Ophthalmology off the Grid
Episode 65

Downloading Life's Lessons

In this episode of Off the Grid, Jim Loden, MD, draws on his own experience to offer candid advice on everything from business and finances to family and relationships. He also talks about what he's doing now to ensure that he can pass down all that he has learned to his two sons.

Speaker 1: Welcome to another episode of Ophthalmology off the Grid.

Today, our host Dr. Gary Wörtz talks to his colleague and friend, Dr. Jim Loden. The two share an honest conversation covering everything from business and finances to family and relationships.

Dr. Loden, a second-generation ophthalmologist, talks about experiencing loss in early adulthood and how that shaped his approach to parenthood, and what he’s doing now to make sure he can pass down his life’s lessons to his two sons.

Listen as Dr. Loden gets candid about his own experiences and offers advice on topics like managing personal finances, accepting failure, choosing a spouse, and learning to focus on things that matter most in life.

Coming up, on Off the Grid.

Speaker 1: Ophthalmology off the Grid is an independent podcast produced by Bryn Mawr Communications and supported by advertising from Alcon. For a full listing of podcasts for eye care professionals, go to eyetube.net/podcasts.

Gary Wörtz, MD: Welcome to another very special episode of Ophthalmology off the Grid. This is Dr. Gary Wörtz. I'm so excited to be back doing podcasts, especially because I'm getting to have a fantastic conversation tonight with Jim Loden, MD. Jim and I go way back, he's not too far away from Lexington, so Nashville is pretty close. We see each other at meetings and are always trading secrets. More importantly, I think we enjoy talking a little bit about our families and life, and I've gotten to know Jim a little bit over the past couple of years.

Jim, before we kind of give away the secret of what this recording is about, I just want to thank you for coming on and spending a little bit of time with us.

Jim Loden, MD: Gary, it's always a pleasure. I love being with you every time. We always have a great time, whether it's going out to dinner or just seeing each other in the hallways at meetings. Just always special conversations when we're together.

Gary: Absolutely. That's what makes ophthalmology so much fun. It’s really having a second family, not just friends, but you kind of feel like you're part of a different family, don't you think?

Jim: It's something I've seen for years. I grew up in an ophthalmology family and I see other second generation, third generation ophthalmologists, and the reason their children are going into it is because the parents loved it to begin with.

Gary: Exactly. And that kind of ties into what we're going to talk about tonight. We were at dinner, and I feel like the best podcasts come out of some dinner conversations that I've had. This is no different. Jim and I were at dinner, was it at Mr. A's?

Jim: Mr. A's in San Diego.

Gary: Is that what the restaurant was called?

Jim: Yeah, Bill Wiley was sitting with us.

Gary: That's right, Bill Wiley was there. And you said something that really caught me. You said you were writing a letter to your sons, and you pulled out your iPhone, and you started showing me some of the topics of the things that you are really trying to prepare your sons for adulthood, and you have two boys, if I'm correct, is that right?

Jim: That's correct. They're 14 and 12 now.

Gary: And, this is sort of like this coming of age document of all the tips and secrets and all the things that you wish you would have had when you were launched into adulthood, but unfortunately that didn't happen. Will you just start by telling us a little bit of a background on your story with your dad, who was a prominent ophthalmologist.

Jim: Sure. So, I was in my second year of medical school, and you have to remember, when you go to college or are away from home most of the time, you don't really get a chance for...you come home, you go hunting and fishing with dad, but it's not time for him to yet download life's storybooks. You're just not mentally ready for some of these stories to come out and your understanding's not really there.

And then you're in med school, you're working so much, you're never there. You're so distracted by just having to study constantly and take tests. So, I was in my second year of medical school, came home Easter weekend, and I had an exam coming up on Tuesday, Gary, and I normally wouldn't have come home. I don't know, this is where providence kind of comes in with things. I decided I'd really done a great job of studying ahead, it was Easter weekend, I went home, I went turkey hunting with my dad, we didn't do any good, (it was a) freezing cold morning. But then, I had Easter Sunday lunch and shook hands with my father in our driveway, and I still remember the smile on his face, and I remember the brown jacket and the cap he on his head. I drove down the driveway from Nashville and headed back to Memphis to medical school.

I finished up my exam on Tuesday, I had a little insomnia despite…you know, you're usually dead tired after these exams, but I couldn't go to sleep. This was prior to cellphones. I couldn't go to sleep, and I heard the phone ring at 10 o’clock at night, and I was like, "Well, that's not normal." Looked at the caller ID, and it was my mom. I picked it up, and she said, "Son, I need you to sit down." I immediately knew what had happened. My father had passed away. He had died on the treadmill that night running at the house, and she'd come home from a church event and found him lying dead beside the treadmill.

