At the Reboot Chronicles, we most often talk to business executives about their challenges and triumphs. I met Dr. Brian Lima speaking at a conference and decided to up our ante to life or death issues. Dr. Brian Lima is a cardiothoracic surgeon and bestselling author of an inspirational autobiography, Heart to Beat, was awarded the 2020 top doctor of the year. I spoke with him about how his work and life embody the principles of the Reboot Chronicles: be nimble, adapt to what life throws at you and always be leading.
At the Reboot Chronicles, we most often talk to CEO's, entrepreneurs and civic leaders about their challenges and triumphs. I met Dr. Brian Lima speaking at a conference and decided to up our ante to life or death issues.
Dr. Lima is a top cardiothoracic surgeon and bestselling author of an inspirational autobiography, Heart to Beat, and was awarded the 2020 top doctor of the year. I spoke with him about how his work and life embody the principles of the Reboot Chronicles: be nimble, adapt to what life throws at you and always be leading.
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Dr. Lima is a global authority on advanced heart failure, heart transplants and medical circulatory devices. In his world, there is no room for failure. How does he keep the stress in check? How did he rise to this position?
When I met Brian, I was struck by his childhood story about how he came to want to be a doctor. Lots of people would probably mention a character they saw on TV as an inspiration. For Brian, it was at the age of 10 seeing his father have a heart attack. He turned the fear and helplessness into a desire to become a doctor. When he got to a surgery rotation in his training he found his “do what you love” moment. As he says: “Surgery was love at first sight. And it was just a natural fit. It just seemed to click. I couldn't think of myself doing anything else.”
And while surgeons are renowned for their confidence and egos, Brian is rather modest about his abilities. He’d agree with the old “99% perspiration” adage. Surprisingly, he never felt like heI was the smartest kid in class. “I felt like I always had probably a lower IQ relative to what I would you know, what I thought of as really geniuses with photographic memories.” What was his solution? He worked two or three times as hard and excelled even though it took him longer periods of time to absorb the information. He felt like an underdog but that was part of his motivation.
Dr. Lima’s discipline also extends to writing. In the midst of starting the first heart transplant program on Long Island, he chronicles his struggles and triumph in becoming a top heart surgeon by writing his book Heart to Beat, which also details his family history. His father was an emigrant from Cuba and Lima felt distinctly first generation as he entered the medical field.
How does he handle the stress of a job where a bad day means someone lost their life? Like everything else, with discipline. As he says: “you can’t allow the negative self talk to just totally take over. You can’t get to the point where you lose your confidence. But you’ve got to try to extract whatever, any morsel of a lesson or what could you have done better. You go through that exercise, you obviously are remorseful and regretful, but I think so long as you do your best and everything in your power, you can't really beat yourself up too much. You have to move on. Because being stationary is not an option. The whole concept of philosophy of the heart way is the heart just keeps going. And just like that, you have to keep going.”
I was curious what he tells patients who’ve had heart attacks about how to “reboot” their lives. Most are absolutely astonished that they could be in this situation and for many a heart episode is totally out of the blue. He urges them to get past the shock and anger and get down to wellness including exercise and a better diet. He’s concerned about millennials who are actually proving LESS healthy than Gen X in terms of heart issues. Why? They are turning to Dr. Google rather than making regular visits with their primary care doctors and getting the appropriate preventative tests done on an annual basis.
What’s a great day like for him? He cites an instance that moved him deeply. He had a young patient, literally, in his late 30s with young kids who had a massive heart attack totally out of the blue. Unfortunately, “his heart was so sick, that even getting blood flow back to the heart did nothing as the heart was already too damaged.” He and his team stepped in, put this man on temporary life support but managed to find a match and get him a transplant within a week. “It really hit me that these little kids were almost rendered fatherless. I helped prevent that and reunited the family and got them back on track.”
For Dr. Lima, it was a very good week at the office indeed.
About the Reboot Chronicles Podcast
Hosted by Dean DeBiase. The Reboot Chronicles is a popular no-holds-barred podcast on iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and YouTube that has been bringing together CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors, and global leaders, for over a decade, to discuss how organizations are rebooting their leadership-competitiveness of everything from growth, innovation, and technology to talent, culture, and governance. Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts or at https://www.revieve.com/rebootchronicles.
About Dean DeBiase
Named a Growth Guru" by Inc. Magazine, Dean DeBiase is a Faculty Member at Kellogg School of Management and Silicon Valley serial CEO, where he has served in chief executive and chairman roles of more than a dozen emerging growth companies, CEO of Fortune 500 subsidiaries, and a director on public, private, family-enterprise, CVC, PE and VC boards. He is a Technology Fellow at Northwestern University, a Board Leadership Fellow at The National Association of Corporate Directors, and an Advisor to the National Science Foundation. A Forbes Contributor and co-author of the best-selling book The Big Moo, Dean, is working on his next book, Dancing with Startups. Connect with Dean here:www.linkedin.com/in/FollowDean.