People observe and form impressions about one another as part of their daily interactions. We can assume that we are on stage every day and that our performance may affect not only us but other people as well.

Dr. Liposky

We can influence the impressions that we leave with people when we:

  1. Take responsibility for our performance
  2. Give a credible performance
  3. Prepare for the performance
  4. Give our best performance

There are two hats that we might wear when giving our best performance. The first is when we know that we are on the stage, we know our audience and we have a message to deliver. This is a more obvious performance. We showed up in order to perform.

The second hat is when we don’t know that we are on the stage, we may or may not know our audience, and we’re not aware of the message that we are delivering. This is the most common stage performance. It is our everyday activity and how we relate to people in our environment.

The interesting thing about the performance is that it will happen regardless of whether we are responsible, credible, and prepared. People will form an opinion of us based on how we engage their senses and emotions. We must appeal to their senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching) and their emotions (excitement, empathy, credibility, compassion, concern, motivation, inspiration, sympathy, relation).

Let’s look first at a few pure performances. I saw a young man with large rings hanging from his lower lip, one ring from his nose, one from the bridge of his nose, two each from his eyebrows, and multiple piercings in his ears. Needless to say, I was impressed. He was on the life stage making a statement.

The next performance was by a young salesman in a sporting good store. He was focused on helping his customers. He engaged with them to find and fulfill their needs. He was dressed, however, more to his taste than the taste of his customers. People appreciated his assistance, but they talked about his attire.

The final performance was observed at a church service. The deacon was giving the sermon and the priest was falling asleep. Both ministers were on stage but one message was inspirational and the other was entertaining.

The common denominator of the three performances was how they made me feel. Each performance appealed to my senses. My opinion of the performance was based on my senses and my previous knowledge or understanding of the presentation.

The audience brings their senses and their opinions to our performances. The successful performance, getting your message across, must appeal to those senses in a positive way. The senses are the sentry to learning. The senses will decide whether to develop or defer a relationship…the learning experience.

In the first performance, the young man with the lip and nose rings was comfortable in his social environment. Outside of that environment, people had to decide, based on their level of tolerance to facial jewelry, whether to engage or defer. There was a visual assault. Their Sense Sentry had to make a decision that might prevent any further relationship.

In the second performance, the young man appealed to most of the senses. He looked good and had an engaging personality. The Sense Sentry approved the relationship. The relationship moved forward to the opinion/knowledge level of the customer (audience). When all the performance was analyzed, the final opinion was based on the dress style.

In the third performance, the performance was appealing to the senses and interpretation. The environment, the priest falling asleep, was a distraction from the performance. It was a good performance but the information that reached the audience was filtered through the distraction.

We are always on stage. Even when we are responsible, credible, well prepared and give a stellar performance, things can happen that are out of our control. A microphone malfunctions, we break a heel, a baby cries, a cell phone rings…and they take the call. A wise man told me one time, control the things that you can control and don’t worry about the things that you can’t control.

In “It’s Not What I Know…It’s How I Learned It”, the message is to focus on the things that you can control and not to worry about the things that you can’t. One thing that I learned was that the more I learned, the more I read, the more I studied, the more things I could control.

You are always on stage. Make every performance one of your best.

Make it a great day

Dr L

People observe and form impressions about one another as part of our daily interactions. We can assume that we are on stage every day and that our performance may affect not only us but other people as well.

We can influence the impressions that we leave with people when we:

  1. Take responsibility for our performance
  2. Give a credible performance
  3. Prepare for the performance
  4. Give our best performance

Let’s look at how preparation for our performance affects our message…impression. Most people would agree that professional actors/actresses spend a lot of time in preparation for their role. They did not begin the preparation process when they became successful. They prepared in order to become successful.

Malcome Gladwell in “The Outliers” states that practice is not what you do when you are good at something. It is what you do in order to get good at something. It takes 10,000 hours to get good at something.

