Failures, Fears, and Frustrations: The more the merrier!

Are not our dreams meant to pull us out and forward through our 3Fs?


I heard many famous lines for the first time in my life in school, which I shall carry to my grave. One was when our NCC Navy lead fell out of step doing the semaphore flag signalling drill to welcome the Chief Guest to our School on NCC Day. Our Math’s Teacher in charge of NCC Navy was sarcastic when he said:

"Something is better than nothing;

But Nothing is better than Nonsense!"


Meaning that without wrong semaphore signalling, the Chief Guest would have been better welcomed to the school.


However, I agree, that this saying does not mean that in an academic group like one devoted to help sharpen our clinical acumen and case solving skills, we learn only from our mistakes.


Accordingly, one incident in my CRRI days comes to my mind:

Prof CAK, said before his morning rounds as we assembled around him: "So the CCF patient is no more. CRRI gave Injection Lasix when he was called to see the patient last night. Thus, CRRI is the cause of death!"


Professor CAK went on to explain how parenteral diuretics worsened the condition in the end stages in this particular patient.


Accordingly, it is in such end stage situations, most of the times, "masterly inactivity" is better than the wrong treatment, namely "Nothing is better than Nonsense!"


And, I have not forgotten the contraindication yet!

All of us doctors have experienced trials, tribulations, failures, and the consequent emptiness it leaves behind. But few of us realize and persist so that we emerge wiser and stronger after this test. And even fewer people know how to fill better that unpleasant void that failures leave behind. But we spend our lives trying...


Murali who is the lead in our doctor's group says: "Our doctor’s life and our entire medical journey started from the time we stepped through the portals of our alma mater, and we soon realized that passing out as a doctor was not an end in itself. For graduating was just a purposeful process, designed to best shape us, or a wee bit to meet some of our immediate challenges".


However, we had to prepare ourselves for the umpteen vagaries of failures that punctuate our lives with differing patterns and timings. Also, realizing life has a lot more difficulties in store for a doctor, we have to allow the process of moving out of trials, to refine and remake us. And, our wounds due to the misfortunes are a part of that process. It will hurt. It will seem like the end so many times. But it is not the end. Our medical journey of learning from the very disasters and calamities, must keep going for us, to rise out of our pain, stronger mentally, and in medical acumen as well.


It is usually said: "And then in the end, it won't be how we walked in the sun, but how we handled the storm, that will define us. It won't be about how we ran. It will be about how we fell, and then got back up".


Therefore, moving on after the blunder is by finding strength in being able to learn from our slipups, and in our capacity to be both human and beautiful, namely both flawed and inspired. It is a journey of understanding that we are hardwired to learn best from fiascos, and examples from the histories of the great ones in the annals of medicine abound. For, from such examples we can find strength and beauty in the process and the progress, for we imperfect human beings rely entirely on the adage that no one can know all.


Dr. Murali, interjects: "Self-love is the mantra many psychologists emphasize nowadays. We doctors need dollops of it. Also, it doesn't mean we shirk our responsibilities or find scapegoats for our follies. Positively responding to adverse clinical outcomes as learning experiences comes with time and maturity."

Consider also, that failures may not be failures at all. For the apparent failure to achieve your dream could be because the dream that you set out to achieve is so big that you have to grow into that person who can better achieve that big dream. Thus, all you would want to achieve the big dream is time to grow into that different person! Will not a little patience and perseverance then make all the difference?

Dr. Swaminathan, another facilitator of our doctor's group states: "I know the new medical curriculum for UGs has incorporated these important areas from the first year itself. So, only now we are gently exposing the just-out-of-school-kids to such topics as humane approach to suffering, empathy, patient empowerment, end of life care, apart from the socio-medico-legal aspects of medicine. I've already seen it happening in the local medical college where they even invite appropriate resource persons from outside the institute for lectures in these areas"

And Dr. Murali continues: "Despite all the trials and tribulations, what keeps us going is our passion in human interactions and the satisfaction afforded by the unique privilege of touching lives in a manner that no other vocation can".


As we plod on in toil and struggle, let us ponder awhile on the question, I asked in the by-line of this article, namely: “Are not our dreams meant to pull us out and forward through the three F’s: Failures, Fears, and Frustrations”. For Fear freezes our faith in our dreams. But when we fight our fears, our faith in our dreams frees us from Fear. On the contrary, if we do not fight our fears, we flee from our dreams! And therein is the learning of how we avoid suffering and how to stop our agony from destroying us. It is a psychological way of healing and growth through our discomfort. It is about finding peace and purpose, no matter what we've been through in our medical careers.


Finally, it is a learning that we forgive ourselves first, be wiser, and move on, striving to our dreams!