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Picture of man with bag over his head and lists of things that add or subtract to your reputation.

Reading time 3:56  


I learned in childhood that reputation is important.  As a result, we need to protect it.  Every action, reaction or response goes into making up our reputation. Our honesty, integrity, reliability and expertise are also contributors.   What we stand for and how we treat others on a daily basis are an integral part of our reputation. As we begin to practice optometry, we realize again how important our reputation is in building a practice and creating loyalty from our staff and patients.

Our words and actions have tremendous impact on every person we meet.  And it influences all future encounters with that person.  But, the consequences are more far reaching than with one individual.  It can also affect all the other people who know and interact with that original person.  In this day of social media, reputation can be harmed by bad reviews, disgruntled patients or former staff. What took us a lifetime to build, can be torn down so quickly. 


I recently read a book written by Tina Seelig titled: What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.  In it she expressed the importance of our reputation and the problems inherent with trying to recover from damage to it. Her metaphor was so well done that I wanted to share it with you.  She says,  

“… every experience you have with someone else is like a drop of water falling into a pool.  As your experiences with that person grows, the drops accumulate and the pool deepens.  Positive interactions are clear drops of water and negative interactions are red drops of water.  But they aren’t equal.  That is, a number of clear drops can dilute one red drop, and that number differs for different people.  Those who are forgiving only need a few positive experiences- clear drops- to dilute a bad experience, while those who are less forgiving need a lot more to wash away the red.  Also, for most people the pool drains slowly.  As a result, we tend to pay attention to the experiences that have happened most recently, as opposed to those that happened a long time ago. 

This metaphor implies that if you have a large reserve of positive experiences with someone, then one red drop is hardly noticed.  It’s like putting a drop of red ink into the ocean.  But, if you don’t know a person well, one bad experience stains the pool bright red.  You can wash away the negative interactions by flooding the pool with positive interactions until the red drops fade, but the deeper the red, the more work you have to do to cleanse the pool.”

What a great mental image that creates.  It is such a perfect way to think about how our every interaction either contributes to or takes away from our reputation. It stresses how easily our reputation can be contaminated. But, it also gives us some hope that even with a setback to our reputation, we can recover, though it may take a lot of work.  


Despite our best efforts to offer great care and treat people with kindness, we must accept that we can’t always control how others will perceive what we do. No matter how hard we try and how much we want to control their appreciation for our efforts, the simple fact is -we can’t dictate their reactions.  We can only control what we do every day and adopt an attitude of always doing our best. We must remember that every encounter is important.

And when a problem does arise, we must acknowledge the feedback and be grateful the individual made us aware of the problem- whether real or imagined.  Reassure them that you will look into the issue and make changes, if possible or appropriate, to guarantee this doesn’t happen in the future. Fighting back, being defensive, sarcastic, or insulting are not going to change the situation. In fact, those responses will only make it worse. Ignoring the situation is likewise unproductive.


We need to be aware of the experiences our patients have in our office. Our staff must also realize what an important role they each play in creating that experience. Staff behavior, attitude and interactions influence the reputation of the practice.

Honesty and integrity must be at the heart of all interactions with people.  When you are saying or doing something to “make an impression” it will often fail to create the desired result.  People pick up on insincerity and false or forced responses.  You have encountered people like this.  I am sure we all have.  We recognize that they are saying what is expected of them or what they think we want to hear. But, their actions and responses contradict what they are saying.  We know when someone is not authentic.  We don’t trust these people. 

So the best advice anyone can give you is to be yourself. Be consistent, fair and honest in all your dealings with both staff and patients.  But, remember this also extends to people you encounter in your daily life- your hairdresser, the server in a restaurant, the store clerk, someone in your church, the plumber you called in for help.  They can all influence your reputation in the community.  If you treat people well and are appreciative of their work and efforts, then you leave a positive impression.  However, if you are rude, demanding, unappreciative or entitled, the impression you’ll give is not one you desire.  You’ll never know when you may encounter that person again. In addition, you never know who else that individual may influence. A negative impression from one individual may affect potential patients in the future.


