“Be careful what you wish for…lest it come true!” -Aesop’s Fables
I remember back in college going to the mail center daily in hopes of finding and acceptance letter to medical school. Back then, I really romanticized the idea of being one of those heroes in a white coat.
Fortunately, I got what I wanted and was very excited. The next August I drove to Chicago from my parents home in Minnesota medical school orientation. On the drive, I heard a famous neurosurgeon on the radio (who is now HUD Secretary oddly enough). He was asked the question of how he knew that he was capable of something so delicate as brain surgery. He replied that he excelled at hand-eye coordination sports like table tennis as a kid.
It was then that I knew that I belonged in neurosurgery. After all, I was great at ping pong! And…being a brain surgeon sounded kind of cool. So, I decided then and there that my goal was to get into a neurosurgical residency training program—no small feat in the competitive world of medical school.
A few years later, not only did I get there, but I got into the program of my choice with the chairman that I envisioned being my mentor. Along the way, I even realized I liked neuroscience so it wasn’t entirely for my ego.
But two years into neurosurgical training, I came to a stark realization. I didn’t like being woken up at night! That was a problem. I was getting woken up every night I was on call with snowmobilers being flown in with brain trauma from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. And while my fellow neurosurgical residents seemed to get an adrenaline rush out playing superman in the middle of the night, I was just tired and cranky.
I wanted to sleep. I wanted a life. That wasn’t going to happen the way I needed to in neurosurgery. So…I quit neurosurgery and decided to switch into a surgical specialty that did not involve the brain.
In order to do that, I headed out to San Francisco for a new residency program that left me, frankly, uninspired. I wrote academic papers at a feverish pace for recognition but my heart was not in it. By the time I finished training, I was just going through the motions with no passion at all.
Now, if you had told that kid back in college hoping to get an acceptance letter to medical school that he would finish surgical training at UCSF (my prestigious alma mater), he would have been absolutely thrilled. So why wasn’t I?
I guess the distant idea of an accomplishment or a kind of lifestyle is usually better than the achievement itself. After all, what you want in life is dynamic. Every time you get to a certain place in life, your desires have already moved on to the next thing.
I think it is sort of inevitable to one degree or another for most people. The extent of the dissatisfaction with life varies of course. But the need to grow and be better in one way or another is always there in high performers. You are not alone.
I am sort of the extreme example. I stopped practicing 8 years after surgical training. The 16 years of college, medical school, and post-graduate training could not convince me that I had to stay as it does to some of my colleagues.
I’ve found a better fit for myself in entrepreneurship and education, but I’m still trying to fill needs all the time. In fact, my latest decision was to get a real estate license in hopes of getting involved with luxury real estate in my town. Why? Well, it’s not for the money. The amount of money I make that is essentially time independent makes just about anything that requires my time to seem like a poor financial decision.
For me, it’s about getting out of the house! For the last three years since leaving Chicago, I have barely left my house. My work is online and in the podcast sphere. Sometimes I go a whole week without seeing anyone but my family.
In the meantime, I gained weight, I let my beard grow uncontrollably to unabomber levels and I simply didn’t feel energized. What I was missing in my life was interacting with people!
When I realized this, the old saying about choosing your profession based on what you do in your free time crossed my mind. Clearly it was a little late for me to get involved materially in the NFL. But I do spend a lot of time on Zillow and Trulia looking at luxury homes.
So, putting together luxury homes and interaction with people as a job requirement—it just made sense to get my license and to go to work.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am feeling very uncomfortable with this new identity so far. Right now, I’m the new guy who knows very little. It is a humbling experience that I have not felt for over a decade at least.
But sometimes radical change serves as a nice shock to the system and makes you feel alive. Who knows how this decision will play out but I’m excited.
Want to buy a house in Santa Barbara? Let me know!
Anyway, this idea of feeling restless in your skin is something that is common enough that my friend Michael Bernoff wrote a book about it. It’s called Average Sucks. That’s what we talk about on this week’s Wealth Formula Podcast!
Michael is the President and Founder of the Human Communications Institute, a leader in the personal and professional development industry. He works directly with individuals as well as corporate executives who desire to transform their corporate culture in an ever changing marketplace. His passion for his work is limitless and his dedication to positively impacting the world by empowering every individual is uncompromising.
During his own journey of self-discovery, Michael studied and modeled effective leaders recognized worldwide. He focused their philosophies, strategies, and techniques that have consistently produced rapid and lasting change. By combining a variety of these proven disciplines and his own strategies, Michael has created his own programs that have enabled both him and his clients to overcome limiting beliefs and achieve a life beyond limits.