I believe that it's important to try to achieve excellence not only in our career or profession but also as human beings. We should try to be the best parent, best brother and best friend. But the pursuit of excellence should be based on the comparison of being a better person than you were yesterday, not comparing yourself to other people. In my case, I also want to be a better surgeon than what I was yesterday.
This is a safe and healthy approach from a psychological point of view.
I have seen with great sadness how some people call themselves “the best of the best” or when an entourage proclaims someone is the best of the trade. I see that so often in my own career as well as in music, sports etc. Immediately an inevitable question comes out: How do you measure that? What set of criteria has been used?
From my perspective, surgery is a branch of medical science that has developed so much so that it becomes impossible to be outstanding in every aspect. Nowadays, we have what is called sub-specialties within the specialties. In other words, doctors are trying to focus on certain specific areas.
A long time ago I decided to compete with myself when I read the following verse of the poem “DESIDERATA”, it goes like this:
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”
So I decided for my own spiritual welfare and psychological peace that I would focus on improving my skills as well as my personality, but never comparing to another human being because, “for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."