Thursday, February 20, 2014

Days of Our Work Lives: Part III: Adam's Saga. Episode 11, the final episode: Do Who You Are

Part III: Adam's Saga

Episode 11 
Do Who You Are

In the previous episode, Adam accepted his first optometrist job, joining the clinical and research team at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, California.

Patient visits being quite structured made it easier for Adam to display the necessary social skills. But even more key to his success, he customized his job to fit him. For example:

Some children's dentists, at the end of an appointment, give the child a small toy. Adam adapted that to his optometry practice. Whether child or adult, at the end of an appointment, he asked, "Would you like me to play a song for you on the keyboard?" 

In the years after being Dr. Van Doren's student assistant, Adam didn't learn much more about penetrating eye injuries but having the degree and experience made him perceived as an expert. A show-off from early childhood, Adam thus was able to land himself public speaking opportunities, first at local chapter meetings of the American Optometric Association, then at its national conference. 

Adam's talks were more interesting than the typical academic presentation. For example, instead of just flowchart models and diagnostic checklists, his Powerpoint slides included ones like the one on the right.
fish hook in eyeball

And rather than just citing statistics, Adam told stories, remembering that in his own education, stories made the biggest impression, for example, the Obama Messaging Unit story and the Pope and Mussolini story.

With dozens of optometrists attending each of his training talks, Adam indirectly saved thousands of patients' eyesight. 

Adam had his talks video-recorded, then edited to two minutes of nuggets, and uploaded to YouTube. Then he sent the link to lecture bureaus. One chose to represent him and got him dozens of speaking engagements at $10,000 to $15,000 a pop. Sure, he keynoted veteran events but also anti-war festivals, general surgery conventions, even a fisherman's expo.

Adam always gave credit to Van Doren and--with Harry's permission--pointed out that he had Asperger's Syndrome yet still made an amazing contribution--"Dr. Van Doren is an inspiration to all of us who are trying to succeed despite a serious problem."

To ensure his heart didn't harden as do many successful professionals, rather than taking standard vacations, Adam spent two weeks each year volunteering for Unite for Sight.

And throughout the year, Adam donated a few hours a week to the Lions, a Rotary-like organization that recycles donated eyeglasses to the poor, worldwide. He felt the need to rebel from his mom who continued to be active in Rotary but his rebellion didn't take him further than another service club.

Part III of Days of Our Work Lives: Adam's Saga, ends with Adam in his optometry office, fitting Ben for bifocals and writing a prescription for Susan: "Too young for bifocals." He had finally developed social skills. 

I am now working on Part IV: Linda's Story. AOL plans to publish it and may require that it be original to AOL so, at least for now, I can't post it here. I'll let you know if and when it's available on AOL. 


Anonymous said...

I loved these stories, but should I be worried if David is the one I can most relate to?

Marty Nemko said...

I believe that predisposition to heart disease is more complicated than acknowledged. Yes, intense, stressed people get more heart attacks on average. But there are other factors that are protective or not. Some are known but not all.

You probably can't change your basic nature, but it might help to, where possible, put yourself in environments where you're less stressed.

I'm a bit like David and have structured my life so it's as not stressful as possible. As a result, even though I work long work weeks and am prone to rushing, at my annual physical, my doctor said I'm the model of health for someone my age--I'll be 64 in June.

I hope that helps provide some realistic reassurance.

Bill said...


I thought the whole story telling format was perfect for summarizing all your helpful suggestions and insights. I couldn't help but chuckle every time I recognized one of your suggestions from your career and life coaching recommendations. It was really creative, and entertaining. I think one of the biggest things that bugged me is when David died, he left half his estate or life insurance to a charity, when his wife and child could have used it more. Seems more realistic he might have all his insurance and cash equivs set aside for the family at that age. I could understand it in his 60s or later when they were retired, but in his 40s? I just don't see that--I'm too much of a realist and would rather my wife and kids get the money to help them better survive until they get back on track without me.

Otherwise, highly entertaining and a great teaching narrative. Kinda like you stress with career stories on a resume. Great job!

Marty Nemko said...

Thanks. I believe greater net good accrues from the donation and that is my personal criterion. To make it more realistic (that is, more consonant with what most people do,) I had him leave half to his wife and kid.

Frankly, leaving money to family increases risk of their succumbing to the welfare mentality and being less likely to be productive. So instead of making the world better, which donating money to try to reduce sudden heart attack would do, his money could actually make the world worse by making his family members more likely to become torpid.


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