“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
If you want to look at a field in which constantly honing one’s skills is critical, medicine is a natural. New technology and research are always upping the ante, and outstanding physicians work hard to stay on the cutting edge.
One doctor who always brings his A-game to his work is Yankees doctor Christopher Ahmad. Just as athletes roll video tape to improve their game, Dr. Ahmad is constantly analyzing his performance with an eye toward improvement. The Fall 2016 issue of Columbia Magazine (http://magazine.columbia.edu/) adapted five skill-sharpening tips from Dr. Ahmad’s recent book entitled Skill* we can fruitfully apply:
Take the high road: While we are all entranced with the idea of effortless talent, “the prodigy myth” is just that — a myth. Whatever the field, talent is honed only through effort and “specific regimens, like persistent training and study. Remember that talent is not bestowed — it’s acquired.”
Carry a notebook: “High-level performers keep a performance journal. They write and reflect. Get a journal and write your results form today, your ideas for tomorrow, and your goals for next week.”
Analyze your mentor: Identify skilled performers who inspire you and focus on their strategies — “study their preparation, their work ethic, their leadership skills, and how they respond to pressure. Do not passively observe them. Take command and immerse yourself in their experience.”
Engage in self-critiquing: It’s tough, but critical to critique your performance without letting your ego get in the way. “People who pay deeper attention to an error learn significantly more than those who don’t. Address mistakes immediately and take them seriously but never personally.”
Find your sweet spot: We all learn best when we put ourselves at the edge of our ability. “The sweet spot is difficult, elicits frustration, creates alertness to errors, forces a struggle, and requires full engagement. Push to find your personal sweet spot.”
Hard-hitting advice that we can all take to heart as we write on.
* These tips are adapted from Dr. Ahmad’s recently published book, Skill: 40 Principles that Surgeons, Athletes, and other Elite Performers Use to Achieve Mastery.