Years ago, when I was a medical resident, I sat down for a beer with a wise and battle-weary mentor, and we got to talking about the culture of medicine. He was musing about the way doctors relate to each other, and he said, “You know when somebody says, ‘Remember that patient you saw last week?’ It’s never, ‘Hey, great job, that was a tough case.’ It’s always about something that went haywire.” He looked off in the distance and said sadly, “The thing is, there are no high fives in medicine.”
We give in far too easily to the human tendency to focus on bad news, to even turn success into a downer. It sucks the joy out of the work, and leaves us discouraged and grumpy.
Don’t default to bad news. Here’s the kind of thing that will remain hidden if you indulge the addiction: In PSL’s first year, more 20,000 kids got a really good education. We need fact-based critiques and healthy skepticism, but it shouldn’t blind us to the good stuff.
We’ve all got so much to be stoked about—we’re winning the fight against poverty. If we fail to seize the inspiration that can come from progress like this, if we give in to the gravitational pull of bad news, we’ll blow a lot of the energy we need to get the rest of the way. Fierce determination may be necessary to get through the hardest parts, but joy will get us across the finish line. High fives, everybody. It really is a choice.
Read the full article by Kevin Starr on Stanford Social Innovation Review
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