How much preparation do we do in order to impress some one? Actually, the impression that you give will be directly proportional to the investment you make in preparation. When I gave the example of me going to Home Depot in my dirty old coveralls, I really wasn’t thinking about seeing a patient.

But if I’m about to walk into an exam room, I want the patient to see me as someone who can help them. Same guy but different preparation for the performance.

People often ask me, how long did it take you to write your book, “It’s Not What I Know…It’s How I Learned It?” When I tell them, they often say, “I could never do that. I don’t have the time.” They will never write a book. It has nothing to do with the content of the book, it’s that they won’t invest in what it takes to write a book.

I went 13 years of training after high school. They will say, “I could never do that.” Then you will never be a surgeon. We all must invest time, money, and effort in order to function in society. That investment is preparation. The more we prepare, the more we get. Opportunity presents itself at the intersection of preparation and ambition.

It is said that we only get one chance at being a parent. Then we get one chance at being a grandparent. How do we prepare for these important assignments in life? We get our first lessons when we watch our parents and grandparents. We may opt of emulate them or we may choose to change what we see based on the influence of others or personal experience.

Always on Stage: PreparationThe decision that we make is based on an impression. What we learned from mom and dad, from grandpa and grandma. Is it important then that we give the right impression to our children? They are watching. You are on stage.

Preparing to be a parent is not simply taking Parenting 101 and 102, getting a certificate and then go have a few kids. It’s an on going process. It’s constant preparation and execution.

It’s sad when a young person says that they never want to have kids, or they never want to get married. They weren’t born with that idea. They learned it from observing the parenting or marriage process. It came from credible people…parents, who did not adequately prepare for their performance or did not take responsibility for their performance.

People emulate a good performance. I want to do what she does. I want to be just like dad. I want to become a policemen or a teacher…emulating a well-prepared performance.

I watched our daughter practice gymnastics 5 days a week for years and subsequently receive scholarships to a division 1 college. 10,000 hours!

How much do you have to prepare to make an impression? Learn to smile, look them in the eye and shake their hand. It takes a few minutes and a decision but it will make an impression.

Even the guy in the mirror likes a smile. He will smile back every time. If you smile at him enough times, you will be prepared to make a good impression with out the mirror. You are always on stage.

Make it a great day Dr L

Next: Delivering your best performance.

Always On Stage: CredibilityPeople observe and form impressions about one another as part of our daily interactions. We can assume that we are on stage every day and that our performance may affect not only us but other people as well.

We can influence the impressions that we leave with people when we:

  1. Take responsibility for our performance
  2. Give a credible performance
  3. Prepare for the performance
  4. Give our best performance

Taking responsibility for our performance was covered on my previous blog. Let’s look at how credibility influences peoples’ impression of us.

Credibility depends on developing a relationship with the audience. It is important to recognize that we have a huge influence on our credibility and thus the message that we bring to the stage. Credentials, paper credibility, may open the door but a relationship keeps it open for another visit.

My stage might be the exam room. It is important that when I enter the room that I recognize the patient and make them feel that they are the most important person in the room. I will have more credibility with them when I simply listen and focus on what they have to say. Telling them how great I am might be credible on paper, but on this stage, I must relate to the audience. So credibility will depend on a relationship with the audience (patient).

The relationship also is supported by physical appearance, communication skills, personal mannerisms, and the information shared between the parties. A highly competent physician, covered with tattoos and a nose ring, will have less credibility than a clean cut, well spoken incompetent physician.

Some may argue, “what’s wrong with tattoos?” I’m don’t have a problem with them. But if your audience, the people with whom you wish to establish credibility does not like them, YOU loose credibility.

Over the years, I have interviewed many people for positions with my companies. I have come to the conclusion that the candidate will be the best he or she can be at the interview. If they respect the position that they are seeking, they will present their most credible performance.

But I have had a doctor present for an interview in shorts, wrinkled golf shirt and flip-flops. I couldn’t get past his appearance to assess his clinical competence. I could only picture him trying to convince a patient that he could help them. His performance on the interview stage lacked credibility…a decision that he made.

