Success?

This week’s NYTMag is it’s “Youth Issue” which includes profiles of several kids who are successful in their chosen pursuits (soccer, poker, celebrity fame and “science”).

The articles are each great reads, and I found the final paragraph of the article about Indi Cowie (soccer phenom) telling:

There was a party after the show. Everybody was going. Not Cowie. She found her parents and her sister, and they drove home giggling over the idea that Indi could actually be somebody’s hero. The others then went to bed. Indi went to the garage.

A little while ago I wrote a post about varying definitions of success. I think there is nothing more important than being willing to create a personal definition of success and sticking to it.

In medical school this is particularly hard to do. Medical school represents a sort of moral-ethical infantilization: we are expected to show up, receive knowledge, demonstrate that we have internalized it, and never deviate from the script. In one class, “studying” consisted of memorizing the precise phraseology the professor wanted us to use and repeating it verbatim. Anything else would be punished with zero credit and a failing grade. We are (apparently) expected to repeat the process for the next generation.

There are still those who would have us follow this model, and there are those who willingly participate in it. I hope that this is falling by the wayside. I hope that other medical students are thinking for themselves about what they need to learn, and developing the skills that they think will serve them best during their future careers.

It can be scary, and even alienating, to go your own way. It is scary to disregard the advice of a professor, and it might even seem arrogant at times. But it is an important part of physician training – learning to try new things, to take responsibility for your actions, to refuse to hide between the pant legs of an elder. It seems arrogant to listen to a professor who has decades of experience and say “No, I don’t need to learn this right now.” I need to do something different.

It also requires a great deal of accountability to keep track of the times you have gone your own way, and made mistakes, and to modify your thinking and decisionmaking in the future.

But, ultimately, you won’t be able to hide behind someone else’s clinical judgment forever. Maybe it’s time to start taking these steps on your own so that you’ll be ready for that day …

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