Podcast Episode 22 | Finding Freedom and Balance as a Locum Tenens Doc

With Dr. Nii Darko

About the Prosperous Doc Podcast

The Prosperous Doc podcast by Spaugh Dameron Tenny highlights real-life stories from doctors and dentist to encourage and inspire listeners through discussions of professional successes and failures in addition to personal stories and financial wellness advice.

Shane Tenny, CFP® is our podcast host and Partner at SDT. He has lectured numerous times for hospitals and physician groups and, most importantly, helped hundreds of clients develop strategies to navigate through turbulent times toward their financial goals.

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Nii Darko:                     00:00                We have to make sure we look at plan A, B, C, D, E, F, G, all the way to Z, before we make a decision. We have to make sure that we are very safe, right? Do no harm, right? Which is very opposite to business, which is you've got to take chances, right? You got to take calculated risks, and if you make a mistake, then so be it, but at least you tried.

Intro:                            00:22                From Spaugh Dameron Tenny, it's the Prosperous Doc Podcast. Real stories, real inspiration, real growth, a show for doctors who are ready to improve their overall wellness in every aspect of life.

Intro:                            00:34                Now here's your host, Shane Tenny.

Shane Tenny:                00:39                All right. Welcome back to another episode. I'm Shane Tenny. Glad to have you with us today. Whether you're driving or working out or doing something in the backyard, we're glad that you've carved out a little bit of time to join us today in the conversation we're going to have.

Shane Tenny:                00:55                I know that many of you in medicine or in dentistry have realized that the practice and the work is intense. We know from talking with folks off and on over the course of the weeks and the months that many of you begin to form ideas and visions for other things that you are passionate about, other things that might help bring balance to your lives, other activities, or dreams or concepts that you think would help begin to bring the fulfillment, the freedom, and the balance that you long for.

Shane Tenny:                01:31                Today I'm excited to have with us, Dr. Nii Darko. Dr. Darko you may know from his really popular podcast that we're going to talk about on the show. He also has a background as a trauma surgeon and is on a mission to empower physicians to find freedom and balance in their lives.

Shane Tenny:                01:50                So, Dr. Nii, thanks so much for joining us today.

Nii Darko:                     01:52                Hey Shane, thank you for having me. Really excited to be here.

Shane Tenny:                01:55                Yeah, we're going to have a good time. I found it helpful, and maybe you might just give us a little bit of background into yourself, your history. I know as I intro'd you there, you've got a lot of entrepreneurial gigs going on and juggled out, but I'm curious a little bit about your training, your early years, and when you realized that your calling was to be more than just clinical.

Nii Darko:                     02:16                Well, yeah, we're taking it way back. So I'm originally from New York. I say born in New York, raised in New Jersey, and wanting to be a physician by watching TV growing up. So a child of the eighties and nineties and watching Doogie Howser, the concept of Heathcliff Huxtable, and Trapper John, and all those different doctor shows that were on, I was watching it. I quickly knew that for me, I don't know, just growing up in Queens, and then growing up in Irvington, New Jersey, I just knew that I wanted to be a physician.

Nii Darko:                     02:49                I didn't really know much about it, right? Basically what I saw on TV was what I can deduce from it, and the rest is history. I just kind of just wanted to get really focused and say, I really want my life to be like this, and ended up kind of just jumping through all the hoops and was always focused like four years ahead of time and never really smelling the roses, like really just enjoying the process of being a high schooler or enjoying the process of being a college student. It was always just kind of focused on four years ahead.

Nii Darko:                     03:18                So if I was in college, it was just like, man, I've got to make sure I get all the good grades so that I can get into to medical school, and what's it like to be in medical school as opposed to really enjoying college? Then once in medical school, the same thing, and then residency and fellowship, and then all of a sudden it just stops.

Nii Darko:                     03:33                So I did my training at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, where literally was a huge cultural shock from being in New York and New Jersey. But it was an amazing opportunity. I met some great people. I met my girlfriend at the time, who now is my wife. Then from there, I jumped down to Atlanta, Georgia, where I trained with the Morehouse School of Medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital, doing general surgery and working with a large indigent population, a large population that didn't have insurance. That was an amazing experience. A very humbling experience as to the reach that we can have.

