Coming to you from my jaded archives I wanted to bring the topic of success in medicine back to life. It kind of haunts me still, but less so than before. What’s my definition of success? Am I successful? How do I know I’ve achieved success?
The Seed of Success
As soon as you can walk and talk your parents have high hopes for you. It’s human nature to want the best for your offspring. The best is whatever society currently considers it to be.
My parents wanted me to be a doctor because health and healthcare are important concepts in most societies. Well, actually, the business of healthcare is up there but actual health and healing oddly aren’t highly regarded.
So, Dr. Mo was supposed to be a doctor and took science classes. He volunteered and got some medical school acceptance letters. Back then success was which medical school you went to, followed by which specialty you chose, and where you went for residency.
Like I said, success isn’t just one thing – if you don’t define it for yourself, much like health, it’ll be decided for you. Or it’ll be this moving target – some idea of success in medicine which I’ll never be able to achieve.
Since graduating high school I’ve chased success. The career, the income, the possessions, the status, and my appearance. Everything is meant to signal success or meet other people’s criteria for success.
I can’t say that’s bad. Success signals trust in society. And if I care about my fellow person and want to assure them that they can trust me, I’m not that much of an asshole, really.
The problem is you have to also be somewhat unhappy with how things are in order to want to strive for success. Or maybe not – that’s how I have seen success play out.
Settling for Mediocracy
Last night I arrived at my rock climbing gym to find a bunch of new problems. The best of the best climbers usually show up on these days to try out the newest problems.
I felt good – I had plenty of rest and the last session I had at the gym I as crushing it. But not last night – I got slaughtered. All I kept thinking is that I’m worse than my buddies.
My success that evening was totally dictated by how others were performing. One guy was flashing every problem while I was trying every problem 4-5 times with only small progress.
I was experiencing an average performance and yet that’s really what I love about rock climbing. Using your core, your fingers, your arms, and that adrenaline rush of deadpointing a hold. It’s the individual moves, the small progress that make it fun.
Apparent Success in Medicine
In the gym or outdoors if I flashed every problem and felt no challenge I would probably give up on the sport. I know that’s how my brain works.
In medicine, I struggle with certain issues. Maybe I go too far to one extreme because I’m still trying to figure this whole career thing out but there is something pleasant with making small gains while chilling in the middle.
On occasion my mind wants me to be a famous or influential doctor. Probably partly for fame but also to validate that I’m good at what I do and deserve to be an MD.
And if I was that – if I was the kind of doctor who had the fame and notoriety and groupies throwing panties at me, I am not sure I would feel successful. I think I’d be miserable, chasing the next definition of success.
Over the past few years, I’ve gauged my success with how much I earn an hour and how difficult the work is. I also have considered myself successful if I worked for a prominent company.
This all has been fucking with my head. I don’t like it. I don’t get to actually appreciate and revel in the success I have already achieved in medicine.
The fact that I have an MD and can even help a friend out with a medical question – that’s the good stuff right there. Really, that’s a success by the most basic of standards.
I need to remind myself of this because sometimes I find myself dissatisfied with what I am doing not because I don’t enjoy it but because I have a false belief that I would be more successful as a doctor if I did something bigger or more impactful.
Working on What You Enjoy
My success in medicine is that I appreciate the career and respect it. Well, most of the time I do. I have an MD and so the success is already there, isn’t it?
In investing they say that once you won the game you should stop playing it. They are referring to investing and wealth accumulation. I think that’s a good reference.
I want to recognize the success that I have achieved not to pat myself on my shoulder but to find solace in it. This resets my empty feelings and the feelings of inadequacy.
If I can convince myself that I’ve achieved success already then whatever I attempt next it’s outcome shouldn’t matter. Or should matter so little that it won’t scare me.
Right now I want to work on my own telehealth brand. I guess my own clinical brand – don’t know, haven’t fully figured it out. But I want to connect with an audience of patients based on how I understand health and medicine.
I still have a lot to learn but that’s what I’m interested in. I think that’s what I should keep putting my effort in. Which means spending less time trying to do so many other things for other people’s projects and ideas.
3 replies on “Achieving Success in Medicine”
SUccess seems to be like happiness/peace/joy; its an outcome to a healthy process that cant be controlled.
I stumbled across your blog as I’ve been searching for telemed opportunities that allow you the flexibility to travel abroad while seeing USA patients remote. Is this possible? Particularly for PA-C’s (Physician Assistants)
Definitely possible. There are telemedicine companies that hire NPs and PAs. You have to do a bit of searching and reaching out but depending on your specialty there are lots of strategies to land a good gig you can do from abroad.