Life Lessons From A Surgeon
January 4, 2020
My 89 year old father underwent a complex surgery a couple of weeks back that had all of us in the family worried. On the scheduled day, he was wheeled into the surgery theater sharp at 8.30 am and the procedure lasted over a couple of hours. Finally, the surgeon Dr. Deepak at Manipal Hospital came out of the surgery around 11.30 am to convey to my brother, also a doctor and who was with my father at the hospital, that the surgery was successful and that my father would be soon back in the ward to convalesce.
My brother immediately conveyed the message to me and I said a silent prayer of gratitude to the doctor. At that moment, another thought flashed through my mind. The surgeon is a professional like many of us and he has to show up multiple times every day to do a job of healing/saving lives. What would his mindset have to be for him to be on top of his game, not for days, months, years but decades. I was stuck by the strange parallel. I could instantly recollect the number of times in my career, where I showed up in a bad mood, distracted, stressed, angry and impacting everyone else around me. Yes, I was not in a life saving business but I was in an important role and I was expected to come in and be the best version of who I could be. I shuddered imagining how it would have been if the Doctor showed up that morning in a bad mood.
What are the life lessons I could pick up from this reflection.
Like the surgeon……
- I have to be completely present in the moment doing what needs to be done. At the surgery table, there is a patient, there is a problem to solve, there is a skill that has be put to play. There cannot be anything else going in the head. There cannot be any distraction. Would I not be operating at my highest potential if I could bring this kind of focus in what ever I do.
- I have to come with an attitude to serve. When you are in a serving mode, you are generous and when you are generous, you are giving without expecting anything in return, at that moment. Generosity is the inoculation that keeps the virus of ego under check allowing us to keep the harmful emotions at bay and maintaining a positive outlook at work.
- I have to be courageous in doing what I have to do without worrying about the consequences. Action is god . The surgeon goes into the Operation Theater knowing that a life is at stake if he or she does something wrong. This does not paralyze him from doing whatever needs to be done. This takes training. Training to keep the fear, uncertainty and anxiety in check while committing to positive action.
- I have to be in a perpetual loop of learning and growing. A surgeon cannot rest on whatever is learnt in college. The subject is evolving constantly and he has to keep abreast of all the developments and continuously re-skill to deal with new equipment, new procedures, new innovations. This is not a good to do. This is non negotiable necessity for the surgeon. Otherwise, there is no trust or credibility. If I develop this mindset and orientation to be constantly learning and growing, like the surgeon, I would be creating a legacy of trust, goodwill and value.
- I have to develop the mindset of being a artist. Surgeons may be trained in the same Medical school but every one is unique in terms of how skills are used and patients are dealt with. Surgeons are like painters who bring their own perspective that cannot be replicated. No two surgeons are the same. I would want to be the same. There should be only me capable of doing exactly what I do. My work should be my unique output, not a copy of someone else.
While skill is important, it is our approach to the job that makes the skill stand out as being unique.
There are heroes around us from whom we can take inspiration and become better at whatever we are doing. It could be a surgeon or anyone else. If you can learn to identify all that good in the others, you can very easily do the good yourself.