Nii Darko:                     04:13                Then from there, I went down to Miami and worked at another indigent hospital called Jackson Memorial Hospital, and that's where I did trauma surgery. Then from there, I just kind of just started jumping and hopping and skipping with what I wanted to do from a career standpoint and being very flexible with what I wanted to do.

Nii Darko:                     04:31                Now I'm here sitting in front of you. So it's been really one of those type of things where you start off with being very single-minded in purpose, and then all of a sudden, life just kind of just veers off in another direction and you find yourself kind of not where you expected to be, but just as happy and really not regretting the path at all.

Shane Tenny:                04:51                Somewhere along the line, you realized that on TV they never show calls schedule and sleepless nights, is that right?

Nii Darko:                     04:59                Nope, nope, nope. They don't tell you none of that stuff, right? They forget all that stuff because it's not sexy. It's not sexy at all.

Nii Darko:                     05:06                It's funny, like I got really lucky. So the hospital that I trained at was called Grady Memorial Hospital, and this was 2006, and this is at the heyday, obviously, of Grey's Anatomy. So Sanjay Gupta, who was training or was doing his work at Grady Memorial Hospital of Emory School of Medicine, he was able to convince CNN to do a show called Grady's Anatomy, basically, a play off of Grey's Anatomy.

Nii Darko:                     05:37                I was featured on the show, and basically he followed, or the camera crew followed, four or five doctors, particularly young doctors who were early in their career and training and wanted to see basically if life was as salacious as it was on TV. They quickly learned, definitely after following me, that life is not as salacious. It's very boring. It's just like you said, those long 24-hour, 30-hour shifts. It was really fun, but it really gave people a really raw, open, and honest look as to our lives. It was really fun, actually.

Shane Tenny:                06:09                Yeah. So as you started your career, I guess probably more than a decade ago now in practice...

Nii Darko:                     06:16                Oh, man, why are you aging me like that? Dang.

Shane Tenny:                06:21                What were the crossroads or the factors that came about that made you start realizing you were born for more than just the OR?

Nii Darko:                     06:28                Well, the, the biggest thing was my experience doing negotiations when I was finishing up my fellowship. So I was looking for a position and I had a good time interviewing at these places. But the one thing that stuck out to me was I would go on these interviews for like eight hours, you go on an interview, and then at the end of the interview when you got home there was some type of package for you, or an email offer letter for you, just saying, hey, we'd love to work with you, here's this contract, and please sign here for the next five years.

Nii Darko:                     06:59                I don't know, it just kind of just didn't sit right with me. I was just like, I've been here for like eight hours or however long they're doing their dance about this place is a great place, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to commit for this long. So I found the negotiation process, it just didn't sit right with me.

Nii Darko:                     07:17                So my girlfriend at the time, she said, listen, why don't you consider locums? I said, locums? What's that? She's like, well, you could work at these hospitals for a temporary period of time. You don't have to make a large commitment. You work there, you see how it goes, and then if you want to work there, then go.

Nii Darko:                     07:34                I quickly scoffed at this, because I was like, well, the number one thing is that my colleagues who are going through this, they're not doing this. So I really wasn't a big leader at that moment, so if they're not doing it, then I can't be doing, obviously, right? I've got to be looking for that big academic position and so forth.

Nii Darko:                     07:49                But after around like maybe the fourth of fifth time interviewing at a place and really not connecting there, but at the same time being faced with signing a long contract, I was like, something's not right. I got to do locums. So I decided to do locums and it completely blew my world, because I started traveling to different parts of the country really starting to just kind of learn how to hone my skills, get the confidence, and meeting people who were just really doing some cool stuff in medicine and outside of medicine.

Nii Darko:                     08:18                I was meeting people who, they would work in the United States for a short period of time, maybe for a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months total for the entire year, and that money that they would get from that would bankroll their life living in a third world country, in a war torn country, providing care. I was like, man, that's really cool. Like nobody ever told me about this. How come I didn't know about this?

Nii Darko:                     08:38                Or there were doctors who I was working with who were on TV, or maybe starting their own companies doing various different things. Some docs were coaching other doctors.

Nii Darko:                     08:48                So I was just meeting doctors who were really good doctors, really good surgeons, but they were really having an amazing time being fulfilled, they had a huge impact in the world. I just thought to myself, if I had known this was going on, I probably would have done something a little different. Maybe I still would have been a surgeon, but maybe I would have done things at a different pace.

