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The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP 39: Is Death the Greatest Teacher for Trapped Physicians?

If the world ended tomorrow, would you be able to look back and feel happy that you worked extra shifts instead of being with family? If you’re not careful, you can easily go through life in auto-pilot working as hard as possible, but never making time for what is important. You can get clarity on what is important in your life by focusing on death, and asking: What do I want to be written on my tombstone?

In this episode, you will learn how I used death to get clear on what really matters to me in life, and how you can can get clear on what is really important to you in life too. 

Today You’ll Learn

  • How death is one of life’s greatest teachers 
  • How to ask the kind of questions that will get us to be honest about what is important in your life
  • How you can make changes to spend more time on what those important things are
  • And more!

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Why does it often take a profound moment in life for us to realize that we need to make a change and can we wield this realization to help us figure it all out before it's too late? It's exactly what we're going to discuss today. This is the physician philosopher podcast on Dr. Jimmy Turner and anesthesiologist, online entrepreneur and creator of the alpha coaching experience. The physician philosopher podcast teaches you how to create the life. You deserve one thought at a time, start before you're ready. Start by starting start now. Hey everyone. Welcome to episode number 39 of the physician philosopher podcast, where we take an uncurated and unapologetic, look into physician life, money, and mindset. This episode is going to be all about helping doctors live their ideal life. And if you are a regular listener to this podcast, living your ideal life should be pretty familiar to you.

Many doctors are what I would call a trap physician. And a trap physician is a doctor who feels undervalued, unheard, unappreciated overworked. Maybe they just feel like they can't make the change they need to make. They thought about going part-time or leaving medicine altogether, but they feel trapped because of student loan, debt, conflict of interest policies. Non-competes things of that nature. And the concern that making a change might actually make things worse. And many doctors who feel trapped in medicine have considered going part-time or leaving to find better balance as spouses, as parents, as physicians, but they just can't seem to pull the trigger on making that decision. So what these doctors and I contend really every doctor needs is physician freedom. This is exactly what we're going to teach you how to find in our upcoming masterclass called the three pillars to physician freedom.

How physicians can practice medicine because they want to, and not because they have to. So if you want to learn how to stop self-sacrificing yourself and to learn how to find the personal and financial freedom that you need to practice medicine, however you want. However you define that. Join us for our three pillars to physician freedom masterclass by visiting the physician philosopher.com/three pillars. That's the word? Three T H R E pillars, P I L L a R S. Or you can click the link. That's in the show notes description on the podcast player you're listening to right now. So let's get into this today's thought, is this, if you want to answer life's toughest questions and dilemmas, you have to ask the right question. So for those of you that don't know, I'm a big music fan. I've got a pretty eclectic taste in music.

So you are just as likely to hear me listen to Mary J Blige as you are for me to listen to John Mayer or Ben rector. And speaking of which I've actually been on a huge Ben rector kick lately, and Ben rector is awesome. I just love listening to music. I listen to music, doing everything, whether it's taking a shower or working out or driving. One of my favorite things to do is to drive down the interstate with the windows down. And I am totally that obnoxious guy that listens to music loudly in his truck as he's driving around. And I'm not sorry about it. It's one of my favorite things to do. So it's not for you. It's for me, but I am a big Ben rector fan and I was driving to work recently for night shift. This song by Ben rector came on that I just hadn't really ever listened to the first part of the song, but it's called like the world is going to end.

And I was listening to this going into work. I was working actually my last week of nights. It was my last shift of night ever, which was pretty cool. 35. I'm probably never going to work nights again. I'm hanging it up early in my career on the night shift schedule, but I've learned that I really want to master my schedule instead of letting my schedule master me. So I found that most people I know including myself for really a long, long time are just trying to keep their heads above water. They live life by going through the motions, their schedules are always busy and there's always things that need to get done. And this is really one of the challenges, right? So it's lead to a life where we look up 20 years later and we realized that all this stuff that seemed to happen automatically and without really considering where our life was going.

And it wasn't very intentional, basically what our counters constantly determined where we need to be. It often seems like we have little control of our time. And that's one of the things I hear from people the most is I just don't have enough time, which is an interesting thing, right? Because we all have the same 24 hours in the day. So how do people who seem to get it all done, do that. And this is the big reason why I started to talk so much about the hell yes policy, which we discussed in episode 20. So we'll link that up in the show notes. If you want to check that out for those that aren't familiar, I'm basically a big believer in saying no to anything that doesn't make you say, hell yes. And this requires some clarity that most of us don't often have about what matters most to you.

