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All right, y’all welcome back. Welcome back to the 200th episode of The Testing Psychologist podcast.
Hey, I can’t believe we got here. It seems like just yesterday when I was starting this podcast in January 2017. And here we are [00:01:00] 4 years later and 200 episodes later. Pretty incredible. It’s been an amazing run.
And in honor of the 200th episode, today’s format will be a little bit different. I have my good friend and colleague Dr. Andres Chou, who you might recognize from the episode on Clergy Evaluations from a few months ago. He is here to interview me about The Testing Psychologist’s journey and everything that has entailed.
So, the tables are turned this time. And it’s a little challenging at times. Andres asks some fantastic questions and I do my best to answer them, of course. So I hope you enjoy this. It’s a little bit of a glimpse into my process, my life, and what this has been like for me.
Before we jump to that conversation, I want to invite [00:02:00] any of you advanced practice owners to check out the Advanced Practice Mastermind group which is starting in June. It will be our next cohort. So this is a small group coaching experience where we offer accountability and support to help you advance practice owners, or soon-to-be advanced practice owners reach those goals in your practice.
So, we’re talking a lot about hiring, streamlining your process, maybe additional streams of income, growing your practice, and all those sorts of things. If that sounds interesting to you, you can get more information at thetestingpsychologist.com/advanced.
Okay, let’s transition to this interview, Dr. Andres Chou interviewing me about The Testing Psychologist journey.[00:03:00] Dr. Chou: All right, Jeremy, welcome to the podcast.
Dr. Sharp: Hey, thanks, Andres. Good to be here.
Dr. Chou: Yeah, I’m excited about this. We’ve been trying to connect. I’ve been hearing a lot about you, especially because this is your podcast, and I decided that maybe this might be a good idea to bring you on since you are the host of the podcast. So, welcome.
Dr. Sharp: Thank you. I am honored to be here and I’m honored to have you take part in this little experiment with me. So, thanks for being here and turning the tables a bit.
Dr. Chou: Okay. I’ve been thinking about what to start with. We’ll just keep it light to start with. So, let’s start with the easy ones. Let’s start with the basics. So, [00:04:00] for some of the new listeners, some people might be familiar with who you are, like podcast nerds like me, and I’ve listened to almost every single one and studied them and rehearsed them in my dreams. But for some of the newer listeners, maybe you could tell us a little bit about yourself. So maybe tell us a little bit of what you would do on your dating app profile.
Dr. Sharp: Oh my gosh, that’s not an easy question at all. Let’s see. I can give a framework for the dating app profile. The framework is, I grew up in the south and I still have just enough fondness, I guess, for where I grew up that I still say y’all quite a bit. I love college football. But beyond that, I moved out of the south to go to grad school here in Colorado. [00:05:00] And from there, ended up, well, I wouldn’t talk about meeting my wife on a dating app profile, right?
Dr. Chou: Just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. So, I’m very literal. Came to Colorado for grad school at Colorado State and then went into private practice pretty quickly after graduating. I started the practice in 2009 and have been fortunate enough to grow over the years to the point that there were about 20 of us now. I do specialize in pediatric assessment, of course. And yeah, personally, college football, running, reading, being outside, playing with my kids, researching things on the internet. All these things are places where I spend a lot of time.
Dr. Chou: Okay. [00:06:00] What’s the football team you follow?
Dr. Sharp: The South Carolina Gamecocks.
Dr. Chou: Oh, okay. I know nothing about college football. My school didn’t have a team.
Dr. Sharp: It’s okay. It’s a weird, almost religious kind of thing, especially in the South and maybe the Midwest as well. People get really into it. I wasn’t super into it. The funny thing is that I got more into my Alma Mater’s football team after I graduated. When I was there, I was the guy that was anti-fraternity. I didn’t go to football games. Tailgating is for ships or whatever. I had enough of that. I didn’t want to be part of the crowd and kind of rebelled against it. But then after I moved away, I found that that was one piece of the South that I liked holding on to. Of course, that topic has gotten a lot more [00:07:00] fraught over the years with college athletes not getting paid and I really think they should, but anyway, that’s a whole other story.
Dr.Chou: Oh, we could get into that and have people really mad at you, but we’ll skip that. We’ll stick to the easy stuff like social injustice and things like that.
So here’s a question. How did you get your name?
Dr. Sharp: How did I get my name? The Testing Psychologist?
Dr. Chou: No, your name, Jeremy Sharp. Is there a story behind it?
DR. Sharp: That’s a great question. I think it’s a boring answer though. My family took the paternal line as our last name, Sharp. But as far as my first name is just one of those things my parents were looking through a name book and they liked it. And that was the end of that. I wish there was more.
Dr. Chou: I regret that question already.
Dr. Sharp: [00:08:00] Some land, some don’t.
Dr. Chou: Now, we’re just going to sit here in silence for a little bit. I’m just kidding.
All right. That’d be good to get us back on track. And you probably answered this on the podcast before. I’m trying to remember, but why psychology? Why did you get it?
Dr. Sharp: That’s a great question. I actually don’t know that I’ve given the full story on the podcast before. So we’ll see where this takes us. But I think, like a lot of us, there were a number of childhood experiences that led me in this direction. So going way back, I think that I learned… So first of all, I’m a firstborn. I have a younger brother. And it’s the two of us, but I’m the oldest.
I think a big thing honestly is that my mom was diagnosed with MS when I was 7 years. [00:09:00] Her condition progressed relatively rapidly. MS is kind of unpredictable. She declined pretty quickly. So she went from fully functional normal mom to first, using canes and a Walker and then eventually to a wheelchair full time within maybe two years.
That was pretty early. I was still pretty young when that happened. I think over time, just as part of what was needed in the family because my dad worked, he was the breadwinner and supported us. I learned pretty early that helping people and being useful was a really valuable thing in our family. And over the years, as I got older, [00:10:00] my mom and I talked a lot. I took care of my little brother. I did chores, all those things around the house.
And when it came time to decide what to do, it seemed natural, I was a helper. So that seemed like a good way to help.
Now there’s a little twist, of course. So I had that background but then in high school, I think I kind of got tired of playing that role. I got angry like a lot of teenagers do. And I was, honestly, doing some things that I shouldn’t. I got into drugs a little bit. I was depressed. Anyway, the short story is I ended up in a psychiatrist’s office as a teenager.
It sounds so, so dumb looking back, but I remember [00:11:00] thinking very clearly in that psychiatrist’s office that I didn’t feel connected to this person at all. It did not go well. And a lot of that was me, of course, I was an unruly teenager. But part of that rebellious mindset, of course, was I could do this so much better than this guy. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a pretty big contributing factor to choosing psychology as well and going down that path. I really was motivated to help kids who might be in my place down the road.
Dr. Chou: It’s funny because you probably do better work than that guy did. Who knows? I don’t know the actual experience, but that’s fascinating. Wow. So, was that the plan right from undergraduate to seek out psychology, or did you have other career interests?
Dr. Sharp: No, it really was. And [00:12:00] that’s one of those aspects of my personality that is definitely a double-edged sword. But once I commit to something and decide something is a certain way or will be a certain way, I tend to stick to it. And I also like certainty. I’m averse to the unknown. So when I decided I was going to go the psychology route, that’s what I did. And I majored in psychology right off the bat at South Carolina. I did my undergrad thesis on the Recreational Use of Prescription Medication. I carried that through to grad school and did my masters’ dissertation on the same topic, and really thought I was headed toward working with kids who had substance abuse issues. That was my path for a long time.
Dr. Chou: And so, it sounds like you were thinking about treatment initially and it [00:13:00] shifted for you at some point.
Dr. Sharp: It did. Yeah. It’s funny to look back. I will say, when I was in grad school. I don’t think I really understood what it meant to be a psychologist until 3 years in. I had no idea. I was not a first-generation college. I was definitely a first-generation grad school, but my mom did go to college. But I had no idea what grad school was. I just knew I wanted to do it. I thought I wanted to be a psychologist, but I really didn’t know what that meant.
