Why I Quit My Stable, High-Paying Job and Left Medicine

money

I spent 2 months in the depths of hell. Lemme tell you about it …

My life was set. I was on track to a life of comfort, security, and prestige. The American dream was within my grasp — the house with the white-picket fence, the wife, and the 2.5 kids.

I had a stable salary and generous benefits. In 4 years, I would have been making $200,000 to $300,000 a year. And possibly twice that in another 4 years. I would have been among the top 5% (maybe even among the top 1%) salary-wise.

Plus …who has ever heard of an unemployed doctor?

The female nurses certainly paid attention to the incoming class of medical interns, talking among themselves which doctor would invite them to a night in the call room. Many of them secretly hoped that maybe this year they can marry a doctor.

All I had to do was to put my head down, do as I was told, and put in my hours. It sounds easy, but I couldn’t do it. It’s not because I am incapable. On the contrary, my evaluations were glowing and perfect. None of the senior doctors had a problem with me. All of them asked me to stay.

So why did I leave? Why did I give up a sure thing? Why did I give up a life of comfort, security, and prestige?

Because every day in residency, I can feel a bit of my soul dying. I was in hell.

I no longer walked with my head held high. I no longer smiled. I no longer felt well-rested.

My body tried to warn me. Two days before I began working, I took an afternoon nap and fell into a deep sleep. I dreamed I was in a class taught by the dean of my medical school, preparing the incoming class for the first day of residency. Several times throughout the dream, I felt chills that reached all way to my bones. It was as if someone scratched the chalkboard or as if a ghost walked right through me.

The chills did not come from the sweltering summer heat. They didn’t come from the air-conditioner, which barely making a dent in the thermostat. They came from the core of my being. My body was trying to tell me that residency will be a huge mistake.

And it was right. Why?

Because my job failed to meet three criteria.

Three Criteria of an Awesome Job

You can grade the quality of any job with the following criteria:

  1. You enjoy the work.
  2. You are paid well.
  3. You are learning and growing in the right direction.

An awesome job will meet all three criteria. You’re a fool if you quit it.

A great job will meet two criteria. You’ll have difficulty finding another job of the same caliber.

A mediocre job will meet one criterion. Most people have mediocre jobs and only stay for the steady paycheck. You should probably quit it and find something better.

A crap job will meet none of the criteria. You’re a fool if you stay.

Does the job I gave up meet the three criteria? No. And here is why …

Enjoyment

The best way to tell if you like your job or not is to gauge your attitude in the morning when you wake up. As you rub the crust out of your eyes, are you dying to get to work … or would you rather die than go to work?

Even if you don’t hate your job (but don’t love it either), there is something else you would rather do than to go to work. If you do not love your job, it failed to meet this criterion.

I woke up every morning at 4:00 AM or 5:00 AM, depending on how early I had to get to the hospital, wishing I was free from the chains of hell medicine. Not another day of boring lectures, endless notes, and rounding on patients.

But you know what is worse than working a job you hate? How about living a job you hate. When I mentioned about putting in the hours, I was not talking about a mere 40 hours a week. Rather, it was 70 – 80 hours a week. On top of that … I was supposed spend my meager free time reading about medicine. That’s the last thing I wanna do after a 14-hour day of torture.

My life consisted of working, eating, and sleeping … with work taking up the bulk of my life. My life was medicine. There were many days where I worked, ate, and slept in the hospital.

My wife was medicine, and I certainly did not sign up for a marriage. Every moment was medicine, medicine, and (you guessed it) more medicine. I had to carry around an outdated nagging device — the pager. Whenever the “wife” called my pager, I had to call back to find out what was wrong. Every time the pager beeped, I sighed and dutifully called back … wondering what crap I had to do now.

Salary

The best way to determine if you salary is sufficient is to look at earning per hour. How much are you making every hour? And if you are working more than 40 hours a week, factor in overtime at time and a half.

For me, a good salary is one that is higher than the previous one. So minimum wage is good for a high school kid. $40,000 a year is good for a normal college graduate. So on and so forth.