Nii Darko:                     09:13                So that's when I realized, man, I really would love to get some of these stories on wax. I want to interview some of these folks. Also, at the same time, me and my wife were trying to pay off our student loan debt, so we were just listening to podcasts like crazy. We were reading blogs like you wouldn't believe. So I was just looking and seeing. I was like, man, what podcasts are out there where there are doctors who are really literally openly talking about this, right? It was very few and far between.

Nii Darko:                     09:40                So I said, look, at the same time I have some really close friends who are doing really amazing things. They're doctors and they're going and talking. They're getting on a bus, and they're going and talking to different colleges and helping historically black people get into school, or people who go to historically black colleges and people who go to historically Latino schools get into a medical school. There's other doctors who I know who are doing things. I was like, let me just start interviewing them. Like, what is it that makes you successful? Why did you decide to do this? This is stuff that we don't learn in school. Why did you decide to jump into this?

Nii Darko:                     10:14                I just started recording it and putting it out, thinking like, well, I'm just learning this for myself, but if someone else wants to listen to this, at least, hey, they can listen. Then all of a sudden I started getting feedback and people were saying, oh wow, you really should do this more. And that's how it started.

Shane Tenny:                10:29                That's awesome. So you really started your career after you finished your training and everything. You started your career doing locums.

Nii Darko:                     10:37                Yes. Yes, I did.

Shane Tenny:                10:40                That, very untraditional, right? As a trauma surgeon, you didn't go and get a contract with a major hospital and practice there for awhile and then start doing locums. You came out and birthed a career around flexibility, basically, and through doing that, opened your eyes to different, obviously, protocols and standards of care at different hospital systems, but also just the different people out there that are doing things.

Nii Darko:                     11:01                Oh yeah. That the biggest point, which is anti to what most people in my career do. But you know, the funny thing is you do locums, you get a chance to really test out a place. You get to see some of the geopolitical things that are happening locally at a hospital, but you kind of are able to stay away from that and you just work and you get to go home, you get to take your toys home at the end of the day.

Nii Darko:                     11:27                So after doing it for about a year and a half, I actually found a place that me and my wife settled down to. We took an employed position. We were there for three years as employed doctors. We loved it. It was great. But you know, we just finally had an honest conversation with ourselves and realized that even though this place is treating us well, we just feel like right now we are better off as being independent contractors. So we decided to go back into the independent contractor world, the 1099 life, and we've fully embraced it right now.

Shane Tenny:                11:57                So what would you say to someone listening now who is either getting ready to finish training or fellowship or somebody who's in practice, but feeling restless or frustrated? Talk a little bit about some of the pros and then maybe also some of the cons or some of the things you need to be aware of if you're going to explore locums. Because the grass isn't always greener on the other side, there's things to be aware of.

Nii Darko:                     12:19                Absolutely. That's a good point. The grass ain't always greener. But you know, the one thing about locums now is this is a great opportunity to really see what different hospital systems are like, right? If you want to work in the Midwest and you're not sure if you can handle it, there are plenty of positions open where you can go and do locums at a facility anywhere in the country, spend some time there, and really see what this place is about. Then at the same time, when you're done, you can leave.

Nii Darko:                     12:48                If you really like it, you can oftentimes turn it into a permanent position. So it's a great opportunity for you to interview them, and then also at the same time, they can interview you in a way that's very noncommittal.

Nii Darko:                     13:01                So that's one of the biggest. I think that's, number one, the biggest pro. Number two is you get to understand your self-worth. Because you really start to understand how much a hospital is willing to pay for your services. The amount of money that they will pay you is oftentimes a significant amount more than what they would pay their salaried workers.

Nii Darko:                     13:22                Now, if you decide to work there as a salary worker, obviously you're not going to be making the same amount, but you really start to understand how much your services are worth to a hospital. So that's why I say that's the second biggest pro of working locums is you understand, wow, if a hospital is willing to spend this much for my services and they are still able to thrive, this is very interesting.