Credibility plays an important role for the teacher, too. If a teacher, who is on the educational stage, can not relate to her students, the students still get a message, but not necessarily the one that the teacher wants them to have. Credibility depends on relationships more than friendships. Teachers and coaches, who depend on friendships with their students, loose the edge needed to teach.

A salesman will have more credibility when he shows that he believes in his product. He dresses according to the product he sells and the buyer whom he visits. A seed salesman talking to a farmer in the granary next to the corn planter will dress differently than the seed salesman speaking in front of company executives at a national sales meeting.

Does looks determine credibility? It can influence credibility but it does not determine credibility. Credibility is a function of the relationship and the message. It’s interesting to see how the drug companies have marketed their drugs to doctors’ offices over the talents of attractive young sales women.

Are the drugs better when presented by a sexy drug rep? Not likely. Will she have a better chance of a face to face with the doctor, manager or CEO? Likely. Even though today things are changing for the better, we still see companies focused on the value of the first impression over the credibility of their message.

We are always on stage. We will always be delivering a message. People will have an impression of us even if we don’t see them. It’s interesting however, that today we have social media. We know that they cannot see us. We know that they can’t recognize us. So we voluntarily publish information about us including pictures of family, friends and, most importantly, of us.

Will the information that you publish give a credible impression? It might just be personal info or it might just be a comment or opinion. Your moment on the social media stage gave an impression about you to the reader…or readers all over the world.

We work hard to define and execute the elements that will get us credibility. But one factor can destroy credibility and make it difficult to recover. That’s accountability. Your word is you worth…your worth is your word. If our message is to perform, we must perform. Say what you do and do what you say. Be accountable for your message. It will secure credibility.

In the book, “its Not What I Know…It’s How I Learned It,” credibility was an issue in many of my ventures. In some cases, good ideas failed because of lack of credibility. We wrongly focused on paper credibility rather than credibility thru relationships. Compromise the relationship…you compromise credibility.

If we are going to encourage people to have an impression, make it a credible impression. Always look your best, think your best, speak your best. You are always on stage.

Make it a great day Dr L

The next message: Preparing for your performance.

People observe and form impressions about one another as part of our daily interactions. We can assume that we are on stage every day and that our performance may affect not only us but other people as well.

We can influence the impressions that we leave with people when we:

  1. Take responsibility for our performance
  2. Give a credible performance
  3. Prepare for the performance
  4. Give our best performance

Responsibility…the tough questions:

  • Are we willing to take responsibility for our performance?
  • Are we serious about our performance?
  • How will our performance affect our audience?

I feel that taking responsibility for our performance is the most important part of the performance. Once we decide that we will be responsible for everything that comes from the performance, we take ownership. Our agenda, positive or negative, helpful or destructive, motivating or self-serving will be manifest by our performance.

Parents have a tremendous responsibility for their performance. Children observe their parents. Parent’s mutual respect and their respect for their parents is a tremendous lesson for their children. It has a generational effect. Parents are always on stage.

Parents also take responsibility by providing the right environment for their children. They seek a socially responsible environment… respectful of authority and other people, morally sound, drug free, with personal accountability. Children are a product of their environment but the environment is dynamic. Environments can change geographically, socially, and by circumstances.

Responsibility also translates beyond the family unit into our professions and daily interactions in society. Our actions may affect other people’s lives and we don’t even know that it happens. I have heard young people attribute their career choice to a favorite teacher, a minister, their doctor, a coach or someone from the history book. You just don’t know when and how you will affect someone’s life.

Dandelions in my Daffodils

Always on Stage: ResponsibilityI was in the Home Depot the other day browsing thru my favorite section. Plants. I had been working in my garden and was wearing my bib overall, work shoes, and my favorite lucky beat-up ball cap. Someone seeing me might think that I was an old farmer who just came into town.

