Cracking the Stress Code with Dr. Rashidian

Cracking the Stress Code with Dr. Rashidian

Episode 9, Tales of Misadventure with Nicole Donnelly

Stress is good. Healthy stress is real. Dr. Amir Rashidian published author and founder of Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic joins Nicole on a new episode to discuss stress and how we can turn it from a negative into a positive. Hear his inspirational journey into entrepreneurship, the business blunders he’s faced, and how you can never give too much.

Nicole Donnelly

I'm here with Dr. Amir Rashidian, and Amir is doing such great work as a chiropractor. He is the founder of the Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center, established in 2006, and serves over 18,000 patients annually.

What's really unique about this specific center is they focus on high tech diagnostics to detect and correct disturbances in the nervous system, and are really focused on promoting drugless health solutions. Dr. Rashidian also serves on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity, and is also the chairman of the elder leadership team at Grace Community Church. He has won multiple honors and awards, including business Leader of the Year and Philanthropists of the Year. Also, Dr. Rashidian has been happily married since 2005 and has three sons.

Welcome to the show, Dr. Rashidian. It's so great to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Dr. Rashidian 

It's my honor and pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Nicole Donnelly

I love to start with this first question just to kind of like get to know a little bit about you. If you could be doing anything that you wanted, with anyone that you wanted, wherever you wanted to be, what would that day look like and what would you be doing?

Dr. Rashidian

So I've had many perfect days. It's not a fictional thing. For my 10 year wedding anniversary, my wife and I went to an island in the British Virgin Islands - it was us and a mile down the beach was another couple, and there's nobody else there. It was amazing.

We spent our days editing my first book so that we could get it published. I like beaches, love spending time with my wife, Brandy, and I enjoy finishing projects. If I had anything I could do and I had the freedom to do it as much as I wanted, I'd probably be working on some kind of project that excites me. I'd be doing it with her. And if I could do it on a beach, that's where I would be.

It’s Okay to Stress.

Nicole Donnelly 

Oh, I love that; like finding that balance or integration, if you will, of the personal professional and your passion. You just mentioned you love projects and you like to dive in. What project are you working on now that's got you all excited?

Dr. Rashidian

Well, so I'm gonna say promoting my second book. A year and a half ago, almost two years ago, my wife and I were on, in this beautiful, six star resort in Arizona, having a blast. In conversation, I shared I felt like we had gotten a little too soft. We had two offices, a team of about 15 people, three doctors and, and things were smooth. We were too comfortable.

I liked how it felt when we were just getting started and I wanted to get back to that. So we kind of talked about it that day in the pool and thought maybe we should expand and maybe we need to go for something bigger. When you start brainstorming and make the decision like that, to get uncomfortable again, well, the universe, God, everybody kind of conspires to make that come true.

Dr. Rashidian

So we came back and things started to kind of fall apart. We had to kind of rebuild the organization but the plan is to grow. I think our brand of healthcare is something that's unique. It's, it's different than what people understand about healthcare, wellness, and chiropractic care.

A lot of people have a misconception about what stress is and how to handle stress properly. We focus on reducing stress, but we don't even have a good definition of what stress is. We're gonna get that word out, open up more centers, and really make the communities around us healthier.

Nicole Donnelly 

I think your book talks all about stress, right? This is so needed today. There is a lot of misunderstanding about stress. I think a certain amount of stress is good and healthy to have, but you need to understand how much is too much.

What can readers expect from your book, your point of view is on stress, and how can we manage it better?

Dr. Rashidian

You can't have or be or do anything you want without stress.

Everyone has has been under stress.

Everyone knows what it feels like when you're overwhelmed by things. But what I want to make real, this is a little controversial, you can't have or be or do anything you want without stress. Nicole, you are on this amazing podcast. You helped so many people.

But you can't tell me it's free from stress?

In fact, the more the larger your audience becomes, the more stress you're gonna have. Because the more responses you're going to get, the more comments you're going to get, the more criticism you're gonna get. Now you have to manage a large number of guests and your budget changes.

So the bigger you want to get, the more stress you have to be willing to take on. It's the same with higher education. Let's say you want to obtain a higher college degree. That's going to come with stress. You want to grow your family. Every child you have, you're stress doubles.

Want to have a great marriage? You better be willing to take on some stress. No marriage is stress free. And if you wanna grow your business, which is what most of us here do, you better be willing to take on the stress. 

Training to Be Comfortable with Stress

It's like the prize fighter who's about to step into the ring and fight.

Nicole Donnelly 


Dr. Rashidian

He doesn't just step in the ring and fight. He trains for it.

