Are you feeling energized or overwhelmed in your work?

Jan 20, 2022

I mentioned in a previous blog post that everything we do in life either increases or diminishes our life energy.

Therefore it is crucial that we constantly reflect on how we spend our time. Even what we allow our thoughts to drift to.

Our careers are nuanced in this regard.

We all have elements of the job that are less desirable.

Ideally, however, we should be feeling energized in our work. It is great for us and our patients.

But if one is not at that place, then it is crucial we deeply reflect on why.

And here is where I would challenge you to explore whether financial pressure is causing you to labor more hours than you would like or taking on work that is lucrative but unmeaningful.

Is your life energy dissipating to earn money for what might be unsustainable expenses?

In the week ahead, track your work hours—both clinical and administrative—because in a later post, I will take you through a related Physician Empowerment concept: Your Hourly Rate.

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You’re trading more than just time for money

Jan 13, 2022

Typically, I describe time as the most important asset in our lives. But earlier this year, I interviewed Dr. Vu Kiet Tran on the Primary Medicine Podcast and he blew me away.

Vu Kiet highlighted that we are trading more than just time for money. We are spending our life energy.

Looking through this lens, we need to be asking ourselves whether a given use of our personal energy is worth it.

Will this trade be something that adds to the fulfillment in our lives or will it leave us feeling diminished?

Some activities are obvious:

  • Exercise and healthy eating will add to one’s energy
  • Time spent ruminating on the past or in conflict with others dissipates us

Many things, however, are less clear and require some reflection.

The practice of medicine can be deeply rewarding as it is both intellectually stimulating and provides us with the opportunity to serve others.

But there are many stressors—decision fatigue, long hours, the weight of the responsibility we carry—that...

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Show gratitude to your mentors

Jan 06, 2022

Reflecting on my own life, I am profoundly grateful for the numerous mentors I have had. Folks who have taken the time to share their experiences and wisdom. 

What I learned from them has been key to who I am today. 

While I have worked hard to get where I am, much of the credit belongs to the incredible people in my life who have guided me along the way.

But in my younger years, I was brash, overworking, and failed to give enough recognition to my mentors. 

I try to do better now and this is my own quick list of tips on how to honor mentors in our lives:

  1. Internalize the fact that someone is your mentor. Whether you tell her or him this fact is less important than how the acknowledgment changes your verbal and nonverbal communication to convey the respect that is owed.
  2. Respect the limits of a mentor. She or he will not be an endless source of answers across your personal and professional life. They, like us, all have their own challenges and will become uncomfortable...
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Relationships matter

Dec 16, 2021

I’ve previously spoken of the power of narrative in our lives.

By sharing wisdom and experience, we gain understanding that is invaluable yet overlooked in our world of constant knowledge acquisition.

Perhaps one of the most important ways to grow personally and professionally is to have mentors.

People often have a mistaken belief that mentorship—especially in the professional realm—should be formal and involve meetings and specific objectives.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mentors are simply folks in our lives who share their wisdom and experience. They may not even have any specific guidance for us. They speak and we grow as we internalize what they are saying.

The next time you are mentoring someone or receiving some good guidance, make that conscious effort to practice gratitude and celebrate the moment. Not just on the issue at hand, but on the simple fact that you have that depth of relationship with someone.

Do you have an example of an amazing...

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Team building secret: Awareness

Dec 09, 2021

Historically, physicians have been “lone wolves”, especially in solo practice or rural settings.

Even in community clinics or hospital settings, we tend to be quite independent, minding our own business.

But times have changed: patient care has evolved to be heavily team-based, coupled with EMRs and virtual care platforms. As the team lead, it’s no longer just about your personal performance: it’s a team production now. 

In essence, the practice of medicine is more like a team sport—each teammate with their specific strategic roles following a certain playbook. Alas, most medical schools and residency programs seldom equip us with such skills.

Once we step into the real world of medical practice, we either conform to conventional practice traditions or we “wing it” based on survival instincts. 

Let’s face it: building or rebuilding a team is no easy feat.

However, awareness is the first step of any great adventure.

As a...

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The power of narrative

Dec 02, 2021

With limitless information on our phones, our world is filled with opportunities to learn knowledge.

