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- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

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Many Paths to Joy and Service

Question: The purpose of my life from childhood has been to study medicine and become a researcher. I have always gotten excellent grades, but I have been turned down for medical school. I feel like my life is over. What should I do?

My Answer:

I am very sorry that you are so troubled. Please, please take good care of yourself. Your life is important - value it and respect it.

I understand your life feels very difficult at this time. Nonetheless, you can choose to live a great life - a life of joy and a life of service.

I understand that it feels very important to you to attend medical school, but I ask you to look at your life from a wider perspective. Perhaps you will eventually attend medical school - and that would be wonderful. But there are many other ways for you to live a great life.

There are only two true values in life - your own joy, and being of service to others. These two are related in that one of the best ways to find your own joy is to be of real service to others.

Ask yourself why you want so much to attend medical school. What is your underlying goal in life? Medical school by itself cannot be your ultimate goal in life. It must be merely one stepping stone on the way to your true goal. So what is that true goal? If your true goal is to be of service to others by helping to cure disease, then medical school would be a great path, but it is not the only path. Suppose you spend your life as a laboratory assistant rather than as a graduate medical researcher? I realize that would not be your first choice, but couldn't you be of great service, and also live a joyful life.

It is far less important what your job title is, than that you approach your job with dedication and compassion. Consider these words by the great Martin Luther King Jr.

If a man is called to be a street sweeper,
he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted,
or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.
He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts
of heaven and earth will pause to say,
here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let me share a story...

Do you know whose hands actually performed the delicate work of the world's first heart transplant? No, not Dr. Christiaan Barnard, but his black laboratory assistant Hamilton Naki. At that time, Blacks were not allowed to attend medical school or be doctors in South Africa. Read the whole story here. Even if the story has been exaggerated, let it inspire you to do what you can with the opportunities available - as well as also continuing to look for higher-leverage opportunities.

Listen also to the words of Helen Keller (1880-1968) who overcame being both deaf and blind to become a famous author, lecturer, and activist for women's suffrage, workers' rights, and ending war.

When one door closes, another opens.
But often we look so long, so regretfully,
upon the closed door,
that we fail to see the one that is opened for us.
- Helen Keller

May the world be kind to you, and may your own thoughts be gentle upon yourself.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie


mushcat said...

I am struggling to find my own purpose in life. I am physically disabled and have some mental problems. Still, I know there must be a way I can be of service to others and find my joy in life. I enjoy reading posts like this to gather perspective on my life and purpose.

Anonymous said...


Jonathan said...

Thank you for your kind words.

May the world be kind to you, and may your own thoughts be gentle upon yourself.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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