So yeah, I was geared toward therapy. I did my internship at a college counseling center. I did my postdoc at a college counseling center. I started my practice with a big therapeutic focus. I put a lot of time and energy into emotionally focused couples therapy, but then things changed right as they do. [00:14:00] And what I found was a perfect storm of events. I mean, I loved the assessment. I’d done 2 or 3 years of assistantship practicum with a neuropsychologist in grad school. I love testing. I just really wasn’t sure how to do it in private practice.
In the beginning, I was doing maybe one or two evaluations a month for the first year or two. And then all of a sudden, I got this huge influx of referrals for evaluations. That was right around the time that our son was born as well.
And I recognize that: One, testing was a lot less emotionally draining for me. And that became more and more important as my emotional and cognitive reserves were tapped by our son. Two, it allowed for a lot more flexibility. I could write reports from home and kind of hang out with him while he was an infant. [00:15:00]And there seemed to be a really big market for it in town. And I found that I really liked writing. It exercises a different part of my brain. All those things happening around the same time, like I said, it was kind of a perfect storm to go in that direction. And I really haven’t looked back since.
Dr. Chou: Wow. So, you started just doing therapy, and then it switched for you. What would you say is the percentage now of your practice, therapy to assessment?
Dr. Sharp: That’s easy. I have one therapy client.
Dr. Chou: What about the practice in general because it’s a group practice that you own?
Dr. Sharp: It is a group practice, yeah. It’s probably 60/40 testing to therapy. It might be closer to 50/50 now. We’ve brought on a lot of therapists here in the last year, but I’d still say our calling card around town is the testing that we do, of course. There are just not [00:16:00] many people here who do it.
Dr. Chou: So, I know quite a few of your listeners and maybe even from the Facebook community. If you guys aren’t a part of it on Facebook, join. But there are grad students, or post-docs trying to figure out, do I want to do testing? Do I want to do assessment more or can I do a split? Maybe you could speak to that, how you decided to take on more testing and all that kind of stuff.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, that’s an important thing to think through. And it can shift, I will say that. But for me, I just found that I felt like I was better at testing. And I think a lot of us gravitate toward the things that we feel good at. And for me, I don’t know that I was ever a good therapist. I had to work really hard [00:17:00] to be a good therapist, especially with the emotionally focused work. That did not come naturally to me necessarily. And testing on the other hand felt very natural.
I’ve said sometimes that I feel like in a different life, I could have easily been an engineer or computer programmer or even an accountant, mathematician, any of those things are not unattractive to me. So testing kind of marries both sides of my brain. I guess that’s a silly way to put it, but the analytical part and the numbers part and the more linear thinking, but also provides room to be creative and connect with families, but in a little bit more limited scope, I think.
Dr. Chou: I’m just thinking about how your experience with treatment and therapy and even the desire to do that first probably inform your style [00:18:00] of testing and assessment quite a bit whereas someone who that’s their first aim is just to do the assessment, maybe they had to work on that part of it, the connecting part.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I know it’s coming in handy. I think just connecting with people and some of those difficult feedback sessions.
Dr. Chou: How did you know you wanted to do a private practice right off the bat?
Dr. Sharp: I didn’t. That’s the crazy thing. I didn’t have private practice really anywhere on my radar until maybe three months from the end of my post-doc. We were talking before we started to record, my wife was employed at the local university here. She was very well employed. She’s also a therapist or a counselor. And we knew we wanted to stay here. So I was very geographically limited. I applied to a bunch of [00:19:00] really masters-level jobs in town and did not get any of them. I like to say because I was overqualified, but I don’t know that for sure.
Dr. Chou: Intimidated by you? Yeah.
Dr. Sharp: I’m sure that’s what it was. Yeah, they were just totally blown. No, I just didn’t get the jobs.
And there aren’t any real Ph.D. level jobs except at the counseling center, which was pretty full up with senior staff and I didn’t want to do academia. So, I really kind of started the practice out of necessity more than anything else because there wasn’t a whole lot out there.
I was lucky enough to end up landing two little contract gigs with the university health center and my old grad school clinic, but those were very part-time and I felt like I needed more income. [00:20:00] So it was not very deliberate. It was desperate more than deliberate.
Dr. Chou: Oh gosh, I’m thinking about how that must have been for you. I’m guessing you took on some debt to go through grad school and went through years and years of school and you couldn’t find a job. Wow!
Dr. Sharp: It’s pretty intense. I’ve told this before, but just the timing of everything. I finished my post-doc in July of 2009. My wife and I got married in late August of 2009. And so I didn’t really start anything before we got married. I just took a month off , maybe a little more. But yeah, that morning we woke up after the wedding, just like by ourselves in this mountain cabin. And it’s supposed to be joyful and like, Oh, we’re married. And I just completely lost it and wept. Just straight up [00:21:00] sobbed because it all came crashing. There was nothing. The wedding was over and we were confronted with real life. And I was like, I don’t have a job. I don’t know what I’m doing. Where am I, just very like an existential crisis. Luckily that passed. And my wife didn’t leave me immediately. And we made it through.
Dr. Chou: Just because it’s on my mind now, she has a podcast that she launched not too long ago, right?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, she does. It’s called The Art of Groups. She is a group therapy expert.
Dr. Chou: Okay. Check it out, everyone. Art of groups, right? Give a little plug for the wife.
Dr. Sharp: All right. Thank you.
Dr. Chou: So, as you’re talking about that feeling of you didn’t know what you were doing, right?
I imagine this comes up quite a bit for people who maybe listen, but the idea of imposter syndrome comes up quite a bit on [00:22:00] your podcast actually with other people. But I’m wondering about you. I’m wondering if it still shows up for you? Let’s start with that. If it still shows up in how it shows up.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, every day, maybe at least every week, at least every time I interview someone for the podcast. There’s just at least for me, so many opportunities to think about how I am probably not doing as good a job as I could or not being as knowledgeable as people might expect or something like that. But yeah, of course, podcasts interviews, I always feel like my guests know more than I do, and I think they do. I’m kind of worried they are going to figure out that I [00:23:00] really don’t know very much about what they’re talking about.
Dr. Chou: I think that’s an okay thing because if you knew more than your guest then we would just listen to you all the time. It’ll be kind of boring.
Dr. Sharp: It’s true. Nobody wants that.
Dr. Chou: Nobody.
Dr. Sharp: But yeah, it comes up a lot. I mean, clinical work, consulting with other clinicians, I’m constantly reminded. For me, it’s like, at some point I just… And I think all of us have to make peace with this. I wish there was a different term, instead of imposter syndrome, maybe like I don’t know, students syndrome or something where we reframe it where it’s like, this is just another opportunity to learn. Or this is another opportunity where I’m reminded that thank goodness, there are people that can teach me or I don’t know what we would call. I [00:24:00] know that’s not the only dimension of imposter syndrome.
Dr. Chou: Rather than it’s something to get rid of, it’s something to embrace, right?
Dr. Sharp: Well, yeah. It’s just like everything else, right? When you push it away, it just comes back stronger or faster or whatever. So making peace with it and just saying, hey, what’s going on here? What can I learn from this? And is this accurate? Is it not?
Dr. Chou: So, I’m thinking about how now your hands are in a lot of different projects. Maybe you could just, for people that don’t know, what does your workload look like? Because clinical work is a small part of it, right?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, certainly. So I still do two to four evaluations a month. So that’s maybe 10 to 15 hours a week roughly. I spend a lot of time directing our practice.[00:25:00] So that takes up at least a day or two each week as well. I try to stick to doing big picture stuff. So it’s visioning for the practice, business development, marketing, maintaining relationships, hiring, just kind of those high-level things in our practice. The podcast and consulting with other clinicians, either their individual or group, takes up about a day and a half to two days each week. I think I’ve run out of days. That’s a pretty good breakdown.
Dr. Chou: What’s your philosophy in terms of balancing all that? And maybe for all of us in private practice or any kind of clinician, I’m thinking about how that’s always an issue, trying to balance work-life. [00:26:00] Maybe you could speak to how you do that.
