There is no "secret sauce": Observations of peak performers in medicine

Monday, June 08, 2015 | 0 Comments

In every performance setting I find “star” performers and medicine is no different. Some physicians simply thrive under demanding conditions better than others.

Are they more gifted? Is it purely a matter of experience? What is the “secret sauce” of their success?

Having worked with physicians for nearly a decade, I can debunk the idea that some “secret sauce” or natural gift separates peak-performing physicians from their peers. The true roots of why some perform better under pressure follows the principles of human performance training that are fundamental to my own practice.

And it all starts with the self.

So-called “star” performers prepare their self for the conditions they must contend with, just as diligently as they practice their technical knowledge. They also mine their on-job experiences for new knowledge, meaning, and conceptions of their practice.

None of this is the byproduct of some natural gift. Some physicians simply arrive at this awareness sooner than others. I’ve observed and documented these behaviours and developed them into a checklist you can use to help you achieve sustainable high performance.


Think of it as the PhenomenalDocs recipe for “not-so-secret-sauce”:



  • Heighten your self-awareness—by regularly scanning yourself and your environment, you can learn what contributes to or takes away from your optimal focus and feel in a performance situation.
  • Prepare yourself across the spectrum—sustained high performance happens when you are poised and present. To be so, try complementing your technical preparation with mental and emotional rehearsal as well.
  • Be mindful—stay connected to how you feel in the moment so that going forward you can create or re-create optimal focus and feel on demand.
  • Develop personal frameworks for dealing with challenges—even the best physicians still fail. But sustainable high performance is not about perfection. It’s about bouncing back from adversity and re-calibrating your focus after you fail. Learning to process tough outcomes is vital for health and performance. Acknowledging strong feelings paves the way for self-acceptance and forgiveness. The emotional release frees you to focus in on learning from the experience. Feeling fully, drawing lessons, and applying them in your practice is how you honor difficult outcomes.
  • Find the lesson—engaging in reflective practice (as opposed to ruminating) helps you draw out new lessons from an experience so that going forward you feel more secure and trusting of yourself in your role.
  • Don’t waste energy—your profession demands efficiency with little room to squander energy on negative thinking. Learning to efficiently guide your thoughts will help you transition in and out of your different on-the-job roles. It will also free you up to bring those aspects of yourself that help you succeed in different roles.

These ideas are illuminated in further detail throughout this website. Our goal is to provide you with practical tools and strategies for how you can help yourself feel and perform more consistently at a high level. Please explore further and thank you for visiting

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