Mario Alonso Puig

Surgeon and writer 

"All human beings have the potential to be great. Therefore, we must create opportunities to allow people to demonstrate this"

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I'm interested in education as I want to know how people can discover and use the talents they're born with. I don't think any human being is destined to be mediocre. I believe that all humans are capable of greatness and that greatness is not defined by culture. Greatness is defined by our own nature. Essentially, the word 'education' means «to bring out». Using the same analogy, 'to educate' doesn't mean to fill an empty vessel, but to light a fire.

Everyone has potential, and everyone has the potential to be extraordinary. This means that we have to create spaces where people can demonstrate the talents they're born with but might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore.

Motivation is what leads people to act. The are six motivational factors present in all cultures, which are a mixture of our nature and cultural environment. The first is the motivation to be in a secure environment, to be able to control what happens and to know that we are on solid ground. The second is the motivation for recognition, to feel valued and to have a certain status. The third motivation is to belong to a group. The fourth motivation is the need for a challenge. The fifth motivation is to grow, improve and progress, and the sixth motivation is to contribute to the well-being of others and live a purposeful life.

It is important for us to find our talents, unlock them and allow them to flourish. Talent is usually associated with something you do especially well but that you have never thought about as it just comes naturally to you. The experience I have gained over the years shows me that you have to look for talent in things that come naturally to people, because talent always leaves a mark. It could be something that seems irrelevant, but it always finds a way to express itself. It's important to look at all human beings in the same way you would look at something that's extremely valuable.

"The key to education is to love and to believe: if you love a child, you'll do everything you can to help them develop"

The key to everything in life is love. Love the people around you, love yourself, love life, love nature, love progress, love well-being; this is love. Because if you love a child, you'll do everything you can to help them develop. I think we over-complicate things a lot of the time. I think what's truly valuable is incredibly simple. I also believe that everything slots into place if we apply the following four principles: love people, believe in them, value them and encourage them. If we don't love people, or believe in, value or encourage them, things can turn out very different.

People who can't stabilize their moods, for example, who wake up not feeling like doing anything, but can't shake the mood they're in, or who feel angry but don't know how to channel their anger positively or successfully, or who are scared but can't overcome their fear, will find it hard to move forward in life. A person who doesn't know how to understand others or how to resolve conflicts will find it difficult to progress in life. IQ tests don't measure these two types of intelligence. They also don't measure other types of intelligence such as musical, kinesthetic, naturalist and spiritual intelligence. If you study the relationship between success in life in a broad sense and IQ, you'll see that, effectively, a substantial amount of people who have been successful do not score highly in IQ tests. Perhaps we have to redefine what success is. This is very encouraging as it expands our idea of intelligence (although, IQ is still important of course). What we need to do is create multiple profiles in order to reflect the idea that a peacock is no better or worse than a golden eagle. If a child is aware that they process information differently to other people, their self-esteem won't be damaged as long as they feel valued and intelligent. Self-esteem is important as, more often than not, our ability or inability to deal with challenges is governed by our psychological perception of ourselves rather than factors that exist in the real world. Children will eventually find their way, but only if they believe they have the capacity to do so.

It's not easy for parents to teach their children how to be brave because we love them so much that our fear that something might happen to them, that they'll suffer or have difficulties, often makes us over-protective. It's important to understand that it's normal for a child to get a few bumps and scrapes, to be frustrated and to experience pain. Sometimes we wrap them up in cotton wool to try to protect them and stop them from suffering, but this prevents them from growing. Really, what we need to do is value them, challenge them to help them grow and help them so they don't feel they have to face challenges alone. All humans face challenges, and some children are very fearful of this. In reality, the real world is much more benevolent than the psychological world. We have to try to see fear as a companion that we need in order to grow, rather than as an opponent.

Mario Alonso Puig is a specialist in general and digestive surgery and is a member of both the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has written several successful books such as "Madera de líder" ("What makes a leader"), “Vivir es un asunto urgente” ("Living is an urgent matter") and “Reinventarse: tu segunda oportunidad” ("Reinventing yourself: your second opportunity"). According to Mr. Alonso Puig, you must "never give up on anyone", as all humans have the capacity to be great.