A Series Of Tradeoffs

From James Clear’s latest 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter:

Life is a series of tradeoffs, and greater results usually require greater tradeoffs.

The question is not, “Do you want to be great at this?”

The question is, “What are you willing to give up in order to be great at this?”

From my own experience, training to become a medical specialist is a bit like the above. The people who succeed are not necessarily the best exam-takers, but often they are amongst the most persistent and resilient people around. Beyond a certain point, medicine is no longer about memorising more anatomical facts or understanding more physiological concepts. Most doctors know enough of the basics in order to carry out their duties properly (one would hope!). What differentiates people is how they deal with adversity:

What do you do when you’re completely exhausted, it’s 3am, and you get another referral from the Emergency Department?

What do you do when you see your peers in other professions earning lots of money but you’re still stuck in specialty training?

Put another way, the question you should be asking yourself is, “How much punishment am I willing to take in order to achieve my aim of becoming a medical specialist?”

I find this to be a more realistic way of approaching things than simply focusing on the positive side of things. After all, there is such a thing as toxic positivity! It’s the idea that you have to be happy always, as if everything is always going along smoothly when in real life, things that can go wrong often DO go wrong (see also: Murphy’s Law). One way or another, you’ll just have to find a way to deal with it.

That doesn’t mean it has to be all doom and gloom, however. Now that I am a specialist, my aim is to make the way forward better for my juniors. ‘Better’ here may not necessarily mean easier, but hopefully by providing better support and guidance I can help them to become kinder, more empathetic doctors.

The world already has enough clever people, it could benefit by having kinder ones for a change.