Dr. Sharp: So it’s always aspirational, of course. But I figured out really early on that answering the question, how do I get more clients is a lot easier than answering the question of what do I do with all these clients? And I knew when I think it was when our son… our kids are very close together. So I can’t remember if it was when he was born or when his sister came along pretty shortly after. I decided pretty early on that I was going to set up my practice and my life so that I could pick them up from school every day when they got to the point that they were going to school.
I don’t know why that’s important. I actually never really reflected on that. But I set that as a north star and just knew that for some reason, that that was important to me. That would mean I had a work-life balance. [00:27:00] Now, it’s gone totally in and out of balance over the years. I’ve told stories of working 7 days a week for I don’t even know how long. But now, it’s a lot easier. I’ll talk about time-blocking and setting boundaries and working backward from what you need to make and fitting that to your practice. All those things are helpful.
But I’ve also made peace with not being perfect. I just don’t touch work after I get home. And sometimes that means that people wait two days to hear back from an email or some need that someone has from me or maybe a podcast doesn’t get edited exactly on time, and it comes out a couple of days late or the next week or something. [00:28:00] It’s not easy. I still have that twinge of like, “Hey, you’re letting people down.” But it’s more powerful, the feeling of, “Hey, I’m holding these boundaries when I’m home.” That’s more powerful for me these days.
Dr. Chou: There was an episode where you talked about how if you put that work into the other parts of your life, I’m going to totally butcher this. But the idea is that when you have that balance or you are invested in the things that give you energy in life, like your family, it’s going to flow into the other parts of your work in your practice. So I think that’s a big part of how you live, is investing in that.
Dr. Sharp: I think so. And I’ve just, I don’t know, so much of this I think is just like learning about yourself or myself. And that was a slow process for me. I wouldn’t call [00:29:00] myself super introspective, but over time, thankfully, and with the help of my wife, I’ve just realized, I’m not one of those people that is like I live to work kind of person. My work is amazing and I love what I do and I love the podcast and my practice and my life outside of work is very rich and fulfilling. I love running. I love hanging out at home. I love doing stuff on the weekends. That’s just me. That might not be other people. I think knowing yourself in that way helps guide your priorities.
Dr. Chou: Okay. A lot of times people don’t know how much work goes into a podcast. Can you tell us a little bit of how much work goes into it?
Dr. Sharp: Great question. Yeah, how much work goes into a podcast?
So early on, it was a lot, because I was doing [00:30:00] everything myself. Bringing on an assistant has helped significantly. But I would say I probably spend, let’s just ballpark maybe an hour, maybe more, it depends on the topic and how much I need to research, but let’s just ballpark an hour to prepare for the podcast, an hour to two hours for recording, and interviewing and that whole process, and then maybe a half-hour of post-processing in terms of polishing up the show notes or any number of other little tasks involved with distributing it. You can automate the show notes or have someone else write them, but I haven’t taken that leap yet. All told maybe 3 to 4 hours depending each.
Dr. Chou: [00:31:00] So I know recently you decided to kind of double down on the podcast, right? Do you try to do more episodes and maybe you could talk and talk to why that felt important for you to do. I think we all had a lot of different aspirations early on in the pandemic. It was like, no, we’re going to work out and run two practices and all that stuff, but you can talk about it.
Dr. Sharp: Learn Chinese.
Dr. Chou: Yeah, exactly.
Dr. Sharp: Paint my house. Yeah, so that decision to double down on the podcast was certainly a pandemic-inspired idea. But I think some history with the podcast is important.
I’m trying to answer that question. It initially started as a way to share business knowledge. I didn’t really find a whole lot of business resources especially with [00:32:00] starting a testing practice when I was doing my own. And so it started as a way to share business advice for folks running mental health practices specifically regarding testing.
Over time though, I came to find out from the download numbers that people really liked hearing those clinical interviews. At that point, it wasn’t anything like that for the neuro-psych world. Now, there’s NavNeuro and I think they do a great job. But at that point, early on, there really weren’t any clinical interviews around this stuff. So, people love that. And over time, it kind of morphed into just clinical interviews.
And I felt like I was just missing my roots, so to speak with the business stuff. And so my solution to that was just to double up and do two episodes a week and [00:33:00] do one clinical and one business. Now I could have alternated weeks, of course, or maybe not being quite so ambitious, but that didn’t seem reasonable. Why would I not go for two episodes a week? And it’s been great. It’s been more time. But I’ve adjusted my schedule and I think it’s at a good place now. And I feel better.
Dr. Chou: And we’re all grateful for it. So that’s all good. So, now you’re talking about topics about the podcast. I’m wondering, is there anything that feels too hard or too scary to talk about on this podcast?
Dr. Sharp: Wonderful question. I don’t know that I’ve consciously settled on any topics or identified any topics that feel too [00:34:00] scary. Now, are there things that I avoid maybe unconsciously because I don’t know a lot about it or I’m uncomfortable? Yeah, I’m sure. I think anybody who’s listened for a while knows it’s probably skewed more toward pediatric assessment than anything else. I’ve been doing a big push over the past several months with everything happening in 2020 around racial injustice and black people being murdered and all of that craziness to more consciously bring topics of diversity and inclusion and so forth to the podcast. That is hard for me.
All the way, I’m just on the journey, you know, doing the work to try to [00:35:00] figure out how to talk about these topics in a way that makes sense and can still bring the information to people in a coherent manner. So, at least at this point, that’s the most challenging area for me only because I’m just so conscious of wanting to do it the right way. I know that’s what everybody says, but I’m just very vigilant about how I approach all of that.
Dr. Chou: What are your thoughts about… I think there are some things that have been happening. I don’t know when necessarily, but the shooting in Colorado was just, is that this past week?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah.
Dr. Chou: Gosh, it’s so crazy, right? Like, I don’t even know what’s happening and when anymore. What’s your sense of the current social-political state of our, we’re in the US, so of our country right now or even the world, [00:36:00] but maybe just our country? And given the backdrop of these recent events, maybe you could kind of give some of your thoughts about that.
Dr. Sharp: Oh my gosh. What is my perception of the current socio-political climate? Oh my God. I am the least qualified person to say anything about this. I mean, it sucks. Is that a perspective? I think there’s a lot that’s broken with gun control, education, mental health, race relations. I don’t know.
Dr. Chou: All right, let’s move right.
Dr. Sharp: How’s that first?
Dr. Chou: Oh gosh. Yeah. So, let’s turn it to someplace then maybe we can identify as clinicians. What do you think we can do? There are so many things, right? But what comes to mind is in terms of what we might be able to do to [00:37:00] effect some change as testing psychologists, assessments psychologists?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Gosh, that’s a big question too. These are great questions. Two things come to mind. I think with a lot of us working with kids, if there’s anything we can do around social, emotional, learning, and I don’t know if you’d call it a curriculum or whatever it might be, just social, emotional education, starting really early with kids. So just basic communication skills, connecting with others, inclusion, acceptance, That’s a whole ball of wax, but to me, it makes sense to put a lot of energy into the kids. It’s not going to be an immediate change, but maybe we would notice something different in [00:38:00] 10 to 20 years.
And then maybe more immediately, I think about access and providing access for people maybe more than we are. I don’t know. That’s a tough question to answer. I don’t know how to provide more access, honestly, because I feel like we’re doing our best. But maybe thinking outside the box to provide services to more folks in a way that is untraditional in some way.
Dr. Chou: It’s so hard because we only know what we know and trying to… even the idea of how do you open up access, we all have our own little circles and bubbles and communities. And maybe part of that is already naturally in the community. But for many of us, we’re all [00:39:00] well-educated, too educated probably and we’re probably in a higher kind of social-economic class. And then to venture out of that is really hard. So I hear what you’re saying. I’m curious, because you’ve been reflecting on these things, and definitely it’s clear now in your podcast how you’ve been extending those trying to break beyond those barriers. I’m wondering what are some things that you’ve actively tried to do to kind of expand that in your own work and podcasts?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I think I can just speak personally. And of course, there’s the asterisk here that it’s never done, the work is never done with this sort of stuff.
