Monday, October 27, 2014

Don't Believe Experts

While in Austin, TX for a little bit of family and a little bit of business, I arranged some personal time, setting aside Saturday morning for a bicycle ride.

I reserved a bike at a shop near where I was staying in Lakeway, TX, just "up the hill" from downtown Austin.

Those of you who read this blog know that I like to ride my bicycle ... a lot. I am fairly successful in riding my bike every day. I admit that I'm addicted. If I don't ride, then at least I try to get in a power walk for a couple hours. I burn excess energy, clear my head, enjoy the air and (usually) sunshine, and basically feel like a kid.

I have always loved riding bicycles. I believe that I'm genetically predisposed towards cycling. My extremities are disproportionately long compared to my torso, so I have a torque advantage over most people. I can't sprint very fast because those long legs inhibit quick rotation. Think of it as the difference between a long stroke engine and a short stroke engine - the physical dynamics are the same. But I can go a long way, at a fast pace, uphill ... and downhill.

As I was growing up I rode anything that had two wheels, and usually into the ground. Somewhere around 8 years old I absconded with my dad's Raleigh racing bicycle, obviously WAY too big for me, and raced around the block. It had racing gear ratios, and was only 10 speed (which was state of the art in 1966) and was really hard for me to pedal back up the hill to home. But I did...

As a teenager the bicycle motocross scene was just starting, and my buddies and I were way ahead of that trend. We had already been jumping our Schwinns, doing huge cross-ups, sliding sideways in any corner we encountered any chance we could and always pushing each other to go higher, farther, faster.

I broke many, many bike frames during that period of my riding life. Dad got so upset he refused to buy any more bike parts for me, so I had to be enterprising and find work and used bikes to rehabilitate. I estimate that during the 2 year period between ages 13 and 15 I went through at least a dozen bikes, and many more wheels - bikes weren't designed for 40 foot long jumps and flat landings from 10 vertical feet back then...
I LIKE to ride my bicycle!

This chicanery carried on through college when I got enamored with road racing - now THAT was riding! I went to the best, professional, road shop in San Diego at the time, Adams Ave. Bicycles. The proprietor was Brian, known in San Diego as The Man for fast road bikes. I told him I wanted to race, and he underestimated my genes, and my compulsion.

He put me on a touring style Trek frame thinking I needed to train up to racing, and also figuring I was like all the other dreamers ... he was wrong. I raced the heck out of that Trek until it broke, of course, and that was replaced by a more suitable, ugly green Bianchi of tighter racing geometry, and that started the acquisition phase of a new bike nearly every year thereafter.

I raced through law school, after taking the bar exam, after getting a good base of clients, all to my parent's dismay. A few of my riding partners went professional. The only professional status I pursued however was law.

Racing the road gave way around age 28 to racing mountain bikes - another relatively new genre at the time, and I had more success - in fact because I had ridden motorcycles in the dirt since age 10 I had a great advantage over my competition because I KNEW how to handle two wheels in limited traction conditions.

Again, my buddies went pro, and my racing waned with my growing legal career.

But I still rode every day that I could, which was pretty much every day...

So at the risk of sounding arrogant and braggadocio, I'm really good on two wheels, I'm really fast on two wheels, and frankly that's why I don't do group rides much - because I hate waiting for others (another personality flaw - impatience).

I don't expect people to know this history obviously, so when I asked the shop owner who was renting me the bicycle for Saturday for a route suggestion, he summarily dismissed my statement that I "flight plan" my rides for 20 mph average. He was, after all, an "expert." He knew the local terrain, knew what riders in the area average, knew the capability of the equipment he was renting, and assumed he knew what I was capable of.

He scoffed at my "flight plan," even after I told him that I ride "real" hills (Santa Monica and Topa Topa mountain ranges with "real" ascents) and gave me a route that he thought I could complete in my time frame - adding that "all of the pros" were back in town because the season was over, so I might see some out there.

I didn't bother telling him that I already knew (and had ridden with) most of the pros...

Whatever ... the route he picked for me indeed was very fun, with lots of rolling hills, good descents and nothing steep enough to make me shift off of the outer chain ring.

The route was too short though, so I doubled it... and averaged the 66 miles at 20.7 mph. On a rental bike. Take THAT Mr. Expert, and counsel some other poseur - maybe the dozens I passed along the way!

So what does this have to do with workers' compensation? Here's what - you're an expert, I'm an expert, we're all experts ... but there's always someone who's going to put your expertise to shame and make you look like a schmuck.

You might be a professional - a doctor, a lawyer, an executive - but you don't know what you don't know, and hubris interferes with good decision making.

