This is going to be a raw post. You should probably know that up front. I’ve actually tamed it down quite a bit since I first wrote it. I am done seething from this experience, but still have learned the power of saying “no” and determining where my self-worth comes from.
Let’s dig in.
A Missed Opportunity?
Recently, one of my mentors in training passed me up on an opportunity to become one of three new assistant program directors despite my clear interest in the job.
After telling me that I didn’t get picked, he asked me to help make the research experience at our residency better, because I am one of the only young faculty conducting successful research.
Nothing like being slapped in the face and then being asked for help by the hand that just slapped you.
I respectfully declined to help with the research endeavors outside of being a resource for any interested residents. I am never going to say no to helping a resident.
But I didn’t say yes to helping formally with the residency.
Clear Requests Don’t Mean Clearly Granted
For five years (since my second year of residency started), I’ve said that I wanted to be a program director someday. I love working with residents. I enjoy giving them a voice and advocating for them when others can’t or won’t.
When I didn’t get chosen… it stung.
Initially, I was told that I wasn’t chosen because I was too young. After pointing out that “being too young” didn’t make sense, I was told the truth.
Three other people were chosen over me because they fit the needs of the program better than I do in the estimation of those making the decision.
I’ll stop right here and say that the three people that filled the roles are top-notch doctors. No question about it.
The PD told me, “just be patient, your turn is coming.” The thing is… I’ll probably be financially independent by the time “my turn” comes.
I’m not going to wait around.
Driving me to Financial Independence
Never at any time have I been more driven to achieve financial independence.
It’s kind of sad that a negative outcome would make me feel this way, but it makes me want to simply walk on the stage, drop my mic, and tell them I am done.
Like Barry Sanders, I want to leave the game when I am at the top of it. At my prime. And just walk away because I can.
I don’t want to leave when I am old and frail, and don’t have a choice.
How I want to go out: Playing Golf with a Buddy
On a side note about how I want to go out. I recently had a patient that we placed a thoracic epidural in after he sustained 12 rib fractures after breaking a bunch of ribs from chest compressions on the golf course.
You read that right. The golf course. He went into a V-fibb arrest while playing golf and drove his golf cart into a tree.
Fortunately, two doctors were playing behind him and performed CPR, broke 12 ribs, and got him to the hospital following about 5 or 6 two-hundred joule defibrillations with the golf-course AED (adjacent picture).
He woke up in the hospital to find that his chest was hurting him a lot and that it was hard to breathe with a bunch of broken ribs. Hence, the thoracic epidural and my involvement.
That’s how I want to go out. Playing golf with a friend.
Not at work.
Before I go out, I want to teach as many residents as I can that becoming financially independent is an option. And you don’t have to wait until you are 65.
That way they can choose to practice medicine rather than realizing they must practice medicine because they can’t afford to leave. Debt is a shackle tied around their ankles. I want them to be free.
I genuinely believe this will make them better doctors.
Valuing my self-worth
Back to my story from earlier.
As part of that tough conversation with my prior mentor, I mentioned to him that I was disappointed that I wasn’t chosen for one of the three positions.
I didn’t tell him all the reasons I felt I would be good for the job, and the people who had told me the same over the past couple of months.
The ship had sailed. What’s the point?
When he asked me to add more work to my plate without being valued, I had to decline. It was more about my self-worth and the already full plate I have. More work and more burnout is not a goal of mine.
At the end of the day, being a doctor is important to me, but it is not my self-identity. It’s a job. I will go home each day. Jesus will still love me. My wife and kids will still be there. I’ll have friends that love me, too.
The point is that the things that make up my self-worth will be present whether I am a formal part of our residency program or not. In fact, they will be there whether I am a doctor or not.
Life moves on, and so will I.
The power of saying no
After I thought about it more, this experience taught me the power of saying no.
As some doors close, I am sure others will open. I am hopeful that other opportunities will come up that I am just as passionate about. Maybe that opportunity will be in the medical school with med students. Or maybe it will be outside of medicine altogether.
I’ll keep hustlin’ with my main hustle and with my many side hustles. I’ll get to our number as fast as I can, and then I’ll pick and choose the parts of my job that I love.
All of the other parts will go away or I’ll be juke-ing people out of their socks just like Barry Sanders did when he retired in his prime.
I refuse to let others dictate the direction of my life or my self-worth. I’ll keep on hustling. And I hope you will, too.
Have you ever been denied a certain opportunity or job you felt strongly about? How did you handle it? Have you ever felt the power of saying no when you were asked to add more to your current workload? Leave a comment below.