Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today's A New Day! Yesterday Can't Help Me Today

The road to becoming a doctor is a long road, and one that is filled with many pitfalls and traps. Along my way, my experience has taught me that fortunes can change quickly, without scarcely a warning. It's like the weather in Oklahoma. They say, "If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute -- it'll change!" Undergrad, medical school, and residency, is much like this. You can easily go from the penthouse to the outhouse, from the so-called golden-boy to the red-headed stepchild, from being at the top of everyones adoration, to being an after-thought. How do I know? Because I've been there. In fact, anyone who's walked this long road into medical school and residency has undoubtedly had this happen to them at some point in their training.

I remember getting my acceptance letter to medical school, scarcely finding the words to convey my happiness. Little did I know that it was the start of a huge journey, where I've experienced some very high "highs", and some very low moments.

A key high point for me in medical school was my research that I presented at a neuroscience research symposium. At that point in my life, I felt intellectually invincible, and thought that there was nothing that I couldn't accomplish if I put my mind to it. Much of the faculty were patting me on the back for a job well done. Then along came an exam in which I did poorly, and many of the same people lavished me with accolades, now were muttering that I would not amount to much. The good news is that I persisted when others would have given up, and now I've been able to get to this particular point in my life. There's still much work to be done, but I've come a long way.

It's important to remember that throughout your experience, you'll be continually buffeted by storm clouds - by the naysayers that will always question your abilities on one day, even as they lavish you with praise on days that you perform well.

Here are things that I remember to get me through those times.

  1. No one wants you to do well, more than YOU want yourself to do well! Therefore, don't listen to people who aren't positive and uplifting. YOU are your own best judge of whether you can do something or not. A very high percentage of success is believing that you can do it, and then very diligently with an unwavering devotion in order to make it happen.
  2.  Don't get outworked! I remember one day, I went to the library early in the morning to study for a difficult exam. I ran into one of my colleagues who was already there studying, his books opened up elaborately on his table. I studied diligently all day long, and after an exhaustive study session, prepared to go home. Gathering up my books after the long day, I walked by my colleague's study area. He was STILL there studying. What's more - he always scored better. This is when I realized that even though I was studying hard, I was still being outworked by my colleague. In order to make it, you must work harder than anyone else. It's the only way to ensure success!
  3. Don't become to satisfied with your successes that you may enjoy along the way. It's tempting to settle in after enjoying a good result, and say, "Now that I've accomplished this goal, I can now take it easy." There is NO SUCH THING as taking it easy, for it is perilous to do so. All it takes is one mediocre result to de-mast all that you've worked hard to achieve. One slip is all that is required to go from the penthouse to the out-house.

One of my favorite allegories for this is the gazelle and the lion. When the lion wakes up, he knows that he's at the top of the food chain. All the same, he knows that he must successfully hunt the speedy gazelle in order to maintain enough food to survive. When the gazelle wakes up, it knows that it's at the bottom of the food chain, and must continually be "on-the-run" in order to survive. The concept is this -- in the morning, it doesn't matter whether you're the lion or the gazelle, you'd better be running!

I always tell myself, "Today's a new day. Yesterday can help me today!" Keep working!

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