When I listen to a specialist discuss her/his field, their knowledge and expertise are readily apparent and it can be quite daunting to think that I may need to achieve that level of excellence one day. Or when I’m learning advanced clinical maneuvers, or even simple ones, such as taking blood pressure, it has seemed, at first, like I will never get to the stage where I can deftly complete them like my preceptors.
It may seem as if these wonderful clinicians and educators were just born ready to serve their patients and teach medicine. However, it is all too easy to ignore the years and years of unrelenting dedication towards mastering their craft. They are able to make incredibly difficult tasks seem easy once they have hit that threshold (“10,000 hour rule”). That is how learning works; we take what was once difficult and make it easy. The same can be applied when you may be studying for the MCAT.
Why is it that we routinely fall in the trap of what leadership expert Robin Sharma calls the “Myth of Greatness”? Specifically, during the journey throughout medical school it can seem like you will never “make it”. Our brains have this tendency to constantly move the target you need to hit to feel competent. I want to share a personal experience of my many initial struggles with public speaking that perfectly highlights this myth of greatness.
At my high school, it was required that every student give a public speech each year. This was the worst part of the entire year for me! Each time I was absolutely petrified. The worst thing is that as the years passed, the worse I became at giving speeches – the negative experiences continually reinforced themselves. It all culminated in my final year of high school in which my speech was an absolute abomination.
I had a great speech prepared but as soon as I got up to the front of class, it was like I was frozen in my body. My legs felt like noodles. My hands were shaking. My heart was racing and I could barely creak out my speech. My class mercifully and sympathetically listened to my speech and gave me the applause I did not deserve at the end. Once I got back to my seat, I felt so dejected angry that I could not get up in front of my peers and share my opinions.
After that experience, I vowed to aggressively attack my fear and do whatever I could to become an excellent public speaker. This is one of the primary reasons that I created my YouTube channel and sought out any opportunity to practice my public speaking. At first I was horrendous, but slowly and surely, with every video, I did improve.
Recently, a very close family member of mine passed away. He had touched my life so deeply that I felt compelled to give a speech at his funeral. It was an extremely therapeutic experience, getting to share how I was impacted by him and to honor his beautiful life. Afterwards, my mother mentioned that some of my aunts had said I seemed like a “natural” and a “professional speaker”.
It was a very nice thing to hear on such a difficult day. I shared this story because it may have seemed like I was a “natural” speaker if you only listened to that speech. But it took hours and hours, month after month, video after video, and after giving my fair share of absolutely dreadful speeches to develop my speaking skills. The journey to become a physician, or anything that is worthwhile in life, is going to be a filled with twits, potholes, and valleys. However, once we stop buying into this myth of greatness, we will be better equipped to bounce back from these setbacks – which are really just learning experiences.
About Pavan Mehat
Pavan Mehat is currently a medical student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and will be graduating as part of the class of 2020. Before starting medical school at UBC, he completed a BSc in Bio-Medical Engineering at Boston University, where he also ran Track and Field. Afterwards, he returned home to Vancouver, and completed an MSc in pharmaceutical sciences at UBC. When Pavan is not busy studying medicine, he is enamored with mastering movement and understanding what makes humans thrive. If you would like to learn more about Pavan Mehat you can connect with him on Youtube or follow him on Twitter @pavanmehat.