks

I have talked to many a physician that feels trapped in their current professional situation. Some are scared to leave their current job because of financial concerns, family, sometimes geography. You name it and I have heard it.

There seems to be a deeper issue for many, however, once we talk for awhile. There seems to be a sense of “I have to stay in medicine because I owe someone.” This proverbial someone could be their patients, their medical school professors, or even something as big as society at large. I hope to never carry they kind of weight around on my shoulders!

As I think about my own training, I can begin to see where this comes from. It was drilled into me as a young medical student just how fortunate I was to be in medical school and how my life’s work was to focus on other people. These statements are true and should be remembered as you go throughout your career.

Taken to an extreme, though, these truths can lead to a mental prison where doctors in bad situations refuse to take action because they feel like they shouldn’t. Allow me to be clear about something. No one else went to medical school and residency. No one else worked those thirty hour shifts. No one else took out crazy amounts of debt. No one else goes through the emotional and physical toll of the work you do.

You don’t owe anyone. Once you pay back those student loans, your debt is paid. Your career is your own, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are in a bad situation or miserable, then do something about it. If someone else has something to say about it, then give them six figure debt and the weight of the world so they can try it on for size. I promise their tune will change.

Have you ever had to make a change in your career that you felt guilty about? Are you slow to make changes in your life due to other’s expectations? Tell me about it in the comments!

Appreciate Your Spouse

Mom Isn’t Here?!

My wife is a superhero. Our home runs like a well oiled machine most days, and that is predominantly due to her efforts. Though there may be no newspaper articles or awards for her work, what she does on a daily basis is some of the most important work in our family.

It would surely not be possible for me to skip off to work everyday without all that she does. She does laundry, packs lunches, cleans and keeps two young boys alive (no small feat). Oh and by the way, she also is a pediatrician that practices three days a week and sees a crazy amount of patients. I married up in a big way, so it’s important that she know how much I think of her.

Communicate

One of my greatest fears is not communicating enough how much I appreciate her. I sometimes put my head down and forget to do these type of things during my day.

I have tried to be diligent about making this a priority each day. She deserves to know how much I love and appreciate her. That is not optional and there is no excuse for letting that slip.

Even better, it doesn’t have to be complicated! Just drop in a “thank you” or “I appreciate you” regularly. That is really all that she wants, hearing me say that I value her. The occasional note or gift is nice, but the real money is in the daily words of affirmation.

Participate

I have found that one of the best ways of communicating my appreciation to her is by pulling my own weight around the house. Though my own chore list is not as extensive as hers, accomplishing the list with excellence shows that I value what happens in our house.

If I blow off my household duties, then it is obvious to her that I think these tasks are unimportant. How does that make her feel?

Occupy the Kids

I love my little rug rats like no other, but sometimes a parent needs a break. My wife spends a lot more time wrangling them than I do, and she often just needs a few moments without a toddler pulling on her leg.

I have found these are great moments to start a father vs. sons wrestling match or Nerf gun war, anything to keep them out of her hair for a bit. It works out well for me too because I get to have some fun with them and forget about medicine, work etc.

My wife will often sneak away to read a book or just sit in a room by herself for a few minutes. It never fails that she tells me how nice it was to have a few moments with no one else around.

Treat Them As Equals

At the end of the day, you and your spouse are doing life together. Any accomplishment one does, you both do. Everything has to get done each day for both of you to be successful.

Remember that! Make it a priority to communicate how much you care. Participate in daily life with them. If you do happen to win an award, then take your spouse with you to receive it and recognize them at the ceremony. There is no one else that will be as close to you through life’s ups and downs. Value that relationship as much as you can. Oh, and for those just starting out, make sure you pick a rockstar like I did!

Leave me a comment! How do you show your appreciation to your spouse? Leave your best tips for the rest of us!

Automate Your Goals

Didn’t Automate His Goals

My mother always told me to “make decisions before things happen.” That’s the motherly way of telling you to decide not to be stupid before you’re given the chance to be stupid. Very useful advice for teenagers.

This same wisdom applies even beyond the teenage years however. It is always better to make your decisions in advance as you go through life. As a matter of fact, many things cannot be accomplished unless you decide to do them well in advance and are willing to work on them now.

Automation in Real Life

Want to pay off that astronomical student loan debt in five years (not a word NYU grads)? You’re not accomplishing that overnight. Better make that decision today so you refinance to a five year loan and get going.

Maybe you have a real problem with patients no-showing their appointments and it is costing you money. Devise a new process for reminding patients about their appointments and reap the rewards as your revenue goes up.

Some folks need to do this in their daily life. I know some of you are so wrapped up in your life that you forget to pay your bills on time. Automate them! Let the utility companies raid your bank account once a month and be done with it. No more late fees for you.

Automation Can’t Cure Laziness

Don’t be fooled. Automation does not equal no work. Many people think they can “automate” something and never put it any real work. That simply isn’t true. Automation is making decisions in advance and putting in the work now so that work can pay you continuous dividends as time goes on.

