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If you really go for something, do you consider the possibility of failure?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by unsung, Apr 12, 2007.

  1. unsung

    unsung 10+ Year Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Thinking specifically about medical school entrance of course, since we're all nontrad pre-meds here ;)

    The reason I ask is that I've been getting some obnoxious feedback from relatives that I shouldn't go for this goal so full-heartedly and I should leave myself a way out (Plan B), in case it doesn't work out.

    My point of view is that I KNOW I have what it takes to be a doctor. It's just getting admitted that's the tough part (don't we all feel this way? Otherwise, why are we spending so much time and effort?). And following that train of logic, if I believe I have what it takes to endure medical school and the years of residency afterward... the hoops that I have to jump through right now to gain admission seem insignificant in comparison!

    To put it more simply, it's not a matter of IF I'll get in, but instead, a matter of WHEN. As long as I keep wanting this and trying, I cannot envision a future in which I'll try for years and years and years and simply never get in to ANY medical school. What are the chances of that?

    I don't think I'm being egotistical or anything.. there are plenty of things in the world I think I would NEVER be able to do in a million years: physicist, stock broker, history professor.

    But physician? Through self-reflection, I really believe I can do this and that I'm suited for doing this.

    So... is this attitude unhealthy? Should I acknowledge the possibility of failure? I simply think that in order to obtain something important and huge requires a massive, sincere effort. If I think to myself "I'll just try my best, and if it doesn't work out, that's fine"... I can't see how that would lead to a desirable outcome. I think that BELIEF and 100% commitment to oneself is so important.

    Am I off-kilter for thinking that?

    Do you guys have a plan B or consider the possibility of failure? (Not failure as in failing to get in this year or the next... but failure as in FOREVER failure-- never getting into medical school).
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  3. 146233

    146233 Phthirius pubis

    Apr 12, 2007
    While I applaud your determination, I think not giving failure serious consideration is asking for heartache. Certainly the majority of us have dedicated ample time to self-reflection, else we would not be applying to medical school. That said, admissions these days are [unfortunately] about more than how badly you want it, or how sincerely you know this is what you're meant to do. To wit, a healthy number of us will be unsuccessful in our endeavor.

    Sure, you can always reapply, and should absolutely do so. However there will come a point at which we must acknowledge what we've so long feared -- we're just not going to get admitted. Many institutions specifically discourage third applications.

    Don't fret, though. The tide has turned in our favor, and a majority of schools are admitting larger numbers of 'non-traditional' students (however they may choose to define it). There is something to be said about the maturity and judgment of one who has been out of school and already had a career. You don't need to have a step-by-step Plan B, per se, but you should have an idea of what you might do should you not succeed. You can, in fact, devote yourself 150% to medical school AND be ready with an alternate plan. The two are not mutually-exclusive.

  4. unsung

    unsung 10+ Year Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    I appreciate what you're saying. At the same time, having an alternate plan feels like signing a prenup before marriage. Personally, I would never consider signing a prenup. Signing would always leave that shred of doubt in my head-- it's like, it just makes backing out that tiny bit easier. So when the going gets tough... perhaps I'll be just that tiny bit more inclined to call it quits.

    Anyway. Who knows... maybe my feelings on this will change as I get older ;)
  5. aspirationMD

    aspirationMD Rookie of the Year 2+ Year Member

    Mar 24, 2007
    I think about failing this endeavor at least once a day. I'm not an idealist, and I realize that things sometimes aren't "meant" to be like we want them. Some times having what it takes, isn't all it takes, ya know? I know I probably have a larger dose of self doubt then most of you, but I think a little is necessary.

    Don't however let family and friends make you feel like a schmuck for wanting to become an MD. Knowing what you want and knowing what it takes to get there are great things to have while on the road to becoming a doc.

