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The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP 43: Are You a Physician Philosopher?

You are most likely here because you are a Physician who feels trapped in medicine or you are just doing “okay,” but things could be better. Life probably isn’t exactly where you want it to be. 

Larry Keller

This is where my journey started and the road hasn’t always been an easy one. In today’s episode, learn how I overcame obstacles and negativity to finally have freedom within medicine. And find out the number one thing you can always control to determine what your next step might be on your journey.

Today You’ll Learn

  • Whenever you feel like there are no options, always remember that everything is a choice
  • You are brave, smart, and strong
  • YOU get to decide what other people’s words mean
  • And more!

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Where exactly are you on your journey to freedom? Do you feel like you often don't have a choice? What if I told you that you always have a choice? Keep listening to determine where you are and what your next step might be in this journey. This is The Physician Philosopher podcast. I'm Dr. Jimmy Turner, an 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 43 of The Physician Philosopher podcast, where we take an uncurated and unapologetic look into physician life, money, and mindset. Today's thought is this. Whenever you feel powerless and without options, realize that you always have a choice. Everything is a choice. There's a saying in the online entrepreneur space that you can either be judged or ignored. What does this mean? Well, it means that basically your platform is either big enough that people will have an opinion on you and what you're saying. When you put it out there, they're going to either love it or hate it. Or you're so small that the reason you aren't being judged, that you're not getting the haters and the trolls behind keyboards is because you're being ignored. You're just small. And that's fine. We all start off small. So, there's nothing wrong with being small.

But at some point in your journey, you transition to being out there enough that your platform is large enough that people are going to email you and tell you, "Man, that one episode, it really resonated with me." And people are also going to get behind a keyboard and say some really hateful things. In fact, the first time this ever happened to me, people said some really bad stuff like that I should kill myself, that I wrote like a sophomore. And it's this one particular post that just got people riled up. And it honestly is part of the reason why I started getting behind a microphone. It got really bad. And because I hadn't really mastered my mindset at this point, it really got to me. I lost sleep over this. It really hurt my feelings. I heard a lot because I've historically been a huge people pleaser. And I was like, oh my gosh, I wrote a post that really made people upset. And I didn't understand back then that I can't really control other people's feelings.

Although, intrinsically that's just true. I don't have that special ability. That would be a pretty incredible superpower, right? As I've taken this journey, I've realized that there is a place where you no longer care what other people think. And this is a completely different echelon of existence, a different way of being. You become a bit of a stoic, maybe a physician philosopher, if you will. And that's what I want to talk about in this episode. The point at which doctors transition from feeling trapped in medicine to finding some freedom through their mindset. And we spent a lot of time talking about money, and we're going to talk about that a little bit today too. But the ability to say no, and to realize that everything in your life, everything is a choice. Think about it and give me an example of something that's not a choice and we can sit down and we can talk about how that's probably not true. And actually you'll come to the realization on your own.

This journey for many of us though, not all of us starts with being a physician who feels trapped in medicine. They feel they don't have option. For others, and I hear this all the time, they're doing all right, but they want to go from good to great. In fact, I get asked that all the time, just a little side tangent, "Hey, I'm not burned out. I'm not really feeling trapped in medicine. Is coaching for me?" I always find that really interesting because actually coaching is a wonderful way to really go from enjoying your life to just having an amazing life, so it works for everybody regardless of where you are. But there are a lot of doctors who feel trapped in medicine. And that was definitely how I felt for some time. And that's why I talk so much about it and why I try to reach out helpless people.

And I realized that a part of this was due to the fact that I was upside down in student loan debt. I had a couple of hundred thousand dollars in student loans, plus the car loans. I had 300 grand in debt plus the mortgage. And I had this thought in my head that I couldn't afford to do anything else, that I was trapped in medicine to some extent. And it was really during my fellowship I started learning a ton about personal finance. I was really dug into this a lot. And specifically personal finance for physicians after I got hoodwinked by the financial industry a time or two and had several products pitched at me. And that was really the impetus for starting The Physician Philosopher. I've been pitched a whole life policy. I was screwed out of a disability insurance policy by different people, by the way. And the CEO of the firm that my medical school brought in to talk to us about personal finance got thrown in jail for fraud in the middle of my residency. So, it was a rough introduction to the financial world.

