July 9, 2020
First, let me start off by saying you are amazing. If you are reading this, you have likely defied the odds. You have earned a doctorate, you have been hired as academic faculty, you have published meaningful work, and for many of you, you’ve been successfully funded in traditionally tough funding areas. You ARE amazing.
And yet, it can be so hard to identify your unique purpose. We get filled with questions of how to decide whether to do this project or that one? Do I prioritize this area or that one? At the heart, all of these questions are the same – how do I make the RIGHT decision? How do I ENSURE my success?
The answer in not in any checklist, any mentor’s direction, or any sponsor’s list of connections. It doesn’t have to do with the NIH funding line or what anyone else in your division is doing.
The answer is in you.
The question is not – how do I make the right decision – the question is how do I leverage my strengths in service of my purpose?
This is not easy in institutional culture. If you’ve defied the odds, you have probably made an art form out of transforming any perceived weakness into a strength. You are at a minimum, competent -but more likely excellent – in everything that you do. You have learned to code-switch, massage, filter, and stretch your abilities to meet the requirements of your environment. This is the common path to success as a WOC, especially a URM in academic medicine.
You may be so used to this hyper-performance that you have confused the feeling of relief of having done a great job with true joy in performing your work.
One is sustainable. The other is not.
After years of this grind, the path to reclaiming your innate, natural strengths can be a blur. You may have tried to take a slight step and been met with immense resistance, both internal and external. You may then have done what most do – fall back into the comfortable status quo. It’s no surprise that we face burnout. It’s no surprise that we make peace with dissatisfaction. It’s no surprise that we give up on the career dreams we’ve had and settle for the career that we’re told we can have.
The real challenge is that it takes radical reclamation to create the career you want and the career that nourishes you. This reclamation is the path to rising to the occasion of our current times and flipping our own metaphorical tables. THIS is the path.
It starts with one goal.
I invite you to choose one goal and decide to do it differently. Decide to use your self-leadership skills to define your success right now. Decide to use your CEO, Scientist and Worker Bee effectively to stop toiling in inefficiency and procrastinating on decisions. Decide to use this goal to deliberately be uncomfortable so you can grow.