At Mint Hill, we serve over 250 families of physicians and dentists. Last month, we asked several of these clients to share the books that have most influenced their lives. In the second part of this series, we ask these clients to reflect on the following questions:
- What advice would you give to a smart, driven resident or fellow about to enter practice? What advice should they ignore?
- How has failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
- What advice would you give to your younger self about money?
We have appreciated the wise and heartfelt responses provided by these clients, and expect you will also. Enjoy!
Relationships require a continual investment of time. Don’t unwittingly sacrifice your relationship with your family for your profession. Meet your responsibilities, certainly, and work hard for your patients and your employer. But make sure you prioritize your family. Don’t let work encroach too much into your home life. If you’re home, be home, and be present. Beware of the advice from anyone whose conception of what your career should look like is motivated by selfish interests. Some “mentors” may want you to do certain things to make them look good. Do what will work best for you.
You have chosen a long and arduous path. Much of your work will not be pleasant. It will involve many sacrifices of yourself and your loved ones. You chose wisely. There are few professions that are as fulfilling. Find a financial advisor early who can equip you with the tools that you need to succeed and be able to focus on your profession. Medicine is a challenging enough profession. You shouldn’t have to worry about your financial security as well. Nothing worthwhile is easy.
You have an incredible ability to impact our world one human being at a time. Cherish that privilege every day. Don’t allow the “system” to squeeze the ideals you set off with in medicine out of you. Hold your colleagues in high regard and build them up. We can only be successful in providing patients with the best care when we do it together. Allow yourself time to rest, spend time with your family and friends, and enjoy life. A balanced life will allow you to maintain empathy and compassion and you will be a better physician with those attributes.
Continue to live like a resident! Don’t buy the brand new car or the dream house just because you can get the loan. Your lifestyle and the time you have will improve automatically when you enter practice, enjoy it! Don’t create a new lifestyle that forces you to have to make financially driven decisions which will only lead to burnout, low job satisfaction and poor patient care. In our home we often say “see a need, meet a need.” You have been given a gift to serve others, do it well and the rest will fall in line.
Choose a practice that allows you the time to explore your full potential outside of work. Most of us focus on only our job but I encourage you to do your best not to define yourself by only your career but also the wise investment opportunities that your career income has provided. Most of us don’t think of an office as a place of business but it is! So learning a bit of tax law will change your life. It is in our nature to want to work and sacrifice ourselves but be aware of those who want your time for free.
Your passion and drive are valuable assets! You are capable of far more than you can imagine. Take the time you need to edify your decisions to practice medicine or the specific specialty in medicine you plan to train in. I regret the unsolicited pressure I put on myself to hit all the deadlines to jump through all the academic and career hoops. I encourage you to take time away from the day-to-day grind of academic preparation to invest in yourself and the people around you. Take time to rest, eat healthy, go for that jog or hike, break away from your clinical cycle to spend time with your new child or terminally ill friend. Give yourself time to celebrate, to grieve, to meditate, to laugh or cry. Give yourself time to personally live life’s full range of emotions. This time will help guide your path forward with less regret and a more spirited determination that will help you to connect with patients, their families and make you a better healer. Be selfish about your personal timeline and how you mature through it. Medicine can be an incredibly rewarding career path but it will take all the soul that you are willing to give, so be cautious about how you ration this priceless resource. Lastly, try to maintain a generous and grateful spirit – look out for your colleagues and build each other up as you embark on this exciting journey – it’s not a competition but a team sport where we will continue to face challenges that are best overcome together.
Two “failures” of a similar sort come to mind, which together helped me learn a valuable lesson. In college I was smitten by a girl at one point. I tried to cultivate a relationship and thought I was making some headway. I asked her to come along with me to an exhibit at an art museum. Without any explanation she said “why don’t you go and tell me how it was.” I took the hint and moved on (in retrospect, no disrespect to her, but I’m glad I did – things have worked out great). The second came in stages during applications at different stages of my professional development. I wanted to go to a certain prestigious school for college, and applied early but was denied. I applied to the same school again for medical school, and again was denied. When residency came along I left them off the list. They had their chance. Oddly, these rejections helped instill in me a greater sense of pride in myself and my own worth. I was not going to grovel for favor from someone or from an institution, or allow them to crush my sense of self-worth. If I am not valued, I don’t want to be there. When I interviewed for residency I went in with a humble but confident attitude that yes, they were evaluating me, but I was also evaluating them.
One thing that is very obvious at this point in my life (43) is that I learn much more from my failures than I do from my successes. So much so, that whenever I fail now, I immediately start asking myself, “What can I learn from this?” “How am I going to use those lessons to improve myself?” It makes for an excellent journal entry. Failures mean you are trying. Failures are mere speed bumps and stumbling blocks. We succeed by getting up.
