Throw The Map Away And Just Use The Compass

One of my hobbies is genealogy and I find it deeply satisfying when I can apply some areas of this discipline to my professional activities.
For example, the origin of surnames for when I am involved in a formal interview, I will often use the patient’s surname as a conversation starter by asking the patient if they are aware of their surname origins – and then relate their name to a famous ancestor.
Or if the name is a Scots-Irish name (as mine is), their name may be a fit on my extended family tree
This tends to reduce any tensions that a patient may feel when they suddenly find they are part of an extended family.
Communication barriers begin to fall and patients become more willing to impart more information regarding their lifestyle and general health – after all, they are now part of the extended family.

Now genealogy has embraced the use of genomics to identify the genetic origins of ancestors through a simple gene test involving a saliva swab.
While I have studied the basics of gene testing and gene counselling, it has not yet become part of my pharmacy professional repertoire – but it soon will be.
And guess what!
I will be able to use genealogy as a conversation starter and integrate it with professional advice, particularly as research uncovers illness characteristics among certain population groups that may provide pointers for the problem being presented to you by the patient seated opposite.

The point of this narrative is that when I finished my university studies I had some sort of a “life map” in my mind that did not include genealogy or gene testing – the latter technology was over the horizon and in starting my adult life I was not particularly interested in family history.
My first 10-year life map looked something like:

* Married at 25

* Start-up pharmacy-create at 27

* Millionaire at 30

* Kids at 31

* Philanthropist at 33

* Retired at 35

The reality became:

* Married at 24

* Kids at 26 that kept coming for a total of four

* Pharmacy partnership at 30

* Changed business model to that of management consultant 34

* Millionaire status under challenge and declining 36

* Semi-retired at 75 and still going at 79

The question I would ask any reader is:
Did you, or do you have a 10-year life plan?
If so, how much of it was actually achieved.

The reality is that life cannot be lived according to a dot-point plan because it is subjected to continuous change.
For example, where it was the norm in my generation to be married in your early twenties, these days marriage has been deferred to allow careers to be established, particularly for females.
This has had an impact on reproductive health because age has been found to have an impact on the quality of eggs and sperm, to the extent that many births today have to be assisted through IVF programs, with delivery of babies increasingly by caesarean section.

As a young pharmacist, your dream of owning a pharmacy may have had to be rescheduled, or it may have even completely evaporated.
Some of us have become millionaires through fortunate circumstances causing opportunities that were seen, and risks that were taken.
More commonly, millionaire status has occurred through investment not related to pharmacy.
And many times the decisions that have advanced your success have been “ad-libbed”, or better described as relying on a “gut feeling”- the major component of any risk-taking.

It follows then that the more you follow your “gut feel” the more you will take risks and the more you will succeed.
Of course there will be failures along the way – even billionaire Donald Trump, the contender for US president, was bankrupted twice before he arrived at his current wealth status.

In the journey of risk taking there will be many improvised moments.
The best comedians and conference presenters are those that do not rely on dot-point notes and simply “wing-it” from the heart.
These people will become the best communicators.
However, you must know your craft and your own back story must be full of experiences (good and bad) before you can confidently rise above your current skill level.
Stage performers often equate a failure to deliver as “dying”.
However, they also say that once you die you lose your fear of it, so that you are then able to rise from the dead and deliver from great heights.
In some of our current TV programs (like “The Voice”) you see the process of experienced celebrity performers mentoring inexperienced talent.
The word “nerves” is often used, and the mentors try to instil in their protégés a method for “using your nerves” to rise above their current ability to deliver a performance.
This is no different to taking business or professional risk and going with the gut feel.

For pharmacists currently, the above message translates to one of practicing your profession to the fullest extent your licence allows – and that involves taking risks and the use of a compass to guide direction, rather than a map with the full journey dot-pointed.

At one stage of my career I was involved in mentoring naturopaths into a pharmacy environment.
They consistently identified to me the opportunities that pharmacists were missing by not charging for services delivered through the pharmacy.
In the end it came down to pharmacy owners not having the confidence in their own skill level to deliver professional services, and this would sometimes manifest in anger when naturopaths lobbied to be allowed for their services to be charged.
The pharmacists were not willing to take risk and go with their gut feeling – they were simply stuck on their map (a business plan with obvious deficiencies).
The culture and business model for pharmacy has long been recognised as being deficient, but it has travelled on with minimum correction.
Leadership has been deficient in this area for a long time and is thought to be compromised.

Destructive organisations such as the Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) use a form of psychological warfare to damage all ties with natural medicines, adding to the lack of risk taking by pharmacists.
This is a very vindictive organisation that has an agenda not compatible with good health outcomes.
Just simply regard the FSM as an enemy, design a defence then move on, ensuring your energies are invested in your own compass, keeping the positives and excluding the negatives.

Your compass can be fine-tuned and enhanced by taking up as many life interests that can be successfully managed, and integrate elements of those interests into your primary profession.
That will give you an intangible “edge” because you will be seen to have a “point of difference” – you will be seen to have talent in your chosen vocation.

“Talent is hitting a target nobody else can hit. Genius is hitting a target nobody else can see right now.”

For as long as I can remember, community pharmacists have complained about a collective condition called “the four-walled syndrome”.
It’s a form of depression because of the restrictions pharmacists feel when they practice their profession in a range of settings.
Work is more than a 9-5 drudgery.
So it really does upset me when I see the number of “four-walled syndrome” patients continually rising.
This is evidenced by recent polls illustrating that a significant number of pharmacists are prepared to change professions or sell out to predators whenever they can (organisations such as Boots).
They are unable seemingly to rise above the daily “drudge”.

Most pharmacists have incredible talent but are completely unaware of the high level of talent they actually possess.
In my past consultancy practice I used to often comment on the calibre of client that sought our services.
They retained us not to salvage a sinking ship, but to get a compass direction to the next level.
And the other thing they had in common was a high-level skill separate to their pharmacy skill-set.
Some were training to be lawyers, some were naturopaths, some were accountants, others were nutritionists, others had hobby farms (one even admitted to having a marijuana farm which was very illegal then, but would be coming into its own with the legalisation of medical marijuana)– they were quiet achievers and they used this extra skill acquisition to rise above the four-walled syndrome, much the way I have used genealogy.

So there is a good reason for you to ditch the map because the location you’re looking for might not exist yet.

Could it be possible, as wild as it might seem, you have a combination of skills nobody else has?

If there is even a distinct possibility of this, might it be worth a dip into uncharted waters?
Raise the periscope and have a considered look – there’s plenty to see outside those four walls.

Life isn’t always about making the right choice – often there are no right choices.
But it is about making decisions – you will have to be right at least 50 percent of the time.
And when you are “right” your level of understanding increases a point or two so that your ability to be “right” in the future increases with each risk (decision) taken.

Just do it!

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