Dr. Chou: But the reason why I’m asking this is because I think the more examples we hear of people trying, [00:40:00] there’s something about that. It’s like, “Oh, that’s something I didn’t try yet or that’s something that I want.” It’s just important to talk about. And it’s tricky because, with the climate, it’s so easy to virtue signal, like, “Look at me. I’m trying, I’m woke” or something like that. I hesitate to put myself out there like that because I don’t want to come across that way. But then I think it’s important in these kinds of longer formats to talk about it because people are trying and it’s hard. I don’t know. I like to hear it.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I appreciate you opening that up. There are a couple of pieces of that for me. There’s like what are you doing about it or what am I doing and how do you let people know or do you let people know about [00:41:00] that? And for me, I read a lot and I listen to a lot of podcasts and a lot of books. And so I always have multiple pieces of media in the rotation. And I just know for me, like what I’ve kind of settled into is knowing that at least one or two of those pieces of media in my rotation have to be something that’s expanding my understanding or experience of these issues like race relations or inclusion, whatever you want to call it. That’s even a thing. I’m not exactly even sure what to call it, but that realm.
So, I’m listening to a book, I’m listening to a podcast, I’m reading a book, I’m looking in Facebook groups. I just always have to have something front and center that is pushing that [00:42:00] boundary for me. And doing personal workaround that is super important. I guess there are aspects of having those conversations at home. My wife has done a lot more work, I think, in this area than I probably have, and a lot more experiential work with certain leaders in the field and whatnot. And so, having conversations around these things is super important.
It’s a fine line for me between virtue signaling and advocacy. I haven’t figured that out yet. I don’t know if I will, but I’m always trying to. I think it’s, of course, important to make it clear. I’ve tried to do that on the podcast and say explicitly like we’re talking more about [00:43:00] assessment with disadvantaged communities or populations or just different populations, whatever it might be. But yeah, it’s an ongoing process for me. I’m curious, what about you? How are you doing that?
Dr. Chou: Oh gosh, I thought this was about you.
For me, it’s interesting because a few weeks ago was the shooting in Georgia. My in-laws are from Atlanta. And so it’s weird for me because it feels like it’s something I should be really fired up about and at the same time, I don’t know how I feel about it.
So, let me try to answer your question. I [00:44:00] think for me, so let’s start with that. Just not knowing what to feel about it. It’s to admit that. Just go, “Okay. I don’t know what to make of this” and to check my own experiences of it because my ex… for those that don’t know, I’m of Taiwanese descent, Asian-American, but my experience is very different.
My parents came here on a visa green card and they’re educated and they have college degrees. We’re all educated at some level, right? But they have college degrees and so we had a lot of advantages and privileges that other people didn’t have in other Asian communities. They come here as refugees and that’s a different world from my world.
And so, the victims in the [00:45:00] shootings in Atlanta came from really dire circumstances. It’s so thick. And so many layers of what was problematic with that situation.
And then there’s a whole other part of being the model minority. It’s not really that bad for us. And so for me, it’s been about like, let’s look at all these structures and really think it through. Like you said, have conversations, even tricky ones, and check my own bias because even as an ethnic minority, I have my own bias too. Asian people are crazy racists. No one will ever admit that, but it’s true. [00:46:00] Dave Chappelle had this whole bit about that. But it’s so rooted. I won’t even share what some of my relatives have said, you know, it’s shocking, but it’s not exclusive to white people. And I think we need to have deep conversations about how if you get into critical race theory and the idea of white supremacy, that sinks into all layers of our society.
Anyway, this is getting too, too crazy. But to answer your question, Jeremy, like you said, to keep thinking and keep challenging, like what are my biases in these?
Dr. Sharp: Right. Maybe that’s a good way to land the plane with this. At least, for now, is just that idea, the more and more that I dig into it, again as a straight white man, that is where I’m coming at this from. So [00:47:00] all those points of privilege that the more that I dig into it, the more I recognize that the work has to be so deliberate on my part because it’s rewriting, I think, literally everything that I learned growing up and continue to learn from societal reinforcement. It just has to be that active process to almost recode my brain. That’s never done.
Hey, y’all Jeremy here. Little interjection. So after our conversation after this interview, Andres contacted me and asked if we could record a little bit more conversation around this particular topic, the violence against different ethnic groups [00:48:00] in our country, and some other topics in this realm. He reached out and I thought that was a great idea. So we’re going to take a little bit of a departure, and I’ll let you hear that additional discussion that we had. And then we will transition back to the original interview. So here is our extended conversation on some of the issues plaguing our country right now.
So Andres we’re back again here a few days after the initial recording because you contacted me and wanted to maybe add or change or flesh out some of the things that you were saying just a bit ago about some of these experiences, some of these shootings that we’ve had lately. And yeah, I want to absolutely give you the floor for this. I really admire that you’re willing to reach out and [00:49:00] have some additional conversation around it. So, what’s on your mind with this?
Dr. Chou: Well, thanks for giving me the opportunity to come back and talk through this more. We spoke a little bit about this just before we recorded, but after we ended that first part of the interview, it was just a moment, I’m sure for your listeners will be kind of seamless, but it’s was a moment where we’re talking about the shootings in Colorado and Atlanta, and I asked how you felt and how has that affected you and changed maybe some of the ways you’re looking at how to practice or just even in life in general. And then you did the very natural podcast host thing, and you asked me, what am I doing about it? I don’t remember my entire response, but I do remember walking away thinking, man, I keep such a nonanswer and you probably didn’t take anything [00:50:00] off it.
But I went home that day and I was thinking about that was such a nonanswer. Why did I back away from that question? And at one point I even kind of turned it on myself and the Asian-American community saying, Oh, you know, but we’re kind of racist too. And didn’t really address it. And then it didn’t feel right. And I talked to my wife about it and we just hashed it out a little bit and became very clear that that was a clear example of oftentimes the Asian-American experience.
And so I asked you if we could come back and kind of hash it out a little bit. I thought it’d be really important just to leave the initial conversation in there as an example of what tends to happen for a lot of Asian-Americans. We’re not a monolith, so I can’t speak for everyone. But that’s important. [00:51:00] So that’s the background to this.
Dr. Sharp: Right. What do you mean when you say that is the Asian-American experience?
Dr. Chou: First of all, if you haven’t seen this yet, there’s a documentary called Asian-Americans on PBS that they recently reared in response to what’s been happening in the Asian American community and it’s free online, YouTube, and all that stuff. We’ve been watching it. The Asian-American experience, so a lot of times in Asian cultures, it’s a more collateral collectivistic culture, right? More honor. Shame-based. I even heard it’s oftentimes similar to military families where you’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the family or the community. And so, a lot of times, at least in American history that [00:52:00] when Asian Americans have encountered opposition or discrimination, the typical response has been to, okay, let’s just blend it and keep our heads down. Let’s do what’s good for the community. Don’t raise a fuss even if you don’t like it. Let’s just keep going.
And that’s where that model minority myth kind of comes from. Because back in the mid-century, a lot of Asian-Americans started to do well despite a lot of opposition and so the community will continue to do that. “Okay. Let’s just keep quiet. It seems to be working.” I think that’s reflective of what happened here is that when the question was turned on to how you feel about this violence against the Asian American community Andres, I was like, I don’t like it, but it could be worse, right? Which is kind of true. [00:53:00] But it’s also problematic because a lot of things happen and we just kind of stay quiet about it.
Dr. Sharp: I see. So that would lead me to believe that you have other things to say about it or other opinions that you’d like to share.
Dr. Chou: Yeah. So I was thinking about it and I guess part of it is that I think as a community, the Asian American community, you could really sense attention now. It’s like, we’re just tired of playing that role, you know? And maybe because we’re now more 2nd or 3rd generation. I’m a 2nd generation. I wasn’t technically born here, but pretty much I’m American as can be. But we’re just kind of tired of it.[00:54:00] So, I think it’s important to speak up. I had some thoughts about it and I think it comes down to the question of, what can we do? That’s always the question. What can we do? Like, it’s one thing to be outraged by these things. And I was thinking about that, okay, what can I do? And what can we do as psychologists who do assessments? And that’s even a more specific question. I thought about some things, and maybe you could add to two things that come up for you.
