I am often asked why I chose to become a Chiropractor later in my career than most,
From Youth to the 7 Year Itch
I’m a bay area boy, born and bread. I grew up in the Outer Sunset of San Francisco during my childhood years in the 1970’s, went to high school in San Rafael, California in my teens during the early 80’s, then moved to San Jose to attend college at San Jose State University in the mid 80’s. While in college, I was living right in the middle of Silicon Valley just as it was about to become the center of the technological world.
In 1990, I got my undergraduate degree from San Jose State with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design, and a Minor in Marketing. As you can see, my path at the time gives you no indication I would ever become a Chiropractor. Living in Silicon Valley, you usually end up in the technology sector.
Yep! That’s what happened.
My first job out of college was in customer service for a former pager company ( yes the pagers that went beep.. beep), Pagenet. Four years later, in about 1994, I met a couple of guys who were building a full suspension mountain bike from scratch, and joined in a partnership to become part of the company. We were three guys designing and outsourcing the manufacture of a full suspension mountain bike — one of the earliest full suspension bikes on the market. I came on board as the marketing director. At the time, the internet was just beginning to take shape. America Online was the first online tool enabling people from all over the world to begin communicating with each other in “chat rooms.” At about the same time, the Netscape browser was developed and web pages and the world wide web were just becoming buzz phrases.
Needing to market our newly developed mountain bikes, I decided to learn how to build web pages to create a website and get us more exposure.
Fast forward three years, and I parted ways with my mountain bike partners to start my own website development firm. I ran the firm for about 7 years, benefiting happily from the dot com boom, then watched my income virtually grind to a halt when the dot com bubble burst.
I was able to scramble my way through those rough times, as the internet clearly wasn’t going away, but at about that seven year point, I started feeling like building websites was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I guess I was getting my 7 year itch.
And that’s where chiropractic comes in…
Reflecting Upon Where I’ve Been
As I was rapidly approaching 40 years of age, I started asking myself questions… “I’m roughly half way through my life. What have I done?” “Where have I been?” “Where am I going?” “Is building websites what I want to do for the rest of my life?””What is my purpose in this life?”
Every time I asked myself these questions, I realized I had done quite a bit, but hadn’t really applied myself to something I was passionate about. I also came to the realization that I really wasn’t sure where I was going. What I did know for sure though, was that I didn’t want to build websites for the rest of my life.
I continued to ask myself questions. “If it’s not to build websites, then what do I want to do?”
I continued to reflect upon my work history, my entrepreneurial ventures, and what I had been doing for the prior 7 years, and I realized I had never worked doing something I was passionate about.
[quote_left]Was there anything I was passionate about?[/quote_left]
To be honest, it was something I had to think about for a bit. “If I were to go back to college and start all over again, what would I study? If I could be really good at anything, what would it be?”
I have always been fascinated by physics, cosmology, the human body, and pretty much anything science. From gravity, magnetism, and the periodic table, to the heart, brain, and human physiology, I had always found these things so interesting that I would read about them for pleasure. After pondering this for awhile, I came to the conclusion that I had an untapped love and interest for science, and that these were things I could delve into with a lot of interest, because they were actually things I wanted to understand.
I was finally discovering the answers to my questions. If these things fascinated me, then it might be easier for me to become passionate about them.
As I continued to think long and hard about going back to college, I finally came to the conclusion that becoming an engineer or a doctor were what intrigued me the most. The problem was, I wasn’t sure if I actually had the ability to dedicate myself to these subjects, let alone master them on some level. It takes a lot of commitment and effort, and as I crept closer to my 40th birthday, was I ready for this?
As I thought about what it would take to became an engineer or doctor, I questioned my ability to conquer subjects that involved intense physics, chemistry, and the use of any word ending in ‘ology.’ In a nutshell, I wasn’t sure if I was smart enough to learn these subjects and own them.
At San Jose State, although I had maintained a 3.2 grade point average, I didn’t find that I was passionate about the courses I was taking.
Yea…I had quite a few technical classes, and of course I had to pass my general education like everyone else, but the majority of my core courses allowed me to design, and when you design something, you do a lot of drawing. It’s not too difficult to maintain a reasonably good GPA in your design curriculum if you can draw well. But drawing and designing was something that was more of a mental outlet for me than it was a passion. I hadn’t chose Industrial Design because it was what I always wanted to do. I chose it, because I was creative and it would get me a college degree. After that, I would figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
But here I was, making a pretty good living with my website development business. Something that involved design and creativity. Why wouldn’t I just stick with it and grow it? I did it well. I had lots of clients. I was my own boss. What more did I need?
What I needed was something that inspired me. I had reached a point after seven years as a website developer where I felt like I was just spinning my wheels. I had been doing it for so long, it didn’t challenge my interest anymore. On top of that, it started to become monotonous and aggravating.’
It was at that point that I thought about turning 40 on a slightly different level. “I’m almost 40 years old, and I’m almost halfway through my life expectancy.”
