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How to Be a Neurosurgeon

How to Be a Neurosurgeon

A friend of mine is in his mid to late 30’s and he just accepted his first professional job.  He didn’t get a late start. He didn’t take time off. He has spent the last 30+ years of his life preparing for his profession. Let me say that again, over 30 years in school learning and practicing his trade.

That seems incredulous to many people.  That’s 18 years AFTER High School.  18 years. For what? To be a neurosurgeon. He has his MD and PhD.

This has included:

  • Four years of undergraduate school with a triple major
  • Eight years in med school getting his PhD and MD
  • Six years of residency for neurosurgery
  • One year of fellowship

He has a family with three kids and he is just now getting started officially practicing his trade.

Think about the value he’ll be able to add to people’s lives. Performing life saving surgeries on the most critical and delicate components of our body.

If anyone was going to touch my brain with a knife, I’d sure want them to have that much training and experience. I’d want the smartest, most well trained, disciplined experts in the world. I’d feel pretty comfortable knowing that they had 19 years of training and experience before touching my brain.  I have no problem with them making loads of money either.

So let’s think about this for a minute. For those of us who are not doctors, that career path appears daunting.

I’ve watched some friends go through the medical doctor training process. The process is not easy, but it’s not terribly complicated.

So how do you think this was actually accomplished?  Many small things done consistently over a long period of time.

In primary education you build a foundation of math, science, reading, and writing.
In undergraduate, you learn you start to focus on biological sciences.
In medical school, you learn about medical care and deeper into human biological sciences
In residency, you learn the specific craft as an apprentice.

But when you break it down and look at what they’re doing each day, we can learn from their path. We can learn about vision and discipline. We can learn about taking the long path to achieve distant goals by taking one step at a time. We can learn about the value of sacrificing something in the present for something more in the future.

Let me repeat, becoming a doctor is not easy. It takes a long time, and requires smart disciplined people to make it through the process. I don’t believe that everyone should become a doctor. If you think this is about how to become a doctor you’re missing the point. It’s a story we can learn from on how we can achieve something that seems distant and hard. It is about taking it one decision after another. It’s about cultivating discipline so we can improve as human beings.

You want to be more flexible and have better mobility.  Our connective tissue takes 210 days to turn over. That’s at least 7 months of stretching everyday.

You want to lose 30 pounds.  That’s 4-12 months of making small consistent sacrifices at every meal.

Say we want to learn a foreign language, become a project manager, or just be a better father. You have to do something everyday to move those forward.

Set a goal, learn what it takes, develop a plan, and then start taking one small step at a time and don’t stop.

Fatherhood is a similar marathon. We all have ideas of what we want for our children when they grow up. We want them to have a strong moral foundation. We want them to positively contribute to this world through discipline and selfishness. We want them to find happiness. Not the fleeting happiness from an ice cream cone, the fulfillment of making the world a better place and by connecting deeply with other human beings.

To get there, it’s a long road that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it also needs to be viewed through one step at a time. Start by reading with your child, telling them that you love them, disciplining them regularly to learn our social constructs. Be present, not on our phones or watching TV, but there, right next to them. Listen to them. Watch them. Teach them and show them how to set and achieve goals. Teach them and show them how to help others. Show them how to love and be loved.

Raising children to become independent adults requires a lot of discipline and patience over a few decades, not unlike becoming a neurosurgeon. You just need to take it one step at a time.

Becoming a Father is Helping me be a Better Man

Becoming a Father is Helping me be a Better Man

I have wrestled with some tough questions lately and it is positively affecting my well being.  I’ve allowed myself time to reflect, to learn, and to try some new things.  I’ve started to accept and process some of the hard answers I heard.  

And it’s working.  These moments of choosing to change are important to my personal well being.

Choosing to fall in love with my wife, propose, and then marry her is such a moment in life.  Recognizing the need to lead by example to father my sons is another.

These moments are deep, rich, and transforming.   And I’m convicted about what I’m discovering.  By going deep, by engaging my heart, soul, and emotions, I was able to decrease my tolerance for the status quo.  Beneath the surface a fire started that increased my expectations for myself.   I hungered for something more.

While I experienced a few of these deep moments recently, what has really caught my attention is a slow trend of progress in many important areas of my life.

Have I achieved all of my goals?  No, but what is important is I’ve made progress. I’m growing in many areas of my life. This new trend of progress has come on the heals of my some deep soul searching.

Here is a list of areas that I’ve noticed some improvement over the past year or two:

  • Better sleep
  • Reduced stress
  • Proactive medical care
  • Flossing regularly
  • Simplifying material goods
  • Limiting information inputs
  • Mobility and injury prevention
  • Making time to play
  • Weight Loss
  • Less selfish
  • Better diet
  • Success at work

Let me be perfectly clear.  I have a long way to go in all of these areas.  I want and need to continue to improve them.  But I’ve started and I improved, and that is something worth celebrating.  I’m better off now because of things that fatherhood has asked of me.

I had to look myself in the mirror and realize that what I see there is going to be studied and emulated greatly by my children.  Just the act of trying to get better is exactly what I’m currently asking them to do as children.  I’m telling them to read, learn something, and try new things so why wouldn’t I do the same?

There’s the rub.  We spend approximately 20-25 years raising and developing our children to become independent.  This requires them to constantly learn, grow, try, experience, stretch, test themselves, and learn from the results.

So to be the best father, I need to be an example of this and act this out.  And then and only then, after trying to serve my children by being a good example, do I get personally rewarded.

I didn’t dive into this philosophical transformation out of selfish intent, but out of a deep desire to be the best father I could be.  But while doing so, it required me to step up my game and become a better man.

So, to my two beautiful boys, I thank you for helping me become a better man.