Note: Jade (in the blog post right below that just got put up) and I didn’t plan to write about much the same thing. It just turned out that way. Yo: that’s how a coop works. We work together. 

There’s an interesting essay in the New York Times this morning, “What’s Luck Got To Do With It?”. To me the most interesting thing is when you pair that article with Lisa’s keynote speech, Canference 2: Occupy, Resist, Produce. Read ’em both, please.

The Times article looks at companies and their leaders that outperformed their industry by 10 times-basically they looked at the very, very successful companies. With those companies, they then tried to figure out how much luck had to do with those leaders/companies’ success. Interesting. They then define luck in order to factor it out. I won’t go into the details which you can read about in the Times.

Their findings? Luck, both good and bad, happens. But the defining factor is what the author of the article calls Return on Luck, ROL. 10xers used their luck, whether it was good or bad, and ultimately capitalized on it through strong focus/will/persistence to produce results way beyond what the rest of their industry did. For instance, take Bill Gates, for whom a lot of circumstances lined up, but who could easily have decided to stay at Harvard as opposed to dropping out to write a piece of software for one of the first personal computers. The circumstances (luck) that Bill took advantage of were also there for hundreds if not a few thousand other similar computer nerds at the time; Bill just took advantage of them. (The computer industry, a quickly evolving technology, has created, is creating, and will continue to create such opportunities for many people like Bill Gates. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are just two more examples.) 

So turn your attention to the acupuncture profession and Lisa’s keynote. I am guessing that in most professions/industries most people are consumers, not producers. They follow. It takes great willpower to become a producer.

Lisa and I were laughing about the article this morning because we figure that by next year, WCA is set to be a 10Xer in the acu-world. If our luck holds, by this time next year we will employ 10 or 11 acupuncturists fulltime. The success bar in the acu-profession is awfully low as opposed to other industries. You could say success in the acu-world is employing yourself as a solo practitioner. So if we can employ 10 or 11 punks, well then, there you go. We are fabulously successful in our industry! Unlike Bill Gates, however, almost nobody knows that we’re so successful.

Which brings us to the issue of bad luck.

In the Times article they also briefly profile Progressive Insurance, a company that took a piece of bad luck and turned it around, again through focus, persistance, and will, to become a much larger (and better) company. Now take the acu-industry: our piece of bad luck is that, in the big scheme of things, virtually no one knows about us. Somewhere around just 1% of all Americans will have an acupuncture treatment this year and only around 3% of all Americans have ever experienced an acupuncture treatment. In the enormous world of medicine in this country, we acupuncturists are a dust mote, barely detectable. Most people don’t even know that we are an alternative; if they do know about us, a lot more have already written us off as an expensive luxury that they can’t afford. 

The most money in our profession is found in the acupuncture education profession, though that is not growing much now either. For actual practitioners, it’s as Jade says in her blog post: they are doing most anything except acupuncture, like selling product, and when they do use acupuncture it is usually too infrequently administered to help the patient. We now have a profession where most of the professionals do not really believe that the thing their profession is named for works.

That there is some seriously bad luck. 

You could say that the whole Community Acupuncture movement up to now has been an examination of why our profession is so small and so cash poor. Naturally this examination has caused some backlash from some folks who have a stake in keeping the status quo. But CAN has existed for five years now and what with the lack of interesting thought from the rest of the profession (sorry, but the FPD is not an interesting thought) CA has become the way to grow. If our profession is to ever become more than a piece of medical trivia then we need to see a hell of a lot more people and CA is the way to go about it. 

We need to scale up, but we can’t do it individually. That’s where POCA comes in. The vision for POCA is to make it possible for CA clinics to do 50 million treatments a year. That would take us far beyond the 10X level; that would redefine the role of acupuncture in America. The only success that is going to have any real meaning in the case of the acupuncture profession is not individual success, it’s collective success. So it’s all about gathering enough of us together that have the kind of focus, will and persistence that can take any kind of luck, good or bad, and make success out of it. The subtitle of the Times article is “Luck Is Just the Spark for Business Giants”. Let’s make POCA a Business Giant, and turn acupuncture’s luck around.

Skip Van Meter
Author: Skip Van Meter

Skip is Lead Acupuncturist and Co-Founder of <a href="https://www.workingclassacupuncture.org/" target="_blank">Working Class Acupuncture</a> in Portland, Oregon. With the earlier part of his life spent acquiring knowledge about geology, urban planning and teaching high school, he has now been an acupuncturist for 19 years, using about a 1,750,000 needles poking his patients. He likes all things soccer, has three fabulous sons, the best wife in the world, and a great dog and two cool cats.

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Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. So could you be saying…..

    CAN is just maximizing a 1x business model success to hopefully capture any “luck events” that might come our clinics’ way. On top of this, just maybe the average CAN member has the ability to recognize & seize “luck events”, both good (CA clinics, the punk & CA patient community) and bad (AOM school industry) to make as much of them as possible without tossing the profession aside (patient care & livelihood….not all the other garbage).

    The article ends with “getting a high ROL requires throwing yourself at the luck event with ferocious intensity, disrupting your life and not letting up” and this sizes our CAN community up pretty well.

  2. Don’t forget the bad luck

    The bad luck is that acupuncture started in North America as a spa-like luxury for the upper middle class. How can we turn that into good luck? How many of you have heard newbies on a free day say this: ” I’ve always wanted to try acupuncture but never thought I could afford it.” Evereybody’s heard of it, and we need to throw ourselves at that in an organized way so they know they CAN (no pun intended) afford it.That’s the good luck coming out of bad.

    I’ve found this and Jade’s last blog particularly inspiring. I’ve been inspired to stop whining and start thinking of ways to get more bums in chairs, knowing that not everything I try will work, and that’s OK.


  3. Power of Ten– The movie


     so not only is WCA about to become 10X the size of your average acupuncture practice but with POCA more exponential growth will come.  This little movie makes connections about how both the micro and macro are very similar.  I wonder what the implications are then for what can be done very simply with a few needles and cotton balls and the effects rippling out by powers of 10.