Success through failure

One of my goals for 2017 has been to read more. According to Pocket I have been in the top 1% of 'pockters' in both 2015 and 2016, but even if that's true (and I'm not entirely convinced it isn't just marketing stuff) what I'm reading are web articles, some long form, but mostly short form articles.

This isn't the kind of reading I want to focus on in 2017. I've got a list of (mostly) science fiction books I'm planning on reading this year.

I'm also listening to audio books through Audible during my commute to work. Those books are a little more varied in their content so far, and exclusively non-fiction.

But why does this matter? As I do I was reading an article on Isaac Asimov entitled Isaac Asimov: How to Never Run Out of Ideas Again – Personal Growth – Medium.

From the article 4 points really struck me:

  • Read widely. Follow your curiosity. Never stop investing in yourself.
  • Diversity is insurance of the mind.
  • We fail. We struggle. And that is why we succeed.
  • After all, never having ideas means never having to fail.

Although I had planned on reading more before having read the article, after reading it I'm even more dedicated to making sure I read as much as I can this year.

The last 2 points are also something I've been trying to work on. One of the reasons for this site is so I can showcase the ways in which I fail and what I am able to learn from those 'failures'.

The ideas that failure and struggle lead directly to success is something I'd never really connected, but I can see the connection between them now.

I like the idea that Isaac Asimov failed at things, but that they didn't prevent him from accomplishing those (and other) things.

This article really helped crystallize an idea that I've had a hard time putting into words …

Failing only happens when you don't try. Trying to do a thing and not achieving that thing is not failing, it's simply a different result than you expected. The success is in the trying.

I don't know if these are the best words, but as I'm learning, the success is in the trying, not in the perfection of the result.

Struggle determines success

On Sundays mornings I wake up pretty early, make myself some coffee and read through all of the interesting articles I came across during the week (usually from Twitter).

Last weekend I came across an article, You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Here’s a way better question

I was struck by several passages in the article:

If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.


I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.


This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.

When I was younger I wanted to be many things, a Physicist, an Archtect, an Engineer, a Professor … but none of those things ever got any closer. I'd be really engaged in the ideas of one of these for weeks or months at a time.

I remember being so enamoured with the idea of Civil Engineering I convinced my parents to get me a drafting board that I had in my room and I used to 'design' a prototype of a Martian Habitat.

But, as soon as I got bored I would move onto something else. From Physics to Archtecture to Engineering and back to Physics. I would always stop when it either got too hard OR something else looked more interesting.

I was always awed by my peers that could stay laser focused on a single hobby or dream job and was amazed at the amount of sacrifice they would be willing to make in order to achieve their goals.

It wasn't until I got to college when I started to see what I needed to sacrifice in order to get ahead.

Parties on the weekend. Not for me … I had a full time job and was a full time student. I would hang with friends when I could, but I was mostly at the library studying, or at work studying or maybe getting a little bit of sleep.

I suddenly became laser focused like the people I knew in high school. I had a single goal and that was to graduate and go onto graduate school so I could get a PhD in economics.

The PhD didn't happen, and in the following years I felt like I did in high school … becoming very interested in a 'thing' and then moving on from it because I'd get bored.

Then I stumbled into the Healthcare Industry and it all came back. An ability to be laser focused on new and interesting things. Wanting (maybe needing) to learn everything I could about Healthcare.

It's been more than 8 years since I started on my journey, and I've struggled every time I've started to learn a new aspect of the industry, or just an aspect of a new job that I had started.

And that's when the final passage in the article really hit me like a ton of bricks:

This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.

It truly is the struggle that determines the success. I've struggled mightily while working in healthcare, but those struggles have lead to the most fulfilling and successful career I could have hoped for.

Communication and Checklists

I’ve been thinking about communication … a lot. How well people communicate (or don’t communicate) is what drives nearly every problem, either at work or at home. Communication is essential to a feeling of team which can help to avoid communication problems in the first place. Once you feel like you are on a team, I think it’s easier to engage in communication because you feel more comfortable asking questions, posing challenges when needed, and generally being happier with your surroundings.

I’m almost finished with Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto and what struck me the most about it was the fact that checklists used by pilots, construction crews, and surgeons all had one thing in common. They forced communication amongst disparate people helping to start the formation of bonds that lead to a team.

Whether constructing a 32 floor high rise building, flying a 747 or performing open heart surgery, these are all complex problems and they all have checklists.

The use of these checklists help the practitioners focus on what’s important by using the checklist to remind them of what needs to be done but is easily forgotten.

All of this is interesting, but you can get to a ‘so what’ or ‘and …’ point.

While reading Data silos holding back healthcare breakthroughs, outcomes this line caught my attention:

However, the MIT researchers contend that the health data divide can be narrowed by creating a culture of collaboration between clinicians and data scientists

Here’s the ‘so what’ point of all of this. Using Big Data to help patients should be what the healthcare industry is focusing on. But this is difficult because Clinicians and Data Scientists don’t always have the vocabulary nor the incentives to collaborate in a meaningful way that leads to improved patient outcomes.

Could check lists for implementing Big Data at various types and sizes of organizations help? I think so, because at the very least, it could start the neccesary conversations needed to engender a sense of team between Clinicians and Data Scientists which can be sorely lacking in many institutions.

Big Data and Healthcare – thoughts

Healthcare Big Data Success Starts with the Right Questions

The last major piece of the puzzle is the ability to pick projects that can bear fruit quickly, Ibrahim added, in order to jumpstart enthusiasm and secure widespread support.

Healthcare Big Data Success Starts with the Right Questions

Moving from measurement to management – and from management to improvement – was the next challenge, he added. 

Healthcare Big Data Success Starts with the Right Questions

Each question builds upon the previous answer to create a comprehensive portrait of how data flows throughout a segment of the organization.  Ibrahim paraphrased the survey like so:

• Do we have the data and analytics to connect to the important organizations in each of these three domains?

• If we have the data, is it integrated in a meaningful way?  Can we look at that data and tell meaningful stories about what is happening, where it’s happening, and why it’s happening?

• Even if we have the data and it’s integrated meaningfully and we can start to tell that story, do we apply some statistical methodology to the data where we aggregate and report on it?

• If we have the data, and it can tell us a story, and we use good analytics methodology, are we able to present it in an understandable way to all our stakeholders, from the front-line clinician all the way up to the chief executive?   

• Are the analytics really meaningful?  Does the information help to make decisions?  Is it rich enough that we can really figure out why something is happening?

• Lastly, even if we have accomplished all these other goals, can we deliver the information in a timely fashion to the people who need this data to do their jobs?