Failure and Success

Some of the greatest people,

Are the ones, who have faced failure and pushed on anyway,

They seem to look on the bright side and continue to move forward,

Facing their obstacles with barren simplicity.

They can walk with humility and confidence within the same stride,

And this is the kind of success to which I abide,

For perhaps the highest achievements in life,

Comes from the greatest hardships,

Recognising that either way we win,

For the next step is always available,

But what we do with it,

Is only up to us.


I refuse to accept defeat unless this is for my benefit. Even when I fail, I always try to see it as training for the next attempt, or preparation for the new direction that I am taking. This attitude isn’t always easy, but it is possible.

Tonight I watched an inspiring TED talk that spoke straight to my heart (the amazing story of Sam Berns, a teenager who has lived through the premature aging condition of “progeria”, and talks openly about his philosophy for a happy life – well worth the watch if you can spare 12:45 minutes) –  his story reminded me of a philosophy that has guided me through many difficult times.


So many times throughout the journey of PhD I faced failure. The “feeling of failure” seemed to come up repeatedly;- when studies were not approved to be carried out, or when help seemed like it was far away, when journals rejected preliminary submissions, and when I had to complete a thesis that seemed like it was against the odds. However, I made it through all of these things, securing 3 scientific publications in a peer reviewed journals, 1 book chapter, and a completed PhD thesis of 363 pages long. When I submitted my thesis in January this year it was late, requiring more than one extension, but still I delivered the goods.

Recently I heard back from the Australian National University, and that the thesis had been accepted for the degree, pending some minor revisions. It was a powerful moment for me to read their reports that indicated that the thesis was worthy of the degree to which I was submitting it towards, but the ideas contained within were likely to make a difference in the world, particular in rural areas of the developing world. This was already a dream come true.

To make a difference through research was something I kept close to my heart all the time when I was conducting studies and writing up the thesis, which took me through some lonely but also inspiring periods. The gratitude I feel for all the help I’ve received cannot be expressed in words alone (although I tried in this post years ago) – and this is why I created a short film about the experience some years back.

However, now that I am almost there, it is clear to me that I needed to go through all that I went through to arrive here– for I believe the “journey” is what makes the destination worthwhile.

This concept inspires me for the next journey, and I hope it will be as good as the last one. Even if I have to again face failure and overcome obstacles in order to move forward, I accept this wholeheartedly, knowing this what I have chosen to do and will appreciate it accordingly.

Thank you for being there!

For all of you out there, who are walking down towards a vision of success may all your dreams come true  – after all as a wise friend once said to me “perhaps the only failure is the failure to try”


Ps I don’t think I’m alone in this philosophy, for many others seemed to have had a few obstacles along their inspirational paths.

Celebrating success

Celebrating success,
Is perhaps the real test,

Cherishing what has been already achieved,
Instead of allowing the glory to be thieved,

By the next goal,
And other reasons for not feeling whole,

Instead be in the know,
Like a boarder gliding through the snow,

With awareness of life’s ebb and flow,
In the act of a single breath.


Two days away from the hustle bustle of emergency medicine and I feel like a new person. A little meditation, some surf and hint of life music has such a healing touch. Sometimes in the space between the business and intensity of an active work-life lies the balance that perhaps we all strive for. I by no means have found the perfect balance, but I feel that I am moving towards it experimenting in with work, and relaxation in a variety of forms. It is a daily practice rooted in breathing and the exploration of philosophies that brings meaning into my life.

Sometimes the philosophy needs to be tailored for the specific context of our lives, and this is why I particularly like Shawn Anchor’s guide to happiness for those of us in the pursuit of greater knowledge and skill. Shaun’s revealing findings (about the culture where high achievers can easily be fixed on the next goal without appreciating how far they have come), shed light onto why I had encountered challenges in the past, and provided some tools on how to tackle the present moment without too much focus on the future.

I remember watching this TED talk years ago and it having a profound effect on my own perspective of goal setting and my present relationship with success as I had defined it. After all we can always find our own definition of success, and it doesn’t have to require a definite endpoint. To date the best definition of success I have come across has been one that I heard from a person called Earl Nightingale who was a motivational speaker from the 60’s

“Success is the step-wise realization of a worthy ideal”



Making Mistakes, Stress management, and leading a healthy medical life..