I was making decent money as an accountant, but then I took a step backwards after becoming a doctor.

I made twice as much money per hour as an accountant (before medical school) than as a medical resident (after medical school). It is sad that 4 more years of schooling does not mean a higher salary.

I know, I know … I would have made darn good money 4 years later. But that is 4 years too late.

Growth

If I had to choose the most important criterion, this is it. Remember … there are only two paths in your life: growth or death. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. And for me, I was dying.

I admit … I did learn quite a bit during residency. I learned how to work the hospital’s electronic medical system. I learned how to write faster notes. I learned a bit more about medicine itself.

But I was not learning what I wanted to learn. I was not growing in a way that benefited me. How was becoming more efficient as a doctor going to help me as an individual. Sure, I can work faster and the hospital can make more money from me. But I cannot translate what I learned to my personal development. I was learning how to be a better cog in the hospital business machine.

I wanna become a better writer and a better entrepreneur. I wanna express my mind in the art of words. I wanna be financially self-sufficient … to have f-u skills and to earn f-u money without having to give up control of my life.

I was not getting closer to my goals. And thus, I had to quit.

How Much Is a Prime Year of Your Life Worth?

I wonder if I would have quit if I made the same per hour as I did as an accountant — making six-figures working the insane hours.

I don’t know. Money is convincing. A steady paycheck is addicting.

I asked my best friend what she thought. If I made six-figures in my job, would I still quit? After thinking for a moment, she said, “Yes.” Looking back, I agree.

I had no control over my life. Medicine consumed it. No money is worth the loss of control of my own life.

If you’re ever stuck in the hellhole of work, and wondering if you should quit your soul-sucking job, you have to ask yourself one question:

What is a prime year of your life worth?

Because in essence, that is what you are doing when you are working a job you hate. You are trading your precious life for money.

If I offered you $50,000 (more like $35,000 after taxes), would you give up one year of youth, health, and stamina? How about $100,000 (more like $60,000 after taxes)?

Do you wanna amass things and money, only to find out you cannot enjoy them because you’re now too old?

Not me. That is why I gave up a sure path of comfort, security, and prestige. My life is worth so much more than that.

Anyways, in the long-run, I can make so much more while enjoying the work and growing in the right direction.

Are you thinking about leaving medicine? I wrote a book about how I left …

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Comments

  1. Good to see you back on the blog brother! It’s been a long time.

    It must have taken balls of steel to walk away from a field that I know you have spent a huge amount of time, money, and energy on.

    Will you regret it? Maybe, maybe not, but you made the right decision for yourself and your sanity. You now have your soul back and are free to hustle and grind doing things you genuinely love. You’re a true gladiator!

    Best of luck my friend, and welcome back to the web grind.

    Jeff

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey Jeff,

      Thanks for stopping by, even though I did not update this site is quite a long time.

      You know what? You were not the first person to tell me I was brave to just get up and walk away. But I don’t believe in wasting my life. I can make money and earn my freedom another way.

      After 1 week of reading and relaxing, I’m back hustling. I plan to document the different ways I’m gonna make money without a job.

  2. DAMN! Alex where have you been!
    I was surprised to hear form you!
    Anyway I have to say that what you did took some serious balls! To decide that your life rather than money is more important. I can understand what you went through because i have cousins in my family who are Doctors. Although they make a ton of money in their respective medical fields they have no time for anything else.

    Looking at them i can tell that they are miserable and stressed out! Their personal lives are in shambles! When you come up not having money, money is all you tend to think about and not about your happiness and health.

    I used to be like that before but then realized after suffering an Anxiety attack that it was just not worth the suffering.

    I changed my views after that and it has been working for me ever since. I guess there is a reason for the saying “More money more problems!

    Good to have you back bro!

    Jose

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey bro,

      Nice to hear from you.

      Medicine is definitely a field where you have to put in your time to earn the money. And for someone that did not want to waste time being miserable, I just had to leave.

      Lots of the doctors in the hospital are stressed or sad. I feel so bad calling them up at like 3:00 AM to present patients. That is probably the last thing they wanna do … listen to another admission at that hour.