Treating other people as you want to be treated is good advice for anyone.  It enriches your life in so many ways. This principle is called the Golden Rule for good reason. It has withstood the test of time and is found in almost every ethical tradition and religion.  Adopt the Golden Rule in all your dealings with people, whether it is family, friends, patients, staff or just acquaintances.  Treating others with kindness and being fair and honest becomes your default position. You don’t have to think about it anymore. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not have problems, but it does lessen the likelihood. It will serve you and your practice well.  Hopefully, that combined with good care, will serve to protect and enhance your reputation.

How do you handle difficult situations in your practice?  What do you do if a patient approaches you in person?  Or in print?  How do you train your staff to handle awkward situations they encounter or to calm down an angry patient?  Are there set procedures in your office?  In the comments below, please share your ideas of what has worked for your practice.

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Person showing hand gesture for Namaste

Reading time 3:44

I’m sure that you have probably heard the word Namaste at some time in your life.  When I learned the actual meaning of this word, it became a new favorite of mine.  I think it has great application to the practice of optometry and to life in general.  On this last day of the year, I would like to explore it further. 


If you look up the definition – there are many different versions.   Listed below are some of the simplified meanings.

  • I bow to the God within you.
  • The spirit within me salutes the spirit in you.
  • The divine in me recognizes and honors, the Divine in you.
  • I greet that place where you and I are one.
  • I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and peace.

You don’t have to be a yoga enthusiast or a Buddhist to realize what a nice and universal sentiment Namaste expresses.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful goal to exemplify this feeling when we interact with our patients and others?  You don’t have to say the word itself out loud.  But just thinking it could make a difference in the warmth of your greeting to another person.  When we recognize and value the other person’s uniqueness, we begin to make a connection based on respect and compassion.


As this year draws to a close, I find myself becoming introspective.  The holiday season is over and I find myself settling back into my routines.  I have never been one to do resolutions for the New Year.  Like most people, I generally don’t keep them.  Making resolutions seems to put me under extra stress trying to fulfill them.  Consequently, the guilt when I don’t stick to them just makes me feel worse.  At this point in my life, I don’t need stress or guilt.

I prefer to dwell in possibilities- to be a better person, to challenge myself to grow and to surround myself with positive thoughts and people.  I don’t think we are ever too old to stop challenging ourselves.  


So if I was to make a resolution it would be to work on communication. Improving our ability to communicate is a total win for us, our families, our staff and our patients.  Communication is something we must do every day and it can always be improved.  It doesn’t cost us anything.   However, it does require us to listen to ourselves with a critical ear.  

We need to try and hear ourselves as others hear us. What is the tone of our voice?  Are we being clear and concise?  Do we avoid medical jargon?  Or when faced with having to use medical terms, do we at least attempt to define it for our listener?  Are we speaking in a condescending fashion?  Do we respect the person we are speaking to?   And do we hear what they are saying?  Do we listen to their questions, concerns and fears?  Are we responsive to their needs and do we do our best to address them?

Improving our communication skills is definitely doable.   I think we all went into optometry to help people.  To serve our patients well, we need to be able to communicate with them.  Having a rapport and connection with our patients not only improves their compliance, but also creates loyalty.

When I started practice, I felt like I had to like all my patients and that all my patients had to like me in return.  It took me years to get past that misconception.  Of course, it is unrealistic to feel I will hit it off and make a connection with everyone I meet.  We all know some patients can be demanding and unreasonable.  Some can even be obnoxious, rude and unlikeable. But, I still do my best to give them all quality eye care that meets my highest standards. I strive to communicate well with them all. 


In my limited exposure to yoga, I learned many things that have helped me in practice. Stretching to relieve tension, breathing to calm and center myself and slowing down to appreciate the world around me are valuable lessons from yoga. These practices help me put everything in perspective-no matter what has happened during the day. 

 But the philosophy and underlying respect and valuation that is expressed in Namaste is my favorite lesson from yoga.


