A recently-graduated DC shares a blueprint for current students to choose to succeed at tasks that will have maximum impact and prioritizing goals
“Quit the wrong stuff, Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other.”
How many people do you know who are good at prioritizing goals? Of those people who are good at prioritizing, how many of them are living a remarkable life? There is a direct correlation between prioritizing goals with discipline and fortitude and being remarkable.
School — especially graduate school — does very little to cultivate mastery. It teaches you the vocabulary and terminology of your chosen field. As a result, you must spend 80% of your time on 20% of your coursework. That sounds strange, but it’s unrealistic to truly own anything more than 20%. By focusing 80% of your time on the 20%, you will master that 20%.
The way you adapt this principle to the unique situation you find yourself in is different for everyone. Here are some suggestions:
Get your priorities in order
Make a list of all your courses, extracurricular activities, and social and family requirements. Number your list and then prioritize the top 20%. For example, if you have 25 things on your list, choose five to focus 80% of your time on. I recommend using a different color for each priority and then adding up the amount of time you spend on each. The biggest question I get about this strategy is about attending class. If attending class is correlated to learning, then you must attend your classes. If you can spend time in your highly-productive study space to learn the class material in less time, then do that.
Remember that your teacher has probably taught this material hundreds of times and will know more about what’s important than you. Passing classes is important, but learning the material is more important. A lot of coursework is repeated, so if you learn it well the first time, you don’t have to relearn it for each test and you can build on your knowledge base.
The biggest challenge you will face is that you have been taught to fear failure. No one can do it all. Choose to succeed at prioritizing goals that will have maximum impact.
Focus on the fundamentals
Tony Robbins is known for saying most people overestimate what they can do in six months and underestimate what they can do in six years. It’s essential that you focus on the fundamentals.
To begin this journey, you will need to identify what results you are striving for. In the end, results are all that count. Hard results are what advance your career and the profession as a whole. This could include getting media coverage, doing research and securing an associate position. It’s like running a marathon — you must know the beginning of the race, the end of the race, and what you will need to complete it.
This journey toward becoming a doctor is not much different. Every choice will be measured against the results you aspire toward. At the risk of oversimplifying this journey you’re on, these are the fundamentals:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Patient education
- Job acquisition or networking
Your mastery of these components will provide you with the fertile ground you will need to be remarkable. Each one of these fundamentals is a necessary step on your journey.
Focus on the goal
Your ultimate goal as a chiropractic student is to develop the skills that will either help you open a highly successful business or get you hired as an associate.
First, reduce every decision to its simplest form, identifying whether it helps you achieve these goals; then you can add back in the details — like the type of practice you want to open and the type of associate position you want.
It is hard to be objective. You make decisions based on whether your friends are doing it. By staying focused on the fundamentals you are working on at any given time, you can say no to opportunities that are not right for you. That is why it is important to stay focused on the fundamentals and a specific objective within that category. The take-home message is to do less and to do it well.
The most common recipe for failure is to focus on too many things at one time. By prioritizing goals and staying focused on one objective, you can evaluate opportunities clearly. Remember that many opportunities will arise again at the precise moment you are ready for them. Do not take them before their time. Most chiropractic students do the opposite.
It’s human nature to love novelty and tricks. You might love this idea of learning 100 new things. It takes effort to embrace one thing for an extended period of time. But complexity and novelty will distract you from what is important. It’s similar to pseudo-busyness or pseudo-studying. If you can’t describe something simply, then you probably don’t understand it.
Every chiropractor I’ve met who has been practicing for more than 50 years uses simple concepts to describe what they are doing. There is no mention of nociception and c-fibers and the dorsal nerve root ganglion. So practice slowing down and explaining things simply.
Develop complexity when it counts
After focusing on the fundamentals, you will have to combine all of these skills in a way that helps you get the results you want. In order to be remarkable, you need to learn to do an effective exam, diagnose the problem, and apply an effective treatment, all the while communicating what you are doing and building trust with the patient.
In order to get great outcomes with patients in a reasonable amount of time, you must have the requisite technical skills. Your knowledge of anatomy, physiology, diagnosis, treatment and communication are the fundamentals, and you will sequence them in a complex way in order to customize your treatments to the patients you are working with.
All through high school and college, I worked in kitchens as a prep cook, line cook and chef. A chef can take the identical ingredients as an amateur cook and sequence the preparation in a way that creates a delicious meal. This is the same idea. When you know the fundamentals, you can use complexity. The more difficult cases you solve, the more career currency you will be developing.
Excerpted with edits from The Master Student, Book 1, Mindset, The Ultimate Guide to Success, Enjoyment and Productivity as a Chiropractic College Student, by NOAH VOLZ, DC, available on amazon.com. He can be contacted at drnoahvolz.com.