I walked into my office to discover a white envelope alone on my desk with my name typed on it.
I had just returned from a three-day weekend for my sister’s wedding.
I don’t recall what the letter said beyond my discussing my suboptimal work situation with other physicians in the community which was harming my boss’ reputation so I was hereby ordered to:
VACATE THE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY
I was devastated.
The next few hours were a blur. I remember noticing the empty apple boxes from the market which my boss’ wife had thrown in the corner of my office.
One by one, I carried all of my books, certificates, career, and dignity into my tiny celica until it filled to the roof.
I didn’t look at anybody although I knew everyone was watching. She demanded my beeper, keys, and cell phone which I relinquished.
I drove home with all that was left of my career in my car.
It was over.
For a 35-year old surgeon who always had a plan since I was a teenager, I had none.
From high school to pre-med to medical school to internship to residency to fellowship to a job, I had taken the traditional, safe steps to a career in medicine.
All of a sudden with one cheap envelope, I no longer had any idea where I was going.
I had no idea what I would do with my life. How would I survive? What would be next? My career was in a freefall.
I didn’t cry. The shock of my situation was too awesome for me to feel such basic emotions. I was in that same zone we enter after we learn someone close to us has just died or we survive a 360 on the freeway.
How did I get here?
The practice I joined was not nearly as busy as my boss had advertised.
He really had no overflow of patients for me to see. In fact, my boss himself was quite slow.
I began work with almost no patients to see. I started going door to door to introduce myself to the community. The reception I received was disinterested and empty.
Here or there, I would meet a doc who would actually speak to me and occasionally send me a patient but they were very few.
I became so bored sitting in my large empty office staring out the window counting the leaves on the trees that I brought my laptop into work and started writing fiction.
I dreamed of TV show ideas and movie stories and kept myself busy. My computer saved my sanity and provided me a black box of fantasy in which I could escape the misery of nothing to do with no future in sight.
I had what I wanted: a job in LA and a paycheck.
Month after month, my work situation became worse. I gave talks, joined organizations, and introduced myself every day and week.
I was paralyzed.
‘This must be what hell is like,’ I thought.
I hated my job, my boss, and my life. I saw no way out.
The hourglass was rapidly running out of sand.
I flew to the other coast to celebrate my sister’s wedding and returned to my own funeral.
The rest of the story is too long to detail in this letter.
This is how I started my own private practice.
I never aspired to be on my own in medicine, to start and build a medical practice from scratch, depending solely on myself for my income.
In this case and often, if I don’t make the choice that solves my problem and fast tracks me to my goal, life’s challenges take me there, forcing on me what I need even if I don’t want it.
Sometimes what I think is the wrong choice, I later come to realize was the necessary step to springboard me to where I was destined to be.
In the end, I am stronger or happier for it.
Now that I run my own practice, I set the tone of my practice. I laugh with patients and determine how much time I spend with them and with my family.
The worst thing that ever happened made me who I am today.
Forced me to make a change which I never would have made because it was scary, uncomfortable and uncertain.
Forced transformation and a major pivot.
Pushed me to take risk.
changed my life and trajectory forever
It is how I began my private practice against all odds.
It is how I created my current medical group.
It is how I could find the courage to start this platform to share.
It changed who I am.
It is how we become better, stronger, and smarter
Without staying stuck.
What is your crisis trying to teach you?
The BOOMM 1.0 Course delivers you modules on understanding the purpose of problems, steps to face your fear and the value and power of change. Check it out here!