I may not say it to people, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be in my thoughts as I talk and deal with people all day long.  It puts me in the right frame of mind to handle almost anything.  It all comes down to respect.  It doesn’t matter your age, sex, race, religion, sexual preference, or any other label we place on each other.  Respect and valuing a person for their uniqueness can be extended to everyone without judgement.  We want other people to offer the same courtesy to us. We want others to see the special skills and abilities that make us truly unique.  Why not offer the same gift to others?

So, on the last day of this year, I say to you Namaste and hope that this New Year is filled with happiness, prosperity and personal fulfillment for you.

How are your communication skills?  Do you seek to improve them?  How do you approach the beginning of a new year?   Do you set goals for yourself or your practice?  Do you re-evaluate and modify them as the year goes on?  Write your ideas in the comment section below.  Let us know what you feel at the beginning of the New Year.

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A photo of road signs showing we have the choice to love, change or leave situations.

Reading time 4:10

“If people are highly successful in their professions, they lose their senses.  Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures.  Sound goes.  They have no time to listen to music.  Speech goes.  They have no time for conversation.  They lose their sense of proportion- the relationships between one thing and another.  Humanity goes.  Money-making becomes so important that they must work by night as well as by day.  Health goes. …What remains of a human being who has lost sight, sound and a sense of proportion?  Only a cripple in a cave.”                                                                                                                                                 Virginia Woolf


I stumbled upon this 1938 quote by Virginia Woolf in an old newspaper clipping I found folded up in a book. It impressed me as an eloquent description of the position we all find ourselves in daily.  The quote appeared so apropos for today’s dilemma of seeking a balance between our work and our personal life. We feel pressured to make our practices grow and to provide for our family and our staff.  We all struggle as we try to honor our professional commitments and yet find time to pursue personal interests.  Unfortunately, the scale often tips to the professional side at the cost of our own personal lives. There’s so little time for family, relaxation and recharging.  It’s no wonder we suffer from burnout.


We all have been there. It’s so easy to just let our work consume us and set the pace for everything.  It’s often like a runaway train.  We just keep setting higher and higher goals for ourselves.  We experience fulfillment as we meet each goal and become more anxious to meet the next.  There’s no problem understanding how we can let ourselves be so goal oriented. After all, this is how we were able to obtain our degrees.  The problem is how we learn to change and set priorities that are reasonable.


We all need to have time to recharge ourselves and time for the other interests in our life.  These other interests are what can fulfill us, complete us and make us grow.  It’s so easy to say- I will stop this pace when …, and then fill in the blank.  We could fill in the blank with an endless supply of answers like: when I can take on a partner, when I pay off my debt, when I buy a new house, when I get that new equipment or any countless other reasons.   The list goes on and on.  We can all come up with many answers to the question of when we will make our personal time a priority. But, there comes a time when we need to stop making excuses and just do it.

We all have different excuses. There is no magic equation to give us the answer.  As near as I can tell, you just have to decide what is important to you and how you want to live your life.  There are so many arguments of why these changes are impossible, but I am here to tell you not only is it possible, but it is also achievable.  I’ve seen it done.   My partner in my private practice was a master at achieving this balance and setting limits for himself.  And even more impressive, he showed the wisdom of doing it from the start of his career.


It was one of the things I admire most about him.  Once he left the office for the day, there was no more talk of work.  And I assure you he didn’t just pay lip service to this idea.  I saw him enforce this time and time again at meetings, social events and just in his daily life.  I admired him so much for taking this stand, and wish that I had learned how to do it more successfully myself.

Family was always a top priority for him and continues to be.  Travels and vacations weren’t put off.  He allocated time for his health and working out daily and still does.  Giving himself the pleasure of spending time on hobbies he loved and spending time with friends was considered important.  He didn’t miss all the special moments that happen in our lives. And he did all this while building a strong, solid practice and never sacrificing the quality of the care he offered his patients.  For this and many other traits, I admire and respect him. He showed me that it is possible to be in control of your life and find that balance. He continues to live a rich, full life in his retirement.