Professionals are trained to always be "right." This is how a professional gains the trust of the patient, the client, or whomever seeks their service.

Ask my wife: she'll say to me, "You're right," when I'm correct about a question or an outcome.

To which I, probably too often, reply, "Of course I'm right ... that's my job!"

Unfortunately, many times the attitude of "being right" masks the fact that the professional doesn't REALLY know. Consequently bad decisions are made based on incorrect assumptions - and when confronted with a potential alternative we professionals get dismissive, sometimes even rude and derogatory - after all, what would a lay person know?

Plenty it turns out...

We're all experts at something, but there's always someone MORE expert, and YOU can't tell until after you're proven wrong!

Here's another DePaolo-ism for all of us professionals: "Of course I'm right, unless I'm wrong. And if I'm wrong, I admit it ... then I'm right again!"

Remember that when a patient questions your diagnosis. Remember that when a client questions your case strategy. Remember that when a customer rebukes your recommendation. Maybe they know something you don't.

In aviation we have a saying when one gets a license to fly, that it is only a ticket to learn. That's why professional occupations are generally called a "practice" - because you're still, and always will be, learning.

In the meantime, I'm going for a ride. See you on the road!


  1. That is why it is important that we all really take the time, to really HEAR each other.

    I can really relate to the impatient part, but Im working that, with professionals. Peace

  2. Speaking of Professionals I JustHeardOfA KidneySpecTellingA Pt ThatIs aDiabeticThat him going through a toe amputationw/ Meds/stress&infection,WouldNotAngstPreExtConds
    Have all these Dr.s sold their soles? WOW their all trying to cost shift folks so that work comp will not cover things, off to other insurances. a claim thats all ready open... They do not agree with the law about pre existing conditions, being angst or lit up, so they intently do not help folks to seek the correct and legally responsible party to cover the cost. Having others pay, while the legal parties, wc insurance ind, made 600% profit margin increase over the last 7 years, while workers are being cheated by their DR.s, intently aiding industry at the bed side, by side stepping our laws. So the patients then ends up with a one sided legal battle for some times decades. NOT good. A Dr. should be helping to make the patient safe and hold the LEGAL Party Responsible for the cost. NOt the tax payers and the injured workers. Bias at the bedside harming injured workers in WA STATE.

  3. Nice, David. Lucy might be more blunt and simply say....."Some alleged #WorkComp alleged experts are simply BLOCKHEADS"

    Admin hearing tomorrow to see what a California Judge has to say about the pattern and practice of CALIFORNIA rewarding out of state insurance companies close to $20,000 for refusal to pay TTD benefits to injured CA workers .

    The issues of breach of fiduciary responsibilities to injured workers and failures to provide medically necessary treatments will NOT be heard.

    If the ruling is surprising. may be of interest to your readers. Will let you know on this comment thread.

    Let's hope a Judge isn't included in an Honorable Blockhead Group.

    Fingers and eyes crossed.

  4. Hi David... What a day! It started out with yet another Corvel 'non-recommendation' for doctor requested medical care, the UR company always gives the adjuster first notice, and refuses to comply with ADA request for electronic communications, all to the advantage of "The Defense"

    The 18 minute ADMIN Hearing regarding the nearly $20K paid to the insurance carrier for refusing to pay TTD in 2011/2012 was ok, results in about 2 weeks. The Judge made it clear he could not do anything about the insurance carrier, so I suggested making EDD pay the money of mine they gave away, and that further investigations be required. I'm not only one that pattern of practice impacts. Ask any injured worker denied medical care and benefits for 2+ years...the patterns and usual suspects will likely appear.

    THEN, OMG, I got a call from the carrier fraud department, demanding that I stop copying them on informative emails. The dude says he is THE TOP investigator, he also said he doesn't care about what I am doing or why I feel that medical treatment is necessary, just wants me to stop bothering him. He said their fraud investigation resources are limited.

    We concluded the call abuptly when he said, 'Tell me, Lucy, when ARE you going to die'...

    I recoiled as if from a hot flame, screamed a profanity and disconnected the call. Jeeeez, that sounded like a death wish or threat, with plenty of plausible deniability.

    So, like I asked a WCAB Judge last year, "There really is no law about companies being required to provide immediate, reasonable and necessary medical treatment to any injured worker in California or elsewhere?"

    Yikes. Remember when America stood for something good and decent??

    That insurance crowd is really something, huh? I will report what I perceive to be a huge threat to my life, compounded by the continuous harm, to the District Attorney, for what it's worth.

    I already tweeted about it with a mention to the real top dogs.

    WRITE ON, DAVID.....