Interview with Gail Ott, DC
Dr. Ott was one of the first people I thought of when this Prosperity Project came to me. He always has such a cheery energy—you feel better just walking into his office. And he doesn’t stack his patients up back-to-back, so there’s plenty of room for you. If I tweak my neck and I’m in pain, I can usually get in and get healed that day. To me, this is shared prosperity—a doctor who takes the attitude of “there will be enough patients” and for the patient, a sense of “there’s enough time for me.” This is Dr. Ott's story...
Chiropractic has never been a job to me. It’s about helping people—it’s more like a “calling.” I’ve always had relatives who were chiropractors. In fact, there are six chiropractors in my family right now. I became a chiropractor when my wife, Coni, went back to school to get her law degree.
I was in the Marine Corps for four years in the late 60’s. I worked on my Dad’s ranch, worked for Union Pacific and then worked at the local mill in Burns, Oregon. This was during my first marriage (to my kids’ mother). A friend suggested I get my real estate license and I decided to try it. I worked nights at the mill and sold real estate during day.
The day I started in real estate, my whole life changed. I made $1200 in the first week. I couldn’t believe you could actually get paid to do this. My family was laborers. I didn’t know there was something besides working hard for eight hours a day. I still have my apron and glove from the mill hanging in the garage. When things get tough, they help me remember what it was like. I can’t imagine doing that for 20 years just because it’s a job. Real estate was mind-boggling: there were no restrictions, no time schedules. You did what you needed to do to make money. The rest of the time was up to you.
I met Coni when I was 29 years old. She was 22. This was during the 1980’s, when the market was down. My cousin, Dr. David Ott, was a chiropractor in Eugene. He told me he would give me a job if I went to chiropractic school. So I did. I graduated in five years (it was a six-year program). By that time Coni had a job in a law firm in Portland. So we moved to Salem and we both commuted from there. I worked for Dr. David in Eugene starting in 1990. In 1995, I bought the practice in Portland. In 1997, we built our house here and moved in on April 15.
I owe most of it to Coni. She’s smart and independent, an exceptional person. She’ll make you sit down and talk about the difficult things. I feel like I married up—not in terms of money, but in terms of who she is as a person. We’ve now been married 35 years. I appreciate her more every day. You have to sit down and do the hard work of talking it out—whatever the issue is. This is part of that sense of well-being. You are in it as a team. Anything that comes by, you can deal with it.
What I’ve Learned
The only finality is death. Nothing is permanent. So enjoy the good times while they last. And remember that the bad times will pass too. My sense of well-being comes from that: enjoy the happy times and get through the bad times they best you can. In fact, the hard times are when we grow the most.
Well-Being in Business
Both chiropractic and real estate professions are about helping people, but chiropractic is much more personal. You connect with people and help them feel better through touch. You get so many rewards for working with people. When I was working with Dr. David, a patient came in who was in pain, an 80-year-old woman. I adjusted her and we let her rest on the couch we had there. It was the first time in months she’d been able to sleep for two whole hours. Later, she came back and brought me a dozen roses. The look in her eye said so much—you knew how much this meant to her. What other profession can give you that feeling? And you get paid for it!
Whatever you are thinking or feeling or saying, you have an aura. If you aren’t in that healing mode—listening to that person, not just to what they say, but what they don’t say—it just doesn’t work. Your aura is all over the office. It affects your staff, it affects your patients. It starts with you. If something’s bothering you, it affects the whole office.
I make sure my staff is focused on the positive. I always like to have family working for me because that connection is already there. There are lots of changes in the office right now. My staff have really stepped up to handle it all. So I brought them flowers. You can feel what a difference that makes.
How did I become aware of this? I’m an endorphin junky. I have to work out or I get too revved up. I’m not a sit-and-think person. I’m a run-and-think person. Every couple years, I have to do something that scares the hell out of me, like skydiving. I never want to hurt myself, but I have to face the unknown. It brings life into focus. I feel more. All of life becomes clearer. Whatever makes you feel alive, whatever fills you up on the inside and makes you realize you are living—whether it’s art, music or skydiving—that’s what you need to do.
Most people let the world control them: “I don’t have time…” And so they do the same thing year after year. One day they wake up and realize 10 years have gone by. But if you do something that sharpens your senses, it helps you re-analyze your life. It makes you look at your life and see what’s important.
When I would treat someone, I’d tell them, “If you get better and you like what I did, tell someone else.” It’s surprising how much people really want to help someone who wants patients and has done a good job for them. People will bend over backwards to help you. Coni has done well enough that I can give away free care and I don’t have to worry about it. I can practice like I don’t need the money. I can say “no charge” when I think it’s appropriate. I learned this from Dr. David.
I’m not here to wring as much money out of people as I can. I’m here for the care. That’s because of Coni. I haven’t had the pressure of supporting the whole family from this practice. As a result, it’s made the practice flourish more than it would.
Well-being is about giving this person care, not about taking from them. That brings about that healing from another perspective. I’ve never been opposed to making money. If you do things that make other people feel better, in return they give to you. You get more in the long run because it all comes back to you. That gets lost. The books all talk about how to make a million dollars. But what do you have to give up to do that… in an inner sense?
Now, new chiropractors start out with $200,000 in school bills. They are strapped before they start. It would be nice if everyone could meet in the middle. Chiropractors today have such a hammer over their heads. They are forced to take more than they give.
Well-Being in Life
In high school, I didn’t have to study. Our principal was amazed that I became a doctor. I didn’t plan, I just went with whatever was going on today. I graduated from high school, then worked in woods. After that I joined the Marine Corps. Then I worked on Dad’s ranch. I was earning $300 a month.
As I get older, having enough is less about money and more about who am I with and how am I spending my time. I have a patient who came in and we really hit it off. He’s like a brother to me. The older I get, the harder it is to find best friends. People don’t have the time to form a relationship bond. With this guy, it was like I’d known him all my life.
Here in the U.S., we tend to think in terms of “I’m going to show you what I’ve got,” rather than “I’d like to show you who I am.” People have been told that if you don’t follow this path, you won’t be happy. It’s like running a race, but you can’t see the finish line. You get there and you discover you aren’t happy.
But it’s the running down the road that’s important… and who you run with. It’s easier to see this as you get older. You can’t take it with you—all these material things. But what you can take with you is the value of your relationships.
I’d love to stay this age and do this work for another 30 years. This is the most comfort, the most satisfied I’ve ever felt. I miss the excitement of the new stuff, but I don’t miss giving everything up in order to have it. Now I’m watching my grandchildren grow up—it’s the most satisfying thing.