      That was not the life for me.

      • Charles says:

        Hi Alex! I just found your website and I’m excited to read everything that you have written, including your books, and the books that you recommend. Perhaps you have studied the writings of Victor Pride, JJ Luna, and Simon Black?

        At any rate, I thought that you and others might find this interesting:

        “One does not need a medical degree to:

        1. avoid excessive use of tobacco or alcohol or, for that matter, caffeine;
        2. avoid poisons like fluoride, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, and addictive drugs (legal or illicit);
        3. avoid unnecessary and potentially lethal imaging studies (TSA’s radiation pornbooths, excessive mammography, repetitive CT scans – exposure to all significantly increases cancer risk);
        4. avoid excessive cell phone use and exposure to other forms of EMR pollution where possible (the NSA is recording everything you say and text anyway);
        5. avoid daily fast food use and abuse (remember: pink slime and silicone) ;
        6. avoid untested GM foods (do you really want to become “Roundup Ready?”):
        7. avoid most vaccinations and pharmaceutical agents promoted by the establishment;
        8. avoid risky behaviors (and, we do not need a bunch of Nanny State bureaucrats to define and police these);
        9. exercise moderately;
        10. get plenty of sleep;
        11. drink plenty of good quality water (buy a decent water filter to remove fluoride, chloride, and heavy metals);
        12. wear protective gear at work and play where appropriate (helmets, eye-shields, knee and elbow pads, etc.):
        13. seek out locally-grown, whole, organic foods and support your local food producers;
        14. take appropriate nutritional supplements (multi-vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3);
        15. switch off the TV and the mainstream media it represents;
        16. educate yourself while you can;

        And, lastly…

        17. QUESTION AUTHORITY!”–by Robert S. Dotson, M.D.

        Reflections on a Medical Career by Robert S. Dotson, M.D.
        http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2012/08/02/reflections-medical-career-robert-s-dotson-m-d/

  3. Great post Alex.

    What’s a prime year of your life worth? I’d look at it more in the 20-50 million range.

    Glad you’re back.

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey Sean,

      Good to hear from you. And I’ve heard you’re Victor apprentice. Congratz!

      I’ve read a few of your articles and your writing has gotten more powerful. Keep up a good work.

      What is the prime of my life worth? I think the figure you suggested is pretty good.

      I can’t wait to see your 7-figure business next year.

    • OH WORD!

      You are Victor’s apprentice! Fantastic Sean make sure you pay attention as Victor has a lot ot teach you!

      Congratulations my friend!
      Jose

  4. SanderDaGreat says:

    Alex you’re a very intelligent man, way more than 99% of the world population.
    Great blog, read it in a day.

    The problem is that people undervalue their time way too much, even people with ambition.
    They don’t have the balls to quit their dead-end job, even after amassing some capital just to pay the bills while starting their own thing.

    You must enter action with boldness, and you can’t do it while your soul is in another place.
    There’s no way to master something while all your energies are used to endure your shitty job.

    You must go all in, or you will never achieve greatness.

    Selling a decade of my life just to become a middle-class millionaire?
    No thanks, I’ll leave that to people who are not destined for greatness.

    See you on the winner’s circle man.

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey Sander,

      I totally agree with you. People undervalue their time too much and overvalue security (i.e. a steady paycheck).

      Time and dedication = destiny

      And for too many people, they let someone else determine their future.

      I had to leave because I had no time to grow in the way I wanna grow. I didn’t have time for reading or writing or learning anything else besides medicine.

      I’ll see ya on the flip side, playa …

  5. Glad to have you back, Alex.

    I wish you the best of luck. You’ve come a long way.

    Am curious, have you read Richard Koch’s “The Star Principle”? The 80/20 book is good, but I suspect that this one might suit you better. Alternatively, you have heard of the BCG share-growth matrix – look at ‘stars’.

    And Unrogue got an apprenticeship with Victor Pride. Interesting.

    Cheers.