But the first thing for me is that as I reflected on what happened with our first part of the recording is that it’s not a competition. I’ve heard so many times, even catching myself saying this, but it’s not that bad or even other people in the minority community who aren’t Asian saying, well, you heard this one experience with a shooting in Atlanta, what about what’s going [00:55:00] on in the black community and things like that?
And that’s all very true, right? But it’s not a competition. We can be outraged by multiple things at once. And we experienced this on Facebook and social media all the time. It’s like you have to pick a side. It’s like, you either are for something and against everything else. You can’t be for multiple things. And that’s not how the world really works. And so that was my first thought. That’s not a competition. That we can be upset and enraged by atrocities and advocate different communities. It doesn’t mean I’m not for the other sides or what’s going on. So that’s my first thought for that.
Dr. Sharp: I think that’s true. I think that’s a trap that we get sucked into with any number of these conversations or [00:56:00] experiences is the sort of the fallacy that it’s a zero-sum game that by caring about one group or one incident, it takes away from caring about another group or incident or whatever.
And sure, we have a finite capacity for empathy sometimes and tolerance and emotional energy and all of that. I think that’s such a good point. Yeah, it’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not a competition.
Dr. Chou: Absolutely, because it’s not a competition, how do we engage?
And I was thinking about this. And this is a really, really tough question. I think the second part is, we have to get out of our comfort zones and engage. And these are all challenges to myself because I think that was the context of the question. Like what are what’s changed for you, Andres? For me, it’s really thinking, how [00:57:00] can I get out of my comfortable community. My friends are 90% Asian. You’re my token white friend, Jeremy.
Dr. Sharp: I’m honored.
Dr. Chou: Yes. But that’s just the community I grew up in, it just happened to be like that. But then it’s not a good excuse, right? If we are advocating for diversity and inclusion, I have to be able to meet those challenges myself as well. And just thinking about that, just an example of our wedding, if it weren’t for my wife and her intentionality in Chicago to be in the community, it would have been like a 99% Asian-American wedding. But she brought a lot of diversity. And I appreciate that.
That’s the second thing. Get out of our comfort zones, engage in [00:58:00] communities that aren’t like ours. It’s consistency and intentionality.
All of us can sense when we’re the token friend, right? Like, Oh, you’re just friends with me because you needed some diversity in your group to post on Instagram or something like that, right?
It takes a lot more to show up and be there consistently even if it’s inconvenient. And that’s a challenge. I’m asking myself, what are we thinking about that?
So one practical way, just in my own experience is the challenge of… and this is really tough to talk about …but the challenge of like private school versus public school. Here in Pasadena, everyone sends their kids to private school. And there’s a deep race-based explanation for that. I won’t get into [00:59:00] the whole boring thing, but that’s a real challenge. Like, are we going to kind of… We want to give the best opportunities to our kids but at the same time, it’s like, well, what does that mean in terms of doing that? As I said, it’s a huge struggle for a lot of parents I know. But just thinking about those things, really wrestling with those things, and maybe even taking some risks.
Dr. Sharp: That’s a great example. That’s one that’s very relevant to our life too. We’re in that place. It’s not really private versus public, but it’s like the IB public school that’s more in the center of town versus the school that our kids are zoned for, which is a little more on the outskirts. And there’s a low SES, ethnic minority [01:00:00] population and violence, gang activity. There’s that too. So yeah, wrestling with that. I don’t have the answer by any means, but I can really relate to what you’re saying.
Dr. Chou: So even as you’re bouncing off that, I’m thinking about, as testing psychologists, especially in private practice, I know a lot of your listeners are in private practices, the challenge of business and offering opportunities for communities that don’t have as much access. I wrestle with that all the time because got to pay the bills and I have goals, financial goals, and want stability, and at the same time, I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, but there’s going to be some sacrifice there. So, I’m just thinking about that too.
Dr. Sharp: Agreed. Yeah, there are so many ways that this comes up in our personal and professional lives. We think through that a lot, you know, this issue of access in our practice. [01:01:00] And I think I’ve talked about that on the podcasts occasionally, and more in coaching. Again, it’s that zero-sum. It’s like all or nothing. I have to be private pay or I have to take insurance. And there are any number of hybrid models that can allow you to provide access for folks who need it. But it almost involves sacrificing yourself.
Dr. Chou: Yeah. Well, the last thing I think, just bouncing off that I thought of was just how to continue to be curious and ask deeper questions in terms of being a clinician. I’ll just give you a little example from my own personal life. I was born in Argentina. My parents are from Taiwan. And we immigrated here when I think I was like 3 or 4 years old, but I remember vividly, it’s funny now, but I [01:02:00] remember going to school and I was super shy because I’m super shy. Anyway, so what happened was they sent me to ESL. I don’t know. Is it still called that now?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, like English as a second language?
Dr. Chou: Yeah, it’s a special class, whatever.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Actually, I know people out there who are like, “No it’s called…” I think at least here in Colorado it’s ELL -English Language Learners. There we go.
Dr. Chou: Yeah. But anyway, I got sent to that. I spoke English but I was shy. They sent me to ESL. And this is a common Asian-American experience. I got sent to ESL and the teacher could not figure out… she was Taiwanese and that’s probably why they sent me to her. And then she could not figure it out. She would speak to me in Mandarin. Most Taiwanese people speak Mandarin but I grew up learning Taiwanese because my parents are old school like that. [01:03:00] I won’t get into what’s the difference, but it’s a different dialect.
Dr. Sharp: Fair enough.
Dr. Chou: But anyway, if she spoke Spanish to me, I would have understood. It was really confusing. And I spent quite a bit of time in there until she figured out that this kid speaks Taiwanese. And thank goodness, she spoke to Taiwanese. She was able to figure out that I was just shy. It’s hard to believe now because I’m like a loud mouth and I can’t stop talking to anyone, but yeah, just asking those deeper questions. And that’s a common Asian-American experience.
And I think as testing psychologists, we could really think about that. And I think even in your conversation with Joel Schneider, he talked about that. Like, it’s so easy to just give a diagnosis and place people in categories, but sometimes asking that extra question, asking as Stephanie Nelson says, the secret question, being curious, like what’s [01:04:00] going on with this kid and what’s going on with this client? Is there something I’m biased against that I’m missing? That’s just some thoughts on that. That’s all I have. I appreciate you letting me just come back here and chat a little bit more. And if anything, it just felt important to not do the model minority thing and just be quiet about it.
Dr. Sharp: Right. Well, I am completely willing to have this conversation. And like I said before we started to record, I just admire the risk involved and the vulnerability in reaching back out and saying, Hey, I want to do something different here than what I might usually do and on a platform like this. That’s a risk.
Dr. Chou: Can I add a tiny thing just to that? I do [01:05:00] think this is an experience that’s common especially in the Asian-American community, but in a lot of communities, is that even upon the first encounter or first engagement, a lot of times we might not have a response because it’s we’re so used to just being quiet. And so I really appreciate how you… I think a lot of your listeners don’t really understand this but you reflect on these things and you’re open to these things even if they feel off for most people. I’ve seen you kind of go, no, I want to reflect on that more even though most people are like, Oh no, that’s ridiculous or whatever. But I see you do that. And I think that’s important for all of us to be able to do that because sometimes there might need to be a second conversation like we’re having. So I think that’s important.[01:06:00] Dr. Sharp: Well said. I appreciate that. And then thanks. I feel like there are so many directions we could go in. There are all kinds of conversations to have around this, but I think we can leave it here for now and let people sit with this. I’ll be curious how this lands with everybody. So thanks for coming back and doing this.
Dr. Chou: All right. No problem.
Dr. Sharp: All right. Take care of my friend.
Dr. Chou: You too.
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All right, let’s get back to the podcast.
All right, back to the original interview.
Dr. Chou: So, as you think about that, I’m wondering, looking back on your career now, and the way you’ve started your practice, what are some things you maybe would have done differently now that you have this perspective and these things that you’re challenging yourself, you know, maybe from the beginning?
