“Life Hangs in the Balance“
Richard Berryessa, C.C.P.
Tom Wharton is honored with this annual lecture because he was a great friend of perfusion and perfusionists. He was at different times the Executive Director of the Journal of Extracorporeal Technology, AmSECT (The American Society of Extracorporeal Technology), and the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. He was also instrumental in encouraging the formation of The American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion to fill a need for continuing education for perfusionists. I knew Tom more than twenty years ago when I served on the AmSECT Board. I am honored to address you today in memory of a man who contributed to helping perfusionists become better educated and more professional.
In considering a subject for this talk, I first settled upon the notion that medicine in general and perfusion in particular are not as “scientific” as they should be. As an example, standards of practice should be based upon the current scientific literature. In perfusion it’s impossible to reach this level of scientific application because the critical studies have not been done, have been poorly done, or are difficult to access through traditional means.
I thought that if I studied the lives of some famous scientists I might discover some character traits that we might emulate and therefore learn to become more “scientific.” I settled upon two lives: Albert Einstein, a scientist who made significant theoretical discoveries, and Thomas Edison whose science impacts us in very practical ways. As I read biographies of their lives I was struck with the realization that although they were incredible scientists were not good fathers and husbands. They were not successful in an area of their lives that I considered equally, if not more, important.1-2
I have always been taught and believe that “no success compensates for failure in the home.” These great scientists succeeded not because of their lack of a successful home life but despite it. I decided that I would address an issue that is the greatest struggle in my life and perhaps yours too.
That is FINDING A BALANCE IN LIFE when your work is as demanding as ours is.
I will define balance as the allocation of our resources (notably time and energy) that produces lasting happiness. The way we choose to spend these limited resources is based upon what we consider to be important or valuable. We need to carefully examine how we determine what is important or we will find ourselves spending our lives doing things that others value and that we do not – Unless we are certain what is important to us and have the discipline to say “no” to that which is not important we will waste the few precious years we have on earth. (For an elegant discussion of this subject see the Wharton Lecture from 1996.3)
Values and Principles
The things we think are important in our lives reflect our values: family, education, health, interesting work, friends, etc. However, “values are subjective and internal.” They are like maps, they are not the territory but attempts to describe or represent the territory. The more closely our values (or maps) are aligned with or define and describe correct principles (the territories) the more accurate and useful they will be. Principles, unlike values, are objective and external — they are “self evident, self-validating, natural laws” that do not change or shift. “Principles apply at all times and in all places,” they are inviolate. They are not invented by us or society and “to the degree people recognize and live in harmony with such basic principles as fairness, equity, justice, integrity, honesty, and trust, they move toward survival and stability on the one hand or disintegration and destruction on the other.” Principles are a moral compass, always pointing the correct way.4
They way we live our lives (spend our time and energy) reflects our values, and our values reflect our principles, or lack thereof. Stephen R. Covey says that a gang member (or a gang) can have values–material wealth, companionship, leisure time, spending money, loyalty, etc. while they have few, if any, principles.4-5
There are only two kinds of behavior — creative or self-destructive. Creative behavior is based upon values that reflect principles. Some examples of creative behavior are: reading, pondering, inventing, problem solving, teaching, parenting, (most) work, physical exercise, and service to others. Some examples of self-destructive behavior are: smoking, unhealthy eating habits, indulgence in alcohol, dishonesty (lying, cheating , stealing), indolence, self doubt, and negative self talk. (For a perspective on this subject refer to Jerry Richmond’s Wharton Lecture from 1995, delivered about three months before he passed away.6)
We can divide our lives into four basic areas. They are spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical. It is a valuable exercise to set your goals (short and long term) in each of these areas. I have learned that if you describe your ideal self in each of these areas and compare that ideal to your current (real) self that you have a blueprint for change in your life that can be powerful. If you then work to gradually and systematically achieve your goals to become your ideal person you must also decide how to assign priority or attach a value or weight to the goals you set.
Achieving a balance does not mean spending an equal amount of time in each area. It does mean doing the best you can to work towards enough time in each area to accomplish the most important, valuable, or highly weighted goals in all areas. For example, I may need to spend more time right now working on losing weight and learning how to eat sensibly than I will ever spend in the physical area in the future. That is a high priority physical goal, but I may only spend one hour a day six days a week working on it. The payoff for me will be greater than any I will receive by spending four hours a day at work. In the spiritual area, I have a goal to read scriptures every morning and night. The tradeoff was not reading the morning paper.
Although reading the paper with breakfast was a difficult habit to break, I consider it a waste of all but a couple of minutes. I do not have time to do both, and I know that I will be a better person as a result of the choice I made. I spend too much time in the work (intellectual) area of my life. I decided seven years ago to quit writing and presenting papers because I could not spend enough time with my wife and kids. Although I miss the intellectual stimulation the choice was the right one.
I was impressed that in Charlie’s Eulogy for Tom in 1983 he said, “If we were to ask Tom what he believed his greatest accomplishment was – I know, without question, that his reply would be simply my children’.”7 That statement says much about Tom’s priorities and suggests that he made the choice to spend his time in his high payoff areas.
It is beyond the scope of this talk, and my expertise, to go into depth as to how to achieve balance in our lives. Let me suggest that you look at the references and that you begin with Steve Covey’s book The seven habits of highly effective people.5 In this signal work Covey gives succinct instruction and excellent examples of how to get your life on the right track (based on principles) and keep it there. He suggests we overcome the three major forces opposing positive change or improvement which are:
- our appetites and passions-work on developing self-control, discipline,
- pride and pretension-resolve to work on character and competence, and
- unbridled aspiration and ambition-resolve to dedicate our talents and resources to provide service to others.
Is that not an important part of our profession?
Covey further suggests we develop these seven habits:
- be proactive- take control of your life,
- begin with the end in mind-have an unparalleled concern with outcome, an overarching vision,
- put first things first-do the important, not just urgent things,
- Think win/win-live the philosophy of mutual benefit,
- seek first to understand, then to be understood-listen with the intent to understand, without formulating your response,
- synergize-use the principle of creative cooperation. Value differences, use them to improve, and
- sharpen the saw-renew yourself. Do not let yourself become dull, mentally, physically, socially or spiritually.5
It is my experience that people who act on principle naturally seek balance in their lives, that they make the best leaders8-9 because they know where they are going and because people want to follow them. They represent the only examples of happy people we will ever see. I am also certain that if such a person were a perfusionist that he or she would be a professional, would work hard to contribute to the scientific literature, would use that literature to improve his practice, and would be exactly the type of person we want as a member of The American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion.
In addition to the references cited I would like to thank my family, especially my wife Susan for her example and encouragement. Special thanks to Jeryl Kalinowski, of Goalkeepers, for her help and inspiration.
1. Brian D. Einstein: a life. New York; John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
2. Baldwin N. Edison: inventing the century. New York: Hyperion, 1995.
3. Clark D. If I do this, I cannot do that. Proc Am Acad Cardiovasc Perfusion 1996; 17:7-8.
4. Covey S. Principle-centered leadership. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.
5. Covey S. The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.
6. Richmond J. Love and perfusion. Proc Am Acad Cardiovasc Perfusion 1995; 16: 7-8.
7. Reed CC. Thomas G. Wharton: eulogy. Proc Am Acad Cardiovasc Perfusion 1983; 4:7.
8. Bennis W, Nanus B. Leaders: the strategies for taking charge. New York: Harper Collins, 1985.
9. Bennis W. On becoming a leader. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wessley, 1989.