hey played with laser-like focus. They practiced with laser-like focus. They achieved more success than their peers. Why? 20-something years later, I still remember the revelation I got that day.
I found myself stuck in a long line with a bunch of fellow residents I didn’t know during my general surgery residency orientation. After what seemed like forever I got bored enough to ask one of the more experienced surgeons nearby about the book he was holding.
This author had interviewed almost all the most elite athletes - Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and a bunch more. What was it that made them elite? What was the magic they all seemed to possess? Could us mere mortals discover and harness their secret super power?
The answer was one I’d never have thought of in a million years. I guessed it was an overwhelming confidence in their talent and ability to win. After all, they had already won so many times and were clearly the best. But, after talking to these athletes, the author discovered that exactly none of them were thinking about confidence while stepping onto the field. Quite the opposite. Even more than winning, these elite athletes hated to lose! So, to avoid that possibility, they had honed their focus until it was laser-like.
That surgeon enlightened me to the secret that separated the best surgeons from the rest - they harnessed the same mentality and focus as these elite athletes. With every single operation, while there may be confidence in our ability to do it well, there must be a keen awareness of the possibility it may go badly. And we ought to absolutely hate that possibility. We ought to do everything we can to avoid that possibility. That focus should guide every operation, the preparation for every operation, all of our study, and all of our training.
That realization that focus beats talent has driven me ever since. It’s one of the most important lessons I instill into the residents that I’ve trained. We are all human, flawed and perfection is impossible. Instead, we should strive for excellence in all we do.
Excellence in everything is my laser-like focus, both personally and professionally.