Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being Successful

Sort of cliche, but sports are an appropriate metaphor for success

I often think about success, and say to myself "Wouldn't it be great?"  I don't think I have the traditional definition of success where the end result is tons of money, a hot car, trophy wife, and a white picket fence with a two story house.  No I am always impressed by true success.  Success that people reach where they look back after a long journey and say to themselves "I made it!"

One thing I have noticed about success is that I hear other people speak of those who have achieved it in hushed tones of envy.  "Oh if I was only as LUCKY as them."  or "I could never do that, he's a GENIUS." or "It's just not FAIR" or "I just don't have the TALENT they have".  These people always look at a fully realized successful person and assume that they have always been that way.  They totally ignore the journey  that person had to take in order to become successful.  They completely ignore the hard work, the agonizing moments, the long tear-filled nights, the times of self-doubt, the times when they believed they couldn't go on...yet they did.

I find my favorite success stories by reading through blogs.  I love reading about the journeys people take to become better athletes, to learn a new hobby, or to reclaim their lives from obesity.  Every day "average" people decide that they are going to do something great.  They are going to go from a sedentary life to running the Ironman in Hawaii.  Maybe it is someone who is going to get on a bike and ride from Alaska all the way down to the tip of Argentina.  How about a person who decides that their life has been ruined by complacency and that they are going to lose a tremendous amount of weight one day at a time?

For me, I always have to start at the first post when I read those blogs.  I want to know about the days when it was impossible.  I want to read about the times when they felt weak, unable, and inadequate.  It is because I feel like this all too often, and I hope that one day someone is going to read my blog and realize that they can do it too.  I want to say now, that I FEEL like I will never become a doctor.  The cards are stacked against me.  I have an average MCAT, and substandard GPA, and I have been out of college for more than 8 years.

It is impossible for me, but I have something that all the lazy apathetic people don't have.  I just can't find it within myself to give up.  For some reason, after I was laid out flat by rejection after five years of preparation I got back up and said, "Lets try again."  Even after everyone online said, "No, it is impossible for you, you just don't have the right stats."  I closed my ears and decided to keep going.

When I start my residency, I want to look back at this post and remember what it was like when it was impossible.  Because I know what will happen when I get into medical school.  People will start saying those things about me.  "Oh it is because he is so SMART." or "I wish I was as LUCKY as him."  But it isn't true.

None of them who say that noticed the tears streaming down my face.  None of them were with me when I was defeated.  None of them sat with me during the long study sessions I had to do AFTER I had already worked a full day at the office.  None of them were there when I had to turn my wife down for date night so that I could do well on a test.  None of them used their vacation time to study those final two weeks for the MCAT instead of going to Peru for some fun.  The only thing they see is the end result, the fruits of my labor, what happens AFTER all the sacrifices.  So they simply dismiss it with a casual statement, because it makes them feel better for giving up on their own dreams.  That is the real truth, and that is why when I am successful I want to look back and remember how high the price was.

I also hope I can inspire someone, somehow.  I want them to read about my journey and realize that Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Businessmen, or whatever you choose to be has no bearing on your intellect.  It has to do with how much time you spend practicing, improving, sacrificing and moving towards your goal.  An elite athlete practices for years so that one day he can stand on the big stage and compete in front of thousands.  It is no different for the highest levels of success in any arena.

I did not improve on my MCAT score this year.  Conventional wisdom says, that after 2 tries you should quit.  That a 29 is "good enough".  You know what?  It isn't good enough for me.  After three tries, guess what?  I am going to start studying again.  Because it is all stuff I NEED to know.  Because I know I can do better, and because I want to do better....for me.

I think that the key component to success is the ability to maintain discipline.  By managing to put for a solid effort every single day over a long period of time someone inches ever closer to the success that they have in mind.  Writing a novel does not happen in a one week flurry if intense activity.  It consists of research, writing, revising, and often times throwing away large portions of script that have to be redone.  Losing weight does not happen in a week, even if commercials tell you it does.  It happens over a long period of time after someone has changed their lifestyle and committed themselves to a new discipline of diet and exercise.  My own success, hinges on daily efforts of reviewing material I have learned in the past, keeping up with current advances in medicine, and constantly striving to involve myself in the opportunities that exist to participate in volunteering or research.

