Although my mantra for working moms has always been that “good enough is the new perfect,” I may have to change that now that I’ve read Better by Atul Gawande, the surgeon who often writes for the New Yorker. Maybe better should be the new perfect.
I am still pretty old school in the respect I have for the medical profession, so I was surprised to learn that even surgeons often feel like just cogs in a very large machine. He notes that at the end of the day, “medicine is retail,” you can only serve one patient at a time. Sister, I hear ya.
I love that Gawande’s answer to, “How do I really matter” is so simple: just try to do better. Or in fancier words, become a “positive deviant.”
His five specific suggestions for HOW to do better (again, a man who understands retail execution!) are also simple:
- “Ask an unscripted question.” It doesn’t have to be profound, just ask something unexpected and see what you learn about the person in front of you. At the very least, it’s a powerful way to transform cogs into people. To me, it’s an amazing way to clear space for connection.
- “Don’t complain.” Because “it’s boring, it doesn’t solve anything, and it will get you down.” You don’t have to face sunny 24/7 – just come up with something else to talk about. Emotional energy is such a precious resource, we need to protect each other from needless waste.
- “Count something.” Diligent observation saves lives. Because counting leads to connecting, which leads to solutions. Because counting is a way of seeing, which is necessary for engagement.
- “Write something.” I hope he includes paraphrasing the work of others . . . but I do agree that writing is connecting. To write is to believe in the goodness of reflected sharing.
- “Change.” Actively seek opportunities to become an early adopter of solutions that are not necessarily perfect, but at least . . . better. Try something new, even if it’s not perfect. And if you fail , count how many times. And write about it (in a non-complainy way). And repeat.
I’m excited by how doable these suggestions are. I believe we ARE deviating positively at Julep, and it is powerful to grow a company of people, not cogs. Thank you everyone for asking, conserving, counting, sharing, and trying. And thank you Carrie for suggesting this book!