Succeeding together over winning

All of us have thought at one point or another about what we would have done professionally if we had the opportunity to start over and take a path totally different from the one we actually pursued.   For many years when asked this question, I answered that I would have enjoyed being an architect. Designing buildings would have allowed me to use both the scientific and the creative aspects of my brain. I also like the tangible and long-lasting aspects of building something – attributes that also apply to my current career in academic medicine.

Yet, such a career would not have provided me with the privilege of working with patients, or interacting on a daily basis with the broad variety of outstanding clinical, research and administrative collaborators that make my current job so interesting and fulfilling.

There is obviously no way to know whether I would have succeeded as an architect, but it is fun to think about.

More recently, given my involvement in policy and governmental affairs, I have been asked whether I ever considered getting more directly involved in politics, such as by running for office. I would find it very rewarding to be able to impact directly on policy issues about which I feel so passionately. I would also enjoy learning about new fields, spending time with “my constituents,” and learning about what is important in their lives – activities that have parallels with my current job.

Yet, there are aspects of a career in politics that just don’t fit with my world view. I don’t like adversarial relationships. I think more about working together to succeed, than I do about “winning,” the goal of a political campaign. If there is a winner, there must be a loser, and there also must be time when the winner and loser are declared. Succeeding is a more collaborative word, and reflects an ongoing struggle for something worthwhile as opposed to a one time contest.

We will never know whether I have what it takes to win a political campaign, but it is fun to think about.

In the end, I prefer to work closely with people and strive collaboratively toward success. There are times when I still dabble in alternative interests – last month I was stuck at the airport on a trip home from Washington after advocating for cancer research, and I found myself doodling a fancy (and totally impractical) building.

Nevertheless, I guess I made the right choice for me based on my preference for succeeding together over winning. So … I think I will keep my day job.