My journey is not your journey

“don’t you dare compare your beginning with someone else’s middle“

I can see how this happens frequently, even in my own profession as a PT.

I hear it from new graduates, “we can’t all know as much research as you do.”

I hear that and I get pissed.

I wasn’t born with research inputted into my brain.

I wasn’t spoon fed the research through lectures.

I spent hours per week reading.

When I hear others tell me that they can’t do it…I think that you have other priorities. That’s fine, but don’t attempt to demean my priorities. Don’t try to knock me down so that you feel better about yourself, because I won’t have it.

My need to become better at my profession was a stronger force than most other priorities in my life, at the time.

Needless to say, my priorities weren’t well organized for the person I am today.

The issue that I see is that I looked at others in managerial positions and thought, I could do that.

I looked at people that were owning businesses and thought, “I could do that”.

I don’t want to do that.

I don’t want to be tied to my profession with the same short leash that I had my first 5-8 years.

I want more freedom to spend time with the kids (in small doses of course).

I want more freedom to be able to watch 3-4 hours of wrestling per week (don’t judge, we all have our indulgences that we would rather not do away with).

Now, I only have to do what I need to do to take care of my family and what I want to do to be happy. It took decades to grow into this person.

Don’t compare your journey to mine and I won’t compare my journey to others.

All hustle, no talent: pushed by hate

“ for me, it was always through achievement that I was able to receive notice from my parents. What does taught me at a very early age was that in order to be loved I need to do things to earn it. But to a child for whom notice is the outpouring of love, the absence of any leads to a desperation to learn what she can do to receive it.“

Rachel Hollis

I don’t resonate with this saying at all.

I need to let people into my world for a second.

I am the youngest of 5. The youngest by far. My next oldest brother is 8 years older than I. You know what that means right?…OOOPS.

That’s right, I was an oops baby.

I wasn’t planned. By the time I came along, my mom was tired. She was done from what I’ve heard.

I say that because I don’t have many memories of my birth mom after the age of 8. My parents got divorced and my dad took all of us.

Now I got three of my own and I don’t know how the hell he did it! I struggle with the three while my wife works on the weekends. He had to take care of the kids financially and emotionally (as best as he could). Again, I say this because at the time my Dad was an alcoholic. Don’t get me wrong…my Dad is my Superman. He would come home from work and we would go to the bar. Again, I am much younger than the others, so mostly I would be the only one that would go to the “club” (a bar that you had to pay membership to get into). There weren’t a lot of kids at this bar, but the kids that were there became like family because we all had the same story. Our dads all drank and drank almost every night.

I became the “Pinball Wizard” and my name was always on the board.

Again, my Dad did his best to take care of me, as he was just trying to stay afloat and teach me lessons throughout my life. He coached baseball, he never missed a game from the time I was 8 up to when I was 17. He took me to my bowling league. He stood up against a major street gang when they attacked our family (and they backed off). He eventually married my Step-Mom (Aida), which completely turned my life around. He no longer went to the bar. We moved out of the gang and violence that I grew accustomed to and moved to a farm town.

Interview with Dad

I digress.

The reason that I never used achievement to feel loved is because I was full of hate and self-worth issues.

I had to be the best…not to get the attention of my parents because my Dad didn’t value accomplishments as much as the work out into any accomplishment. He didn’t care that I only struck out three times my senior year of baseball, but he praised the hours that I would spend at the field hitting into the fence.

I had to be the best…because I needed to prove my value.

Remember…I was an oops baby and I knew this.

To make matters worse, my mom left me and walked out of my life when I was young. The person that gave birth and was supposed to have inherent trust because of that…walked away.

I had a self-worth issue.

I’ve seen it happen many times in life, a situation like this either breaks a person and they search for whatever acceptance they can find or it drives the person with a chip on the shoulder.

I had the chip.

I didn’t care what I was doing, I had to work to be the best at it. I would look at people that had all of the opportunities and talent and just never reached potential and I would shake my head.

I created a catchphrase that I still follow today.

“All hustle, no talent”.

It was that rejection that I experienced early in life that led to the work ethic that I have today.