Nii Darko:                     13:45                I think one of the cons, though, is if you are not ready to accept the life where you're constantly traveling or you're living out of a suitcase, or you find a place that you really like and you want to continue to go there, oftentimes it can be expensive for the hospitals to continue to have doctors work in a locums fashion. As I mentioned before, you are working at a higher rate, so it can be quite expensive for a hospital, so they're constantly looking for someone to be there in a permanent position.

Nii Darko:                     14:13                So you may end up liking a place, but then you just have to learn to be very open and realize that they may not need you for several months. So you have to be able to be open and flexible and pliable. So that's one of the cons. If that's something that you're not open to, that's just something that you have to be flexible with.

Shane Tenny:                14:31                I think, from experience talking with other docs I know that maybe you could talk to this, making the decision to do locums and actually starting to do locums are not the same-day decisions. There's a time to get credentialed and to sign up with different agencies. Then also, maybe talk to that and talk to just also the added financial responsibility that you need to be prepared to accept if you're going to be a 1099 employee.

Nii Darko:                     14:56                Oh, yeah. I mean, all that stuff is on you. So the ability for you to do your own retirement, you're going to have to learn how to do your own retirement. You're going to have to learn how to salary yourself the proper way. You're going to have to learn how to withhold taxes the right way.

Nii Darko:                     15:09                In terms of credentialing, if you're working with a locums company they have people who work with you and they will get you and expedite this whole process for you. So it's a lot quicker than doing it yourself.

Nii Darko:                     15:20                But the concept of basically doing all the financials and the benefits that working with a company would do or being involved with a company, you have to do on your own. Now to some people that may be daunting. Like how do I find health insurance? Or I don't know how to do my own 401k or IRA. Or I don't know exactly how much to pay myself. How do I withhold taxes? All those different things. That can be daunting to a lot of people. But if you give it a chance, there's enough people out there right now who can help you get through this process.

Nii Darko:                     15:51                It's definitely something that I think at first can be a little bit like, man, this is a little tough. But I tell a lot of people, once you get used to doing it, it's really hard to go back, because you feel like you are your own boss. You feel like you control how much you get paid. You control how often you work. You control your retirement for this year, right? You determine all these different things that when it's time to go to a situation where you may not be in that type of controlled opportunity any more, i.e., being employed, a lot of doctors oftentimes struggle with that.

Nii Darko:                     16:22                So it's just one of those things where if you're willing to kind of get your feet wet, it's really an opportunity to grow as a business person.

Shane Tenny:                16:30                Yeah. If you're willing to explore the learning that's required, then it can be pretty rewarding.

Shane Tenny:                16:36                You have a website, and one of the things on your website that I know you put forth out there is the ability to help people with both locums or contract negotiation, I think?

Nii Darko:                     16:45                Yes.

Shane Tenny:                16:45                Talk a little bit about that. So if somebody is listening or thinking, and maybe they just had an interview with a hospital and got presented with a contract, is that the sort of thing you can help them think through, give them some pointers? Then for others who are thinking, well, I've been thinking about locums. Maybe Doc Nii can point me in the right direction. Talk a little bit about that and your work in those spaces.

Nii Darko:                     17:04                Absolutely. I mean, you just basically described it, man. Hey, listen, actually I need you to help recruit.

Shane Tenny:                17:08                Yeah, I want some business cards when this is over. Yeah.

Nii Darko:                     17:10                I got you, man. Like, I'm going to have to give you a retainer, man. You're awesome, actually.

Nii Darko:                     17:15                So yeah, basically, that's what I do as part of the jobs that I do is I help people who are just getting a contract and not sure exactly how to read through it. You'd be really surprised, a lot of people, a lot of physicians, we spend our entire life becoming a master of the human body, there's no time really to understand contract negotiations and legalese.

Nii Darko:                     17:37                I think the thing that bothers me the most about that whole process is, is you get this contract and we get scared of the legalese and we feel like we can't really understand it, and as a result we kind of push it away or we ignore it and we sign it, we don't read it. There are plenty of opportunities where if you don't understand the contract you really can be taken advantage of.

Nii Darko:                     18:03                So for me, as someone who I did not get taken advantage of, but as someone who when I started off in locums reading the contract, the agreement between me and the company, and doing all of the different interviews even before I did locums with these hospitals and looking at the different contracts, you really start to look at things and you're just like, oh, wow, I didn't know that I have to be really intentional about how many hours a week or how many hours a year do I want to be on call, or what's going to be my exit plan if this doesn't work out.