If I was giving the clerk a hard time because there was a Dandelion in my Daffodils, they might think I was a grumpy old farmer who just came in to town. But suppose a patient recognized me, didn’t know I was an amateur gardener and saw my performance with the clerk. They would see a grumpy, poorly dressed surgeon giving a clerk, who is just doing her job, a hard time.

Same guy, same stage but different impressions. My performance was focused on me and not on my audience. The patient doesn’t know that I had Dandelions in my Daffodils. He only knows that his doctor is a grumpy disrespectful jerk. My performance might effect a young person’s decision to become a doctor…to enter the profession.

I never thought much about this until recently. When looking back at the students that I worked with in dental school, I found a higher than expected number of students went on to graduate school and more specifically into surgery. I continually coached these young men to continue their studies…to seek and achieve higher goals. The doctors that I brought in to talk to them were on stage. I was on stage.

So back to the questions ‘is it important to take responsibility for our performance? The children will think so. The children will always think back to what “mom always told us” or “daddy always said to me that…” Is a Dandelion in my Daffodils more important than being respectful to people? Seriously? Even in my scruffy overalls, I can affect people’s lives. We are always on stage.

My book, “It’s Not What I Know…It’s how I Learned It” is a story of taking responsibility for helping people. The key thing that I had to remember was to take responsibility for my performance. I wanted to try to touch people in ways that would help them be better, get better, feel better and ultimately to live better.

Make it a great day

Dr L

Next: Always on stage: The Credible Performance.

Did you ever come home from a social event and find yourself talking about the people or a person more than the event? Those people didn’t know that they were on stage. You may have noticed their dress, their animation, their opinions, their looks or their shoes.

You gained an impression of them simply based on your observation. Conversely, you were also on stage. There was some one who noticed you. They formed an impression of you and you didn’t even see them.

Most people would agree that we form opinions about people based on our personal observations or the opinions of others. We simply accept the premise and value our opinion of people as valid and factual. It is based on the information that is available at the moment.

But is it a true and accurate assessment of that individual? Would you accept an opinion of you based on the same type of information? Unfortunately, people form opinions of us every day. We are always on stage. People notice us whether we see them or not.

We can influence people’s impression of us. It is our agenda or our performance on our stage. We’ve formed opinions of people based on their nose, their walk, their clothes, their teeth or their opinion. Keep in mind that people have an opinion of us based on the same criteria.

It’s important, then, that when we are on stage, we take charge of our performance. There are four take-charge elements for our performance:

  1. Responsibility
  2. Credibility
  3. Preparation
  4. Performance

If we want people to have the right impression, if we want them to get the right message, then, we must present a well-prepared, credible performance. We must take responsibility for our performance and execute it well.

The Actor and the Audience:

In every performance there is the actor and the audience.

Actors: Audience:
  1. parents
  2. teachers
  3. minister
  4. policemen
  5. doctor
  6. salesman
  7. manager
  8. employer
  9. politician
  10. me
  • children
  • students
  • congregation
  • community
  • patient
  • client
  • staff
  • employee
  • constituency
  • you

The actors are not limited nor are the members of the audience. Everyone has an acting role during his or her day-to-day activity. And everyone engages in audience participation.

Children observe their parents and learn from the performance. Parents observe their children and modify their performance to the needs of the children. Parenting is not that simple but parents have a tremendous responsibility for the actions that they present to their children.

The salesman wins the sale if he is able to give a credible performance. But the customer must also impress the salesman that he will honor his obligations in the transaction. Both are performers with a respective message.

As a surgeon (the actor), my message must be that I am willing to help you (the audience). The patient’s (actor) message must reflect how they want the surgeon (audience) to help them. If the patient’s message is that they are looking for drugs to support their addiction, then they won’t get what they are looking for. However, if they give a tremendous performance, and deceive the audience, they may get what they want.

