9 Feb 2012


Last week, I received a call from BM. “Thank you for doing endoscopy for my patient. She is VIP’s friend.”

I was taken aback. That was a complicated procedure. Although it went smoothly, it could easily have gone wrong. “But you didn’t mention anything before,” I complained.

She chuckled, “That is a good way to prevent VIP syndrome.”

I thought for a second. She was right. I really did not want to know. So I thanked her and said we would keep an eye on the patient.

Coincidentally, my mentor talked about VIP syndrome recently. He retold a story from Andre Agassi’s autobiography.

During his brilliant career, Agassi had a funny observation. When he played against an obviously weaker opponent, the match often turned out to be tough. Big win seldom occurred as he had hoped.

After he made that observation, he started to investigate what went wrong. It dawned on him that whenever he had a weak opponent, he did unusual things. He would hit the ball harder, trying to finish the other player quickly. But since this was not what he usually did, it often became unforced error instead.

Then he devised a plan. The next time he faced a weak opponent, he had to answer a question first – Why did he think he was weak? If he could not find a reason, he concluded that the opponent might not be weak after all. If the weakness was truly apparent, he should calmly attack the weak point.

“VIP syndrome is the same,” my mentor concluded. “Disasters happen because people make unusual decisions in face of a VIP. The only solution is to have a clear mind and suppress the urge.”

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