How a perceived failure set me up for success in life and what I learned about myself
I can’t remember when my fascination with medicine came about but I do know that it was at a very early age. First, a bit about my passion for medicine.
The collar bone!
I remember going to kinesiology camp where we were studying the human body and its movements (through both in class workshops and sports). It certainly is quite a fun way of learning about kinesiology as a kid looking back at it. We swam, learned how to wrestle, learned archery, played soccer, ran and did a number of other fun and active exercises while on a big university campus over the summer. While I did not realize it at the time, it was a nice way of learning how to be a university student (I was in elementary school at the time) because we were walking across campus to different classrooms, had lunch where it was a free for all and made friends, often with students from different groups (and there were multiple groups doing similar activities concurrently). I remember that one of the classes we had, we were being tested on bones of the human body. The class was divided up into groups of four or five students and then the teacher would present slides with questions on them. One question in particular, stumped everyone. It was “what is the collar bone?” I remember blanking for a bit, looking at everyone around the room trying to remember what the name of the bone was called and then suddenly had an epiphany and yelled out, maybe a little too loudly, “scapula!” It was something that I had read somewhere and it suddenly came to mind. My group told me to quiet down and then mentioned that the scapula was the shoulder blade and not the collar bone and that’s when I went back into the tank and thought some more before again, having another epiphany and realizing that it was the “clavicle”.
It’s strange, I know, to transition so easily from knowing the name of a collar bone into knowing that you want to get into medicine but after that experience, I learned as much as I could about the path to medicine: great grades, pre-requisites in university, taking the MCAT, going for interviews and many, many years of school and then studying, even after finishing medicine.
The path to medicine
Knowing the path to medicine definitely helped me plan out my time in university — I needed good grades and while I had always thought that you needed to major in biology and chemistry to get into medicine, it turns out that I did not like those courses as much as I liked mathematics (what I ended up majoring in with computer science). I first wanted to major in mathematics, but then there were not a lot of options for a mathematics major if I didn’t get into medicine, so I decided to hedge my bets a bit by taking computer science and having a ‘backup’ if I did not get into medicine. I took all of the prerequisites for medicine and overall had a decent enough GPA where I could apply and conceivably get in (well I thought so at least but had no idea). Medicine wasn’t of course all about your GPA, it was also about your other interests, hobbies and activities outside of studying and it also included your MCAT scores. The final hurdle for me was in taking the MCAT. I studied, maybe not as hard as I should have, took the exam and when I received the scores a few weeks later, it was definitely not as good as I thought I did and probably not good enough to get into medicine.
To retake the MCAT or not?
It was at that point that I had a decision to make. Do I retake the MCAT? Was being a doctor what I really wanted to do? Did I want to go through the years and years of studying and school so that I could help people? What was the money like after the years of debt? How did I feel about working ridiculous hours going through residency and coming out of the other side still having long days?
It was at that point, as I was thinking about all those questions and what I wanted to do that I thought hard about what I really liked about medicine and what I wanted to really do with my life. Here is what I learned:
I liked helping people
That’s what I really learned about my interest in medicine — that I really just enjoyed helping people with problems (arguably that’s one of the reasons why I got into management consulting).
I wanted balance in my life to do other things
Quite frankly, I did not know how crazy the days would be if I got into medicine (nor do I think I had an idea at the time), but I knew that it would involve years of studying, long hours, perhaps many sleepless nights and I definitely wanted more time to do other things such as exercising, starting side hustles, podcasting, writing books, etc.
I saw there was opportunity within the intersection of business and technology
During the time I graduated, I saw that there had been a huge boom in technology with startups coming up everywhere and Google and other major technology companies growing like crazy. One of the things that I thought about after graduating was doing my MBA at some point to get some of that business expertise but I knew that I could slowly build up skills in that intersection between business and technology (that is, being able to understand technology and how it could meet the business’ needs).
The decision wasn’t easy. I thought I had given up on my dream of becoming a doctor. And then years later, I watched this video from The Rock while he was in Vancouver and I realized that the decision to not become a doctor had opened up many other opportunities for me and I definitely would not be where I am today if I had become a doctor. I would not have worked for the government, I would not have finished Toastmasters and become a DTM, I would not have got into management consulting and there’s a distinct possibility that I may not have self published five books, recorded an audiobook, published online courses, co-hosted a podcast. Sometimes, our perceived failures can be blessings in disguise. Sometimes our perceived failures are just detours that lead us to what we really want to do.