Interview with Sandro Graca
This is a great in depth interview with Sandro Graca. This guy is super relatable and likeable, driven and successful, authentic and real (oh and I can't forget to mention FUN!). He is so willing to share his experiences, thoughts, ideas, and feelings about his career in TCM and acupuncture, and give any pearls he can so those listening can learn. His overarching message is "...just dive in and start doing what needs to get done, be ok with making mistakes - but make sure you learn from them, and then keep doing what needs to get done. It takes 20 years to become an overnight success!" This is well worth the listen, and you surely will want to get to know Sandro after watching. ~ Spence
Licentiate in TCM (2007 - Irish College of TCM)
Cert. Acupuncture and Moxibustion (2009 - Beijing University of Chinese Medicine)
Current MSc Sudent (MSc AOM - Acupuncture Research; Dissertation presentation Sept 2019)
Member of the Acupuncture Fertility Network;
Former Board Member of the AFPA (professional register in Irlanda) - 2014 to 2017;
Member of the ESHRE
Member of the ASRM
Board Member of the Obstetrical Acupuncture Association
Board Member of the Evidence Based Acupuncture
Running TCM clinics since 2007
Former lecturer at the ICTCM (2008/09)
MSc Module Tutor - starting 2018/19
Spence: Hello, everybody and welcome to another Golden Cabinet Podcast, where we have interviews with world-class TCM community leaders, like Sandro, where we discover the stories, habits, psychology and secrets that led to their success. Thank you so much for being here with us today, Sandro. I'm excited to get to know you better.
Sandro: Thank you for having me, it's a pleasure.
Spence: Excellent. For anyone who hasn't subscribed, there's YouTube, there's the Facebook page, all the regular places. And Sandro will give us a place to connect with him as well before the end. But stick around, we've got some fun things to chat about and I'm excited about. Without further ado, I would love you to kind of intro yourself. You are from Dublin, I see you’re on Facebook and I know you're just in Tel Aviv, and you're very active community member. I'm grateful that you're putting such effort into helping the industry and I'm just happy to be here with you today. So, where did you come from? I love the background story, so how did you get into acupuncture?
Sandro: How did I get to Dublin is even the first question, isn't it? I'm originally from Portugal, I was born there, just a small little village just outside Lisbon. And I lived in Lisbon for a good while, it was a place to go if you wanted to get a better job and stuff like that, and funnily enough, and we were chatting before, you were asking me about the influences and the origins. I always have to go back to growing up as a teenager, and on a Saturday morning, I used to, as every kid does, watching TV, and there were normal cartoons. I always liked Once Upon a Time, I don't know if you had that there in Canada. It was the cartoons, they started with the Once Upon a Time. I think it was Once Upon a Time - Human Body. That was really, really early. And then in teenager years was Doogie Howser. I wanted to be like Doogie Howser. It was secondary school and having to make the big decisions, going from one year to the other, and I did mention biology,
health, going into that sort of stuff. But it was tough from where my mum and dad come from, their background, and there was no way they could get me into medical school. And so the choice number two, which is funny when you link the whole thing together, was that while I was growing up, I was really, really good at opening up all my toys and taking them apart to find out how they worked. Because I actually had visions of this like being really, really young, and like my brother is eight years younger than me, I have memories of opening up, you get the toy, you open it, you see how it works for a while, and then my next thing is, I want to find out how this works.
Sandro: Yeah, but not for that destruction thing. I never got to perfect that but I did it. So, I have these visions of how the things connect, I was actually always having that passion of finding out more about things. And when you got to that point of making the decision, and it wasn't going to be health, and mum and dad did try and talk to people and whatever, but it was just too much of a commitment, and financially, they couldn't do it. So, I got into electronics, fixing things, finding out how they work. At the time, it was all very innocent, but now that I look back, I think, oh, yeah, I kind of see the point. It's still trying that magic of how does this actually work. It wasn't until later on, I would have been like maybe 19, 20 when the opportunity came. And I suppose we get to see a lot of these, when you ask people probably about our generation because now you can see people actually going to school studying Chinese medicine as their first choice. But from our own time, you would have a job, and then you go and you study, and then that becomes your second job if you like. I had a stable enough job, it was great, the hours were kind of like consistent enough, so, that allowed me to do a little bit more, and I hurt my back. Acupuncture had been mentioned to me before because of headaches and migraines, but I was one of those that was like, needles, there is no way, although I admit that by nineteen, I got my first tattoo, but you know, that's different. I wanted one for my nineteen birthday, I'm definitely going to get a tattoo, and you're like, you were told to get treatment and you didn't. I was suppose like 19, 20, I hurt my back, someone mentioned to me acupuncture, and I said, look, yeah, it's really bad, so I'll just go and do something.
I remember starting getting the acupuncture for the headaches and the migraines, and it's so funny that it happened so many times in the clinic for ourselves, I'm sure it happens to you as well, you go in and you say to the guy, look, my back is getting much better now, do you work other things than just your back. And you start getting the story from the person, this is like a treatment three or treatment four, and he was like, what do you want to tell me, there's something else. And I said, yes, my headaches and migraines have been always very erratic, there was all the tests and nothing was ever found exactly as a trigger or anything like that. So, I'm just thinking, the back worked out okay, can you do something about that. And we did, and it was at that time that I clearly remember those weeks of getting the treatments for the headaches and migraines, and how that kind of like sparked my inner child again of going, I have to find out how this works. So, the pattern started with the migraines not happening as often. And I remember clearly like going up the stairs, like old typical Lisbon building, and there's no lift, and you go up the stairs of marble, and it's Saturday, because that's when I could get the treatments, and I remember sitting in the waiting room and thinking, I need to tell him, because I'm getting more headaches, but no fucking migraines anymore. So, I said to him, I'm getting a few headaches but sure those with medication, I could just do my normal day. It wouldn’t be like a migraine with full sensitivity and all that. And he started laughing, he goes yep, that's a good start alright. As treatment progressed, like the migraines and the headaches were gone, I said to him, I really need to know more about this, how did this work when nothing else did. I tried the typical painkillers, the supplements. I was young, I wasn't really drinking that much because I was already working, and I wasn't smoking. I wasn't doing that much wrong, I was coming from a background of playing sports as well. I told him the story about Doogie Howser as well, and I said, this was my first choice. He said, well, if you are interested in that, I'll give you this book to read. And my first book to read was by Angela Hicks, I don't know if you know her, who I got to meet finally two years ago I think. And we end up crying, the two of us, because it was like, oh, my god, I finally get to meet you. It's a simple enough book, and it's not even for practitioners as such, it's kind of like in-between, but it's very short and sweet book, and reading it kind of like, this makes sense, how come more people don't know about this. I just went from there saying to him, I really like that book, and he goes, well, I have more. So, he
mentioned to me about the college there in Lisbon and said, look, the classes are at night time, evening time, so you could still be at work and then give it a go and see what happens. So, I did the admission exam, I got to -- I'm not going to go through every year, don't worry, that would be the longest podcast ever, but the thing that kind of clicked and changed was, I finished the first semester there, and I was a bit annoyed because one of the bigger books that we were asked to read was Giovanni Maciocia. He passed away recently, and with Giovanni's book, we were told to get the book, I thought the translation was in Portuguese, that's what it said, and it was difficult for me to read. I was working for a big company, and there were people there from all parts of the world, so English was kind of like the common language. I had some books in Chinese medicine in English as well, and those made more sense than the one that said it was in Portuguese, which I then realized was in Brazilian Portuguese. It was that moment, and I don't know, I would have been like 22 maybe 21, 22, I'm not sure, and I was like, okay, my own career, I really love my job, we were getting people coming from all over the place too to our company. And I really liked this work even in other places, different from Portugal. So, I suppose wanting to explore and wanting to go somewhere different, I started looking around and say, like, can I do this in English. Like, these translations are better than the one that I'm reading now. And that was that thing about moving, and you know, every young person likes to travel.