Gary: Oh, my gosh.

Jim: It Changed my life totally, because then we weren't really ready to manage the practice. We ended up selling it, and it was a good thing we sold because this was 1990, Gary, prior to the Medicare, big cuts on cataract surgery, so you could still sell a practice for a good chunk of change. So, this worked out well for mom and her estate. So, we sold the practice, but I didn't get to go into my dad's practice.

As life's gone on since then, I'm 54 now, dad died when he was 59. I's kind of like the movie Forrest Gump, where you see Lieutenant Dan and his daddy died in the Revolutionary War, and then his child died in the Civil War, and then WWI, and then WWII, you know, Lieutenant Dan feels like it's his job to die.

Well, that's my family's history of heart disease. My grandfather had his first heart attack at 42. His dad before that died of a massive MI at 45. So, I'm starting to think, am I going to get the time to download my book of life to my boys? I have all these events that have occurred with business or dating or church or faith. Am I going to get to share those?

So, I've been writing these down in a series of notes, just constantly on my iPad and my iPhone every time something new comes up that I think is a really good idea, or something really bad that's happened to me that I wish I had handled differently, so that if I'm not around when these situations come up, they can pull up this reference and say, "What would dad have done is this situation?"

Gary: Jim, this is almost too much for me to process right now. I mean, first of all, you know, it seems like most of the time, we just don't have the sense of urgency and intentionality with which we think that life might not go on forever.

I think that the event that maybe took place in your world, with your father passing on far too soon, it focused your sense of how much time do I have, and how am I going to make an impact with the days that I have in this world, knowing that we're not guaranteed tomorrow.

Has that changed your focus or the way you spend your time?

Jim: It's changed my focus with my children, and it's changed how much consulting I'm doing right now. I'm in this window of opportunity, Gary, where my oldest is 14, I've realized talking to my friends that once he turns 16, he's not going to be at the house quite as much. And, you've been through it with your kids already.

Gary: Right.

Jim: And that's going to change. And then, within 5 years, he's going to be gone and off to college, the oldest. Two years later, my next one's going to be gone and off to college. And all of a sudden, my influential time with these children is really going to be gone. When you look at the developmental stages of life, I probably had my biggest influence already with them being 12 and 14.

Gary: Right.

Jim: I just hope to cross a few Ts and dot a few Is over the next couple of years, and I hope to give them a sense of who they are, and that they're God's children, and where they want to go with their lives.

Gary: So, let's jump into this book, or this letter to your sons, because honestly, Jim, I think that this probably should be a book. I'm going to just, before I forget, I want to encourage you to consider this as a publication for more than just your own boys. I think it would be great to have for your own boys, but the lessons in this, from what I have already gleaned, is much more widely applicable to a bunch of kids who maybe don't have dads, or their dads didn't take the time to teach them these things.

So, I want to encourage you to consider this as a broader project. But, let's just jump in to some of the things that you feel like are maybe the highlights. I think they're all probably highlights, or you wouldn't have written them down, but, where do you feel like the lessons that would be best for this episode, where do you think we should start?

Jim: Yeah. Let's start a little bit with the business aspects of it. You know, I was at ASCRS, and I saw Roberto and Roger Zaldivar walking through the hallway, talking together. Son and dad. And I thought, man, that's something I'm jealous of, right? I didn't get to have that relationship with dad, that was special.

If we look at where we are in the economic cycle right now, Gary, I've been through a couple recessions in my life. I remember my friends back in, I believe it was, 1980, one of my best friends lost his house. His dad was a builder, he got caught in the recession, had to move to a rental home. I remember those experiences, watching that as a child but not really knowing it. And then, seeing some of the events in the 80s and then again in '90. And then, had the dot com burst, I believe that was around 2000, and then of course, the big recession in 2007.

We're at 10 years in this bull market right now, and if you read an article in Ocular Surgery News recently by Dick Lindstrom and one by John Pinto, both of them are really calling for a recession coming up, and they have valid reasons for it. I was sitting in the duck blind, and one of my buddies, who's in the financial services business, said, "Hey, did you know the T-bill inverted this past week?" And I was like, “Oh, well, okay.”

Gary: Yeah, what does that mean?