And I've really come to learn that outside of the fraud, that's been an exception, this sort of conflicted treatment around the rest of the stuff about being pitched products and not being told what's best for you is more the norm than the exception. So, you know what I did? I read all the books. I read all the blogs. I listened to podcasts. I started listening to audible books. I realized pretty quickly a couple of things. One, I've made a ton of mistakes, including the disability insurance mistake and my student loans ratcheting up by 150% when I was in training. But the second was that despite all of these amazing books, blogs, and podcasts that were out there, there was still a huge need for financial literacy. And in particular, for helping doctors who felt trapped in medicine figure out how to find the financial freedom they were looking for to practice medicine on their terms. And so, I set out on that journey.

In fact, the OG of you that are out there that have listened to The Physician Philosopher since it launched in November 2017 and read the blog posts since then, you'll know that one of the original taglines on the website was fighting burnout with financial independence. And that may sound a little bit different, but the message has always pretty much been the same. Helping doctors who feel trapped in medicine find freedom through their money and their mindset. And that's what I want to talk about because I really focused on the financial independence side of this for so long and left out the mindset piece. And now, this explains why I've got two podcasts, right? I've got a top 5% podcast over at Money Meets Medicine with Ryan Inman. If you haven't listened to that, check it out. And this one's very quickly sneaking up there too. But I'd later find out that the mindset piece was just as important or maybe even arguably more important in the financial piece I've been focusing on for so long.

And the reason why I got forced to do that was because I started burning out early in my career in medicine myself. I'd later find out that in the background of all this, I probably had a smoldering graves' disease diagnosis. And I got passed up for a leadership position that I really wanted in the residency. And this didn't happen once. It happened four times. And it was at this point that I felt really completely trapped in medicine. And when I say that, what I mean is I felt undervalued. I felt unappreciated. I was overworked. I was unheard. I made some suggestions for changes and I was told this is the way that it has to be. And I'm an opinionated outspoken person, that's why I'm not shy about getting behind a microphone. And in my mind, I'd done everything right, only to be passed up for this position. So, it was at this point that I felt like I didn't have any options. I didn't have a choice to change the culture of medicine and to shape our future doctors.

I just had to keep showing up for work. And even though I felt completely unappreciated, I didn't have a choice. And man, thinking back the number of hours I spent on my back porch with a beer in my hand, having conversation with Kristen for hours on that back porch. I was burned out. I ended up getting depressed, becoming passively suicidal. And I was heading for a pretty dangerous place pretty quickly. And so, I doubled down. You know what I did? I doubled down on The Physician Philosopher because I was going to create my own freedom. I've always been a trailblazer. I'm not going to let somebody or something or some situation determined I can't do what I feel like my life's mission and purpose is, which is to change the culture of medicine. And I do it through helping teach other doctors how to find freedom for medicine too.

But that active voice, man, it got me some trouble in this space where I didn't hold any punches about how I felt and what I thought the problems and solutions were. And so, I started to experience what everyone else, who puts themselves out there, experiences. Not everyone likes what I was saying. So some were confused and thought that I was teaching doctors to retire early, which is never been in the part of my message by the way. I want doctors to practice medicine because you want to not because you have to. So basically, financial independence work optional as Sarah Catherine Gutierrez at Aptus would say. And others felt that money was, it's just too taboo. We got to leave this to the professionals. After all, they went to school to get training in personal finance, which is funny because they get trained in some of it and then they go to work for a company who trains them in how to sell products.

That's what they really get sold and taught how to do. I'm not going to trust the same professionals who have a long and steady track record of acting like lions, feeding on doctors who are more like gazelles. And after listening to story after story of people getting burned by financial advisors and taking advantage of doctors, I wasn't going to be sound anymore. So when I decided to keep speaking up anyway, this is when I got my first taste of freedom in why I'm bringing all this up. Because for a long time, I felt like I didn't have a choice. I was stuck and there's nothing that I could do. And that people were going to make opinions and questions about me. And that I am a person who wants to trailblaze.

I do not want be reactive to things. I want to be proactive and to create the change. I don't want to sit here and be like, oh yeah, 20 years later. Yeah. I totally wanted to do that, but I didn't do it because I was afraid of doing things differently than we've always done them. But for a while, I felt trapped. I feel like I didn't have a choice. I just kept being told like, "Hey, this is the status quo. There's nothing you can do about it, Jimmy. Just deal with it. Just suck it up. Be a good soldier. Keep putting one foot in front of the other." And when I decided to keep speaking up anyway, this is when I found that first taste of freedom. It wasn't from the financial freedom that I thought I was going to get through The Physician Philosopher after working on that for two years.