It was that rejection that led me to become the employee of the year at Sam’s Club. It was that rejection that led to me graduating with a 3.8 GPA from college. It was that rejection that led me to push myself in the career that I have.

There has been closure from that rejection. I no longer harbor the hate that I had for decades.

I had a long conversation with my Dad when I was about 24 years old that allowed me to dispose of the hatred.

I wrote a letter to my birth mom, which allowed me to close that book.

Aida filled the gap of raising me, but she could never cure the resentment that I had for decades.

Now, it’s because of that rejection that I try to never do something like that to my kids.

Loyalty to those I love is the reason why I push myself so hard now. I have nothing to prove anymore, but I have to set an example for my family.

Work/time = something

“ I mean that you focus in on the dream you have, you do the work, you put in the hours, and you stop feeling guilty about it!“

I quit the hospital the second time to move to Virginia. It was a great time! It lasted a whole weekend (seriously my address was Fairfax, Virginia for a whole two days). I quit the hospital on a Thursday. I was back on a train to Chicago and then the Rock Island to Mokena by Sunday.

Needless to say, I called FW at Palos Hospital and was back to work at the hospital the next week. Although it seemed like a short vacation that I was away from the hospital, because I put in my notice, I lost all of my seniority, which included vacation time. Not a huge deal though because they hired me at the hourly rate i was receiving when I quit. I got a 90 day raise after my probationary period ended.

Another small detail is that I returned home having filed for divorce.

This whole story was to tell one small detail. I actually obtained a job in Virginia, one in which I never started but did the interviews. Virginia was, at the time, a direct access state for anyone that had a DPT. Without a DPT (doctorate degree in physical therapy) a PT could not see a patient “off the street” unless he/she took a differential diagnosis course.

I realized that the DPT has a little value. At that point I decided that I was going to obtain a DPT degree. (In hindsight, I could’ve just as easily taken the differential diagnosis course, but having moved back to IL without any furniture or television set, I had nothing better to do with my time. Literally, I thought to myself…I got some time to kill and the hospital agreed to pay $3,000 per year…I might as go get a Doctorate degree). The coursework for the DPT was relatively easy, but time consuming. I am proud that I did this and obtained the DPT. Not because of the title, but because now I can argue both ends of the argument regarding the DPTs worth; it only cost me $5K over three years.

In the end, I keep it simple.

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming”

Taking a jump

“ in fact, when you understand that you don’t have to justify your dreams to anyone else for any reason, that’s the day you truly begin to step into what you’re meant to be.“

I’m going to agree to disagree on this one. As you heard before, I made quick changes in my career without consulting my then wife…that relationship ended.

Although I don’t have to justify my dreams, I have to justify my decisions to my family. Making a quick jump, or even a well-thought-out jump, to satisfy my dream may not be worth it if the dream adversely affects family finance or security.

For instance, I quit the hospital the third time (that’s right, they took me back a second and third time) in order to chase a dream of managing my own clinic. I took a stupid pay cut in order to do this. I chose to cut my own pay by almost 20%. Not only that, I quit the cushy hospital job to go manage a clinic that was easily losing $100K per year. After 6 months of following my dream…reality set in. My wife said that I had to make a decision of opening my own clinic and leaving this one or going to find a job.

That was a smart move on her part. Although I increased the number of patients that were coming into the clinic by a little over 10%, it still wasn’t enough to justify the overhead that I inherited and the salary that I was getting. I was averaging about 28 visits per week, but that amount of money barely covered the overhead. There was no chance of profiting any time soon. Because of that, there was no chance of getting a raise any time soon. Mind you, during this time period I was also ranked in an honorable

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.updocmedia.com/2017-top-40-influencers/amp/

Class by my peers. This was my opportunity to advance my lot in life. I am now making about 10% more than when I left the hospital and this year will mark my break even point. Every week after this year marks a betterment than where I was when working for the hospital. The cool thing is that I am still following my initial dream because I now have my own company, am managing patients the way I feel appropriate, and have created close relationships with many physicians and the community I serve. This was what I set out to do when I initially left the hospital.

