I am an ardent believer in the personal development and self-help field. I have been passionate about writing numerous books and articles on the subject. I have also given television and radio interviews on my ideas; and, I’ve produced podcasts and given seminars on this material.
That being said, at my core, I am a realist.
I believe in practical advice which can be applied to the real world. I think it is essential to give people tools that are based on tangible concepts I have seen work in my own life. I don’t believe in empty promises – especially over-night success claims and schemes. True success is not a blink of the eye phenomenon. Success takes time. As Earl Nightingale is famous for saying, “success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” The keyword here is progressive.
When I was 18 years old, I was a college biology major and pre-med student. I was also volunteering at a local hospital in the Emergency Department, where I was helping to transport patients to and from the Operating Room. I had the rare opportunity to observe numerous surgeries in various specialties when I had free time. One of the things which got my attention was open-heart surgery. It was an exciting, life-saving field, and it captured my imagination. I almost immediately began to visualize myself in the role of a cardiovascular surgeon.
I remember going home and speaking to my father, who was an OB/GYN physician working in the same hospital and telling him that I was fascinated by cardiac surgery.
I told him that I might like to pursue the field as a career. My father was very much in favor of this goal. I went on to say to him that there was one major problem with the idea. I explained that I had done some simple calculations and came to realize that under the best of circumstances, it would take another 15 years to complete the training necessary to become a heart surgeon. I would have to finish four years of college, four years of medical school, five years of general surgery residency, and two years of cardiothoracic surgical fellowship before I could even begin to practice. I would be 33 years old by then – ancient in my mind at the time!
My father’s response was classic. Without getting at all excited, he looked me in the eye and asked, “how old will you be that same year if you don’t fulfill your dream of becoming a heart surgeon.” Wow. That hit me. He was right – either way, I would be 33 that year, whether I had realized my goal or not. It was right then that I decided to go ahead and go after what I wanted. Now, keep in mind, there were no short cuts. In fact, this was the quickest route possible. I later came to know many people for whom the journey turned out to be much longer for various reasons. I knew heart surgeons still in training well into their 40’s.
I set my goal and then went after it with relentless discipline, persistence, and passion. I never veered from the course or lost sight of the finish line. I was absolutely determined to live my dream. There would be no stopping me. It was this experience which in many ways, shaped the person I am now and led me to believe so deeply in the power of the mind and the nearly limitless potential of the individual.
My point here is simple. Too often, personal development material gives people the false impression that all one needs to do is think hard about something, and it will magically come to pass.
To make something happen, you must have a clear goal and then work toward it. This goal may take years or even a lifetime to achieve, but that’s ok. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you begin or when you finish. As long as you are on the path of success, you are a success.
There is no single moment that defines you as a winner. It’s important to understand that even when I achieved my 15-year goal of becoming a cardiac surgeon, it was not the end of my career; it was just the beginning. I’ve now been in surgical practice for 17 years, and I still feel like I have so much to learn, do, and achieve.
At 50 years of age, I feel like I’m just embarking on my life’s true journey. It’s a wonderful process. Don’t rush it. Don’t expect everything to appear all at once. Personal development is a philosophy and a lifestyle, not a destination.