Today my goals seem impossible, but I can see that every day I am inching ever closer to what I truly want.  Once I reach the starting line of Medical School I am looking forward to raising the bar even higher and making a new set of goals that will further define my new success story.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Coming Clean

I have been avoiding this post for some time, because I honestly just didn't want to come clean.  I didn't want to own up to the disappointing results of my MCAT.  I studied hard for that test, like I have never studied before in my life (and if you are familiar with this blog, this is now the third time I have taken the MCAT.)

So how did I do?  Exactly the same.  Yes, that is correct, I got the same exact score as last year.  To me it was a disaster, because the whole point was to improve, not to stay static.  The numbers tell me I haven't learned a thing, and yet I am positive I know VOLUMES more than I ever did last year.  Last year after the test I felt horrible, I was in a fog, I couldn't even remember the content of the test.  This year was different.   I remembered almost every single aspect of the test, I spent weeks beating myself up over the questions I missed, constantly going over things I was unsure of in my mind.  It was significantly more traumatizing this time around, all because I knew what I did and didn't miss.

Upon receiving my score, the feeling was horrible.  It was almost as bad as realizing I wasn't going to be able to start Medical School this year.  That every single school I had applied to did not find me worthy.  That somehow intellectually I do not measure up to anybodies standards.  I just turned 34 this year, and the thought of spending another year in exile from the path that I am convinced I should be walking, sounds like a death sentence.  I am reminded of Moses and the nation of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years  How many years will I wander before I reach my promised land?  I have already wandered these last 5 years gathering pre-requisites one class at a time.  One of those years of exile was a year of rejection.

So now we come upon this year, and a new application cycle.  I decided to apply early decision this year.  It represents a huge risk to me, because early decision means I am selecting only one University and declaring my intention to them to ONLY go to their school.  I cannot send applications to any other school until I receive a rejection letter from my early decision application.  This would happen by October 1, which means my applications would be going out late, putting me behind the curve for the rest of those schools.

Why did I take such a risk?  I did the math.  For some reason it comforts me.  There are some aspects of my life in Engineering that I will never get away from.  I only received an interview invite from one University last year, so that is the one I chose to investigate.  I discovered that if I apply early decision I have a 37% chance of getting accepted versus only a 4% chance of doing a regular application.  If I get an interview invitation my chances of getting accepted suddenly jump to 60% in early decision, versus 37% for a regular application.

So come August I will find out if I will have an interview or not.  Until then I continue to second guess myself.  Why did I work fulltime during my undergrad?  I could have had a better GPA if I didn't.  Why did I major in Engineering, instead of Theater?  I could have had a better GPA if I did.  Why didn't I sign up for a Master's program as a contingency plan?  If I get rejected, yet again, it will be another wasted year.  I find that I learn all too many things in retrospect, after it is too late.  I wish I wasn't like this.

In other news I will be uprooting my entire life to move halfway across the country.  My wife has been accepted to a Master's program for Clinical Research, and I decided it would be better to give up my career to keep our family unified than try to maintain a "long distance" marriage.  Some of this hasn't been easy, but the process of relocating, of having to solve a myriad of life problems on a tight deadline has drawn my wife and I closer together than before.  Sometimes I feel like things need to be shook up, that we need to be broken out of our routine so that we have an opportunity to rely on each other more, and build our trust in each other even more.

Some days I find it exhausting to be the one who has to carry the load, both financially and emotionally.  Often I want to quit and say I have had enough, but how can I when this empty gnawing feeling of unfulfillment will just remain and grow even greater?  I cannot allow my current misery spill over and ruin the hope I have for the future, for that is really the only thing that pushes me to move forward.  Then there are the expectations of my family.  How could I fail them, when I have already put forth so much effort?  I don't think I could bear to look my wife in the face, to see the pain in her eyes.

I am very grateful for my wife, I don't deserve her.  Even though from the outside it looks like I am the one "bringing home the bacon", the great Software Engineer making big money, while she merely studies; the truth is I see the effort she puts forth, I see the tears of frustration she cries, the resolve she has, the passion she fights with, the organizational skills she possesses, the brilliant mind she puts to use, her patience to see things through, the strong character that allows her to stand up after several crushing defeats, and secretly think to myself that I am way out of my league.  Nobody is as lucky as I am.

I feel like we have been successful because she puts forth effort every day so she can please me, and I get stuck every day doing my best to please her.  I think that as long as we both keep putting each other ahead of our own personal desires we are always going to have a wonderful marriage.  The worst times I can remember have been when I got stuck on myself, instead of following that intrinsic Universal paradigm, that law of nature more reliable than Gravity, where I should love others more than my self.  How much moreso should I love my wife then?