Luck, variance, randomness – whatever you want to call it, it has an undeniable influence on the course of events.
Taking a simple case, you get lucky when your medical school interview is conducted by a physician who turns out to be life long buddies with one of your referees, or perhaps you get unlucky when you realize your interviewer and you are complete opposites.
Or maybe you were lucky (in the way that I was) to only have two organic chemistry passages on your MCAT when it was your weakest area. Some people in my situation may have gotten unlucky with three passages. Some were luckier with just one passage.
I would say that most medical school applicants realize this type of luck and only refer to these recent type of events when discussing the luck involved in applying.
However, the actual reality is that “luck” runs much deeper and much further back, to the point where it is hidden to many of us.
I’m lucky that I never got into a serious accident or developed a serious illness. I’m lucky that I had certain experiences in my life that helped develop an early interest in medicine and led me to where I am today. I’m lucky that I have had very supportive family and friends. Change any one of these things, things that we don’t normally consider “luck” related, and I might not be in medical school. In fact, changing any of these things would have prevented medicine from even being an option in the first place.
I hope this post doesn’t make you cynical about life and make you think you have no control. It’s true that you can’t necessarily control luck, although it is true that sometimes you can manage/reduce the variance involved. For example, if you study hard, then it shouldn’t matter whether you get one or two or three organic chemistry passages on your MCAT.
I like luck, variance, and randomness because in a way it’s beautiful and I’ve learned to embrace it. I embrace it because it’s a powerful concept, and it’s powerful because it’s misunderstood.
Understanding the existence of variance helps you detach yourself from emotional situations that were out of your control. It helps you realize that sometimes no matter if you put your best foot forward, some things are out of your control. And if you understand that, what’s there to cry about?
For instance, say my expectation for passing my previous exam was 95%. And let’s say I fail. Why should I be surprised? I knew I was going to fail 5% of the time. Sure it sucks if it happens, but it’s easier to take in when you accept the reality of the possibilities that can happen and how often they happen. Many people seem to have difficulty coming to terms with the idea that supposed to getting something 95% of the time doesn’t equate to deserving it 100% of the time.
Don’t just accept it – embrace variance, and you will learn to live with reality much easier.