    My plan B, a masters or PA school. I won't ever turn my back on health care, that I know for sure. In the same breath, and certainly as a nontrad, I won't spend years on this dream if I keep getting rejections year after year, that would just be dumb (in my case). Key is being realistic, you'll face many questions about realities along the way ... tackle them as you go, if your standing there at the footsteps of a med school on day one of MS1 then I guess you did something right! :)
  6. spicedmanna

    spicedmanna Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    In general, yes, I did acknowledge that possibility (only a fool wouldn't). However, like in my approach to all things I truly want and perceive myself capable of achieving, I didn't really dwell on failure. I liken this question to asking an Olympic gymnast if he/she thinks about falling while doing his/her routine on the balance beam, etc. If you focus too much on things other than what you are doing now, you can really create your worst fear, because essentially you take yourself away from the here and now. I think everyone realizes that this is an inherently risky process. No surprise here. We all know we could fail. Yes, I had my moments of freaking out and thinking that I couldn't do it, etc., but when I caught myself drifting, I shifted myself back into the land of possibility and focused on what I had to do to get accepted in the now.

    Anyway, what is the point of having a plan B while you are applying (other than to answer inane interview questions related to this)? I personally don't see the merit in futurizing. When you eventually get tired of applying, assuming you don't get into medical school right away, then you are still in a pretty good position to pursue other professions. There's no compelling need to "plan" it out while you are in the midst of applying to medical school; your full attention really needs to be placed into getting accepted into medical school, not in wasting time on planning for what happens when and if you never get in (hypothetical as it is). I think that the premedical curriculum sets you up for a variety of health professions, should you decide to give up applying anywhere along the way. You'll have plenty of time to figure it all out in detail then. This is not to say you shouldn't have some idea of what that could be, but just don't focus, or place too much energy, on it.

    This is more about the fears of those around you than about having a "plan B." It has been my experience that sometimes people become dreadfully afraid when others around them are willing to risk everything for their magnificence. It reminds them, painfully, of how they betray themselves each day they choose not to step up to their potential and, instead, choose to let their fears stop them dead in their track, when in reality they have nothing to lose. It brings up their dramas and stories in spades, as they project their fear of failure onto you. I say let them have their experience. Thank them for their concern, love them and yourself exactly as they and you are. Then focus on what you need to do to actualize your dream.

    Good luck.
  7. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing 10+ Year Member

    Jun 8, 2006
    F^ck your plan B!

    And I mean that with all due the nicest way possible. Sure I doubt myself as well. And yes sometimes it takes for than being cut out for it. But you find out what that is and you go and get you some of it. If its luck. Make some luck happen.

    I plan on applying until someone gives the shot period. My plan B is what I'm doing now to get myself to plan A. I'm 33. The time for worrying about how long it takes me or what I'm willing to sacrificed has passed. The answer is as long as it takes whatever the price.

    That said I am measuring my moves very calculatedly in a graded series of "worst case scenarios" that all still lead towards a career as a physician.

    OP. If you want it...take it. Nobody will ever be able to measure what its worth to you or be able to tell you when to quit. It's up to you when to quit or do something else.

    You already know this. So if what your asking is... "Is anybody crazy as me up in here?" Then the answer is yes.
  8. Haemulon

    Haemulon Slippery When Wet Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Jun 1, 2006
    On SDN
    It is wise to plan for different contingencies. You have no idea what curves that life may throw you. So be careful in wrapping so much of yourself up into this goal that you would become completely devastated should things not occur as you expect. A life that fails to meet up to your initial expectations is still a life worth living, and in fact may even end up to be a better life than you would have had otherwise. Be dedicated, be confident, and be aggresive in the pursuit of your goals. But don't be a fool. Keep your eyes open to the unexpected opportunities and developments that may present along the way.
  9. Nasem

    Nasem 2+ Year Member

    Aug 30, 2006
    Lansing, MI
    No such thing as failur as you keep trying...

    if you apply to one cycle and you don't get in... ok... improve your weak areas and APPLY again next cycle, and then next cycle, keep applying even if it takes 10 years (which Im sure it woun't), until they finally realise they are not going to get rid of you unless they accept you lol
  10. Pemberley

    Pemberley Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jul 30, 2005
    I'm with Haemulon -- always have a contingency plan. Unless you're omnipotent, and can control outcomes. But if you're human like the rest of us, you're going to lose some battles during your life. Maybe this is the one. We can hope that it's not.

