I once had a rheumatology fellow who declared he wanted to be “..a big fish” and added “ little pond or big pond…it doesn’t matter”.
He was young and I admired his drive and desire to be better than good. He knew his aspirations would make him valuable to his patients, while also helping his career.
Most students and trainees begin their career quests with grand hopes. They also have great optimism, impeachable ethics, and the time and energy to accelerate their learning and expertise. It’s not surprising that they develop these allusions of grandeur during their training; after all they are surrounded, and mentored, by grand teachers, leading researchers and big names who are always in the journals or on the news.
We should all be the big fish.
The big fish is a leader, the one who gets and deserves great respect and is always remembered as the great catch; should you marry one, hire one or have one as a great doctor. Being the big fish is all about how you appear in the eyes of others in your pond.
Is it better to have a tremendous sense of self grandeur or to be valued and revered by your patients, peers and community for who you are and what you do?
The big fish has two challenges - being the big fish and finding the right pond.
The big fish is someone who is always at the top of their game and is always getting better. The big fish becomes one by meeting the needs and expectations of the pond. He or she does so by being reliable, kind, wise, smarter, persistent, strong and dependable. The big fish always shows up.
Whereas being the big fish is about effort and engagement, being in the right pond is about the choice that makes you happiest and most fulfilled. The rheumatology fellow wasn’t sure if his destiny was in the big or little pond. After all, that is partly planned, part destiny and part luck (when preparation meets opportunity). The huge stage, the big city, the mega medical center isn’t for everyone. My experience is that we are drawn to the level in which we can swim well and thrive best.
Find the right pond, take a grand, long swim and be the big fish.
Others need and want to look up to you.