At a recent award dinner, the Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons talked about the importance of "persistence and philanthropy". There were other parts to the speech, but these two words seemed like a good starting point for this edition of our twice-yearly Underdog Blog post.
Some of Underdog's blog posts over the years have been about not letting work dominate you. So this post was always going to be a counter-balance about the value of "hard work" and "persistence" is probably a better way to think about hard work than the idea of working all hours to the detriment of everything else. Persistence is about carrying on despite setbacks and failures, ignoring the naysayers and working hard and consistently until you achieve your goals.
Underdog has recently mentored several students undertaking the GAMSAT examination to get into medical school. This is an exam which rewards people who fail it, go away and keep working at it and then take it again and again until they succeed. It is arguably more important for success how you respond to failing than to winning. Many of our students have found the stories of mentors who've failed things more inspiring than the achievement-based stories. When you fail, at the time, it's a kick in the teeth. But in hindsight a couple of years later there will be so many great things which happened because of that failure. So it makes no sense to be too disheartened by a fail - you just don't know at the time what different path that fail just sent you down and all the good things that will happen because of it.
The emphasis on philanthropy is a subject close to Underdog Mentoring's heart - because the whole philosophy of this mentoring network is philanthropic. Current events in the Ukraine have brought out countless examples of individuals doing something for others, whatever they can, which is a reminder that amongst the catastrophic events we see around us, philanthropy is a strong, inherent, human response. In 2007, British brain surgeon, Henry Marsh, featured in a documentary where he went to the Ukraine to help patients ('The English Surgeon'). It seems fitting to quote his words at the end of that documentary (timepoint 1:24:35) at this time:
"I don't know whether I'll be thinking about anything when I die. But the way I see things at the moment, what I will think mattered most was how I tried to help...What are we if we don't try to help others? We're nothing. Nothing at all."