Jim: ...What does that have to do with the price of tea in China, right? So, he shared with me that when the T-bill inversion occurs, the difference between the long-term and the short-term T-bill rates, on average, a recession starts in 15 months, but that the S&P 500 will take a 23% run up right before the recession.

So, I'm starting to think about this. You know, we're in a long economic cycle, we're at basically the longest bull market, this T-bill is starting to invert right now, what do we do? How do we prepare for this? One of the things is, I went into the 2008 recession and was fairly well prepared. We weathered the storm fairly well. I had just bought a practice. I had just bought a piece of commercial real estate. I didn't have a lot of cash on hand, but everything was pretty good. But, you see the market falling and nobody knows what to do. Everybody is absolutely petrified and scared. You call your friend in the financial services business, they don't know what to do, they're just kind of jelly-headed. You call accountants, and you talk to multiple friends in the accounting business, you know, what should I do? Should I pay my house off and save the money? Should I take my money out of the market? What do I do?

Well, none of these people know the right answer. And let's just look at some data points here. The average recession only lasts 21 months. So, you think about that, that's less than 2 years. You can weather a 2-year storm, right? When you know that the real statistics following long-term data is only 21 months, don't panic. You're going to come out of this, right? Unless you've just put yourself in a really bad spot.

Also, this is really an opportunity, if you have funds and cash on hand, this is a time where you can make a 200 to 300% return over a 10-year timeframe. You need to have the guts to not do conservative things, but to do crazy things. You go and buy undervalued real estate. You go and buy stocks in companies that still have good portfolios and good product lines and have cash and are well managed, publicly traded companies, but they're just being knocked down by the economy right now. You look at what you could have bought Ford Motor for, for example, during the recession. Multiple companies like that, that you could have just doubled, tripled, even more than that, maybe 10X your return on some of these companies.

So, you have to go into these recessions with that mindset. You have to look at...just Google a graph of the Dow or the S&P 500. It always comes up after the recession. The one thing you can't do is panic and sell, especially with your parents. You have to coach mom and dad, if they're older and don't have a lot of financial knowledge, don't get scared and sell. You've got to stay in the market.

The other thing is, you can't time the market. You don't necessarily know where the bottom is going to be, and you just have to, once it drops, have some faith. "I'm going to buy in if it drops another 5 to 7%, because I know over the next 7 to 10 years, it's going to still be up."

So, finances are one of the biggest issues where marriages break up. I always think when I'm giving advice to young people, if I can give you advice where you can just say, "Hey, I'm going to do something here to make my family more stable." It's a good thing for marriages, it's a good thing for families. Even Warren Buffet on CNBC said, "What would you do with your money if you didn't have anything? If you didn't have Berkshire Hathaway?" He said, "I'd index it in an S&P 500 fund."

Let's look at indexing, all right?

Gary: Yep.

Jim: Indexing will, depending on which study you read, be 70 to 80% of your money managers out there. So, you've got to be really careful about money managers and the rip offs that are out there.

Gary: So, that's a question. Vanguard funds or Betterment or...there's a number of these new, really low-cost index funds. And then you've got your Merrill Lynches of the world. I've heard that a money manager, on average, is worth maybe 1 or 2% above what you'll get with one of these index funds, and it may be able to help you not panic.

But ultimately, the value they create for you, hopefully, is more than the fees they take from you, because they're paid on a percentage basis on the amount of assets under management. So, how much money you have in, you're paying a fee. And that's the question I have, are they really psychologists during a recession? Is that their main function, just to try to convince people to stick with it? And if you can stick with it yourself, you might do better in a Vanguard fund?

Jim: That's exactly it. You just have to have that courage to stick with it. Now, if you have a really good ethical manager, and they can rebalance your portfolio for tax purposes, there may be some advantage there. But, even though I have a wealth manager right now, I have it all invested in different index funds.

I had a money manager for years. She used to beat the market. I used to look at it, and she was a friend that I'd known from my dad's time, she worked for a company my dad founded, and she had beat the market consistently for years. And then, the last few years, I'd noticed, man, we're just not getting the returns we're supposed to. A couple of years S&P did 21%, and I only did 11% that year. Well, with the amount of money I have invested, that's a six-figure-multiple number, missing the market by 10%.

Gary: Right.

Jim: So, you're like, "Man, this is bad. I know I'm up, but I missed a multiple-six-figure gain this year." So, it alerted me to go back and really start diving in. I looked at her numbers, and something happened in 2012 with her, she started missing the market every year. Something about her management style, something changed.

