The Road to Mastery in Plastic Surgery is an Asymptote

The author Malcolm Gladwell argues that you need 10,000 hours doing something to become a master at it.  An example is to be a world-class chess player who no matter how good he is or could be does not achieve mastery until he has been practicing his art for 10 years.  I have certainly put my 10,000 hours into my profession.  However, I believe that mastery is achieved only if you desire that mastery and push toward it.  I am constantly attending meetings, lecturing, thinking, writing, speaking, and inventing new methods.  Patients who have not been into my practice for 3 to 6 months are astounded that I have developed another small technique improvement.  The reason for this is that I am constantly working on getting to become better and better at my craft.  It all starts with a deep level of passion and desire that drives me to become better at what I love to do.

Enso Plastic Surgery

I believe that no matter how much mastery you achieve, you can never be perfect enough or have attained a level of perfection that there can be no room for improvement.  Think of Apple, Inc.  The iPad 2 is much better than the iPad and I am certain the iPad 3 will be leaps and bounds in quality over the second-generation model.  Technology changes and how an individual can leverage that technology can improve as well.  An example is last year I started to use these wonderful French microcannulas that have literally revolutionized my ability to perform injectable products like Restylane.  Recently, I switched over to a Japanese version that is even better.  During this time I have invented multiple different techniques that leverage the benefit of these cannulas in astounding ways.

Accordingly, no matter how good you can become at your practice, the ongoing development of new technology and new ways to harness that technology makes mastery an elusive goal.  At least I would say that we strive toward ongoing improvement and we get closer and closer to an ideal but never arrive there.  Remember the asymptotic line we learned in high-school math.  We approach the line but we do not ever arrive there.  I created the enso logo for my spa that in Japanese culture symbolizes this concept very well.  The open circle means that life is a journey of constant movement but it is open because we never achieve completion.  Always starting with passion can drive an individual to be better and better to get closer to that asymptote even though we never reach it.

Samuel M. Lam, MD, FACS is a board certified plastic surgeon in Dallas, Texas. For more info, or to schedule a consultation please call 972.312.8188. If you would like to ask Dr Lam a question please visit our plastic surgery forum.