It was when I decided I was going to speak up regardless of what people think. It was so freeing. I was refusing to let the system stifle me or to force my silence. And at that point, I was no longer going to sit idly by and watch this career burnout hardworking doctors. And at that point, I decided that included me. I wasn't just going to stick up for everyone else anymore. I was going to stick up for me because I never done that in my life. I'm a huge advocate for other people. And for the first time in my life, I was like, you know what? I'm going to choose me. And that's not selfish. We're talking about that in a second. It's not selfish. It was at that point that I became a physician philosopher.

It's why I named the site hilariously. But for a long time, it felt like a pipe dream. But when I decided I was no longer going to let others dictate how I think and how I feel, I reclaim my power in my own life and refuse to give it away to anyone else. And that's exactly what I want for all of you who listened to this podcast and for those of you who take a deeper dive by coming into the Alpha Coaching Experience. I want you to experience that freedom that we often give to other people. It's one of the most common things that I talk to clients about. But they'll say, "Oh, hey, I had this happen to me. And I just really felt this way when they said X, Y, and Z." And I'm like, why did you feel that way? Because they said X, Y, and Z.

I say, no, you felt that way because you made what they said mean something. If you've decided that you're not going to care what other people think, and the example I often give in coaching is, if someone points out like, "Hey, Jimmy. I really hate your purple hair." I'm not going to get mad about that, right? Because I don't have purple hair. It's just factually untrue. But when someone says, "Hey, I didn't think you did a good job today." We take it personally. And what if that wasn't true? What if you did a great job? You did the best that you possibly could. You could look at it the same way and say, "No, I disagree. I don't have purple hair. I disagree. I did do a good job. I did try my best." We get to decide what we make other people's words mean to us.

And when we don't, when we let their words impact us without having that filter, we've just given them all of the power. This happens all the time. I hear so many doctor say, "I don't have a choice." Or, "It is enough to me," when they're thinking about making changes. Or my favorite, "It's just the way that it is." And you know what? You feel when you think you don't have a choice, you feel trapped. You feel like you don't have any options. And ultimately, you feel powerless. You've given all of your power over to how you feel to the hospital or your boss or the insurance company or your kid. We do this with our kids. I cannot tell you the number of times. I was actually telling a story the other day in one of the coaching calls.

My [Anna Ruth 00:12:05] was losing her first tooth. She's super young for doing that. She's four. But then, it says she has a mouth of a six year old. She's losing teeth. And the first two is coming out. And this thing is literally just hanging by a thread. And any of you that have kids, you can relate to this story. But I'm trying to pull this tooth out. And every time I get her to open her mouth, A, she won't open her mouth, B, when she finally does, she sticks her tongue out and she pushes my hand out of her mouth so I can't pull the tooth out. And so finally, I was getting frustrated. I was getting upset. And I was letting my four year old control how I felt. And it was just funny because that's the beautiful thing about coaching is that you constantly have to keep working on these things and having this constant reminder that we're all having a human experience and that we don't always get it right.

And that day, I didn't get it right. I got mad at my four year old and let her control my feelings because she didn't want me to hurt her pulling her tooth out. She wasn't being unreasonable. She was trying to avoid pain. I probably do the same thing all the time. My point is that we don't have to give our power over to other people, whether that's your boss or the insurance company, or your kid in that situation, or whoever you're letting control you and how you feel. You always have a choice. You always have options. And it's like the doctor we talked about in episode 38, I think it was, who was getting flogged and working 80 hours a week in the unit. And for so long, he felt like he didn't have a choice. He'd actually asked to go part-time before or to cut back.

And they said, "No, I'm sorry. We can't afford it." And we coached him on why he felt like he didn't have a choice in terms of after that meeting, he said, "Oh, there's nothing I can do about it. They said, I can't go part-time." And it's not the part-time part. That's up to them. But the, I can't do anything about it part, that's up to you. And so, we coached him on it. We talked to him about why he felt like he didn't have a choice, why he couldn't do anything about it. And in the end, it came down to feeling like he couldn't afford it financially. Going part-time might mean he boost his income elsewhere. He might need to decrease his savings rate or cut some expenses that his family has grown accustomed to. But the question was never whether he had a choice or not, because you always have a choice.

He could do any of those three things and afford the pay card. You could move to a different house. You could stop paying for certain things in your life that you pay for. You always have a choice. The question is whether choice A is better than choice B. So choice A is staying in 80 hour work week, or choice B, quitting medicine or going part-time, finding a different solution that pays you less money. And what I like to walk people through when they get to this situation like, "Ah, I don't know how to choose between choice A and choice B," is looking at the worst case scenario. You check it out and you're like, okay, worst case scenario in choice A, I stay and I keep getting burned out in medicine, working 80 to 100 hours week and my family pays the price because I'm never home.

