A race to the highest number is a race to the bottom

Part of the equation of having a great lifestyle as a physician is to focus on the critical aspects of our careers and minimize the amount of micromanaging that can result in unnecessary agony. The second part of the equation is to identify what aspects of our daily living make us most happy.

The source for happiness is not easily identifiable. It will undoubtedly change over time. However, if you constantly strive to be the top at everything you do, you might never find your happiness.

Modern-day medical training is built upon competition

We all strive for excellence in medicine. In order to gain admittance into college, medical school, residency, and fellowship we all have “beaten” out other peers. We’ve all been there too. All of my medical school classmates were “competitive” in some form. I’m sure that this competition turned us into better doctors, but are we better people as well?

Students who receive the highest grades often enter the more competitive specialties in medicine. Are these competitive specialties also more challenging in daily practice? Or do they confer some favorable advantage like better lifestyle or higher reimbursement? One of the plastic surgeons I know from Portugal mentioned to me that medical students in his home country take a cumulative exam in school that essentially covers Harrison’s!  For those of you not in medicine, Harrison’s is a textbook compendium of all internal medicine. It is sort of a reference manual that you’re not really able to know by heart. The highest scorer in the country essentially gets to “pick” the specialty of their choice. Talk about competition!

How long do you need to compete for?  

We all need to hustle in life. This is what builds discipline. But after these skills are reached, what should the next step be?  At what point in your life or career do you set your navigation to autopilot? Do we call it quits at the end of residency when you join a HMO group? Or do you go until you make partner in a private group? Or perhaps ten years into partnership after you’ve made your millions? What about never stop hustling when you join a university practice?

 Comparison of wealth is a recipe for failure.

How much can we carry our ambition to our finances? It’s important to have clear financial goals—the more concrete our goals are, the more likely we can gauge and achieve them. However, we have to be careful about comparing our financial success with others. It is a losing battle that will never end well. No matter how dire your financial situation may seem, there will always be others in  even more dire than yours. No matter how financially successful you may be, you can always find someone else who has a bigger bank account.

Make you know when enough is enough.

If you choose to race, make sure you are in it for the right reasons.

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