>book review

>on reading Atul Gawande’s bettter – A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance
This post has nothing to do with the stated themes of my blog. This book is a medical doctor musing on how to bridge the gap between his idealized view of saving lives and the actual world of modern medicine. His work deals with life and death and is based on the achievements of modern science.
My work has to do with saving special places in the world and learning to see the world a new way. On the face of it, my world has nothing to do with Gawande’s world. But the desire to improve, to perform better, is a basic human trait. So I learned a lot from reading how to institute handwashing regimens in hospitals, and how surgeons in poor hospitals in rural India improvise and succeed at a broader range of surgical obstacles that their better funded American colleagues. Note, Americans are not better educated, just luckier. His final section outlines his program to strive for better performance. Here are the highlights:

1. Ask an unscripted question

2. Don’t complain

3. Count something

4. Write something

5. change

Ask an unscripted question

  • Make a human connection
  • Keep the conversation going for more than 2 sentences
  • You will discover the unexpected about the people you encounter day to day

Don’t complain

  • Everybody has troubles
  • Airing your woes won’t lift the gloom
  • Negative bring negative
  • Change the subject, to the weather if nothing else
  • Try to keep the conversation going

Count something

  • Everyone should be a scientist in this world
  • Count things related to a problem that interests you
  • If you count something you find interesting, you will learn something interesting

Write something

  • Write anything – a blog, a poem, a letter, an e-mail
  • Add some small observation about your world
  • Give yourself an opportunity to think through a problem by writing about I
  • Let yourself become part of a larger world
  • Be willing to join a community and contribute something meaningful to it


  • Recognize when change is needed in your work
  • Seek out solutions
  • Don’t be afraid of failure; learn from your mistakes

“So find something new to try, something to change. Count how often you succeed and how often you fail. Write about it. Ask people what they think. See if you can keep the conversation going.”


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