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9/11 Anniversary of Independence Day

Do you remember where you were six years ago, yesterday?

I do.

Six years ago, like today, I was on the road.

I was getting ready to speak to a breakout audience of the Medical Association of Kentucky’s Annual meeting and just stepped off an elevator onto the lobby floor of a Lexington hotel when my phone rang.

“Are you all right,” Jane asked, “Everyone here is fine, we’re all home.”

“Of course,” I replied, “why shoudn’t I be?” or anyone else be I wondered. Why weren’t the kids in school?

Then she told me. I found a television at the lobby bar and realized, with everyone else in that hotel, with everyone else in America, our nation was under siege and we were at war.

Because so many scheduled speaker for the meeting found themselves stranded in airports, I was asked to give an extended general session… and use a bit of humor to try to cheer an otherwise humorless day.

With my return flight cancelled, I got one of the last rental cars out of Lexington, and drove home to South Carolina.

Shortly after 9/11, I resigned from my practice of surgery to start a full time physician education business as a speaker. When many professional speakers were forced to get “real jobs” because the market dropped out from under the speaking business, I started one.

I formally gave notice of my resignation to my multi-specialty group on my birthday, October, 31. And was fully independent of practice income as of January 1, 2002.

My colleagues at the hospital mainly thought I was nuts. Probably some still do. Leave a surgical practice and the assurance of steady, (albeit diminishing reimbursement from third party payers), income to “speak” for a living?

My best friend from college and medical school told me full professors of medicine only made $1,500 from speeches for drug company sponsored programs.

How could I keep my children in private school? Make my two mortgage payments? Eat something other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? he asked.

“Can’t anybody see… what I see?” I asked.

Jane said, “Go for it. You’re not happy with what’s happened in medicine, We’ve got some savings, if things don’t work out, the worst thing that can happen is you’ll practice surgery again.”I love my wife. Her faith in my ability to succeed exceeded my own that September. She, as usual, was right about the choice.

Change brings fear and danger but also opportunity and promise. Let me tell you, my decision to take a leap of faith was VERY scary. But I guess I just chose opportunity and promise over fear and danger.

Man alive! — does this feels good. No, it feels GREAT! Freed of the yoke of stagnant opportunities by third party payers, governmental interference, loss of autonomy, shrinking reimbursement, inane rules and regulations, guidelines and mandates, I have never been more free and unencumbered. My horizons are limited only by my imagination. I am unlimited.

I suppose we all are unlimited, really. But if we don’t recognize this, then we are most assuredly limited. I didn’t fully know then, what I know, and live, now. Everyday.

But now, I have known my children in a way that otherwise would have been quite impossible. I have lunch with my wife, (before I rarely even ate lunch), almost everyday. One mortgage is now paid in full, the other will be in less than two years. My two oldest children are in, (expensive), colleges and my youngest is still in private school. And we eat our share of protein, (steak and salmon), often. (I’ve also discovered I’m allergic to peanuts, so absolutely no PB&J for me!)

I help literally tens of thousands of “healthcare dots” in the complex and frustrating ecosystem of healthcare system annually. I have empowered clients and customers to pick up MILLIONS of dollars in revenue third party payers would otherwise be content to silently keep from dedicated individuals and organizations that take care of people every day and night, every day of the year. I have more friends and acquaintances over the last six years in the 43 states I’ve traveled to to speak than I knew in sixteen years of practice.

Only last night, I ate dinner with friends I made here in Memphis when I last spoke at the VA Hospital. I miss my patients, but know I’ve made the best choice. And I’m not afraid of making choices anymore.

Fear of change, especially uninvited change, can cause a flight or fight response. We can “hunker in the bunker” or rise up against the demons of fear. Strong winds can knock us over but with upraised wings can allow us to soar.

Choose to raise your wings and face the wind.

Fly in the face of “common sense” if you sense uncommon opportunity. Relinquishing dreams to merely survive in a world of progressively diminishing reward is an eternal death.

What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that could happen? What’s most likely to happen?

Can you live with the worst case scenario?

Can you live with the most likely scenario if you choose NOT to change?

Is that really living?

When the world is falling apart around us, when we’re buffeted by the whirlwinds of change, there is hidden opportunity. Seek it. Embrace the change. Look for the extraordinary that clear thought and bold action will bring into your grasp that the “ordinary” can’t, or won’t, recognize.

Overcome the paralysis of fear and don’t prolong leaving your flag at half mast.

Celebrate your courage and revel in the audacity of your own independence on 9/11.

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