We’re talking alternative careers, medical training, fitness, nutrition, bodybuilding, and rock hard abs in this episode of Surgical Spirit, where I’m goined by anaesthetist and fitness professional Dr. Emil ‘Goliath’ Hodzovic!
Find out more about Dr. Hodzovic and his ongoing work, including Project Goliath and Project Revitalisation, at his website here – and prepare for a super fun and interesting discussion. He’s as pleasing to the ear as he is to the eye.
As always, you can click here to listen to the full episode now, or read on for a short written excerpt from the show before you check out the full thing.
Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: It’s a real pleasure having you on the show, and you know I love it when I have celebrities on – and you’re a celebrity, mate!
Dr. Emil Hodzovic: Well… internet pseudo-celebrity on Instagram one time. Sort of. Ish.
Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: How did it happen? How did your celebrity thing happen?
Dr. Emil Hodzovic: It was back when Instagram was easier to hack. It was back in 2015, basically I was finishing my anaesthetic core training and I decided I wanted to leave medicine to pursue a career in fitness – and to do that, I figured people listen if you have abs. So I went on a mission to get abs!
I competed as a body builder and during that time it was less saturated – so I had a story, it was a little bit unique, I got ripped, and I was putting a lot of content out on Instagram regularly and consistently. The following shot up while I was competing – I mean 20,000 or whatever on Instagram is not much, it doesn’t do anything these days but back then it was it was quite nice, it was quite interesting.
Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: Was it more male, female who were following you because of those abs?
Dr. Emil Hodzovic: You know what? It’s the standard gym thing. It’s mainly male – like when you go into the gym and it’s all ‘looking good there bro’, all that kind of stuff. People do this – they get into the whole gym, sport, abs thing and they’re like ‘I want to do it so girls think I look good’ or whatever. Girls don’t care! Ultimate secret: girls don’t care. It’s for the other bros, and ultimately it’s for yourself, you know?
All throughout my life I’ve been lots of different shapes, lots of different sizes, done lots of different sports – and every time, the only consistent feature was everyone was saying ‘you look fine now, you shouldn’t change.’ When you hear that for the twelfth or thirteenth time you’re like, maybe no-one cares. So you’re doing it for yourself. Don’t kid yourself. You might start out thinking ‘I want to look sexy’, but very quickly you need to bring that motivation internally otherwise it’ll fizzle out.
Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: It’s strange that you do so much for other people that you don’t really know. It sort of consumes you inside.
Dr. Emil Hodzovic: A lot of the things that most people do a lot of the time – if you really dig, really boil down to it – are because of external influences. Whether it’s an increase in status, whether it’s to gain admiration or acceptance from certain people – family, parents, other medical professionals, whatever – if you boil it down, if you keep digging, that’s ultimately what it comes to. Being a doctor is a prime example because a lot of people get into being a doctor for a variety of reasons for sure.
Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: So what happened recently? You said you were going to mention something that happened recently.
Dr. Emil Hodzovic: Continuing on from that… I got into medicine because of my dad. When I was sixteen my dad said to me ‘you should be a doctor.’ My dad’s a consultant anaesthetist… and I was like ‘yeah that sounds pretty good.’
‘I quite like science, I quite like people, I’m quite good exams – let’s do this! My whole life is sorted, I pretty much don’t need to think anymore, I just need to just keep passing exams’ – and I was good at that so at sixteen I did my GCSEs, did my A-Levels and they were all fine. Got into med school and just kept passing everything I needed to pass. I was very good at that, and then it was only literally 2014/2015 where I stopped enjoying it. Before that, I was enjoying it. I absolutely loved it, so there’s no regret or anything about that… but something changed.
What I realised recently was [to do with] one of the bigger influences for me consciously or subconsciously. I was [only] doing it because my dad said [to]. Nothing like he twisted my arm or anything like that – I did it off my own back – but that was a huge influence and then since I’ve left, I’ve always been trying to succeed and prove that I’ve been successful, to prove that my choices are the correct choices. To prove that I haven’t squandered what I’ve done.
So recently I kind of came to realise that was one of my prime motivators, and now what I’m really working with is trying to turn that around and do it for me. Which is a tiny, subtle, subtle point, but you know what — it changes everything. It changes from constantly trying to please people and do more and be more and earn more, to switching it around and saying ‘I am enough and now I will do what I want to do and succeed.’
Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: So, back in 2014 when you said ‘this is enough for me’, was there a particular incident? Did something happen – a particular story?
Dr. Emil Hodzovic: Interesting that you picked up on that. Yeah, it was clearly brewing for a period, and certainly fitness was an undercurrent for me for my whole life. Through university I worked as a fitness professional in a gym, I did a sports science degree as an intercalated degree, so I was always working and competing in fitness – and then obviously when I qualified I took a backseat. I was loving anaesthetics, I got really stuck into the exams, and then it kind of started to fall apart at the seams – and it was then speaking to one of the bosses, one of the consultants, and them saying that they’ve got this private gig going alongside [consultancy] and they’re earning crazy amounts of money [yet] they’re still unhappy with what they’re doing.
For me, I’m like this is my goal, this is what I’m aspiring to be… and I don’t think it’s what I want. That was enough. As I said just before we started, my goal is to wake up every morning excited. I see no reason why that should be a ridiculous desire. I want to wake up and I want to be excited about the day ahead. I was genuinely excited to go to work, learn more stuff, put people to sleep, do the emergencies. I loved it. And then it stopped – and when it stopped, I thought right, I need a get out plan and within eight months I’d finished core training and I was out, basically.
Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: Was it difficult just to walk away like that?
Dr. Emil Hodzovic: You know what? The NHS is not built for doctors to leave. It’s a conveyor belt – and that was what appealed to me at sixteen, because I jumped on the conveyor belt and I didn’t have to think anymore. I just sat there…
Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim: Everything was done for you.
Dr. Emil Hodzovic: Pretty much! When you need to apply for a new job, they email you. They tell you, ‘you need to apply for a new job, click this button’ and you just have to pick specialties and things. I still did the exams I was supposed to do, I still had a backup plan, and when I left core training the plan initially – which I think is why I accepted it – was I would take twelve months on locum and then I could always go back if I wanted to. Which is kind of the trick I was telling myself, to reassure myself that what I was doing was okay.
So I minimised all my outgoings, I booked locums as soon as I finished, I had saved up some money – did everything to [keep] secure and then I started off as a fitness coach. That was three years ago, and every day which passed since I left secured the fact that I was never getting back to the training.
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