Mastery is a concept best left to the masters. Know any of them? Me neither, really.
Sure once you go on the deep six holiday it’s easy to be seen as a master. But if you are among the living then this is not really an option.
So what do we do?
We have to have a wide net of experience and friends. These friends with different experiences will force you to stretch yourself by adopting some of their positions.
Now, when I met my wife, fake it till you make it was not an option. I was very serious, focused and driven like a jackhammer. I poured myself into three careers: newspapers, teaching and medicine before turning 30 years of age.
That’s a lot of ground to cover. I felt really good and confident about myself. I mean who else has done all of this?
All of this fell completely apart when I met my first patient.
I was sitting in my office with no patients. Finally, like lightning on Olympus, the phone rang. I let it ring three times, so as not to appear desperate, and a woman said:
Do you do house calls?
Oh, well I am friends with your mother and I know this is the first day your clinic is open and you don’t have anyone on the schedule. With that in mind do you think you could come over?
Hmmm, I said, looking at my schedule. Here’s the deal, I will only come over after regular business hours are over.
She laughed, gave me her address and hung up the phone.
At about 5:30 pm I show up at her house. Her husband is noticeably distressed as he opens the door.
She’s in here, he says, moving quickly down the hall.
I’m noticing the deeper into the house, the darker it’s getting. By the time we end up at the room we are going to, it’s almost hard to see.
Wow, I think, serial killed on my first day at the job.
He opens the door very slowly and quietly. The gentleness of his actions completely at odds with his physique and demeanor.
I see a woman sitting up in her bed. She has an IV pick in one arm. She barely looks up as we come in. I take a seat by her bed.
So here’s the story. I’m, let’s call her Jen, by the way. And you see this IV, well it has antibiotics in it as well as fluids. They change them out. When it’s the antibiotic time, I can’t stop throwing up. In fact, they don’t know if the antibiotics will kill me or the infection in the plates of my skull. That’s what you are here for. Can you help me beat this infection?
Um, I gulped, well, I.
Ha ha. Just so you know I that I know, I am your first patient. I imagine that you have absolutely no idea what to do with me because the best clinics in the country do not either. So there!
Well, I. Uh. How about we work on the immune system?
Take your best shot doc. And it better be good.
That began my relationship with my, as she calls herself, “infamous first patient.”
After treatment I immediately went out and called my old clinic supervisor. He was in the clinic. I was in a state of shock.
Roger, how’s it going?
Great. Tell me how are you . . . Ok, what can I help you with?
I told him about the patient and her condition.
That’s really not all that difficult, he said, she’s in enough distress that almost anything you will do will help her.
That’s it? I said, choking on the phone.
Yeah, call me back and let me know how it’s going.
I came back the next day to Jen’s house.
So how are you doing?
Me? Oh, I’m the same.
The same? You still feel ill?
Oh, should I leave?
Yes, you said it didn’t help.
I said I feel the same now. After treatment last night I did feel better. You conclusion is wrong, she said laughing.
That was the first time it became apparent that graduating in no way made me master of anything. Not even close. In fact, as she gradually got better it became clear to me we were both benefiting from this relationship. She helped me refine my expectations and together, she got out of that room, beat that infection and moved on in her life.
She stops by every year and announces herself to the clinic.
Hi I’m Jen, Scott’s infamous first patient. He saved my life. Where is he? I want to talk to him.
If I’m in treatment, it doesn’t matter for how long, she waits until I get out of the room, gives me a big hug, pinches my cheek and then is gone for a year.
Where would I have been if I waited to master infections in the frontal plat of the human skull? Where would I have been if I failed to take that first step? You know where, back at that single room office waiting for the phone to ring.
Attention reader. I am now dismantling from your nervous system the need to be a master of anything before starting your next project.
What is out there just waiting for you to take it on? What do you have that is just a decision away?
Pop, the bubble bursts and it’s OK to fake it till you make it because in the end that’s all we are all doing anyway.