We asked Carolyn Burns, MD, independent patient blood management physician and member of Accumen’s Medical Advisory Council, about the most important ingredients for success.

“Good horses win races when all the important factors work. Great horses win races when none of the important factors work.”–A Kentucky Derby trainer.

 I love this quote. Perhaps that’s not surprising, as I live in the Bluegrass State and have certainly heard my share of lore surrounding the Kentucky Derby here in my hometown of Louisville. But that’s not the only reason I’m drawn to these words.

This quote reminds me that people often achieve the most important and meaningful accomplishments against a back drop of challenge, calamity, or outright dissent. It takes insight, strong leadership, and openness to learning to implement programs or processes, press for reform, or change an overarching culture. Present-day healthcare requires us to stretch ourselves beyond our role as caregivers to be come competent and resourceful leaders. For this inaugural publication, I’d like to share a few thoughts about the essentials that can inspire us to achieve our goals.

I recently read two powerful and insightful books: Prescription for Lasting Success by Susan F. Reynolds, MD, PhD, and Healer, Leader, Partner by Jack Cochrane, MD. Here are the concepts that resonated most with me: I hope you will find them useful, too.

Dr. Reynolds’ book detailed what she has found to be the five all-encompassing components of success. She calls us to have a purpose and passion, to establish a solid plan, to enlist and encourage the people around you, and lastly, to persevere despite barriers or disruption. She calls us to find ways to use these“5 Ps”–purpose, passion, plan, people, and perseverance –to achieve our intended objectives and sustain positive results.

Dr. Cochrane’s book pairs well with that of Dr. Reynolds because it provides a guide to execution within the framework of the 5 Ps. His, though, could be called the “5 Cs.” We must, Cochrane says, strive for and possess clarity and consistency, work collaboratively, never dispense with compassion, and have courage to see things through. I would add an additional “C”to this list: be creative–think in new ways. This is essential for lifelong learning.

Both books also emphasized the concept of being a good listener, not a fast talker. Dr. Cochrane stressed it is not always about being bright, as we cannot know everything. Nor is it about always being right, for we never will be. It is clearly, however, about being effective.

I see these components, concepts, and characteristics as the key ingredients to success, not just in our daily work, or as healthcare leaders, but for a successful life generally. These ideas and ideals help us, as a dear colleague and friend always says, to be better tomorrow than we are today. This is the secret sauce. Let’s all commit and challenge ourselves and each other to lead in this way, both at work and in our lives.

As you commit to challenge yourself to lead in this way, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where do I demonstrate one, or several, of the 5 Ps in my work or personal life? How can I extend this strength to incorporate the remaining Ps?
  2. When I work with my patients, or peers, which of the Cs described do I miss? Why?
  3. Who do I know in my work or personal life that demonstrates the 5 Ps or described Cs best? What can I do, or change, to better emulate their example?