Do You Have An Eggshell Skull?

Skull

 

In common law there is a well-known rule called the Eggshell Skull rule.

Say you are having an argument with your friend.  The argument starts to escalate and out of frustration you grab your mobile phone, throw it in your friends general direction and he gets hit on his head.

You didn’t know it, but your friend suffers from a rare bone condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, and therefore suffers from a skull fracture and dies.

The law says that it doesn’t matter that you didn’t intend to kill your friend, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t know about his condition.  You threw the phone, it was all your fault.

Physical injury, to which this law applies, is one thing but there are many other types of offence in real life.  And in real life, offence and defence can’t be as clearly divided as you might expect.

In a soccer game for example, when does merely playing defensively become playing offensively?  If the other team starts to behave more and more aggressively, then your team will have to play more defensively and at a certain point, you will become so defensive that you are actually playing offensively.

By putting your work out there into the world every day, by playing things with the right amount of caution, by surviving just another day…

by merely being defensive you are causing an impact.  

What does this mean for you as a writer, a blogger, an entrepreneur or freelancer?

It means you are not as weak as you might think. 

 

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What Ever Happened To Belle & The Beast?

Beauty and the Beast is probably my favourite Disney movie of all time. The story of how love and doing the right thing can overcome any adversary is a timeless story.

The end of the story where Belle and the now human-again Prince are dancing in front of their friends and family is the classic “happily ever after” ending we all love.

BeautyAndTheBeast

Happily Ever After…

The thing is that we are always aiming to try to get to our “happily ever after”. Personally, there have been times in my life where I’ve longed to “retire”, get “passive income” and move to a tropical island where I can lay around all day doing nothing.

But something hit me the other day.

No one I truly admire and respect is living “happily ever after”.

The people I admire the most, as Theodore Roosevelt put it, are “In The Arena”:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong
man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...”

These are the people who are on the edge, in the spotlight, at the limits of their capabilities, truly striving to be something more than they think they can be, straddling the line ever so carefully between triumph and disaster.

Could it be that I was wrong to try to “live happily ever after”?

Perhaps the ultimate goal isn’t to laze around a beach somewhere sunny, but to shoulder the greatest burden I possibly can handle and to productively contribute to society as much as possible.

“It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sometimes To Make A Difference You Just Need To Ask “Are You OK?”

A friend once told me a story about a flight she was on. She works as part of the cabin crew for an airline.

There was a guy she saw on the plane who was acting strange. Sweating, slightly pale, looking blankly into the seat in front of him.

It didn’t seem that he was paying attention to the safety announcements, he wasn’t wearing his seat-belt, he wasn’t saying anything at all when he was asked what he would like to eat.

“Is this guy on drugs?? Is he going to do something to put others in danger?”, she thought.

My friend decided to do something; she decided to speak to him.

“Are you ok?”, she asked.

The man responded:

“Sorry, my wife just passed away and I just can’t think straight…”

Yes, empathy and caring is important.

But what I found more interesting in this story is how interchangeable our emotions are.

We have the power to choose how we react to a situation.

I have come to learn that instead of getting irritated or angry by someone it is always more productive to be curious instead.

If you can just get curious and find out why someone is behaving the way they are you will have a happier, better life with more honest relationships.

Instead of having a negative reaction and letting things get out of hand, it is always better to lean into the discomfort and get to the bottom of things.

It All Starts With An Idea

Two fish swam past one another. One turns to the other and says:

“The water’s nice today isn’t it?”

After a few minutes the second fish thought to himself:

“What’s water???”

Ideas are valuable. Ideas are the birthplace of innovation, entrepreneurship and value creation.

The problem in today’s world is that many ideas go unquestioned for so long that we forget that we can even question them. The fact is that opportunity surrounds us all if we only take a closer look and examine things a bit deeper.

In this respect we’re all swimming in opportunity, but just like that fish we may be blind to it.

There’s another problem. New ideas, heterodox ideas, the ones that at first instance seem a bit weird are often dismissed too quickly. They aren’t allowed to grow and mature, because just like anything else, ideas change over time and often get better.

So the key is to not only question what already is, but allow new ideas a chance by not interrogating them too much, but exploring them fully.

Ideas Come First

For some reason there is a notion that “science” generates ideas, that science provides the means to bring about spectacular new innovations.

But, it isn’t and never will be.  Science is a method to prove or disprove a theory.  The theory or idea itself came from a person who had a hunch.

I sometimes tell my patients a story about stomach ulcers.  It used to be thought that ulcers could never be caused by bacteria living in the stomach.  The whole scientific community found it preposterous that an organism would be able to live in the stomach and cause ulcers to form.

An Australian doctor had the complete opposite idea.  He had the idea that a bug* could indeed cause stomach ulcers and that a simple course of antibiotics could prevent people needing more invasive operations and reduce the chances of people developing stomach cancer if promptly treated.

