Monday, July 21, 2014

5 Memorable Moments While Getting My Doctorate

Let's face it. No matter where you are, what your age is, or how deep your background is -- when you become a student again, you gain back that little spark of being a kid again.

It's a good thing.

Here are some fun memories of me being a big, big kid.

1. Sleepy Time....
I fell asleep in class. ALL. THE. TIME. To keep me honest, the classmate who sat left of me (who also happened to be top in the class in practically every course) would periodically wake me up with questions about the lecture I was sleeping through. Periodically? Ha! She did this constantly! What she was actually looking for was another explanation to the lecture content itself.

"Ben. Ben! How does that actually work?"

I'd wake up from some stupor having studied way late the night before, gather my faculties (or whatever was left of them), and start to figure out her question. Once I gave a satisfactory answer. She would RAISE HER HAND... and proceed to verify my explanation via a question to the professor!!!!

Fortunately, the vast majority of my explanations were valid. It was just hilarious how often this occurred. And, it didn't matter if I was hiding behind my laptop, feigning reading the text, propping up powerpoint notes to block line of sight with the lecturer... this gal would pull one of these numbers on me.

Truth be told, it was a very good thing. If she had a question, there's a excellent chance I needed to pay attention -- it was probably going to be on the test!

2. Food! FOOD! FREE FOOOOOD!
This is actually part of the development of my sensory integration, style studying methods. I first walked all over campus looking for food. Recognizing these scrounging strolls as an opportune time to study, I started doing this with stacks of notes with me - weaving, dipping, diving, and dodging all the under graduate foot traffic.

In any case, it turned out that there was free food over all campus pretty much all the time. There were consistent group meetings of graduate nursing, psychology department get togethers, intramural groups, etc. Food was food. It didn't matter that they were left overs. It didn't even matter that it was gross. Starving student! HELLO!

I was willing to engulf anything that wouldn't make me sick for anything more than 20 minutes. 20 minutes. I could afford 20 minutes of sickly hell. Anything more would cut into my anatomy lab time. And that would be bad...

3. Bunny!
I used to have pet bunnies! One went with me to school and boy did I spoil him. I actually cordoned off half the room with chicken fencing so he could play and make a mess of things. And, as if the entire experience of graduate school wasn't enough to warp the brain, how about an adorable little Netherland dwarf rabbit waking you up every morning around 5am?

Yup! It was his ritual. Morning meant food and EEEXEERRRCISE! He was already a really well behaved bunny so letting him play free was well deserved; in fact, he would ration out his food instead of engorge himself to silly land. In any case, every morning, he'd stand on his hind legs to shake the fence... letting me know it was morning.

I knew!! Bah! Hum-bug!

And then, he'd run around his half of the room as if it was the 100 meter dash combined with bunny-style-parkour. He'd jump on this, leap off that, make tight turns, shake the fencing a little bit to make sure I was paying attention, grab some water, and repeat!

He was also probably doing this to keep fit. After all, there WERE four cats in the house.... oooooooh and how they loved to try to sneak into my room.

4. Weekend Reboot.
My home town of San Diego is located approximately two hours away from where I went to school. I faithfully drove home EVERY weekend for family time, surf time, and spiritual recharge. In fact, I think there were only 5 weekends that I spent up at school.

Yup. Faithfully, I would drive home Friday night and get home around 8-10pm. Then, I'd wake up before and/or around 6am to make sure I made dawn patrol (a surfing term for earliest surfing time out in the water). After all, I grew up in a little area in San Diego called Pacific Beach -- and on the corner of this community lies a cliff edge and an underwater reef point we appropriately call Pacific Beach Point.

Man... off this point with North West ground swells in the winter... it would produce perfect waves of 8-10 feet... careening toward us from the deep ocean. I mean, these monsters would form 50 yards out from where the line usually is! People would paddle for their lives, hoping to escape the human washing machine made up of a who-knows-how-many-thousands of gallons of crushing water. However, if you were lucky enough to catch one of these waves, it would take you all the way in from deep ocean into Tourmaline beach. 30-60 seconds of surfing bliss.