Nii Darko:                     18:33                Docs, there is a possibility that your first job, it may not work out. You need to know what your exit plan is. If it's very easy to get into a contract, you really need to know how to get out of a contract. What if you have a dispute? How do you handle those types of things?

Nii Darko:                     18:47                It's really not just about salary. It's really about a lot of different things that we just don't get taught about in med school. So those are the things that I help people with. It's really not that hard. It's really one of those things it's kind of like a puzzle, and once you read one contract and you really understand a little bit of what they're trying to say, it's really, for the most part, you just read more and more and more and you get kind of used to it.

Nii Darko:                     19:11                But it's really fun. I feel like it's very empowering if you can understand your own contract and be able to negotiate on your own. But also at the same time, there are plenty of other services out there where people can get help, whether it's a lawyer or different contract negotiation services that are out there for physicians that help them have a better experience from a contractual standpoint between themselves and a hospital.

Shane Tenny:                19:32                Yeah, I think one of the biggest misconceptions, just to the point you're making, is that, especially when you're a young physician, you come out, you get a contract from a major hospital system, and you're just like, oh, well, little old me isn't going to be able to negotiate anything or get them to make any changes. It's just not the case. It's definitely worth the time to get some professional opinion or some opinion from somebody who's experienced and been down that path before.

Nii Darko:                     19:55                That is exactly how people think about it. You hit it right on the head. They'll say this is the standard contract for everyone. It's like, yeah, I doubt it.

Shane Tenny:                20:06                Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. As you pointed out, it's not just the comp or the RVUs, it's how are mid-levels handled, what's the call pay requirements? All of those sorts of things that you kind of don't think about. So learning how to think that through can be super valuable.

Shane Tenny:                20:17                I want to talk to you a little bit about your podcast in a minute, but we've got to take a quick break.

Will Koster:                   20:26                I'm Will Koster, bringing you this episode's financial wellness tip.

Will Koster:                   20:30                Making the decision to refinance your student loans comes with a lot of considerations. After you begin applying to lenders, there's still work to do. What kind of loan term do you agree to? Do you consider a variable interest rate or should you lock in a fixed interest rate?

Will Koster:                   20:47                Before I go any further, I need to preface this segment that it all depends on the details of your personal situation. One of the main considerations is what will be your minimum monthly payment. It is important to remember that you can agree to a longer repayment schedule to avoid having a minimum monthly payment that would be cumbersome in the future.

Will Koster:                   21:09                Oftentimes the difference between two repayment lengths, say seven and ten years, will only result in a small interest rate difference. If that is the case, it may be advisable to take the flexibility that comes with a ten year repayment term, rather than locking in the more aggressive seven-year payoff.

Will Koster:                   21:29                The bottom line here, remember that you have more control when refinancing your student loans. Make the loan fit your personal situation.

Will Koster:                   21:38                For this episode's financial wellness tip, I'm Will Koster.

Shane Tenny:                21:41                All right. Doctor Nii Darko, still with us. Thanks for not leaving during the break there. I know that you have kind of evolved over the course of your career to kind of becoming a serial entrepreneur. We were talking before about your work as a trauma surgeon, your work doing locums, and you alluded to your work podcasting. I know you've got quite a following. So on the off chance there's someone listening to this podcast who hasn't heard yours, can you talk a little bit about Docs Outside the Box and what you're doing there?

Nii Darko:                     22:11                Yeah. Yeah. So Docs Outside the Box is a podcast of ordinary doctors doing extraordinary things outside of medicine. So if you want to know how doctors get on TV, if you want to know how doctors coach other doctors, look, man, if you want to know how doctors feel about controversial topics, maybe not even related to medicine, my podcast is the podcast for you.

Nii Darko:                     22:31                So we sit there and I sit and I interview docs who are doing some cool things. I oftentimes interview my wife, who is a doctor also, and we go and have conversations on topics that are really controversial. Or I'll just invite another doctor on and we'll talk about some controversial things, like what doctors can learn from NBA free agency, what docs can learn from record executives.

