Last Friday I went to a conference called Diversify, it was a conference for Doctors looking to follow alternative career paths and to help them embrace the uncertainty of doing something that was divergent to what was traditionally expected.
I sat with my fellow delegates in a room with 200 of my peers, some younger, few older, some unsure of the future and some already on their path, be it a different one to what was usually expected from somebody who is medically trained.
Somewhere at the start of the day there was a series of questions from a speaker who wanted to get an idea of who the delegates were, at some time the majority of the room raised their hands, signifying who they were, what they did, and at what stage in their career they were at.
I wanted a question that would classify me and my career, the question didn’t come, my hand stayed down, I then realised that with my portfolio of skills I was a Scromlette.
My career is an eclectic mix of General Practice, Writing , Blogging, Speaking, Coaching, and a multitude of other entrepreneurial activities some within the umbrella of my practice and some stand alone.
Some of the speakers at Diversify had left medicine, some were corporate, some were entrepreneurial, the minority still saw some patients, they sat in both camps, not an omelette, and not a scrambled egg but a bit of both they were ‘Scromlettes’ like me.
I still embrace medicine, I’m the managing partner of a 14000 patient practice, and in that practice we have diversified bringing in new income streams to support a cash strapped NHS business, We have private clinics, we work with the pharmaceutical industry, we run clinical trials, we have successfully tendered for tier 2 NHS contracts, and I like the other managing partner have both regularly consulted for the private sector, we use our practice to incubate new ventures, most of these with a medical slant.
For me Diversity is not just one choice or another, to do traditional medicine or not to do traditional medicine, for me to diversify means to mix and to sample different things, for me a diverse mix plays like a cord on the piano it’s about balance and harmony rather than just a single note, but for those that play a single note my advice is to play it loud.
Perhaps a big message from the day was that it’s ok to be different and a new path and even to take one less followed.
For those that don’t know where they want to go and left feeling a bit empty they should consider that it’s easy to look back and retrospectively see the defining moments of our lives, at these times causality is not always obvious at that moment, many events in our lives may seem inconsequential yet in true chaos theory style they also lead to a future that now we cannot hope to imagine.
Maybe you are still ‘sitting in the Taxi, telling the taxi driver where you don’t want to go, and wonder why you are getting nowhere’, believe me some people sit on the back seat all their lives, and perhaps now you know now that there are other directions to travel and perhaps soon you will take that first step to getting somewhere.
The first step is always hard to take, for some that first step will be the first of many little steps towards their goal, there will be times in your life when small steps are not enough and where a leap of faith is needed, and then perhaps you won’t know where you will land, or where you will end up and like ‘muddy water that is best cleared by leaving it alone’ only time will give you clarity, the important thing is to make the leap.
Like the story of the Egg of Columbus when something is shown to you it becomes easy and being the first to do something unexpected is the difficult part, and for you to leave the expected path is going to be challenge.
Five years ago my wife returned to work after a period of maternity leave, the patients were still there on the same ward 6 months later, very soon after she was hit by the realisation that she ‘could no longer do her job’ that she had been trained to do, 3 months later the NHS lost a good Psychiatrist, the Pharmaceutical industry gained an excellent pharmaceutical physician.
A common theme from the speakers at the conference was how hard they worked, and to be successful you need to work hard, you need to put the time in and you will become uncomfortable and in doing this you will leave your safety zone, but in uncertain and uncomfortable times you will be forged and tempered because for you to fly in what ever field you choose you will need to change, and to quote form CS Lewis “it may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to fly whilst remaining an egg”.
On the surface the paradox of Diversify 2014 was not “is it medicine or something else”, because paralogically there’s a deeper meaning to the conference this was carried in a common theme from all of the speakers; it doesn’t matter how diverse your path is, it’s about finding balance, purpose and meaning.
By knowing there’s something else out there when you reach your threshold now you can lose the chains and decide to change your path and direction, ‘there are lots of fingers pointing at the moon’ now perhaps after Diversify you know this too, so now stop looking at other peoples fingers and begin to start your own journey.
So let me end with a little advice, on your journey you will always be a Doctor, with your medical training you will have skills that few others possess, yet also look for meaning in your life, and for me despite the diversity my purpose still comes from seeing patients, but for those of you that want to go fully corporate remember the Mexican Fisherman.