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The Talk I Wish I’d Given

newbeginnings2009.jpgYesterday I spoke at the New Beginnings seminar in New Jersey. Since this philosophy weekend hosted by Dr. Jim Dubel began back in 1991, I’ve probably accepted the invitation to speak upwards to a dozen times. And while this time the feedback was generously positive, I left thinking that I didn’t give the talk I should have.

The 150 or so who attended represented the more philosophical faction of chiropractic in the tri-state area. They gather to be reminded of chiropractic principles and to rub shoulders with like-minded chiropractors and paraprofessionals. Instead of the “tough love” content I should have delivered, I took a safer path, squandering my 50-minute opportunity. Thus my regret.

While I briefly touched on some of these topics, here’s the outline of the talk I should have given:

1. If your practice isn’t what you’d like it to be, you’ll want to make some changes. Start by disengaging from the mainstream media and avoid being sucked into the fear and uncertainty that is used to attract eyeballs that can be sold to advertisers. Imagining that you’re somehow immune to these techniques is a combination of naïveté and wishful thinking. Don’t fall for it. There’s little you can do to change the economy other than show up as the most optimistic, upbeat person your patients ever encounter. Which is virtually impossible if you’re following the talking heads and worrying about what they’re doing in Washington.

2. Stop taking patient behaviors personally. When did you acquire the notion that what patients do after you explain chiropractic is your responsibility? If you can’t change your spouse (after years of trying), what makes you think you can utter some magical words at the X-ray view box and overcome a patient’s lifetime of symptom treating? What patients do or don’t do is outside of your control. The quicker you acknowledge and accept this simple fact, the sooner your frustration, anger and suffering can end—and you’ll be more attractive to patients.

3. Stop making subluxation the boogieman. Subluxations are merely natural adaptations to physical, emotional or chemical overwhelm. Subluxations are symptoms for heaven’s sake! The notion that subluxations are the enemy is the perfect diversion away from the real enemy: the meaning patients attach to their symptoms and why they think their body has lost its adaptive capacity at this particular time. Few chiropractors are interested in what patients think about anything—except the weather and the game last Sunday. Sad.

4. End the anti-medicine rhetoric. Assuming you can elevate chiropractic by putting down medicine, vaccinations and the other inherent foibles of a linear, mechanistic model of health is just high school locker room trash talk. Many philosophical gatherings in chiropractic are guilty of this. Not only does it accomplish little, it gives the impression that chiropractic can “win” by being against the medical model. Clue: patients don’t care. In fact, being anti-medicine (which contradicts many patients’ experience with medicine) simply calls your recommendations (and judgment) into question. How about being for self-responsibility, natural, trusting the wisdom of the body and honoring patient choices?

5. Realize the corollary to the celebrated Law of Attraction: The Law of Repulsion. The only way to attract new patients is to simultaneously repel some prospective new patients. Instead, many chiropractors show up beige; lukewarm. Their chameleon perspective, combined with a “low-self-esteem-please-like-me-hand-to-mouth-existence” is not only unattractive, it’s hard work and pushes the most discerning, influential patients away.

6. Talk about goodbye while you’re still saying “Hello!” Make sure that patients, who have heard that once you see a chiropractor you have to go for the rest of your life understand that this common myth isn’t true.

7. Finally, I should have revealed that I had just learned that my Dad’s lymphoma has come back as a lung tumor. And that he’s contemplating far more aggressive chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant that requires hospitalization. And that he believes that chemicals are more helpful to healing than a puny low-tech adjustment. And that, while his treatment choice isn’t the one I would make, my responsibility is to alert him to the alternatives and ultimately honor and support his choice. How ‘bout that for an uplifting close?

Nope. Instead, I took the easy path. I explained how I got involved in chiropractic and then fielded questions. Apparently, the audience liked it, but I missed an opportunity to make a much more significant difference.

Has that ever happened to you?

Comments (6)

Hi Bill,

Having been at a majority of the talks you've given for the New Beginnings group, I enjoyed your presentation as always. Thanks for the clarification about what you really wanted to present. I sensed a conflict from you and thought you were getting fed up with the Chiropractic drama. I think the message you posted here is a good one and needs to be heard. You'll know when it's the right time to deliver the message. If it's okay, I'd like to make a FB post to the New Beginnings group and tell them to come and read your blog.
I am sorry about the challenges you and your dad are facing.
I appreciate you and your commitment to Chiropractic.

John Jarolimek:

Yes, absolutely I've said and done things that were emotionally less risky (so it seemed) at the time, for the sake of my comfort zone, or whatever. The thing is, we always get a second chance, although the circumstances may be different. We just need to "be" and stay with it. The being part appears more challenging at some times that others. Bill, your confession is exemplary and appreciated! Keep up your great work and lead on!

Terri Galant,DC:

Saying or doing the wrong thing is so,so easy.
What I find to help me stay on course is to realize that all I have is the present, very present moment. If I am going to say or do something right, it's only in the NOW that I can do that. If I'm busy thinking about how I'm going to make it through the day with a difficult patient or have some very troubling circumstance going on, I still have to say and do something here in the present moment, so why not the truth? (And not just what is expedient or what people want to hear?)

Tony Russo:

Hello Bill,
Being at the tail end of your generation (I'm 52) I can appreciate and have endured many a humbling experiences as well. Just when I thought I was on top of the world, here comes a right hook from out of nowhere.
Here in Ontario, we are being plagued with the slow painful exclusion from our Health Care System, as the New Health Reform Act has no provisions for Chiropractic (but not taking away any existing privileges...yet). And I applaud the shoulder-to-shoulder tireless effort of Board members as well as many field Doctors, all of whom are volunteering their time to make a change, contact their MPP's, meet with them and discuss these sensitive issues, as a colleague of mine and myself did with our local MPP. I will them and all of us only the best.
I respect you for revealing your concerns and disappointments. We all have them. But very few are courageous enough to tell anyone, let alone a couple of million like you just did. Keep up the excellent work.


Yeah man, been there. Regret is not doing better next time. The path outlined above is steep and narrow. C'mon Bill, hold the line and keep kicking ass.


marlene massaro:

Dear Bill,
Thank you thank you for your talk on Sat. It was the first time I brought my staff to the meeting and you were the hightlight of the day.. Also, the video is excellent, I just ordered it. Appreciate you, thanks for your love of chiropractic.
Dr. Marlene Massaro
Berlin, N.J.

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From October 18, 2009 8:20 AM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 18, 2009 8:20 AM.

The previous post in this blog was The Last Chiropractor Interview.

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