Q: Both my husband and son are gifted at auto mechanics. They work together, have a thriving business, and people love to bring their cars in to be fixed. Several of my son’s friends have become medical doctors and joke that my son had to settle for fixing vehicles because he wasn’t smart enough to fix people. My son laughs but I know those comments make him a bit uncomfortable. What would you tell him?

A. First, I’d tell him just to consider the source. Unfortunately, some individuals go into medicine to boost their own self-worth, to help them feel better about themselves. You can often observe that in people who put down other professions, albeit doing in a joking manner. Second, I’d explain to your son that individuals who are gifted at diagnosing problems in cars and individuals who are gifted at diagnosing problems in people are using very similar brain functions. Inductive-deductive reasoning skills are loaded in the frontal left lobe of the brain and those skills enable human beings to solve problems. Add to that the skills of intuition housed in the frontal right lobe, and some of these individuals are just brilliant, not only doing inductive-deductive reasoning but also in following their hunches about what may be underlying the symptoms (vehicle or person) and brainstorming potential solutions.

Third, I’d point out that unlike patients who can typically list their symptoms for a medical doctor and can explain often where in the body they feel pain, vehicles tend not to speak to their car doctors (sometimes they do talk in squeaks and sounds and unnatural hums). Using that variable, it might be even more challenging in some cases to diagnose and repair a vehicle. Fourth, I’d remind him that in reality, most medical doctors would be hard pressed to get to the office, clinic, or hospital and back home again without a well-functioning vehicle. And finally, he probably already knows that insurance-coverage premiums for malpractice can be significantly higher for medical doctors as can the risk of being sued.

A friend of mine in Australia is also gifted at diagnosing, solving, and fixing problems in vehicles. He has more work than he can do because of his stellar abilities and excellent reputation. I call him “doc,” for short, even though society has not accorded him a bunch of initials behind his name because society has rewarded various types of careers so very differently. The bottom line is that your son appears to be gifted in his line of work and it’s wonderful that he figured that out and perused it. Affirm him for his skills and help him feel good about his brain, his abilities, and himself.