It takes some planning, some compromising and the strength to stand by our decisions.  But it can be done.  There is a lot of talk about doctor burnout and I can see why it happens.  No one can keep up the pace of pushing themselves more and more, year after year, without taking care of their own needs. Gradually, our values can get compromised and we can lose the aspects of practice that we loved.  We lose sight of the reason we went into optometry in the first place.

I encourage you to set some limits for yourself.  Define what is important to you because if you wait too long- it will be lost.  The sooner you establish your personal needs and desires, the happier you will be.

Remember the wise words of Virginia Woolf and find a way to have a successful practice and a full private life.  Use your sight to take in the world around you and not just what’s in your office. Use your hearing to listen to your patients, but also the voices of your family and friends.  Listen to the sounds of nature and music.  And realize that not every conversation has to center around your professional life.  Challenge yourself. Learn something new. Be creative.  Tackle all those entries on your bucket list. I know it’s trite, but live your life to the fullest!  And there’s no reason you can’t start right now.

We welcome your comments below. How do you delegate your time?  What has worked for you in setting priorities in your life?  What was the  a-ha moment that forced you had to take control of your life and make some tough decisions?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Reading time: 2:41

Why did I decide to write a blog? I have always valued sharing experiences and clinical pearls with fellow optometrists. I have learned so much from these casual conversations. Some information has had major impacts on my practice, but many ideas were small simple things that made my life a little easier. Why not share what I have learned? I wanted to create a forum for other optometrists to share some of the lessons they have learned. There are many blogs and websites that do similar things, but I think my approach is a little different.

If you are looking for blogs that keep you informed of the latest in technological advances or how to increase profits and the bottom line, then this is not for you. That is not my forte. My expertise is in personal observations that improve care and allow you to make better connections with your staff and patients. I will try not to bore you and I will honor your time by keeping all the blogs short. In fact, I will post the reading time at the beginning so you know how much time you will spend.

With more than forty years in practice, I can still say that I love what I do. I have practiced in many different settings. I have learned something from every place I have worked. Some lessons were positive, but some fall into the category of “things I don’t ever want to do”. Some of those insights were easy, but others acquired after considerable struggles and pain. I figured why not spare others that pain if I can? My inspiration is in part from my practice, but also from my experiences and observations in daily encounters with people.

Those forty plus years have seen some major changes in optometry. So many changes in fact, that every day I feel like a magician trying to balance new technology with classic values. Daily, I juggle responding to the increasing demands of insurances and governmental regulations against trying to preserve the best parts of optometry.

I hope this blog will be a forum to exchange ideas, encourage growth and challenge the status quo. I have always tackled things from a different perspective than many of my peers. Neither way is better, just different. I want to present you food for thought. I want to challenge doctors to find a way to incorporate new (or old) ideas into their practices. I want to encourage doctors to create a practice that they love and that fulfills them. And I want to continue learning from you too.

Education and communication have always been important to me. Not only do I love creating “a-ha” moments for my patients, but I realize first hand that taking a few moments to talk with my patients has forged a valuable connection between us. That connection builds loyalty and promotes practice growth. It also increases patient compliance and ensures a better clinical result. Best of all, that connection has allowed me to practice in a way that I find fulfilling. I’m not saying that it has all been sunshine and roses. I have lost my way many times, but somehow always found my way back.

A lot of the changes in health care have been good, but many have been negative. This is a trend seen in business as well. Yet, some large corporations are also bucking the system by challenging the rules and showing us that change is possible. I am encouraged by that wherever I see it. If they can do it on such a large scale, then we can do it in our individual practices.

Putting out a positive message and caring about our staff and patients is not only possible, but also can make a difference in the world. We can either be part of the problem or we can be an example of a solution. Small changes can and do make a difference.

Please leave your comments below. I look forward to hearing about your personal experiences. Connect with us on social media for additional ideas on changes that can help you and your practice grow.  Visit our Resources section for free tools to help you with your practice.