What makes you say hell? Yes. And I found that many doctors feel stuck or trapped about their life decisions, whether that's at work or at home, because they aren't clear on this. And it's really not because they don't know what to do or because they're not smart enough. And we're talking about doctors here, right? But because they aren't asking the right questions to get clear on what matters most to them. And so in this episode, I want to talk to you about two of my favorite questions to consider. One of them was inspired. And actually we're talking about a few, I think by that Ben rector song, like the world is going to end. And so I affectionately call it Tuesday tests based on that. So we'll get there. And just a second, but this question about the Tuesday test comes from that song, like the world's going to end.

And it starts with this amazing question at the very beginning of the song that says it found out the world was going to end on Tuesday morning, what would people do? What would everybody do? And when you think about that, he continues to point out something that's pretty profound that we all recognize. And this isn't far from our world and medicine, but it's funny how the thought of the world ending on Tuesday morning can make something seem real important. And other things seem worthless too. So this is how he goes on to describe all the things he would do if he was living like the world was going to end next Tuesday. So that's the first question. As you're listening to this, I want you to really consider what would you do if the world was going to end on Tuesday morning, take a second, think about it.

And isn't it amazing how death or the end of things can really bring things into focus death. Oftentimes it's the greatest teacher. Now, if we aren't careful here, what happens is this just leads straight to hedonism. And so I don't want you going out and eat ice cream for every meal or a buying a Lamborghini Huracan. Actually, if you buy the Lamborghini Huracan, that's fine. Just make sure that you come pick me up in North Carolina. We'll go for a drive and maybe head out to the tail of dragon if you're a car person, cause that's not too far from me, but all kidding aside, hedonism is not really what we're getting at here. That's not the point of the question. The point of the question is to point out what is important and what is not. And that's going to look different for all of us.

In other words, what are your biggest priorities in life? And sometimes when I'm coaching alpha clients in alpha coaching experience, I'll ask this question in a couple of other ways too. So one way is to bring them through the three kinder questions. And now I've talked at length on this, about the money meets medicine podcast, which you should check out if you haven't, by the way, the basic idea here is that it progressively asks three questions. The first is if you're financially independent, you won the lottery. If money didn't matter, what would your life look like? What would you do? Would you keep going to work? Would you change it up? Would you stop working? What things would you buy? What things would you spend your time doing if money didn't matter and you could do whatever you wanted in your life. That is the first question.

And this exercise is really great for thinking through your priorities in life. And then you step into the next question is, you know, you're going to die in the next five to 10 years could be day one of your five or the last day of your 10, knowing that information and knowing that you're not financially independent, money does matter. Now, what would you do if the world wasn't gonna end next Tuesday morning, but it was going to end in the next five to 10 years. How would you live your life? And the final question is basically you go to the doctor and you find out you're really sick. You're going to die tomorrow, looking back, what are you really glad that you accomplished? What are you sad or what do you regret that you didn't accomplish and think about it from a very large, big perspective lens.

How does that change things for you? What are the thoughts that come up when you're faced with your own mortality? And this exercise is actually really great for getting clear on your priorities in life. And I often do this as a group exercise for our medical students and my financial literacy and resilience education program, flair I'll point out. Isn't it interesting that after they go through this, you list all of these things that are important to you. And yet some of the things that we spend the most money on aren't even on that list. And that's the point of all of this, right? Is that if left to our own devices, we, as humans are not very intentional, it's just not something that we're really good at. And so this exercise or the Tuesday test, anything like this is really pretty good at bringing clarity.

And if you want to read this questions in full I'll, put them in the show notes for this episode on the physician philosopher. So you can find [email protected] slash TPP 39 for episode 39, that you're listening to right now and I'll link the kinder questions. If you want to go through those, actually think it's a great exercise, you know, get a bottle of wine or a beer or two and go and talk to your significant other, your partner about this. And it really is a helpful exercise. So other times I'll ask a different question, right? Which is a similar to the Tuesday test. But you know, I used to call this thing, the tombstone test, which is the idea that like, Hey, when you die, do you want written on your tombstone? Like people were like, oh, I just don't really know what I want in life.

I'm having a hard time making a decision about work about this, about that. And I'll just kind of bring it into clarity because death is often the greatest teacher. And I'll say what you want and on your tombstone, do you want that, Hey, you worked one extra shift or that you wrote that one paper, or you attended that one extra committee meeting, likely not. You probably want something on there. It says, and you're dedicated mom or dad, spouse, physician, whatever the roles are in your life that are meaningful to you. The identities that you carry that matter most, depending on your beliefs, going to have different things on that. And I would absolutely want something on mine that said dedicated husband, father, physician, and child of God. I'm a Christian God-fearing man. Like I'd want that to go on my tombstone. The truth is that when we bring mortality into the picture, the focus can't be ignored.

