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June 23, 2020

Are You Sure?

The older I get, the less I know.

I am not sure if that statement is an indication of humility delivered by being wrong a lot; the effect of having teenagers who tell you what a cultural dolt you are; or the natural aging process that wipes out thousands of neurons everyday literally reducing what you know.

I’ll claim all the above and gladly admit that I know less than I used to know.  Granted, at one point I was a know-it-all, so had nowhere to go but down.

Life seems to work that way.  We amass a little learning; a little experience and we end up with a long list of things we just know to be true.  We build our world around those ideas. We are confident.

Then life – people mostly – happens and things don’t behave like we believe they should.

Growth comes when we step in a pile of knowledge failure.  What we were so sure of didn’t survive contact with reality.  Anyone who doubts this doesn’t have kids.  Or a dog.

That is not entirely true.  Many people have experiences that don’t jive with what they ‘know’ and they double down to protect their erroneous belief, offering more and more elaborate rationalizations, amendments and denials in order to explain away the facts so they can hold on to their truth.  This does not lead to growth, unless we are measuring the thickness of the skull.

But when what we held to be true, not up for debate even, runs into more than just an odd anomaly we are given a moment in which we have the opportunity to learn, change and grow.

One thread that ran through my reading during the quarantine related to decision making in the face of uncertainty.  From poker bets to earthquake predictions to political polls to economic forecasts, we constantly face situations that require us to form an opinion from less that complete facts and then decide.  The problem is that we quickly forget that we didn’t really know for sure.  Our hypothesis, often pulled out of our ear or another bodily orifice, becomes a factual given in our mind very quickly.

We are confident, but not humble.

Then COVID comes along and blows up many things we thought we knew for sure.  We could make a long list of things we knew in February that are not so sure about in June, but the ones that matter for our discussion here relate to healthcare and physician practices and the mindset of patients.  That list alone is long.

As we get started recreating, the first question is about how we deal with the knowns that have now been challenged.

Will we construct complex arguments to keep us from having to do the hard work of changing our mind, and all that goes with that?

Or will we ask the hard question – Is what I thought I knew to be certain no longer true?

The future of our businesses depends on our answer.

Tim Coan
Tim Coan

CEO and founder

Tim Coan, ALN’s CEO, writes an insightful and witty blog weekly about a variety of topics relevant to independent physician practices.