Lessons from Benjamin Carson

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Benjamin Carson, whom I have featured a number of times in the past ten or so years, remains one of my heroes. The African American neurosurgeon has achieved a number of firsts in his life. He was the first human being, for example, to successfully separate conjoined twins in 1987. He has since then successfully conducted a number of such operations including the 28 hour operation to separate Joseph and Luka Banda, conjoined twins from neighbouring Zambia, in 1997.

Just looking at Ben Carson’s life, we can learn a number of important lessons. He has authored three books, which I would recommend to anybody wishing to live successfully. The titles of the books are Gifted Hands, The Big Picture and Think Big. Between them, these books give the reader a glimpse into Ben’s life and the factors that contributed to his enormous success.

The first lesson I want to point out is that, as a young person, Ben was able to listen to and act on good advice. He had a troubled youth, being raised by a single parent. His mother demanded that Ben and his brother, Curtis, should shun the habit of spending hours in front of the television, and instead develop the habit of reading books instead. I stated in one of my earlier article how reading two books per week reversed Ben’s fortunes, who at that time was anchored at the bottom of his class, to become a star performer, academically, and the best student in his class two years later. If he had not listened to his mother, he would not have achieved this incredible feat.

Books are the next lesson. Ben recommends that those that want to become successful should cultivate the noble habit of reading books. Quoting William Ellery Channing, he says in Think Big: “It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds. In the best books, great men [and women] talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.”

Unlike television or video shows, books exercise the mind intensely because the reader has to form his own images. On video shows, everything (images, sound, motion) is already packaged for the viewer, who idly sits and takes it in. Not so with books, which require special effort to form images. We, as a nation, generally do not engage in the exercise of the mind because we shun, nay abhor, books.

Another important lesson is that nobody achieves anything significant acting alone. There are many people who give you the impression that they are self made or indeed that they know it all and have climbed the ladder of success on their own. Benjamin Carson knows better than that. He is quick to admit that whatever he has achieved – and there is no shortage of such- he has achieved it chiefly through the efforts of others synergized with his own. Beginning with his mother as his main influence, he mentions a whole list of people, many of them fellow professionals in the field of neurosurgery, others administrators and yet others patients or relatives of patients, who have positively impacted on him and his career and have provided the drive to move on from one achievement to another.

About ten years ago, I wrote an article which I titled “Surrounded, you are somebody”. I had not read any of Ben Carson’s material then but somehow I got the revelation that success comes only when you work well with other people. You become somebody when you are surrounded by others working with you.

The final lesson I want to highlight is Ben’s unwavering faith in God. Ben knew that as a human being, he was limited and could not explain everything. On a number of occasions, he and his team could not understand why a patient on the operating bed suddenly deteriorated, for example. Ben would offer a quick prayer for God’s intervention, and the situation would turn around. However, Ben does not advocate abdication of one’s responsibility. He points out that God has given us a mind, intellect, talent and wisdom, all of which must be used in order for us to achieve success.

Many people want God to do everything while they do nothing and still enjoy success. I saw a newspaper clip about a Zimbabwean prophet who was selling “prophetic pens”. Those pens were meant to make anybody using them pass examinations without having to study for them. That, to Carson, would simply fantasy.

As we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter, let us search within ourselves to check if we share in Carson’s pursuits.

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