Begin Your Journey: Dr. Suskind on the different meanings of success


"You could look at a person and say that they're extraordinarily successful...but they can be completely miserable," says Anne M. Suskind, MD, MS, FACS, FPMRS.

In this installment of “Begin Your Journey,” Anne M. Suskind, MD, MS, FACS, FPMRS, discusses the different meanings of the word “success” with host Scott A. MacDiarmid, MD, FRCPSC. MacDiarmid is a urologist with Alliance Urology Specialists in Greensboro, North Carolina. Suskind is an associate professor of urology; obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive services, associate chair of faculty affairs and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and chief of neurourology and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.


MacDiarmid: Us physicians are high in conscientiousness; we love aiming at and achieving and accomplishing goals. It makes us satisfied on the short term; it makes us very successful. It is probably what got us through medical school. Tell us your thoughts about that.

Suskind: It can be a trap. It can serve you very well, and it can be a giant ego trap because once you start having some successes and you're propelled down this pathway and you're doing things all of a sudden, because you're doing them, and you might not be doing them because they're really what you want to be doing. Again, kind of checking in with what you really want to be doing and what you're really passionate about, and making sure that that is aligned, can be very helpful. Also, I would say success means a whole lot of different things, right? You could look at a person and say that they're extraordinarily successful by measures of academic standards, or seeing a certain number of patients or having certain outcomes surgically, what have you, but they can be completely miserable. I always say that we have to define success for ourselves. That changes, I think, throughout our careers and lives at different points in time; different things mean success to us. So it is a loaded term, full of a lot of potential traps.

MacDiarmid: I think I've heard you maybe said before, if you're aiming at these goals, aim and tackle them, in your personal life as well, correct?

Suskind: It's all the same; it's all the same game. I'm Anne at work, and I'm Anne in my home life as well. I may not want to admit it, but I have some of the same tendencies. It's all patterns. We function in a system of patterns, and we're not even aware most of the time. It's so deeply embedded in our subconscious. This is just sort of our operating system. You can change that, and there are a lot of tools and methods to changing that. But until you become aware of what your operating system is and how to make those changes, you function like that everywhere, regardless of the setting.

MacDiarmid: You seem like a disciplined person when I hear you speak. Do you find that you're disciplined, and how does that help you?

Suskind: Yes and no. I think, in certain ways, I am very disciplined and in certain ways, I am probably less disciplined. It would probably serve me to be less disciplined in certain parts of my life as well. I think it certainly is something that can be helpful and used to your advantage, but it shouldn't be taken to an extreme, right? Because then, you can use discipline to help encourage you to build good habits and things that serve you, but you can also use discipline to reinforce bad habits, so it's all sort of contextual, I think.

This transcription was edited for clarity.

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