Dr. Sharp: Well, how many…
Dr. Chou: And it doesn’t have to be with race. I’m just talking about it in general, but that’s just what comes to mind.[01:08:00] Dr. Sharp: There are a few things that jump out. I honestly would have restructured the financial part of our practice differently where I wish that I had maybe thought more about providing access in the way that I wanted to provide access. What I mean by that is, very concretely, I probably would have chosen like one or two commercial insurance panels to be in-network with, done the rest private pay, and found some way to also take Medicaid in our practice because providing access is really important for me and is a value in our practice. But I didn’t necessarily know enough. I didn’t know how to operationalize that early on in terms of how to structure the finances in the practice.
So I probably [01:09:00] would have dialed back commercial insurance, done a lot of private pay, and made it so that I could take Medicaid and that all just kind of work out and then be profitable.
Dr. Chou: To offset the Medicaid reimbursement rates. Is that what you mean?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. So we’d be able to provide more access for low SES folks but still have a thriving practice. That’s one thing.
Hiring-wise, I wish I had been a little bit more tuned in to hiring staff that maybe looks a little more like the populations that we’re trying to serve. And we live in Colorado. It is a very white area here, to be honest. Our largest minority population is Latina. And I’ve just been more deliberate about bringing on bilingual [01:10:00] clinicians. Our staff is relatively diverse especially for our area but just paid a little closer attention to that. That’s an ongoing process as we grow.
Gosh, I don’t know. I mean, I could think of all kinds of things I just generally would’ve done differently, but those come to mind.
Dr. Chou: So maybe we could jump into the financial piece a little bit about, some of your listeners might not know this. I don’t hope I could disclose this information, but you grew up in some kind of financially, meager, I don’t know if that’s the right word. It just came out. But some humble experiences. I think you have talked about this before with your Tiffany McLain episode where she messed you up.
Dr. Sharp: [01:11:00] She sure did.
Dr. Chou: She’s amazing. But just maybe you could speak to how you might’ve done some things differently in terms of the financial piece and fee structuring, just from a business standpoint, I think for people starting off are people trying to figure out how to balance insurance.
Dr. Sharp: Oh my gosh. There’s so much to say. I’m a big believer that we develop attitudes and emotional relationships with money from very early on. And yeah, I won’t go into the full history with growing up and what that looked like, but suffice it to say, we did not talk about money in my family at all, literally, never. The closest we got to talking about money was when we would go out to buy gas or something. And I would see my dad grab [01:12:00] cash to pay for whatever he was buying. There was no conversation.
So I carried that into my practice and I basically ignored finances in the practice for the first, I don’t know,3 or 4 years maybe except I made sure that we had enough to pay our bills. I knew that, but I otherwise totally ignored it. There was no planning. There was no I’m setting my fees deliberately. There was no, what does this insurance panel reimburse and let me be cognizant of that when I sign up to be on the panel. There’s definitely no private-pay or insurance conversation. So, there’s a lot there.
If I could go back and do it differently, I would’ve [01:13:00] honestly probably hired an accountant or bookkeeper or an external financial person to guide me simply because I was so financially illiterate and it really made a big difference.
So this showed up… and I’m being very theoretical. Let me make it very concrete. So how this showed up was, not tracking the money that was coming in and out of our practice, not knowing what panels we’re reimbursing or not, not knowing what insurance claims were outstanding, not knowing what clients hadn’t paid their bills, not charging no-show fees, not sending clients bills regularly. I mean like everywhere.
Dr. Chou: And was that a product of it being so busy that you couldn’t do it or what would you say was causing that?
Dr. Sharp: That was some of it, but I think there’s an emotional… I didn’t want to look at it. I didn’t want to look at it because I was afraid of what I [01:14:00] would find.
And I was afraid of making people upset by asking them to pay for the services that they received, which sounds bizarre. It was those two things. There was definitely an emotional component and it came back and really hit me after a few years. And I realized that I lost a lot of money and that doesn’t feel good. But it was a good learning experience.
Dr. Chou: What is it about our field where I don’t think there’s, maybe there are, but I feel like our field more than any other field is afraid to charge people what we’re worth. It’s interesting. I don’t know if you have any insight on that after you’ve had all these guests and running your practices and stuff like that.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I wonder if there’s research out there about fields that are more willing to [01:15:00] go into debt or not charge for what they’re worth or whatever. I don’t know. There’s gotta be some research out there. I don’t know what it is, but my guess, it’s maybe what was happening for me. Like some combination of just poor business sense and poor boundaries and self-worth and all that kind of stuff. Do you think our field draws more folks with self-worth issues or trouble wanting to be liked and that sort of thing?
Dr. Chou: Yeah. I mean, even your own story, I bet, almost 90% of the people listening right now have a similar story to your background. Like we were some sort of caretaker and that’s the gain that we get to take care of people and that we build our identity around that. So then to get paid for that feels weird.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I think there is [01:16:00] something with that. There’s a conflict for a lot of us around being helpful and caring for people is mutually exclusive with making money or being paid for it. That’s a lot of dissonances to reconcile for a lot of us, I think.
Dr. Chou: Amazon doesn’t feel that way.
Dr. Sharp: No, they don’t.
Dr. Chou: The package shows up right when I press the button. It’s pretty helpful. And they’re okay with taking all our money.
Dr. Sharp: Right.
Dr. Chou: I don’t think that’s the same kind of help we’re talking about, but yes. Anyway, so you mentioned different things you would’ve done. I’m curious, of all the different things that you spent money on in your practice, like hiring, what’s been the best thing that you’ve spent money where the ROI has been [01:17:00] pretty good?
Dr. Sharp: I love that. Yeah, far foreign away it’s anything that increases the investment of my employees. So like increasing their kind of quality of life. Whether that’s like treats and snacks in the break room, not making a big deal about buying that extra measure that they need, all the way to retirement matching, health insurance, and that kind of stuff. That’s by far the biggest ROI because the team is everything.
Dr. Chou: Speak to that. How have you seen that, other than that it sounds good to say that as a boss and your employees are like, yeah, speak to how you’ve seen the return on [01:18:00] investment on that? Maybe if you have percentage numbers or just even how you’ve noticed a change in your practice.
Dr. Sharp: Oh yeah. Well, our turnover is very low. That’s the main thing. So our turnover is low. I think we have only had maybe two people over seven years leave for a non-life event. They just chose to leave because it wasn’t a good fit versus moving or something like that.
So yeah, super low turnover. We have a staff that likes each other. There’s an atmosphere of ease and fun and connection here when we’re in the office. It’s been tough during COVID, but it’s just a nice place to work. And then that [01:19:00] lets me attract even more people because I can sell that to them as an employee or a potential employee.
And so we have great recruitment, I guess is the word. It’s relatively rare that I’m actually placing a job ad. Often people reach out and ask about work or internships or whatever it might be. So it saves in that regard too, you know, you’re not spending so much time recruiting people.
Gosh, what else? I think there’s research out there that happier people are more productive. So there’s that too.
Dr. Chou: So, how about the opposite end of the question. What’s something you’ve put money into in your practice where you’re like, man, that was a waste of money?
Dr. Sharp: Oh my gosh. [01:20:00] How many things? I don’t know if this is like… I can think of so many software programs and stuff that we tried that didn’t work or whatever.
Let’s see, what is something that was a really bad choice? I don’t know if this is exactly what you’re asking, but a few years ago when we moved into our current office space, I think it was too big of a leap too quickly. So we, I think quadrupled our space from one to the current one. And there were just a lot of empty offices for a long time. And it was a stretch there for a while. And it was really challenging. Now, of course, we’re bursting at the seams and I [01:21:00] don’t know what I’m going to do when everybody comes back from telehealth, but at that time, that was really challenging. So maybe just like biting off too much with office space
Dr. Chou: Spending a little faster than you were ready for.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, for sure. That’s actually got me thinking, I’m going to think about that a lot. I know there’s something else. Like something that I’ve actually purchased that didn’t work out super well, but I can’t think of it right now.
Dr. Chou: Which test measure? No, I won’t put the publisher.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, right. We’ve never used that Grooved Pegboard.
Dr. Chou: Oh gosh. That’s such a literal name for a test.