Spence: Grass is greener.
Sandro: I looked at London first, and that's a funny story because it was a Middlesex University. And just up until the very final -- and that was because I had family in London, and it sounded like the obvious option. And the thing was, Middlesex University was doing acupuncture only. And I'd started doing TCM. I was really in love with a Twin Flame massage. And I was still not convinced about the needles though. And the guy that was helping me out, said, you know, we do acupuncture only, so you get your license in acupuncture, and then once you do that, you can then go on and do herbs, Qi Gong, whatever you want to do after. I said, look, is there anywhere else, because I'm not really that stuck in London as such that needs to be that. And he said, well, there is a college in
Edinburgh, and there's a college in Dublin. And when people ask me how did you end up in Dublin, I always go like, that was really bad research, because I didn't even check anything online at the time. I was just like, Edinburgh, wow, that sounds really up north and really cold and rainy. And here I am in Dublin. The funny thing what I said about Middlesex University is that, if you fast forward like a decade and a bit, that's where I'm doing my masters at the moment, so it was meant to be kind of thing. So, I ended up for a week and a bit the first time I was in Dublin. I really liked it, people are really, really open, really, really nice, and the Guinness is lovely -- sorry for the advertising here now, but it's really nice though. It was cold though, it was really cold, different from Lisbon. But I applied for the school, for the college here. And I was more afraid of the English kind of thing because it's different when you're reading and whatever. but sitting in a classroom, I got in that year, that school year in September, and yeah, I graduated from there and went to Beijing, did time in Beijing university. Yeah, that's a big leap right there. I'm not as good looking as Doogie Howser but, you know…
Spence: Neale Donald Walsch. So, you went to Beijing and did an internship or some time in a hospital or something else?
Sandro: Yes, post-grad. It was a very good experience, and then again, the way that acupuncture and Chinese medicine changed my life is that I met my partner Siobhan, I met her in college. So, the whole thing of changing our lives and making our lives better, it's not just the patients’, our own as well. But I remember saying this to Siobhan, it's a funny thing that you asked about Beijing, we went about three years, or two or three years after graduating, and some of the guys that were part of our group were just qualified and some of them were actually still doing clinical hours while still there, you know, and it was the first time when Siobhan said it to me that I look at the difference, if we were here just after graduating, we wouldn't get as much out of this. Now, I understand, the opportunity is there and you do it and it's fine, but it changed so much in my practice. Now, being there, being in the hospital, seeing the way – now, don't get me wrong, I didn't change my clinic to make it become a hospital in Beijing.
Spence: Right, you don’t want that.
Sandro: But it came a lot more, hang on a minute, I can do this, you know. Because we all have that thing, I'm only doing it a year, I'm only doing it two years, and there's always someone who's ahead of you kind of thing. And then you go there, and you're working with the doctors, and you start your first job if you're allowed to take the needles out, and they look at your technique and see how things are, and it was really good. And if anyone has the opportunity of going to any of that, go, it's life-changing. You learn a lot.
Spence: I remember when I went to China, I feel like in some respects, I learned more about the medicine by just being immersed in the culture in some ways then I did even in the hospital. Because it's hard sometimes to understand what's happening when this 80 year old doctor’s taking a pulse and says nothing and shoes them away with the prescription. But, I mean, I loved the experience as well. I think it was an essential piece for sure. So, then you came from China back to Ireland that became home?
Sandro: Yeah, even Ireland, you know, Dublin was already home at that stage. It was early 2004 when I came to live here in Dublin, and I haven't moved since.
Spence: Is the woman you met, is she your wife?
Sandro: My partner, yeah. With April Fool's, we tried to joke about that but just I can't convince her to marry me.
Spence: Is she Irish?
Sandro: She’s Irish and she's a practitioner. Yeah, we qualified same here, which helps a lot, and I know that it's one thing that comes up a lot in conversations with colleagues and stuff like that it really helps the fact that, on the other side, it's different for us, we can
pick up the phone and ring a colleague or ask for help or whatever. I have the privilege that I could just go downstairs. It really helps out, you know, the whole process, and I know things happen for a reason, but the whole help and the process when I needed a little bit more, she was there. Even though sometimes I wasn't really looking for that help, that support was there. And a few weeks later, a few months later, I go, oh, hang on, that's why she was doing that. And because of moving from medical centers to our own private clinic, and things were a little bit kind of up and down, and again, for me was like, okay, now I need to just support a little bit more. I just find it easier in that sense that we know what it takes and we know what it's like a to be a practitioner.
Spence: Yeah. If someone were to ask me, the number one key to the success that I've had in my career, it would be my wife. I had mentors and people that I've learned so much with, but with that support, she's not a practitioner, but she is really involved in everything I do. She's my boss, let's just say it how it is. It’s that teamwork. So, you guys, when you came out of school together or from China or however, you said there was some journey where you weren't practicing together - are you in a clinic together now, can you kind of give people a bit of a timeline and what you did from when you go out of Beijing?