So, you have to be able to adapt and be ready to switch if somebody gets a cold hand. The other thing I've noticed is, and I don't want to bash anybody over the head here, but my personal view is this individual had some depression, most likely. This is a whole other storyline for me, but one of my practice managers year ago that committed suicide had depression. I've just viewed people that have severe depression as having trouble making decisions in the way that I might make a decision when I'm an upbeat, positive person.

If you're constantly in a down stage of your life, I think you've got to look at these people and say, "Man, I love you, I care for you, but you shouldn't be in charge of this money or these decisions, because your life is skewed. Your thought processes are skewed because of this disease."

Gary: So, another little bit of an aside on the financial part of this, where do you see young physicians, or maybe physicians in general, making mistakes in their early career? Maybe that's the new car purchase, buying a home that they've always dreamed of but maybe can't afford, not taking care of debts but adding to the debts, or maybe not even managing their taxes in a smart way. What do you see as areas where maybe physicians fall into traps?

Jim: I saw a blog recently on the difference between rich and wealth. Rich means you're making more than the average person in the United States. Wealth means you're building an asset, right?

Gary: Right.

Jim: You can't build an asset buying high end Mercedes and Ferraris and living in big houses and buying expensive antiques for your house and spending a ton of time off at the country club. One of the things I've always done is saved between 30 and 50% of my salary on a year-to-year basis. It's allowed me to build a fairly large real-estate portfolio now of over 80,000 square feet of commercial real estate. The house is paid off—whether that's a good decision or not though is another topic for conversation, whether you really want to pay your house off or not.

Living within your means is so important, and you really want to invest in your practice, usually. Most of the time the return you're going to get on your practice is probably higher than what you're going to get in the stock market as well, and you have control over it. So, spending the time investing in your practice, investing in your own ASC, that is invaluable to setting yourself up for life. And don't wait until you're 54 to start saving. You've got to start doing this early in life when you first get out of school and start putting money away.

Gary: One thing I've done is, I actually have a savings account set up, and my direct deposit, I have an amount that goes directly into savings, and I have an amount that goes directly into checking. The amount that goes into checking is obviously what we're going to live on, and I sort of preplan that I'm saving a certain amount.

How did you come up with that 30 to 50%, and how did you implement that? Did you just move the money yourself or was there some system that helped you with that?

Jim: It was pretty much discipline in moving it myself. The other way was, I did have a number earlier in life, where it was an automatic $2,500 a month, when I was at a different stage in my career. That part of the paycheck went into savings directly, and part of it went into a SEP-IRA directly. But the big blocks of money, I just tried to look at the end of the year, we'd have cash on hand for the company, I'd do my faith-based tithing, and then whatever I had left over I would not go buy stuff, all right? I would put it away. And that leads into a different topic, you know, stuff. What does it do for you in life? We can talk about that as well.

Gary: Let's do that.

Jim: Warren Buffet doesn't have a yacht, right? He doesn't have a big house. And I've listened to him speak, he said, "I have all the money, if I thought a yacht would make me happier, I would buy one. But I don't think it'll make me happier. I'm happy in the house I'm in."

One thing I've learned, I grew up a doctor's son, dad had a Porsche, he had a corvette, had a Mercedes, we had a Bass boat, we later had a ski boat, we went on nice vacations, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that stuff doesn’t really make you happy. If stuff’s making you happy, you have an empty spot in your life. It’s fun to buy stuff. You go buy a new Raptor pickup truck or something, like I did this past year, oh, I loved it, I still love the car, but that exhilaration of the new wears off in just a couple of days sometimes.

Gary: It sure does.

Jim: Then you have the maintenance costs. “Ok, I have a house at the beach, I have a farm…” I don't have the house at the beach, but I do have a farm. It costs $45,000 to $50,000 to operate that farm every year for hunting purposes. That's overhead, right? Then the four-wheeler breaks. I've got to pay somebody to go down there and pick up the four-wheeler. Then the tractor needs a new tire. Somebody's got to come by and open the barn for the tractor repair man to come down and put it on his truck and haul it to Dixon. All of this stuff ends up having a consequence to it.

Gary: There's a weight to it.

Jim: It's a weight, right? Another little tip probably would be, when you get tempted to buy big boats, you want a King Air or a plane to fly in, you want a big vacation home, always remember, man it is nice to lease, right? You can go down to the beach and lease a house, and when you're over and done with your vacation, you don't have to worry about the swimming pool pump. You don't have to worry about, “is someone trashing my house this weekend? Is a hurricane coming? Did the second-floor toilet get stopped up and flood and now we have flood insurance issue?”