Dr. Sharp: It really is. Those are great questions.
Dr. Chou: Thank you. I snuck behind your back and I asked [01:22:00] the happy hour people, what they would ask you. So these are not my questions actually.
Dr. Sharp: I love it.
Dr. Chou: Can I ask you one that Chris asked that I thought was awesome? Do you believe in extraterrestrial existence?
Dr. Sharp: Ooh, yes. Unequivocally yes.
Dr. Chou: Do you, really?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah.
Dr. Chou: Okay. Tell us more about that.
Dr. Sharp: This is the boring answer. I think it’s just very rational that in a universe, the size of our universe, like with all in the galaxy, the likelihood that there is not something else out there is completely ridiculous.
Dr. Chou: I mean, have they visited us though?
Dr. Sharp: Ooh. Have they visited? I don’t think so.
Dr. Chou: I think Elon Musk recently said if they have visited us, they’re being pretty shy.
Dr. Sharp: [01:23:00] It seems like it would have been a bigger deal. Maybe there’s a huge cover up. I don’t know.
Dr. Chou: Yeah. Okay, I don’t know where I’m going to go after that.
Dr. Sharp: Right, what’s the segue there?
Dr. Chou: Okay. So, let me see. What’s next for you? Now that you’ve done… I mean, just thinking about where your practice has gone and even your coaching and your podcasts have taken some pretty amazing directions, I would say. It’s just been fun for me. So for those that don’t know, I’m kind of an earlier career, new practice. And so I went back and listened to all the original podcasts. You started in what, 2018?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, January 2017.
Dr. Chou: But seeing the progression of where [01:24:00] that’s led you has been really fun. It’s like binge-watching your career.
Dr. Sharp: Oh, wow!
Dr. Chou: Yeah. But it’s been cool. What’s next for you? What are some goals that you’re aspiring towards?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, that’s good timing. That just happened to be at one of those places, sort of one of those junctures or plateaus in business planning where I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
So, at this stage of practice, for me, it’s really what do I want the practice to look like? I am very fortunate and feel like the practice could get as big as I wanted it to. There are no signs of stopping. So, I know that I don’t want a mega practice. I have targets in mind for our practice.
Dr. Chou: Can I [01:25:00] pause you right there? Why not a mega practice?
Dr. Sharp: Because I started out… When I really deliberately started growing the practice, I said I wanted to keep it at no more than 10 people because that was as big as I thought it could get and still maintain a connected kind of thriving interpersonal vibe in our practice. It’s like a therapy group. Once you get too big, it’s hard to keep those connections strong between people.
Dr. Chou: Sure
Dr. Sharp: Now, it turns out that was wrong. We are doing great at 20. But I still have this fear that if we go… I don’t know what happens between 20 and 100.
I know a few practice owners who are at like 100+ clinicians and I don’t know what happens [01:26:00] on the way there, but that seems like too many. That seems like too many employees where I wouldn’t know their kids’ birthdays. And I wouldn’t know when they’re out for surgery or something like that. Maintaining that connection is super important.
We really have this philosophy of a work family. And I know there are ways to do it. That’s less clear to me.
Dr. Chou: There’s that fine point where it kind of just becomes too much and you’re no longer connected.
Dr. Sharp: Right. So I’ve kind of settled on…
Dr. Chou: Oh, go ahead. I was just going to ask about the coaching piece.
Dr. Sharp: Oh yeah. So let’s see. As far as the coaching, I think what’s next for me is getting more to the point where I’m doing more coaching groups. I really like doing mastermind [01:27:00] groups. I love the power of a group. I was a group therapist before I transitioned to testing.
Dr. Chou: I just love that you’re fixed.
Dr. Sharp: Yes. My wife and I met in group therapy class. I have this big affinity for groups. So yeah, I’m going to be trying to make a little bit more of a push to run more coaching groups. I am always looking for new frontiers with the podcast in terms of guests. I’ve reconsidered a lot, you know, this idea of how much to expose listeners to certain products or people, or resources. I was pretty strict for a long time about not wanting to do that, but I think I’ve evolved a little bit to where I’ve recognized there are [01:28:00] a lot of really cool products or companies out there that I think people want to hear about sometimes. So, I’m seeking more relationships with those folks.
Dr.Chou: I’ll put you on the spot with this question a little bit. There are some controversial topics and measures and some people like… before we started recording, we talked about the idea of evidence-based and how that’s a whole can of worms. Like some things you just can’t measure very well right now, right? But I’m wondering how you go about making decisions about that. Say there’s a new controversial measure that people are feeling iffy about or a clinician with a kind of interesting view, where do you draw the line because I know you like to kind of open up and explore all [01:29:00] these ideas, but is there a line that you draw or? What’s your philosophy on that?
Dr. Sharp: Let’s see. No one’s ever asked that directly. I think of myself as a reasonably flexible gatekeeper, I suppose. We said before we started to record that, I think it was before we started, that there are a number of things out there that I’m sure work and we just don’t know they work because we haven’t figured out how to measure it, right?
So I definitely believe that. At the same time, I do you feel a responsibility as a podcast host with thousands of listeners now to gatekeep a little bit. And people don’t really see that because it’s self-select so you never know what doesn’t make it on the podcast, but there’s a fair amount of that going on.
I try to [01:30:00] just do my due diligence and check out all the information that I have in terms of research behind a certain measure or a philosophy or an approach or whatever it might be. And if it seems like people would benefit from hearing this and then it’s up to them to make sure or to make their own decisions around it, then I’ll go for it. But there’s no hard and fast formula.
Dr. Chou: Who’s the weirdest person that tried to get on the show? I’m sorry. Don’t answer that, please.
Dr. Sharp: That’s a crazy question.
Dr. Chou: I really want to know.
Dr. Sharp: I’ll be honest. It’s not a weird person, but I get a lot of podcast requests from folks who it’s just not relevant for the audience, or it’s like a new or an author or a speaker, they’re doing something that just isn’t relevant for testing really.
Dr. Chou: I’m sure weird people are really trying to get on The Testing Psychologist podcasts.
Dr. Sharp: I wish it were that famous.
Dr. Chou: [01:31:00] On the topic of goals, what’s your passion project right now? What’s something that you’ve been really excited about?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, that’s a great question. That is kind of tied into the what’s next thing for me.
So for me at this point, I’m like, I want to grow our practice a little bit more. We will be moving into a new building in probably 18 to 20 months. But the passion project is now, I feel like we have dialed in. We have a great practice and now it’s just about making it better. So everything I can do to get higher reimbursement so I can pay my clinicians more, so I can offer more benefits, so we can do more as a practice, so we can give back to the community. It’s like refining and just improving the work that we do to make sure that [01:32:00] we keep it on top of our game.
But I also have, if we’re just talking professionally, I have a separate business with a partner where we’re trying to develop some software that we hope will help with testing stuff. I can’t say a whole lot about it, but that’s been taking up a fair amount of time over the last several months.
I’ve got that personality where there’s always a passion project like, I want to build my kids a treehouse or I want to redo something in our house. There’s any number of little things like that.
Dr. Chou: That’s right. You there’s something about… we’ve talked about how you like woodworking.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah.
Dr. Chou: You got the deer for it too.
So going back to the balance thing, what are some things then, because you have all these different [01:33:00] ideas and things you’re passionate about, what would you say you need to say no to more frequently?
Dr. Sharp: Clients. It’s always clients. I’ve gotten to the point in my practice where I am basically only seeing kids I’ve evaluated before and they are coming back or it’s like a sibling or like friends’ kids, like other therapists in town or something like that. And that’s really hard. It gets hard to say no, but, I got to […]
Dr. Chou: I got to point this out. What I love about what I’m learning about you today is that your focus is on number one, your family. Number two is your employees, right? That you really want them to be reimbursed better so that they get a better quality of life. That basically them to have a job that you would like to work for. [01:34:00] And you’re willing to say no to clients or that’s the thing you want to draw the boundary there.
I think we have a different mindset a lot of times as early practice owners that I got to say yes to every client, neglect my family, and pay my employees the least amount of money possible, but that’s the formula that’s working in reverse. There’s no question there. I just got to point that out. Learn from the pro guys.
