How are you a genius?

After 12 years practicing in a large, multispecialty clinic, I opened my own practice in August 1997. Laughingly, I told everyone that I spent the summer learning about all sorts of things I never had any interest in: OSHA regulations, how to create an employee handbook, which computer scheduling and billing system would be best, accounting – the list was long but I was excited to open my new practice and dove in with great enthusiasm. After spending several hours setting up the accounts in my new QuickBooks program, I realized that I needed help. I found a young accountant who advertised his skills with the program and hired him to finish setting it up for my business. Initially impressed with what I seemed to have done, he later told me that he rapidly found out how badly I needed his skills. The accounts I set up made no sense and it took him many hours to correct what I had done. So much for omnipotence.

In the course of a medical career, we gain many competencies. We learn to diagnose and treat many conditions, perform a variety of procedures, communicate effectively with different types of people, and sometimes even manage employees and colleagues. This often gives us the idea that there is nothing we cannot do, or learn to do. And sometimes we feel as if we NEED to do everything, and that no one should be doing anything for us. But as Albert Einstein wisely remarked, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 8.16.57 AM

In what ways are YOU a genius?

A happy life includes lots of activities that make us feel competent or that honor our fundamental values.   Values can be a part of your workday or you can include them in one of your outside activities. (To find out what your values are, see my blogpost ( And although most of the feedback we receive during our life focuses on improving our shortcomings, research shows that people perform best when they play to their strengths. Make sure that your strengths show up often and in high profile in your life.

Are there trees in your life that you shouldn’t or don’t need to be climbing?

Take a look at all the things you’re doing in your life. Then make a list of those things that aren’t meaningful, fun, or interesting, as well as those that are a struggle because you’re just not good at them. If there are items on that list that you want to learn about or become better at, take them off your list. But with everything that’s left, ask yourself who might do them better than you. Who might learn something from being given that job? Then delegate or hire someone to take over and cross them off your list.

Having a happy life doesn’t just happen – we have to set ourselves up by checking in to see how we are really feeling, taking some time to look critically at how we are living, and then making the choices to create the life we really want to be living. We don’t have to spend our lives struggling to climb a tree – we can happily swim in the ocean, feeling our competence and enjoying the sights, sounds, relationships and activities that bring us the most joy.

I work with doctors who are stressed, overworked or who feel that their life is out of balance because of all the changes that we’re struggling with in medicine, or just because they’re trying to live a demanding medical life. Through the work we do together they find perspective and strategies to gain more power in their lives and by doing that they create lives of greater joy. If you would like to see if coaching can help you, I would love to speak with you.  You can contact me here.

About Helane Fronek

Over the past 28 years I have had a fascinating and fulfilling career in medicine, initially practicing as a general internist and then as a procedural specialist, caring for patients with vein disorders. As Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC- San Diego School of Medicine, I’m thrilled to be teaching medical students crucial communication skills along with many other aspects involved in the practice of medicine.
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