I recently came across a friend on Facebook with whom I sat the primary exam for emergency medicine (way back in 2005). On scrolling down his wall I also saw that he ran a medical education website with a podcast series had just reached 50,000 downloads.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I listened to a few of the talks and I thought they were fabulous! The ones that I listened to were exactly what most keen registrars (including myself) want to hear;- tricky clinical cases that are delivered in sound-bytes. They were also stories of what happened on the ED floor, what was done, and what was learned – all this delivered with the personal touch of ‘friendly non judgmental conversation’.

Check them out for yourself on;

Emergency Medicine Tutorials 

By Drs Chris Cresswell, Qasim Alam and Andrew Dean-Ballarat, Australia and New Zealand…

The one that I particularly liked was the talk on “Stress Management” which touches many topics that are close to my heart such making mistakes. The talk also shares the wisdom of accepting that whilst we are doctors we are also ‘human beings’. Other topics in the talk included maintaining a healthy work-life balance with regular exercise, and of course, one of my favorites “navigating difficult consultants”, a necessary skill in the tricky world of medical hierarchy.

With regards to ‘making mistakes’ I think it is worthwhile including two links in this post which really flesh out some important reflections on this topic.

In the current culture of medicine it is so rare for doctors to come out and talk about their mistakes, and how it affected them, which is what motivated me to share the words of wisdom of some of those who ‘care’ enough to do so with this blog post.

The observation that we make lots of mistakes in medicine but rarely talk about them, to me also means we that we are also probably less likely to change our practice as much as we would if we discussed things. This deficit in training is one of the many reasons why I am pursuing a career in medical education and simulation medicine – to help improve the system. It is my theory that the more ‘au fait’ we become with dealing with mistakes and error in a kind and constructive way, the better we will become at delivering compassionate, and transparent, care to patients and their families.

“Making mistakes” in medical care and training?

Unfortunately what is often the end product after undergraduate and post graduate medical training is a perception by practicing doctors that “we always make the right decisions”, and if a mistake is made it is likely to be because of us not knowing enough – thus guilt is a strategy of coping with error, and a resolve to “learn more” after a mistake. Whist personal error may be present, it is rarely the sole factor and most mistakes when looked at in detail, a result of systemic error. So what is really needed is analysis and correction of the systems, rather than looking for individuals to blame.

Whist I tailor my practice and training towards minimizing error – making mistakes is still a fact of life, especially in the fast paced and unpredictable environment of emergency medicine, and this is one of the reasons that I still worry before working shifts in the ED after long breaks – because it is challenging work. So perhaps the parallel goal of education in medicine and Emergency Medicine is to teach doctors how to effectively and compassionately deal with the act of making mistakes and how to communicate better with one another, and patients, about this very sensitive subject?

Talking about mistakes in medicine

Having the courage to talk about ones mistakes is the first crucial step in this important training in compassionate health care, and Dr Brian Goldman gives a phenomenal TED talk on this very topic…

Also it is great to see that doctors are talking more and writing more about their errors, including how these mistakes affected both themselves and their patients. Sharing this kind of reflective wisdom in the public arena is so useful because it tends to give insight to families who have been the subject of similar systemic problems in our over-run health systems, that a) errors do occur, but also b) they often occur at the hands of competent and caring doctors. A wonderful post by a friend, and great doctor, who I know from the International Emergency Medicine scene (practicing in Sweden) illustrates just this. Katrina writes about a patient encounter that caused her to reflect upon the ‘system of feedback’ that is so lacking in our post graduate medical training, which in effect decreases our ability to learn from our mistakes, and learn how to treat patients better:-

Swedish medical students, interns and residents always complain about not getting any feedback on their performance. They are right of course. We have never learned how to give and get feedback and mistakenly take it for criticism. It is part of our culture. We kind of assume that everyone is doing their best and that they will learn eventually

I couldn’t agree more Katrin – and what a great read – thanks for your article!

Thanks again to Katrin, Brain and Chris for your reflections on making mistakes and leading a healthy medical life – you guys inspire me 🙂