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Interview Series: Physician, Lawyer, and Lifelong Quitter- Dr. Lynn Marie Morski

Okay, I am super excited to present this interview. This woman does it all. Dr. Lynn Marie Morski is a physician, lawyer, and lifelong quitter who helps physicians plan their strategic quit and ultimately, create the lives of their dreams. Her website "Quitting by Design" has so much deep content and advice. She also has a podcast that goes along with the website. (I also need to add that she is a talented yoga instructor, speaker, educator, henna artist, and the list goes on...)

I first heard Dr. Morski on the Discover your Talent podcast in which she spoke about preparing for your "big quit":

https://www.discoveryourtalentpodcast.com/podcast/lynn-marie-morski/

It was so fascinating that she was helping individuals orchestrate their "big quit" and that quitting was something to be proud of, and not ashamed of. Being in a nonclinical role, I always felt a little bashful when talking to other medical providers. I would brief over what I do because I hated explaining why I didn't want to do a clinical role full time, why I wanted to learn new skills. I often got the response of "why..?" along with a funny look. 

The times when I've spoken to Dr. Morski, I have found her to be such a kind and humble individual. She's so willing to help others, sharing her time and experience. No matter where you are in your life and career, I know you will find much value and advice from this interview. I know I l did! Check out her website and Quit Happens podcast.

 Start Interview:

1. You’re a lawyer, physician, yoga instructor, henna artist, musician, etc, how do you do it all?! What’s a typical day in your life like? Did you design it out to be this way?

  • I'll take these all individually, there's a lot in there! How do I do it all? I don't do it all all the time. For example, my lawyering is only used in pro bono situations now that I no longer teach law. I only teach yoga in charity situations, so this certification falls under the "have it if I need it" category - kind of like the law degree. Both the law degree and the yoga certification I got because I wanted to do them (law school sounded fun, as did yoga teacher training) not necessarily because I ever intended to use them. Like yoga, I only do henna for free or for charity, so 99% of the time I'm only henna-ing myself! I play music either when inspired or when a friend wants to come over and jam or do an open mic. I generally train capoeira one night per week.
  • There are two types of typical days: Mondays and Tuesdays are one type and the rest of the days are the other. On Mondays and Tuesdays I work at the VA in the Compensation and Pension department from 8:30-1:30. I'm a contract worker, which means I only get paid per veteran and if they don't show I don't get paid, and there are no benefits (I feel this is necessary before I share the next part), but that ten hours is what I have made a living on for the past eight years, which has allowed me to go to law school and try the start-up life and go to yoga teacher training and write a book and start the podcast. On weekday nights I either train capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), go to yoga, play tennis, or attend events of some sort.
  • On the days I don't work in medicine, I work on my podcast/speaking/coaching. I am also in preparations for the release of my book, "Quitting by Design" next month. So on those days I'll be recording and releasing podcasts, writing blog posts, working with clients, preparing speeches, etc. But that's all after I spend the morning doing breathwork, meditating, journaling, working out, taking a long walk, and reading in the sauna. I'm well aware I could get more done if my morning routine weren't so elaborate, but I'm also well aware that I wouldn't be as happy, and at the end of the day, that's my main goal.
  • I definitely designed my life, but almost by accident. About two months in to my sports medicine fellowship I realized I just didn't enjoy practicing traditional medicine, and I definitely didn't enjoy sports medicine's crazy hours. So at that point I decided I would never work 40 hours a week in medicine. After fellowship I continued working sporadically at the urgent care where I had been moonlighting during fellowship. I had initially taken a part-time sports medicine job, but they didn't have enough patients to support my salary, so at that point I began looking for non-traditional medicine jobs. I was about to sign with McKesson to be a demo person for their EMR when I found my current job on twitter, posted by the handle @getphysicianjobs. The job came with a salary cap that meant I could only work a few days a week, and it allowed me to make my own schedule, which is something that was crucial in being able to design the life I currently lead. But what was important was that I knew what I didn't want, and held firm on that. I didn't want to spend 40 hours a week seeing patients, and luckily I found a job that accomodates that.

2. How did you come to starting your website? What about your podcast?

  • Warning, long story ahead. Since starting law school, I hadn't taken any time off - I had began working with a startup right after taking the bar exam, then after quitting that I began teaching law and then I became a Bernie Sanders delegate to the DNC. After returning from the DNC I told the law school I was taking the semester off, because I wanted to figure out what my true calling was, because none of these things I was trying had led to a feeling of flow, and as someone who had experienced flow through my hobbies, I was determined to recreate that feeling in a work environment. So I met with a friend to chat about it, and I had brought two lists with me. One was what I was good at, and the second was what I liked to do. At the top of the list of what I was good at was quitting. No kidding. And what I liked to do included write and do public speaking and give advice. So that day, my friend told me to put up a website about quitting and start blogging and maybe make webinars. That later morphed into me writing a book, and the podcast came up because after I gave the book to the publisher, I wanted a way to give people information about strategic quitting in an easily-disseminated form while waiting for the book to come out. Thus the 'Quit Happens' podcast was born.

