Surgeons must constantly strive to make every medical instrument and procedure better. (Courtesy photo)

Good is not good enough

Having grown up in a family where good was not enough, I get it. When I got an “A,” I was asked, “What happened to the extra credit?”

I understood that pushing the limits was both expected and desirable. I knew that when I did well, I wouldn’t get a pat on the back, but a pat on the butt, and told to get back out there and do even better.

Athletes usually get it. They are told that the second-place winner is the “first loser.” They understand that working out means to doing it to exhaustion, if they want to win. They see making the playoffs as the baseline and winning the tournament the only goal.

Surgeons can get it. They can see that most of medicine is still in a formative stage. The tools are still primitive; the solutions often not ideal. They look at every surgical instrument, at every procedure, and think about how it could be made better. If they work in a system that values their input, surgeons constantly innovate, test and measure to see if their improvements actually work. Though in surgery they sometimes must accept good enough, it never feels right.

Employees don’t always get it. If they come to work just to do their jobs, they expect rewards for job completion. They often look for constant salary advances, bonuses and benefits. They expect advancement just for showing up. This is not how the employer sees it. The boss looks for those employees who take on the mission of the company as their own, who expand the team vision, who bring creativity to broaden and deepen the market. Those employees, if they get it, are like family.

Children who get it feed off the drive of their parents. If they see hard work combined with joy, energy, love, passion and creativity, they model themselves as the progeny destined to carry on. If they see a genuine commitment to improving the world, they incorporate that ideal into their speech, their activities and their choices. They partner with like-minded people and join or create like-minded companies. The make the frontier their back yard.

Politicians these days don’t seem to get it. The constant need to raise money, to attack their opponent with smears, to compromise principles and pander to the lowest common denominator, produces the mediocre outcomes we are all saddled with. They believe it is good enough to get any bill passed.

What if the people who want to be our leaders really got it and competed only on the principles of excellence? In that world, only the most robust and intelligent plans would be supported — those striving to create the smallest and most efficient government, to empower liberty in the most people, to reach the highest collective goals. What if we all demanded such excellence all the time?

Do you get it?

Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco.

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