Aug 9, 2020
What is success? What does a successful life look like? What does it mean to be a success?
For too many urologists including myself the primary way we measure our lives as successful is through the building of a large and lucrative practice.
For the record, I believe these are important things to measure. A medical practice is after all a business and we must always pay attention to the bottom line.
Ultimately, it’s not about how many patients did you see, but about how many patients received excellent medical care.
In 1889, William Osler called the “Father of Modern Medicine”, who would himself become a world-famous physician and educator by working long days and nights, had this to say to graduating medical students at the University of Pennsylvania in his most famous Speech “Aequanimitas.” Remember, this was in 1889…
“…I would warn you against the trials of the day soon to come to some of you—the day of large and successful practice. Engrossed late and soon in professional cares, getting and spending, you may so lay waste your powers that you may find, too late, with hearts given away, that there is no place in your habit-stricken souls for those gentler influences which make life worth living.”
There is a book I read by an author called Cal Newport. The title of the book is “so good they can’t ignore you.” The book is about how to build a career that you love through skill development, not by pursuing of a “passion.”
The title comes from a Steve Martin quote.
Here is his simple message. Focus on being good. Really good. Undeniably good. The rest will probably follow.
The successful physicians, the ones I look up to, seem to be able to juggle the demands of being both “good” and “busy”. They possess that certain “Aequanimitas” that William Osler describes in his famous speech. They have developed skills through years of deliberate practice that allow them to be efficient and effective.
They do not forget what makes life worth living.
Here is a poem written in 1904 by Bessie Stanley of Lincoln Kansas as an entry into a magazine contest. The requirement of the contest was to define success in 100 words or less.
He achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction