builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In
the same way, by doing just acts, we come to be just; by doing self-controlled
acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become
I know that I have learned this over and over again in my life. I have watched my children learn to do things (and say other things I wish they wouldn't) simply by observing me and testing the waters. When I first started working as a surgical assistant I was alternately horrified and excited by the oft-used phrase, "see one, do one, teach one". Horrified because I worried about those unsuspecting patients who were paying their physician to perform a surgical procedure on them, not to stand by and watch while a resident or intern or medical assistant did the procedure instead. Excited because I was lucky enough to be that trusted assistant. Over several years I was allowed to suture wounds, reduce fractured bones, and remove benign skin growths under the hawklike gaze of my mentors.
As nervous as I was to wield a scalpel on another human being, it becomes addictive. For a self-described control freak, the simple act of fixing something compares to nothing else. The clients who came into our clinic had made their way there via the Emergency Room in most cases. It was our job to reattach blood vessels, tendons, nerves, and, often, fingers. Other times, there were great gaping holes in faces or horrific burn scars on limbs that would need extensive repair. The physicians I worked with were equal parts scientists and artists, capable of sizing up both medical and aesthetic needs in mere minutes. They were egotistical and self-important, completely sure of their abilities, and while that grated on my nerves on a daily basis, it was a special kind of balm to a frightened patient who just wanted to look and feel human again.
None of these surgeons were infallible and, while it was difficult to imagine them as scared med students, they had to start somewhere. At some point, they each had to decide to lift the scalpel and make that first cut. At some point they put aside their doubts and fears and began to practice the work they had chosen to be theirs. We learn by doing. Practice what is important to you in order to become proficient. In order to accomplish the goals we set out to achieve, we must take that first step and be consistent in our forward motion. Something for me to revisit every day, I think.