And your tombstone is probably going to read something different, right? You have different identities, different things that are important to you. And I think this rings particularly true for physicians because we see death all of the time. In fact, as an anesthesiologist, I believe that part of our job is basically to bring them as close to death as they will be outside of their actual event of death. And when I'm working nights or second shift, like I alluded to like, you know, I just finished my last week of nights. I saw a lot of morbidity, a lot of mortality and not to get off topic, but it was when I started getting numb to death that I really actually started getting concerned because I actually remember writing a post about this on the physician philosophers probably three years ago now. But in that post, I tell a story about, and I talk to my residents about this story all the time, innovating somebody when I was at the beach.

And so basically I was, you know, reading the lion, the witch and the wardrobe to my two kids. My third wasn't born yet. And so we're up in the beach house, just reading the lion, the witch and the wardrobe and my little boy here's this ambulance go behind us. And he loves ambulance since he was about gosh, two or three at the time. And so he wanted to check it out, but it kind of zipped by, and didn't really think anything about it. And so about five minutes later, I hear a helicopter landing behind the house, which is really weird, but I didn't think about it. There's a big field behind the house. So of course he wants to check it out. So we go out back, we check it out. And what I see is that the ambulance that zipped by earlier is now parked on this road right next to the field and helicopters landing in the field.

Someone's getting air evaced and I am staring, I'm watching this and nothing's happening, nothing's going on? And so I actually start to realize, oh, something's wrong? Like this has taken too long to get the patient out of the truck and into the helicopter. And so I decided to put on my shoes now picture this, right? I'm at the beach. I look like a beach bomb. I've got Wakeforest, baseball, athletic shorts on a white t-shirt. I haven't shaved in two weeks. And I got like my loafers on and I walked to this guy, that's conducting traffic across the street and he's got his hands up conducting traffic. And I say, Hey, I'm sure that you don't need my help. And in case you do, I'm a physician I'm happy to help you. Should you need it? And the guy says, oh, actually, they're having a tough time putting a breathing tube in on the back of the truck.

I said, I'm an anesthesiologist. Would you like me to help you? And he said, yeah, that sounds great. Which is an interesting thing. Because sometimes in these environments you've ever been in them, they will actually turn you down for help because they don't know who you are. They can't really verify it or prove it. And so I walked to the back of the truck, again, still dressed like a beach bum. And the younger paramedic says, now we're good. We don't need your help. And I looked in the back of the truck and there's this guy he's got salt and pepper hair, tons of experience, clearly in his sixties. And he's trying to intubate this patient in the back of the truck and he's having a really hard time. And so I look at him and I say, Hey man, your friend here saying that you don't need my help.

I'm an anesthesiologist. I'd be happy to come help you put that breathing tube in if you need it. And he said, come save me, please come save me. And so I hop in the back of the truck and I get the story. You know, it's a good in twenties, fell from third story balcony, unfortunately. And I ended up putting the breathing tube in. And during the time that I'm assessing this and getting this story, I recognize that the patient has blown peoples and we're at the beach. And I'm innovating somebody in the back of the truck who is in their early to mid twenties, who was clearly going to die. And I remember thinking, at least I hope that he makes it to the hospital and possibly an organ donor. So if we can get him stable enough, maybe he can donate his organs to save someone else's life.

And that's kind of the thought that I had at the time, like his organs need oxygen. So he can potentially be an organ donor someday. And maybe in some way, shape or form, I've helped someone else's life through this experience. But the point is, I just kind of went back inside after I intubated the person. And I just went back to reading the book that I was reading to my kids as if pretty much nothing really happened. And it was really strange as I thought about this later, because I felt numb to pain. I felt numb to the pain that I should have around someone's death in their young twenties. Now some will say, that's the training kicking in, right? If you get emotional, while you take care of somebody, you can't really take care of them at all. And I'd say, I'm pretty good about compartmentalizing stuff.

That's not ever been an issue for me, but I'll also openly admit that I'm a really passionate, emotional guy. Like my little boy is definitely an impasse. He cries a ton and he comes by it, honestly, because I cry more than my wife does. If there's a commercial on that is tear-jerker, I'm going to cry. If they're sweet moments in life, like I'm going to cry. It's just how I'm wired. Even when I'm reading, I'm actually marrying my brother-in-law and his fiance shortly after I recorded this episode, when I was reading, like what I prepared for officiating that wedding for them, I was tearing up. My wife's like, you know, are you gonna make it through the service? So I'm just an emotional guy. It's just how I'm wired. I always happen yet. I got to the point in medicine where I'd seen so many bad things happen to people.