It just makes it a lot easier a lot of the time to say, "Hey, I don't have to brag that I have this house or this airplane." If I want to go fly a private charter two or three times a year because it makes sense, I can do it, but I don't have to sit there and say, “okay, I’ve got to keep a pilot hired. I’ve got to make maintenance costs and hangar costs.” All this stuff just adds time and confusion and stress that you should be spending with your family, or at church, or doing things that really make a difference.

Gary: I feel the same exact way, and the thing about that is, a lot of times people don't realize the emptiness of possessing things until after they've tried it. A lot of time we feel like, “well, I just haven't bought the right stuff yet,” not really realizing that, before, when you bought the thing you just bought, you felt the same way. It's sort of this cycle where you feel like, “okay, it's just that I haven't got the right stuff yet.”

Ultimately, if you're making a good living, you have the opportunity, if you want, to buy really almost anything you want. And you do get to that point of realization that none of the stuff that we have adds much quality to our life.

My partner, Lance Ferguson, he said, "All money does is it allows you to spend more quality time with the people that really matter to you." If you have some assets built up, you're not a slave to your job, you have flexibility in your time, and it allows you to spend more time with the people that you love and gives you flexibility. I thought that was really interesting, that was an interesting perspective to have, because a lot of people think that wealth is adding things that will showcase your achievements, and sort of decorating your life with fancy things.

Ultimately, we can't take any of it with us. I hope that when my last days are here and people remember me, I really hope they remember me as being generous and not someone who wanted to add to his own life but wanted to give more to other people's lives.

Jim: Amen to that. You want to build everybody up around you. I'll say this, you mentioned how you want to be remembered, once dad died, he was well known within the area, but if you asked people now, "Did you know Jim Loden?" people are like, "No. No, I didn't know him as a doctor. Don't remember him." A few friends remember dad, this is back in 1990, and everybody speaks favorably, but when you're gone really the only people that are going to really miss you, if you've done a good job that is, are your wife and your kids and your direct family members, right?

Gary: Right.

Jim: I think of a dear friend of mine who's a very famous, retired ophthalmologist, still alive, and I'm not going to use his name, I don't want to embarrass him, I don't have permission, but I train the residents at UT, and I said, "Do you know this guy's name? He's a great friend of mine. He designed this and that," and they're like, "No, I've never heard of this guy," and I'm like, "Holy cow, you've never heard of this guy?" And none of them have.

So, our window of fame, whether we're on the podium or major inventors in our industries, our window of fame is really small and it's really insignificant. It really doesn't matter in the big picture.

Gary: Well, and I think about that too sometimes, when I think about, “should I go and do this speaking engagement somewhere?” It's going to potentially take me away from my family. Sometimes I just stop and think, “Why am I doing this? Is it for the glory of it? Is it for the ego? Is it because I love educating?”

And I think the problem with ego is sometimes it's operating in the background and we're not even aware of it, but it drives a lot of the decisions we make in a very subconscious way. It's very easy to justify things for nobler purposes, saying, "I'm doing this for the greater good of my profession. I'm educating. I'm giving back," when really, sometimes, it's all about just trying to stay in the game or stay ahead of your peers or get that face time or publication.

I've really, over the past year or so, tried to be fairly introspective about what is the motivating factor for doing certain things. I do enjoy teaching, I enjoy lecturing, and probably some of it, we do enjoy that pat on the back or feeling like we're special. I'm not immune to that.

Jim: It's how we're designed, and we all fall into that trap.

Gary: I think it can be especially destructive if you don't keep it in check. I mean, I'm sure we both have seen this happen to our colleagues sometimes, when being on the road becomes more fun than being at home. I mean, haven't you seen that?

Jim: Both of us have seen it. I enjoy my interaction with my colleagues, but I realize in 6 to 7 more years, when the kids are fully out of the house, Heather and I can go decide whether we want to restart that phase of my life again, right?

Gary: Right.

Jim: I'm going to, hopefully, if my health is good, I'm going to have over a decade to do that. The time I have right now with my children, I'm never going to get that time back ever again. I can't come back and reset that clock. I can come back, if things work out, in the future and reset that clock on “do I want to dedicate more time to the business or more time to the podium or more time to FDA clinical trials?” I'll be able to restart that at any time.

Gary: Yeah, I agree. My kids, you know, my daughter's graduating high school tomorrow actually, my son will graduate in 2 years. So, I'm kind of in that phase as well, where I'm trying to spend as much time with them as I can.

