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  • Dr. Eric Rooker

The Day I Smoked 15 Cigarettes as a Practice Owner

Have you ever had one of those days?

The days where the appointments seem endless. The days where the requests keep coming. The days where everything and everyone seems broken. The days when you're about to break.

The days when you seem alone.

Every clinic owner experiences these days, but some are better equipped to deal with them.

I remember my first 15 cigarette day as an owner vividly.

Three months after buying my practice I was sitting in an unfinished basement staring at a concrete wall. Sitting at my cheap knockoff white folding plastic table I wondered, "Had I made the biggest mistake of my life?"

You see, for months I'd thought this feeling was a "post-purchase letdown," something I'd get over. But it never seemed to abate.

This feeling was like a cloud over me, an unescapable idea always creeping into my head.

What was left?

Ever since I was a child, climbing over cows at my parents rendering plant I wanted to be a vet. An owner of a large animal veterinary clinic. And in 5 years I'd achieved this feat at the age of 29.

But I felt empty, at a moment I had expected great joy.

Alone in that basement I started to wonder if I'd achieved the pinnacle of my career. If all that was left for me was to ride into the sunset since no challenges remained.

To understand this moment, you must understand me.

I'm an individual driven by challenge. I derive great joy from competing against worthy rivals. In grade school it was sports. In vet school it was my study buddies. In the real world it was my fellow associates. This competition between quality peers pushed me to become better.

But now I was on an island, unable to compete against anyone but myself.

Once we become owners the game changes.

We expect ourselves to be able to manage everything. To hide the problems we're addressing from our clients and employees. To have all the solutions. To make the right decision every time, despite it being the first time we've ever had to make it.

In that basement, in that moment, without a single fellow competitor around I felt the most alone I'd ever felt.

I remember looking around lost in my thoughts and seeing a little blue and white book by John Maxwell, "How Successful People Think." A book given to me by a mentor of mine six months prior. I remember picking it up as a distraction and reading it. I remember the day it changed my life.

In that book was something, a worthy foe.

John Maxwell taught me that the worthiest foe is not outside, among my peers, clients, or patients, but inside my own head.

Somewhere along the way I'd forgotten I could compete against myself. I could create new services and new ideas. I could build something much greater than myself.

I could compete, against me.

For several months this fed my needs. I felt energized and compelled to move forward. But I quickly began to realize this was a game with no score, an infinite game. This game had no finish line. It would never end.

It was a game whose success could only be measured by my ability to have an impact upon the people and community around me.

To do this I needed more, I needed people that share this vision, people who were like me.

I needed to find my other pack a day smokers.

I started to find them when I began speaking for organized veterinary medicine.

I'd get on the stage and share my ideas, the "competition in my head," with any group that would listen. Afterwards, people would come up and talk about their similar feelings, struggles and ideas. I quickly learned I was not alone, most if not all owners, heck vets, felt this way! They were looking for that "missing piece." Something a little different for each of us but something none the less that bound us together.

That was when I decided to make a group for us. A group for the pack a day smokers...

I called this group a Higher Performance Medicine Mastermind. A space in which veterinary professionals share their challenges, concerns, and needs with peers. A space where they realize they are not alone. A space where they can get solutions to their unique problems.

Since its inception these groups have helped associates, solo practitioners and veterinary clinic owners give up their pack a day habit.

They have found friends. People who they can identify with. They, much like me, have found ideas that can challenge them. People that will push them. Most of all they have found their "worthy foes." Individuals and ideas they can measure against and strive to achieve.

They are no longer alone.

So, if you're like I was, smoking a pack a day in loneliness, wondering if it was all worth it consider this.

What if there was a better way to practice medicine?

What if there was a better way to own a clinic?

What if there was a better way to be you?

Peer groups represent a way to steer clear of the void. They allow you to become more. They let you be you.

If you're looking for a group like this feel free to post below and I'll help you make your own, join one of our peer groups, or just help you not feel alone!

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