Personal Best

Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you?

Atul Gawande

No matter how well trained people are, few can sustain their best performance on their own. That

No matter how well trained people are, few can sustain their best performance on their own. That’s where coaching comes in.

I’ve been a surgeon for eight years. For the past couple of them, my performance in the operating room has reached a plateau. I’d like to think it’s a good thing—I’ve arrived at my professional peak. But mainly it seems as if I’ve just stopped getting better.

During the first two or three years in practice, your skills seem to improve almost daily. It’s not about hand-eye coördination—you have that down halfway through your residency. As one of my professors once explained, doing surgery is no more physically difficult than writing in cursive. Surgical mastery is about familiarity and judgment. You learn the problems that can occur during a particular procedure or with a particular condition, and you learn how to either prevent or respond to those problems.

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