Atul Gawande :Failure to Rescue

10 Jun

I read about this commencement address yesterday. I have not been sleeping well. I have work to do. I enjoy work and a challenge. I struggle to make it happen and it does happen. Something else is bothering me. Let’s just say ” I need to rescue myself”.

I like Atul Gawande’s work and wish to read more and more about the brilliant surgeon and writer’s books. I need to find time. I spend all the time at work, commute, with my mother and brother and in hospital.  I wish to share extracts from this 2012 commencement address at Williams college. The more that  have seen the world feel the best place to be is in college and studying. I screwed it up. I have been rescuing myself. For a long time. ” You are not bad” a good girl had told me long ago as she went on to marry some one else. I struggled to rescue myself. I still wonder ” How could she?”. I try to resue myself.  I rescue myself everyday. Here is the extract from speech:

” Scientists have given a new name to the deaths that occur in surgery after something goes wrong—whether it is an infection or some bizarre twist of the stomach. They call them a “Failure to Rescue.” More than anything, this is what distinguished the great from the mediocre. They didn’t fail less. They rescued more.

This in fact may be the real story of human and societal improvement. Risk is necessary. Things can and will go wrong. But some have better capacity to prepare for the possibility, to limit the damage, and to sometimes even retrieve success from failure.

When things go wrong, there seem to be three main pitfalls to avoid, three ways to “Fail to Rescue.” You could choose a wrong plan, an inadequate plan, or no plan at all. Say you’re cooking and you inadvertently set a grease pan on fire. Throwing gasoline on the fire would be a completely wrong plan. Trying to blow the fire out would be inadequate. And ignoring it—“Fire? What fire?”—would be no plan at all.”

” All policies court failure—our war in Iraq, for instance. But when you refuse to even acknowledge that things aren’t going as expected, failure can become a humanitarian disaster. The sooner you’re able to see clearly that your best hopes and intentions have gone awry, the better. You have more room to pivot and adjust. You have more of a chance to rescue.

But recognizing that your expectations are proving wrong—accepting that you need a new plan—is commonly the hardest thing to do. We have this problem called confidence. To take a risk, you must have confidence in yourself. In surgery, you learn early how essential that is. You are imperfect. Your knowledge is never complete. The science is never certain. Your skills are never infallible. Yet you must act. You cannot let yourself become paralyzed by fear.

Yet you cannot blind yourself to failure, either. Indeed, you must prepare for it. For, strangely enough, only then is success possible.”

” “Life is not perfect, but it is good,” she said.

As you embark on your path from here, you are going to take chances—on a relationship, a job, a new line of study. You will have great hopes. But things won’t always go right.

When I graduated from college, I went abroad to study philosophy. I hoped to become a philosopher, but I proved to be profoundly mediocre in the field. I tried starting a rock band. You don’t want to know how awful the songs I wrote were. I wrote one song, for example, comparing my love for a girl to the decline of Marxism. After this, I worked in government on health care legislation that not only went nowhere, it set back the prospect of health reform almost two decades.

But the only failure is the failure to rescue something. I took away ideas and experiences and relationships with people that profoundly changed what I was able to do when I finally found the place that was for me, which was in medicine.

So you will take risks, and you will have failures. But it’s what happens afterwards that is defining. A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it—Will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right?—because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue. ”

For more :

Long time ago, my friend a medical student who had a master’s seat in a government college met his friend also a doctor to dicsuss” what are the possibilities of going back to his master’s seat.” He had taken a break to prepare to get into government. My friend in that conversation was preparing for failure in case he did not make it to government. My friend handsomely succeeded. Only because he was prepared for failure.

My school friend had asked me ” What’s your plan” in the last conversation we had. My plan was always to get a job. A job that will change the world. But it was a great question ” What’s your plan?”  I have still not managed to rescue myself. I can’t rescue myself from people whom like or love. So the struggle goes on . Love is a struggle. I never thought it would be so. No rescue there yet.

But the point is very important. It is not risk which is only important. it’s half the story. It’s the courage to rescue yourself from adversity that is most important. That comes by acknowledging things have not worked. You must set it right.

My rescue mission continues. My friend call me 🙂

Great Great Speech! Atul Gawande inspires me immensely and endlessly. As for initial ” You are not bad”. I  just may end up ” As good as any one.” That’s the goal. Watch ..

Please do listen to this speech one time and one more time..

Have a good day dear friends!

Love, Suresh

PS : To my friend who lost a loved one due to a surgical complication, if you are reading this, it is shared in good faith. The message is important.





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