In 2011, my wife and I attended a Broadway play called Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, the Broadway debute of Robin Williams.
The show involved the story of two American soldiers and an Iraqi translator. It also starred the ghost of a zoo tiger (played by Williams). What stood out to us more than anything was the larger-than-life performance from Robin Williams. I have never seen so much fire and intensity from any performer on stage (and that includes Bruce Springsteen performing at Giants stadium). This performance was described as ‘savagely funny and a visionary new work of American theater’ by the New York Times.
Within minutes after the show, I had the opportunity to shake hands with him and get a picture taken with him. I have never met an A-list celebrity who was as humble as Mr. Williams. In fact, I felt like I was meeting with a different person because he seemed so quiet, awkward and reticent. Within seconds, he was gone, whisked away in by SUV into the abyss of Manhattan traffic.
For someone who made millions laugh with his jokes and off-the-cuff comedy to have ended his own life in his home in California yesterday is a shocking tragedy, and a realization of a silent epidemic, according to NBC News.
Out of respect to him and his family, I won’t speculate on the how and why (since that’s the only thing you’ll see in mainstream media over the next few weeks). I’ll focus on what we can learn, as human beings, and as business owners.
Stress is Inevitable – We Need to Be Able to Control It
For self employed business owners (that’s you and me), stress is an everyday phenomenon. There’s always something going on, and there is rarely a dull day. But there comes a time when the ‘stress tolerance threshold’ is reached, and that’s why it’s crucial for you to:
Have a support structure of family and friends
Interact with other private practice owners to share successes and failures
Take a moment to step back and appreciate what you have
Reflect on the lives you have touched, and continue to touch each day
I don’t know Robin Williams, but he made such an impact on my life that day, and through his performances, that I feel like I lost a friend. Hopefully, some of you will feel that way about me when I’m gone.
More importantly, I know that your patients will feel that way about you someday.
Here’s the point. You, with your work, are touching the lives of people around you. If Robin Williams made millions laugh on the global stage, you making an impact to the lives of your patients, within the four walls of your clinic is equally incredible.
There is nothing more noble than dedicating your life to helping other people.
Here’s What You Should Do Today
If you don’t have a support system in place, get one. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t talked to and tell them you love / appreciate them. Please don’t send an email or send a text, JUST PICK UP THE PHONE AND MAKE THAT CALL. Have friends over for dinner. Call your long lost cousin. Heck, call your in-laws and forge that connection. Sure, it’s going to need some emotional willpower, but it’s the right thing to do.
If you don’t interact with other practice owners who share the same stress, the same fears and have the same objectives as you, you’ll exist in a ‘practice vacuum’, devoid of new ideas and unable to move to the next level.
You’ve got to invest time, energy and money to take yourself to the next level, whether that involves driving long distances to meet other practice owners, flying to conferences, attending webinars or just doing a group telephone conference call once a month.
Finally, make a list of THREE things you appreciate in life. Don’t type it into your phone. Grab some paper and write it down. The act of writing is very visceral and we are doing less and less of it. You will feel certain emotions as you write down what you are thankful for.
Finally, I know, as do you, that you touch the lives of patients around you. Take comfort in the fact that they know it, even if they don’t say it. You make the world a better place, and you make people smile.
Speaking of smile, here’s a legendary performance from Robin Williams, available on YouTube.
Robin made millions laugh over the years, and a handful of people (myself among them), shed a tear today. I’m sure Robin would want you to laugh, so take a few minutes to watch this incredible standup comedy performance from 2009.
My favorite portion is from the 20 minute mark to the 30 minute mark, but the whole thing is worth a watch.
We’ll miss you Robin.