Nicole Donnelly 


Dr. Rashidian

Your level of health is determined exactly by how much stress you can safely handle. How successful you become is also dependent on how much stress you can safely handle.

Take it one step further.

Your income is determined by how much stress you can safely handle.

You want to make a larger income, be more successful, grow bigger, go further, and be healthier. You cannot reduce stress. It doesn't work that way. It's like me going to the gym and every time I go to the gym, I lift less weight than I did the day before.

I'm not going to get stronger. I'm going to get weaker. Eventually the weight I used to be able to lift, I won’t be able to lift anymore.

Nicole Donnelly


Dr. Rashidian 

You have got to invite the stress.

I've studied the successful people on the planet. I guarantee there are people who look at you and go, Nicole, how do you get so much done in one day? I can't get that much done in a week. How are you doing all that? And you go, I don't know. I just do it.

Well, it's because of who you are. You grew into that.

Nicole Donnelly 


Dr. Rashidian 

Just like first grade was difficult when you had to spell three letter words of rat, bat, cat and hat. When you were in 12th grade, if someone gave you a spelling test with three letter words, you wouldn't have any problems with it. So you grow into that.

The first employee you hire is tremendous stress on you.

Oh my goodness, now I'm responsible for another person.I have to make payroll. I have to make sure we market enough and produce enough not to just feed me and my family, there's another family that's dependent on it. But then you get used to that. 

Training to Adapt to Stress

So the goal is adaptation.

The human body is designed to adapt to their stress. If you want to adapt, you have to bring in the stress, but you can't put too much like you said it eloquently earlier. You can't put too much into you.

There's a formula -  imagine that you have a GAP which stands for the general adaptation potential. Meaning, this is how much stress you can safely adapt to. If your stress level goes above the GAP, higher than that gap, you will be susceptible to illness and injury. As long as your stress level stays underneath, you are not susceptible to illness and injury.

For example, it's springtime. Everybody's putting mulch in their garden. Let's say you spread mulch for three days in a row.

The first day, no problem. Second day, no problem. Third day you throw out your back. What's different? I di the work for the other two other days and it didn't hurt me. Well, what did you eat last night? I ate some Chinese food with some MSG in it. Okay, that just inflamed your body.

What happened this morning before you went outside? I had a fight with my spouse or my, my partner and then went I go out there. Now I added the physical stress to the emotional stress. I was already under the chemical stress of the inflammation in my body, and the minute I picked up the bag of mulch, I threw out my bag.

Nicole Donnelly  


Dr. Rashidian  

Now, if that's your life, every day you need adapt to it and then your back doesn't go out anymore. You train for it, just like you trained for anything else.

Nicole Donnelly 

I want to find enjoyment in the discomfort.

I'm gonna have to read this book so I can learn all about. I think the step there is how do you incrementally add stress in a healthy way? It sounds like your book really covers that. I love what you said earlier about how you were talking with your wife while you were on your vacation.

I think there's a definite similarity between stress and discomfort. I was just having a conversation with my coach and I shared that I just want to lean into the discomfort a little bit more. I want to find enjoyment in the discomfort.

Because I think along with what you were saying about stress, the more that we as leaders, entrepreneurs, ambitious people who want to grow, anyone who wants to grow, you have to get comfortable with discomfort. You have to be able to actually enjoy it. Otherwise, you're never going to get anywhere you want to go.

You have to be able to face the pain and, and be able to visualize what the other side of that pain is; the reward for going through the pain. that you went through. Like going to the gym and lifting those weights.

To your point, there is a lot of misconception out there about stress. People hear the word stress and they immediately think stress is a bad word, but you're absolutely right that there is a healthy level. 

Dr. Rashidian’s Early Beginnings

You have a successful business that has scaled and grown. You're a successful doctor, chiropractor, and you have a beautiful family. You are doing a lot of great work in the community, and that is absolutely the result of your ability to handle stress in a really productive and adaptive way.

Our listeners would love to hear about your journey, where you started and how you ended up where you are today.

Dr. Rashidian

Early childhood was easy. I was born in 1974 that’s five years before the revolution and we were doing well. My dad would take us to Europe every summer for at least a month, sometimes two months for vacation. We got to travel the world and have a great time.

What’s neat is, back then, Iran was considered such a amazing place. Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, the Rat Pack, all these celebrities, when they wanted to go on vacation, they would go to Iran. The capital, Tehran, was called the Paris of the Middle East because it was amazingly beautiful and it was very modernized.

It was the most modernized area in the entire Middle East. The Shah, Iran, had great relations with the West, and they were becoming more modern and advanced. Then in 1979, I remember I was five years old. I'm in the backseat of our family, Datsun and we came around a corner to find it was gridlock traffic.

