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As I mentioned to Rodin recently on another thread, the doctor on the Coronavirus cruise ship in Japan is a close personal friend of mine. We practiced medicine in the same small town in the mountains of Tennessee for 20 years. Dr. Hopland and his wife were just taking a cruise and ended up in the middle of the Coronavirus fiasco. Dr. Hopland has arranged to have all the Americans transported back to the States, and he’ll probably have the entire ship redesigned before he leaves. Mrs. Hopland tested positive, and is now in a Japanese hospital. Dr. Hopland is back on the cruise ship, with nowhere else to go since he understandably refused transport back home without his wife. The rest of the Americans have been transported home, thanks to Dr. Hopland. But he and his wife are still there. Separated, frustrated, and far from home. Last I heard, Mrs. Hopland felt fine, thank goodness. I’ll contact one of their sons tonight and try to get an update.
I am a great admirer of Dr. Hopland. He started out as an engineer (electrical engineer, I think), and went to medical school later, starting his first practice around the age of 40, I believe. By the age of 70, he was running a multi-specialty, multi-facility group which found ways to provide above-average health care to those on government plans, while consistently turning a profit in an extremely difficult environment. One local practice after another would fail, but Dr. Hopland’s would grow. I don’t pretend to understand his business practices, but I think I understand Dr. Hopland quite well. And I’m fascinated by him. I think he displays several qualities often found in successful people. Let me try to explain…
Some qualities are obvious. When you first meet him, he has a strong, confident personality. It’s nearly impossible to dislike him. He’s short – maybe 5’6” – although he doesn’t seem short, because of his confident, assertive nature. He’s never in the background. I only notice his height in pictures, for some reason. He jokes about being a short guy sometimes (…It rains on us last!…), but I’ll bet that most people who know him don’t notice his height. He’s also handsome, with a square jaw and bright blue eyes.
He’s also clearly very intelligent, with extraordinary recall even of minor events that occurred decades ago. He’s a genius at understanding the motivations of others and finding ways to give them what they want, to strengthen his bargaining position. He’s a good doctor, but he’s a brilliant businessman, and I think this is a big part of it.
But the biggest reason for his remarkable success, in my opinion, is his enthusiasm. He’s restless and endlessly positive. He tries ten different things and is bubbling over with excitement about all of them. Nine of them fail. He instantly forgets about the nine failures, and he’s now excited about the remaining one thing, and starts ten more things, and is bubbling over with excitement about all of them. And so on and so forth. It’s remarkable. All that chaos would drive me crazy. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. But he thrives on it.
What kind of person lives like that?
One of my closest friends is one of his sons, also a physician. I told him that everybody in town had a Dr. Hopland story, each one more incredible than the last. “And they’re all true,” he interrupted. So allow me to share just a few of these stories, to give you a glimpse of this extraordinary man.
My friend “Tom” is a contractor, and Dr. Hopland hired him to do a job. Tom went to his house, to discuss the details. He pulls into the driveway, and finds an old fire truck with a ladder extended out over the garage, and over the swimming pool outback. There was an old wet fat guy with grey hair and black swim trunks scrambling up the ladder. Tom asked a kid standing there where Dr. Hopland was. The kid pointed up at the guy on the ladder, and just as he jumped off the ladder into the pool, yelling “Geronimo!” the kid said, “That would be Dr. Hopland.”
He had always liked fire trucks and thought it would be fun to have one. So he bought a ladder truck with an 80-foot extension ladder. This all makes perfect sense if you know Dr. Hopland. He would tie a $20 bill to the top rung, and extend the ladder 80 feet straight up, and tell his grandkids that anyone who could climb up and get it could have it. The higher they got, the ladder would start to sway, and they’d hesitate for a moment, then come back down. He’d sit in a lawn chair, cheering them on and laughing, enjoying the sheer entertainment of it all.
