Something Significant: Dr. Tom Sult

Something Significant: Dr. Tom Sult |

“Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.”
(Theodore Roethke)

The pursuit of significance is a daily practice of priorities. When you are working on a goal or passion that lights you up, you are pursuing something significant. Significance can also be a feeling of connection and drive, something that tells you to press on when challenges threaten to get in the way.

It is our hope that these stories of significance inspire you to pursue your dreams. Everyone faces obstacles – and overcoming difficultly often builds inner strength. In today’s Something Significant interview, Dr. Tom Sult shares how challenges and significance are sometimes one and the same.

Continue reading to learn how significance has influenced Dr. Sult’s career and life…

Something Significant: Dr. Tom Sult |

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got where you are today?

I am a medical doctor, educator, speaker, and the author of Just Be Well: A Book For Seekers of Vibrant Health. I am board-certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine, on faculty with the Institute for Functional Medicine, and I have a private practice in New London, Minnesota. Join my crusade to change the way doctors treat their patients at

How has significance played a role in your journey?

I believe that there are four pillars to health. Number one is purpose. Number two is joy. Number three is food, and number four is movement.

Significance plays a part in all of these pillars of health. Significance has been central to my journey. I am a novelty seeker. I have been a mountaineer, rock climber, whitewater kayaker, sailor, pilot, and backcountry skier. But the common theme here is significance.

One could say there is nothing significant about climbing a mountain and yet it is a way of mastering creativity. Mountain climbing presents multiple challenges. The most successful mountaineers are the ones who are continuously open to new opportunities, options, and ideas. Many times a solution requires combining ideas in unique and otherwise unthought-of ways. And I would say that is a metaphor for being successful in life.

I approach medicine in the same way. By the time most of my patients show up in my rural Minnesota practice, they have seen their local doctor and specialist, as well as a regional center such as the Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic. The thought of it makes me chuckle. I’m not some undiscovered genius in the wilds of Minnesota. Instead I’m asking different questions, which allows for the opportunity to find different answers. I learned this through mastery of problem solving through all of the activities listed above.

Was there a specific moment or situation when you became aware of those things that are most significant to you?

I was fortunate enough to take third grade twice. I have dyslexia and a second chance of third grade was probably the most significant moment in my life to that date. There was tremendous humiliation but also humility in that moment. I had the great fortune to take third grade the second time from Mr. Harding. At the time he was just a really nice man, a great teacher, and a builder of self-esteem. What I recognize now is that he was a man of profound significance. And he helped me understand that my life would have the significance that I attributed to it.

What obstacles have you faced in your pursuit of significance? How did you overcome them?

I could not read in third grade. And even in high school I struggled desperately with reading. In college I took speed-reading classes. While many of my classmates were reading in the thousands of words per minute, after the class I was reading in the hundreds of words per minute and achieved an adult “average reading speed.”

Medicine is a reading-intensive profession. Fortunately with time and practice I have become very skilled at reading medical work. However I never read popular novels because they are excruciating for me to read.

Don’t ask me why — I often think it’s because God has a profound and broad sense of humor. But I was drawn to medicine from a very early age. And I couldn’t let it go. And yet here I sat with dyslexia. You ask how did I overcome these barriers to significance? I simply persevered. I looked for options and opportunities and ways to overcome, often discouraged but never giving up. Just like climbing a mountain. Everyone’s journey will be unique to them.

What is one thing you wish you knew 10 years ago?

Facts are not as important as heart. Facts serve their purpose, obviously. And one must master their subject. But mastery is the beginning of intuition. The culmination of mastery of your facts and subject will create opportunity for even deeper insights. Intuition without mastery of your subject is called a guess.

What is one hope you have for the next 10 years?

To have less self-awareness and more compassion. I don’t mean less self-awareness in the sense of understanding myself. I mean less self-awareness as in being self-involved and driven by my own ego.

Are there any books or resources you would like to recommend to our readers?

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Sync: How Order Emerges From Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life by Steven Strongatz

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