Think Positive and Success Will Follow

Physician's Money Digest, July31 2004, Volume 11, Issue 14

Sometimes it's hard to psych yourself to make an investment these days. When you invest money in a company or a piece of property, you usually want to be reasonably confident that the company or property will give you a suitable return on your investment. But lately, it seems you can't even be sure that the company will continue to exist, much less give you a good rate of return.

Bleak World Outlook

Today it seems that the world as we know it is crumbling. Terrorists are blowing up buildings and oil pipelines. Revolutionaries have been trying to take over governments. Large, multinational companies have been going bankrupt. CEOs are stealing from company treasuries. Investment firms have been playing games with your money and getting fined mega millions, even further diminishing what they can pay out to you.

The Power of Positive Thinking

It's hard to find someone in the investment world with a positive attitude these days. Therefore, I decided to look for investment advice from the person most known for his positive mental attitude, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of (Running Press Book Publishers; 2002), one of the most phenomenal bestsellers of our time. Never mind that he died in 1993. I've never let such mundane limitations as time or space stand in my way when I really want an interview, and I didn't allow them to in this case.

Dr. Constan:

Dr. Peale, my readers are all doctors trying to invest their incomes wisely so that they can take care of themselves and their families when they retire. What advice would you give them in these crazy times? Should they be optimists or pessimists?

Dr. Peale:

My experience with physicians is that they are natural optimists. They couldn't be good physicians otherwise. They have to believe that their patient is going to get better and that there is always something they can do for them. Even when there is no treatment currently available, doctors look to the future, believing that something will come along through medical research.

Dr. Constan:

That's true, but how should that translate to their investment planning?

Dr. Peale:

Well, I maintain that you must be an optimist to be successful at anything. Have you ever heard of a successful person who wasn't an optimist? Thomas Edison tried hundreds of materials before he found the one he could use as a filament in an electric light. That's true optimism. And you know that successful CEOs often fail and go bankrupt their first few tries at business before they hit on a successful formula for success. The bottom line is that you can't be a successful investor unless you start with an optimistic attitude. Physicians have a leg up on other investors because optimism is such a natural part of their professional lives.

Dr. Constan:

And yet many physicians are bad investors. I expect that you know this.

Dr. Peale:

I believe that one of their problems is an inability to translate their positive attitudes toward patients into other parts of their lives.

Dr. Constan:

You mean like when they make rash investments? They get a tip on a hot new invention, and they send their money in hopes of striking it rich.

Dr. Peale:

Exactly. Being an optimist doesn't mean having a Pollyanna attitude. Doctors wouldn't just pull any old drug off the shelf and give it to their patient. They do their research and make sure it's the best drug for that patient. You have to think about what the best course of treatment or the best investment is. After you've done your homework, you make your decision on the treatment or the investment and let your optimism carry you through.

Staying Mentally Positive

Dr. Constan:

But sometimes our patients die. We know that. Sometimes there's nothing we can do.

Dr. Peale:

Of course we can't stop that, just as we can't stop some companies from hiring bad managers and going bankrupt. And sometimes events are just overwhelming. My generation lived through a world at war. That was big. Yet we know that the people who were optimists did better both emotionally and economically during those bleak times. You're having some tough times in your own age. I'm sad to hear it. We had hoped that the world would be better by your day. Yet, you should tell your readers that a positive attitude does not happen because of what's happening around you. It happens because of what's going on inside of your head. I have some simple exercises that are laid out in my books on how to do that.

Dr. Constan:

Give me an example.

Dr. Peale:

Your mind tends to believe what you tell it. If you allow yourself to think that your investments will not succeed, then you'll come to believe it. You'll be afraid to step out and make the decisions necessary to ensure financial security. You'll hide all of your money in safe investments that don't have the return you need. Just as you believe that medical research will find the cures for disease, you must believe that the world will find solutions to its other problems. I think most of your readers would realize that they do in fact believe this. They get sidetracked into thinking pessimistically by focusing on all of the negativity in the media. And they can certainly get sidetracked by talking to other people when they're thinking negatively.

Dr. Constan:

I'll agree with you on that one. My doctor friends sometimes sit around in the surgeon's lounge complaining about how terrible things are— insurance companies, lawyers, government, demanding patients. It's all "so terrible." When I find myself in one of those complaining sessions, I run the other way. That's the only way I can avoid getting depressed and having my whole day ruined. But let me ask you something. Doctors do face a lot of challenges today. Our government, legal system, and insurance companies are often not interested in the welfare of our individual patients, and throw roadblocks in our way when we try to do what is right for them. Isn't it realistic to accept these negatives?

Dr. Peale:

The Power of Positive Thinking

It's okay to face reality, but it's not okay to let you see yourself as a victim, with no control over what is happening to you. When you allow yourself to start thinking like a victim, you lose the ability to make a positive impact on your future. In , "thinking" is the key. I tell how you have to start by believing in yourself. My book is not about getting someone else to solve your problems, but about reaching down and tapping into the resources that exist within yourself to solve your problems. You have to keep telling yourself this.

Think positively, instead of negatively. Your success starts with "thinking" about success. Instead of complaining, use your abilities to work around the difficulties you face, and conquer them. If you allow yourself to think that your career as a doctor will not be successful, then it certainly won't be. If you allow yourself to think that you will not make enough money to meet your present and future financial needs, then you certainly won't. But if you start every new day telling yourself that you have the talent and ability to be a good doctor, and to make a good living at it, then you'll be able to utilize your abilities to assure that this comes to be.

Louis L. Constan, a family practice physician in Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of the Saginaw County Medical Society Bulletin and Michigan Family Practice. He welcomes questions or comments at 3350 Shattuck Road, Saginaw, MI 48603; 989-792-1899; or louisconstan@hotmail.com.