But knowledge isn’t the same as wisdom.

Wisdom speaks to our own circumstances. It forces us to ask the most important question in our lives: the why?

Wisdom comes from experience.

And while we grow throughout our own lives, it is important to recognize the power of narrative to transform us.

Narrative is the telling of our personal or collective stories. This can be as formal as the wisdom of an ancient spiritual teaching or as relaxed as a chat with a colleague.

In these dialogues, we access another’s past experiences – their struggles, triumphs, and insights.

Looking at your busy week ahead, find space to access wisdom. Start reading a great book or call and old friend or loved one.

Was there a time or moment when you accessed wisdom in an unconventional or surprising way?

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Leading with civility – part 4 of 4

Nov 25, 2021

(This is the final post in a series on the topic of civility.)

The ultimate test of leadership: if your authority, title, or rank were taken away, would your subordinates still follow you?

It’s true with:

  • Your patients—wonder why they refuse to comply with your evidence-based treatment advice?
  • Your staff—wonder why they fail to comprehend the importance of your orders?
  • Your spouse—wonder why, even when you win the argument, you lose the relationship?
  • Your kids—wonder why they’d sometimes “purposefully” defy your instructions, even to their detriment?
  • Your mentees—wonder why they tune out or argue when you share your seasoned professional insights and secrets?

The fact is:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

Reflection of the day: 

When was the last time you openly praised, thanked, appreciated, recognized, or rewarded your staff, or celebrated success with...

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Managing a “crisis”

Nov 18, 2021

Previously I wrote about my own crisis that really wasn’t one because I properly triaged the situation.

Urgencies - when we worry and inflate them into a mini-crisis - can be a major source of burnout.

Here are some great starting points on how to manage the next problem that lands at your feet:

  • It almost certainly isn’t a real crisis. True emergencies are rare. Unless the situation involves serious personal or financial harm, it is probably an urgency. Pause and take a deep breath.
  • Acknowledge that the event is in the past and immoveable. The only thing you can control is your own future actions and words.
  • Now that panicking and time-travelling are off the table, stop to consider your options. Don’t be reactive by acting on the first thought in your head.

Thinking about your own life:

  • How often in your week is a “crisis” brought to you?
  • How do these events affect you emotionally and physically?

The worry in a non-emergency is often more...

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Leading with civility – part 3 of 4

Nov 11, 2021

(Over Oct. and Nov., I am sharing a series of posts on the topic of civility.)

A recent MIT study shows that commercial air travel safety has improved tremendously over the last few decades: now one death per 7.9 million passenger boardings compared to one per 1.3 million from 1988-1997.

And so, it’s safer to fly than to drive. 

Their secret?

Complete naked honesty without any repercussions whatsoever—any kind of mistakes, miscalculations, mishaps, negligence, or faux pas are fully disclosed without reprimand.

The lessons learnt are freely shared amongst all departments and companies. After all, concealment is the biggest risk of all!

Wow, how diametrically opposite that philosophy is compared to our medical culture.

In a world of litigation, college complaints, 360 degree peer reviews, and top-down bureaucracy, many clinicians sadly resort to just checking boxes of standard operating protocols to “CYA” (Cover Your Anatomy)!

If we could reshape our work...

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Is it really a crisis?

Nov 04, 2021

Dear {{first_name}},

Earlier this year, Dr. Yatin Chadha interviewed me for his podcast Beyond MD.

The topic was real estate but one of my best stories was “lumbar puncture night”.

I shared how I worked an incredibly busy night shift in the ER with a flight booked the next morning. But shortly after finishing work (and on the way to the airport), I got a call from one of my tenants saying the suite above hers was leaking water through the ceiling.

Yikes!

This was obviously a big problem.

But was it really a crisis?

I got through that mess by falling back on a familiar technique we all use in medicine: triage.

While I immediately began to worry about the disruption to my elderly tenant and potential costs of clean-up, I paused and reminded myself that this wasn’t a true emergency.

No one was injured or dying. I had good insurance and great team in place to handle repairs.

I reviewed the damage but then hopped on that flight without a second thought.

The next time...

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