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Doctors in a Tail Spin - You Are What Your Record Says You Are

I’m a big football fan. However, my team, the San Francisco 49ers, aren’t doing so well this year.  They have a losing record, and it looks like that they will miss the NFL playoffs once again.  Growing up in Northern California as a kid, cheering the likes of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice during their championship seasons, It is frustrating to hear the players and coaches dole out their excuses after another disappointing loss. “We’re a lot better than our record shows”, they’re quick to point out.

I often reflect back to what famous football coach Bill Parcells used to say – No matter how rigorous the schedule, the oh-so close losses, and the bad breaks, he was unwilling to give any excuses for a loss.  He would say “You are what your record says you are”. You are exactly where you should be. Better run teams have winning records. Team in disarray with poor planning end up with losing records.

That same principle can apply  in life.

For unsatisfied doctors, a significant number point to external factors to their unhappiness – declining reimbursement, government intrusions, an overall lack of respect for physicians, from CEOS to patients. But when it comes down to it, if you are not happy in the position you are, you are ultimately responsible to where you should be. Coach Parcells would say again “You are what your record says you are.”   

I  have a relative who was involved in the burgeoning tech industry in the late 1970s. He was trained to learn a very specific computer programming technology in his corporation.  He spend years educating himself on the programming, as well as training others, and then only to find out just a short time later the technology would soon become obsolete, as was his employment, as dictated by corporate headquarters. Soon there after, he found he was out of a job, a casualty of mass layoffs. He had no choice but to reinvent himself, going back to school, with new training, and a hope not to be made “obsolete”.

As doctors many feel we lost our position as being the decision maker in healthcare. It  pains me to see an industry where over 50% want to get out of the industry, yet feel powerless, to do something about it. Yet many of us as physicians have assets and fund of knowledge that we can use and apply in different ventures besides clinical medicine, as evidenced by the numerous examples we have in Freelance MD.

Last weekend, I conducted a workshop to a group of physicians who were all at different stages of their career. I commended them for attending, and remarked that unlike many of their colleagues, because they were willing to start something new and out of their comfort zone. Many doctors aren’t willing to reinvent themselves, because what economists refer to as an “opportunity cost”. For example, many physicians feel because they have spent so much time and money in medicine anyway, that if they do something different there is an additional lost opportunity cost. That is by starting something new, it would make  the years missed and the money spent all for not, and  instead they feel forced to continue to work in their current vocation,  even to the detriment of their own happiness. There is also the feeling that they are “giving up” if they choose an avenue that the rest of their colleagues would not follow. Albert Einstein, said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Does this quote apply to you?

If you are not happy where you are, it may be time to start taking control and reinvent yourself. If you wake up and dread going to work, it may be time to take a mini-vacation or consider a new endeavor. If you feel like you’re going through the motions in your career, and not making a difference in the world, it may be time for a new challenge. Just as a team with a losing record, it may be time for a new coach, a new offense, a new strategy.

As Coach Parcells would say, “You are what your record says you are.”

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