Nii Darko:                     22:55                It's really interesting, I'm actually going to be working on an episode what doctors can learn from the NFL players and the current CBA, the collective bargaining agreement. Some of the things that they do is very similar to what doctors do in terms of working together as a group.

Nii Darko:                     23:09                So we just kind of talk about the things that you're not really expecting your average doctor to talk about.

Shane Tenny:                23:15                Mm-hmm.

Nii Darko:                     23:15                Things that we think about, but we just don't feel comfortable talking about, that's what this podcast is for.

Shane Tenny:                23:21                Yeah, it's kind of a podcast where you're just opening up the door to the back room where people can come into the secret doctors' lounge and have a conversation.

Nii Darko:                     23:28                Oh yeah, absolutely. If you want to have real conversations, you want to listen to this one, right?

Shane Tenny:                23:34                So we both know that podcasts are growing in popularity. We've got folks in our circles who thought to themselves, oh yeah, I've been thinking about starting a podcast. Is it hard? Is it easy? What tips do you have for people that think got a vision for a conversation that folks might want to listen to?

Nii Darko:                     23:48                First of all, anybody who's listening to this podcast, you can start your own podcast. For me, I think it is very easy. It is one of the more freeing things that I've ever done is starting a podcast.

Nii Darko:                     23:59                I was the type of person who didn't really say much when I was in a group of people. I would keep to myself or I would just watch and just play off of other people. I didn't really have my own opinions. My opinions oftentimes were based off of what other people said. Since I've been podcasting, I've learned to really understand the power of my voice, really understand the power of myself as a physician. It's helped me to become a lot more confident.

Nii Darko:                     24:23                So I oftentimes tell people, first of all, podcasting is very easy, but it's really important to understand what is it that you want to talk about? What is your thing? What is it that people ask you about? Is there something, whatever the topic may be, that people feel like you're the go to person about? If it's something that's related to health, then that's something that you can talk about. If it's something that you're just really interested in, maybe not related to health, but people oftentimes want to know your opinion about that, that's another way that you can find your topic, your niche, to speak about.

Nii Darko:                     24:55                The other thing, also, is, like you said, there are almost close to, wow, almost close to a million podcasts out there right now, probably. Probably even more than that. So it is really hard to stand out right now. If you remember what it's like to break out or stand out when blogging was big, or if you are big in YouTube and you want to know how to stand out, the big thing is authenticity, being genuine, being yourself. You can only be you. That's it. Nobody else can be you. So you have to really embrace that unique uniqueness about you.

Nii Darko:                     25:29                For me, I'm corny, right? So I just accept it. Right? I love basketball. I love hip hop music. I love being a physician. So I just try to embrace all of those different things, the corniness, the hip hop, the basketball, all those different things somehow, and I just make myself me, and that's how I've been very comfortable in my own skin.

Nii Darko:                     25:48                So those are the biggest things is just find out what people really want your opinion on, what you really like talking about, and then also at the same time, just be comfortable with who you are. Don't try to be like anybody else. Don't try and be like me. There's only one Doctor Nii. Be you, embrace it, and realize that there's somebody for everyone, right? Everybody's going to listen. My voice is not going to resonate with everyone.

Nii Darko:                     26:10                So if you're interested in having the same type of conversation, maybe you're a woman, maybe you are from the LGBTQ community, you can express yourself in so many different ways that really resonate with so many different people, so embrace it.

Shane Tenny:                26:22                Yeah. Now you juggle a lot. I mean, you've got your podcasts, you work locums, you travels around, you're married, you do some coaching work, as we were talking about with contracts and locums. How do you keep from going crazy? What's your recipe for finding balance in the midst of it all.

Nii Darko:                     26:39                Man, Shane, is there such thing as balanced, man? I don't know.

Shane Tenny:                26:43                Yeah, can we turn this off right now? Is this still recording?

Nii Darko:                     26:46                Right?

Shane Tenny:                26:46                Yeah.

Nii Darko:                     26:50                Someone interviewed me who's very popular, she's a very popular podcaster, speaker, she's on TV. I asked her, because I was interviewing her, I asked her, I was like, how do you balance all this? She was like, there's no such thing as balance in her life. She just makes it happen. She tries to be the best person that she can be that day. And it's true. For me, that's the key. I just try to be the best person I can be.