    In this case you should have two contingency plans: one for what to do "in the meantime" if you don't get in the first or second time around, and the other for how to have a happy, fulfilling life even in the case that you never write "DO" or "MD" after your name. Many, many people on the planet get job satisfaction and manage to do good to their fellow men without ever signing those letters. Any of us could, too, if we had to.

    The opportunity to practice medicine is a good thing. However, there's a tendency on SDN to consider medicine as the only good thing. It's not.
  11. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing 10+ Year Member

    Jun 8, 2006
    I'm not sure I understand what the majority position is on this issue.
    Why does it have to be a question of doing this or doing that.
    We're all working people here doing something to make it. We study hard, make good grades and look for interesting fields of work that will pay our bills and provide us with a challenging experience that can demonstrate qualities of a useful and talented person.
    I am working as a patient care assistant and am doing well in school. Because of this I have an interview with a private contractor for a hospital that trouble shoots computer based language translation services. More interesting and complex. Achieved through my pursuit of a medical education. After I get my degree I'll look for even better paying work in an around healthcare or science to fund my assault on the application processes.

    Why is the conception of theses endeavors framed in terms of contingency related to failure? To me they are perpetually strengthening my case for medical school admissions. I don't understand the false dichotomy.

    Doctor or bust. Contingency is now.

    Failure is not a proclamation from God to Moses to premed. It's simply a feedback mechanism that you use for the purpose of improvement.
  12. Flopotomist

    Flopotomist I love the Chicago USPS 7+ Year Member

    May 22, 2005
    One other concern -if a majority of your friends (who know you well) and family (who know you REALLY well) are telling you this is a bad idea, there are two logical conclusions:

    1. They all met, and formed a mass conspiracy to toy with you

    2. They all know you well, and recognize something concerning that you need to consider.

    Which is it?
  13. spicedmanna

    spicedmanna Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    I think this is true, and I agree. However, there isn't a compelling reason to dwell on this grim fact, I think. Once an applicant faces and accepts the reality that failure is a palpable possibility, he/she doesn't need to continually wax that direction. To do so is indulgent and detracts from the process at hand, in my opinion. I don't think champion alpine skiers think about crashing as they are skiing the slope; they are focusing on each turn and move as it is happening in the moment. I think the need for elaborate planning is minimized by being truly present and aware of your current situation, by being open to learning and feedback, and responsive to what is happening.

    Naturally it's good to have an overview and outline of what you want to happen, and some level of hashing things out of the current process can be beneficial, but futurizing based on fear of failure is in my experience not productive. Things rarely turn out as planned anyway and the mind loves to take over when fear is present. The greater the fear, the louder the mind's reactionary voice. But the mind is rarely completely accurate in predicting what is going to happen one minute from now, let alone any greater amount of time. The unknown is always uncertain; the bigger the risk, the bigger the unknown. I think that focusing too much on a schema can really take you away from what you really need to do now, from riding the "now" fluidly; this includes the plan to become a doctor. Be willing to let go of what the process should look like; be willing to let go of the best laid plans. Listen deeply; it's a living process. I think as long as you are open to what truly wants to happen at each moment, or turn, you cannot really make a mistake, so to speak. Navigate and adjust course as the "now" demands, as a champion alpine skiier might navigate the slopes; he has no mind. If you commit to going down this road, you don't need to know the "how" before hand. The "how" reveals itself along the way.

  14. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing 10+ Year Member

    Jun 8, 2006

    False dichotomy. Strawman. Massive leap of assumption. People can have the best intentions for telling you all sorts of things. I think this like many things is a personal decision, unless you have children or are responsible for taking care of your elders.
  15. unsung

    unsung 10+ Year Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Note: in my OP, I said I had been getting negative feedback from "relatives". I didn't clarify, but by relatives I really was referring only to my parents.

