One of my bedrock principles for you to understand is to Aim for Zero. Go read that post if you haven’t done so yet. Why do people aim for +1 and fail so often? I think it’s because they miss some important steps as they are reaching for +1. In the original post, I gave an example of a resident who was aiming for +1 and became a -1 in the process. Here are some more examples from my life.
The Helpful Friend
We have one friend who tries SO HARD to be helpful. I think it’s because her family relied on her to be The Responsible One when she was growing up. She has a tendency to take charge of everything (even if we’ve Got This, because we’re grown ass adults) and tries to provide helpful information even when it isn’t correct, helpful, or necessary. The most clear example is when we were out at a restaurant trying to figure out the menu. The server came up and someone asked a question and our helpful friend answered. The server, who was the professional who KNEW THE MENU, was right there? Why in the world would you try to answer instead of allowing the server to do so? This happens constantly, and makes us feel like we’re being treated like incompetent children when we’re around her.
In order to avoid being this person, think about whether you’re the most qualified person to deal with a situation and/or whether a competent person is already taking care of it. Do you always really need to ‘solve’ everything? Just wait silently and see if someone else handles it in a competent way. Aim for Quietly Competent.
There are so many of these it’s hard to choose just one, so I will use a recent example. I was on clinics and one of the students was trying so hard to be likeable and demonstrate that he was smart. To that end, he struck up conversations at inappropriate times by asking slightly unprofessional questions. One time he was monitoring a case in MRI and asked what my plans were for the weekend when I just quickly popped in to check on the case. He clearly studied, but he studied esotera and asked questions which were esoteric, without having a solid grasp of the fundamental concepts. For example, he couldn’t describe why the inspired anesthetic concentration was less than the vaporizer setting, but he asked a question during rounds about coronary steal. Again, aim for Quietly Competent.
In order to avoid being this person, reflect on how you are feeling. Are you feeling anxious and therefore the need to impress? Are you feeling insecure? Try to relax and just Do Your Best. If you find you are asking questions which the rest of the students don’t even seem to understand or which requires a lengthy explanation by the instructor, or are met with, “We can discuss that later”, you may be asking Gunner questions.
My best friend is highly competitive, as are several other close friends. It doesn’t bother me because I am 100% not competitive. However, I can see how it may be bothersome to other people. If someone in martial arts class does 50 push ups, he has to do 51. I imagine this would be frustrating for people if they gauge their worth by comparing themselves with others rather than gauging compared to themselves of yesterday. The competitive desire to be the best is analogous with aiming for +1.
In order to avoid being this person, consider how you relate to other people. Do you feel pressure to one-up someone? Do you do the humble brag? If you aren’t number one, how do you feel about that? If you are competitive, work on dialing it back a bit.
I actually had a harder time coming up with personal examples than I thought I would. I think it’s because I tend to select for my friends from the RFHB group, and very few of them are aiming for +1. I am not saying don’t be enthusiastic- you know I love enthusiastic friends and students and peers. I’m not saying don’t be helpful. I AM saying to just relax and Aim for Zero. In all things, aim for moderation.