Cars weren't moving and there was fighting in the streets and batons were flying. There's tear gas, lots of yelling and screaming. My dad told me to get down and don't look. So I'm on the floor of the car and I feel the car shake. Every once in a while I hear my parents commenting, look at this, look at that. I can't believe this. How are we gonna get out of here?

Being a little kid, five years old, I think this is one of those action adventure movies.

Nicole Donnelly


Dr. Rashidian

I bet you there's a lot of exciting stuff going on; I want to look and see. I peeked up over the edge of the window. The first thing I see is a guy walking with a knife stuck in his chest.

There's blood and he's saying some kind of prayer. Then he started to fall forward. I fell back to the floor and I never looked up again. It feels like it was just yesterday. Those images are right there and that was the start of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Everything changed. We had a beach house that the government confiscated because they said, you shouldn't own two houses.

It was against the law. They literally beat my dad and dragged us out of that house. There was a beautiful park, where we lived, up north by the Caspian Sea. A small town, very beautiful. We would go walk around the park, every day after dinner - ust a nice place to be, but they turned that into a prisoners of war camp. They put walls up, barbed wire, and these POWs would escape every couple weeks.

So there be bullets flying through the streets and the kids had to run inside and hide. The world changed,

Nicole Donnelly 


Dr. Rashidian

Instantly women had to dress differently. They had to cover their hair, if they went outside. There was bombing. I wasn't in the areas that were bombed a lot, but I do remember one time we were staying in Tehran. My mother reminded me to turn on the radio before I went to sleep that night.

So I turned on the radio and there was no programming. It was silent, but you turn up the volume because they would put out air raid sirens. A little after midnight, this siren blared through the radio. I jumped up out of bed and with my family, we went downstairs to the basement. All the families from that building were in the basement waiting

We heard the roar of this plane overhead. Then we heard the whistle of a bomb that had just been dropped. The whistle is just getting louder and louder as the bomb is getting closer and closer. You have no idea if that bomb is right over your head or if it's a block away and you just wait, hope, and pray that you're not about to die.

When you hear the explosion, it's one of those bittersweet things where you know someone just got hurt.

Nicole Donnelly 


Dr. Rashidian 

It wasn't us. It was pretty traumatic and scary, but the scariest time of my life actually wasn't the war or the fighting in the streets or the bullets. It was actually arriving in the U.S. Because it's a different world.

Use Your Past to Strengthen Your Future

I was 11 years old, when we finally made it to the U.S.

We landed in Los Angeles and I didn’t know the language. We had $500, the Iranian government wouldn't allow you to leave with more. My mother and I show up at the place we were supposed to stay and the family took a look at us and said they could keep us and we needed to go.

We had to find a place to stay with our two suitcases. The airlines lost one of our suitcases. So half my clothes were gone. All of that stuff really is great. I'm so glad it all happened. Just because I wouldn't have this story to share today and that's the least of it.

Because ideally it's who you become that determines how well what you do work.

You look at anybody who's achieved anything in business as an entrepreneur or otherwise. They went through certain things that made them the person they are, and because of who they are, what they do succeeds.

You see it all the time. Two people will apply the same formula to business. They'll do the same marketing techniques and they use the same phone script but one of them gets a lot of business and the other one can't get any business. They're doing the same exact thing.

It has nothing to do with what you're doing. It's who you are. Who do you need to be. What you go through, makes you who you are.

We found another home but we had to bounce around. Finally, we ended up in an apartment that we shared with another lady and her kids and stayed there for a year and a half.

A Legacy of Empathy, Entrepreneurship and Generosity

One day, a distant relative of ours called my dad and said, “I don't think your son should be on the west coast, in Los Angeles. I think you should move him to the east coast. I want to help you. I'm going to buy a small townhouse. You move your family into that house and you pay me back, no interest, pay monthly, whatever you can.”

We moved to the east coast to Maryland, dad paid him $800 a month, and I started going school there. I was 12 and a half, 13 years old at the time, and have been on the east coast ever since.

You shared, I serve on the board of directors at Habitat for Humanity. Actually, my term just ended and my wife is now serving on the board in my seat. But one of the reasons I did was because this angel showed up and bought us a house.

What's amazing is after about 9 or 10 years of mortgage payments, our relative called dad and told him to stop making payments, the house was his and the deed was on its way. We were given a house. Someday, I know this'll happen, I don't know when, but I'd love to call up a family and do the same thing. I'm just paying it forward.So the next best thing is to serve on Habitat for Humanity.

