06 January 2010

Being a positive deviant

I just finished writing a couple of essays for school. One of the assigned topics was on Atul Gawande's book Better. In the book, he lists his five suggestions for being a positive deviant; basically how to be Better.

1. Ask an unscripted question
2. Don't complain
3. Count something
4. Write
5. Change

I find it an intriguing list because it bears some similarity to the ideas I try to use to not just be better at what I do, but be a better person.

1. Ask more questions than you answer. I, like many extroverts, like to talk. It doesn't have to be about me, I like explaining things, I like reading out loud, I like debating - it's a hunger to participate. The risk, of course, is that with all the talking I find I've spent two hours with someone and I don't know their name, what they do or whether they've ever been West of the Mississippi. People have interesting stories and I can't hear them if I'm the one talking.

2. Don't whine. This is essentially the same as don't complain, but he's right.
Whining is not attractive and let's face it, everyone could come up with something to whine about. Interesting people find things to be happy about. Really interesting people can radiate their optimism to others.

3. Move the goal posts. Having a purpose is important. It creates focus, creativity and energy. They key is to be flexible about goals and to have them in multiple spheres of life. For example, one of my goals is to graduate medical school, but another (more fun) goal is to get stamps from every continent on one passport. Goals are personal - it's about what you are passionate about and should reflect who you are and who you want to be.

4. Choose. It's easy to follow orders and do what's expected. It's far more fun to go out on a limb and find your own path. It's harder, to be sure, but you learn much more. That's not to say you can't go with convention, just make sure you choose it, rather than letting life or others choose it for you.

5. Try everything once. Okay, within reason. But experience is a great way to learn things and fear is a poor excuse for ending up 75 with a bucketload of regrets. Trust your ingenuity, your resourcefulness and your survival instinct - you'll live through it and you might even like it.

Why is it that I feel slightly foolish publishing my philosophy and Gawande confidently makes a fortune off of his? Oh yes, because I'm not yet an accomplished surgeon at a world-renowned hospital. Still, I don't think it's a bad list. Plus, I'm wearing two pagers and he's only wearing one...

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