Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

Watch The Writer Of This Post Meet The Brain Surgeon Who Saved Him

Multitasking may be an essential job skill, but not for Dr. Raj Shrivastava, a neurosurgeon at Mr. Sinai Hospital in New York City. Not when complete focus means the difference between life or death. The author recalls putting his own brain in Dr. Shrivastava's capable hands.

The trouble started a few years after I returned from a backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. For a long time doctors couldn’t pinpoint the cause. The CT scan and MRI all looked normal. Finally they saw it—a cyst in my brain had formed around a dead tapeworm larvae, an unfortunate condition called neurocysticercosis, which can lead to epilepsy if untreated.

That’s when I met Dr. Raj Shrivastava, a skull base neurosurgeon and an associate professor of neurosurgery at Mr. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, who has experience removing tapeworm larvae from human brains. He explained that while any neurosurgery carries considerable risk, I was fortunate that now such surgery was possible and available.

Dr. Raj Shrivastava

During the hours I was on his operating table, Dr. Shrivastava had to focus exclusively on the task at hand—a difficult skill in an era when most of us can answer a text message with one hand while drinking a latte with the other while having a phone conversation while riding a bicycle.

Yet a neurosurgeon’s focus can be invaluable in any business, when one job needs to get done and needs to get done right.

"You have to find it within yourself to kind of zone it all out and then begin, and recognize that this is why all this focus is important," he says. "There is no substitution for it."

[Image: Flickr user Theresa Thompson]

Add New Comment


  • Lauree Ostrofsky

    Great piece, and point about focus.

    I had brain surgery in 2004, and just wrote a book about my experience, but hadn't stop to think what I could learn from my surgeon's perspective. Especially what it could teach me about running my business.

    Makes me want to take him for coffee now.