Sandro: Yeah. As I said, when we finished we were already practicing when we got that opportunity to go to Beijing, but we still are in separate clinics, although since the work with the fertility, which kind of I suppose was like 2008, 2009, yeah, would have been, because the Beijing Olympics were 2008. So, 2009 was when we kind of got more into the fertility side of things, while we still have separate clinics, but now, we are a lot more interchangeable, so there wouldn't be a problem with a patient of mine. Actually, I had one good example from this week, where the fertility clinic is way closer to Siobhan's clinic, so it's easier for that patient if she needs to go to Siobhan’s clinic and see her than drive to go to my clinic. We're still not working in the same clinic as such just because of logistics and the way that things are, but yeah, we're pretty much working together. The patients know about it as well, so we could easily turn up in each other's clinic and it wouldn't be a problem.
Spence: Cool. Is it a classic story of how most practitioners start out, you know, you rented some space, and then you built your clientele and then you've found your own clinic space, is it same for your wife?
Sandro: Yeah, straight out of college, she got to work in medical center, so that was really good. And you can imagine like the hoo-ha at the time, so this would have been early 2007, and like Chinese medicine and acupuncture in the medical center, that was a big deal. And even for the health system to actually be okay with that, that was really good. So, at the time, that was the first clinic which was not too far from where we live, and the guys were just really impressed. I had my own clinic just slightly outside Dublin, and the guys were just pretty really good and really impressed with her work as well. And they just kept adding her too, because there was a medical chain, so they had different clinics, and just kept going to, at one stage, she was working in four clinics. When the other ones were added to, which is like here Dublin would be kind of like the north side and the south side, and when the ones in north side were added, she was like, I'm not doing anymore.
Spence: Too stretched.
Sandro: Yeah. As you're saying, it's a good way of putting it, at that stage, so early 2007, I still had my job, like the day job, like the typical acupuncturist story, and I had my clinic that was going whenever I had time, being the evening, being the Saturday, just going. And once the opportunities came with the medical center, then that was it, like making the decision and just take that, take that leap of faith. Siobhan’s going to watch this and she's going to say, can you edit this, it wasn't so much a leap of faith, and so far it was more a kick up the arse to do it. So, I need to know, hands up, and yeah, it wasn't so much the leap of faith, it was more kick of the arse. So, what are you doing? It was two or three clinics at that stage and trying to keep, look, it's crazy! So, yeah, that was the leap of faith.
Spence: You're in your private clinic now, she’s still kept practicing at the medical centre.
Sandro: Yeah, private as well.
Spence: Private as well. She built quite a reputation and had tons of people loving her and you as well by that time, and now, you're in your own space, so, just for the picture, have you guys brought on reception or associates or anything, because this is a long way past what you're talking about now. What's kind of happened since?
Sandro: So, what changed basically was that our clinic is much bigger now as it is, so she's still working on her own. So, it’s still one room, one person, we outsourced the receptionist, so we do have someone to answer the phone and work that out. Actually, from Vancouver, we have Jane up as well, so Jane does all the electronic and working at the clinics and patients’ files and all that sort of stuff. Throughout the years, things changed a little bit, like we automated the stuff that we didn't have to do, just keep on going. The thing about the associates and even the multiple rooms, I still work in two clinics, and that's just the way my brain works. And I was in three clinics up until recently, and, look, there's too much going. We can go through all the other projects that I do, but two clinics at the moment, and it's just a change, you know, you go to one clinic, it's a different setting, and then you go to the other clinic, so it works out okay. But if we can take it over again from about like 2009-ish, when Jani White kind of, for some reason, which she won't tell us, we keep asking her why, but she won't tell us why she took this interest in the two of us. And it was like, I want you guys to come with me. So, there was a lot of trips going back and forth to the UK, and doing training with her and learning loads with her, and then, it followed from there, with I think, the next one would have been either Debra or Sarah, which was quite close as well. And from then on, Jane Lyttleton and so on and so on and so on. But when things kind of really got into the fertility side of things and then the pregnancy as well, first of all, there's not that many practitioners here in Ireland that would – just a small place to start with -- but there's not many that would like to just focus on the one particular area, which I can understand that it's difficult. It's a little bit easier, again, going back to the point that it's the two of us, we can help each other, we were again lucky at the right place, at the right time, the work
ethics, whatever it is, Jani just said, look, I'm going to help you guys. We had great help building from the ground up that reputation and the knowledge. And it was mainly our decision, just to stick to, as you said it's fine, we get the odd, you know, there's a pain here, pain there, and you kind of go, oh, I got to do something different today. But basically doing those, for us, not having access to a wide variety of people who would actually just want to work in one specific area, but also for us, to have multiple rooms or to have other people working with us, we prefer that touch, that one-to-one thing, so we still do the one room. Siobhan has a bigger clinic, and in Dublin, it's near enough two of the big, well, three, if you consider the other one is like 10-15 minutes down the road from them. One of the fertility clinics is literally just two floors up.
Spence: Nice. So, you guys, essentially are associates with one another. It’s such an advantage.
Spence: That's cool. I actually didn't know you're connected with Jani, she's super unique lady, I love her. I had dinner with her a few times in the past and I love her. I wonder if she's still running it, she used to have something called maybe the Wellwood clinic or something about referring to male patients.
Sandro: Yeah, Goodwood. You know what was really cool, so I know I'm half joking and if she's watching this, she is going to kill me, but it’s one of those things that you just want to find out almost like, why did you pick the two of us. And you know Jani, she’s like, I'm not telling you. So, last year, I kind of had my little revenge on that because there was something that she didn't know about until the moment when it happened, and it was the great opportunity and I'm really thankful for Lorne to allow me to do it, but I got without Jani knowing, I got to introduce her at the IFS. It was a very, very funny moment. I don't even know, because it was just before the whole thing, I don't even know if this is recorded or not, but it was so cool, because Lorne is on stage and she's there kind of ready to go, and Lorne starts walking away, and she's like, so who's going to introduce
me. And he just looks back with his face [mimicking his grimace], and keeps walking away. And she's like, what's happening here, and I'm just kind of hiding behind, and she looks at me and she goes, you. I said, yeah, there you go. So, for me, to be there and to have that opportunity in front of everyone and our peers basically and other people that worked the most with acupuncture and fertility, and to be able to tell everyone, this is one of the main reasons why I got into this aspect in this particular field, and it was a good moment. She was in a bit of a shock and it was great, I got my little revenge as well.