Amazing.

In any case, wave or no waves, I'd go out. Surf from 6am or so until 900-930am. I'd go home, make a HUGE breakfast of ridiculous proportions and zero-health-benefits-whatsoever. I'd down that puppy and pass out until the early afternoon.

I also made sure the rest of my Saturdays and Sunday day-times were spent with family and dedicated to spiritual recharge. It was perhaps the secret to my success in graduate school. I worked REALLY hard; I played even harder; and, I made sure to recharge, reboot, and mentally/emotionally/spiritually heal up every weekend. In fact, I think there were probably only 3 or 4 Sundays that I actually studied serious school material during my entire grad school experience.

5. Becoming A Ninja.
Let's face it. Everyone has their secret study spots -- blessed for success, hidden from the rest.

Be it library, coffee house, mom&pop cafe, diner, home, friends house, or whatever -- my secret: empty lecture halls.

These were havens, absolute havens! Not only did they all have functioning powerpoint projectors and attached computers (or ports for which I could connect my laptop), they had all the room in the world for me to walk around, mentally go through content/techniques/anatomy/etc., and, they were EMPTY.

Unfortunately, the campus security eventually locks down these places, right? Since classes were from 8am until practically 5-7pm... I didn't find it all that efficient to actually go anywhere else to find a spot to study. Therefore, I took up any lecture area I could. Sometimes it was clinicals lab. Other times, it was the equipment room of the physical therapy department. If these areas were being used for other classes, I'd find areas in the under graduate lecture halls. And, boy, was I good about figuring out the pattern of availability.

Yet, every night come 10pm and 12 midnight, security comes to lock up. This is when I became a ninja. In order to survive, I had to study until at least 1-130am. There just was no other way. So, I got to the point where I could slip between security lock ups to find the empty rooms, halls, corners, and blind spots to be able to stay on campus and finish up my studying routine.

It was a RARE time when security would catch me; for those student patrol officers, it kind of became a game. They knew how it was... they were cool. For the staff patrol officers... they were actually very pleasant. But, rules were rules.

Nevertheless, if you can't see me... you can't catch me!


So! Those are my memorable moments. What are some of yours?! 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Workplace Culture Change: This time, it's war.

So, then. Here it is! Culture war is never a truly pleasant topic to discuss. Why? Well. Let's be honest. It IS war. Read more on some of my Martial Arts Musings here.

War is a conflict which requires strategy, tactics, grit, guile, and quite honestly -- guts. You need to want it bad enough before you start it.

But, why "war?" Why the conflict? Why animosity? Why fight?
"Why so serious?" -- The Joker.

First off, not all war is violent per se. Fighting for culture change in the workplace is a battle of wills. We see this similarly in politics, ideology, economics, and education... All. The. Time.

But, the real answer: If we don't (change... win this culture war), we won't survive.

A telling quote comes to mind:
"I am more afraid of our own mistakes than of our enemies' designs." - Pericles

I think this is the very state of much of the healthcare industry. Physical Therapy is no exception. Our worst enemy is within our own ranks. Spirits of insecurity, dogmatic habit, fear of the new, complacency, clock-in/clock-out, and meeting the minimal performance requirements from a human resource measure... such is our enemy. These are the cancerous cells which decay our professional body.

To be blatantly honest, the strategy is this: 
Deny your enemy promotion, recognition, and regard.

The immediate tactic at hand: 
Out-perform your enemy in number, in measure, and in favor.

But, what can be done... right now?!

1) Out populate. Trust me, I tried it the other way around once before -- not cool. Fighting an uphill battle is hollywood, but, it isn't really that effective. Plus, it can get demoralizing really quickly. However, by building forces to out populate the enemies of complacency and underperformance, you quickly highlight the enemy's deficiencies.

2) Take to management. Remember how you hated that teacher's pet in middle school? Well, guess what? That is the best way to position yourself against the enemy. How else do you think you're going to be able to move up into management without your boss' endorsement? The more your boss likes you and not the enemy, the more ground you gain.