We’ve talked about finances a little bit. We've talked about material possessions. What are some other interesting topics you have that you want your boys to know about?

Jim: So, let me just kind of go through a couple things, and then, I want to hit on dating a little bit too.

Gary: Yeah.

Jim: Because it's such a big part of your kids' lives, and it's such an awkward thing for us to talk about, but let me just hit a couple bullet points.

Gary: Are you going to give me the birds and the bees talk?

Jim: Yeah! Yeah, man.

Gary: Okay, all right. Good.

Jim: Coming up. Coming up.

Gary: Stay tuned.

Jim: Stay tuned for the birds and the bees talk.

Just a quick little pearl: never do business with a small company owner whose spouse is an attorney. Every time I've gotten involved with a small company like that, if something goes the least bit south, the spousal attorney threatens to sue you, and they get to sue you for free. If you're going to go through a full lawsuit, it may cost you $200,000. So, they can rip you off $20,000 really easily because they know you're not going to spend $200,000 for a full press lawsuit to get your $20,000 back.

Gary: Great advice.

Jim: End of that topic.

Ask yourself when you hire an employee, after they've worked for you, would you hire them again? If the answer is no, then you really should be exiting that person as you're thinking about this and starting to find someone who's really good to take their place.

Gary: That's like the whole, “mediocrity should not be tolerated.”

Jim: Mediocrity just can't be tolerated.

Employees that don't work out great after they've been recruited by a head hunter, you usually have, depending on the contract, 6 months to a year in which you can get a significant refund. I had a controller recently that exited after about 18 months with the company. At 6 months, we were like, "Man, I'm not sure this guy's going to work out." Well, it cost us $30,000 in recruiting fees. At just 6 months after the 12-month deadline, he had self-exited. We knew we had warning signs, but we were too chicken to pull the trigger. Always pull the trigger. Don't be chicken when something's not working out.

The song, “It'll Be Alright,” by Dean Lewis, I love the lyrics for boys that are going through breakups with girlfriends. In Nashville here, we've had two boys that have committed suicide, sadly, after breakups with their girlfriends. No girlfriend or even a divorce is worth your life. God loves you, and his love is enough, if you can accept that.

The song says, "It's going to be all right, mate. Life will go on and you'll find another." If all these young boys would have found somebody else within 3 to 6 months, or a year in the worst-case scenario, and they let it drag them down, so that's one of my pearls to my boys there.

Gary: Failure is not final. I love that whole idea.

Jim: That's it. In the book Outliers, that's one of the things they talk about. The billionaires that have succeeded, all of them have failed multiple times in businesses before they hit it right. You have to be able to learn to accept failure.

Another one, I've written about this, I wrote an article in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today, everybody knows, and I've been very open about this, we had a major embezzlement, financial issue with the practice 3 years ago. The difference between forgiveness and harboring hate, it's just too much effort to hate. Hate destroys you. You’ve got to get over it and move on. The world's not fair. The bible even says, "It rains on the just and the unjust." The bible says, "We're promised to suffer, but it's going to make us stronger."

We just have to learn to not be so caught up in getting back, getting revenge. We've just got to say, "We're going to move on from this in life, and we're just going to press on. We're going to have the courage and fortitude to forgive.” I'm trying to instill this in my boys. Yes, people are going to do you wrong. It's inevitable.

This is another fact I want to bring up. Throughout this process, I've talked with multiple auditors, forensic auditors, accountants, a couple of law enforcement personnel, and a clinical psychologist. All of them agree on these numbers, and it's such a scary, sad number: 20% of people will steal from you all the time, even if there's a high chance that they're going to be caught. Sixty percent of the population will steal from you if they think they won't get caught, and/or if a need arises for them to steal where they don't think they'll get caught. Only 20% of our population in the United States will not steal.

That is so important to realize. It's such a sad number. But you have to realize, 80% of the people you meet on the street will steal from you. That totally changes your perspective on how you interact, how you loan money, how you protect your family, how you protect your business. These are the statistics I never knew. This is why I'm writing this stuff down for my boys. These are concepts that are difficult. You don't just find these. Nobody just walks up to you to, there's not a class that you can take in college, there's no advisor that walks up to you and shares with you these numbers.

Gary: Right.

Jim: So, girls, let's get back to the birds and the bees.

Gary: I'm ready for the talk, I’m ready.

Jim: I mean, girls can be a real challenge. I was the nerd. I had one date in high school, Gary, I'm embarrassed to say. And now, I'm married to just a smoking, great, beautiful woman, and life's good, you know?

