1. Do you try to balance swimming and your career? Is one more significant than the other to you?
Medicine is definitely a full time/overtime job and often residents (including myself) will put in 12+ hours a day, six days a week. Us interns measure our free time in minutes per week. Luckily, running a small online business these days can be very streamlined if you put in the work and planning ahead of time. You still have to sacrifice time with friends and Netflix, but if you want to be more than just another URL in the internet, you have to put in the time.
The business doesn’t have set hours, so I can make business projects fit around my changing medicine schedule. There is also a lot of down time during the day at the hospital that I use efficiently, like creating and posting on Instagram while waiting for the big boss doctor to come by and check my work.
I got into medicine because I wanted to be a human machine expert, and in the long run it was a career that would give me the freedom and flexibility to do what I want. In some ways, medicine was my plan B, and plan A was whatever I wanted it to be. During med school, Plan A became Swim Smart. In reality, both the business/involvement in swimming and my career in medicine are equally significant to me because they feed my curiosity of the human body and allow me to have a platform on which to create, learn and teach.
I started swimming when I moved to the USA from Lebanon when I was 12 years old. The water is were I found my biggest challenges, successes, failures and friends. The most valuable lessons I learned from being a swimmer was how to be comfortable being uncomfortable and learning to overcome failure and keep moving towards my goals.
As a coach, swimming gave me my voice. Trying to hold the attention of 40 nine and ten-year olds requires you get over your timidness and get a commanding voice. It also challenged me to be a better teacher because you have to explain difficult concepts in a simple way which helps me explain to my patients why they are sick and how they can improve their lives. I have had a lot of patients say they trust me more than other doctors (even senior doctors) because I am able to speak with confidence and explain concepts in a way they understand.
Medical school was the most difficult thing I have ever done, and residency is shaping up to be just as tough. Resilience would be one characteristic I think has improved in me through medicine.
In addition, medicine is difficult because there is so much information to process. With every patient, disease and electronic records system we are forced to critically analyze what is important and what is not. Most of the first couple years of medical school are about teaching you what is important, the last couple teach you what is not important to each particular situation. This power of analysis and higher-level thinking is like mentally training at the Olympic level and it is what separates doctors from all the other staff that it takes to run a hospital. Luckily, this power isn’t just for the hospital and I see it helping me in my life outside of medicine when I make business decisions and help friends/family/swimmers/myself with life choices.
4. Explain the purpose of your company (if that is what you refer to it as) and the goals that you are reaching for.
“We are coaches fixing swimming problems through innovation, education and sharing.”
Our goals are to help swimmers and coaches attain those “Ah Ha” moments that instantly improve their training and racing. Other than creating our own innovative products, we want to consolidate all the little swimming entrepreneurs and become the go to place for people who are looking for a solution to a swimming problem and the place where people share their solutions for the whole swimming community to benefit from.
I was bored in med school.
As a coach, I was working on an invention to help swimmers with their technique. By my second year in medical school, the product was nearing a point where it was no longer a hobby and could be something sellable. But I didn’t want to be just a lonely webpage that sold one product, I wanted to give my customers and followers more than just another swimming tool. I wanted to teach swimmers and coaches how to be better. For that, I needed a platform to bring people together and create more products in the future.
On a more personal level, I had to leave coaching to go to medical school. I couldn’t commit to coaching with my ever-changing schedule, but I still wanted to be a part of swimming somehow. Swim Smart was my idea of staying connected to the water.
Swim Smart is the owner of two unique swim training tools: the Squeezline and Power Harness. I have also authored a book about the physiology of swimming called The Biology of Swimming. We also have a marketplace platform (like Amazon) that allows anyone to create free profiles and upload their workouts/books/educationals/products for anyone to purchase, like our seasonal templates people can use as a guide to writing workouts. We also create fun T-shirts and Cheering Towels.
Pretty much we lead the way in everything!
These were the two areas of life I know the most about and they feed into each other very well. Swimming is the ultimate a human body can be, and medicine is dealing with the worst it can be. In reality, it is all the same spectrum and athletes and patients are just on opposite ends. Surprisingly, what helps a patient improve their performance (after a stroke or heart attack for instance) is the same that helps a swimmer improve, it’s just at a different level of performance.
8. Does anyone stick out to you that has supported you along the way?
YES! My parents have been great. They spanked me as a kid, pushed me to get good grades in school (which kind-of worked) and fought me every step of the way when I wanted to take a year off and coach and when I wanted to start my business. But at the end of the day, their actions forced me to really think about what I wanted, how I was going to get it, and if it was something I was really going to be dedicated enough to go against my parent’s judgment. And when I was resolved to do things my way, they supported me the whole time. They funded my patent for Swim Smart’s first project and Mom still packages all the orders and ships them out. They even let me take over a huge section of the garage for inventory.
Another supporter is coach Mike Peterson who helped me find my voice as a coach and doctor. He is a great teacher and example of how to be continually dedicated to your craft and always excited about what you do. He is never satisfied with where a person is in the moment and always pushing the people around him to reach the next level which is the most fundamental definition of a coach.
Medicine still has a large apprenticeship learning aspect to it (coaching too). As a medical student, you find doctors/mentors who you want to be like and you try to be that person. I worked with a lot of interns fresh out of med school who were overworked, underpaid and way over their head, but they took the time to teach us students and their patients all while having a ton of fun doing it.
There were plenty of doctors that I did not want to be, and they shape you just as much. Those guys were angry, rude, prideful, demeaning and were just horrible to be around by students and staff. People like to play it off as a personality required to be good at that job, but I think it is just weakness and insecurity. I did not want to be that way.
I really believe that every talent and opportunity is a gift and that it is our job to use that gift as best we can. Reaching our full potential is how we say “thank you” for the gifts. I remember growing up in Lebanon and watching kids beg on the highway. Their gift was life and they were doing the most they could with it. I’ve been given more, and more should be expected of me. My gifts are having an above average ability to learn, teach and create and I try to use them to the best of my ability.