Don’t get me wrong, Palos Hospital was a great place to work. I worked with an unbelievable team in which we all respected each other’s strengths and there were no egos on the team. (I say that because I may have had the biggest ego at the time so no one else appeared to have an ego in comparison.) None of us would hesitate to reach out to another PT or PTA if we were stuck with a patient. I have always recommended anyone to take a job there if they have the opportunity. My chief complaint with the hospital was that there was no chance of advancing one’s career, and I was looking for more.

If I never took that chance to chase a dream, I would still be in a job that I was frustrated with, although more changes were made after I left which may have satisfied my need for change. If my wife didn’t have that conversation about the reality of finances, I may still be trying to steer a sinking ship that I inevitably had no control over.

I now am in a spot to have more control and am avale to support my family while advancing my career, community involvement, and education of peers.

Que será será

“ as long as you’re not asking anyone to give you approval, then you don’t need anyone to give you permission.”

This reminds me of the saying “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”. I heard this phrase frequently from one of my former bosses at Palos.

Man I miss that guy.

You know that type of relationship? The one that only two guys can have with each other in which they share ideas, for better or worse. They share their day. They are just open and honest with each other. Those relationships are few and far between and I’m just blessed that I got to share that relationship while at work, because that’s where I spent a majority of my days.

Back to the point of the story:

When I believe that I am doing the right thing, I have no reason to ask for permission. This has gotten me into hot water at times during my career. There was one job that I quit over lunch. I did what I felt was right, but what was right wasn’t what was best for business. After the second time the owner pulled me aside to have this conversation… about doing what is best for business…I quit on the spot. Mind you, this is not the most professional thing to do, but I had to stand up for my moral belief system.

Since I didn’t care about the owner’s approval…or the job for that matter…I walked out.

Let’s talk about that job. I made a mistake in taking that job. I quit Palos Hospital, this was the first time that I quit the hospital job.

I quit a decent paying job, at the time I wasn’t making much at the hospital because I hadn’t served my time. Sometimes working at a hospital is like a prison sentence. You get cred (more money) for time served. Unfortunately, it was hard to get raises based on achievement, extra-curricular activity, or simply by producing the most money for the department. The secret to getting the highest pay was simply outlasting the next fella.

I made a mistake in taking that job, after leaving the hospital, because I just took ANY job. I didn’t thoroughly research the company, which is something that I do now. I didn’t shadow the clinic multiple times, which is something that I do now. I didn’t talk to the employees about how they enjoyed their job or if they could do it again…would they, which is something that I do now.

I took that job because the commute was wicked short. It only took me 4 minutes to get to work and home. It was so awesome that I actually bought a bike and rode to work. That stint lasted a whole 8 weeks. I bought a commuter bike, GIANT brand, which cost me about $900. I didn’t work at this job long enough to recoup the money I spent on the bike.

Oh well…you live and learn.

Anyways…I quit over lunch and the hospital took me back (second time being hired) that afternoon.

The point is if you don’t need anyone’s approval, then you don’t need permission.

Funny story…I was married at this time.

When I quit Palos (the first time) I literally walked into FWs office and said that I was giving my two weeks notice. I had no plan. I had no job waiting for me. There was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I quit Palos (the first time) because I signed up to make an impact. I wanted to change the way the hospital was doing therapy. I wanted to be innovative and create new programs. I eventually accomplished all of this…just not the first go around.

The second go around did not last much longer, but that’s a different sorry for a different day.

I remember walking out of the office and going outside to call my then wife at the time to tell her that I just quit my job, after less than a year on the job.

If you don’t need approval…you don’t need permission. Needless to say, that marriage didn’t last long. We were both so career oriented that neither of us asked permission before making major changes.

Que será será.

Great teachers build students to be great

Image: Kaufman SF. The Martial artist’s Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi’s Classic Book of Strategy

I have had many students over the course of my career as a PT.

It is not hidden that I practice with a base of MDT (Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy). This is the base from which I begin every new patient evaluation. It allows me to keep information in an order that makes sense to me and keeps me thinking systematically.

