“The only sin is mediocrity.” said Martha Graham.
Do you want to be the best?
More importantly, do you have what it takes to be the best?
2 years ago, I wrote this article: How to become the best student in your class in 4 weeks only.
This article changed my life.
I’m a nobody on the internet. I have about 250 friends on my facebook account. None of them know about my site.
I have never used twitter in my life. I know little about blogging. I have only 2 articles on my site.
Yet I started receiving emails from medical students around the world.
Google had placed the article on the first page for phrases “how to be the best in class”, “how to be a top student”, etc.
People were finding my articles through these phrases and some took the trouble to email me. 🙂
I had great pleasure interacting with them.
I discovered through these emails that the techniques in my articles were good. Many students saw success with them. But some were failing too.
They were failing and it was ‘my fault’.
You see I wrote the article on being the best with actionable steps because I love taking actions. Students saw how they could improve their grades through the steps in the article, and yet, some failed to do so.
The article was incomplete because I forgot to mention the magic ingredients for success.
What are the 2 magic ingredients for success?
I’d like to talk about the magic ingredients for success in any endeavor, be it receiving a nobel prize or winning a gold medal at an olympic event.
Even if you have all the planning and equipment and knowledge in the world, you can’t get anywhere without these two magic ingredients. Without these ingredients, you will fall flat on your face every single time.
These 2 magic ingredients? Belief and Grit.
What an athlete taught me about belief
I was in a bar on a Wednesday afternoon, hanging out with some friends when this came on the television.
Michael Phelps had won 8 olympic gold medals in China.
I had never heard of Michael Phelps before. I knew that athletes had to train for years to even get a chance at taking part in an olympic event and here was one guy who managed to get gold in every single event he had taken part in.
His performances fascinated me.
I was inspired to dig deeper.
I read interviews on his mindset, his dedication to his craft, his personality in and out of training.
I learnt from his books” that he trained every day.
He also trained his mindset as much as his body.
He had Mark Spitz’s old record of most gold medals in a single Olympic Games record, taped inside his locker door and looked at it every time before training.
He believed that he could break Mark Spitz’s record and he did it.
So what is the difference between Michael Phelps and you?
My answer: Grit
I’ve always wanted to do a hundred pushups. But my grit level is unbelievably shallow.
I can’t count my breaths past twenty. At the first twinge of pain in the wrists, I’m up. It’s pathetic. I’m ashamed of myself.
Where I was giving up at the first sign of pain, Michael Phelps was enduring it every day.
Case in point:
This year, Lance Tschirhart smashed the speed card event at the 2015 USA Memory Championship by memorizing a pack of cards in 29 seconds.
It took memory champions 17 years to reach the 60 seconds mark for the USA event. And he halved the time it takes to memorize a pack of cards in only one year.
How did he do it?
He wanted to be the best.
Yes, I do practice a lot because I really want to be the best. First in the country, and then…we’ll see.
He imagined himself beating the best in the world:
It means that in the highly improbable case that I were able to match all of my PB’s on the same day, I would be ranked #2 globally, barely edging out #2-ranked Simon Reinhard’s score of 8110.
Simon Reinhard is the current world record holder for speed card memorization at 21.19 seconds.
So how can you be the best medical student?
Medical studies are tough. I nearly gave up a few times. I failed many classes my first year.
I was among the best in high school. This changed when I came to study medicine in France.
I found my classmates smarter than me. I was scared and was having trouble sleeping at nights. Self doubts were clouding my judgement and impairing my performance.
I decided to study people like Michael Phelps and what drove them to success during the summer holidays after my first year.
In my second year, I started ranking at the top. Teachers and classmates who did not even know I existed, started to notice me.
So what changed?
It was my mindset.
I believed I could do it and I stuck with it when others were giving up.
This isn’t about genetics. This isn’t about inborn talent. This isn’t about fate.
It’s about deciding who you want to be and then making yourself into that person.
You will be the best medical student by doing the following things and asking the following questions:
#1 Do You Even Want To Be A Medical Student?
I was unsure of what to do with my life after high school. I was aimless.
My parents wanted me to become a doctor. I had taken science classes in high school. So I decided to become one too.
When I went to medical school, I was surrounded by people who had been dreaming about becoming doctors since they were kids.
I was maybe smarter than a few of them, but they were more convinced than me that the medical profession was made for them.
So as the year advanced, my interests were waning, my notes were dropping as well as my motivation. It was a vicious cycle.
I managed to break free from this cycle after my first year when I met an ER doctor and he convinced me to shadow him for a few days.
I helped an ER resident secure a drunk to a chair and remove shards of glasses from his temple without any local anesthesia.
I witnessed one of the most painful diseases ever: trigeminal neuralgia where the patient described the sudden and severe pain as a ‘red hot needle’ or ‘forked lightning’ pain in the face.
I saw the medical resident misdiagnosed a cholelithiasis, thinking it was renal colic. The patient was in pain all night, until a doctor came to make the proper diagnosis. The patient had to undergo a strenuous 3 hour surgery to remove his gall bladder.
Every now and then you have those moments when it’s up to one person to turn your life upside down and make it better.
In my case it was the patient above and I realized this:
Being the best for a medical student, is not an option. It is a matter of life and death in some cases.
Being the best for a medical student, is not an option. It is a matter of life and death in some cases.
These few days completely changed my life and gave me a new sense of conviction and belief in myself.
I felt rejuvenated and more motivated to tackle the coming year.
If you are not sure that you want to be a medical student and are doing it as a favor to your parents, stop and do a deep introspection.
You can find medical students sharing their experiences on youtube.
You can join medical students forums and ask around:
But the best thing to do is to shadow a doctor for a few days.
