Dear Abby Lights a Fire Under Health Advocates, Too

Maybe twenty years ago, I read a Dear Abby column that went something like:

“Dear Abby, When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. But life got in the way – I got married, had three kids, was a good wife…. But now my kids are grown and on their own. I’m 47 years old, but I find I still have my dream of becoming a doctor. By the time I get back into school, and do my residency, it will be 10 years before I have doctor in front of my name! What do you think. Am I too old?

Signed, Jane Smith, Dreaming of Doctoring”

Abby’s reply went something like this:

“Dear Dreaming, There are dreamers, and there are do-ers. Everyone can dream, but only the do-ers get the satisfaction of seeing their dreams come true. In 10 years you will either still be Jane Smith, or you will be Dr. Jane Smith. Are you a dreamer or a do-er?


A few months ago, I wrote a post about the analysis of paralysis – those folks who KNOW they want to become private patient advocates, who KNOW they can do it, but who, for any number of reasons, just don’t throw the switch, telling the world they are now, officially, in practice and inviting clients to discuss their work. They may fear the risk of going out on their own, they may fear the rejection of people who don’t want to hire them, they may hate to talk to potential clients about money…

And yes, it IS a tough decision, I know that. It requires the do-er in us to overcome the dreamer in us. It requires an attitude of “I can do it!,” plus “I’m worth it,” plus “I have a tough skin,” plus other mantras that help us skate into fulfilling our dreams.

But today I’m going to ask you to think of it a bit differently. If you are one of those who just hasn’t pulled the switch to opening your private practice yet, I’m going to suggest you ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

Then I’m going to suggest that once you come up with most of your answers, the ensuing statement will be, “So what?”

So, for example: maybe the worst thing that can happen will be that – you fail. You don’t acquire any clients, or they don’t pay you as they should, or you don’t cure their terminal disease.

But then I’ll say “So What?” No one is any worse off than they would have been if you hadn’t tried. You know perfectly well you are in no position to cure someone anyway (but I’m sure you made their life a little easier while they were still alive), or – you don’t have any clients now anyway – so what’s the difference? or if someone didn’t pay you – well, then, you learned your lesson about contracts and collecting money up front – and next time you will be smarter about the whole thing.

There are very few BAD things that can happen if you begin taking on clients. Yes, there may be business difficulties – but those aren’t personal. Yes, there may be difficult clients, but they are really a business difficulty that happens in all businesses, and eventually, they aren’t your problem anymore. Yes, you need to grow a nice thick skin when you go into business – but how will you grow it if you don’t create the challenges that toughen it up?

Dear Abby was right. In 10 years, you’ll either be exactly who you are, or you’ll be [your name here], health advocate, with an excellent reputation and a thriving practice. As a dreamer, you’ll spend the rest of your life saying, “If only.” As a doer, you will fulfill your dreams.

Are you a dreamer? Or are you a do-er? Who will you be – NEXT year?

(Read more about the Analysis of Paralysis)

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