Nii Darko:                     27:11                I don't know if your audience is familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk, who's a very popular entrepreneur, digital marketer, and he goes by Gary V. Sometimes you feel like your life is going a certain way. You can't really describe it until someone else says it the best way, and you're just like, that's it, that's exactly how I feel. He basically said that he doesn't want to be in his 80s and someone comes in, maybe his children or someone comes to visit him, and he has this face or this look of regret on him. Right? He says that he's seen it before and it's the most depressing feeling. Go to a nursing home and look at someone who's in their eighties, and if they have a sense of regret, it's just this disheartening feeling.

Nii Darko:                     27:51                Although when I'm doing whatever I'm doing in my life, I really wasn't thinking about that, that basically is how I've been operating. I just want to make sure that when my time is up, I can just say, look, I tried everything. A didn't work, but B worked. But you know, I did all these different things, but at least I know I tried and I gave it 100%

Shane Tenny:                28:10                Yeah. Kind of that leave it all on the field type mentality.

Nii Darko:                     28:12                Yeah, leave it all on the field. So I got an opportunity to see other doctors who were contracting themselves as a physician. So I said, well, let me try. Why can't I do it? Or I wanted to start my own podcast, and then it went from being a labor of love to actually people finding my platform to be an opportunity for them to appraise their own platform. So it's time to level up and make this a business.

Nii Darko:                     28:37                So it's just one of those things where it's just like looking at life as, why not? And trying to take chances, which is very opposite than how I normally operate, or just physicians in general operate. We have to make sure we look at plan A, B, C, D, E, F, G, all the way to Z, before we make a decision. We have to make sure that we are very safe, right? Do no harm, right? Which is very opposite to business, which is you got to take chances, right? You've got to take calculated risks. If you make a mistake, then so be it, but at least you tried.

Nii Darko:                     29:07                So that's been the toughest balance, I think, is to take chances when you've spent the significant period of your life not taking chances. [crosstalk 00:29:18].

Shane Tenny:                29:16                Not taking. Yeah, yeah. Speaking of taking chances, I wonder if you'd comment on something, because we're in a year that is proving to just have way more volatility to it than any recent memory, certainly in the last decade. I mean, there's just a lot that feels unstable, that feels scary, that feels unknown, especially for the healthcare industry. There's a lot of people that have felt fear. I mean, I think if you're going to be authentic about it, you've felt fear.

Shane Tenny:                29:51                I guess my question to you is as you travel around to different hospitals, you work in the operating room, you're a trauma surgeon, and you are active in the medical community through your conversations, how do you manage the noise between your own ears? What do you encourage other people to do to manage the uncertainty and the fear that they might feel?

Nii Darko:                     30:13                You know, that's a really good question. I think that the best way that I can answer that question and the way how I do it is I just realize that I am human. Even though I wear a white coat, I am no different than how the patient that I'm taking care of is in the bed. I'm no different than the nurse who we're working together to take care of people. They have to go home and go see their children. Like we are all basically citizens of the world, right? We are global citizens. We have to be nice to each other. We have to take care of each other. Because ultimately as what's going on in the world right now, we're all interrelated in some form or fashion, right?

Nii Darko:                     30:53                How many people remember listening to this virus and finding out, well, it's happening in China, it's not that big of a deal? Then you're like, oh, snap, it's in Italy. Oh, snap, it's in this country. Now it's in the United States. Now it's affecting me and my job. It's so interrelated. We are so connected in so many different ways that we really can't isolate ourselves. We can try our best to, but as times have shown, even if you're not a healthcare worker, in some form or fashion, you're going to be affected financially, right? You may be affected in a point where maybe your job is sending you home and you're not going to get a paycheck.

Nii Darko:                     31:31                So these are very interesting times. I think it's an opportunity for us to really realize that we're connected as humans. Nobody's better than anybody else. Right? You're looking at all these celebrities, even right now, I'm not sure when this podcast is going to come out, but you're looking at somebody celebrities who have the COVID virus, and you're just like, man, if you can get it.

Nii Darko:                     31:54                Or even something like Kobe Bryant, right? You look at Kobe Bryant, not to be grim, but you look at someone who has spent such a significant period of their life, at least 16 years, traveling with helicopters, and just like that something like this happens. You look at someone like him and you're just like, oh man, he's healthy and he's got money. You're like, how can life just change like that for people?