  6. Congrats…Alex. I totally agree with you. I decided to stop trading my time for money. Health in all aspects have always been a priority for me however I also learned that time and freedom are also important too. That’s I decided to start lootpost. I would like for you to check out the updated version and give me an honest review. Go to http://www.lootpost.com and tell me what you think about it. Hopefully with this project I can buy my time back and regain my soul.

  7. ” I would have been among the top 5% (maybe even among the top 1%) salary-wise. ”

    Everyone talks about the 1%. But really, if you are living in the U.S. in any sort of even semi-comfortable situation, you are in the 1% for the world. If you have shoes and clothes, your life is at the expense of others’. Which is why more people should do what you did. A life wasted isn’t just one life wasted. It wastes all the other people’s who never got a chance because someone else took excess resources to thrive. And then so many people take excess resources to try to thrive, but end up hating their jobs and their lives.

    • Hey John,

      For some reason, your comment was in the spam folder of awhile so I apologize for not responding sooner.

      It is hard to give up comforts and security. Sure, even the poor people here have a roof over their head and food to eat, but for most people, that is not good enough. They would rather trade their time to a boss to be taken care of, to have a nicer roof and tastier food. If they must live out their remaining life in quiet desperation, then so be it.

  8. Tiffany Sun says:

    Haha, this is really driving my curiosity but what did you mean 2.5 kids (after reading the American dream was within your grasp)?

    Really loved reading your article though! Makes me reflect back on the jobs I used to have. Glad you found what makes you happy, and that isn’t expressed in money.

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey Tiffany,

      The 2.5 kids mean 2 children and 1 dog.

      Yeah, it has been quite a hectic year. Although the primary thing is to do what I like, money is still important!!

  9. Made a Mistake says:

    You are my hero! Thank you for this post!
    I’m going to quit too and have bookmarked this post to remind me to stick to my commitment whenever i get scared.

  10. This post has inspired me so much! Like a precious comment I have printed this out and posted on my fridge to remind me of the right life decision I’ve made. $$$ can be huge anchors. Even $$$ not obtained yet (left ~200K stock options that would have vested in 12months). The weight that I could physically feel lift from me when I accepted a job of personal growth was incredible.

    I and the other, former led-by-the-nose/$$$ folks thank you!

  11. I’m reading this right now as an intern and it’s putting me in a weird funk. I need to do some soul searching. Thanks for having the courage to say F this! The weird thing is, I don’t even have student loans to hold me back. I don’t have a solid plan B to F this plan A. I’ll just keep reading your book and blog posts for now.

  12. So what do you do now ?

  13. Hey Alex, I’m a resident starting my PGY3 year. I will finish residency after PGY4. I have been feeling very miserable at my job for the past year. I have contemplated quitting but given my major in college was science, feel quite ill prepared to venture into another field. Any advice on life after medicine?

    • Alex Ding says:

      With 2 years, you already qualify for a medical license pretty much anywhere in the country. If you want, get your license and moonlight. Your income wouldn’t be as high as if you finished residency.

      Another thing, depending on how much free time you have (as a PGY-3, you should have some), try to start a side business. Experiment. Try something. Even if you fail, you get experience.

      Residency can be brutal. It gets much better once you’re out. But at least you’re no longer on the bottom of the totem pole. The main question you must ask is can you see yourself practicing in your specialty after residency?

      • This post was incredibly on point. Every word resonated with me and every word I’ve been caught saying many times to myself and to the people in my life who I try to explain why I want to quit. I’m a PGY-2 and I have been on my last hair for a very long time. Part of me dies every day, and I just want to enjoy my 20s and the years I won’t get back. I’m not the person I was before medicine took me over. I’m this close to jumping ship, I’m just being guarded about the security of the options I take moving forward. If you have any advice on life after the switch I would so much appreciate it as I can see that our views align very much and your insight would be valuable to me. In any event, power to you for deciding what you did and I wish you the best in your future.

        • Alex Ding says:

          The best advice I can give is know what’s next. Don’t just quit and do nothing. If you must quit, pivot to something else. Never lose momentum.

          You’re a PGY-2. Maybe things will get better. Maybe not.

          If you quality for a medical license, that will give you more options after you leave.

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