Dr. Liposky with Troop

One of the toughest performances that I was asked to give was in the jungles of Honduras. I was at the Ronald Reagan Medic School … an open building with long tables and leaking roof. These young Freedom Fighters were farmers being trained as medics. This was graduation and soon they wound be in battle with their little medic pouches on their hip.

I was there to show them how to provide primary care for facial gun shot wounds. They couldn’t do much but anything could help. They marched out to an open area. I knew that most of them would not survive the next 6 months. But my performance had to be strong, supportive and respectful of the sacrifice that they were about to make.

Did I expect to be on that stage? Actually, I had been on stage the moment they brought me into the jungle, the moment they brought me in to the camp, the moment the students saw me. You just never know how you will affect the lives of other people. It’s just can a moment in time. We are always on stage!

Chapter 3 in my book “it’s not what I know…it’s how I learned it” expands on always on stage in business.

Next: Always on Stage: Responsibility

Make it a great day

Dr L

Dr. LiposkyThe top two fears that people have are the fear of flying and fear of public speaking. Before we had airplanes, the fear of heights was the number one fear. Before we had airplanes, there wasn’t a lot of recorded public speaking either. Yet millions of people fly each day, people speak at meetings, concerts, and in the media. And people climb mountains, clean gutters, jump off bridges on a budgie cord.

The baby has two innate fears … fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. As we mature, we learn to interpret loud noises and that fear dissipates. Fear of falling is also dissipated thru nurturing of the mother. So where did all these fears that we have today come from. They were learned.

Think about the fears that people talk about. How could you be afraid of flying if you never flew before? Because you saw a crash on TV or someone told you of their experience or their fear. Once you’ve heard of the event, you put it in perspective. That means that you will either discount it or seek to reinforce it.

If you have never presented a talk in front of an audience, how could you be afraid … and what are you afraid of? Usually, it is the fear of making a mistake or embarrassing yourself. I’ve had that same fear. As a young piano student, apparently I showed some real promise. I could play for the teacher, my parents and my self. At a recital, I was paralyzed.

Even though the audience wouldn’t know that I missed a note, I knew. Should I go back and play it over or keep going? What do I do? At one recital, now a teenager with 10 years of training, my teacher introduced me to the audience. I refused to come out and play. All that practice and preparation wasted. I could play drums in the band, cello and piano in the orchestra but no, no, no solo. The fear was real to me.

I wasn’t born with this fear but somewhere along the way, I not only learned it, I practiced it. Even when I tried to move forward, practiced and practiced, my subconscious reminded me that I might make a mistake. The closer I came to the stage the louder my subconscious would proclaim. Mistake. Wrong note. Miss a beat. Watch out! It was a fear of failure. But who would know? Me.

I think the fear of failure is probably the most subtly paralyzing fear that we must deal with each day. We see changes in society as we coddle children so they can’t experience failure. Don’t keep score in the little league game…every one wins. Everyone passes in the classroom. That’s not what life is about. Life is a series of successes and failures.

Fear of failure can paralyze but mastering the fear can energize. It took nearly 40 years before I mastered playing in front of an audience. I actually put down the instruments for most of that time. What I did do was become confident and skillful in public speaking. I realized that I did have a gift and that I could help people when using my gift.

Lets apply this to business and success. I believe that there is a lot of potentially successful people back stage with great ideas. They won’t come on stage because they are afraid they might make a mistake. They are afraid of failure

There are two things that are so important in business. First, there is nothing wrong with failure. Treat failure as a learning experience. Work to prevent failure but if it does occur, see it as a learning experience…part of the foundation for future success.

Second, failing does not make you a failure. You are not a failure until you quit. Remember that you must be bad at something, before you are good at it. The worst feeling is to have someone pick up your idea after you gave up on it, and achieve great success.

I love the old story of the gold miner who went in to an old abandoned mine, only dug another foot, and found the mother load. Why did the first miner abandon the mine? He failed to find gold … so he quit.

