Cultivating Gratitude

crispydoc Uncategorized 2 Comments

The key to living well is living not just within, but comfortably beneath your means.  This means cultivating habits that will reward you in the future.  One key habit is to adopt a perspective that allows you to appreciate how good your life is right now.  

While it has always been fashionable (if tiring) to whine about low resident compensation, such complaining is often based on incomplete information and a lack of perspective.  When a hippo compares itself only to elephants, it can start to believe it is small.

Your single roommate, in a moment of intern self-pity, openly bemoans her choice of medicine.  She recounts how a sleazy guy with a lesser work ethic (who once vomited in her dorm room as he partied his way through college) is now an investment banker with property in an exclusive urban enclave while she rents a shared apartment with you and lives modestly.  (Let’s ignore the very real argument that when comparing income vs. net worth, the former is both easier to achieve and often more ephemeral than the latter.)

You decide to meet your roommate at her level. For sake of argument, let’s assume she is earning the average resident salary, which in 2015 was $55,400.  Hey, 50k happens to be a lot of money for most people.  In fact, it’s the most money you’ve ever earned, making today the pinnacle of your life as a breadwinner.  In the calm voice of a parent about to school their spoiled teen, you point out to her that the median household income in the U.S. in 2014 was $53,617.  Not only is she earning more than the average household, but the average household size in 2014 was 2.6 persons.  She earns more than 50% of American families, and does not need to share her fortune with anyone!

End the pity party.  You are already the financial envy of more than half the populace, and you haven’t even reached your peak earning potential.  You (and your roommate) have never had it so good, and the quicker you realize it, the happier you’ll feel.

Comments 2

  1. I recently listened to your interview on ‘Bigger Pockets’ and was immediately drawn to your blog. I am an emergency physician as well, a bit longer in the tooth than you, and I was struck by your paradigm shifting point regarding median income and the residents’ salary. I am well past that point in my training, but can apply the concept to my current circumstance. Thanks for that.

    1. Post
      Author

      John,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad the interview helped connect us.

      Physicians tend to choose the wrong peers to compare ourselves to. After seeing the type of backbreaking work many of our patients perform, where they truly exchange current or future health for income, I feel extremely fortunate. What kind of lucky bastard gets to work two days a week and still earn well enough to live a significantly above average lifestyle? While arriving at this point took sacrifice, framing our good fortune in the proper terms is a big determinant in whether one grows into a thankful or resentful person over the course of a career in medicine.

      Get the framing right and it’s hard to shake the sense that luck is following you.

      Grateful you found me, and hope you find more that resonates with you.

      CD

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