One of the most common stories I hear talking with other Chiropractors is “the do-over”.
They graduated, started a career and a few years in they realized it wasn’t what they wanted. They move or reboot or start over. Many are so unsatisfied they leave the profession altogether.
But there also seems to be a good number who reboot.
And now they’re super happy.
Seriously, this path is so common I started to ask questions…a lot of questions. Why? Is it normal? Is it necessary? As in, do you have to fail first to succeed? Is this unique to chiropractic profession? Or does this happen more universally across professions?
And if it is common, why aren’t more people talking about it?
I certainly can’t answer any of those questions without talking about my own story. Upon graduation, I spent 6 months learning under an established and successful Chiropractor in rural western Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburgh. This was with the understanding that he and another DC would financially back the opening of my own practice.
I’ll spare the details, but the plan initially went great. In two years, I secured a loan and paid off the two investors. I had a steady business, large but manageable overhead and great assistant. However, two main problems arose. First, my collections were roughly 70% tied to one insurer. And one day, they changed their rules (as they are prone to do). The crux of their rules were to significantly limit patient visits. Suddenly, we were spending more time and resources trying to justify necessary care for patients while earning less and less. (If you want to hear more about this, check out Episode 65 of Full Body Fix Radio.)
The second problem was me.
I built a practice based on a system I wasn’t fully committed to. My background in sports medicine was my true area of interest. But what I built in PA was a general ‘wellness’ practice. I was trying to emulate my mentor’s practice and his success, but my heart wasn’t in it. It wasn’t “me”. It wasn’t “mine”.
All of this came to head when my marriage suddenly fell apart. Again, sparing the details, the end of that relationship also meant the end of my time in Western PA. I simply couldn’t stay. So I shut the practice down and started over.
Back To My Roots
When I thought about my next endeavor, I had two goals. First, I wanted to specialize working with athletes and active people. I craved connecting to like minded active folks of all levels and the seemingly universal motivation they have to get better faster. This aligned perfectly with where I was heading. A small overhead, gym-based practice was the obvious answer. Secondly, non-insurance based revenue. My experience working (for) insurance companies ensured the fact I would never put the fate of my patient’s health and my financial wellness in their hands ever again.
I field tested this a bit in New Jersey at two Crossfit locations and immediately felt a renewed sense of purpose and energy. I also started making little 2 minute YouTube videos that quickly got a lot of traction.
The response to these resources was the ‘a-ha’ moment I needed. I realized I could use my expertise in non-traditional way and create a mixed income model (see chart).
When Diane and I moved to San Francisco, I had a plan. Launch a legit condition specific rehab video program that I could sell in addition to opening a gym practice. A secondary goal was securing at least one Active Release Techniques Corporate Solutions (ARTCS) contract. These corporate wellness soft tissue contracts are awesome as a steady source of non-insurance based income. The combination of online income and ARTCS contracts would provide the stable base I needed and the freedom to slowly build the practice I wanted.
The plan worked! I launched the Full Body Fix video program in January of 2016 and it has steadily supplemented my income. That program also fueled my creative side and sprung side projects such as the podcast and growing social media channels, especially Instagram. I secured a 100% ‘cash’ only gym based practice in the heart of the city through a network of awesome docs that recognized my specialty as a huge asset. And by August 2018 I’ll have 4 hours of ARTCS contracts right here in the city.
Financially, I’ve doubled my take home income from my Pennsylvania days, while seeing patients less than half the hours per week. (Read that again…making twice as much, half the hours). But more than that, I’m happy. Previously, I was surviving but not thriving. And the balance I’ve created in my professional life transfers to my personal life. I’m happy…period. I have flexibility in my week to take on projects or hobbies with much more freedom than ever before.
Barriers to Change
I was interviewed for a podcast called “Clinic Gym Radio” by Dr. Satterlee and after telling this story he stopped and commented that it was remarkable how “unafraid of change” I was. I didn’t realize it until he said it, but it’s true. I’ve shifted my professional direction more than once. I started out as a collegiate Certified Athletic Trainer, but went back to Chiropractic College after 6 years of working in the field. I don’t think multiple professional changes prove I’m fickle or easily distracted, I just think I’m driven to feel fulfilled in my work.