Nii Darko:                     32:15                So oftentimes for me, the way how I stay balanced is I just remember that I'm a global citizen. I remember that I'm a husband. I remember that I'm a father. I remember that ultimately what's going to go down is how I treat people, what my relationships are with people, how do I maximize these things? Because time is finite, and we are all related in some form or fashion. You can't isolate yourself, so be as good as you can be with people. Be genuine.

Shane Tenny:                32:39                Yeah, yeah. As we wrap up here, what's wellness mean to you?

Nii Darko:                     32:44                Control.

Shane Tenny:                32:45                Control?

Nii Darko:                     32:46                Yeah, I say control.

Shane Tenny:                32:47                Okay.

Nii Darko:                     32:47                Because I think the more things that you are in control of on your end, I think that that's going to lead to happiness, right? So from financial control that allows you to say yes or it allows you to say no at your job, it allows you to take time off if you need to work out.

Nii Darko:                     33:05                I'm talking about having a conversation about things that are on the surface, deeper, or deeper below the surface. I just need to be able to have good mental health and so forth. I'm talking about being able to really make the decisions that are really going to affect your life.

Nii Darko:                     33:20                So if there's a job that you're unhappy with, being able to exorcize and run is only going to help you so much. The ability to really remove yourself from that toxic environment is really important. So that's where control comes into it. The ability to financially say, you know what? Maybe I shouldn't be spending as much, maybe I shouldn't focus so much on lifestyle creep, and really saved my money, which allows me to do X, Y, and Z. That's really important.

Nii Darko:                     33:41                So for me, when you mentioned that term, it's really for me about being in control and realizing that we spent so much time studying, we spent so much time really educating ourselves, and to really give control away, whether it be to our employer or give control away to basically our career.

Nii Darko:                     34:02                That's the whole point of Docs Outside the Box is to understand that there's this whole world out there that we can really connect with. There are people who are doing amazing things. All you have to do is just listen, put your headphones in, get on this journey with us together, and we can really see what we can do together as a community as physicians.

Shane Tenny:                34:19                Yeah. You know, I'm thinking of, in some ways, your last two answers, between responding to the year's crises and also the wellness concept. I'm thinking of the phrase, something along the lines of, to plan or to automate for the things that you can anticipate so that you can humanize the things you can't anticipate. Obviously we don't control everything about life, but let me make decisions and be intentional and plan for the things that I know are going to happen, whether it's my career, my family, my job, whatever, because invariably then I can be more present when life throws me things that I can't anticipate, like years like 2020.

Nii Darko:                     35:00                Yeah. You know, it's funny, you made a really good point, but I just remember a tweet that LeBron James put out. He was just like, "Someone needs to cancel 2020."

Shane Tenny:                35:10                Yeah.

Nii Darko:                     35:12                2020 has been a very difficult year for a lot of people, for the world in general. But you know, we just got to keep moving forward and pressing forward.

Shane Tenny:                35:18                Yeah, for sure. Well, Dr. Nii, thanks so much for being with us today. Really appreciate your company, your laughter, your authenticity, and look forward to tuning into lots of your episodes too.

Nii Darko:                     35:28                Hey, man, thank you for having me on the show. This was a great, great time, and keep doing what you're doing. It's great, great work.

Shane Tenny:                35:34                Yeah, I appreciate it.

Shane Tenny:                35:35                Thank you so much for joining us today. Again, wherever you are, we appreciate your time and your participation. We've got plenty more episodes queued up to roll out. You know they come every other Monday. Please don't forget to subscribe and give us reviews. Love your feedback. You can find us on any of your social media outlets.

Shane Tenny:                35:51                If you have any suggestions, questions, or ideas for future episodes, you can email me directly, shane@whitecoatwell.com.

Shane Tenny:                35:59                Thanks so much. We'll see you back here next time.

Outro:                            36:03                This episode of the Prosperous Doc Podcast is over, but you're not alone on your journey. Spaugh Dameron Tenny has been helping physicians and dentists prosper through financial planning for over 60 years. To connect with us, visit sdtplanning.com today, and take your financial wellness to new levels.

Outro:                            36:20                Join us on the next episode of the Prosperous Doc Podcast.