By Mehul Sheth DO
A great book that I found to be a must read for anyone looking to expand their career opportunities is Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity.
A short book that took me the better part of an hour lunch at Chipotle, it nonetheless has some powerful things to say for physicians. This book is not geared towards clinicians, but rather artists who are looking to fulfill their creative urges. In some sense, that was a great parallel for me when I was evaluating non-clinical careers. Although I had a great job, it wasn’t satisfying. I was frustrated with the idea that my entire CV was composed of clinical positions and didn’t really describe me as a total person. As I contemplated the transition from clinical practice to non-clinical I realized that without the ability to demonstrate translatable experience I was looking at the possibility of quitting medicine and either entering a full time degree program or taking an internship or other low paying job to gain practical experience.
During this critical juncture I read Hugh MacLeod book which presents 39 suggestions, one of which is don’t quit your day job. The point was not lost on me as I continued a day job to "put food on the table" while spending my free time pursuing my personal interests. As I gained experience and knowledge in those areas and (just as importantly) was able to find ways to describe that expertise to others, I started getting numerous opportunities that took advantage of both my professional and personal interests. The advice from Ignore Everybody rang true and allowed me to switch from simply a job to a career that provided immense satisfaction.
Another topic that MacLeod broaches is feedback, specifically how to interpret comments from colleagues. The artist example (and MacLeod’s personal one) is of making drawings on the back of business cards, which he made into a highly successful business. The underlying thought is how to take a breakthrough idea and make it a reality. I see many parallels in medicine:
- For the research physician new ways to answer questions
- For the clinicians, more efficient or productive ways to treat patients
- For those looking for nonclinical careers, new ways to innovate the practice of medicine
The common thread that MacLeod provides is that the more unique or interesting the idea, the fewer the people who can speak knowledgably about it. What that means is that if you have a truly paradigm-shifting idea, there won’t be anyone who will be able to give valuable feedback. You will have to go out on a limb and pursue the research technique, treatment or innovation often with only your personal belief behind it. Which gets back to the first point-don’t quit your day job.
MacLeod also provides great insight into competition. MacLeod’s own idea was fairly straightforward-make interesting pictures on the back of business cards. Sounds like anyone can do it, so did he worry about being copied? In fact he relished the competition. Since this was his brainchild, he had put his sweat and blood into the product and that was something that a competitor couldn’t match. Internal motivation can’t be matched by pure financial concern.
Some very interesting points, but be warned, he can be a bit crass in places. For those looking to get more fulfillment from their career, many answers can be found in this short but insightful book.
About: Mehul Sheth DO is a physician executive with Allscripts and career coach. His expertise is at the intersection of medicine, technology and social media, having used Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to effectively engage with a wide variety of nonclinical jobs and opportunities. Dr. Sheth blogs at http://techpedsdoc.wordpress.com