Tao Of Change

The Tao Of Change

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Change Is The Only Constant

We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness that holds what we want.

-Lao Tsu

Who is Mikki?

I ask for your indulgence as I write what was a pivotal moment in my life and career.

I was just a few months into my new life as a resident physician.  This was before the ‘reform’, and more friendly work restrictions came down from the powers of medicine.

As an intern, I routinely worked 100+ hour weeks.  Hell, I even rejoiced at working only 100 hrs in a week.  That meant some free time and a chance actually to see my wife and my bed.

My first month, like all those in my EM residency program, was spent in the emergency department getting our feet wet.  I drew the short lot and was one of two interns on the trauma team the next month.  Late summer is historically a busy month for trauma.  The crush was soon upon me to function at a much higher level.  The stress and pressure were immense.


Enter Mikki.


His accent was thick and his mannerisms much different than my upper Midwest upbringing.  Our work ethic, however, was the same.  Put your head down and do what ever it took to get the job done.

He grew up in eastern Europe and attended medical school in the US after a few years of research.  He worked harder than anyone I knew and was a role model to me.  Mikki was the first to admit that he wasn’t the smartest or fastest. His tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile saved many lives during our time on the trauma team.

Taking me under his wing, I felt like someone more experienced had my back as I learned how to transition from a med student to physician.  The margin for error when dealing with critically injured trauma victims is slim and time critical actions are the norm.

We had just finished rounds after a hellacious 36-hour shift.  I walked out into the late summer sun with Mikki gripping my shoulder.


“You did it.  Another great shift on the trauma team.  Nicely done.”

His positivity meant the world to me. Life as an intern brought loads of self-doubt and criticism.  Any words of encouragement were celebrated.

He related that it was his anniversary, and he had planned out a special day with his wife.  He waved goodbye with a twinkle in his eye and said something in Polish or one of the many other languages he spoke.

Come Monday

Our time away from the hospital usually consisted of no more than 24 hours.  As an intern, I worked 28 days a month.

My pager chimed a few hours into another trauma shift.  We had already accumulated nine more patients from the usually early morning carnage.

My pager chimed with a number I didn’t recognize.  The trauma chief summed us all to the pit.


Mikki’s dead.


Just like that. Out it came.  No way to soften the blow.  I’d known him only a few short months, but already felt a bond forming and appreciated his guidance.  Now he was gone.

He and his wife had been killed in a tragic accident.  Their car was struck by a dump truck as they left a swimming beach on their way to enjoy an anniversary dinner.  Both died instantaneously.


I was crushed.  We all were.  Residency is difficult and tight bonds form as we all learn to cope with the relentless demands and stress.


The funeral was difficult on many levels, but one event still stands fresh in my mind.

A friend from Mikki’s research lab days spoke a few words and offered a blessing in Polish.  He then turned and placed a cigar in the pocket of Mikki’s tux.  I could almost see Mikki’s soul brighten a bit.


“Goodbye, my old friend” and then he turned and walked out of the room.

Change Is Constant

My point of sharing this:   Change


I’ve been re-reading Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu.  This 2,500-year-old wisdom provides new meaning each time I crack the cover.

Tao Of Change

Below are a few of the most poignant themes:

  • Wanting vs. Doing
  • Let the world unfold without trying to control
  • No good can exist without bad (no light without darkness)
  • Pure & selfless actions allow everything to settle into  perfect place
  • To empty the mind is to practice not doing = contentment
  • Happiness is the way (there is no way to happiness)
  • Feel gratitude and awe for life
  • Live with an abundant mindset
  • Today’s troubles will be nothing in 100 or 1,000 years
  • Excluding others excludes the true self (we are all one)
  • Possessions are not yours. Everything passes to another eventually
  • Live independently of the opinion of others
  • Constantly striving is to never arrive
  • Live like water. Never stagnate. Move smooth, free and gentle through life
  • More is often less
  • Seek pleasure in the doing (the journey is the way)
  • Emptiness has value (can’t have music without pause between notes)
  • It is possible to see without using your eyes
  • Live unhurried – muddy water settles and gives way to clarity
  • Dreams come true in due time (you cannot push a river or the universe)
  • This too shall pass

The final is a favorite on many levels.  I try to remind myself of this on a daily basis.  It also happened to be a favorite of my late mother-in-law.

Be grateful for all you have.  Give freely and share your talents.

The sun never asks the earth to give back in return for its gift of light.  It never says: You Owe Me.

We are all here but for temporary existence in our human bodies.  The what, how and why is up to us.


What will you do with that gift today?


Your Life Is A Legend
Live Your Legend

As I write the final edit of this post, I have learned of the tragic death of another amazing human.  I met Scott Dinsmore and shared conversation and a beverage with him in Portland. He was a fully engaged and present spirit who impacted millions all around the world.

Live Your Legend & Mitchel M.D.

Scott Dinsmore & Mitchel Schwindt – Portland 2014.


His Live Your Legend community is something you need to check out to fully understand the impact of his spirit.  You are missed Scott and your legend will live on.  His work has impacted millions around the globe and helped countless find their passion and purpose.

Photo Credit: Blake Richard Verdoorn

PhotoCredit #2 BigStock Autumn


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