A friend recently pointed me to an article in The New Yorker titled “Better All the Time,” written by James Surowiecki. I subscribe to the magazine, since New York City is one of my favorite places in the world, and there is always something of interest to read.
Like my friend, I was struck by the similarities and parallels that we are observing and learning about our own culture at Brody. So many have clearly stepped up to the plate and have contributed in the most positive way to the work that is at hand.
For certain, I can think of no one who would be satisfied with an average doctor, or a so-so nurse or other provider. Our staff can’t be anything but excellent in everything that we offer. After all, we are dealing with the lives of human beings. This is not merely a game that we play.
Yet, our athletes clearly play their games as if they are engaged in life and death struggles. It’s as if the games that we watch and play can reveal the truths that are embedded in our day to day lives.
I’ll summarize the article here, if you don’t have the time to read all of it:
Professional athletes had always worked out, of course. But historically, practice was mainly about getting in shape and learning to play with your teammates. It was not about mastering skills. People figured that either you had those skills or you didn’t.
Bob Petrich, a defensive end for the San Diego Chargers in the 1960s, told an interviewer that most NFL players of his era even scorned the idea of lifting weights.
“Most of the guys had this mental attitude that if you’re not good enough the way you are, then you’ll never be good enough,” Petrich said. The prevailing philosophy was “What you are is what you are.”
In the summer of 1976, Kermit Washington was in trouble.
What Washington did next changed the NBA: he called a man named Pete Newell and asked for help. Newell had been a legendary college coach, and was working for the Lakers as a special assistant. But his coaching skills were being wasted, because, as David Halberstam wrote in “The Breaks of the Game” (1981), NBA players didn’t want to admit that they “still had something to learn.”
Today, in sports, what you are is what you make yourself into. Innate athletic ability matters, but it’s taken to be the base from which you have to ascend.
You might think that this pressure to improve reflects the fact that the monetary rewards for athletic success have become immense. There’s something to this. It has become economically rational to invest a lot in player training.
Yet money isn’t the whole story. What we’re seeing is, in part, the mainstreaming of excellent habits. Everyone works hard. Everyone is really good.
The value system that we are experiencing and exploring here at the Brody School of Medicine and at Vidant are in parallel with this. There has been a renewed understanding for the value of excellence – not just as a concept, but in practice.
We are on a continuous learning curve. Excellence is the criterion for success in every one of our units and in caring for our patients.
Creating rapport with each of our patients, deploying even the simplest of tasks – it’s all about performing as if this is vital to our game.
How can I perform better today? How proud of the work will I be at the end of the day?
Have a great day, too!