Loving the game of football, and having played in both high school and junior college, I used half time of a football game as my analogy for turning 40.
In the first half of the game, I was able to drive the field and score a couple of times, but my offense wasn’t as powerful as I would have liked it to be. I saw myself as a football team that was getting beat in the first half. I wasn’t getting blown out, but I was down by two touchdowns.
That’s when I started thinking deeper about what changes I was going to make. Again, I asked myself…”if I were going to do something for the rest of my life, what would it be?” If I were going to “make a halftime adjustment,” what would that include?
Each and ever time I asked myself this question, what I was determining was that I had two requirements. I couldn’t just make a career change for the sake of more money. There was more to it than that. I had to do something that would give back to the world in some way. I had to do something that I found fascinating and challenging, and I had to do something that would require me to help people.
And as I mentioned, engineering and the human body were the two things that captivated me the most.
I figured that if I went back to school for engineering, I would focus on alternative energy sources. It was something I could do that could help the world. I could help design more efficient solar cells. I could help improve battery storage technology. I could help design the next phase of energy for the world.
On the other hand, my fascination with the human body would enable me to help individual people. I am a rather social person, so helping people to restore their health would require face to face interaction. Couple that with a deep knowledge of how the human body works and I have the best of both worlds.
Regardless, the best of both worlds intimidated me a little. All of those darn ‘ologies.’ I would be confronted with neurology, physiology, microbiology, endocrinology, biochemistry, pathology, x-ray technology, and so many more.
As I kept thinking about it over the next few months, becoming a doctor and healthcare provider seemed to be the area that got me most excited. Becoming a doctor meant I would gain answers to questions about the human body that I always wanted to know. It meant that I would learn how the human body works inside and out. That was exciting to me. Far more than energy technology.
But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in healthcare. I considered becoming a medical doctor, but at 38, I couldn’t fathom going back to school for 7+ years. That was simply way too long. I looked into becoming a physical therapist, but after speaking with a friend, I realized it wasn’t something that resonated with me either.
Then one day in 2003 I talked with a friend of mine who knew I was considering a career switch. He was actually in the first stage of his own career change, and was in his second quarter of chiropractic school at Life Chiropractic College West in Hayward, California.
I am forever grateful to Dr. Ed Kahn for telling me that he thought chiropractic was the perfect fit for me.
I ended up doing a little research on the nearest chiropractic schools, and I was very lucky to have two within driving distance. Even better, Palmer College of Chiropractic West was just minutes from my home in San Jose.
After looking at the Palmer website to research information about the courses students take, I felt instantly intimidated and overwhelmed. All of those ‘ologies’ freaked me out. I thought, “No way! I’m not smart enough to learn all of this stuff.” I didn’t completely eliminate myself from the possibility, but I just decided not to think about it for awhile.
A couple months later, I decided to drive over to the Palmer campus to see what this place was all about. I walked into admissions to speak with someone about the program and get a tour. I can’t say it felt like a typical college campus, but there definitely was a student vibe. On my way out, I was given an entrance application and syllabus.
As I sat in my car looking at all of the classes in the curriculum, I kind of got a sick feeling in my stomach. In my mind, there was no way I was smart enough to pass all of these classes. It’s deep science, and I had never challenged myself with such deeply technical information.
I got back to my office to continue on my website development work where the application sat for the next 6 months. The application sat there right on my desk staring me in the face daily. I left it there on purpose. I wanted to look at it daily. I wanted it there as a reminder that although I had a lot of fears and doubts, I could do this! As I continued to think about the course difficulty, I finally started to realize that all I had to do was dedicate myself if I wanted to achieve the goal of becoming a doctor of chiropractic. I was 38 years old. An adult. Commit and put in the work to do it. All it is, is work. All it is, is putting in the effort.
As I droned on building websites for a couple months more, I had a day of significant frustration with one of my website clients. It was at that point that it finally hit me. “I’m f’n tired of this. I’m tired of what I’m doing. I’m tired of dealing with all of these high maintenance clients, and I want to be done with this website development crap and move on to something I am really interested in.
I grabbed the Palmer College of Chiropractic application that had been sitting on my desk for those many months and I filled it out and mailed it in the next day. It was on!
I could go on about the courses, and the student experience, and sitting in lectures, and taking exams, but I will leave that for someone else. That’s an article on an entirely different subject.
[quote_center]What I want you to know is that if I was able do it, anyone can do it — even at a later age in life. [/quote_center]
I am the classic overachiever, having come from a borderline poor family, with nobody in my family even graduating from high school prior to me. I am the classic late bloomer who finally figured out what he was passionate about 38 years into his life.
I want to leave you with some final words that will hopefully inspire you.
Don’t ever let your doubts and fears stop you from doing something you are passionate about. You can achieve ANYTHING if you commit. You don’t have to be a former valedictorian. I wasn’t. You don’t have to be a straight A student. I wasn’t that either. You just have to say to yourself, “I can do this, and I’m going to do it!” The you have to put in the work. It’s as simple as that.
Commit! Then go do it!