Spence: That’s cool. She's awesome, and you obviously are as well. That is a great conference and I'm excited to see you at it again this year, that's a month if not even I guess. So, from Jani to focusing on reproductive health too, also you mentioned being in a master's program right now and running clinic, so what's all happening right now, what's going on? You've got an Acuvlog and you're running some seminars I know with Lorne and a couple other people, you got a lot of balls in the air. What are these balls?
Sandro: You see, time here in Ireland apparently goes away slower than anywhere else in the world.
Spence: That’s a good advantage.
Sandro: I don't know, look, it's all a bit crazy, how things happen. Sometimes, you're just there, it's just the click happens and I'm a guy who likes to do things. Although I like the planning of it all, I don't really like spending too much time talking about it, you know, ‘wouldn't it be great if’.
Spence: You're not a good politician then probably.
Sandro: Someone said once about a politician is: ‘say nothing and keep saying it.’ I suppose at one stage, Jani was actually there, and when the involvement from one of -- there's two associations here in Ireland -- and for one of them, Jani was doing a weekend lecture, and she was like, I'm not staying in the hotel, I'm staying with you guys. There's
no way they're going to put me up in the hotel. And I was like, okay, as long as they're okay with that. She was like, and you're coming along with me, okay. So, the two of us got into, and it was good refreshment on the stuff that she was doing at the time. Actually, at the time, she was just about doing the Goodwood over in the UK. And yeah, the association just kind of took that interest in, you know, would you like to come on board and help. It's a volunteer position, so they'd always be looking for people doing things and who knows who and whatever, and that's what got me into the executive committee of the association. So, the next time, like four or five years ago, maybe even more, when my name was up for voting and I was voted in, I was always active enough. From then, from that point on, it was the more you are seen doing things, I suppose the more people are going to ask you. So, the opportunity came up to do the masters, that would have been – so, I'm now in year three -- that would have been like three and a half years ago or so. It's a college. Again, I knew about Middlesex University obviously because of the whole story. Sarah Budd was doing the program already, which is the first time that they were running it online. And I was like if Sarah can do this, I should just give it a shot as well. So, I'm, yeah, why not, because you have plenty of time. When you link the whole thing together, to leap now into more that research side of things, again, doesn't that go back to the childhood again and finding out, opening it up and finding out how it works? It kind of looked natural to me, and I suppose, I don't want to say it sounds like a big head, but I'm that kind of academic in the sense of I like to learn more about things. So, going back to college wasn't a big issue for me, it was finding the hours to do the stuff was an issue. And as time developed, and getting into a little bit of the politics because of the work with the professional association and all that, getting to know more and more people, and things just kind of develop from there and where we are now. I'm doing the dissertation for my master's, which is tough going. And it's a great experience, but it's tough going. And the Acuvlog, the acupuncture vlog was another crazy idea that just happened. Back in February, we had Dr. Gil Barzilay here in Dublin. And up until recently, he was the Head of Research For the European TCM Association, and we talked about this in October. And Siobhan and I were in the hotel room, we were in Krakov in Poland going to a conference, and we said, wouldn't it be cool like you know just ask him and see like if he's doing this in other places, maybe he would like to go to Dublin. That
was like mid October, and I think Gil said, about two weeks, everything was sorted and done and whatever. When he was here in February, I got to obviously go up and introduce -- that's actually on Facebook is that bit was recorded live. And I said, you know, thanks for being here and accepting the idea, it's the first time that anyone's doing this in Ireland, especially with research, it's not really that hot topic really. But, you know, some of us have the passion and whatever. So, I introduced him and he gets the microphone and he goes, well, first of all, I want to thank Sandro because he's just the guy to make crazy ideas happen. Since then, that kind of stayed with me, and it's like, oh, yeah.
Spence: That's my new job title.
Sandro: He actually said that none of the other places that he went to to do the two-day lecture worked like this, like there was no way they got everything organized from mid-October to the beginning of February and everything is done and dusted. But again, it's that thing, we know the people, the two of us work together as well, so that's where the idea about instead of just the online experience actually bringing people to Ireland to do the lectures. And again, you know, taking advantage of the fact that I met them either, I know them really well, or I've met them before, and I had no problem in asking them. As you know from the vlog, we have loads of different people coming up. One of the parts of the vlog’s called The Interviews With the Experts. So, get to know the people, get to network and then just ask like, what's the worst thing that’s going to happen, they can say no. So what, ask someone else. But always with that thing about just trying to do more for the profession. The way I see it is you can sit there and complain that all this, it's tough, we're isolated because we are in Ireland and everything happens in the UK, nothing happens here. And you go, well, just let's do something about it and see how it goes. It’s a journey.
Spence: It's kind of an entrepreneurial spirit, where you can make something manifest from nothing, and you're doing that clearly. So, that principle of adding value to the profession, I feel like in clinic that is always my driving force and maybe a key to
longevity and success, the long run. And for you, I remember discovering the stories and habits in psychology of wonderful people like yourself - is that one of the main principles that guide you every day?
Sandro: Isn't it cool, though? I'm so happy you asked that because a lot of the times this is the bit that goes amiss with practitioners, but look at how much we have learned from our patients. We get to know loads of stories, we get to know loads of people, I get to know about subjects that I have no idea just because you end up seeing the people a few times, you know, might be a few consecutive weeks or whatever, and you get to know a bit more about what they do, how they do it. Their profession might be something completely different but something that you had some interest in, and you get to chat. And it's actually part of the reason for me, I don't think that I'm out of place where I would want to either work in two rooms at the same time or have associates, I'm happy enough. I'm there for the person, and that's a little bit extra value that I'm giving is, I'm here. Some patients don't like to say too much, that's fine too. It’s a little bit like you're there to do something for them, how much more can you help them, how much more can you guide them. And a lot of the times, I’m not going into the specifics overall, but a lot of the times, like, the needle is just the instrument, and it's how you connect with a person. We can go through, and I know with my involvement with research, you can go through the whole thing with, you know, it’s always that, it’s placebo - who cares if the person gets better? You are there to do a job, and your job is to get that person better, so I'm all up for value, yeah, definitely.
