Burning and Turning Pages: Learning a lesson on Self-Worth

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

My oldest kid, little Miss Philosopher has been learning a lesson in 1st grade on self-worth.  She absolutely loves reading.  We live in a little starter home. So, she shares a room and a bunk bed with little Mr. Philosopher (our second of three kids).  When they go to bed, the lights get turned off and she breaks out her owl nightlight lamp so that she can stay up reading for hours in her top bunk.  We often come in to find her asleep with one of her books still in her hands.

One of her favorite books right now includes The Princess in Black series where she reads about a little girl who wears all black while fighting monsters.  She is brave, inquisitive, and daring.

Just like my little girl.

Despite Little Miss Philosopher’s affinity for reading, she has not been doing as well as she would like on her reading tests at school.  She can easily summarize the book she reads.

The problem is that these tests require her to write a response in a specific way using examples from the text.  Despite the fact that she can clearly read well above her grade level, she actually isn’t where she needs to be by school standards.

When others see that she is frustrated by this, she is often told “Don’t worry sweet heart.  When you are older you’ll be able to do it right.”  Naturally, she gets frustrated because she feels like she can read just fine right now.

She doesn’t need to grow up. The current system just doesn’t recognize her ability to read.

Lessons for kids are still lessons for us

One of my favorite parts about being a parent is teaching a kid a lesson only to realize, usually while mid-sentence, that it’s a lesson you are still learning, too.

This story is no different.

I’ve had multiple opportunities pass me by because I am “too young” in my career.  Or I’ve met the resistance of someone thinking that I am taking too much on and should slow down despite showing no signs of wearing out.

They don’t understand my insatiable appetite for things I am passionate about.

Telling me to slow down is like telling my little girl that she reads too much and needs to focus on something else.

Expressing your goals can be offensive

It is not uncommon for me to tell people where I am going to be in five or ten years.  I’ve always been a person who makes goals and then makes them happen.  You either love me or hate me for that, but…

That’s how I got to where I am today.

I don’t express my goals in an unsolicited fashion.  It’s usually in response to asking me what my career trajectory is or what I wanted to do after residency.

I didn’t just stick with “I think I’m going into academics” response.  I’d give more detail because I know where I am going to be.  How else could I get there?

I am learning that there is some value in keeping your cards close to the vest.

Don’t let other people stop you from achieving your goals

In the story above with Little Miss Philosopher’s reading, I told my little girl that she can read quite well.  She needs to learn how to answer the questions the specific way that they want, but I told her that I recognized her skills and her love for reading.

I then handed her an even harder book to read (The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe) because I know she is ready for it. I’m not going to teach her to let others put her dreams down because they think she isn’t ready.

In fact, she is already done with that book and onto the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian.

You want something?  Go and get it.  That’s what I wanted to teach her.

People change

The thing I am starting to realize is that goals change.  And so do people. A missed opportunity isn’t always a bad thing.  It can actually be a blessing in disguise.

I love hanging out with my family and friends. My church is great. Playing golf with my kids never gets old.  My co-workers are awesome.  This website has provided an outlet for me that I’ve been missing since college.  I see my financial goals coming into fruition.

The plan is working.

Because of all of the above, I am happy where I am.  So, while I used to feel like opportunities were “passing me by” while I was being told I was too fresh out of training… I now feel completely content to let those things pass me by.

My identity is not found in being a doctor.  I plan to keep it that way.

So, as you young-bucks go through your career, know that your opportunity will come.  Don’t wait on someone else to bring it to you, though.

Go and get it.

You know who you are and where you are meant to be.  BUT, even if it doesn’t work out, realize that there is much more to this life.

Have you ever been told you were too young?  Have you ever felt unrecognized for your accomplishments?  How did you handle it?  Leave a comment below.



  1. Xrayvsn

    Goals definitely change as one gets older. What was prioritized in youth doesn’t carry the same weight as you age.

    I used to prioritize money at the expense of other things (no vacation time, etc) early on. Probably it was the best time to do it as I was fresh out of residency, used to working longer hours etc.

    As I have gotten older, it is the time that is the most valuable commodity to me. Hence my personal quest for FIRE to allow me to free myself from working because I have to.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      I bet that’s definitely true, Xrayvsn! I hope to balance those things a bit earlier in my career and encourage my students and residents to so the same.

      I LOVE the idea of FIRE freeing you from having to work and being able to do it because you want to and not because you have to.

  2. Millionaire Doc

    Is it a Common Core thing? I swear those standards make things unnecessarily complicated. Engineers have trouble diagramming out third grade math.
    Yes goals change. I’m actually more interested in things outside of medicine now, like finances and blogging. Opportunities will come; it’s okay to say no to some of them. Just be patient and wait for one that is the right fit.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Yeah, it is. It’s pretty frustrating.

      And I completely agree. Fortunately, being in academics, many of my side interests are actually non clinically related (research, education, etc). Those aspects of the job don’t threaten to burn me out as much as the clinical stuff does sometimes

  3. Gasem

    Screw em. I home schooled. Best decision ever.


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