The 4 days of inactivity stretched out to 6. I tried on the fifth and sixth day to try and get something done, but just couldn't. I went over some of my previous posts during this time and was reminded of the whole carbohydrate thing - in that eating a carb-rich meal before going to sleep makes me sleepy. I self-analysed and realised that I was doing just that these days; eating carb-rich dinners then going to sleep. When I'd wake up the next morning, I'd feel really woozy and couldn't get much done.
Of course, this is not to say that my diet alone was the reason for my inactivity. There's also a healthy dose of laziness and fed-upness to consider. During this time, as I was moping and feeling depressed, I realized a bunch of things. I wish I had written them down at the time, it would have been useful to write about some of them in detail for future reference.
One thing was that 'nothing succeeds like success'. These last few years, I've met with repeated failures in exams and every failure has been a huge blow to my self-confidence and has always ushered a long, painful bout of self-doubt. I kept thinking I was worthless, useless, stupid, lazy, unreliable etc...
People are only as competent as their achievements define them to be. If for example, a medical student has a father, mother, and two slightly older siblings as doctors, then he would be in an excellent position to be guided into the profession and through his education. No less than four people in his household, all willing to help, could deal with any doubts, frustrations or misconceptions. I know a person in just that position. He went on to great things and I was wistfully thinking the other day that I wish I were as disciplined as he was in my work. The truth is, I never met him, I just knew of him, and I sure as hell knew nothing about his discipline or work ethic. It occurred to me that having two parents and two siblings who were successful doctors and students had more to do with his success than his discipline. He would be guided step-by-step along his journey through med school. If he found a particular topic very difficult to understand, he could draw strength when he went to his father who assured him that that topic is indeed quite complicated and that confusion in it is only to be expected.
'All right then,' the son thinks, 'its not just me then.' And he'll go back to the books with that comfort, saving any self-doubt or disquiet.
If another med student goes to a great school, where he's got great teachers and helpful seniors to see him through, then that, more than his discipline or work ethic will determine his success.
And if these two guys succeed in their profession, score well in the USMLEs and go on to great residencies, then it doesn’t mean that they are somehow inherently more capable than someone like, say, me. People may be keenly studying the aforementioned individuals, looking at their study habits, their sleeping habits, their outlook on life, their hobbies…. Their lives will be analyzed to bits as people use them to try and derive a formula. But the question must be asked, just how much of these individual’s success is due to their own inner character and how much is environmental If the student without a whole family for doctors did not have that, would he still go on to do as well? If the student in a great university did not have his university, would he still do as well? And if they didn’t, who would ask them for advice on success?
Once you succeed at something, it seems as if you must have all the answers and worked out all the angles. You must be doing something the rest of us aren’t. You’ve got bragging rights then. You can strut around dispensing advice and looking down at people who don’t do as well - thinking that they’re lazy, they’re inept, they’re not worthy of your respect.
To a great extent, our successes must be shaped by our environment and our influences. I know a doctor (who’s done really well for himself) who turned his life around when he was exposed to the right people – ethical, hard-working doctors who were good human beings as well. The influence of another person might make the biggest difference.
Of course, the need for self-analysis after repeated failures is necessary. But when this analysis is finally interpreted to the conclusion that you, because of your failures are somehow less of a person than Dr. Perfect over there, that’s when your insides fill up with dark thoughts. You start hating yourself for no good reason and look up to people who might otherwise be the biggest jerks on earth if they didn’t have things going for them just then.
Of course, this leads us to the conclusion that there can’t therefore be an objective indicator for what one needs to succeed. That’s a little disturbing but not, I think, as disturbing as the belief that whatever that ‘objective indicator’ it is, you don’t have it.