Guest Editorial

All I need to know I learned from cataract surgery

If we were to add up the collective hours we spend in the OR, we may consider how cataract surgery is a microcosm of our lives and the world around us. It can teach us many worthwhile lessons when we take a step back and reflect.

Here are 10 life lessons I have derived from cataract surgery.

1. Be slow and deliberate.

Just as we perform each step of surgery in a smooth, predictable manner, a pre-meditated approach to life helps avoid stress and yields more predictable outcomes.

2. Plan.

Preparing in advance for a complicated case (just as we might prepare for a difficult life challenge) helps us to remain cool and calm in difficult situations, limit anxiety and improve outcomes

3. Be efficient.

Most cataract surgery should be done in less than 10 minutes — after that, in my experience, more time does not translate into better outcomes. Such is true in life. Expending excess energy and time in a poorly planned job is an inefficient approach to any situation.

4. Costs more doesn’t always mean better.

There is a tendency to feel that a higher cost should translate into higher quality (especially when words like “premium” or “upgrade” are used). However, we must evaluate each situation in full context.

5. Everyone is different.

Not every cataract is the same. Just as cataract surgery has become customized and certain eyes can pose unique challenges, each person and situation we encounter is equally unique and should not be prejudged.

6. Always be honest.

Limitations and complications are the most difficult things to discuss with patients, but they are often the most important. The same is true in our relationships — procrastination and avoidance culminates in increasing anger and frustration as time passes.

7. Better is the enemy of good.

This is a classic proverb shared by many traditional philosophers who counseled against extremism. In life, sometimes we need to be thankful for what we have and not risk everything for a small gain that may compromise our steady state.

8. Each step builds on the foundation of the preceding step.

We must always build a strong foundation in all that we do in preparation for future opportunities, whether this entails the creation of business or personal relationships or projects in the workplace or home.

9. Keep your expectations realistic.

Creating unrealistic expectations for any person or situation leads to disappointment and unhappiness for all involved. Expecting less and being pleasantly surprised by a situation or outcome makes everyone happier in the end.

10. Live by the Golden Rule.

Treat every eye or patient like your family member or like you would like to be treated yourself.


As time passes, we can get caught up in the business of medicine, trapped by logistical, economic and time constraints that have the potential to compromise care and to cloud judgement.

Balancing all that is required of us is a challenge we need to manage so that we can provide our patients with the very best care. OM

Derived from The New York Times bestseller “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things” by Robert Fulghum.