    My friends all thought I was pre-med, even when I was vehemently denying it as an undergrad bio major. Even once I was out of school and working in the healthcare market research industry... "I thought you were going to med school?" Even when I went back to school for my MA in psych... "so you're not going to be a doctor?"

    It's funny. I guess the anal, meticulous side of my personality comes across as being stereotypically "pre-med". It's really only my parents who are voicing doubt... and it's frustrating in that I can't understand how these two people who are supposed to know me so well would hold this opinion, when everyone else in my life has such faith in my abilities.
  16. postbacker

    postbacker Banned Banned

    Mar 27, 2007
    Umm, gee, hmm...ever ask them? Really have a sit down and ask them? Don't get all emotional, ask them their reasons, don't cry, and then walk away...

    Maybe they are trying to protect you from the cold cruel world of med school admissions...maybe they don't want you asking them for a $250k advance on your inheritance to pay for this...

    Seriously, you gotta quit worrying about what your friends, sibs, and parents think...
  17. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing 10+ Year Member

    Jun 8, 2006

    Consider that these are the same people who might fear most what will happen to you if you suffer a large disappointment. Whereas your colleagues will encourage you fearlessly because they haven't been there to pick you up every time you fell on your head and pooped your diaper. Perhaps they just want what they think it best for you and to protect you, even possibly from their own disappointments in life.

    You seem like an accomplished and motivated individual. After you become a physician--watch them beam with pride in your accomplishments. For now, carry on under your own steam and wait for your folks to come around.
  18. spicedmanna

    spicedmanna Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Well said. :thumbup:
  19. njbmd

    njbmd Guest Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 30, 2001
    Gone Walkabout!
    You have two issues here that aren't really related. Having a "Plan B" doesn't mean that you doubt your abilities. Many non-traditional medical school applicants need to have a means of solid income in case it takes more than one application cycle for acceptance. It doesn't hurt to have a "fall-back" that provides income. Most people are not wealthy enough to live without having an back-up income. Having a back-up plan that you don't need is better than no back-up plan when you need one.

    In terms of dealing with non-supportive relatives: Do you need anyone's permission to live your life and pursue YOUR dreams?" If they are not supportive, it's their problem. They will not live with the consequences of your success or your failure so their opinions are of little significance for you. What do you think about your dreams? What are YOU doing to move forward?

    When I applied to medical school back in 1997, I had the most elaborate "Plan B". I had completed preparing every lecture that I needed to teach for an entire school year and into the summer semester. It turned out that I didn't need that "Plan B". By working on my "Plan B", I sure stayed away from the mailbox and really didn't obsess about the amount of time that passed between my application being complete and my first invitation for interview. I was busy. There's much to be said for keeping busy.

    If nothing else, your Plan B will keep you busy. The best case scenario is that you won't need it but ultimately what YOU think about your life and life pursuits is what matters.
  20. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing 10+ Year Member

    Jun 8, 2006

    I guess I understand now what yall are refering to when you mean plan B. I think the distinction is always part of the internal make up of a person when it comes to plans and goals. What I mean is the continual plan B, whereas your goal is your plan A.

    And so I would ask you: Sure your plan B was continuing on with being a professor but did you ever in your mind stop working towards being a physician once you decided that's what you wanted to do? And would there have been or was there a point at which you were ready to change your goals? Because that to me is a "fall back" plan. Something you aim for when you've either given up on or changed your mind about what your aim is.
  21. mitawa

    mitawa Member 7+ Year Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    I had an advisor once tell me of a student who applied 6 times before getting in. She said that she'd given up on him ever getting in after the 3rd time, but just goes to show that you never know. However a wise person should always plan for the unexpected.
  22. Institute

