Thomas Szasz, the famous American psychiatrist writes “Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.”
Powerful words, truly transformational and that’s why I salute the brave thinkers among us. Remember how vociferously the surgeons doing cholecystectomy and hernia repair by open technique objected to the introduction of laparoscopic surgery? Remember how they cautioned that we were unnecessarily trying to complicate simple surgeries? Where are those open surgery advocates and stalwarts today? In the pages of history, and may their souls rest in peace! The very act of learning something new disrupts the way you’ve always seen things-and the way you’ve always been. A fresh idea pushes you out of your comfort zone and threatens the very foundations you’ve built your view of the world on.
That’s scary for nearly everyone and truly frightening for the vast majority! So rather than experience any form of discomfort of rowing in the turbulent waters of the unknown, most people regress – and return to their ‘Safe Harbor of The Known’. It feels better, seems safer and infinitely more cushy and comfortable. But, in truth, it’s not.
The problem is that refusing to learn and grow is the beginning of the end. Life is all about making tomorrow better than today. The progressive mind of a professional is obsessed with the idea of stepping into your next level of excellence with every passing hour. To cling to the thoughts and ways of performing that you’ve always known is to resign yourself to being average and mediocre. You are no more playing the game but being a mere spectator.
Neuroscientists will tell you that a single new piece of learning actually changes the very nature of your brain. The circuitry shifts. And the wiring expands. But in order to reach these new lands, we must lose sight of the shore-even for just a little while. Dare to be a Columbus or a Vasco de Gama and explore the unknown. And that takes guts. And there in lies professional leadership!
‘I know that’, ‘that is what works best for me’; ‘I have been doing that since ages’ are the utterances of a professional on the verge of retirement, a living fossil. He/she is on a slow and steady spiral downhill course and deserves only your sympathy, not your attention and admiration. The persons, who tell you that they are still learning and are not yet satisfied with their results and are sure something better can be offered, should be closely followed for they are the champions of tomorrow!
So, as we, along with countless others, look east with absolute awe and admiration towards the resilience and fortitude of the brave men and women who have dared to leave the beaten track and found one of their own to champion the world, what have you decided to become, a fossil of today or a champion of tomorrow?