If you believe in your dream, your idea, your mission in life, all you need is the road to get there and the commitment to make the journey. Like any journey, you may have hills, detours and even meaningful people offering direction. It is up to you to stay focused on your destination.

We like to hear stories about success…stories about overcoming obstacles. Stories of success are simply stories of a completed journey. “It’s Not What I Know…It’s How I Learned It” is my story and stories of others who just would not quit.

Make it a great day

Dr L

It's Not What I KnowWhere you are today is based on all the decisions that you have made in the past. You can’t change them. Where you will be tomorrow and the future tomorrows is based on the decisions that you make today and tomorrow. You can’t control the past but you can control your future.

Where will you be five years from now? Most people when asked that question have to stop and think. First they want to analyze the question. Why are you asking? Is there a right or wrong answer? What will you do with my answer? Whoa! It’s just a good question.

Some times I sit and just close my eyes and picture where I want to be 1 year and 5 years from now. Is it an accurate picture? No, but it is my picture. Try it some time. Just close your eyes and picture where you “want” to be … not where you think you will be.

The operative word is “want” vs “think” you will be. You make the decision where you want to be. Life, to this date, is dictating where you think you will be in the future. The exciting thing is that you set the destination for your “Want to Be.”

If you don’t know where you are going, then how will you know when you get there. Try going to the airline ticket counter and simply say, “I need a plane ticket.”

The agent will smile, like they are supposed to do, and ask, “Sir, where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know, I just need a ticket.”

They will just look at you and maybe even call security. Why? Because they know that a ticket is associated with a destination. When you want to buy an airline ticket, you must determine where you want to go before you purchase the ticket.

So where will you be in five years is an important question. Five years from now you will be five years older. You can be five years older and be where you want to be or be five years older and be where ever life takes you.

I’ve seen young people in college who are focused on graduation but not on what graduation will mean to them. When asked about how they see themselves in 5 years, they will talk about graduation as an end point rather than a beginning of their professional career. They had a goal to go to college, not to secure a professional career.

A young nurse, after practicing 20 years, was considering going back to school to become a physician. She was concerned that it would take her at least 6 years and she would be 48 years old when she finished school and started to practice.

I asked her how old she would be in six years if she didn’t go to medical school. She said she would be 48. So the choice is not whether to go to medical school. The decision is whether you want to be a 48 year-old new physician or a 48 year-old nurse with 26 years of experience.

In her case, she was focusing on the obstacle and not on the goal. The person at the ticket counter was focused on getting the ticket (the obstacle to getting on the plane) and not on the goal (where the plane would take him.)

If you have a five-year plan, can you make changes? Absolutely. If you are driving to San Diego, can you make a change along the way? Absolutely. We may stop to visit a park, stay a couple extra days at a resort, or maybe even totally change our destination.

We have to have a plan in order to get started. I’ve had young students tell me that they won’t choose their major in college until their junior year. What a waste of time and money. It’s like getting into the car and driving for a few hundred miles before you decide where you want to go. You may find that you have been driving in the wrong direction … a waste of time and money.

In my book, “it’s not what I know … it’s how I learned it,” I show how going any direction rather than the right direction can lead to disaster. It can waste money and time. You can always get more money. But time is a limited commodity. We only have so much time to invest. We must invest it wisely.

Take a few minutes to think about where you want to be in five years. What ever you decide is fine. It is where you want to be. It is your decision. You will have the best chance of reaching your destination when you know the destination.

That’s not anything profound. It is just one of the basic metrics to achieve success in life. It is the basic metric for becoming successful in business. Know what you want, decide how to get it, and then go for it. You can do it.

Throw Your ClubI was golfing the other day and had the opportunity to see a player throw his club farther that he hit the ball. We all got a chuckle out of it, except him. Did that mean that he was good at throwing clubs or was he a really bad golfer? Probably neither. Even though he only hit the ball a few feet.

Each golfer experienced different feelings from the same event. The person closest to the player took cover. He experienced fear. The rest of us felt empathy for the poor golf shot.

