I am a person who likes my rituals. Every morning I get up (I’m an early riser), make my coffee, feed the pets and then sit in front of my computer and read. Most weekdays, I read my email, whatever documents I need to review for my meetings that day and edit anything that others may have sent me overnight or late in the day. On the weekends, I tend to substitute that email reading with articles of interest or TED talks—something that lets my mind grow. This ritual brings me peace and creates order in what often feels like a chaotic and unpredictable world—especially these days.
This weekend, I was reading this article from Korn Ferry, a leadership blog I enjoy, which has focused frequently on the challenges of leading in this uncertain time. In it, Gary Burnison quotes his son, it’s “all about learning the difference between glass balls and rubber balls.” That is, in this time of so much change, so much to do, so many “balls up in the air,” all we can do is learn to distinguish which will break if we let them drop, and which will bounce, to be dealt with another day. I found this to be a profound metaphor for the life we are all living right now, whether we are talking about school, work, home or the combination of all in any given day.
This week marks the start of orientation for our Phase 1 Gateway M1 students. Our Phase 1 M2s officially graduate to support this new class as they enter, and look forward to (or maybe become anxious about) their core clerkship year starting in January (Phase 2), or transitioning to the lab, in the case of our MSTPs. Our 3rd years are well into their core clerkships and our 4th years are getting ready for interviews, MSPEs soon to be released. Our PT, OT, PACS and DBBS students have started and are already trying to sort the balls they are juggling. Our residents and fellows may be mostly settled in to the hyper focus of this stage of training (lots of glass balls and steep learning curves): 2 months on the job for most of them but no doubt still trying to figure it all out. Faculty and staff are coming back to campus part or full-time, juggling kids in school, other family responsibilities and work in the hybrid world we now live in. All of us—learners, staff, faculty—we are all juggling glass and rubber balls and the trick will be to figure out which are glass and which are rubber.
Many of us will make mistakes as we try to sort out the needs of this new time—whether it is a new place, new curriculum, new work environment or new balancing act. We will drop some glass balls accidentally and hold on too tightly to the rubber ones that would be just fine to let go of and pick up later. It will be okay. We will learn from our mistakes and grow from them. We will call for help when the balls are too many and give help when we have room to take on more. We will, I hope, take pride in our accomplishments, what we have done and what we have overcome in these last few years to get to where we are now. Finally, I hope we will appreciate what we have. For me, I am grateful for this work that sustains me, and for you, whose work and engagement gives me so much joy and pride. I am grateful for my family, whose support gets me through the toughest of days. And, while all of this means more balls up in the air, I am blessed to be surrounded by others, who can catch the balls I will inevitably drop.