So instead of working on the other writing projects I should be doing, I decided to distract myself with something more fun and now I want to enlist you guys!
As we've said a bunch of times, this is WCA's 10 year anniversary. Somehow I have a hard time getting my head around that. Periodically I try to think back to the beginning of the clinic and remember what that time was like, and compare it to now, and then try to absorb that the two are actually connected. I was doing that yesterday and it dawned on me that in pretty much every way I can think of, my life is a lot better now than it was 10 years ago. A LOT better.
I think when people think about business and business models, the conventional way to evaluate their success is to ask, how much money can you extract from them? And when we think about social business and social business models, we evaluate their success by asking, what are the social dividends to the community? I think about the social dividends of my business all the time, but I hadn't made a list of all the nitty-gritty ways I benefited personally. This is by no means a complete list:
1) My finances are a lot better. No, I haven't actually extracted any money from WCA in a conventional business sense, and it's entirely possible that a traditional business valuation would say it was worthless. But my personal and family finances are much, much better than they were 10 years ago. Consistent paychecks, even when modest, make all the difference in the world over 10 years — as opposed to the inconsistency of conventional private practice or the instability of a public health job with shaky funding.
2) I have a lot more confidence. I'm sure a lot of people think I had to have confidence to try this crazy experiment in the first place, and I guess I did, but I also had a lot of desperation. There weren't a lot of other good options. What's different now is that I've had the experience of getting results out of hard work. Maybe not always the results I wanted, and at times the work was much harder than I wanted it to be — but I think there is no substitute for being responsible for a business, having to make it work, and discovering that you CAN. It doesn't matter if anybody else is impressed. I trust myself now a lot more than I did 10 years ago.
3) I'm less afraid of making mistakes and of failing. Because I've made a lot of mistakes and a variety of things that we've tried, have failed. That would be a long list in its own right. But each of those mistakes was actually useful in the big picture, and I can see that, looking back over 10 years. There was a reason for everything that didn't work out, and my life is better because I learned about those reasons.
4) All of my family relationships are better. This is the Internet and I'm not going to get any more detailed than that, but they really are. In some cases I can see how WCA directly affected those relationships, and in some cases it's not so direct, but the end result is, they're all a lot better than they were 10 years ago. That can't be a coincidence.
5) I now get regular acupuncture. I didn't before. Hey, it makes a difference!
6) I also get more exercise, more regularly, than I did 10 years ago. Having this business has made me appreciate and cultivate routines.
7) I found a spiritual community that I'm really happy with. I met those folks through WCA — they came in as patients.
8) I have a LOT more fun with my coworkers and colleagues than I did 10 years ago.
9) THE ACUPUNCTURE WORLD IS A LOT BETTER. For me, anyway. 10 years ago, my connection with the acupuncture world was to read Acupuncture Today, cry or scream (depending on the month), and rip it up and throw it away. There was no acupuncture organization I wanted to join, let alone volunteer for.
I could go on, but the point is, if somebody had told me 10 years ago, “Hey, if you start this business, your life is going to get better in every way you can think of!” I probably wouldn't have believed them. But if I did believe them, and if they warned me, “You know, you won't make a lot of money in other people's eyes. And it won't always be obvious how your business is going to pay all its bills. Do you still want to do this?” I would have said, sign me up anyway. Because some of the benefits of doing this are things you couldn't buy, no matter how much money you had. And the benefits aren't temporary, they're permanent. Or that's how it looks at the 10 year mark, anyway.
So I figure this phenomenon isn't limited to me, and I'm curious. In what ways is your life better since you got involved with community acupuncture? Anything surprising and unexpected? Tell us!