Spence: And for the profession. I mean, obviously, all the stuff you are doing is -- the way I view it and maybe you have the similar view and I know Lorne as well, if we play a role in creating a solid industry, we all have job security. And we get to help more people, right?
Sandro: Yeah, absolutely. Again, we go back to the same principle, you could either sit down and complain about it and say that it's really unfair, because the other industry, they have way more money and they have way more backing than we do. Or you can go and do something about it. To me, the main question is always, are you having fun? Like, are
you enjoying it, because if you're not enjoying it, then just go and do something else. Give me a million dollar and work on a 9 to 5 clinic that you get to do the same thing over and over, and I'm like, really, yeah, million dollar would be really good, but I'll be bored. And for how long can you be doing that? New opportunities, you know, discover things for the profession, it's a tough one because it's a different scenario. You're now working with the girls over there in Canada, with the OBAA, I get to know a little bit more about Canada, because of working with the Evidence-based Acupuncture, I get to know a little bit about the U.S. as well. It’s different in the sense that for a long, long time, same thing in the UK as well as Ireland, there was always that idea of kind of like being in isolation. And a lot of us, I know this is controversial because I'm generalizing here, but there are still a lot of practitioners out there that have this idea of ‘it's the world against us’, you know. Everyone is against us. If you take on that attitude, eventually it'll just break. I'm just, go and think big, do big. Okay, it's not going to be roses in the garden because we're not all going to work together and be best buddies all together, but do we have something to offer. I still remember one of the first vlogs, would have been like vlog 2 or 3 or something like that, when someone asks me, god, yeah, how did you get her to come on your vlog and do that interview? And I was like, what do you mean? Yeah, I heard that like she's really expensive for her lectures, and I'm like, I just asked her. Again, it's the same thing, a lot of the times you don't even ask or you don't even engage because you're already afraid that it's going to be a negative from the other side. But a lot of us that are out there, look, I'm in practice now 11+ years, whatever it is, but I was in practice for one year and I was a novice. Everybody started somewhere, and just because I'm in practice 11 years doesn't mean that there's not going to be someone coming from college in one year and just be like way more knowledgeable than I am. That's all the stuff that you can learn from the books, all the extra stuff that you do and how you engage with your peers, how you engage with your patients, all that building up for all of us, as you were saying. And, yeah, why not, you know, how cool would it be, that we were on the same page, and you know, do you need a bit of help. You contacted me to come on your platform, and I was like, yeah, of course, let's find the time. It starts helping and everyone benefits, and the patients benefit.
Spence: Totally, bottom line.
Sandro: I don't know about you, I've seen some of your episodes, especially the one with Mike was really, really cool. He’s a really cool dude, and I know some of the names and everything. I was thinking here's the example how much more we can just ask and just do stuff, but a lot of people might look at that. And maybe I would have done that the first or second year after college, and I would be like, why are you doing it, like what's the benefit, who's going to watch it. I was really surprised. I don't know if it happens with your platform, but some of my patients actually watch the vlogs.
Spence: Oh, yeah, I believe that. They find you.
Sandro: And you kind of go, really, you watch like whatever 20 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever it is, some of the bigger interviews of talking about like basically Chinese medicine and acupuncture stuff? They say, oh, yeah, it was really interesting. And the language is easier because you kind of create this nice chat, and people can relate to it. I was surprised that patients were watching it, but thanks for watching me.
Spence: And maybe that goes to the adage of, we need to be ourselves, we need to be authentic, we shouldn't pretend to be anyone we're not because that's going to come back to bite us, and that's a good example. Your patients are out there, they're ultimately trying to connect to a human and get results or be coached or have support or whatever role it is that we play, and so we need to be really authentic and always kind of be mindful that we're not throwing a bunch of bullshit out there, and stay accountable. One of my favorite teachers, and anyone who went to school in Vancouver to this specific college, would know Dr. Liu Fang. He's about as dynamic a character you can get. One of the first things he said, he's like, don't go through school and be a TCM monk. He's like, get out there, talk to people, make things happen, we've got to build this medicine because the more I get to know the people that are attracted to acupuncture or Chinese medicine and what it can truly do, because it's such a holistic piece and it's so natural and it's never dependent
on new technology, or it can be, but it's not dependent on it, the more I'm just like so motivated to help and so many more people are to help the industry blossom. And once we've been there for a while, maybe that's partly our responsibility, it is to connect and keep the humaneness in it and grow and just share stories. I was so appreciative at how quickly you're, like, yeah, I'm coming on the show, why not. And that's why I love the stories too because I think there's school and then there's some business advice, how to do Facebook ads or what all super important, but then also the story, so people feel less alone at how they're dredging through and how eventually they'll get there. But that not being a TCM monk, which you're really great at, you know, you've got zeal, you're ready to go there and connect and very likable. Was that born into you, if someone watching, it's like, well, how can I kind of cultivate that, how can I blossom, were there any influences or any fantastic books or authors or mentors or parents?