Some personalities might even analyze the shot and propose a solution. In the world of golf, unless you are asked for your opinion, it is best not to offer it. Remember, he just thru his club.

Most players have had a bad shot before and know how it feels. Disappointment. Embarrassment. Defeat. You would wonder why we spend so much time on the course and call it fun.

It proves the old theory that you have to be bad at something before you get good at it. We spend 18 holes trying to get good at it. If we sink a putt on the last hole, it’s guaranteed we will be back. If we have a bad last hole, we just figure an excuse to come back again…trying to get better.

Getting back to the guy who thru the club, we all have days when we “throw the club.” I’ve been golfing a long time and very few golfers actually throw their clubs. It still happens but not often. Most golfers realize that it not the club’s fault. It’s the guy swinging the club that hit the bad shot

How would you feel if someone came to you and said, “I’ve never been disappointed, never been embarrassed, and never been defeated?” You would expect him to say, “but I lie a lot.”

We all have those days. Golfers learn from every shot. They learn from the bad shots and try to duplicate the good shots. It’s no different in our daily lives. We want to duplicate the events that help us grow. We want to learn from the events that slow us down

In surgery, when we were placing wires to stabilize the bones in the face, my surgical residents would ask, “Dr L, how do you know how tight to twist the wires?” I’d reply, “A quarter turn before it breaks.”

“How do you know when it’s going to break?”

“You have to break a lot of wires and start over again,” I replied.

I broke a lot of wires over the years. Never thru my clubs…felt like it! But I can say that as bad as any disappointment seemed, I knew I couldn’t reverse it. I had to move on. It was the tuition I had to pay to grow and get better.

In my book, “it’s not what I know…it’s how I learned it,” you will see how I learned from every broken wire. At first, it was tough to set the discipline to learn from mistakes rather than seek excuses for failure. I still broke a wire or two. But the more I learned, the fewer I broke.

There are a lot of metaphors to show how adversities or challenges can make us stronger. If we accept the idea that challenges will make us better; if we see them not as barriers to stop us but as opportunities to move forward; we will be on the fast track to achieving success.

So when that moment comes and you are ready to throw your club, step back, take a breath, and see if this is just part of getting better. If you decide, you just want to get good at throwing your clubs, then this is the opportunity you have been looking for.

Remember, people tend to shy away from people who throw clubs. Golfers who throw clubs tend to golf alone.

Make it a great day.

Dr L

Buses for Wounded Soldiers

In my book “It’s Not What I Know…It’s How I Learned It,” I relate several stories about my experiences in Vietnam and later my experiences as a surgeon at the Veterans Hospital. For forty-five years, I’ve said that we give our worst medicine to our best men and women.

First of all, I don’t believe that it is the physicians, nurses or the hands-on people that are the problem. It is the system that allows them to practice. Incompetent health care personnel wound not survive in the public healthcare market place.

The VA medical bureaucracy lowered the standard of care to a point that competent health care providers leave the system, leaving less competent personnel to work the system. Again, it is important to understand that the people are not bad. It is the system that perpetuates incompetence.

Over the past several months, we are hearing reports about the VA medical bureaucracy. Veterans, who are coming back from battle with a need for care, find that the care and support that was promised them is not readily available or not available at all. The government bureaucrats have denied the VA incompetence.

If the VA system is so good, then why do we need all these volunteer support organizations? Because the millions of veterans and their families who are out there, see what’s happening. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with their fight buddies. They have seen them wounded, held them in their arms, have made that final promise to “tell her that I love her.” “Take care of them for me.”

And they said, “Don’t worry, I will.”

Even though they both new the truth, the wounded soldier heard, “You’re going to be OK. We’re going to get you out of here.”

There are so many veteran support groups out there today. People reaching out to help and support. For the most part, their monies come from donations. These are veterans helping veterans. These are people who understand and care. These are people who are stepping up…just as they did when they wore the uniform. Yet, billions of dollars are going to perpetuate a broken medical bureaucracy.