When I take students, I don’t dictate how they practice. I want for them to learn about what is their passion within this profession.

Everyone has to follow his/her own dreams and goals.

I frequently get students that ask me how did I get to where I am at in this profession.

I tell them about reading textbooks, thousands of pages, two to three times in order to understand the words. The students go from feeling great about the energy that I bring and the mentoring and teaching that I have done through the clinical to telling me that they don’t think they can do it.

I DON’T CARE!

You do you. Don’t try to do the things I’ve done in my career. Becoming better at anything takes work. I can feed you my information and this can put you a little further in your quest for information, but you will never own the information in the same way that I own the information. It takes time and work to own the topics.

I only hope that the students can take from me an inspiration that this profession has a lot to offer. Each professional could be great at any one niche AND there would still be enough information, topics, niches for everyone to be great at something.

In the end, the responsibility is on the person…the student.

It is not on the teacher, for the teacher has already paved his/her own way.

The student must choose the path and forge forward.

What path have you taken as a student…professional?

Training for game day…everyday

Image: Kaufman SF. The Martial artist’s Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi’s Classic Book of Strategy

There is so much to unpack here.

First, don’t do as I do because you may have different goals than I.

When I worked at Sams Club, I could have two conversations: gym stuff and Sams stuff. I was so single minded. I would go to school in undergrad and read Ironmind, Flex, Powerlifting USA and books by authors such as the great Mel Siff, Mike Menzter, Fred Hatfield and others.

I wanted to make myself better at the things I enjoyed and school was just something I had to do in order to eventually make money.

I became employee of the year at Sams Club in 2003 and quit the same year to go work at a gym making half that money and to start PT school.

Once in PT school, I still devoted my time to learning about lifting. I went deeper into methodologies and theories of exercise.

Once I graduated from PT school, I devoted all of my free time to becoming a better physical therapist. I want to be the best (warrior) at this craft (physical therapy) that I could attain.

This is not necessarily healthy. I want to start by saying this because it’s been told to me my entire career.

I studied research between sets at the gym. I read textbooks multiple times over. I sacrificed personal relationships to become better…I won’t even say good, but better than the day before.

I’m glad I put all of that time in during those first ten years.

This does not conform to the thought of work-life balance. Again, I’ve heard this my entire career.

When looking at balance, it has to be what makes you happy. Not everyone has the same definition of happiness. When I go to work, I’m sure my patients are grateful that I sacrificed a decade of my life to get better at my craft. When I believe in something I give it my attention. In giving it my attention, I give my time. In giving my time, I am giving my life.

I understand that not everyone is devoted to their craft, but I would hope those depending on that craft can see the difference between those who do and those who don’t.

Reflections on “The Alchemist”

“The shop is exactly the size I always wanted it to be. I don’t want to change anything, because I don’t know how to deal with change. I’m used to the way I am.”

This is nothing like me, but we have met all types.

I personally thrive on change. I haven’t held a single position for more than a couple of years. One of the reasons I really enjoyed working for a larger company was that I could move through the company relatively easy and learn other jobs, without sacrificing my place in the company or benefits.

When I worked at Sam’s club, I started as a “cart boy” (man do I miss Don and Howard). I moved to cashier, where I held the title of Big Dog (only those that worked their would get it, but it was the person who scanned the most items per hour) many times. I worked at the service desk, as a cashier supervisor, overnight stocking, tire and battery center and freezer cooler.

Those that know me, know that I don’t know a damn thing about cars. Over time, I could do a set of 4 tires in less than 15 minutes from the time the car hit the lift to the time the tires hit the ground.

My first day in TMA resulted in me needing a drug test! Got to love Bill Foster for saving my job that day. I was told to drive a large older ford into the garage. What they didn’t tell me was that I had to take the turn wide using a three point turn. I took it tight (I had no clue), and I was scraping the side of the truck against the brick building for about 1/2 the bed. The truck was so loud that I couldn’t hear it.

Bill Foster comes running out giving the stop sign like a third base coach. I hopped out without a clue of what had happened.