Nicole Donnelly 

What a beautiful story. Did your father come to the States with you or was he in Iran the whole time?

Dr. Rashidian  

He would go back and forth. He had obligations and there was a lot of complexities.

He had stopped working for the most part. When I was born, Dad was 51. He had started a large construction company and he had built hospitals, government buildings, apartment buildings, condo buildings. He divided it to five separate companies and sold all of them.

But then he kept a couple of the buildings and just collected rent. So he traveled a lot. and

Sometimes I think he might have been in the mafia. I can't prove it.

Nicole Donnelly 

That's so funny. What made you think that?

Dr. Rashidian  

The kind of people he would hang around with and the things he would do.

Nicole Donnelly

Oh, funny. What a cool legacy that is and now I see you're basically following in his footsteps. He was a builder who was able to successfully scale a construction business. You're doing the same thing. That's pretty remarkable.

I also love that beautiful story of generosity that family member who reached out in that way. What a great lesson for you and how that has inspired you to be able to impact so many people because of their decision.I think sometimes we may downplay the impact that those decisions, acts of generosity we do for other people have.

Obviously, not all of us can go out and buy someone a house but it would be a wonderful dream to be able to do. Even smaller acts of generosity have a ripple effect. It's really cool to see how that one act of generosity inspired you and your wife to get so involved with Habitat for Humanity and all the families that you've been able to impact.

Dr. Rashidian

You can't ever go wrong by being too generous.

Nicole Donnelly

Tell me a little bit about how you ended up becoming a chiropractor.

Dr. Rashidian

When we were still in Iran,  my dad and I would visit these villages. He wanted to show me where the underprivileged lived. A lot of these villages are on the side of the mountain with no power lines, no plumbing. Sometimes he would bring a crew and he would run power lines for them, give them plumbing, just pro bono, to help them out.

In one village, a woman went into labor and she was in a lot of pain but no one knew what to do to help her. A midwife came over and knelt down, examined her, stood up, said, there' was nothing she could do. There was no heartbeat and the baby was not alive.

She's not gonna make it and she actually left.

There were no doctors. There were no hospitals or medication. There was nothing. There was no medication. Her husband was right next to her holding her and I'm looking in the eyes of this young woman who was just told she's not gonna live another few hours. I started to have a panic attack, where your chest feels tight and you're trying to catch your breath. Tears were coming down my face and my dad saw me, picked me up and he held me.

He carried me out of there. He calmed me down as we climbed down the mountain. On the drive home, I said, “Dad, I don't wanna feel like that ever again.” He said, “what are you going to do about it?” I told him I was going to be the best surgeon in the whole world and would carry my medical bag with me everywhere I go. “I'm going to save lives.”

10 years passed, I was 19, a student at George Washington University. I wanted to get into medical school and move on from there. I went home on Christmas break and my dad had a big thick white neck brace on and I could tell he was high on some severe painkillers. He couldn't lift his arms to give me a hug to say hello.  He had shooting pain down both arms, numbness and weakness in his hands.

We went doctor to doctor, trying to figure out what's wrong with him. Every doctor we went to said it was way beyond thier skull. We ended up in a neurosurgeon's office and was told he needed extensive surgery - needed to slice my dad open from the base of the skull to the bottom of the neck, break and remove the bones in the back of his spine to take pressure off the spinal cord, put rods and screws and fuse the whole neck.

We were told my dad would never turn his head again and may not regain function of his hands.They were hoping he’d have less pain and he could die because my dad was old. Dad was 70, at the time, but there's such a thing as a young 70 and an old 70. He wasn't the young 70.

We got in a taxi to go home and I'm sitting in the back of the taxi carrying all of my dad's x-rays, MRIs and CTs and medical records. Now they come on one CD. I looked over at my dad sitting next to me and was just cringing because every bump hit was sending lightning bolts of pain through his body.

Looking in his eyes, I could tell he didn't want to live anymore. I started to have the same feelings when I was watching that woman die in her husband's arms. The a taxi driver looked at dad and I, in his rear view mirror, and he says, “Sir, I noticed you're in a lot of pain and I know you asked me to take you home, but there's a chiropractor down the street, right here, would you rather me take you there? I don't know what he does, but I've heard he helps people like you.”

I'm a 19 year old, know at all. I believe in drugs and surgery, at the time. Dad was terrified of the surgery. So he's willing to do whatever and anything to not have that surgery. My dad said yes, we're going. Let's try it.

We pull up to this office and it was under construction because the doctor had just moved in. There's drywall missing, dust paint flying everywhere. We walk in, the doctor shook our hands, and brought out crates becaus there were no chairs.

