Yusuf Hassan worked incredibly hard at school and attained two perfect scores so that he could walk through the doors of the Monash School of Medicine.
Quick spoiler: he didn’t make it. As a result, Yusuf learnt an important lesson: falling short is a stepping stone to personal growth and achieving long-term success.
Yusuf now reflects on the importance of adapting your goals when faced with roadblocks and enjoying the process along the way. Sage advice for anyone, especially this year’s year 12 graduates.
“I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I’d be [when I missed out on admission to the Monash School of Medicine] ,” he said.
“We sometimes have such tunnel vision about what we want to do [in life]. In reality, you put your best foot forward, and as we believe in Islam, Allah is the best of planners. That really grounded me throughout this whole journey.”
It’s hard to believe Yusuf has the same number of hours in his day as the rest of us. Between being a full-time medical student, a programming director at Happy Brain Education and a lead tutor at Fraser’s Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) Tuition, you’d think he sleeps with his eyes open while grading papers and researching human anatomy.
Yusuf cautions students against forgoing their personal lives, holidays and friends in pursuit of an achievement.
“It’s about balance. You’ve got to work smart, not hard,” he said.
“You actually have SO much time. If you get a high-productivity two hours of work in, that’s almost enough for most days. It’s better than working for 10 hours in one day while looking at your phone, procrastinating and then being burnt out the next day and unable work at all.”
Yusuf was drawn to medicine because he knew it wouldn’t bore him easily. As a fan of soccer, basketball, cricket and other team sports, he was drawn to the collective nature of medicine. The need for doctors to work alongside nurses, radiology, research and more is exactly why he enjoys the field he’s in.
He admits he was always expected to ace school and succeed at everything he did right off the bat.
So, it was quite a surprise for him when he failed one section of the Undergraduate Medical Admissions Test (UMAT) by just four marks and didn’t make it into his first preference.
The Monash hopeful ended up doing a Science undergraduate degree at Melbourne University before beginning his medical school journey.
What a journey it was. Yusuf had the opportunity to go to Umrah (a variation of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) on a leadership program which also led to Jordan to do some humanitarian work with Syrian refugees. That trip would never have been possible if he got into his first preference due to timings and availability here in Australia.
It’s about balance. You’ve got to work smart, not hard
He also got to make great friends with people from all over Victoria, became vice-president of the University of Melbourne Islamic Society, and landed in his position as a program director for Happy Brain Education. All things he says he might not have been as keen to try had he thought of himself as a “med student” coming out of year 12.
Sounds like smooth sailing? Not quite. Next on the list was where his placement would be. Living in metropolitan Melbourne, he hoped and prayed for a metro placement, but the country was where he was destined to be.
That news was even harder to swallow than missing his first university preference. He was about to get married and knew he didn’t want to leave his wife-to-be for most of the week so soon after their wedding.
Then coronavirus struck, which was a surprising blessing for Yusuf. It meant he was home for 10 months of the year which provided ample time to adjust in his relationship, work from home, and take care of his general life administration. Now he’s finally moving for his rural placement with his wife who was placed in the same location. Things couldn’t have worked out better.
The ups and downs have taught Yusuf a clear lesson. The tunnel vision mentality he had in year 12 still reminds him to say, “You wanted this path and you didn’t get it, but look where you are now.” A constant prompt to stop, smell the roses and reflect on where you’ve been.
“I don’t want medicine to be everything I eat and breathe,” he said.
“There are a lot of very jaded and busy doctors who have lost the spark of why they’re doing what they do in the first place.
“I think that element of spirituality and faith I have in Islam can help push back against the materialistic aspect of medicine. I want to see myself as someone who’s very blessed.”
It’s no secret that medicine is a very conventional, linear conveyor belt, so it’s easy to get caught up in the next thing to achieve while forgetting the journey there. The same can be said for most of us, really.
It’s called a “rat race” because sometimes we’re just chasing the next accomplishment like pay rises and promotions.
Imagine being told five years ago that you’d end up where you are today. You might be amazed, but that feeling isn’t always present in the day-to-day.
“It’s kind of a sad reality to look so intently at the next step that you forget what you’ve already been blessed with,” Yusuf said.
In conversation, Yusuf constantly refers to his blessings by praising God for the opportunities and the difficulties he’s encountered. His faith is always a grounding factor that keeps him from becoming overly competitive or hungry for more without satisfaction. It’s something he wants to be known for both personally and professionally.
“I made it very clear that I wanted to be known as Muslim from day one,” he said.
“I wanted to show that you don’t need to compromise on your faith to fit in or find success. I think much of the Australian community is very accepting of people being who they are.”
All of a sudden, we’re back to where we started. A young man intent on changing peoples’ minds by simply working hard and showing exemplary character.
His advice to graduates everywhere: “Keep working hard but trust the process. Don’t let the goal consume your vision.
“Spending all of your time lamenting over a goal you didn’t achieve won’t lead to anything. Every time you move up a couple of steps in your career, stop to remember where you’ve come from and that will keep you sane, grateful and humble.”
With year 12 results just over the horizon, that advice couldn’t come at a better time.