A Final Lesson

The following is a letter I published on the website for my students and, as it contains insights valuable to all of us, I have chosen to post it here, too.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My time on the NAU campus has come to an end. After two sessions, six classes and 60-plus students, this moment is very bittersweet. I must take a moment to thank Ruth Cook and Duane Petty for hiring me and offering me the opportunity to step in front of students for the first time. Of course, Paula Phelps deserves a big hand for the tremendous support she’s given me from the start, both inside and outside the classroom—it makes life as an instructor that much easier. Last, but not least, I have to tip my hat to the remainder of the staff and faculty: I appreciate all your efforts in making me a part of the community and continue to be amazed by what you contribute to the campus.

To my students, I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for the gifts and cards. I will cherish the memory of your hugs and words wherever I go for the rest of my life—and will maintain a sugar rush from all the candy and cookies for several weeks, at least. I feel privileged to have been trusted with the awesome responsibility of playing a part in your education. With that in mind, I would be remiss if allowed us to part ways without a final lesson, something I hope you apply as you continue beyond campus walls:

1. Have great expectations
Achievement of any kind, whether getting a certification or becoming President of the United States, begins with an idea. Success, then, is a reflection of what you fix your mind on. Set your eyes on something far in the distance and pursue it with all your strength, through every hardship. When you are tired and think about giving up, remember what Thomas Paine wrote in The Crisis: “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Understand the difference between a goal and a step. The first is the target, a fixed point you are heading towards, in the same way Kansas City will always be exactly where it is. The second is how you get there, a series of movements leading to your destination—be open to taking any road, regardless of how treacherous or far out of the way it seems. As long as you keep driving on, you will get where you want to.

2. Do your part
Whatever it is you’ve set out to do, realize the lion’s share of effort will be yours. Though there will be others that help you along the way, most of the work will fall at your feet–from meeting the right people to learning the proper skills to performing at a high level in the field. Understand this fact, concentrate on being your best and let the cards fall where they may; more often than not, things will end up in your favor.

3. Make the best of every situation
The cushion of extra credit is absent in everyday life. We walk a fine line in the healthcare environment, there is no room for mistakes. Failure is a learning experience, accepted as part and parcel of the high-stakes practice of medicine. For some of you, a coding error or HIPAA violation may cost your employer money. For others, a patient may be injured or die.

Sometimes things will not go your way. Take a moment to figure out what you can correct and what you did well, then use that knowledge the next time. Always keep in mind that if you’re perfect, chances are pretty good you aren’t really doing anything.

It is my distinct honor to have stood before you and witnessed your growth as human beings. Believe in yourself, work hard, spread kindness and I am certain you will go as far as you wish.

With sincere best wishes now and always,

Jason Eichacker, DC

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