He brought a view box that he plugged into an open socket in the framing that's gonna be a wall someday. He took the MRIs that I was carrying, started reading the MRIs on the floor. He looked at my dad and he could help without breaking anything in his neck or putting him on drugs or adding screws or rods in his neck and he wasn’t going to be on painkillers for the rest of his life.

The doctor explained he would make adjustments, taking the pressure off the nerves, little by little, using his hands and as the pressure lessens my dad’s body would begin to self-heal and self-regulate. It wasn’t going to be easy or quick but it was only option if my dad wanted to avoid surgery.

He went on to explain my dad had to show six days a week for six month and it would cost $9,000. My dad wasn't working but said he figured out a way to pay for it. He showed up six days a week for six months. At the end of six months, dad walked into that doctor's office. The construction's done

There's a receptionist behind the counter. There were chairs, not crates and the office was packed full of patients. My dad walked up to the counter, picked up the pen and signed his own name for the first time. He was so proud of himself.

He started holding that pen up in the air, marching back and forth, showing everybody what he could do. Everyone laughed at him - who's this old man holding the pen over his head? The receptionist remembered how much pain he used to be and what he couldn't do, and she started to cry.

From that moment on, dad was able to do everything. Never had surgery, never needed more medication. Dad lived another 18 years. He lived to be 88 years old. At 88, he was younger than when he was 70 because he'd get up in the morning exercise, go visit his friends. Most of them are in nursing homes, but not my dad.

He's was living a good life. He lived long enough to stand next to me as my best man, when I got married. He lived long enough to meet my first son. 

Leave a Legacy of Health

This story is not just to tell you why I became a chiropractor, but I also want to ask a question. When dad was sick, when he was hurting and suffering, was he the only one who suffered?

The answer is obviously no. Anyone who cared about him suffered with him, me, my mother. We all suffered too. It's really easy to let your health slide. It's really easy to not do the hard things to get healthier, get better, get stronger.

And the easy thing leads you to a path where you end up depending on others, and being a burden on your loved ones. You don't want them to suffer. See, we think if I take care of me, I'm being selfish. The fact is, if you take care of you, you're being unselfish. It's the, the most selfless thing you can do because you're not doing it for you.

You're doing the hard work so that everybody around you benefits from it. How can you give someone your best if you are not at your best?

Nicole Donnelly


Dr. Rashidian

Do what needs to be done. It also applies to business.

Healthier people have better businesses. Healthier people are better marketers. Healthier people have more clients. Healthier people have people coming, coming around them going, what's your secret? How do you stay so young, healthy, and strong?

Nicole Donnelly

That's so true.

Dr. Rashidian

What makes our practice unique, going back to your question, is that we have this long-term vision for all of you - first, feel better, but then work on becoming stronger. Because how strong you are determines, how much stress you can handle. How much stress you can handle, determines how healthy you are.

So feel better, get stronger, live longer, and feel younger. It's a four step process, but it takes decades to accomplish this. Our vision for you is once you feel better, we train you to get stronger in the face of stress. Then we work on longevity. How do we keep adding years to your life?

Then we wanna make sure how do you always feel younger than your age? And once we accomplish that there's no end to it. You can never be too healthy and you can never feel too good. It's not possible. We'll use technology to do that. We'll do heart rate variability and we have a special device that will tell you exactly how much stress you can safely handle.

Then we work on increasing that so that the stress in your life doesn't make you susceptible to illness and injury.

Nicole Donnelly 

You pick your pain, right? People have a choice. Whatever you want to do, you can choose to do - not exercising, eating bad stuff, just living a really poor lifestyle and live the easy. But you're gonna experience the pain later. Or you can choose the harder pain upfront, making those hard choices, leaning into discomfort, leaning into the hard part andthe long-term rewards make it worth the pain. 

Choose your pain.

Do you want the pain that's going to help you grow and be stronger? Or do you want the pain that's going to turn you into someone who's weak and sick, mentally, physically?

There's so much right now in our society where people are just prescribed medication to solve the symptoms, but it doesn't really resolve the deeper issue. I love that you're really focusing on a solution that isn't  pushing pills on people or recommending that. Your dad's experience really speaks to that.

What is your why, Dr. Rashidian?

Dr. Rashidian

The Bible says to those much is given, much is expected. I always say my mission is to honor and glorify God in everything that I do. Humbly serve his people to build lasting relationships and to establish an institution that'll continue to uphold these values and serve these objectives after I'm gone.

I believe business is the best form of self-expression.

Nicole Donnelly

Yes. Agreed.

