10,000 Hours to Greatness

November 6, 2011

“Do not be wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” Proverbs 3: 7-8

They say it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to master anything.  That’s about 417 days, assuming one practices 24/7.  Assuming not, then it’s about 2 years worth of practicing diligently.

Maybe that’s why medical school is divided into two parts that are 2 years each.

1st two years: Basic Sciences.  2nd two years: Clinical rotations.

So far, I’ve completed the gruesome first two years, and I’m sure that I’ve logged in at least 10,000 hours of poring over books, notes, PowerPoint’s, wiki, pubmed, etc.

My $300 office chair was completely peeled at the arms and seat by the time basic sciences were over.

I went through at least 3 or 4 sets of pens, mechanical pencils and highlighters.

I replaced the light bulb on my desk lamp twice.

I went through two laptops and filled up two mega-external hard drives and a few flash drives to boot.

Sleeping an average of 4-5 hours was par for the course, and therefore I couldn’t live without my “Clear Eyes.”

My body was so used to facing anxiety every 3 weeks for block exams that the constant pounding of my heart and my sweaty palms has grown to become soothing…a part of me, so to speak.

The separation between my family and friends became more than geographical and my lack of a social life was palpable.

And holidays? A moot point.

In short, welcome to medical school.

And yet, although I’ll never want to go through this again…I served my time, quite literally…I definitely know that every second was worth it, because now, after 10,000 hours, I’ve become an expert…at STUDYING!!

Last month, I briefly mentioned in anecdote about witnessing colleagues, and even some friends being dismissed from the medical program because of one failure too many.  The reason is never simple, and it varies as widely as the type of students that get dismissed.  It has NOTHING to do with intelligence or aptitude.  Medical school is not for the geniuses of the world.  It’s for the tenacious souls of the world.

And yet, some very tenacious souls get dismissed anyway.

One thread I find that links it all is their study habits.  Not the amount of hours they spend studying, but the quality of studying that is done in each hour.  And hence, that is where I focused my advice giving when my friends came to me for help.

This month’s post isn’t about listing the best ways to study.  Not only is that information readily available on the web to tailor the type of learner you are, but more so, it is a de facto trial-and-error…for EACH class.

Rather, I would like to encourage you to ask God to reveal to you that most efficient way TO study.  It makes the difference between landing on that moon, star, or somebody’s roof.  It makes the difference between retention for the exam or retention for your future patients. It matters!

If you’re going to be logging in thousands and thousands of hours doing anything, don’t you want to be sure you’re doing it as efficiently as possible?

It is a gruesome process and can be very frustrating, and you may get burned-out every couple months or so.  However, your discipline will pay off… for STEP 1 and more importantly, for the wards.  And even more importantly still, for God’s glory.

Hyacinth Norris commented on my last post and said these words which I whole heartily agree with: “By merely passing, to whom are you giving glory?”

Good luck on your journey to GREATNESS.

~~If you have trouble coming up with a good study plan for school, send me a message and I’ll be glad to help.~~