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Do You Pass the Celery Test in Your Medical Career?

Yes, we are back on the celery test. Because I really like this concept. But here, we are not talking about the celery test in relation to our finances. We are talking about the celery test in terms of our medical career.

You can see here exactly how you can use the celery test to get your personal financial situation on track on the road to financial freedom. In this context, the test acts as a sort of compass or barometer to see how we are doing.

And the celery test plays the same role in examining our medical career. However, being introspective about our career – its current place and its trajectory – can be even more difficult for many doctors. Because we’ve worked hard to get where we are and often feel a stubborn need to maintain the status quo. Plus, making charges to our career feels daunting so we avoid it and tell ourselves it’s all good.

celery test medical career
Day 1 of residency in 2013 and still loving what I do 10 years later!

So let’s dig in a bit here.

What is the celery test?

I’m not sure if this is where the idea originated, but I first learned about the celery test in the book, Start With Why by Simon Sinek. This is a fantastic book about why certain businesses succeed where other fail. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, in the book, Sinek talks about the celery test as it applies to businesses. And maybe the best definition is to paraphrase the example he uses.

The business example

Imagine you are starting a health food store. So you go to three successful businesspeople for advice. The first one tells you that the most important thing to see in your store is peanut butter. The second tells you to sell chocolate. And the third tells you to sell celery.

Which advice should you follow? They are all successful businesspeople whose advice is sought by the masses.

Well, in this example, the answer is obvious. You listen to businessperson #3. Why? Because celery is a healthy food and matches with the goal, with the why, of your planned business – a health food store.

However, in real life, the decisions are usually more nuanced and the answer often much less clear. So, it becomes really important to intentionally think about if what you are doing as a business matches with your why. This is certainly a concept I often am thinking about and using to make decisions with this blog!

But I like another example even better…

The grocery store example

Now, imagine that you want to start eating healthier. And you are at the grocery store, checking out. I actually used to work as a cashier at a grocery store locally in Buffalo – Wegman’s – so this example holds a special place in my heart.

Now, you are placing all of the grocery items that you are buying on the conveyor belt. And someone else walks by and looks at your purchases. Think to yourself – would that person know that I am trying to eat healthier?

Well, if your belt is filled with candy, processed foods, and ice cream, then no, that stranger would not guess you are focusing on eating healthier. If the belt is filled with fruits and vegetables – like celery, then they would guess you are a healthy eater.

So the celery test is all about aligning your actions – what you buy at the grocery store – with your goals and intentions – wanting to eat healthier in this example.

That’s a powerful thought and mindset tool!

And it is way easier said than done. I know because I have failed the celery test, especially when it comes to my goal of eating healthier, many times. But that should not stop us from using it!

How can we use the celery test in our medical career?

Well, we use it exactly the same way.

Step 1

The first step is we have to really know and understand what we want out of our medical career. If you followed my advice in doing this to find your perfect job in the first place then you can just revisit those notes. And you are probably more likely to pass the celery test.

If not, however, you need to sit (together with your partner if applicable) and write down what you actually want in your career. Be grand. Pretend it’s an ideal world. Don’t get bogged down by what’s feasible or realistic.

Step 2

Compare these notes to your current medical career.

Are the decisions that you are making lining up with what you want? Are you seeing the kids of patients you want to? Do your hours match with what you want? Are you in a position that makes you happy?

And if not, are you taking the right steps to make things better?

Step 3

Start taking the steps to make things better!

I know that advice can almost seem patronizing. Or just exceedingly daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. So don’t make it into something bigger than it is.

In some cases, a physician may look do this exercise and realize that they really want to be out of medicine. Or they need a new job within medicine. And that is 100% great. The point of the celery test is to expose these incongruencies in life and help you work towards living your best life.

But things are rarely that dramatic. In the majority of cases there will be small steps that you can take or small habits to build that will bring you closer and closer to passing the celery test with flying colors.

Maybe it’s that you need to re-negotiate your contract to bring your compensation up to your value. Or maybe you want to dedicate more time to resident education action as that brings you joy and fulfillment. Perhaps you need to market yourself more to attract more of the kinds of patients you want to be treating.

Much of this goes unrecognized for too long without the celery test.

Why does this matter?

Well, it matters because we want to be happy in our career in medicine. Most of us as physicians want to continue practicing. But it’s hard to maintain that desire if we are not optimizing our medical career actively.

There are always things in medicine that we cannot control – insurance companies, administrators, etc. But there are things in our power that we can always control and we should be paying attention to those.

And lastly, enjoying a long productive medical career makes the simple path and formula to financial freedom that much easier!

I love my current situation in regards to my medical career. I feel right where I want to be. But it took active work. And still does. The celery test helps me stay on the right track!

Here are some other posts to help you optimize your medical career or even get out of medicine via non-clinical work if you desire:

And don’t forget to check out my best-selling book, Money Matters in Medicine, for a one stop guide to create your financial freedom!

What do you think? Have you ever used the celery test? In what aspects of your life? Do you think the celery test could help you with your medical career? Let me know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

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