The advantage automation gives you is the exponential return of up front effort. If you put in the work early, you can probably work less than those that put in work late. Put in the work now and sit on the couch while others try to catch up. Mama will be proud and you will be ahead of the game.

Leave me a comment! What do you automate in your life? How has it helped you? How has it save you time and effort?

 

Doctors Need Rhythm

School Is Over?!

I love the first day of school. The roads come alive as parents drive their kids to the first day (also known as traffic jams). Kids meet new teachers and new friends. There is a sense of new beginning in the air.

This rhythm of the academic year is comfortable to me. As a kid who enjoyed school, like many of you I suspect, I always felt at home when the bell rung and it was time to walk into class. I enjoyed the progression through the year as I learned and the natural change that occurs as you go from year to year.

Unfortunately, this rhythm sometimes gets lost once you leave the academic world. Many doctors I know settle into a circular routine of seeing patients every day in a never ending cycle with no progression and no “graduation.”

I know that I have experienced this in my life. I remember that almost panicked feeling as I thought about the potential of doing the same thing every day for thirty years with no progression. The thought was terrifying.

In my life, I’ve found that instilling some of this rhythm is essential. Life in medicine cannot be a hamster wheel of seeing patients every day with no growth. Physicians are naturally people that enjoy learning and enjoy new challenges. Embrace it.

Set goals each year for new things you want to learn. Establish a mentoring program at your hospital with set progressions of when mentees become mentors. Pursue opportunities ancillary to your practice where you can grow. Get involved in medical education and teach students.

Whatever you do, don’t remain stagnant. You had to have a certain level of motivation to get where you are. Shutting it down will only lead to frustration. Remember the rhythm of the school year when you were young and embrace your inner student.

What do you do to grow and progress each year? Do you have formal or informal programs you participate in? Tell me about it in the comments!

Don’t Buy Fancy Cars

A Dependable Ride

I enjoy scrolling through my Twitter feed and seeing some of the exotic cars that appear. I have had the pleasure of riding in a Porsche before, and I have to say, it was quite the experience.

However, I must confess that I don’t understand the appeal of owning fancy cars. Sure, you look and feel great rolling up in your 740IL BMW. My question, though, is how does it feel rolling into the auto shop all the time and racking up bills? How does it feel paying double what the rest of us pay for a oil change?

On the opposite end of the spectrum is my trusty Honda CRV. It was relatively cheap and bought with cash. It has only been in the shop for scheduled maintenance and tires. It drives well and is more than comfortable enough for me.

Luxury items come with luxury price tags. Taking the entire car ownership into account, those moments of greatness rolling up in your fancy ride are not worth the cost and stress that come with it. I like to keep things simple for a reason.

Don’t let societal or peer expectations push you to do something that is a bad idea. Get a dependable car. Pay it off. You can then drive by the body shop and laugh at the guys waiting on their Mercedes to get fixed. It’s a lot more fun. I promise.

Do you drive a nice car? Do you have a horror story about a car staying in the shop. Leave me a comment and tell me your story!

Physicians Need A Financial Diet

Not On A Diet

I love to talk to my diabetic patients about their diet. We talk about it every visit. We review what they are eating. I emphasize a low carb, low sugar diet and extol it’s many virtues. I talk about how we can probably reduce their medication if they can follow this type of diet on a daily basis.

Guess what? Most never do it. They never exactly follow the diet. The ones that do are few and far between. Most people continue living their lives like they always have, and I gradually increase their medicine to mask their sugary ways.

People Are People

At it’s core, this demonstrates some truth about peoples’ behavior. Despite the obvious consequences, people do what they want to do. They are well aware of the consequences, but they do it anyway because well…they just want to.

Most of you are like that. Despite your high priced education and abnormally high work ethic, physicians are people just like everyone else. They have wants, needs and desires, and they will ignore obvious consequences if there is something they want to do. Their checkbooks are a great example of this.

Many of you, even the ones reading this and other physician blogs, spend too much money. I know you do. You know that you do. Despite reading the many articles about living below your means and paying off your debt, you still haven’t fully committed to getting your financial house in order.

Why? All of the knowledge is there. Do I really need to explain all of the consequences of poor personal financial management to you again? Surely not. This isn’t a “know how” issue; it’s a “doing” issue.

Keep It Simple

In light of this fact, I implore you to simplify. Don’t make things complicated. Don’t speculate on oil rights in Texas. Avoid individual stock tips from your colleagues who have no idea what they are talking about. Max out your 401k. Put your money in index funds. Pay off your student loans. Live below your means.

There is nothing else you have to do. Do the basics and remember that even doing that is hard for most people. Just like my diabetic patients, doing the easy stuff will keep you from the consequences. I’m not sure what the financial equivalent of diabetic neuropathy is (foreclosure maybe?), but let’s just do the right thing and avoid the pain. Deal?

