I was recently interviewed by Laurie Baedke on the Growth Edge Leadership Podcast. Our conversation ranged across a variety of topics including my journey from Nigeria as a teenager to the United States to pursue my love of medicine, cultural competency and diversity in medicine, and leadership. The link to the podcast interview is included at the end of the article.
I found that one of the most poignant questions was the last one Laurie posed. She asked me, “If you could sit down with the young version of you, what advice would you give yourself?” It took me a moment to hone in on just one answer, but I decided on one that was important and hopefully most helpful to others. My answer to that question is to never let the opinions of others, no matter how successful, respected, or well-intentioned they may be, influence your decision and determination to try something. Now, this does not mean that you throw caution or advice out the window. Rather, you take advice and counsel, figure out the good from the bad, and then decide which to incorporate. But you do not let the opinion of others stop you from trying to become what you want to be. Sometimes, you have to take a calculated risk and succeed or fail on your own terms.
I had exceptionally supportive parents who encouraged me at every step of my journey. And, they still do to this day. I am so grateful for my family, and when challenges arose, we tackled them as a team. However, when I came to the U.S., my parents were not here. I was pretty much on my own. Being black, female, and an immigrant, I had three strikes against me. But, I had to figure out how to navigate these challenges and stay true to myself without losing the essence of who I was or the type of person I wanted to become.
Succeed Or Fail On Your Own Terms
Throughout the early days of my journey, I was often told in no uncertain terms, by very successful, respected, and credentialed people that I would not be successful. I was told I didn’t have the right legacy or pedigree. I was told that I didn’t belong in the medical “system.”
I listened to advice and realized that it was up to me to sort out the good from the bad, and then make a decision about my future direction with God’s help and wisdom. I decided there was only one way to find out whether or not I would succeed, whether or not I belonged, whether or not pedigree or legacy had anything at all to do with success or failure. And, the truth is, it doesn’t prevent your success. I will tell you that in the “system,” it is definitely more difficult without all of the connections and pedigrees, but it is not impossible. You will just need to persevere for a much longer time. You will get knocked down many more times, but each time you just have to try to get up one more time. The important things that matter are your passion, desire, and willingness to do your best. The courage to never give up, no matter what, is far more telling than another person’s opinion.
Perseverance and the willingness to learn are two of the few key qualities I look for in the people I mentor. There is so much to be said for the ability to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, learn from the experience, and keep moving toward your dream. This is such an important attribute no matter what profession you are attempting to successfully enter. Even if you try and fail, at least you learned something about yourself by going for it. In fact, I never consider any attempt to go for something as a “failure.” It’s experience that provides valuable feedback. The willingness to learn is also very important. You cannot teach someone who feels they already know everything. Regardless of anyone’s station or position in life, you can always learn something from each person you come across. If you have no willingness to learn or take feedback and process it, then it’s a waste of time. Develop a quality to be a teachable person.
Steer Clear Of Regret-ville
It is my personal philosophy that if you want to live a regret-free life, you must not let other people tell you what will or will not be successful. That is the only way you will not end up living in “regret-ville,” which is not a very fun place. You still must be discerning. You still must plan and strategize in order to make good decisions for your life path. Following your own intuition and keeping your own trusted counsel helps you develop self-confidence and a sense of self-empowerment. And those two qualities will take you further along the path toward success and far away from regret-ville.
You can listen to the interview by clicking on this link: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cDovL2dyb3d0aGVkZ2UubGlic3luLmNvbS9yc3M/episode/YWRhYjE2YjAtYTNkMi00ZjYwLWIyNzQtOTI0ZDc2ZmEzMDEy?sa=X&ved=0CAUQkfYCahcKEwi4vN-4_YntAhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAg&hl=en