I’ve gone through spurts of discipline and motivation throughout my life. I think that the first time wasn’t until high school when I was trying to get into a good college so that I wouldn’t be pan-handling off the freeway later in life. We all have had various productivity spurts in college, medical school, and in our job hunts. The gears are always moving.
Ironically, once we’ve settled down in a stable job life becomes much easier. You show up to work, you see patients, you go to some meetings, and you go home. Some nights we take call. Some weekends we spend at the hospital. But once the routine becomes established, life is easier.
Routine as a gateway to mediocrity
The danger in getting into a routine is simply that–life can get mundane and heaven forbid, your brain might start slowing down. The worse part about autopilot is not knowing that you’re in autopilot mode.
There are doctors who are the same way–they’ve “mastered” their profession, and just opt to expend their energies elsewhere, like venturing into financial education or living the dream on the beach. Are these doctors actually on the top of their medical game? As much as I believe that we have enough multitasking abilities to be great at many unrelated topics, medicine is a field where complacency does actually create mediocrity. I have friends who specialize in treating stroke victims through advanced revascularization techniques–look at it as high-risk unclogging of your plumbing system–they will be first to tell you that if they didn’t put in the hours on call and on emergency situations that they would not nearly be as good as they are.
Another prime example is Dr. Oz, the world-famous cardiothoracic surgeon turned celebrity medical expert. When I scrubbed into his hallowed operating room years ago, there was no doubt that he had expert dexterity with the vascular system. This came from years of long hours in the operating room and labs. If I needed a new heart valve today, I’d probably not want him to perform the high-risk sections of my surgery.
Reigniting the flame of ambition
Fortunately not all of us need to be world renowned surgeons or innovators within our profession. The rest of us mere mortals can still remain well-versed in our professions while running on autopilot. Likewise, it’s even easier to set your financial plans on autopilot. My financial game plan has been set on autopilot for a while now. I clean up a few investments here and there at the beginning of the calendar year, tax-harvest if I truly want some activity, and sit back and enjoy life. It sometimes gets a little stale to keep funding those index funds when Bitcoin offers so much excitement. Maybe I could trade some gold or buy some properties to flip or rent out.
I look for inspiration to remain motivated. Sometimes I’m able to see it every day. Other times inspiration only presents every few weeks. Several weekends ago, I attended an intramural basketball tournament for elementary school students. These kids probably ranged from five to ten year olds. They played essentially full-court games with ten-minute quarters!
These kids hustled down the court on every play, and fought for every point. One team was behind by twenty points, but still played hard until the final buzzer rang. It was refreshing to see that ambition is still alive and well. I high-fived some of the players afterward, went home, and was motivated to vacuum the living room.
What are your sources of ambition?