Gary: You definitely out kicked your coverage with Heather.

Jim: I out kicked my coverage with Heather. I did great on that. But man, the behavior you have to have. I want to council my boys, nobody likes the loudmouthed party boy drunk like the movies portray.

I don't know that my dad ever...I mean, we went to church, we went to bible class together, but we never had that talk and said, "Man, just don't be a loudmouthed drunk, son." My dad never really had that sincere conversation where he's like, "Son, don't be the loudmouthed drunk guy," right? I mean, I had the Christian values instilled, I guess he thought I was supposed to learn it by osmosis, but as boys we don't learn through osmosis, especially in our teen years. We're really concrete with our thought process. You just don't see the good-looking girls marrying the guy that's the crazy big loudmouth.

They want to marry the guy that's got it all together, fun, joking, has a good time, but not the loudmouth guy. And for a few years, I was a loudmouthed guy. It's embarrassing to say. Thankfully, I've left that phase behind, but I want to instill that in my children.

We think about lust and how it affects marriages, how it affects divorce rates, it's going to be there, but I want to share with my boys, lust dissipates after about 2 years. This is why you see so many marriages of all these Hollywood movie stars and folks last about 2 years and then it goes south. You see people bouncing from live-in girlfriend to live-in girlfriend every couple of years. The reason is, is that lust goes away. You have to be there and with the girl that is going to be there with you and be a partner in your life.

I didn't get married until I was 37, so have a few experiences. You see girls that want you to be home at 5 o’clock, the guy that's home and doing stuff with them, them is the keyword, right? Doing whatever they want to do. They want to have an unlimited budget, they want to live in a big house, but they don't want you to be at work. Well, that's not the girl you want to marry. She's the gold digger. You got to watch out for those.

I think you have to look at the activity level of the girl. One of my sons is an athlete. He has a motor that keeps going all the time. He loves to do anything outdoors, race bikes, go water skiing, hit the lake, adventurous young man. He'll go at it. That child does not need to be hanging out with a girl that likes sitting around the house and watching TV. They're not going to be happy. You've got to be well matched.

If I'm dead in a couple years, I want my children to know what I'm thinking when they are dating someone. People want a hardworking man. Even if you marry a smart, wealthy girl, she's not really going to respect you unless you're a hard worker. When you're in this dating process, nobody ever sat there and told me that when you're talking to their friends or their sibling, that that's basically an interview, that everything's going to go back to this girl.

Gary: That's right, or their parents.

Jim: Or their parent. So, if you want to give a message you tell it to her sister, and you can pretty much be assured that the sister's going to deliver the message you want. I never knew that, it's just one of those things that went over my head for much of my life.

Spend a lot of time with a girl before you marry them, and with their family. This is one of the storylines I have. I was just madly in love with this young lady. She was gorgeous, she was a pharmacist, just a beautiful gal, great personality, but then some things started coming up. I was like, “man, I don't know what's going on here.” We were living in different cities, she didn't start taking my phone call every time I called, yet she invited me home with her family. We went to church and I noticed, “Wow, no one talks to her family in church.” And this is hindsight years back.

Normally when you go to church, and it's your home church, you go to church on Sunday and everybody's like, "Jim, man, I haven't seen you in years, where are you living now? Tell me about medical school. Tell me about...you were living in Indianapolis last time I talked to you, doing a fellowship. How's life going?" Never noticed any of that going on. With hindsight, they weren't really engaged in their church family. That should have been a key for me right there. You know, just these observational skills.

Once the girl doesn't want to answer the phone, you just know it's going south, son. Don't have any fantasies. It's going south. It all really hit an epic peak when we were supposed to go on a trip together, went on the trip together, and I'm like, "Man, you're really acting weird," and she's like, "Well, I'm dating this other guy in Nashville, you're living in Indianapolis still in fellowship. He's moving when I come back, about the time you move back to Nashville, so it'll be okay," and I'm like, "I don't know about that. I don't know about that." She told me who the guy was. The guy was engaged at the time to another woman. Then I said, "Are you sleeping with this guy?" And she said, "Yeah," and I just was like, "Holy mackerel, man."

So, I just broke it off right there on the spot even though I was madly in love with this girl because, I said, “this is not the person I want to be with the rest of my life.” The narcissism that's here, the mental illness that's here, to think that, one, having an affair with a person who's engaged, in my mind, that's a rule breaker right there. She's a potential homewrecker, she doesn't have the same value system I have, this is not going to work out in life.