3. Where did the concept of Quitting by Design come from, and can you tell us more about it?

  • The website and concept formulation took awhile. I think my friend David (who was the one I met with to figure out my calling and also the person I hired to do my original website) and I were talking about a name of it and somehow Quitting by Design came to me. I later used it as the book title because the book is a guide on how to develop the skills needed to design your strategic quits, so I felt it fit well.

4. For physicians who are contemplating a change, but still working full time in a clinical role, what would you advise they do to start making the transition? 

  • The first step is to identify what isn't working for them. Do they want to leave medicine entirely, or just their specialty, or perhaps only their current position. I had a guest on the podcast who is a facial plastic surgeon who was so frustrated with his schedule that he was thinking about quitting surgery altogether, but instead he decided to only do the types of surgery he enjoyed and also asked his boss for a more flexible schedule (to which the boss agreed). Prior to making any major moves, I'd suggest they only quit whatever is truly keeping them from enjoying their job. However, if it's the entire field of medicine itself, then the transition will be much different. Therefore, identifying exactly what needs to go is a crucial first step.

5. How does a physician know if it’s the burnout causing them to feel a need for a change, or if a change is really what they want to do?

  • I notice all the questions refer to quits as "changes" and that's fine. I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with the term "quitting" but part of my mission is to de-stigmatize quitting, especially for those in professions that took an extreme amount of time and training to achieve.
  • That's a very interesting and important distinction you brought up. As I alluded to above, it's important to figure out what's not working, so I think in this scenario they should ask for a temporarily reduced schedule/workload or an extended vacation to see if clearing out the exhaustion leads to increased job satisfaction. If that's not possible, I'd advise them to pay very close attention to their bodies. Do they get anxious at work only if there is a really packed schedule or is it all the time? Do they dread all parts of the job or is it just when paperwork stacks up that they want to throw in the towel? These types of investigations should help clear up whether the problem is burnout or the problem is medicine itself. Sadly, the way most practitioners have to function today, the two often become one in the same, but again, attempting creative solutions like the surgeon I referenced above can help prevent burnout and lead to a more balanced work life.

6. When does someone know that they might need a career coach? What is a career coach exactly? How can a career coach help? 

  • I should clarify that I'm actually a quitting coach, which is a bit different from a career coach, but I'll try to explain them both. A career coach generally helps you figure out what career is best for you and may help with your job search, resume, interview process, etc. Or they may help you reach the next level in your current career if it's one that's working for you. What I do is help people through the process of strategic quitting, which, as I mentioned above, starts with identifying what, if anything, needs to be quit. I then help them through the rest of the process, which involves overcoming any quitting-related fears, preparing any necessary logistics, and then enacting the quit in a way that leads to the best outcome for everyone involved.

7. A lot of physicians are very scared about going into a new career, leaving behind that path they expected to go on, and not being certain of their future. What is a piece of advice you can offer them?

  • As physicians we're generally big fans of evidence-based entities. And if we've gotten to a point where we were in the lucky 1/3 of applicants who actually got accepted to medical school, then finished and (most often) completed a residency or fellowship, (which is one of the most taxing training regimens of any career), then the evidence would point to the fact that we're both fairly intelligent, resilient, and resourceful. Those characteristics don't disappear when we leave medicine, and they're going to be hugely helpful in whatever the next career is that we try to pursue. So I'd advise them focusing on that as a way of combatting the fear of the unknown that is present when anyone of any career makes a huge transition. They have the smarts to figure out their next path, resiliency to hustle hard to make their new chosen career work, and the resourcefulness to find a way to make it all work so that they're not going to be left penniless on the street. I'd also remind them that, like I just said, they're not alone in this fear, and they shouldn't feel 1. ashamed for feeling it, or 2. as if that fear is an indicator that they're headed for failure. It's an indicator that you're human and have a functioning self-preservation mechanism, which is a good thing!  

8. What’s the next step for you?

  • Next up for me is the launch of my book next month, which will include a podcast tour where I get to talk about the benefits of strategic quitting all over the virtual airwaves, which I'm really excited about. I also have a series of guests in Los Angeles lined up so I'm taking Quit Happens on the road in a few weeks for the short drive up from San Diego where I live to interview some incredible humans, one of whom is also a practicing physician. I also intend to hold more workshops on strategic quitting and quitting as self-care so as to help coach larger groups and get them quitting their way to a fulfilling life.

 End Interview...

I love how Dr. Morski made a promise to herself that she didn't want a certain kind of life, that she acquired so many skills (yoga, law degree, medical degree, henna, playing music, etc) and puts them together like puzzle pieces to create the ideal life for her.

I'm making my two lists now too, one of what I am good at and one of what I like to do. Awesome ideas!

Can't wait until her book is out and want more interviews? Check out all her interviews at http://lynnmariemorski.com/media/