This is a much harder question than I would have anticipated. I don’t have a “favorite failure” that comes to mind. I view failure as a nudge to push you along the path to success, which ultimately doesn’t allow for failure. Life is a journey of continual learning and adjustment to achieve one’s goals.
Being the youngest of three boys I learned how to fail early and often. It was a blessing in disguise that gave me a resilience to work harder and not be afraid of failing. Failing creates opportunities that we often wouldn’t have seen and it changes our perspective on how to approach the next situation. Now, being parents and business owners our hardest failures have come through those close relationships but being able to see them, admit them and learn from them has created a deeper level of connection and relatability with our kids and coworkers.
Sports truly are a metaphor for life and few will argue that life is also full-contact. Subsequently my favorites were football, rugby, and wrestling. While I can’t pick one failure (believe me there were many), I believe the mounting failures I experienced throughout athletics helped me model my approach to higher education and ultimately my career path. Being hit, knocked down, bruised and battered helped me to feel the sting of loss but it also helped fuel a hunger for growth and a desire to train or work harder to be prepared for the next competition. The repetition of failure, preparation, then competition took place so often that this cycle became commonplace, simply an accepted part of the journey forward. Failures are accompanied with a sense of growth rather than despair.
I’ll give the advice that was given to me, and has worked great: Live beneath your means. Continue to live close to your resident lifestyle for a while after you finish training, and save aggressively. And if you can save during training, do that, too! Don’t get caught up in a buying spree when you start making more money (or get a raise). It’s so easy to increase spending, even beyond the capacity of a large salary, and very hard to rein it in. If you have a spouse, agree together that you won’t make any big purchases or financial decisions without the other’s awareness and consent.
Invest early, save always. Life is too short. Splurge occasionally for yourself and your family, remembering moderation in all things. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Look for smart opportunities (do your research) and you will find them. Give at least 10% of your income to charity. It will remind you that 100% of it is from God.
Start learning about personal finance early. Living below your means, always contributing to your retirement to attain the maximum company match even when cash flow is tight, and regular saving are certainly an important start to financial success. But there is so much more to learn. Managing your finances well is essential to your wellness. It is as important to your well-being as fitness, a healthy diet, and sleep. In fact, your personal finance decisions will play into your ability to take advantage of all of those things.
You need to come up with a plan and be very intentional about following it. It can be as simple as a notecard or excel spreadsheet. If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Money is a tool and in order to utilize it you have to take the time to learn how to create, manage, share and spend it. For us, it was very important to make sacrifices early on to be able to create opportunities for the future.
Don’t listen to the conventional advice. Think big and think long term. Becoming a doctor gives you a great source of income but it’s actually the credit you earn by being a doctor which matters most. Use that credit to your advantage!
I grew up feeling rich in many ways but didn’t fully appreciate how tight money was for our family until many years later. As the middle of seven children in a loving home with dual working parents we understood the value of hard work and compassion. Like many families, my parents invested their heart and soul into their children and their vocation as teachers. Money (or the lack thereof) was an intimidating topic for all of us and something that accompanied varying levels of anxiety throughout our youth. My parents assured us that “God will provide” – this aphorism comforted us at the time but in truth my family knew very little about the principles and practices of money management. The advice I would pass on to my younger self about money would be to not look at money as something to fear or praise but to accept it as a valuable tool that can help to navigate life as wind in your sails. I grew up with a strong drive and sense of direction but feared that a lack of money may leave me short of my dreams. Looking back, I would advise myself to seek mentorship from extended family, friends or community leaders that had a better understanding of financial affairs. Growing up with little money made the topic difficult to bring up in conversation but I think it’s important to dive into the resources at one’s fingertips to help grow your understanding. I would also recommend that one’s commitment to a specific goal or virtuous path should not be compromised in an effort to simply amass wealth. Growing financial security helps provide the material means to help carry out one’s dreams.
Thank you to the clients who participated in this series. We are blessed to have a community so rich with wisdom and experience, and are tremendously appreciative of the time and thought they put into these responses.
If you have ideas for future articles that would be beneficial for our community, or would like to participate in a future Peer Review series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Lessman is partner and Chief Operating Officer at Mint Hill Wealth Management, an independent, boutique wealth management firm serving physicians, dentists and their families. With over 10 years of experience, Matt’s role is to oversee operations and assist in developing the private equity arm of the firm. He spends his days steering the Mint Hill ship, bringing organization and process to the growing firm and using his analytical and strategic skills to enhance the team.
Matt holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Truman State University and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner. When he’s not in the office, you can find Matt spending time with his wife, Katie, and their four children.
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