He sold me as an incompetent idiot to the owner of the truck, as it being my first day on the job…and let me tell you that I was very grateful to be called that because the guy totally calmed down and was happy to get a new paint job. It was the first and only time that I had to be drug tested for being an imbecile.

If you live in Joliet and know Bill Foster, thank him for saving my job that day.

Don’t be afraid of change…what’s the worse that can happen?

A new paint job.

Reflections on “The Alchemist” Part XV

“The closer one gets to realizing his personal legend, the more that personal legend becomes true reason for being, thought the boy.”

Working…playing…living.

I used to go to work to collect a paycheck. It was alright, I had other passions that were more important. Some may not know, but I was previously a competitive strength athlete, having placed 2nd in IL in both powerlifting and Strongman. If you don’t believe me, check this out (https://youtu.be/Z-BXSbcpwRw).

I’ve since quit competitive lifting, but still needed that outlet of playtime. “Work” has become play. Each patient that presents to the clinic is a new puzzle that I get to piece together. There are so many facets to the puzzle. Movement is obvious…I’m a PT…there will be movement. Personality is another. Beliefs and biases. Teaching the patient and learning from the patient.

Living. I’ve heard it a couple times this week alone. A patient walks into the clinic and says either “it’s like a miracle” or “it’s like magic”. My xyz is almost gone or completely gone. Symptoms that had been present for days, weeks, months, decades seem to vanish with simple treatments that patients can perform at home.

Did I mention I love my job?

If not, I love my job. I still get goosebumps when I get this response. It’s like a kid in a candy store. I have to keep from wetting myself I get so excited to hear these phrases. Although it makes me feel good to help the patient get back to their previously lifestyle. It’s a different feeling for me.

It’s like beating Bowser. It’s up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right B, A, B, A, select start.

Yeah…it’s that feeling. It far surpasses money. It’s about the game.

Reflections on “The Alchemist” Part XVI

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

A long time ago, I was unsure of what to do as a profession. I prayed and prayed between going to medical school and going into education. After much prayer, I decided to become a high school teacher. I thought I would teach biology since science always came easy to me.

After attending Joliet Junior College, my goal was sidetracked by a want. I wanted to experience the college life and the city life. I chose to go to UIC in order to experience the city. Little did I know, they didn’t offer a biology secondary education program. I was more interested in experiencing the college life than teaching biology, so I signed up to be a Spanish teacher. To me it was like a compromise. Mind you, I didn’t speak Spanish outside of what everyone learned in high school. I should’ve put a little more thought into that decision. I spent a year at UIC studying mostly Spanish and experiencing the city through tours, classes and groups. It was a very expensive year…which I’m still paying off. In the end, I came to my senses and realized that the Spanish language just isn’t why I want to spend my entire career around.

I transferred to Governors State University to finally study Biology secondary education. I made it through the program and during one of my student teaching experiences, I realized that politics never go away. This situation was enough for me to not want to be a part of the education profession.

Luckily for me, one of the courses I took was taught by a PT professor with PT students in the course. Because the body has always made sense to me, it was a blow-off course for me, but many of the PT students struggled.

The professor came up to me and noted that if I applied to PT school that I would definitely get into the program. I had no intentions of becoming a PT initially. Aside from a short bout of PT after surgery when I was younger, I didn’t even know why PTs really did aside from follow the protocol by the surgeon.

I had my plans of becoming a teacher squashed. I had nothing better to do at the time, so I applied to PT school. I didn’t realize how hard it was to get into a PT program because I was essentially recruited into the profession.

I still think about that day at Loyola University kneeling at the statue of Jesus by the lake. It’s one of those things in which the best laid plan is laughable by God. I had no clue that my life would go into this direction.

Now that I’m here, I feel I should make the most of it. These past two years have really pushed my comfort level and people have noticed. UpDoc Media tanked me in the top 40 in the country, as an influencer in 2017. The local newspaper, that I read growing up, ran a two page article about my journey. I’ve impacted many kids in our community both through my story and volunteering.

I’m not at the place I want to be financially, but I think that after 12 years in this profession that I am starting to find my place.