Shape on you | Inquirer Opinion
In the Pink of Health

Shape on you

An early morning message, back in 2015, stood out from all the rest: “Can you please be one of the guest speakers for an upcoming youth summit on leadership?” It had come from a friend who was well-immersed and respected in the corporate world. Without even thinking, I swiftly replied in the affirmative and gave him a call to ask about specifics. He told me that the audience was to be composed of 118 student leaders from all over the country, and the objective was to share proven leadership practices in my field of expertise.

“Are you sure about your decision and am I qualified enough?” I Iaughingly asked him, well aware that my personal knowledge and experience may be wanting toward the subject on hand. His answer: “Don’t worry, you will be provided a reference. My colleague will be in touch and thanks for graciously accepting.” In subsequent communications, the assignment became more defined. The talk was to be based on one of the five practices on how students could become exemplary leaders and was authored by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Pushing some uneasy thoughts aside as this was not the usual audience, nor was it a scientific topic, there was comfort to be found in being given enough time to prepare. But how does one fashion it in a way that would be interesting enough to hold the student’s attention for 30 minutes? Fortunately, I had come across Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford and decided to use it as a template. Who doesn’t love to hear a story?

“Model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, encourage the heart.” To be a commendable leader, these were the five evidence-based practices mentioned by the authors. At a glance, each one is self-explanatory, save for challenging the process which would require a little bit more elucidation. This was the topic assigned and arriving at that chapter, I had to flex my imagination to incorporate and illustrate its content into the story that was to be told. To summarize, it was about taking the initiative to further one’s limits by practicing outsight, acting on opportunities to improve, taking risks, and learning from both success and failures in the name of growth.


My turn at the podium and excerpts from the talk. “Not everyone is fortunate to have a vision of themselves early in life, but for your group, you know what you want to become and have a fair idea of how to get there. You have your parents or that significant figure to thank for. As Melinda Gates once said, ‘if one is successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you off in the right direction.’” With that as an opening statement, I spoke about my own journey as a physician.


It takes close to a decade to get a medical degree and several more years to finish further training in a field that one chooses to specialize in. This profession entails perseverance, hard work, and sacrifice and is never meant for those who are faint of heart for there are endless responsibilities that go with it. You survive all these because you are committed. One incident that forever is etched in my memory was of a renowned physician who berated me for having forgotten a cranial nerve while still in medical school and saying that the chances of getting the degree were slim because of it. Being committed is the one thing that you can hold on to in the face of a setback or failure but these should always be perceived as temporary and opportunities to be better at what you do.

In your career, you will be thrown opportunities that could alter your life’s course. Mine was a job offer that was closely related to my area of interest and was a little bit out of my comfort zone but appealing enough to momentarily divert my attention. At a crossroads, whether to be a clinician or be part of the corporate force, I dug deep into what I loved most, and being the former won out. To this day, there are no regrets.

I ended up by saying that they are young and bright, and the future will always be promising if they work for it. Each day should be an opportunity to expand themselves. Borrowing some lines from the chapter, it would be good to remember to stay excited by always asking ”What’s new, what’s next, and what’s better?” Stay realistic and humble, and show your love and appreciation for your parents and those who support you. What you eventually make of yourself is from the choices you have made.

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TAGS: fitness, health, In The Pink of Health, medical column

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