Dr. Rashidian 

You're like an artist who creates something but except it's alive. If you do it right, it'll keep living after you go away. So that's the why. How do I set this up so that it'll keep doing the work that I want to do even when I'm gone.

Nicole Donnelly

Yes. Such a beautiful legacy. I, myself, am a fourth generation entrepreneur. My dad owned a successful eight figure business. My grandfather owned a separate, successful eight figure business. My great-grandfather owned a separate one. I have personally experienced and seen the beautiful impact that businesses bring to communities and families. That's a wonderful, powerful, powerful why?

Dr. Rashidian  

Don't sacrifice your health for success

One thing I’d like to share is that everyone tells you don't sacrifice your health for success. You shouldn't, but should you sacrifice your success for your health? I think that's wrong too.

Nicole Donnelly 

That's so good.

Dr. Rashidian  

What if you're a healthy person who has nothing?

Nicole Donnelly  


Dr. Rashidian  

Does nothing and serves no one. What use is that? Don't sacrifice your dreams, your goals, your future aspirations, just because you wanna stay healthy.

Nicole Donnelly


Dr. Rashidian   

You have to want both. And believe you can have both. It's not an easy life. I work a lot of hours and I sleep very little, but I enjoy every second of it.

Nicole Donnelly


Dr. Rashidian

Don't sacrifice one for the other.

Nicole Donnelly 

I love that you say you can have both because you absolutely can. You absolutely can do it in a healthy way. I'm on a mission to prove that.

Learn from the Vulnerable Blunders

I love hearing about your journey and where you are today. It's incredibly inspiring, but I'm sure it hasn't been all roses and daffodils building this business. As an entrepreneur, I have blunders every day. Let's be real.

Is there a blunder you experienced that would really resonate with listeners who are all small business owners or aspiring small business owners. What did you do to turn it into lemonade?

Dr. Rashidian

There, there's a lot. I want to share one that's embarrassing to me. It's something that I'm actually ashamed of but I, I think these are the moments that make us who we are. And

We're in the business of relationships. We're not in the business of making money. We're not in the business of providing healthcare or selling something or building something. Honestly, business is relationships and relationships are the most important thing.

I truly believe that the people you work with are more important than your clients. If you are working in our center, if I've hired you, that means I trust you and I believe in you. If someone accuses you of something, I will take your side. Not their's.

Even if it means we lose a client. Even if it means we lose business. It doesn't matter. We have to take care of ourselves.

Nicole Donnelly

I love that.

Dr. Rashidian 

I had a doctor who worked for us. He had been with us for three months and he was really struggling with learning. I want to premise this because I have a learning disability. I have dyslexia and have to learn a specific way.

 Thankfully, God blessed me with this amazing memory where I memorize everything I see here in and breathe. But not everybody's like that. So I'm sitting in the room with this doctor, he's made it through chiropractic school, passed all the tests.

He's passed his boards. Clearly. He is a very highly qualified, intelligent person. And I asked him this dumb question - “You're not learning this. Do you have a learning disability?” It was the most insulting thing I've ever said that came from an honest place.

But you never ask someone if they have a learning disability. It's an insult.

Nicole Donnelly 

Oh man.

Dr. Rashidian 

He said no and the next day he gave me his letter of resignation. I apologized and we worked it out. But it was a terrible mistake.

If you have employees, they are there because of you. Treat them well. It’s a moment I regret every day I think about it. However, it made me someone who respects our employees a whole lot more.

Hopefully I treat them better.

Leadership is key. You have to be a leader. I believe our organization is what we call an upside down org chart. Everybody's seen those org charts, looks like a pyramid, you're at the top, then you've got your direct reports and the middle management and the customer service rep.

What I do is I flip that upside down and I put our customers at the top, followed by our customer service reps who serve those customers, then managers who serve the customer reps, then upper leadership crew who the management team and then me, I serve them.

I'm at the bottom. We ask our team to share their goals, dreams, aspirations and what they want to accomplish in their time with our company. We write down those goals and they hold me accountable for helping them hit their goals. Reverse accountability - I am accountable to them; not me holding them accountable for making my life better or making my dreams come true.

It's so upside down org chart and the culture of reverse accountability. And I think having learned that and it's a process. I still offend people. I have a strong personality.

Nicole Donnelly

I've never heard of the upside down org chart in all my years in business. I think it really emphasizes what I believe makes up every great culture, a service mindset, right? You're a person of faith. I am deep person of faith as well. And I think that's one of the things I really love about the Christian faith (or any faith that focuses) is that it asks how can I serve? What can I be doing to help support them? Serve God and use my God-given talents to help other people.