You need to pick up on these cues, and then just have the courage to break it up and walk. No matter how bad you want to go back, don't go back. You just can't do it. I mean, you owe it to yourself, you owe it to your family and your future family. You just don't want to be in a relationship of pain the rest of your life just because you were infatuated at that period, in that phase of your life.

Gary: Well, Jim, it reminds me of the famous Kenny Rogers song, “you got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them.”

Jim: Know when to fold them, baby.

Gary: Know when to run, right?

Jim: That's it. The dating relationship is a lot like what Ritz-Carlton teaches you, if you take the Ritz-Carlton course. It trains for hiring people with the right attitude, and it says, "You can't train attitude, you can train everything else." right?

Gary: Right.

Jim: But, if you've got someone who just has a bad attitude in life, it's not going to work out. Maybe the best-looking person I've ever dated, she was a model, living around Memphis when I was a resident there, about 5'11,” blonde, absolutely gorgeous, but an unhappy person.

After just a couple of dates, I didn't even want to be with her anymore. I didn't even call her back for another date. Even though she just looks on the outside to be this fantastic person, you have to look for this attitude that they're going to be there, they're going to be your partner, and don't just get caught up in the physical appearances of life.

Gary: You got to have someone who's going to be there with you when the chips are down…

Jim: Yeah.

Gary: …through the good and the bad. You’ve got to be well-matched, and you’ve got to have someone who respects you and someone that you respect. I'll say this, just for my relationship, I have so valued my wife because I respect her so much. You know, my job, I get a lot of glory with helping people see better and giving talks and those sorts of things, but the job that she does, organizing our household, and making sure that our children have everything that they need on schedule, and the multitasking, the things that she does, she is the real hero in our household. What I do is nothing compared to what she does.

It's one of those things where she knows I respect her. She knows that I view her as an equal, and we're partners in this life. It's really something that I feel like, to have a good marriage, and to have a happy life, you’ve got to have somebody you're on equal footing with.

Jim: It's got to be someone you're best friends with. You can't just get caught up in what a person looks like or what their bank account looks like.

Gary: That's right, that's right. Well, Jim, any parting thoughts before we wrap this up? This has been so fun. I mean, it's always fun to talk to you. We always laugh and carry on. I enjoy our conversations. What are dad's parting words going to be tonight?

Jim: Yeah. This is one I heard at ASCRS, a quote, I can't take credit for this quote, but I'm trying to drive it home into my boys over the last couple of weeks, "People don't like you because of you, they like you based on how you make them feel when they are with you." You think about that, and it's really the truth.

Why do I like being with you, Gary, right? Like we were talking in the intro here, when we have dinner, we always have a lot of laughs, we have a lot of good times, we tell stories about our families just like we've done for about the last hour here, it's always great. But you look at people you don't really enjoy, you don't like being with them. If they don't make you feel good when you're around them, you see people with a lot of power, influence, but you don't really feel good when you're around them. You don't even like to be with them. You're like, "Oh man, so and so's coming down the hall here, let me duck down the other way or look kind of busy at my cellphone.”

So, I have one child that's an extrovert and loves to just walk up to people and talk. I have one, though, that's a real introvert. He's the older one that's the athlete. I'm trying to coach him up a little bit here, "Son, you need to walk up to your friends with a big smile on your face and say, ‘hey Jack, how are you today?’ Instead, you come walking up mumbling and looking at the ground." I said, "That's not how you're going to make friends like you." People say, “I don't have many friends,” I'm like, "Well, when's the last time you had people over for burgers or something?" You do have to invest a little bit, and you want to make people feel good just like you like them making you feel good. So, that'd be my parting thoughts of wisdom here.

Gary: Jim, any time you want to come back on to share more wisdom, you are always welcome. I look forward this as a book, because I think you need to look at getting a publisher. I look forward to all the future conversations and dinners we're going to have over the many years that we have together in this profession and in this life. So, thanks for coming on tonight. I really appreciate it.

Jim: Fantastic. Thank you, Gary.

Speaker 1: Thank you to Dr. Loden for talking openly about what life has taught him so far and for being willing to share advice on so many topics, both personal and professional.

And thanks to our listeners for tuning in for another episode. This has been Ophthalmology off the Grid. Until next time.

Speaker 1: Ophthalmology off the Grid is an independent podcast produced by Bryn Mawr Communications and supported by advertising from Alcon. For a full listing of podcasts for eye care professionals, go to eyetube.net/podcasts.

7/18/2019 | 55:45

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