LIVING THE LAB LIFE
A BLOG FOR ASCLS REGION V
This book chronicles the tragic story of a refuge Hmong family living in Merced, California whose young child, Lia, falls ill and is diagnosed with Epilepsy. Lia then becomes caught in the vacuum created by the conflicting forces of her family’s cultural beliefs and the principles of Western medicine, ultimately leading to a heartbreaking end.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone working in health care. As all of our hospitals care for an increasingly diverse patient population, it is essential, now more than ever, that we are conscious of the varied cultural beliefs of our patients and how those beliefs shape what exceptional patient care looks like to them. The author does a beautiful job of humanizing both Lia’s family and the doctors who worked tirelessly to save young Lia’s life. By the end of the novel, the reader cannot help but feel sympathy for all involved and lament at so many missed opportunities to save Lia’s life.
This resonates with me at a very personal level. My family has experienced loss as a result of cultural beliefs that clash with modern medicine, resulting in the untimely death of a young cousin. Looking back, I know that my cousin’s parents should have consented to what his doctor recommended; but I can never fault them for their choices because I know they truly believed they were doing the right thing for him. While I have seen many other medical professionals become frustrated and give up on difficult patients, I always remember that no one walks into a hospital with the intention of compromising his or her own care. Each patient brings in his or her own set of beliefs and perceptions, but is the responsibility of the health care team to communicate effectively with the patient regardless of his or her background. We cannot accept anything less of ourselves, our patient’s lives are too important. Sometimes I wonder if my cousin would be alive today if his doctor had been able to communicate the dangers of not heeding her advice to my family; I am sure his doctor wonders the same thing.
Fadiman, A. (1997). The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. New York City: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Book Title & Author: Daring Greatly: How the courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown.
Book Review Summary:
Daring Greatly is a # 1 New York Times bestselling book based on research done on vulnerability. The author Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She starts the book off with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 speech “The man in the arena” which captures the essence of the book:
'It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly’
Vulnerability is a part of our everyday life. It does not only involve unpleasant experiences that may lead to embarrassment, disappointment and fear but it is at the core of joy, empathy and a myriad of emotions that bring purpose to life. Brené’s challenge to us is to remained engaged in life by showing who we really are to the world – embracing the negative as well jumping in and enjoying the positive joyful parts of life. This is the true way to be courageous. The concept that being vulnerable is courageous is not easy to swallow. After all, weakness is a part of the definition of vulnerability and we would rather link courage to strength and perfection. The reality is that we are all weak in some ways and it is tempting to let that lack of perfection or that feeling of being “never enough” paralyze us and stop us from entering the arena of life. Life is filled with uncertainties and there is no way of knowing whether or not every action you take will pay off positively. This inability to be vulnerable and to step out into the world as we are is dangerous and will leave us with regret for many missed opportunities. Daring Greatly is a book that will make you reexamine the reasons behind every action you take whether it be at home or in the workplace.
The author is a good story teller. The book is filled with personal examples of situations where she experienced vulnerability. Some of which I surprisingly relate to. For example she writes of having a feeling of impending doom when things in her life are going well instead of embracing the joy of the moment – something that I relate to very well. This book would be great for discussion. Even though it may seem tough to apply it to the workplace (as opposed to one’s personal life) it can be valuable to discuss how we can all be more vulnerable in the workplace. One way to apply it to the work place is to think of what the vision of your work place is. For example if you want the workplace to be a strong team /family environment you can specify what kind of actions you should be taking every day with employees and coworkers to support that vision. Now compare what you should be doing with what you actually are doing. The discrepancy may have something to do with an unwillingness to be vulnerable. For example, do people on a strong team not know the names of other people on the team? If you are a manager of a lab and you don’t know the name of one of the phlebotomists that works in the lab and have no interest in learning or meeting him or her, you probably don’t have a strong team. How are employees at your facility evaluated? What would a strong team do? What do you actually do?
We often think that people in leadership positions should not have meaningful relationships with employees under them because this would blur the boundaries of their professional relationship but does this really have to be the case? How much do we know about our employees or coworkers? How much interest do we take in their lives?
I thought of times that I appreciated a manager or coworker’s willingness to be vulnerable:
I gave it a 3 out of 5 because although I think it was a good book but I was left with a sense of ‘well what do I do now?’ Leaders may feel the same way after reading this book since it does not paint a road map to provide guidance as to how to be vulnerable. However, I do think that this book can facilitate great discussion and thus it is worth the read.
