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If, then; if not, then

In 2018 I had the opportunity to hear from an interventional cardiologist that is famous in the medical community for his ability to treat complex patient cases that most surgeons wouldn’t think of touching.

When a surgeon-in-training asked him how he was able to make decisions so quickly during surgery, he said something that stuck with me ever since: “always be thinking in a dichotomous fashion. If this works, then what do you do? If it doesn’t, then what do you do? Always have solutions to problems.”

When you have the luxury of time — or at least the perception of having ample time — it’s easy to default to a step-wise approach to problem-solving: try x, and if it doesn’t work then go back to the drawing board and figure out what to do. Repeat.

Alternatively, you can take a play out of the interventional cardiologist’s playbook: Act and plan in parallel. Anticipate the most plausible outcomes so that when they happen, the course of action has already been determined.

With planning comes speed. With speed comes leverage.



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William Liao

William Liao


Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)