To begin with, I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous Makara Sankranti.

“You have deeper talent there. But, there’s a difference between talent and skill. Talent comes from God—you’re born with it. Skill comes from sweat and practice, and commitment.”

Will’s uncanny voice echoed in my ears as I clocked a 7 km/hour pace during my morning walk. It was Will Smith’s autobiography ‘Will’. Buying an audiobook instead of an e-book or hard copy was the right choice. The narration by Will himself made it even more authentic as I could feel his every emotion, rapping prowess, mimicry mastery and acting expertise. Once underdog undeniably, Will has become the undisputed king of Hollywood through hard work and perseverance. His words came as a jolt when I wondered what I would write for today’s blog.

Talent Vs Skills. While I agree entirely with the skills aspect of the statement, I disagree completely with the talent part. No surgeon is born with a silver knife in his hand, a.k.a skills. I was lucky to observe and learn from some great surgeons. They were all great because they worked hard to reach where they are today. Surgeons are not born; they are made. Even talent is not innate; talent is cultivated. Geoff Covin has shattered the inborn-talent myth through his landmark book ‘Talent is overrated.’ Geoff proves that people get outstanding at something because they are indefatigable.

To be an outstanding surgeon, skills alone is not enough. We need attitude and knowledge. Together, these three factors form vital ingredients: a success triangle – ASK triangle – Attitude, Skills and Knowledge. When we achieve all three, people will attribute to us “He/she knows what he’/she’s doing.” This adage is used for someone who knows his stuff or can do his job competently and something we should all strive for.


Attitude is the first and most important factor than the remaining two and forms a solid base for the triangle. Attitude determines an individual’s desire to achieve competency. Merely possessing knowledge and skill without an attitude to excel doesn’t serve any purpose. Conversely, a proper attitude can drive a person to greatness despite lacking adequate knowledge and skill.

An attitude is multi-faceted and includes critical components, such as being proactive and positive energy, an attitude toward cooperation and teamwork, optimism and self-confidence, honesty and integrity.

However, an attitude is a double-edged sword. On one edge, we must have a positive attitude about ourselves. On the other side, we must understand others’ attitudes. And the factors that drive their attitudes. Despite having a wealth of knowledge and excellent skills, many people fail due to a marked deficiency in attitude.


Till today I have travelled to 82 countries. While I could easily pass through the green passage of customs, I was stopped at many places. Some custom officials frisked me, often falling short of a cavity search! In some countries, search dogs hovered all over me. My luggage was thoroughly combed. In other countries, the medical equipment I carried for my friends was confiscated. The pickle packed by my dear mother or wife was thrown into the dust bin. And I lost my luggage a few times. However, there is one thing that no customs asked me to declare, search for, or stop. That is my knowledge. I could enter any country without declaring my little knowledge capital.

The knowledge is not the certificates, degrees, diplomas, and awards hanging on our office walls. Instead, knowledge is understanding or knowing. It is often said, knowledge is power. However, merely having knowledge is useless. We should apply it also and precisely know where and how to use it. Two ways of acquiring knowledge are studying and being with knowledgeable people who know more than us! An English Poet Joseph Addison has aptly said, “reading is to mind what exercise is to the body.” If we aren’t continuously acquiring knowledge, we are as good as those who can’t read at all.


While knowledge deals with the theoretical aspect, skills deal with the practical side of applying the idea to a task to obtain a definitive result. We must continually hone our skills by using them as we keep acquiring new skills. Two primary ways we can acquire and hone skills: try doing new things and try doing old things in new ways. We should perpetually ask ourselves what skills we lack, what skills we need to acquire, and where we can apply them.

Which skills need to be developed is often evident when we watch the masters. Here are a few specific skills in leading surgeons. They are soft and hard skills. The soft skills are communication, interpersonal and team playing, clinical decision-making, and surgical judgement skills. Hard skills are patient examination skills, tissue handling surgical skills, technical skills to handle different gadgets. Each of these skills can be learned with deconstruction and deliberate practice. And by regularly applying to realize their benefits.

To summarize, “knowledge” defines our profession, “skills”, the extent of our potential, while “attitude” governs the efficiency we achieve.

Prof. Dr. Prahlada N.B
15 January 2022

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