I had lunch with a friend today to go over our mutual woes trying to find work in the healthcare industry. It’s kind of weird comparing notes with someone who is essentially competing with you for the same jobs. As I sat there looking at the wealth of research experience that she had and comparing it to my whopping 4 courses that I took as a student over 4 years ago, I felt crushed. I am in a place where seeking research experience seem futile because I have a full time job, I’m currently looking for work (another full time job), I’m taking classes and studying for the MCAT (2nd time’s the charm) and volunteering with a community health organization.
Where would I find the time volunteer for research position?? Are my goals too big? Should I aim smaller?
I left that lunch feeling underachieved and pensive. I thought about all the things I would have done differently if I knew then what I do now. I would have looked for summer research jobs or volunteered, I would have looked earlier for a 4th year research project, I would have taken that extra year of undergrad to boost by GPA. I wouldn’t have done so many random things out if interest, instead of focusing on one goal. I would have quit my job to find something actually relevant to my 2 degrees. So many shoulda coulda wouldas; I was wallowing in self-pity and regret. Not only that, I was jealous.
I was jealous because a lot of the people I knew who succeeded in the medical field, had someone to guide them toward their field of interest, knew people in the field, had family connections, could take a summer to solely volunteer and not have to work, didn’t have to ever worry about immigration or take a job just so the past 6 years of education wouldn’t be wasted by going back home to what seemed like a hardship destination. When I started feeling this way I was upset with myself because I normally love to see others succeed, but now I dreaded hearing their success stories. I was measuring their successes against my failures instead of my success, while knowing fully well that despite systemic barriers based on who I am (black male, immigrant and whole lot of other beautiful intersectionalities), I’ve beaten the odds and succeeded tremendously.
This bothered me a lot because it didn’t seem quite like me. I had become this jealous whiny person filled with regret and with little hope for the future. And then I vented to an important person in my life. This is what he said:
“You’re not whiny. You are genuinely worried. But worrying contributes to doubt. It doesn’t make anything clearer…You just have to remember you are not your feelings. It comes from a place of longing. You are working towards [a goal] so it’s hard to watch [other people reach it]. But you have to remember that you’re happy for that person and learn what worked from them and go forward focusing on yourself”
In the moment I responded with another complaint about how the mistakes I had made (because I wasn’t aware) are the very mistakes that the successful people didn’t make. Realising that left a hopeless feeling. A feeling I wouldn’t wish on my enemy.
After a few minutes I re-read what my friend said…
“Learn what worked from them and go forward focusing on yourself”
But how could I move forward when I felt like a failure?
I googled how to make myself feel better in light of the success of others and came across an article that challenged me to redefine success.
Jennifer Gresham boils the source of success down to 3 points she calls The Success Trifecta.
- Core values: Figure out those things you hold as most important to every fibre of your being. Let those core values drive every decision you make and don’t ever compromise on them. Know yourself!
- Pride: What makes you proud of yourself? Forget those awards and pats on the back. Pride is bigger than accolades. Small moments can be a source of pride too. “find the underlying sources of self pride in your stories and design a life that regularly supplies them”
- Motivation: Who/what motivates you? Is it external validation? Is it a sense of fulfillment? Strike a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators but never let go of the instrinsic ones: the ones that are rewarding in and of themselves.
If you focus on these 3 things, you can change your life for the better.
That was the kick I needed to redefine success for myself and channel that into acting on a vision I’ve had a for a long time but couldn’t piece together. A way to combine all my interests and values into one thing: breaking down barriers to sustainable social change. How? I’m not quite sure yet but now I have a goal to work towards.
For now I’m content with sharing my success trifecta.
My core values: Peace, harmony, happiness, consistency, inclusion, equity and justice.
My pride: How well I’ve beaten the odds to become well adjusted and successful despite becoming fairly independent at a young age. In addition, the important friends I have made on my journey. I expect my pride will change with time.
My motivation: Service to others. Seeing people close to me succeed. Enacting change.
So mark this day: June 16, 2016. This day I became a new man, ready to embark on a journey to have a lasting, holistically positive impact on the world.
But what about the job hunt? Oh I’m going to keep going at it with this new perspective on success. I will keep leveraging my values and unique (albeit maybe unrelated) experiences. But my goals are much larger than the next job. And I’m going to tackle them head-on while revelling in my polymathy.