Leadership Lessons Learned: "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change" by Stephen R. Covey
Originally published in 1989, this book has long been hailed as an essential and unequivocal text on personal and interpersonal development. The author advocates for increased success, or "effectiveness," in all of life's endeavors not through quick-fix personality changes, but through deep character changes. The seven habits are as follows:
1: Be Proactive: Proactive people respond to life's challenges based on their values. Reactive people respond on the basis of their feelings, environment, or circumstances.
2: Begin with the End in Mind: Shape your actions around how you want to remembered at the end (whatever end that may be).
3: Put First Things First: Prioritize the essential over the inessential, no matter how urgent the inessential may seem.
4: Think Win/ Win: Approach each conflict with the desire to achieve victory for not just your side but the other side as well.
5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood: Use empathetic communication to understand those around you, to see from their perspective.
6: Synergize: We are more than the sum of our parts. We are strongest when we remember that.
7: Sharpen the Saw: The journey of personal development never ends. So long as we live and continue to have goals in life, we will forever need to assess and reassess our path and performance.
This book has something to teach all of us. It teaches us how to learn about ourselves, how to learn about those around us. This is particularly valuable to those of us in healthcare, since it is our role in society to care for and understand all those in need. Additionally, by taking time for introspection on our values and strengths, we can enhance our confidence in ourselves and our mission and stave off the burnout that so plagues our profession.
The primary shortcoming I found in this text had nothing to do with the lessons being taught, but rather had to do with some of the potential applications. The author at one points states that by rewriting our "programming" as advised by Habit 1: Be Proactive, we can solve all types of mental disorder, including anxiety and depression. Given what I have witnessed in my personal and professional life, I find this assertion dangerous; however, given this text in near thirty years old, this error could simply be attributed to the ignorance of the time.
Would I Recommend the Book?
It is not perfect, but if self-improvement is your goal, this would be an excellent place to start. Take your time with reading it. You will only get out as much as you put in.
If you perused that leadership academy recommended book list posted last month, but not sure what to start with my suggestion is "Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways To Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time"- by Brian Tracy. Its a fast read (took me 3 days) with ALOT of super helpful advice; some of the chapters struck me the most and I'll discuss them here. The main overwhelming idea of this book is best described by Mark Twain who said, "that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long." This "frog" is paralleled to a particular task, most likely the ugliest, most avoided or even the most important, that needs to be done, where be it at work, home, school, or what not. The author found that those who most would consider "successful" launch right into that big, nasty job or goal and work it all the way through to completion first. Those who do this report " [being] happier, more confident, and more powerful you feel about yourself and your world." And who couldn't use a little bit more oomph in their step and some good vibes in their pocket. So let's jump in and learn some quick tips and tricks to be more successful in all things we do and become a better leader.
1. Consider the Consequences (Ch.4)-when you're doing a particular task try thinking about how important it is in the short-term and long-term to you and your company. Most often the long-term mindset proves most important in determining your success in both life and work. So always consider the long-term effect on your short-term decision making. Also, it is just as crucial to realize that there will never, and I mean NEVER, be enough time to do absolutely everything, but there will ALWAYS be enough time to do the most important thing. So shrug off the idea that we can be five people at once, and focus on the idea that by doing the task that has the best long-term outcome and is the most significant that ultimately it will result in greater successful outcomes and better consequences for you.
2. Practice Creative Procrastination (Ch.5)- By understanding that you can't do everything at once means you've got to choose something to procrastinate on. So prioritize, prioritize, prioritize and by that I mean start by "eat[ing] the biggest and ugliest frogs before anything else. Do the worst first!" This will help you get your duties into a manageable control level. So carefully decided which tasks your going to skip and come back to later...if ever.
3. Focus on Key Result Areas (Ch. 7)- A key result area is defined in the book as "something for which you are completely responsible. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done. A key result area is an activity that is under your control. It produces an output that becomes an input or contributing factor to the work of others." In the management world some examples would be delegating, staffing, or supervising. If these pieces are not done well or not at all, it may lead to a chain reaction failure among all staff. So as a rule of thumb, practice your WEAKEST key result areas until they reach a level at or above your highest key result area Then keep the cycle going!
I hope this helps you and puts some perspective on whatever job tasks or personal decisions you may be procrastinating or debating. If you'd like to learn more, check out this book for more helpful advice!