Sandro: So now, you want me to share all the secrets, is that how it works? Thank you very much for your kind words. I don't know, well, maybe it helps. One of the other side of things that I can relate a little bit to is the fact that I was always being into music and started playing guitar from really young, and one of the things that the music school did was and still do to this day, is that day, they have the Christmas party and you have to go up and play something. Even if it's your first year of learning the instrument, you still go up and play something really simple. And I'll tell you one thing, when you're really, really early teams, that makes you really scared, and there's all the people in the room and whatever, and within the second year of being in music school, you lose the fear of being on stage. I think the second or third year, I co-hosted the show with one of my colleagues. So, don't know. I think that being natural is the key, like if you were to ask me, like you did, is there secret or is there a mentor, I'm not modeling myself on anyone. This is what you see on camera is what you see in the clinic is what you see out there, and look, I totally get it and I totally understand. There could be a lot of other practitioners that could be watching this and going like, I don't like that guy, and I don't like his style at all. And that's fine, like, not all patients like my style either. But I think that’s what connects us a little bit with the patients as well. As you were saying, and I was thinking about the example, how many times have you had in the clinic you know patient and they're just
come from their MD or GP or whatever it is, and you say, well, did you ask him about this or did you ask him about that, and they go, oh, no, no, I didn't know. And a lot of the times, they don't do because of fear, and here in Ireland, people are going to kill me for saying this, but you don't question the priest, you don't question the GP. You know, it's like they're up there and if they say the fridge is black, then you go, well, it looks white, but if you say it's black then that's fine, I'm not going to argue with you. And that's just because there's that barrier between, and look, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying go and give your mobile phone to all your patients, there are boundaries, but in terms of the connection, I would much prefer that my patients come in even if it's their first time in the clinic, even if I'm working at one of the conference's as part of the EBA or as part of the OBAA, I don't mind someone having that ease of just coming to me and asking me a question. I said to you at the start of the show, and I was saying to you about Angela Hicks, this happened two years ago, Siobhan thought it was hilarious. Because for the whole weekend I was like starstruck, I was like, I can't. Siobhan was like, why don't you just go and talk to her. Siobhan is a way more practical than I am, and I was like, because it's Angela Hicks, like you don't just go and talk to her. And at one stage, Siobhan was like, I don't believe this, you've been on camera, you've been on stage, like what is wrong with you, and I'm like, it's Angela Hicks, like come on. And then we get to chat and in a few minutes like we're all emotionally going, oh, my book, and she was like, oh, my god, after all these years and having people like you saying that my book influenced them and whatever. And I'm like, this was way easier than I thought. It’s all about keeping it real and being relatable, and that is the one thing that between the clinic, between my life, the personal life, between chatting to you, between the Acuvlogs, everything. There's been very, very few people that have asked me for help or have asked me for something, and I was like, oh, no, I'm not going to do that because it’d be open, be helpful, and what is the movie Siobhan loves the most. It’s a movie Pay it Forward. Just be yourself and just get out there.
I can tell you that recently, within the last two month or so, the college asked me to do a presentation, the shorter version of what I have about social media and practitioners in social media. And it's always a challenge when you have something that is set for like half an hour or an hour and then you have to make it shorter, like, what am I going to
chop out of this. But it was a very good experience because they want like my top 10 tips, and I remember coming up with the first draft, and I was like, this is just like common sense, like everyone else is going to look at this and go, god, well, I knew that. But actually I ended up adding one thing, I added that, and I know it sounds like common sense, and like, I know that, but have you done it though. And sometimes, it' just about go out there and do it. Might fall on your face and might not be what you expected it to be, but try it, have you seen some of the first blogs?
Spence: No, but I will check them though.
Sandro: Probably, I’m going to say two or three recordings, I recorded them, edited them and was like, okay, no, I can't do this. Let’s record again. And what you see is kind of like the episode one and episode two and three, those ones are like episode five or six or seven, but it was the experience and it was doing stuff. And I remember that from work, even in electronics and then even now with research is the same thing, you know, with the dissertation, even with work with the EBA, it's like we could sit around and talk about it for ages. I added this to my talk because I remember thinking, okay, I'm going to go on YouTube, I'm going to find out what's the best camera and how am I going to edit this, you know, the microphone, whatever, I must have spent like, and I'll be honest probably the good guts of half a day, looking at videos until I realized that I haven't done anything yet. How hard can it be, just get the phone or get the computer or just record something, see what it looks like. And it brought me back to the music time as well, where you can have all these ideas and all these lyrics and music in your head, if you don't put it down, they're just ideas. That would be my number one advice is just go and do it, do something, record yourself, and if you're not into that, write stuff, type it and print it. Read it as if it wasn't yours, are you happy enough without going on your website, are you happy enough for that printed article, are you happy enough for going on relief for your patients, but do something.
Spence: I love that. As you're saying that, it's a question that I ask commonly, and I think there's no magic answer, but of course, I ask the question anyway. But for newer
practitioners, one of the biggest stumbling blocks is when you're confident in your clinic with a patient, they feel that they trust you and trust in relationship is huge, right. But when you're starting out, it's terrifying a bit. We all remember that first patient walking into the room, it's like, oh, my god, but that is true, there's no magic bullet how you'll produce courage or you've got to dive in though. And these are great tips to start writing a presentation even if you don't even have a gig to do it at. Record yourself, because it everything changes when you turn on a camera even if you don't intend on sharing it to the world, and if you do, kudos. But I love that advice, that is a great tip. I was going to ask for any obviously great tips and that's a good one, thank you for sharing that.
Sandro: I was adding a few things to the longer presentation today and I was checking out who the quote was from, and it is that Eddie Cantor that said that it takes 20 years to achieve overnight success. I'm kind of like OCD, I need to know exactly who was it that said it. I was like, I'm happy now, I would have written it down, now it's part of the lecture. Mainly because of seeing that so many times, you know, you're coming out of college and you just don't know, you don't even know where to start. And if you're alone again I do have that extra advantage that I was with someone who just qualified with me so we're together and that momentum of building up the practice. But the way that we did things were just by doing things. It's a bit like, write your business plan and, you know, your clinic space. There was no business plan at first, we were renting, like what you were saying, there's that uncertainty of what if the person doesn't want to rent the space anymore, what if the clinic changes or what if the clinic closes, but the important thing was to do something. Because people get to know me a little bit through social media and everything. You know, the black and white scenario of social media, go to social media, but I don't do it, because it's always very fascinating that we come from this background of traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese philosophy and even with things like Buddhism and Daoism and all that, but then two other things were so, no, no, this is the way it is. Sometimes you have that, no, no, I only do Zang-fu, that's it. I only do five elements.
Sandro: Isn't it? At times, I just kind of step back and go, really, I thought that the whole yin and yang thing and a little bit of one and a little bit of the other one, and you know, everyone gets together. I love people watching, because of that, you know, a bit of diagnosis, just being in the room and kind of sense what the vibe is. And I don't see things as being good or bad, like we were saying about the recording or your first video or your first article or your first presentation. You were saying that's a very good advice, write something because you might not have the gig now, but what if someone rings you tomorrow. I’ll tell you one thing, if someone rings you tomorrow and you don't have that ready, you don't have a gig then.
Spence: And if someone asks you something as simple as, so, what do you do, if that isn't on the tip of your tongue and relatable elevator pitch or whatever you want to call it, then that's a first step.