Or choice B is I quit medicine and we have to figure out the financial aspect of things. And if you can't accept either the changes required in either of the worst case scenarios, you have your choice. You need to choose the one that you can actually deal with. And most of the time, not all the time, but most of the time, not being able to accept the worst case scenario is normally more of a mindset issue than a factual situation. Usually, you can actually get to the point where you can accept both. And if you can get to the place where you can accept the worst case scenario in situation A or situation B, that is the beautiful place where you just get to do what you want. You get to decide using your heart. You get to choose with your heart. So, we talked about all of that. And you know what he realized? It was actually an interesting conversation.

He realized that he actually could afford to quit. What he couldn't accept was staying in a job that forced him to work 80 hours a week every week and didn't get to see his family. You know what he did after feeling powerless and optionless walking into the program? A few weeks in, he walked into his boss' office and said he needed to cut back on hours. And you know what they did? They told him, "No, we can't afford it." Just like they did the time before. But this time, the beginning of that sentence, there's nothing that I could do, that part had changed. So he turned in his resignation because he did have a choice, even though he felt like he didn't in the beginning. And that's how so many of us feel. He did have a choice and he exercised that choice. And you know what, to follow up on that? His old job actually end up calling him back and saying, "Hey, do you mind come working some per diem shifts for us?" So he ended up working less at the same job anyway, or having that option at least.

I don't know if he's decided to do that or not. But my point is that he felt like he didn't have a choice and he had lots of choices. And we do that all the time. We set ourselves up in this situation where we feel like we don't have a choice. The point that I'm trying to make is that you always have a choice. And I highly encourage you to start choosing you and to start choosing your family. And this is a big one because when you do that, sometimes you're going to make choices that don't make sense to other people. When I started my career, for example, I was hammering out randomized controlled trials and doing a ton of didactic teaching. And I still do some of both of those things, but a whole lot less than I used to.

And I made it pretty clear to people like, hey, I'm not really interested in writing that paper. If you want to write it, you can be first author. I don't care anymore about this. It's just not a priority for me. Now, I'm happy to help when needed. But you're going to have to run that ship and be the captain of that ship now. I'm not going to do it anymore. And people can perceive that however they want. It might seem selfish to them. It might seem like you don't care about anything but you. It might seem like you don't care about medicine. But none of that's true. That's their interpretation of what those events mean if they decide to do that. And fortunately in my situation, none of that happened actually. My department and colleagues have been supportive. And that said, there are people out there that think that part-time doctors aren't real doctors. Oh gosh, you don't work 60 hours. You only work 40 hours in a week.

You only work 20. At what arbitrary number does it make you a real doctor by the way? It's total garbage. It makes no sense. If you work 40, are you less than a doctor than the person who works 50 or 60? Why don't you spend every hour of the day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the hospital? If you work less than that, you're not a real doctor, right? The ridiculousness of these arguments are hilarious. But they just go to show when you stretch their logic, that it doesn't really make sense. And you can choose to ignore it. And just to look at it like they're saying you have purple hair. It doesn't make you selfish. It doesn't make you less of a doctor. It does not mean you don't care about your patients. I still, to this day, love taking care of human beings.

I love helping human beings and taking care of them in their deepest, darkest moments. I really enjoy doing anesthesia. I love it. And I love working for my department. In fact, when I go to work now, it feels great. Because I'm working on my business outside of it. And when I go to work, it often feels like a break. It's something I really look forward to doing. I love doing it. And so, it's a great place to be where I'm now working because I want to, not because I have to anymore. I don't have to show up. I want to show up. Now, will people say or think some of those things? Yeah, they're going to. They sure will. And at that point, you'll experience the truth that you can either be judged or you can be ignored. But beyond that, if you can just realize that there's this place that you don't have to care about what other people think and that you get to decide what their words mean to you and what did they mean anything at all, that's a choice too.

Because everything is a choice. So, don't let anyone ever take your choices from you. As Christopher Robin would say, "You're braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think." You always have a choice. There's always a way out. It just requires you to believe and to be strong and to think. So, today's thought is this. Whenever you feel powerless and without options, realize that you always have a choice. Everything is a choice. It is time to start choosing you. 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 finance blogger, and a life coach for doctors. However, he is not your physician or your life coach. He also isn't a financial advisor, financial planner, or accountant. Anything discussed in this podcast is for general education and entertainment purposes only. Life coaching is not a substitute for therapy, medicine, or medical treatment. However, if you are a doctor looking for a life coach, you can reach out to my dad at [email protected]

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