My direct experience in the VA hospital system was with the returning Vietnam vets and tending to the WW2 and Korean Vets. Most of the older vets were in long-term care facilities. In my book, I relate some of those experiences. For the most part we were able to help these men and women.

Most if not all of the surgery performed at the VA hospital was by surgical residents. Even my VA chief could not do the surgical procedure that I was assigned to do. I was chief resident at the time and anything that I couldn’t handle, with a little arm-twisting, could be transferred to the University Hospital.

At that time, we were only 20 years out from WW2 and the VA was thought of as the best thing since buttermilk. It was also the only thing available at that time for veterans. Traditional medical insurance was in its infancy.

Also, as Vietnam vets, we were not very popular with a vocal portion of the public. We were ‘baby killers’, forcing our American ideas on people who didn’t want it. We couldn’t talk about our service except to our comrades and some family members. Returning vets were booed when they got on an airplane or in certain public forums.

It took nearly thirty years before we could comfortably lift our heads. We were proud to serve. We just couldn’t tell anyone that we were proud of our service. The men and women who served before 1973 were forced to serve. They were drafted. Since 1973, men and women still have to register but our military is all volunteers.

Volunteers. Volunteering to serve our country. Volunteering to postpone their education, career, family and even life for the good of our country and what it stands for. Our men and women risk limbs and life for you and me. All they ask (and what we promised we would do) is to it take care of them if they can’t take care of themselves and “tell her that I love her.”

Never forget to thank the veterans for their service. They are proud but humble. They are compassionate and strong, but their eyes may water when you shake their hand. Most will quietly just say, “Thanks.”

Make it a great day

Dr L

There is a story about the aid worker who brought wheat seed to the village so the people could plant and have grain to sell and food for the winter. When he came back, the people were very thankful for the wheat but the fields were barren. The people cooked the wheat. They ate the seed. They were hungry.

Sometimes we have to try to see things thru other people’s eyes. The aid worker saw people who would benefit from a wheat crop. He failed to see that they were starving.

I have had those brain spasms when I saw things only thru my eyes instead of others. Heard it over and over. Walk a mile in their shoes. We complain about a pot hole or a crooked line on our highways. There are people who are happy just to have a road.

We were in a chopper on a mission in Honduras and crossed close to the top of mountain. I looked down and there was a little shack with a man waving at us. We were only about 100ft from the ground.

I waved back and mentioned to the pilot, “How did he get up there?” We crossed over the top and then made a slow circle to take a look at the mountain terrain. A narrow pathway twisted among the rocks and ledges down the mountain.

It would take the man and his family an hour to walk down the mountain. Why would he live there? What about food? He grows it. What about medical treatment? Comes down the mountain and another hour walk to the village in the valley.

What about??? The pilot circled a little lower on the mountain. Thru small clearings we could see little houses with their gardens, a few chickens or other livestock. The pilot smiled. “Doc, these people are comfortable with their lives. You think everyone should live like the people in Pittsburgh.”

Isn’t it true? We can help a lot of people but we have to help them based on what they need, not what we think they need. When rebuilding the faces of wounded soldiers, the first priority was to make sure that they would have a face. Repair the foundation…bones, muscles and tissue.

Equipment and supplies were limited. We didn’t worry as much about a scar as we did about whether they would be able to see, talk or eat again. Thru the eyes of the soldier, he was happy he was alive. Thru my eyes, I wanted him to be perfect.

It is a maturing process in the profession. It can’t be taught in the classroom. It comes from listening and listening and listening to the other person. As you read, ‘it’s not what I know… it how I learned it”, I hope you will see how I progressed thru the learning process.

The interesting part is that I still continue to learn and mature. About the time I think I’ve heard it all before, I learn a little more. When you think you know, you probably don’t. When you think you know everything…you don’t.

Make it a great day

Dr L