Dr. Brian Lima is a cardiac surgeon, associate professor of surgery, and recognized authority in advanced heart failure. He has published nearly 80 articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and presented at numerous national and international medical conferences. As the surgical director of heart transplantation at North Shore University Hospital, Dr. Lima helped launch the first and only heart transplant program on Long Island. Dr. Lima completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University and was awarded a Dean’s Full Tuition scholarship to attend Duke University School of Medicine. During medical school, Dr. Lima spent a year at Harvard Medical School’s Transplantation Biology Research Center as a Stanley Sarnoff cardiovascular research fellow. He then completed his general surgery residency training at Duke University Medical Center, and subsequent heart surgery training at The Cleveland Clinic, where he was awarded the prestigious Dr. Charles H. Bryan Annual Clinical Excellence Award in Cardiovascular Surgery.
THE HEART WAY
An Excerpt from HEART TO BEAT: A cardiac surgeon’s inspiring story of success and overcoming adversity—The Heart Way by Brian Lima, M.D.
What if we approached life’s challenges and setbacks just as our own hearts continuously strive to meet the demands of our bodies— unrelenting and with constant effort and action, even in dire circumstances? Rather than shying away from these obstacles or dwelling on our mistakes and misfortunes, what if we just kept methodically moving forward, onwards and upwards, without skipping a beat, focusing on what lies ahead and hell-bent on conquering what we set out to accomplish? We could affectionately refer to this strategy as “the Heart Way.”
The symbolic significance here cannot be overstated. By substituting the word “heart” for the word “hard,” we are consciously nullifying the negative connotations of any challenging or unpleasant task. In so doing, we are effectively empowering ourselves to overcome that self- sabotaging force of inertia holding us hostage and preventing us from taking the pivotal first step towards fulfilling our dreams. Substituting the word “heart” also invigorates us to persist along this quest, when the going gets tough and we’re tempted to throw in the towel. Pulling this off is admittedly much easier said than done, especially these days, where instant gratification has become everyone’s top priority and entitlement. Virtually every want and need imaginable, from food to entertainment, is just one click away. To make matters worse, glamourized stories of overnight success, celebrity, and material wealth are endlessly streamed via social media. These household names have absurdly emerged as the new role models for our youth, prompting widespread repudiation of any course of action they deem even remotely difficult or unpleasant.
But make no mistake: a number of facts still hold true, no matter how topsy-turvy the world has become. Shortsighted, get-rich-quick schemes and other vapid pursuits, driven solely by selfish desires for fame and fortune, are ultimately unfulfilling. It’s just how we’re wired— not to mention that prisons are full of convicts that opted for life in the fast lane. Our choices have consequences, and anything truly worth doing is not going to be easy. If it were easy, then everyone would do it. That’s what makes the journey special and genuinely rewarding, so there’s no use overthinking it any further. There are no shortcuts, easy ways out, or free lunches. I’ve come to find that the Heart Way is the only way.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” –Theodore Roosevelt
To clarify, I’m not suggesting we all become masochistic gluttons for punishment. And neither was Theodore Roosevelt. Quite the contrary—life is about balance and moderation. There’s a time and a place for leisure, letting your guard down, celebrating small victories, and enjoying precious moments with friends and family. Likewise, there’s also a time to buckle down, to stare down your goals, and to launch headlong into battle with your obstacles, enduring all the gut-wrenching setbacks and failures along the way. By all intents and purposes, it seems the pendulum has swung disproportionately towards la-la land, following our increasingly hedonistic tendencies. This principle of balance holds universally true for both our physical and metaphorical hearts. Take, for instance, our diet. As much as I’d love to sugarcoat it, a heart- healthy diet doesn’t quite hit the spot like a nice juicy steak or a heaping bowl of pasta. Every now and again, sure! I’ll allow myself the indulgence. Call it a “cheat day,” a “cheat meal,” or, more generically, “delayed gratification.” But we all know that, just as with smoking cigarettes, eating this way on a regular basis would be quite hazardous to our health.
As the diet example illustrates, there are countless, painful choices we must make for our greater good, be it for our overall health or to further our quest for success. These daily choices often entail delayed gratification, gritty determination, and willpower to forego the path of least resistance and all of its shiny distractions and temptations. For the better part of my late teens, twenties, and thirties, I sacrificed tirelessly to stay on course. I kept my eyes on the prize. When my counterparts were out partying, clubbing, or sleeping in, I was chipping away at my dream, one assignment at a time, class after class, semester after semester, year after year. Had I not invested this time and effort, I can assure you I would have never become the heart surgeon, or that man, that I am today.
No one is born with the heart of a world-class cyclist or marathon runner. No one is born a master chess player, a concert pianist, or a Superbowl MVP. I wasn’t born being able to do heart surgery. What’s the common denominator? It’s a process. You must be willing to relentlessly and repeatedly push yourself well beyond your comfort zone and skill set. It’s all about the reps, the “10,000-hour rule,” as we’ll get into. That’s the story of my life, and that’s what this book is all about. That’s how I became heart to beat!
Excerpted with permission from HEART TO BEAT: A Cardiac Surgeon’s Inspiring Story of Success and Overcoming Adversity—The Heart Way. Published by Clovercroft Publishing. Copyright (c) 2020. All rights reserved.