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Paul Kalanathi on excellence

Paul Kalanathi, a neurosurgeon, and author of a famous book about his journey with cancer that eventually killed him, writes about excellence and values. Here is a brief segment on consequences and a commitment to professionalism:

"Paul what happens if I cut two millimeters deeper right here?" [senior surgeon]

Neuroanatomy slides whirred through my head. "Double vision?" [Kalanathi]

"No" he said. "Locked-in syndrome." Another two millimeters, and the patient would be completely paralyzed, save for the ability to blink. He didn't look up from the microscope. "And I know this because the third time I did this operation, that's exactly what happened."

Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one's own excellence and a commitment to another's identity.

Look at that last sentence again.

Fortunately, financial advisers, insurance staff, and management consultants, rarely have quite those extreme consequences on their hands. There are financial consequences to what we do, and they can be quite large. So in some degree all professional advice involves a commitment to one's own excellence and a commitment to another's identity. We have to work hard to make sure our skills are good enough that they serve other people well. That entails practice, critical self-evaluation, and an ability to empathise with the person you are serving sufficiently to place their requirements above whatever is going on for us at the time.




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