Monthly Archives: Dec 2011

Why I Gave Up Conventional Medical Practice To Build a Non-Profit

Footprints on sand

I was in a restaurant, holding a steaming mug of hot java. With me were two friends. One I’ve known for 30 years. The other I’d just met 30 minutes back.

The social dance was on. We explored vital questions. Who are you and who do you know? What do you do, and why?

The conversation drifted to my writing, and my work with heart kids. I (briefly) explained how I create and sell infoproducts, using a part of the profits to sponsor life-saving heart surgery for children with congenital heart disease.

My new friend asked:

“Why do you do it? I mean, leave alone ‘feeling good’. Why else? What do you get from it?”

I picked up my coffee, and sat for a while in silence. I drank slowly, thoughtfully… and wondered how to answer the question. Then I replied the way I always do:

“Because I can.”

My modest needs are met from passive income sources that I worked hard to put in place. This frees me now to focus on things I want to do. And in the line of my professional work, I come across families without any alternatives to save their little kids with potentially fatal heart birth defects. I try to help them.

“Because I want to. And enjoy it.”

From the look on his face, I could see he wasn’t entirely convinced. And paradoxically, his doubt and uncertainty conveyed itself to me. On the drive back home, I kept returning to the question.

For a week later, I kept thinking about it.

Why do I do it?

There’s possibly a selfish drive behind my apparent altruism, a sublimated craving for recognition and acclaim. Or perhaps another motive is at play. But at most, it’s only an additional driver.

By itself, it may keep me going awhile.

But not for so long.

I’ve done this for 10 years. I’ll be doing it for another twenty. Or longer.

And not against these overwhelming odds.

I’ve overcome some major challenges – like this one. For each, there are dozens of smaller crises, just as frustrating and depressing.

Eventually, I kept coming back to the wise and inspirational words of my friend, mentor and role model, Frank McKinney, founder of ‘The Caring House’ project, who is fond of reminding us that:

“Of those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

I’ve always believed that much has been given to me. Proximity to suffering humanity in my role as a doctor, and good fortune to retain perspective on the frailty and uncertainty of our earthly existence have both combined to make me insanely grateful for thousands of little things that many take for granted, or even bemoan.

And then, I read an amazing blog by Derek Sivers. Founder of “CD Baby”. Author. Speaker. Musician. Philanthropist. Incredible human being.

He sold his company for $22 millionwhich he donated to charity!

In a remarkably short blog post, he explained why… and gave me the insight I’d been searching for all week long. (Many others probably felt that way, judging by the 1250+ comments on it!)

“It’s not that I’m altruistic. I’m sacrificing nothing. I’ve just learned what makes me happy. And doing it this way made me the happiest.”

Bingo!

I too am sacrificing nothing. In fact, I’m pursuing my twin dreams – of practicing a technically challenging specialty (pediatric heart surgery) while helping desperately needy families beat a killer health condition (congenital heart disease).

It makes me happy. Wildly, insanely happy. It makes my heart sing. It lends deep purpose and meaning to all that I do. It gets me out of bed, eager and excited about my day.

THAT’S why I do it.

Because I WANT to.

The best part of Derek’s post comes in his last line:

“But most of all, I get the constant priceless reminder that I have enough.”

Wow! How powerful is that?! And true.

Unless you personally feel you have “enough”, it’s never easy to give to someone else.

Anxiety and stress kick in. Defences build up. Logic masks emotion.

And we put our noses back to the grindstone, trying to get “enough” for ourselves.

My work is a constant reminder TO MYSELF that I’m blessed with enough.

Yes, THAT’S why I do it.

Because I can.

Because I want to.

Because I have enough.

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(Image credit dhammza)

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