    Institute 2+ Year Member

    Apr 14, 2007
    Choose a degree that you enjoy and will get you a job after you graduate. You don't want to waste time waiting for med schools to respond only to find out that you get rejected and don't enjoy the degree you just completed.
  23. aspirationMD

    aspirationMD Rookie of the Year 2+ Year Member

    Mar 24, 2007
    So, seriously, I have no idea what your life is like, but I have other people to consider besides myself. I am 24 now, 27-28 when I apply to med school, I have two kids and depend on financial aid, my family's help (for child care) and my boyfriend to get through life "okay". I can't spend cycles and cycles, plus LOTS of money for as long as it takes to get in, that would be stupid, irresponsible and costly (at the expense of everyone around me!)

    Sure if I had only myself to worry about, I could keep applying every cycle for years and years, but I think there comes a point when you have to face reality. That reality may be that you/I shouldn't be a doctor. I just want to be ready for whatever.
  24. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing 10+ Year Member

    Jun 8, 2006
    By all means then. Have a solid plan B. Keep in mind I never said to freak yourself out getting there. Just that you give up when your ready to...and that's when your plan B will be where your at. Kids obviously make things entirely different, but your kids will grow up one just make sure you won't have any regrets about your plan B. With any luck you won't have to make that decision.:D
  25. Beau Geste

    Beau Geste yah mo b there Bronze Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Perusing the med school interview feedback, I have found the question of "If you don't get into med school, what will you do?" (or something to that effect) frequently asked at interviews at a variety of schools.

    It's probably a good idea to at least think about that question and have a good answer, whether it be apply next year, take some time off, or follow another career choice.

    My plan B is already in effect since I'm a practicing professional. But I also have a plan C because I really don't want to be doing what I do for the rest of my life. If I don't get into med school (God forbid), then I will pursue something else - my plan C.

    There is no harm in being prepared. It's foolish to not be prepared for the worst.
  26. lilnoelle

    lilnoelle Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Feb 21, 2006
    I think I knew my plan B when I was applying. It involved pursuing something else, probably a graduate degree. That was all I really needed to have decided at that point. I didn't really decide on anything because I figured I'd get to that point when I had to.
    I only had to apply once and for that I am truly thankful. I don't think I would've gone through it all again if I hadn't gotten in the first time. I'm not sure what that indicates about my commitment to medicine, but I think not reapplying also made sense in my position. To be in limbo is not an enjoyable position to be in (as we all know). I just seriously couldn't have forced myself to retake the MCAT while working full time and taking care of my two young kids. I didn't want to do all that again (take the MCAT, spend tons of money, the ordeal of applications and interviews) only to be in limbo without any certainty of success.
    Being in med school is different. I know I'm heading somewhere. In a way, the application cycle was worse for me than the first year has been.
  27. MJB

    MJB Senior Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    There's a quote from a guy that has been pretty successful in life that I really like:

    Yes, from a movie, but effective.

    Another favorite, and one that hit very close to home as I went through this whole process.

    Yes, I had a plan B, but I never really considered it.

    I'm scared as hell (and excited at the same time) about what I'm about to do to my rather comfortable life, but I'd be very upset with myself in 10 years if I don't at least try this...who knows, it might just work out all right!
  28. e_phn

    e_phn member 5+ Year Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    I believe we have to think about the failure also..It's unwise to not consider the failure...I guess it prepares me more, so I can think of a backup plan if I'm not interested in medicine any longer.

    Oh, and I think medicine is overrated..(especially on SDN).
  29. ut2010

    ut2010 Medical Student 2+ Year Member

    Apr 11, 2007
    As someone over 40 who applied and started medical school, I know how society cannot understand our motives and capabilities.

    I had to apply three times before being accepted so I had to deal with failure.

    I did all that I possiby could do and if I was not accepted on my third try, I would have accepted that this is not for me.

    But...before deciding that...make sure you do everything you could possibly do. I explained some of my strategies on other posts, check them out! :thumbup:

    Do not worry about other's opinions, only worry about what is in your heart. :D

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