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.
As an update: My wife ended up starting a full-time job two months after this happened. Dodging this opportunity actually proved to be a very good thing for me, and I’ve still been given the opportunity to work with the residents in meaningful ways. I’ve kept this post intact to encourage others who feel similarly in hopes that it might provide good perspective when a door slams shut, because – the truth is – that another one usually opens.
A Missed Opportunity?
Recently, one of my mentors in training passed me up on an opportunity for a leadership position within the residency program.
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 few young faculty conducting successful research.
I respectfully declined, though I said I’d be happy to help any individual residents who had an interest. I simply said that I wasn’t going to commit to starting a formal research endeavor.
Making Intentions Known
For five years (since my second year of residency), 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.
I’ll stop right here and say that the people that filled the roles are top-notch doctors. No question about it.
The person told me, “just be patient, your turn is coming.”
Driving me to Financial Independence
Like Barry Sanders, I want to leave the game when I am at the top of it. At my prime. It is a big driver for me that I am able to decide when I am done with this career, and that the decision not be dictated by others.
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
Speaking of that it reminds me of a patient in which we placed a thoracic epidural for the 12 rib fractures they sustained after receiving chest compressions on the golf course.
You read that right. The golf course. The patient went into a V-fibb arrest while playing golf and drove their golf cart into a tree.
Fortunately, two doctors were playing behind that group and performed CPR, broke 12 ribs, and got them to the hospital following about 5 or 6 two-hundred joule defibrillations with the golf-course AED (adjacent picture).
The patient woke up in the hospital to find that their chest was hurting a lot and that it was hard to breathe with a bunch of broken ribs. Hence, the thoracic epidural and my involvement.
That patient’s experience taught me something. If and when I go, that’s how I want to do it. 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 that they don’t have to wait until they 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 the role.
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 already full plate, I had to decline. It was more about my self-worth and the already full plate I had. [I didn’t realize that plate was about to explode when my wife took a full-time job a couple of months later].
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 given new opportunities or not. In fact, they will be there whether I am a doctor or not.
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 produce an equal amount of passion. 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 that 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.