Sandro: Absolutely. You see this so many times, going back to the social media of no, no, I don't have a Facebook account, because Facebook is bad and now the whole thing with security, I’d go actually pay more attention to that than the Facebook is bad. Well, here's the thing, if you don't really have that much personal information there, they didn't really have anything to steal off you. I mean, do you really need to have all your personal information there, or it's just another means to get to people. We all remember the days of having the golden pages or yellow pages depending on what part of the world you are, but that was an ad, that was what you wanted people to see. Social media, you can easily do that. You can put down whatever you want people to see, your clinic, what you do, that's fine. And in a way, going back to being genuine, you see there are a lot from the Acuvlogs. If I'm at a conference, I'm going to record from there. I'm not going to record everything.
Sandro: It’s all have to do with how we use it. Same thing for the medicine as well, you
have a sharp object in your hand the way that you use it for that particular patient. There is the best appropriate ways and there's the not really appropriate ways. It's all about utilizing the tools that you have, and I was always one, the more tools the better. I'm all up for more.
Spence: You keep saying about being alone, and that is tougher, I get that. You had your wife, Lorne and I were together from inception, and it was kind of a brotherhood and we just balanced off each other. We were like little kids almost. That was pre-social media really, I remember Facebook evolving, but today, you stimulated an idea, it's like, well, you can have your opinion of personal social media or whatever, but it can be a tool that wears many masks, so go out and find someone. If it's like, well, I don't know how to write or what, go out and find people to collaborate with. It's like, does anyone want to write an article together with me on PCOS. Sandro would say yes. Or just connect and find the community that way if that's it. And you'll find your little tribe as long as you're yourself, not trying to be a Shang Han Lun expert, or whatever, just be yourself, be authentic, and you'll find your TCM peeps.
Sandro: And it's only a mistake if you don't learn from it. Okay, it didn't work out. We all had failures, some of my clinics and some of my clinical ideas didn't really work out well, some of my vlogs didn't work out well, but you learn from it. And again, I always go back to that quote, “It's only a mistake if you don't learn from it.” I think in person, we met at one of the conferences, and it was like again as you're saying, sometimes you just click with someone and you just get working. It was the same thing, I'm only laughing because I know that Siobhan has seen the chemistry between the two of us, but it was the same thing in September when Mel pick up the phone or she emailed me first, and saying, here I am now with the Evidence-based Acupuncture and I'd really like you to join and to help out. I still have a little bit of a difficulty with saying no to someone, so I was like, yeah, of course. And one of the funny things that she mentioned, shortly after that we had a couple of conferences that we went together, as kind of like trying to bring EBA to the forefront, and someone asked her, how did you get him, or someone asked me, and there was a lot of people from college there, so they knew I was doing the
masters, and something in the likes of how did you get him to help you whatever, and she just like, really, really simple, really casual, goes, well, if you want something, don't just ask a busy person. If I could take it, I know if there's someone watching this just out of college, they're going to say, oh, it's easy for you to say, but it is, you just need to do things because other things will follow. If you're just sitting there and going, well, I'm not going to do this, I'm not going to do it because probably they don't want to listen. Well, just do it, try it. And as you start doing things, people will start noticing you. I have no secrets on the stuff that I do, I shoot most of the stuff from either the computer camera or with the phone, edit with iMovie. It was funny, I got that little talk a couple of months ago with the college, so that was for recent graduates and guys from the third year, so the final year, and guess what the first question was? - What gear do you use to record? And I was like, oh my god!
Spence: I got tons to learn today.
Sandro: To a certain extent, we kind of all do that. I remember doing that with music as well, oh, that sounds great, I wonder what gear are you using. It was never, I wonder how long they have to practice to get to that point. It’s the interaction what you're saying, about getting that vibe, and even getting to learn from people as well, you learn from your patients, you learn from other people, that was one of the questions. And another one of the guys asked me, how do you -- especially then with involvement with the evidence-based acupuncture -- how do you respond to the trolls? And I was like, I don't. I know it's kind of like common sense, but here's a very good advice that I always give to everyone: just put yourself on the other side. They're asking that question, it could have been you, and at some stage maybe it was you or maybe you had that question in your head and you didn't ask, but it's a very good question. We had a discussion about this because I asked Mel I'm going to put myself out there, people are going to know that I'm involved in the project, this is likely to happen, so how do we reply to someone who's just like a complete skeptic and this is a no-no? And we talked about this before, so I know she's not going to be annoyed, but she was like, well, if that happens, just go for a pint. I was like, but they're asking, and if it's in public and whatever, and she goes, yeah, if
they're like that, you're not really going to change their opinion, so why even bother. I was like, oh, I get it. If they're trolling you or if they've declared themselves as skeptics, you're not going to change them. So, utilizing your energy towards that, that's probably what they want, because then you're not doing something useful. There's another good advice for someone starting, just do the stuff that is really useful.
Spence: And then, those people will take away time from you serving your tribe. That's beautiful advice. I think that's why most people don't put themselves out there because inevitably, people are going to tell you how shitty are at something and it hurts. Don't take it personally, but that's like a muscle you have to develop. Or just the advice of just leaving it, because you should use that same energy to the people that really care and are learning from you.
Sandro: And remember the thing, it's only a mistake if you don't learn from it. We all have those patients in the clinic that when you get that phone call, when you get the text, when you get the email to say it was a negative pregnancy test, or after a positive, they go for a scan and unfortunately there was no fetal heart pulse. Those hurt. And it’s not because of you, it's not because of the person, it's not their fault, it's not your fault, it's tough and it's difficult, but you need to learn from those two. Go over your case study and just go through the whole history, and if there is anything that you can find that you go, okay, so the next time that a case like this comes again, I know what happened here. You know, try and learn and try to develop from it, but you can't beat yourself, because we all make mistakes. We all at some stage, we've all done something. You were saying that it's important to have those mentor figures and to learn a little bit. You're not going to become just like one of them. You don't read just one TCM book, you're going to take little bits and pieces from everywhere, so be active and be kind. There’s another thing what became the end of the vlogs, to be kind and to be healthy. Kindness again sounds like common sense, but are we doing it all the time, are we helping others, are we there to share? You know, just be kind.
