Ideas Won't Keep. Something Must Be Done About Them – Alfred North Whitehead
Neither of us can remember the exact moment the idea for BYS came into being, other than we were hiking (or tramping in ‘Kiwi’) and I was having a moment of despair about my future career plans – namely lack thereof – and generally feeling a bit lost. After talking it through, initially between ourselves, and later with friends and colleagues, we realised I was definitely not the only one to feel like this.
We also realised that feelings of unfulfillment, demoralisation and general out-of-depthness are not only associated with being unsure about medicine as a career. I spoke to so many people who remain deeply passionate about clinical practice but still felt there was something missing or wished they had been better prepared for the non-clinical challenges they are faced with on a daily basis.
Over the course of several months, the concept of BYS slowly took shape. We would brainstorm, sketch out ideas and draft out potential website designs if we had some down-time but this was never consistent. I registered our business name, domain name and set up our social media handles (all set to private) but they all sat idle, waiting for activation. We scoured the internet and Facebook forums for organisations and individuals we could potentially collaborate with. I had collated lists of hundreds names and email addresses – like a genuine stalker – but we didn’t have anything tangible yet to ask them to contribute to.
Weeks of quarantine gifted us with something unprecedented: uninterrupted time
And then COVID-19 graced us with its presence, resulting in our long-planned 8 months of travel and volunteer work being cut short 3 months in and a hasty return to NZ. Despite the worry about our friends, family and general state of the world, the enforced period of self-isolation, followed by weeks of quarantine, gifted us with something unprecedented: uninterrupted time with literally nothing else to do. It was time to get stuck in.
Our first hurdle was not actually being able to access our own home, having rented it for the duration of our now defunct travels. Luckily we had taken my laptop and a tablet travelling and once we had spent some of our travel budget on a shiny new monitor (getting it ordered just under the wire before Level $ lockdown kicked in), we set up a pretty serviceable workstation at our AirBnB dining table.
We started having daily ‘business meetings’ which often involved a few, shall we say, creative differences. I downloaded a range of business plan templates and we started working through the nitty gritty of how this could work. I have a fair bit of experience in project planning from working with a charity and in a non-clinical Quality Improvement role but this was a different ball game. Not least the fact that if I am hoping to be able to do this full time, it needs to be profitable. We defined our target audience and considered our ‘competitors’ (I prefer to think of them as potential collaborators given we all have the same aim. Naïve to the core? We will find out). All those months of ideas started to form into concrete designs of how we could achieve our vision.
Daily ‘business meetings’ often involved a few, shall we say, creative differences.
However, after an initial flurry of enthusiasm about Paul learning to code and building our own website, we realised this was unrealistic with him also returning to work full-time. And so began our foray into the world of the ‘website contractor’ and choosing someone to employ. You can read all about that roller coaster in our third post in this Behind The Scenes series: The Root of All Evil.
For now, I wanted to share with you my top 3 learnings/musings from our first few weeks as, I guess, what you would call a ‘start-up’
In moments when I find myself staring out the window wondering if I should just go back to a routine, regular income and continuation of my quest to achieve the world record for longest-serving SHO, I remind myself why I am doing this.
While I might be struggling to nail down an aspect of how BYS will work, our vision of all doctors having happy, fulfilled lives is something I remain so passionate about.
I think of my friends, my peers, their patients - happy doctors make better doctors – and I am able to refocus.
More than once in recent weeks I have told Paul, my partner and BYS co-founder, that I have ‘completed the internet’ on a certain topic. Whilst this is clearly grossly overstating my endeavours, I have read a seemingly endless stream of articles, papers and blog posts on key topics relating to career planning and non-clinical skills.
If Google could design an originality filter, that would be fantastic.
The problem I have encountered is that 98% (conservative estimate) of these say exactly the same thing, with the remainder containing gems of true inspiration. This success hit-rate makes the filtering process rather inefficient, not to mention dull. If Google could design an originality filter, that would be fantastic. If you ever read an article on this website that has been written in the style of top 5 ways to….complete blank (read: avoid independent thought and plagirise the rest of the internet) please unsubscribe immediately; we have failed you. We will obviously gain inspiration from concepts and resources that are already developed, but if we do not adapt these to cater for our community - what is the point?
I remember being about 10 and my teacher returning a story I had written ‘good grammar…rather active imagination’. As a child I would notoriously spend so long explaining the plot of ‘make-believe’ games to long-suffering adults that we rarely had time to actually play them. I forced my friends at the age of 15 to participate in a short film of completely nonsensical sketches when everyone else was smoking behind the bike sheds. Miraculously they all still interact with me today.
Creativity was mentally shelved to make space for algorithms, facts and protocols.
And then I did medicine. Creativity was mentally shelved to make space for algorithms, facts and protocols. My ability to write was reduced to grammar checking friends’ essays in return for chocolate (not that I’m complaining about that). Ask friends I have made in recent years and they will tell you my main skills are organisation and ‘being nice to people’. While these are not bad qualities - though I still question whether being nice is a ‘skill’ - it does make me a bit sad. Not least because this is partly my own fault for allowing my creativity to become dormant.
Three months later and, while I still find myself slipping into a writing style that would be more at home in a journal than ‘conversational blog’ more often than I would like, things are slowly shifting. Ideas flow more easily, thoughts are less linear and we have a storyboard of Lego scenes to film. Creativity: welcome back.