Booklist Challenge- “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance”

In an attempt to officially shake out the last of the cobwebs that grad school left in the grey matter I call a brain I developed a book list. The book list mainly contains books I’ve never read, recommended by people I trust, or the interwebs. There are a few repeat reads, mostly books I read at an age that I can no longer summarize the book to anyone that asks if I have read it. This seemed like a good idea for 3 reasons:

  1. My family moved cross-country from sunny California to ‘why won’t it stop raining, why does it feel like I am suffocating’ Maryland. Due to this move, I had to give up my job and while I search, I thought, “hey, I should keep the ol’ brain sharp”
  2. Playing video games, rewatching Bob’s Burgers for the umpteenth time, reading news and applying for jobs can only take up so much of your day. Leaving me wasting hours of my day staring out the window like my cats.
  3. I keep telling myself to read more; I no longer have an excuse.

In an ongoing effort to hold myself accountable to my goals, whether they are fitness, academic or professional, I will write a brief, possibly snarky review of the book.

Gawande, Atul. (2007). Better: a Surgeons Notes on Performance. New York:  Picador.

First up is a book my wife was assigned as summer reading. It was a late addition to the list. A matter of convenience. I’d just had a rather grueling leg day; I could barely move and it was sitting a few inches from my feet.

I can see why my wife’s school assigned the reading. For educators, Better reminds the reader of the human factor in professions, that your attitude and decisions made have long term impacts on teachers, administrators, schools and especially students.

Gawande sums it up fairly well in his afterword with five hints to be a “positive deviant.” Paraphrasing some of them, they boil down to these things that people can apply to any profession or situation.

  1. Make a human connection: talking to people, treating them not as robots or machines but as people with feelings can create positive outcomes. Talking to people about something as mundane as the weather can help solve problems because they are more likely to share information.
  2. Be positive and don’t complain: Complaining just breeds more negativity and makes a situation invariably worse because your attitude shifts to the negative. Find ways to be more positive.
  3. Count something: find something you care about and invest time and energy into it. Passion in a topic can bring a big change to a field
  4. Write something: write. Get your words and thoughts on paper, a blog or a research paper. Make something that matters to you.
  5. Change: be prepared and willing to adapt to changes in your life and in your field. Be a first adopter or be the one creating change.
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