3) Go into the workplace together. This is perhaps the BEST tactic - especially if the opportunity arises. Committing to working in the same place, organization, or corporation together while in school or as a new graduate is a powerful way of quickly overpowering the enemy by shear presence and number.

4) Sneak up from under. Everyone needs to start somewhere. Many times, it is by having the "clinical experts" of the group "mentor" you that you suddenly realize their strategy -- how they've retained power all this time. As a popular saying goes: "Keep your enemies closer."

5) Highlight the deficiencies of others by trumping the quality of your own. It can really be bad business trying to call out the deficiencies of others. Rather, commit yourself to unwavering excellence. Your performance WILL be recognized. By contrast, the underperforming enemy will stand out like a sore thumb. It is only a matter of time before management will be forced to take action.

6) Volunteer a LOT. The more you volunteer, the more you get to participate in new things, special projects, committees, action teams, etc. The more you do, the less opportunities the enemy has to leverage such activities to maintain status quo.

7) Go out of your way. There is a lot to be said about going the extra mile. Go! :)

8) Start making alliances. Be nice. Be kind. Be amicable. Make friends and start finding well positioned players who you can recruit as allies. This is particularly powerful in multidisciplinary environments, ESPECIALLY in hospitals. Can you spell: N-U-R-S-E-S?

9) Become visible. In the same vein of volunteering, becoming visible has more to do with catching the eye of upper level management. Get into situations where you can interact with hospital CEO's, regional directors, etc. Get to know them by name and number and visa versa. There's a psychological phenomenon known as "mere exposure" - by simply becoming exposed to their mental construct, they are more likely to favor you in following encounters.

10) Care more. When people care... when they REALLY care, EVERYONE knows it. Everyone respects it. Everyone appreciates it. And, everyone wants more of it. The enemy rarely cares about much more than themselves. Sure, they may have mastered the art of clinical this-and-that, customer service, flattery, political posturing, and long-term-presence. However, by the very fact they are still apathetic to progress, resistant to change, and hostile to being out-shined... really, they don't care about anything other than themselves. You must care more -- and you must care more than just about yourself.

Again, culture change IS war - it can be and will become an ugly conflict. It may even make for a "hostile work environment" ooooooooooooooooh. And, while in the workplace, while you are not necessarily trying to get people fired, you ARE trying to get the wrong people from becoming promoted - from out-positioning and out-leveraging the forces of constructive change.

Closing Thoughts:
What are some ideal battlegrounds? Hospitals! Home health companies and regionally controlled outpatient settings are also fair lands to fight upon.

What are some terrible battlegrounds? SNF's! Also, private practice - and I mean this as in trying to blitz someone else's practice to change it. "To that I say: 'Ha! And, no.'" -- Wreck-It Ralph. But seriously, these two areas are awful areas to try to start a culture change. Why? Because you actually have no control.

Good battlegrounds for culture change exist where the above strategy and tactics can take root and cause permanent change. Especially in a SNF environment where the majority of "therapy staff" are internally vendored or externally contracted, there is no actual grounds by where anything can take traction. This land was already lost by mere fact of how things operationally exist.

Remember: This time, it's war. If we don't win, we all lose.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What's In A Name?

’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part         
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes         
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.' - Juliet
Romeo & Juliet, by William Shakespeare


I love these folks. They allow us to be honest. To take things with a grain of salt. To return our minds back to what really matters. They remind us not to take ourselves too seriously... after all, we don't want to appear to have a stick up the pelvic floor, now, do we? The #PelvicMafia would have a squeeze with that! Careful... they WILL come after you.

Pen names have historically given those with ideas to be shared a defense against those who would otherwise censor them. Sometimes this quality is abused, other times, it is done with wit to the benefit of those who would listen. Regardless of how you feel about them, their content, their interactions, and/or their positions on any number of topics... remember: to you they hold anonymity, for themselves they are still the wielder and recipient of likely great amounts of pressure (both good and bad) because of their very existence.

What's in a name? Maybe nothing. Perhaps everything.

At the very least, it may remind us to check upon our own names.

Keep up the great work folks, especially in reminding us all - Life is more than.......!