Going that Half an Inch Extra
Do you know what is hard? The hardest thing is just standing there, watching someone else do a sloppy job on what you think you can do better. Like for instance the other day i was in the OT and having wrapped up my surgery I happened to glance over at a table at the other end of the room where a colleague from the ent department was operating. The case in question was a patient with a naso-labial cyst- an infectious bag of pus in the no-man’s land between the nose and the mouth. If i had been the one to do the surgery I would have opted to do it under local anesthesia as i considered it a minor surgery but my colleague had decided to do it under general anesthesia which in my opinion was a bit of overkill.
Anyhow, as I stood there and watched her explain the procedure to a couple of interns assisting the surgery, i heard her say that she was planning to start with a sub-labial incision from just below the lip. I couldn’t help but protest on hearing that and so i moved closer to the surgeon and murmured slowly in her ear “why not go a bit lower down and do a sub-gingival incision, that way we can prevent a visible scar” (def: an incision is the place where we cut into the tissue and finally suture – leaving a scar where the two ends join). She laughed aloud and turning to face me made a comment for the benefit of the watching students “who is going to bend down and look into the mouth to see if there is a scar or not?”
A fair point and I accepted it, just that my training in plastic surgeries had conditioned me to try and hide all scars of any surgeries I did, whether visible or not. And then she made another comment, to the great amusement of the students “when something is right there why not take the easiest route? Why waste the extra time and energy?” Having been put in my place, I ignored the snub and all the sniggers behind me, as I pulled down my sterile mask and head cap and walked out of there to change out of my theatre dress into my normal formals and go back to my department.
Later on while i was sitting in the canteen sipping tea i reflected on that one comment about extra and waste. A few times in my life I have met people like that who would do just what is required but would not go a bit beyond what is strictly necessary and give an extra inch of effort. And as far as I have seen personally such people were never great successes in their lives or professions because they were easily satisfied with mediocrity and rarely made the effort to go beyond.
In one of my very first jobs as part of my rural postings i had a senior colleague who would three hours into the work day, click off his pen and stand up saying that he had worked enough for the salary he got and would leave me all alone to tackle the rest of the patients still waiting in a long line. And naturally as the conscientious/sincere (foolish?) type i was left alone to see the rest of the patients as dear colleague took a well deserved canteen break which lasted into the rest of the afternoon. On reflection, i always think that i had the best of the bargain for here I am so many years later still in the same profession while he no longer is practicing medicine, last i heard.
People like him intentionally set bars for their own successes by restricting themselves mentally. They have a strong conviction that extra work is just not worth the hassle and are easily satisfied with the work they do and the results they get. They tell themselves this is my best, this is all I can do without making any effort to see whether it’s really all they are capable of. You would have seen such people too- the ones who effortlessly make it into the top ten, the ones who with a little more hard work can easily make it into the top three but are satisfied with just what they achieve with the minimum effort necessary.
While i am all for conservation of energy and letting person live life on their own terms, what i bar is people who are unwilling to make the extra effort but still expect success to come to them on a platter. And if it does not, these are the ones who whine loudest about the unfairness of life all the while taking it easy and just doing the minimum necessary to get by. While people with awareness of what it takes to achieve success never stint themselves when it comes to hard work. I remember a friend from college, a party dude, who on returning from a night out at the discotheque, say maybe around 1AM would still set the alarm to wake up at 5Am and study the day’s portions. That’s the kind of extra effort I am talking about.
But what I really deplore is people putting mental shackles on their own successes. They convince themselves that they can’t and go onto fulfill their own predictions. And not surprisingly end up as also-rans while people who go the extra mile never regret the choices they make or the sacrifices it takes. All those early mornings, all those late nights- all that hard work differentiates the person who is willing to go the extra inch for success from the person who is satisfied with what he can get without pain or sacrifice. And in the end it’s that extra inch which matters.
And so I believe and always will that it’s better to go down an inch below the visible margin despite the extra ten minutes it will take me to finish, if I can get a better than expected result. In the end what really matters is personal pride in a job well done and not merely others appreciation. What do you think?
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