I really had lost touch with my humanity. And there's a name for this, right? It's compassion, fatigue, or secondary PTSD. I wouldn't even get sad about stuff that was extremely sad and not something that normal humans are meant to see. And so they started to concern me. And I think that in the end, I realized that this should bother me. And that death really is the great equalizer that no matter how many times you see it, the heaviness and the gravity of the situation are always there. And for me, after I found my humanity again, I began to start asking myself some of these tough questions, right? What would I do if the world was going to end next Tuesday morning, what do I want on my tombstone? What would I do differently? If I knew that I was going to die in the next five to 10 years, am I really going to get upset about not recording that one podcast or that I forgot that one social media post that I meant to put up or that I didn't go to that one committee or write that one paper?

I mean, obviously no. What I'd regret is missing my kids when they're young and still think that I'm cool because Lord knows that's not going to last very long. So they still think I'm cool right now they're 10, seven, and four. And they wanna hang out with your dad all the time. All they want is my availability. That's all they want. They want me to put my cell phone down, hang out with them, go jump on the trampoline or play soccer or shoot baskets, or go to the park or go fishing or play golf. They just want my availability. They don't want anything else for me. I know I'd regret not hanging out with them. So I'd miss not coaching the rapid soccer teams. I'm coaching Wesley on his soccer team. It's been a ton of fun. And my wife is coaching our oldest on her team.

And I'd missed seeing those games. Like I know I'd missed that. And so I would miss playing golf with my friends. Like I can think of tons and tons of things that I would miss. And so those of you that are business owners that are entrepreneurs, you know that if you go part-time and medicine, that sounds great. But then your business, especially if it's an online business will own every second of your day, if you let it owning your business will take every hour of your day. So I really wanted to get clear and started to realize that these questions, what would you do if the world was ending Tuesday morning, what do you want written on your tombstone? What would you do if money didn't matter. If you're going to die in the next five to 10 years, if you're going to die tomorrow, what would your thoughts be about the legacy that you're leaving?

And when I really think about that, it brings a ton of clarity. Another thing that I would really miss is not questioning the status quo in medicine to make it better for all of the doctors and the patients that they're going to take care of that come behind us. I'm no longer willing to sit on the sideline and to allow this to happen. And to allow us to just continue down this path that leads to physicians. You feel trapped and burned out and worse at times. This is the deeper purpose behind everything that we do with the physician philosopher, to change medicine by empowering one doctor at a time to have the personal financial freedom that they need to practice medicine because they want to, and not because they have to. And if you attended the financial freedom bootcamp lately, you saw that. So you saw on those two days how important it is to have the financial freedom that you need to practice medicine, however you want.

And if you miss those replays, they're inside the physician, philosopher's Facebook group. So make sure you join. That's a physician only group, but it is there to watch if you missed it. So on this episode, I hope that you will stop and consider these questions. What would you do if the world was going to end on Tuesday morning? What if you're going to die tomorrow? What would you want on your tombstone someday death? It turns out whether we like it or not can be one of the greatest teachers, but only if we ask the kind of questions that get us to be honest about our answers. And don't forget if you want to take a deeper dive into how to find the personal and financial freedom, you need to have the gas to put in the car to get to that ideal life. If you will make sure to sign up for the three pillars to physician freedom masterclass, where we'll take a deeper dive in how physicians can practice medicine because they want to.

And not because they have to and to sign up for that, you can go to the physician philosopher.com/three pillars at T H R E E P I L L a R S. Or click the link. That's in the description of the podcast player that you're listening to this on right now. So I hope that this episode was helpful for you to really get some clarity and to really ask the right questions. Because I think it's a really important thing to recognize that you're only going to get the best answers. If you ask the best questions, you're only going to get answers that are truly helpful. If you ask the right questions. And so life is all about asking the right questions. And if you can do that, you can handle some of life's toughest decisions and dilemmas by getting clarity on what matters most to you so that you can start to say no to anything that doesn't make you say, hell yes. So today's thought is this. If you want the answer to life's toughest decisions into dilemmas, you have to ask the right questions. So until next time my friends start before you're ready. Start by starting start now. I'll see you next week.

My dad, Dr. Jimmy Turner is a physician first personal client. It's blogger. You know, I've coached for doc. However, he is not your physician or your life. Could you also, isn't a financial advisor, financial planner, or anything discussed in this podcast is for general education and entertainment purposes. I'm coaching is not a substitute for therapy, medicine or medical treatment. However, if you're a doctor looking for a life coach, you can reach out to our, my dad at editor at the physician philosopher guy.

TPP

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