You need to find a personal reason to become a doctor and stick to it when the going gets tough.
#2 Find An Enemy
This is not a typical advice you will hear from your friends or teachers but this is the best one I can give you.
Find yourself an enemy and this will give you motivation to “destroy” him/her/it.
I’m not advocating physically hurting someone.
I am telling you to find the best in your class and tell yourself that you will beat him.
Michael Phelps did the same with Mark Spitz.
The United States of America did the same with the Soviet Union during the race to the moon.
President Kennedy stated to Congress in 1961:
“This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
Skeptics questioned the ability of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to meet the president’s timetable. Within a year, however, Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom became the first two Americans to travel into space.
My enemy is the one who came first last year for the same class I am in. My goal is to beat his marks by atleast 10 points in each subject.
The results are usually posted on a table and I note down his name and his marks in each subject.
I then try to find his photo from facebook or in the last years school book.
I will create a sort of ‘collage’ of his photo with his name and his marks and put the collage as background on my laptop.
Each time I see the collage, this makes me more determined to beat down his marks.
He is my ‘enemy’ and I need to crush him.
#3 Study The Best
So you want to be the best. Study how the best do it.
I like to study what makes first class performers tick and apply it to my life.
Phelps may be blessed with awesome genetics for swimming but he had his model too.
The number of Olympians who cite Phelps as an inspiration makes the swimmer an almost godlike figure, but he considers himself normal.
Phelps said that his athletic role model has always been Michael Jordan.
“I think one of the coolest things that I loved about him was it didn’t matter what he had going on off the court or if he was sick or this, that,” said Phelps. “He never used an excuse. He came out every single night on the court and did what he had to do to get his job done. That’s what champions do. It doesn’t matter what else is going on when you walk in to your arena, whatever you excel at, you’re there to take care of the job that you have to do.”
Read everyday about successful people. It does not matter what field they are in. Learn about their mindset, their work ethics, what drove them and how to apply it to your studies.
In some cases, it is a matter of genetics. Michael Phelps has the best body for swimming. Usain Bolt is a master runner. Lionel Messi was born with a ball between his legs.
But they work hard too.
Don’t try to fool yourself into believing that a mega-successful athlete didn’t live through regular bone-crushing drills and thousands of hours of practice. He got up early to practice—and kept practicing long after all others had stopped. He faced the sheer agony and frustration of the failure, loneliness, hard work, and disappointment it took to become No. 1.
Michael Phelps swam everyday during the four years it took him to win the 8 Olympic medals.
You can set a goal and work everyday till your exams as from today.
He always prepared for any eventualities and so he did not panic when water filled his goggles during one Olympic event. He won the race, even when blinded.
I was taking a major physics exams one day and I noticed after a few minutes that my watch had stopped working.
I was on a tight schedule for this exams. All calculations had to be done by hands and not a minute was to be wasted. I had to know how much time I had left so as not to waste time on a difficult question and to move on to the next one.
I did not panic and took out another watch from my pocket. My friends thought I was crazy when I came with three watches to the examinations. I was prepared for anything bad to happen.
Michael Phelps taught me that.
Here are 2 books you can start with:
No Limits: The Will to Succeed by Michael Phelps.
Rafa by Rafael Nadal.
#4 Find A Mentor
I was lucky to get myself a mentor during my first year and it helped a lot.
She taught me many things but most important, she was here to steer me in the right direction each time I found my self doubts creeping up.
If you cannot find one, I will be your mentor. Use the contact form to email me.
#5 Find Inspiration In Whatever You Watch Or Listen To
Remember the scene in Fight Club where Tyler puts a gun to a guy’s head who wants to become a veterinarian, and he tells him he’s going to hunt him down and shoot him if he doesn’t enroll in veterinarian school?
Best. Inspiration. Ever.
The secret is to find metaphorical guns to put to your head to inspire you.
I watch this video everyday.
This video changed my life.
Since then I have listen to and watch all of Eric Thomas’s materials. They are free on his youtube channel.
Make a playlist of motivational audios, videos or podcasts and listen to them each time you are alone.
#6 Surround Yourself With The Best.
Always go where the best are.
If you want to be the best, you almost always have to replace some of your friends.
No, you don’t have to insult them or drive them away, but simply stop spending as much time with them as you used to.
I replaced some of my friends because not because I had to “take care of myself” or anything narcissistic like that, but because they simply didn’t want to come. They were happy with who they were, and they didn’t have any desire to grow.
Want to become a better surgeon?
Well, find a few surgeons a little better than you are, online, in real life, wherever, and become friends with them. Exchange work, give each other feedback, and also find ways to hang out and do absolutely nothing related to surgery.
If you know them in real life, go to a movie, bowling, a coffee shop, whatever. Talk to them. If they’re online, IM them every day or two, share a YouTube video, rant about stupid politicians, or just ask about their day.
At first, talking to them might be painful. You’ll feel like an idiot.
Eventually though, you’ll get smarter, just by hanging around with them. You won’t be able to help it.
That’s what good friends do: they help us grow.
Eventually this comes to having a dream and chasing it.
It’s all too easy to tell ourselves we can’t really do what we want. That it’s not practical, or it’s too hard, or that our dreams are selfish and not the “right thing” to do.
I got over that really fast during my first year of medical school.
You need to get over that too.
What do you want to do?
Why aren’t you doing it?
I don’t care what your answer is … this is the only shot you’ve got. This is not a dress rehearsal.
Who are you to chase your dreams no matter what, you might ask?
Who are you NOT to?
Believe in yourself and Work Hard.
Takeaway: I want a written commitment from you in the comments below that you will do your best in your next exam. 🙂