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February, 2014

Stay in Tune and in Touch: Risking the Embarrassment of Failure

By K. Jeffrey Miller, DC, DABCO

I recently had a few chiropractic friends over for a motivational philosophy evening. While we talked about motivation and chiropractic, someone brought up the saying, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" This saying, credited to Dr. Robert Schuller has been a part of motivational literature for many years.

A few days later, I was reading Napoleon Hill's Magic Ladder to Success. The 2002 version of this book contains editorial comments on Hill's original writing. On page 59, a version of Dr. Schuller's saying was used that I found interesting: "What would you attempt today if you knew that no one would ever know that you failed?"

embarrassment - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark In this version of the saying, failure is possible which seems more realistic and there is a different guarantee. Instead of being guaranteed success, you are guaranteed not to be embarrassed. This is an interesting adaptation of the saying. The fear of embarrassment is a large part of the fear of failure. It keeps people from sticking their necks out for their goals. Consider the words of former major leaguer Lou Brock though, "Show me a guy who is afraid to look bad and I'll show you a guy you can beat every time."

Thomas Edison tested ten thousand versions of the light bulb before he succeeded. He had a good attitude about the unsuccessful attempts. When asked about the attempts he said, "I have not failed. I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work." Edison was a brilliant man. Yet, think about how brilliant he would seem if no one knew about the first ten thousand attempts. What if it appeared he had succeeded on the first try? The reason we do know about the first ten thousand attempts is Edison was not afraid to look bad.

I don't think men and women like Edison care what others think of them. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is a good example. She is known for having said, "What you think of me is none of my business" and "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." This entire thought process comes down to being brave enough to take action and risk embarrassment. The development of these traits will serve you well in all aspects of life.

I think most chiropractors have these traits. Becoming a chiropractor is a risky action. The philosophy of chiropractic marches against the traditions of medicine. Not everyone "believes" in chiropractic or understands what we do. The public is not conditioned to seek chiropractic care. There are numbers of people who are simply against chiropractic and chiropractors for any number of reasons.

You have to have thick skin, be an entrepreneur and somewhat of a maverick to be a chiropractor. These are good things. Combine these traits with common sense and a good education and you have the ability to risk failure and embarrassment in seeking your goals. I concede we aren't all Edisons or Roosevelts. I'm certainly not. I have to nurture and refine my traits and skills to continue moving forward. I have to read and listen to educational and motivational materials, hang out with motivated people I admire, attend good seminars and get involved in the profession.

These things help me stay in tune and in touch. They are important in continuing to risk failure and embarrassment. They are important in helping me start, start over again, finish and win. One of the biggest challenges facing everyone today is the switch to electronic health records. Believe it or not, in today's computer age, computers still scare many of us. Complete reliance on them is especially scary. The phrase "going paperless" can make a person break out in a cold sweat if he has ever had a computer crash.

At age fifty, I have now been using computers daily for more than twenty years and I still get confused and frustrated. I am supposed to be in charge and in control but I can find myself at the mercy of a computer technician who is in his late teens or early twenties. Last year, I received a letter from a doctor who said he was five years from his planned retirement. He stated that he had decided to retire earlier because of the changes that were in progress and those that were coming. He did not want to change to electronic records, learn the ICD-10-CM system or qualify for meaningful use and the Physicians Quality Reporting System (PQRS) programs.

His questions to me were, "Is there anyway around this? And "Do you know of anything that might help me keep going?" He wanted to keep practicing. He loved his practice, his patients and his profession but he felt displaced. Everything was changing and too quickly. He was embarrassed he did not understand many of the changes. He was also embarrassed to ask for help. He had always been a leader in the profession. People used to call him for advice and now he felt helpless. My answers were to think of asking for help as being no different than helping patients by sending them for second opinions. Consultations with computer and compliance experts would help his patients by keeping him in practice.

I also told him some of the PQRS programs were not completely mandatory. Meaningful use for example is an incentive program and you don't have to participate. The only down side is not being eligible for the incentive money. At that time, the PQRS program was not mandatory but carried a small reduction in reimbursement rates if the doctor did not participate. My final point to him was that his practice would probably be worth more when is came time to sell it if it was computerized and compliant.

Despite the current status of healthcare in America, there are still great things out there for chiropractic and chiropractors. Some chiropractors think Obamacare is going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Others have said it will be the death of healthcare as we know it. If the initial failure of the Obamacare website was any indication, the second group might be right. In addition to the computer problems, many of the insurance carriers who abuse chiropractic the most have been awarded the contracts to operate the Obamacare exchanges in some states. There will still be people without insurance coverage and the red tape is growing.

Many fear we will all be forced to run cash practices. In reality, we are already there in many situations and we are already adapting. The last two patients I gave a report of findings needed approximately $2,500 in care and only a small portion of their $3,000 and $4,000 deductibles had been met. They were essentially cash patients. Chiropractic coverage is a phantom in catastrophic healthcare policies.

Obamacare won't be good, but it won't be our death as many think. It will require risk and struggle but it isn't the hardest thing we have ever been up against. One of my friends at the house the night is a third generation chiropractor. His grandfather practiced for many years in a state that did not have a chiropractic licensing law. He was jailed more than once for practicing medicine without a license. He stuck his neck out repeatedly as though he could not fail. He risked embarrassment to himself and his family. He risked being in jail, being separated from his family and appearing to be a criminal. Years later, he stood next to the governor's desk as the governor signed the law granting chiropractors licensure. He took the risks and his son and grandson followed with pride.

There are more victories like this one out there. We will all fail; we will all look bad at some point. It is unavoidable. In the long run though, the pain of the failures will be minimal compared to the pain of living with the knowledge we never tried or gave up when things got tough. The next few years will be a test. We will pass the test and we will march toward the next one. And, there will be a next one. Despite this, we will have our Edison moment when we light up the world of healthcare.


Click here for more information about K. Jeffrey Miller, DC, DABCO.

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