Your mom lied to you. I know she seemed sincere when she said you were special, and you had every reason to believe her. You were precocious and charming as a child. You always did well in school. When you told your family you were thinking about becoming a doctor they were excited and supportive. You were special, after all.
You got through the MCAT and aced your med school interviews. You kicked butt at the med school of your choice and before you knew it you were kicking butt in residency too. Now here you are – you’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year doing a job that gives you autonomy and earns respect. Maybe you really are special.
It turns out you’re just human like the rest of us. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Here are a few reasons you should forget about being special and focus on being human.
The Clock is Ticking
Sometimes as physicians we feel immune to the very diseases we treat. Even when you see people your own age dying we can find reasons to shrug it off. He probably smoked. She probably has a strong family history. There’s no way that could happen to me. Like we talked about in I See Dead People, death doesn’t care about your plans. It will come and go as it pleases and it doesn’t think you’re special.
While you’re busy making plans, your life is going by. Don’t get sucked into the trap of thinking you can delay happiness until retirement. These are your good years, so start acting like it.
“Physician Finance” Isn’t a Thing
You may not believe it after being inundated with ads for doctor mortgages, financial advisors that specialize in physician finance, and a variety of financial products targeting high income professionals, but your finances aren’t special either. Basic math doesn’t change just because you make a lot of money.
The same basic Boglehead investment philosophy works whether you make twenty thousand a year or twenty million. Live below your means, invest early and often, diversify, minimize taxes, keep costs low and stay the course. Do this during your career and you are virtually guaranteed to become financially independent.
Just because you earn a high income doesn’t mean you suddenly need special ways to build wealth. You know that restaurant your brother-in-law wants you to finance? Remember that convoluted real estate sales pitch you didn’t quite understand but invested in anyway? Don’t let your illusion of being special turn you into someone else’s piggy bank.
Someone Else Could Do Your Job
One of the Cold Hard Truths That Can Make You Cold Hard Cash is that everyone is replaceable. We all like to think that we are the smartest, kindest most beloved physician but somewhere out there is a doc that will do your job just as well for less money. Even worse, somewhere out there is a hospital administrator who thinks they can replace you with an inexperienced nurse practitioner for 1/3 the cost.
Don’t get so convinced of your specialness that you forget the basic rules of keeping a job. Show up on time. Work hard. Play nice with others. Be kind. Everyone knows at least one arrogant doctor who thinks they are immune to these rules. Don’t be that person.
Personal Relationships Matter
Remember all the family dinners, holiday parties and get togethers with friends you blew off when you were studying biochemistry or rotating through the ICU? Medicine is one of the few careers where your job gives you a license to check out from social obligations. Your friends and family may give you a pass because you’re a doctor. Don’t let yourself get away with it.
Carve out time for the people who are important to you. Don’t use your job as a crutch. The overworked doctor excuse will only work so many times until the people you care about start to give up on you.
Embrace Your Normality
It’s OK that you believed your mom. She’s a convincing liar and she’s not to be trusted. The rest of us know the truth – you may be a doctor but you’re just another average person doing the best they can with what they’ve got. The sooner you accept this fact, the better off you’ll be. It’s time to stop being special and just start being you.
What do you think? Has being “special” ever come back to bite you? Share your thoughts and comments below.