The myth of being self-made

Hi friends,

Hope you have had a great start to the new year.

I sent my appreciation over the New Year and I am surprised to find out the huge impact it had on my well-being.

I had considered myself somewhat a self-made man in the past: born in an under-developed Chinese town, I won a scholarship to study at Singapore, where I worked hard and eventually got a place to study medicine at Cambridge. On the surface, the odds were not in my favour: the scholarship required me to outcompete hundreds of brightest students from 13 cities, and the admission rate was about 1/1000 for international students to get into medicine at Cambridge. There was some hard work involved: during my last year in high school, weekends were all I got for curricular work, as I spent all the time outside a class on my research. There was a lot of uncertainty as to whether this would help with my university application. I was extremely anxious over those days but my experience did stand out and I got a place.

That is enough self-pitying. Through writing those appreciation letters I was reminded again just how important other people are for my achievements. During the time I struggled most, I had a very supportive supervisor who guided me through my research journey. I was hugely supported by my friends and teachers and even the school system changed in my favour - coincidentally, of course. My year was the first year when the students were no longer ranked based on their percentiles for the internal exams, and this gave me enough assurance that I could spend more time on my research. Without their support and these random happenings. I might never have been where I am today. I am not saying that I have come a long way, but I do know that in each step I have been supported and inspired by people around me.

Yes, there were odds against me and I had to work harder than others sometimes to get what I want. I appreciate how those experiences shaped my character but let us not forget how fortunate we already are. I am not a self-made man and I never will be. I am writing these because I want you to remind me. If ever I recall those memories and lamented how challenging my life was, I hope you could cut me off and tell me just equally how lucky I was. We are not entitled to anything just because we worked hard for it; I cannot thank enough what life has graciously offered to me.


Personalizing medicine