Do you sometimes have trouble doing the simple things? Have you ever sacrificed financial goals because of an unnecessary want. Leave me a comment and let me know.

I’m Going to Disney World!

Dancing with Goofy

I’m not going to hide it. I love Disney World. How can you not? Disney World is truly a vacation destination that has something for everyone. This is my family’s go to vacation spot, and we go an absurd amount. My son can navigate around the Magic Kingdom by himself without a map. He’s five. I know. I have a problem.

Fortunately I have no intention of rectifying the situation and plan on continuing to make the trek down to Lake Buena Vista on a routine basis. If you read my Doctor, Take Some Vacation post, then you know my feelings in general about the necessity of rest and relaxation.

We just wrapped up a 4 day trip recently where we staying at the Art of Animation resort for the first time and really enjoyed it. Our next trip will be in the spring of 2019, and it’s going to be a doozy. Every few years, we save up and do a big Disney World trip. This next one is going to be our big one. We are staying for a week at the Polynesian, which is my favorite resort.

We have been busy planning our week, and I’d like to pass along the basic resources that we use to plan out a typical Disney vacation. Some people like to use vacation planners, and there are plenty of good ones out there. Given our experience level, we like to do it ourselves and here are a few resources we consult:

  • Disney Tourist Blog-Best Disney blog hands down. We have entrusted many a vacation to Tom Bricker, who runs the site, and he has never let us down. Check out his 2018 Disney World Vacation Planning Guide for a great starting point.
  • Disney Parks Blog-This is Disney’s official blog. Use this to keep up to date on the latest happenings at each park, including details about limited time or exclusive events.
  • My Disney Experience-This is where the magic happens. You can make reservations and nail down all the details of your trip (including pay for it, bummer). Note there is an app for your phone as well. Plan to use this during your trip.

I hope you find some of these resources helpful. We love our trips to Disney, and I’m always up to talk shop with other Disney enthusiasts. Remember doctor, you need a break. Might as well check out the happiest place on earth!

Do you love Disney? Leave a comment and tell me your best Disney vacation tip!

Plan To Quit

Already A Quitter

Congratulations! You are just out of residency and have landed your dream job. Maybe you are headed back to your hometown to care for your friends and family. Perhaps the big city is calling, and you have joined the best group in town. Regardless, your future is set, right? You’re going to spend your career at this job and ride off into the sunset in a few decades.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but…it’s not gonna happen. The odds are pretty bad that you’re going to spend your whole career in that practice. You might not even spend your whole career in that town. Heck, in today’s environment, you might not even be a doctor by the end of your career! You, my friend, need a plan. Not just any plan. You need a plan to quit. Take note of this video courtesy of Steve Harvey. This guy had a plan!

It’s All About The Contract

When you sign any employment contract, you must think carefully about your exit one day. Given the overwhelming odds that you will indeed leave your job one way or the other at some point, this is one of the most important parts of the contract. This is not the time to concede a bunch of stuff. Don’t accept whatever the “standard language” is that “everyone else has.” Scrutinize it. What does it say about the what money you may owe? Non-compete clause? Malpractice tail? You, and preferably your attorney (yes these folks can be useful), must look at these items and aggressively negotiate them.

Now, I don’t mean to be so negative today. I’m sure many of you have enjoyed you first jobs out of residency. Bless your hearts, some of you may still be there. Father Time marches on however and ignoring reality does you no good. You are going to leave your job one day. Don’t ignore this. Preparation is key to success, and you should aim to be the most successful quitter around.

Have you ever quit your job? Were you well prepared for it? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

Physicians in the Community

Physicians are, no doubt, burning the candle on both ends. We have little margin in our lives as the pressures grow. We stay late and come early. There isn’t much time to do other things. Who has time to volunteer to be on that committee when you’re charting until 8PM each night?

The repercussions of this are far wider than just physician burnout, especially in small towns and communities. It is not too long ago that physicians were prominent figures in their communities. They would often finish up in the clinic and then head to their local town council meeting, PTO board meeting and other various civic events to volunteer their time.

While there are several groups of people that are highly educated and intelligent, physicians bring a unique element of integrity and character with them. We have devoted our lives to caring for others, and our perspective in the community is truly unique. We pride ourselves on speaking for the downtrodden and conducting ourselves with the utmost character and professionalism. In short, we represent and advocate for timeless values in our community.

As physicians spend more and more of their time in their offices and less time in their community, it is these values that are missing the most. In my mind, this is the most pressing reason why we physicians must push to have greater margin in our lives. Our calling to our community is more than just our calling to help the sick. It is our calling to represent the principles we hold dear to our patients and our community. There is no greater moral calling that we have, and it all starts with leaving the clinic on time. Let’s see that it happens for the good of us all.

What would you do outside of medicine if you had more time? Leave a comment below!

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