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Practice Development | Mar/Apr '14

Laboris Gloria Ludi

Millennials hitting the workforce can find it hard to catch a break during the worst economic downslide since the Great Depression. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that these losses amount to about 9% of annual earnings initially.1 Surviving in a recession will test even the most stalwart psyche.

Recently, I met this statistic head-on at a buddy’s wedding. My tablemates, most of whom were medical schoolmates, seemed to share a romantic sense of the notion of “just getting by.” And believe me when I say that some of them were real “gunners”—that is, a person prone to excessive use of different-colored highlighters, meticulous codification of notebooks, excessive ambition, and possession of the need to exceed minimum requirements when using complicated words to make him- or herself appear smart in an effort to intimidate and eliminate competition.

It is the management of medicine that wears down even the best doctors. In a recent interview with Forbes,2 Malcolm Gladwell put it most aptly when he said, “You don’t train someone for all of those years of medical school and residency, particularly people who want to help others optimize their physical and psychological health, and then have them run a claims-processing operation for insurance companies.”

However, scorched earth springs growth? Retirement due to frustration is increasingly appealing to earlier generations disillusioned with the trajectory of health care, thereby making way for saplings. We’ve been given the gift of brand new opportunities to create a virtual space of our own while maintaining roots in the practice of eye care. With the rise of online endeavors and the digital economy, there has never been a better time than now to become an independent freelancer or online entrepreneur. Burgeoning companies such as CheckedUp intend to capitalize on the value of “connectedness” while providing a sorely needed service to doctor and patient alike. It should be noted that a study by Oreopoulos et al1 also found that any financial losses are halved within 5 years. So, millennials—be ready to seize the day. No! Wait! Aren’t those who seek to build wealth mindless slaves who will die without sucking the marrow out of life?

Well, I say to all you gunners out there: Go heeled! Laboris gloria ludi.

This “work hard, play hard” mantra can mean many things to many people. And it is easy to envision someone racking up 80 rat-race hours/week and then tandem jumping off Victoria Falls with the most interesting man in the world while sipping Dos Equis. So, what is wrong with this scenario? It’s good to work hard, but there must be a specific goal. The same criticism should be levied to the latter part of the equation. Identification of the goal when “playing” is equally important. Otherwise, it’s easy to misconstrue playing hard with lifestyle inflation.

I find that blurring the lines between work and play can be effective. My events schedule often takes me, and my family, to beautiful locations where relaxation and educational opportunities are abundant. At the 2014 ACES/SEE meeting, I found myself absorbing a lot of knowledge, CE credits, and sun on the beaches of Cancun, and the next month at the AECOS/Dulaney Aspen event, racing for charity during the day and picking up practice pearls in the evening. But remember: Luck favors the prepared. Making plans months in advance reduces overhead, minimizes anxiety, and also creates a well-earned reward for all your hard work. Consider this when booking travel for the upcoming MillennialEYE Live meeting in Austin, Texas, the week before Thanksgiving 2014. It’s going to be hot.

The same can also be said for homegrown fun. Fostering teamwork means creating a work culture that values collaboration. Simply put, making work fun almost creates a scenario where you are working and playing at the same time. People understand and believe that thinking, planning, and acting are better when done cooperatively. The best way to achieve this is by example. As the doctor, and oftentimes the leader of a practice, communicate the expectation that teamwork and collaboration are expected. Retreats and planned sessions do work. But I believe the only way to create a civilization is to live the lifestyle. Form teams to solve clinical issues and review project initiatives and progress. Reward your staff—while reinforcing laboris gloria ludi—by bringing them to meetings and seminars in exotic locations. And celebrate team successes publicly.

When thinking of ways to inspire the collective spirit, let your imagination run wild. YOLO!

1. Oreopoulos P, von Wachter Til, Heisz A. The short- and long-term career effects of graduating in a recession: hysteresis and heterogeneity in the market for college graduates. NBER working paper #12159.

2. Pearl R. Malcolm Gladwell: tell people what it’s really like to be a doctor. March 13, 2014. Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2014/03/13/malcolm-gladwell-tell-people-what-its-really-like-to-be-a-doctor/. Accessed March 21, 2014.

Jonathan Solomon, MD

Jonathan Solomon, MD, is in private practice at Solomon Eye Associates in Bowie, Maryland. Dr.Solomon may be reached at jdsolomon@hotmail.com