I went to his house once to return a tool I had borrowed (Dr. Hopland had ten of every tool you could possibly imagine.). He lived in a typical ranch-style house in a nice older suburb on the edge of town. I couldn’t even see his house, because of all the huge piles of dirt piled all over the place. I got out of my truck, and I hear his voice over the sound of a big diesel motor, “Hey Bastiat! You’ve got to try this thing! It’s awesome!”
He had bought an enormous used track hoe like you might see on an interstate job site or something. He yelled, “I’m putting a pond in front of the house, for the grandkids to fish in!”
I look over my shoulder at a huge hole in what used to be his front yard, with a brand-new, clean white six-inch pipe stretching across it. I look back at him, with a raised eyebrow. “I was planning on replacing that sewer line someday anyway! This thing makes stuff like that so easy! Come on! You know you want to! Give it a try!”
Thinking of buried power lines etc in the suburbs, I politely decline and go around back to his kitchen to lay the tool on his breakfast nook table. It’s a little darker than normal in there, with the piles of dirt blocking the view out the windows. I find his sainted, endlessly patient wife sitting at the table, with her head in her hands. I say, “Nice track hoe.” She groans. I say, “The pond will be nice…” She looks at me, with a less patient look on her face. I say, “Um, I’ve got to go. Have a good day!” And I bolt the heck out of there.
She really is a saint.
When the Segway came out, of course, he had to have one. He rolled down the street on it, from his office to mine. My secretary was sitting at her desk, and couldn’t see the Segway through the window to the waiting room. All she could see was Dr. Hopland seem to float across the room in front of her, and then rotate 90 degrees to face her. He asked to see me, and she came back to my office and said, “Dr. Hopland’s in the waiting room, and I think he’s on something.” I didn’t understand until I saw that he was on a Segway.
He said, “You’ve got to try this thing! It’s awesome! Let’s go out in the parking lot!”
I say, “I’ve got patients. I’ve got work to do. Maybe some other time.”
He says, “Oh, come on! You know you want to!”
So, of course, I went out in the parking lot and tried out his Segway. It really was pretty neat.
He owns a Prius with a trailer hitch on it. He bought it just to try to figure out how it worked. I can’t believe he’s ever towed anything with it. But heck – maybe he has. I wouldn’t bet against it.
And that’s the point. He tries all sorts of crazy stuff, but I’ve learned to never bet against him. He believes it will work. Or rather, he really, really doesn’t care if it doesn’t work. He’ll just try something else. He is fascinated by success and is completely uninterested in failure. He just doesn’t care.
He’s endlessly curious. He’s restless and impatient. He doesn’t fail, he just tries something else. He lacks reserve and overflows with enthusiasm.
What do those qualities remind you of?
A child. Read the previous paragraph again, and you’ll see that I described a child. But I also described Dr. Hopland and many other brilliant businessmen.
As a quick aside, I’ll note that our public school system makes a concerted effort to suppress restless enthusiasm, by necessity; it’s not easy to control 25 ten-year-old boys. I’m not criticizing, simply acknowledging that there are drawbacks to a system that attempts to teach everyone the same thing at the same time. But never mind.
Dr. Hopland is an extraordinary man. People like him make the world go ‘round. People like him also drive politicians and authorities crazy – they’re just impossible to control.
But we discourage them at our peril. We should stay out of their way. You never know what they’ll come up with. It’ll probably fail. But it may not. And even if you’re not comfortable with the risk, Dr. Hopland is, so you can just enjoy the fruits of, well, whatever he’s doing next. Plus, it can be fun to watch sometimes.
Unless you’re his sainted, endlessly patient wife.
Dr. Hopland, I really hope you and your wife are ok. Get home soon.
Your absolute biggest fan
NOTE: I use Dr. Hopland’s name only because it has appeared in the press. I do not name his wife or family, or show pictures of the Hoplands, because I don’t think they were shown in the news stories.
These stories are real, as is my admiration of Dr. Hopland.Published in