Dr. Sharp: You’re smart. Thank you. That’s super kind. It’s nice to have that reflected. It’s always a work in progress, but I think it’s a guy named Derek Sivers. He came up with that phrase, when you’re trying to decide what to do, I think he says if it’s not like an F yes, then it’s a no. So you can put whatever if it’s not a hell yes and it’s a no or [01:35:00] whatever. And It sounds super simple, but I really try to employ that. Like if people reach out or there’s this opportunity, or can you… I mean, like three months ago somebody was like, “Hey, we need somebody to write a chapter in this book” and really separating that I would do this because it would give me recognition or it would boost my ego versus this really feeds my soul, this is what I love to do, is an ever-evolving distinction for me. But that’s the guide that I try to use. So if I don’t have that immediate reaction, that’s like, F yes. I want to do that. Then it’s really telling. And then I almost like to start from no, and then I’m like, I have to convince myself that it would be a good thing to do.
Dr. Chou: [01:36:00] Oh, I love that. So it starts from knowing if you can convince yourself that this is something to invest your time in. That would have saved me a lot of trouble, Jeremy.
Dr. Sharp: Me too.
Dr. Chou: I have a lot of clues in my mind closet that probably should have used that philosophy. That’s a great quote that you have. But I’m curious, what would you say, or who would you say are some of the people that have influenced who you are and maybe their philosophies or authors or even people in your life?
Dr. Sharp: So many people. My family, of course. I definitely get my work ethic from my dad who grew up in a house with no running water [01:37:00] till he was like 15 maybe, and used to cut their grass with a scythe. I can’t believe that’s a thing that somebody did, but that was my dad. So work ethic from him. He is super generous and that’s stuck with me.
Seeing my mom persevere through what is now 30+ years of a pretty debilitating illness has been inspiring. So, I guess I get that from both sides.
All of my business coaches. I’ve been super inspired, and Joe Sanok and I worked with Ken Clark for a while.
Let me see. On the podcast side, I listen to Tim Ferriss a lot. People dismiss Tim Ferriss, I think because he’s kind of a pro and he has that Silicon valley kind of [01:38:00] reputation, but I think he is a good interviewer and he does a lot of self-reflection and has a lot to teach. So on the podcast side, I listen to him quite a bit and try to try to emulate some of those skills.
Dr. Chou: I have a Tim Ferriss question here, actually that Chris gave me. What’s the best thing you have bought under $100 in the last year? Wow.
Dr. Sharp: Oh, that’s a good question. I’m looking around. Wait, it’s gotta be here somewhere. Oh, I hate to do this, but I have to think about that. What is the best thing that I’ve bought for under $100?This is so dumb, but I am a big… okay, I’m going to back up and give some context. So I do a fair amount of research into happiness and all that kind of stuff. So, one of the principles [01:39:00] there is buying things doesn’t really make you happy if you’re adding something to your life. Like if you just buy something that you want, it doesn’t really add a whole lot of happiness, but if you buy something that takes away a negative, like if it solves a problem for you, then there’s likelihood it’s going to make you feel “happier”.
Dr. Chou: OWow. You just blew my mind right now. I’m going […]
Dr. Sharp: Right. Think about that. Honestly, a couple of things that come to mind are super simple. Like I bought a very cheap, simple, knife sharpener for our kitchen and it is amazing. I do like two swipes on the knife sharpener and cut vegetables like a pro for a month.
I cycle, I bike to work a few days a week when I can. And the winters here are really harsh. So I bought these very [01:40:00] inexpensive handlebar covers that keep your hands warm. And that was amazing. I don’t know, little stuff like that. It was really nice for me.
Dr. Chou: Wow. I have no idea how I would answer that question now. And I’m looking around and nothing gives me that much joy, Jeremy. I’m a little sad now. Am I’m going to go cry after we end.
Dr. Sharp: On the other hand though, I did just buy a really comfortable pair of shoes for under $100 and they are just amazing.
Dr. Chou: All I know is that for those that know this conversation, I spent a lot of money on my office chair and I hate my office chair. So there’s something about that. You’re right. Like just cause you spent the money, right?
Dr. Sharp: Money is weird, man.
Dr. Chou: It’s weird. [01:41:00] Maybe this last question and we could wrap up. This is one I actually like to ask, I got this from Owen Yalom. And I’m going to totally butcher this, of course. But if we were to jump in a time machine and I could jump in a DeLorean and travel, let’s just do two years into the future. And when you saw future Jeremy, and then I go, Hey, feature Jeremy, what regrets have you made in the last two years? What would you say? What would your future self say?
Dr. Sharp: If I know my future self, I would guess that I would say, [01:42:00] not taking enough vacation. I would probably regret putting as much energy into work stuff as I do.
Dr. Chou: Can I ask how much vacation you take a year just because I think this is good for us to hear. You have thriving practices and different projects and you still have to make time for yourself.
Dr. Sharp: I guess it depends on how you define vacation. Like I said, I pick my kids up every day, so I kind of get like two hours of vacation every day, theoretically, because my day is a little shorter. It’s not really a vacation. I do at least two days every quarter just for stepping back and reflecting, that’s kind of business-oriented.
Over the summer, especially, we’ll do probably [01:43:00] 3 to 4 weeks of vacation total over the year. Maybe 5 or 6, it depends, but yeah, something like that.
Dr. Chou: Okay. You create quite a bit of space in your life just to reflect on the business and also just to relax and spend time with family.
Dr. Sharp: I try to. Yeah.
Dr. Chou: And your business hasn’t fallen apart. It’s not bad.
Dr. Sharp: No.
Dr. Chou: Yeah, it can be done.
Dr. Sharp: So, yeah, I’ll probably regret not taking more time to connect with others. Put the energy into people who are important to me.
Dr. Chou: Okay. Well, this has been really fun and I don’t know how you feel.
Dr. Sharp: This was a great conversation. I mean, I only hope that it’s as fun to listen to it as it was to participate in.
Dr. Chou: Yeah. It’s been a blast. Anything you’d like to say for people [01:44:00] listening before we sign off?
Dr. Sharp: So the whole point here is this is the 200th episode. When I hit these milestones, for me, it’s instant gratitude to trigger that man here we are 200 episodes. That’s insane. I would’ve never thought that anybody cared about testing that much and here we are. So yeah, just a huge thank you to everybody, everybody in the Facebook group, all the listeners, everybody who’s spread the word about the podcast, people who’ve reached out and offered kind words themselves. I mean the guests, obviously who just drive the content of the podcast. So yeah, just like a huge expression of gratitude to everybody involved in this whole process, and to you for being willing to do this little experiment and turn the [01:45:00] tables a bit.
Dr. Chou: I’m a total narcissist. So this is great. I love being here to ask questions. I guess if I was a narcissist, I would want you to ask questions about me, huh?
Dr: Sharp: Maybe there’s some.
Dr. Chou: Yeah. A little bit.
Dr. Sharp: Sure, still the spotlight.
Dr. Chou: This has been great. And I think everyone would tell you that we appreciate what you’ve unknowingly brought to us. This has been such a great community and resource. We’re really happy that it worked out for you in terms of the business, but it’s a win-win for everyone, right?
Dr. Sharp: I hope so.
Dr. Chou: Awesome. That’s fun.
Dr. Sharp: Same. I’m sure we’ll talk again soon my friend.
Dr. Chou: All right.
Dr. Sharp: All right, y’all, thank you so much for tuning into this 200th episode of The Testing Psychologist podcast.
Like I said, I cannot believe that we were at 200, but now that we’re here, [01:46:00] I also know that there are no plans of stopping. So I could easily see 200 more. There are so many testing topics left to explore. And I am thrilled to continue to bring you awesome guests, amazing experts, and business episodes to help navigate the challenges of running a testing practice.
So if you’re a new listener, I hope you’ll stick around for the next 200. If you are a long-time listener, I hope you will do the same. And either way, I’m just so grateful for all of you.
So I will catch you next time for episode 201.
The information [01:47:00] contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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