Spence: Words hurt. Something so simple can change a person's weak, and you just flung
it out there like it was nothing. So, yeah, being kind, that's so Ellen DeGeneres, my wife loves her, she's great. I'm not going to do it justice here, but to surmise what you're just speaking about, Rumi, the poet said something along the lines of: mistakes that crack you open is where the light is allowed to finally shine in so you get to know yourself more and more. The more you put yourself out there, the bigger the mistakes you make. And that's just a part of it. If you're not uncomfortable, I think it's Tony Robbins who says, if you're not uncomfortable you're not growing. And to me, growth and contribution are spiritual values that I hold almost higher than anything else. And they've served me fairly well, so I love that. Just do it, building relationships, being important and that ultimately is what you're talking about, get out there, almost no one is untouchable in the TCM industry. You can pretty much try to reach out to. You had your starstruck moment but after, it's like, oh, yeah, you're human, and thank you so much for talking to me, Sandro. Just get out there and do it, don't be that TCM monk. I'm tossing around ideas for the title for the podcast now in my head because I like to summarize it, and these are great key messages. I so appreciate you highlighting them because they're not simple business principles, they're not simple like, here's how you manage your clinic principles. They're big overarching principles that apply to life.
Sandro: Yeah. One side of things is even thinking about the whole aspect of the acupuncture vlog. I've had a lot of practitioners and people asking me like, why are you doing it and how is it benefiting. Again, whenever you talk to other practitioners, like, is it making any money and I'm like not right now, but hopefully, is making me comfortable with the camera. I learned a new skill, I had no idea, it was the first time ever of using iMovie was when I had to edit the very first one. I had no idea how to do it. It’s all about when your clinic is a little bit quieter, just learn something new, there's nothing wrong with that. Just learn a new skill, and to me it was a bit like that. If I'm allowed to I'll just give you a little bit of how it actually came about, because it's funny, that whole thing with college. The first semester of the second year, I took one of the modules was the business module, and it was actually an innovation in business or something like that. I was like, how can you try and come up with some innovation on something that is like 2,000 plus years old? So, I was like, okay, so what am I going to do, what are my goals,
you sit down and you start going, where do you want to get to. There's no good looking at the horizon and that's what I want to get to because you're never going to get there. So like, where did you want to get to and I was like, okay, I really enjoyed when I had the opportunity to lecture and to speak, I really want to go back to that, but nobody's going to give me an opportunity if I don't put myself out there. It’s a bit like with your patients, when you start you have only a few of them, but then they talk to other people and say, oh, yeah, it was really good and it was kind and I got better. And then, you get more and more and more, but people have to see you first. Because of music, one of the evenings, we were going to a gig and going on the bus, and I just looked at as I was going to sit down and Siobhan was in front of me, and I was like, everyone was on their phones, which is kind of like expected. But what got me was that they weren't reading, they were watching stuff, which I thought that if you go back like 8 maybe 10 years ago, everyone would be on Kindle, reading stuff, whatever. But now, they weren't reading anymore, they were watching stuff, because I could see the movement on the screen and they had their earphones on, and I was like, oh, yeah, people don't even read stuff anymore. They want to see stuff, so that was kind of the moment when I thought, oh, yeah, so instead of writing stuff, I'm going to, yeah, still write it but read it, and how am I going to do that? Everything just kind of falls into place. And it's like, okay, so, it's like giving a lecture. I have to learn how to edit, that's fine, because then I can use it on my website as well, that's good, more people will see it. I had no idea how it was going to go but I just needed to start something, and it's not about, you know, is it making money now as in, do I get paid for the interviews, do I get paid, but is money the only value that you get out of that? I remember, I don't know was it one of your own that you recorded, where you said that you felt really selfish because you get to do these and you get to learn loads, and I was like, yeah, this is great. Like, the second or third interview I had was with Yvonne Farrell and I was like, this is the best lecturer ever and I got one-to-one!
Spence: It’s just because you went out and did it. Created the platform and you're just doing it. I love what you're saying. A mentor I've read over time, Jim Rohn, said, it's not about having the million dollars or it's not just about having the busy clinic, it's about the person that you need to become in order to accomplish that goal, that is where you need
to put your focus. I love that because you can't ever catapult, that overnight success is -- what was the quote? I forget.
Sandro: It takes 20 years to achieve overnight success.
Spence: Fact. I mean, it's true.
Sandro: It's unfair to have that sort of conversation, again, I'm thinking about the person watching this on the other side one or two years out of college and going, okay, it's easy for you guys to say that, but, listen, we've been there. And the reason why we got here now, and you are in Canada, you got to hear from me because of social media, not because I was saying things that social media is bad, I was just using it. And all of a sudden, you go, yeah, get him to come on the show as well. So, you just do stuff, so I can understand. Look, if you're one year out of college, you don't have the confidence to talk about one specific field because you haven't done enough on that, that's fine, what's your background, you know. Like, for example, with me was because of electronics and I had technology, knowing how to make your website better, get a website that works really well on mobile, because most people now check it on mobile. If your background is in, for example, if you were a PA or something, well, really work that out in your clinic that you have the best receptionists of the best receptionists, train them to look after your patients, but just start with something.
Spence: Yeah. I love what Mike Berkeley brought up, 21 years he's been slugging in Manhattan, that's an uphill journey and he's the right guy to do that. I loved his realism when he said, you know what, I haven't got it all figured out, there's still times where my schedule takes dips and there's lots of potential in it to fill again, and that's just kind of a bit of the reality. So, again, you're expanding into other areas and contributing to the profession. We all kind of at this time have a responsibility to step in how we can and everyone has their own gift to bring and their own wisdom. I love the encouragement to share and just to step in and just do it. I mean, borrowing from Mikey without getting in trouble.
Sandro: Someone else you had a not too long ago, Kirsten, I remember one of the nights, because of the business module and having a chat, it was Kirsten and I think Lorne was involved as well, was after one of the webinars or something like that, one of the things that she said, it still stays with me, and I do it now more so than ever. She was saying that one of the things for business for her was like have to fire fast. If it's not working, this is because of the associates or someone working for you and whatever. We're talking about being kind, I don't want to be mean that I want to just fire someone, but at the end of the day, it's your business. And if you are going to be carrying someone, that's going to be bad for you. It's going to be bad for the person, because they're not learning anything anyway, and it's going to be bad for the rest of the team as well. So, you have to make a decision and it's a business decision. And she was like, that's the most common thing that she would see normally, it would be that fear of just fire fast. And a lot of the times, I do that with the ideas as well. Not all the vlogs became vlogs. The experience with working with the executive committee, with the professional association here, it was okay, but it was getting to a place where it wasn't going the way that it should for me and for the professionals. Like, okay, this is my time to step back now and go. It's just the way it is. Not everything is going to be a million dollars, but as long as you're having fun doing it, if it's not hurting you or your business, just keep doing it, yeah.