Use your head for yourself, heart for others

I learned a lot as a child by soaking up the wisdom of my elders. My father often brought me along when he called on friends and I sat with him when he entertained visitors in our home.

While I was visiting my family in July, we received a visit from a worldly and well-read family friend. In addition to being an excellent medical doctor, he’s a voracious reader of poetry and literature.

He shared some excellent advice – “When considering yourself, think with your head. When considering others, think with your heart.”

When I recall career or academic mistakes, many had their roots in frustration or emotions coupled with lazy logic. When I think of times I really connected with someone, I succeeded because I took the time to view their whole, human self and empathize with their feelings.

The quote reminds me of two things:

First, Lord Bertrand Russell’s Message to the Future

Second, a passage from the novel Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

Chief Resident Dr. Stone is reviewing the previous week’s surgeries in a meeting with his staff. A woman wrote to him after her son died in surgery.


After sharing the letter, Stone asks, “In an emergency, what is the only treatment administered by ear?”

“Words of comfort.”

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