Breaking Bad has been rated one of the best TV shows of all time, and for good reason. The improbable story of a regular and shy high school chemistry teacher, faced with a terminal diagnosis, turning into a gangster and drug kingpin—certainly makes for good television. A compelling storyline set against the backdrop of one of the nation’s most beautiful landscapes. For those few of you unfamiliar with the show, it’s set in New Mexico. Walter White is faced with a diagnosis of lung cancer in the very first episode, realizes that he only has a short time to live and needs to secure his family’s financial future. The rest of the story unfolds from there, with enough twists and turns to make even the most seasoned TV viewer dizzy. Taking a lighthearted point of view, here are 3 things Walter White can teach doctors (disclaimer: for the more serious minded and unhumorous among you, this is not to say you should ever admire or attempt to emulate what he did!):
1.Make hay while the sun shines
It’s only human and sensible that your first instinct be to secure you and your family’s financial future. I’ve met several doctors over the last few years who believe that the days of physicians earning (deservedly) a good sum of money for the important work that they do, is coming to an end. Also rapidly changing is the autonomous and independent nature in which they’ve been practicing. Lots of physicians have told me that their aim is to work as hard as they possibly can, and then “cash out”. If that’s what they believe is the right thing to do for their financial future, then who can blame them? Indeed, people in any industry owe this to themselves while they are able to do so.
2.You need a good team
Walter White used his masterful chemistry skills for a negative use, but he was nevertheless a perfectionist who knew that he was delivering a product that was far superior to anyone else’s. However, he also quickly realized that he couldn’t do it alone, and when his partner Jesse Pinkman wasn’t helping him, he found it almost impossible to ply his trade. Similarly, no physician can ever work completely alone, and whether it’s a great nurse, medical assistant or frontline office staff—the success of your endeavor is only as good as your team.
3.True fulfillment can only come from doing what you’re good at and enjoy
Walter White was bored and too highly talented for his regular daytime job as a teacher. He became obsessed with his “side job”, worked every possible spare minute, sometimes rarely sleeping. He took a strange pride in his product and was obsessive-compulsive in making sure that it was nothing less than what he believed was the best. His work was actually about much more than making money.
In the final episode of the last season, when Walter meets his wife Skyler for the last time, there is an emotional scene when he finally comes clean. Instead of saying, like he always had, that he did everything for his family, he tearfully admits that there was another reason for his endeavors: “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it…and I was…I was alive”.
When you find something that makes you feel like that, along with earning an amount that makes you satisfied, you’ll have no time for grumpiness, complaining, or even spending time reading internet blogs! So, what makes you feel that way? Because feeling like that is all anyone can ask for. Hopefully while working honestly and doing something good.
Suneel Dhand is a physician, author, speaker and healthcare consultant. He has experience in a number of different healthcare environments, having worked up and down the East coast and also internationally. His specialty areas include hospital QI, improving the patient experience, and optimizing healthcare IT. “He is the Founder & Director” of MangoWell, an organization and consulting service that helps hospitals and healthcare professionals improve the quality of hospital care. MangoWell’s most recent publication, “The Ultimate Patient Advocate in Your Pocket”, is designed to help hospitalized patients.
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