My experience has been when you lead that way, your impact is so much greater. I've worked in organizations where it's been the opposite and you see it makes everyone play small. The minute that you focus on serving and trying to help support and teach and guide rather than directing, telling whatever you can just every, it just makes a huge impact.

Thank you for sharing that very vulnerable business blunder. We all make mistakes and sometimes we're gonna make these really embarrassing, shameful mistakes. But how you've turned it into basically the way that you've built your culture and, and what you've done to kind of rectify that going forward is really inspiring.

Dr. Rashidian

My pleasure.

Get Your Community to Do Your Marketing Through Serving

Nicole Donnelly

Let's talk about marketing. What have you tried to do to market your business since you started and what's worked and what hasn't?

Dr. Rashidian

My wife and I opened the business together, back in 2006. We didn't have a marketing budget. I mortgaged the house we were gifted - took out $43,000. I put $10,000 in the bank for operating expenses, and the rest of it went towards startup costs. So there was no money for marketing.

My wife and I decided we would just go door to door. In the early morning, we'd go out and hang door hangers on people's doors. Mid-mornings we'd visit other businesses in the area within a mile of our office. We met every business owner, manager, shop, worker in that one mile radius.

In the evenings, we would go door to door residentials and we'd knock on doors. Some of them would open a door and be really kind and answer our questions, some of 'em would invite us in for tea, and some of them would slam the door in our face. Every time you are about to knock on a door or ring a bell, there's this severe anxiety about who are we going to meet?

We met 1200 people in that span of time and then we'd write thank you notes to everybody we met. “You were so gracious. It was great to meet you and we'll send you some information when we're ready to open our office.”

We had this list of 1200 people and when we were about to open the office, we sent letters out saying thanks for all their help. Then we finally open we sent a letter offering a free evaluation. “Come on in, we'll evaluate your spine, your x-rays. No charge. We just want to thank you.”

The first week we had 18 new patients come into the office and everything built up from there.

Marketing is, is threefold. You have your advertising, your branding, and then you have public relations. Branding is how do we make sure our name is visible in as many places as possible, even in the office, like when you walk in our floor, mat says Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center, logos are  in different places on every page from the TVs, screensavers on the computers, mugs.We have these water bottles wrapped in our logo.

Everyone knows about advertising, Google Ads and Facebook but back in the day, we did newspaper ads and advertorials where you write a story.

Nicole Donnelly 


Dr. Rashidian

Those did well back then. Nowadays, I don't think that does as well and even Facebook's gotten kind of different, but that's all your department. My department is public relations. That's where most of our success came from, is getting involved with the community. Give, serve and do, and it always comes back.

Being involved in Habitat for Humanity helped a tremendous amount. There was a time where Habitat needed a truck and I tried to get four other businesses to help me purchase the truck. So Habitat Humanity is would drive it to every construction site, and the whole city's will know about our business.

Nobody wanted to help pay for this truck. So we bought the truck for Habitat for Humanity and wrapped it. Half of the truck said Habitat for Humanity and the other half of it says Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Centers. The truck is going around town all over the place when they're transporting equipment and supplies.

Whenever they have an event, they park it right out front and everyone's like, wow, Mid-Atlantic.

And it gets people talking about us and then they invite me to speak at different events. Then I speak which leads to people say they’re looking for a chiropractor and they ask about our practice.

Anytime we want to do something for marketing, we always team up with a nonprofit. We advertise the event and donate every dollar collected which gets people to participate who become patients. We give a lot of money to the organization and we get a patient. It's just a win-win situation.

I think public relations is the greatest opportunity in today's market.

People love seeing you give and do a lot for the community. You can't ever give without receiving. It just seems to always comes back. Three or four years ago, we started a something called MACC Christmas, our acronym for Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Centers. We asked our local nonprofits to nominate families in need so our  patients got the opportunity to buy presents for the children of these families.

We rented a hotel and a hosted a party for these families - a lot of these were kids whose parents are incarcerated being raised by foster parents, aunts and uncles. We had Santa Claus and the media was there. and the newspaper was there. Our patients were allowed to attend and see and meet the families they bought presents for. Our patients were so generous that every kid got several presents. Some of those presents were like an Xbox or a mountain bike.

It was beautiful.

Public relations is the third prong of marketing that people miss out on.

Nicole Donnelly  

That's a beautiful story.

I think that speaks to the wonderful culture that you've created with your customers, right? In marketing, we're seeing a really big movement towards community-led marketing. Where your customers basically become the engine that fuels yournew sales rather than promoting on Google Ads or Facebook.