This got me thinking, are there DCs (or other professionals) that are stuck in bad, unfulfilling situations that aren’t initialing a move because they are afraid of change?
And this got me asking another question (this post is all Socratic method, apparently): What are the main barriers to change?
Fear – What if it doesn’t work? What if I change and I’m still unhappy? What if I can’t make money doing it the new way?
Fear is probably the number one reason people get stuck in current situations. I totally get it. I had to put myself in a financially uncomfortable position for a few years in order to start over. It sucked. But the thought of slogging through even another month of my unhappy situation was worse. Did you notice, each fear starts with a “What if”? There’s a reason that “False Evidence Appearing Real” has become a popular acronym for FEAR. Because each of those ‘what ifs’ is an excuse. An excuse to see what is impossible versus the potential of what is possible. You might not succeed on the second try. I know DCs who took 3 or 4 tries to get it right. But they didn’t quit. And the ones I know are glad they didn’t.
Financial Capitol – “I don’t have the financial capitol to start over.”
In the short term, this is a legitimate concern. Financial hardship very well way accompany change. It definitely did for me. Feeling reliant on help from others in that time was extremely uncomfortable. But ultimately, this is how I look at the $$$ issue: How effective is your current business if you’re unhappy? How much more effective could a practice you’re passionate about be? Would you rather wallow in current mediocrity long term and be unhappy or get financially uncomfortable for a short term knowing you’re pursuing your passion?
Outside Expectations – “I can’t move away from my current location” or “Someone expects me to practice a certain way.”
At some point in your life, you need to decide who you are living and working for? Someone else’s expectations? That will lead to chasing your tail, frustration and unhappiness. Don’t get me wrong, this change we are talking about is not inherently selfish. And I can prove it. Think for a minute about your energy, your level of service, and your attitude on days at your work when you’re unhappy. Your energy sucks, and everyone can feel it. Which means the people you are serving, the patients paying for your care are actually getting jipped. On the other hand, if you’re serving in a state of chosen happiness, practicing the way you want…your energy is great and your service is well worth the money your patients are paying for. By the way, if you’ve switched to a out-of-pocket model, you’d better be worth it!
Other Practice Transformation Stories
I reached out to survey a few of my friends in the Chiropractic profession who also “Started Over” to get their thoughts. The diversity in their stories helps prove you can take your expertise in any direction you want.
From Pain Clinic to Gym Clinic
NYC based DC, Dr. Carl Russo was in a pain management clinic owned by a relative and was unsatisfied with both the practice model, and the lack of motivation in the patients there. He now treats athletes out of multiple gym locations and loves it because the athletes are motivated, they “work hard, get better results because they are trying to get back to the activities they love.”
From Shared Space to Solo Functional Medicine
Dr. Kurt Perkins was in a shared space in Colorado that was heading in the same direction as he felt pulled toward. The light bulb moment for him was his passion for Functional Medicine and he has gone out on his own to create a unique model around FM. He now feels like he can help people who have gone everywhere and tried everything and is quickly becoming one of the most sought out doctors in his area. “My style of practice now is so much more flexible, as I can do consultation and check-ups via Skype or email, but my patients also respect my family time. I’m not in ’emergency’ chiropractic anymore so when I leave the office, it’s both physical and mental and I’m fully present with my family.”
From Traditional Partnership to Serial Entrepreneurship
When his side hustle turned into a full fledged, profitable supplement company and online business, Dr. Anthony Gustin realized he could make an impact on the world outside of the office completely while still leveraging his expertise. He’s designed a life he loves and can work from anywhere, often traveling to be inspired while still thriving professionally. “I feel like I’m constantly growing and learning new things while helping more people than I could have ever imagined.”
Build A Badass Business – Diane’s less-than scripted podcast will definitely make you rethink your work.
John Acuff – Do Over – Hilarious satirist turned career advice author with my favorite book on the topic.
Full Body Fix Radio – Ep. 85 on Starting Over
Do you have a “Starting Over” Story? I’d love to hear it. Share it in the comments below!
Yours in Health,
Stop chasing pain and wasting your time! Snag my complete Video Rehab Program The Full Body Fix and take $10 off with a subscriber only coupon and grab my Free Warm Up Manual while you’re at it!
Last modified: August 6, 2018