“everyone was against me, but I knew I was right.” – Dr Barry Marshall

He used the scientific method to prove himself right – by infecting himself with the bacteria and treating himself.  He went on to win the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work.

How To Know If You’ve Got A Good Idea

I can’t figure out how to develop ideas.  Phrases such as “solve a problem”, don’t quite seem to do the job.

The reason is that “problems” aren’t clearly defined.  Problems – the type that actually matter and are therefore the most valuable are fuzzy and yet to be defined.  So framing a problem in and of itself is very difficult.

The other thing is that to really solve a problem requires you to have an opinion, a view of how things are or should be.  Like Dr Barry Marshall, you need to develop a point of view and then have the balls to stick by it and see it through to the end.

This is very rare indeed.

It is very rare to meet someone who has thought deeply about an issue and come to a conclusion which is unique and well thought out.  Most people not only allow others to define the discussion or the problem, but they rely on other people to provide the solution and thought process behind the reasoning.

I have noticed that if you do have an idea, the best way to figure out if it is a good one, is to put it to the test.  Implement it in the real world and see what happens.  It won’t be perfect and it will get altered, modified and changed** as time goes on and as it comes into contact with resistance.  But if all the signs point to the idea being robust then you owe it to yourself and the world to see it through.

*Helicobacter pylori

** There is an idea called “Hegelian Aufheben” which says that when some ideas come into contact with an opposing idea it is not destroyed.  Nor does the original idea destroy the opposing idea.  There are situations where the opposing ideas enrich each other and they both get better, stronger and more robust.

Fear, Tension, Resistance & Your Best Work

“We got taught for 12 or 16 years at school, that our job was to get an “A”, that if we are defective we fail – we were reprocessed, sent back a grade and had to do it again.  This idea that we better be right, that we better be perfect, that we better get it all correct, goes deep within us.

The industrialists wanted that to happen, because it makes us a better factory worker, it makes us better at following specific instructions.

When something comes along that might not work we feel “The Tension”.  “The Tension” of experiencing two things at the same time:

  • This might work.  That’d be great!
  • This might not work. I’m gonna be doomed!

“The Tension” exists when we feel both of those at the same time.  If you’re not feeling both at the same time then you’re probably not doing your best work, you’re probably not having your most honest relationships, you’re probably not inventing the future, you’re simply a victim of the future.

So, “The Tension” isn’t something to avoid, it’s something to seek out, because that’s what it is to be a professional today.  To go to that place where we feel – as Steve Pressfield calls it; “The Resistance”.  “The Resistance” [think about the tension in a rubber band] pulling us away from the place where we might be able to make a difference.

I think it’s possible to learn that when that tension shows up, we should lean toward it, not away from it.  It’s possible to learn that that’s actually our job, that as a professional or mere writing or speaking or typing or engaging or inventing – “The Tension” – that place where we feel it, that is what we’re getting paid to do.

Thats’ when our chance shows up for us to do our best work. ”

– An excerpt from Seth Godin’s podcast “Akimbo”: https://www.akimbo.me/

The Right Size

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Why is it that no one ever says that Cambridge University should “scale” to serve more people or “disrupt” the education system*?  Does anyone really think that Cambridge University should start a “franchise” and open up shop all across England or America?

Why is it then that when people look at their own businesses “growth” and “disruption” seem to be the main goal?

I have noticed that most things have a natural size.  Whether it be the ideal size of a pizza, a smart phone or a business.  It’s not always about getting bigger, about growth, about franchising.  Most of the time it’s about doing what’s right for you and your business.

Ironically, staying the right size is also the best way to maximise and maintain long-term profits.

*Scaling Cambridge University

Why doesn’t Cambridge University scale and open up in different parts of the country?  Modern technology would allow all lectures to be uploaded to YouTube and the curriculum could also be uploaded for everyone to read in a pdf format.

When I was in medical school I had a sneaking suspicion that my University actually wasn’t doing much….  I spent most of my time at University reading textbooks.  Textbooks which anyone could buy off of Amazon.

I then sat an exam which culminated in all the professors wearing funny hats and handing me a piece of paper (some call it a diploma), which allowed me to practice medicine.

Here’s the thing.  Universities often claim that they do a lot for their students.  They claim that only they can impart the knowledge and wisdom needed to get good jobs.  They claim that by going to their University, you will be better off and smarter for it.

I smell BS.

  1. If Universities really do impart special knowledge which magically makes you smarter then surely Cambridge University should scale.  Why would you deprive the wider population the opportunity to get smarter?
  2. Universities say they don’t accept just anyone – you must have the right grades to get in.  But by saying this they are essentially admitting that they can’t make people smarter.

When I was in University, I was surrounded by smart people.  But, that wasn’t because of the University at all.

Let’s face it, the whole University system is an excuse to wear funny hats from time to time.