How can you leverage your existing customers evangelist and have them basically sell for you. It sounds like you have a really engaged community of customers. You hit the nail right on the head, Dr. Rashidian. It's about relationship.

That's what great marketing is. It's about building relationships with people and really understanding what their needs were. You went door to door so that you could get to know each one of those potential patients. Those were your ideal customers.

You wanted to know them, understand them, and help them, and you took the time to actually go out of your way to meet them, send them thank you cards.

Enjoy Your Journey and Don’t Wait for Perfect

I do have one final question for you - what advice would you give to any new entrepreneur who's maybe just getting started. You've given tons of advice, but what would be your final words of advice for anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur?

Dr. Rashidian

The start of anything is absolutely beautiful. The excitement you have right now as you start your business, you'll never have ever again. You have to enjoy it. You can do everything. It can be hard. It can be difficult. You can be sleeping on the floor, you can be sleeping in your shop, on the floor with, with nothing.

And trust me, you're gonna miss those days. So enjoy it.

I remember I watched an interview with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They're friends, you know, and they were at MIT - it's on YouTube. This, this business student stands up and asks a question and he says, if you were to start over from the beginning, how would you do it?

They lit up like young children. They both simultaneously say we'd love to start over. Those beginning days were amazing. There was this excitement.

So listen, number one, you’re going to be dealt a wholelot of terrible things. There's going to be resistance, obstacles. Your enemies are gonna show up out of nowhere and you have friends who are just waiting to say, I told you you wouldn't succeed.

Nicole Donnelly  


Dr. Rashidian

That's okay. That's when you know you are on the right track. If everybody says you're going do great and you're going, you probably will fail. It's the people who go against the grain.

Be countercultural. Be counterintuitive. Don't do what everybody else is doing.

Go for what you want and bootstrap it. Don't wait for the perfect situation, the perfect moment, perfect amount of money. Just go for it.

You don't have money to market. Go door to door.

Nicole Donnelly


Dr. Rashidian

My first office, in 2003, was based out of an urgent care center.

I met an urgent care medical doctor who worked at night. I asked him who's used his office during the day. He said, nobody and I asked if I could rent the space rent your space from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. I told him I could only pay a $1,000 a month and he agreed. You can find those opportunities.

So I opened my first office at an urgent care center and all the equipment was this doctor’s.

I put my cell phone in the Yellowpages, back when there were Yellowpages, and people started calling. We started a business. The business did really well and I sold my half for $54,000. I started it with $4,500, turned into $54,000, which helped me open the next office and the next office. It just grows from there.

So go after it. Be excited when something bad happen. When something goes wrong. Yeah, that's good!

Use that as fuel and you'll get there.

Nicole Donnelly

Resourcefulness is the secret superpower of successful businesses. People talk a lot about like, oh, you know, to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be majorly smart like Elon Musk. You've got be this genius. The most gifted entrepreneurs I've ever known have been incredibly resourceful like yourself.

It's like my daughters, we were on spring break last week and they were so bored waiting for the tour to Versailles. They've got nothing to do and my youngest one sees this old wine cork on the ground.

She just walks over to it and starts kicking it around like a soccer ball. My oldest jumps in and the next thing you know, they're laughing and kicking around this little wine cork. It was so inspiring to me. Watching them, I thought to myself,  all you need is just a silly little wine cork and in your business, look for the old wine corks that you're not even paying attention to?

It could become something that could turn your business around. This has been so amazing.

Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Rashidian. Any final words you'd like to share today?

Dr. Rashidian 

You're very welcome.

I just want to share my book “Cracking the Stress Secret: How to Turn Pressure Into Power.” It can found at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and other major book retailers. I'd love it if you pick up a copy. If you're in the area, swing by, I'll sign it for you.

I'm thankful that you had me and gave me this opportunity. I wish you all the best of luck in everything, your business, your podcast, and everyone listening.

Hopefully you got excited. Hopefully you're going to turn that into a passion to pursue your dreams.

Connect with Dr. Amir Rashidian on his author website  Find the Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center on their YouTube channel, @RealChiropractic or visit their website.

Don’t miss an episode of Tales of Misadventure with Nicole Donnelly by subscribing to our YouTube Channel or wherever you prefer to stream podcast.

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Dr. Amir Rashidian founded the Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center in 2006 and is now serving over 18,000 patients annually. His practice takes a holistic approach to healing and focuses on promoting drugless, health solutions. Dr. Rashidian is a published author, serves on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity, and is the chairman of the elder leadership team at Grace Community Church. He has received honors and awards, including Business Leader of the Year and Philanthropist of the Year. He is happily married since 2005 and has three sons.