Vital Lessons Learned in Cambridge
What happened in Cambridge was brilliant but not expected.
I’m flying back over the pond from England to the United States as I type these words. I just delivered two keynote lectures at the University of Cambridge.
My goal with the talks was to energize the participants. It was my vitality, however, that was enhanced by the experience. Let me explain.
I encountered vital people of all ages and of all status levels during my visit. I learned three core lessons.
Here is one lesson:
Leading a meaningful life demands sacrifice and consistent hard work. Don’t shy away from it. Embrace it. Understand a meaningful life will be challenging.
The other two lessons are at the end of this post. Here is a brief narrative of my time at Cambridge from which I learned the lessons.
I strolled several times through the gorgeous Cambridge campus with the shadows of giants whispering wisdom in my ears including Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking. Other alumni including Emma Thompson, Hugh Lawrie and Sasha Baron Cohen winked at me from the colleges and tried to explain the magical ether whirling in the air of Cambridge.
I repeatedly encountered the gold-plated Corpus Clock during my visit. It seemed to follow me for the entire weekend. (See picture below) This clock has an insectoid creature called the Chronophage eating up time as it marches relentlessly over the gears. It also has a Latin phrase chiseled into its based that translates as: “The World and its Desires Pass Away.”
A highlight was having a beer at the Eagle Pub where Watson and Crick went and declared they have discovered the secret of life after discovering the double helix structure of DNA along with the help of Rosalind Franklin. (See picture below with my friend Vikas)
During my visit, I met medical students and residents with bright, diligent eyes dreaming of becoming orthopedic surgeons. I measured their sense purpose with an online tool I have developed called VyScore. It was the highest I have ever seen. They are completely dedicated to achieving a goal that will require them to study for more than a decade after finishing college. That’s epic commitment.
I met doctors in training that loved to sharpen their skills in a variety of ways. They presented their stellar research in one-minute Jam Sessions with unbounded enthusiasm. They were also the ones running the logistics of the meetings. They did so with unparalleled excellence.
I met many consultant surgeons (we call them attendings in the US) that have devoted their lives to alleviating the suffering of other humans. They sacrificed much social and family time to be able to give so much. But, none of the surgeons complained.
The older surgeons also had a passion for teaching the younger ones. Their only desire was to help the younger ones become the best possible surgeons. The comradery of the people I met across age, gender and status was also staggering. They clearly cared deeply for each other.
A black-tie celebration dinner inside the historic King’s College dining hall put a capstone on the two-day meeting. (See picture below) Mr. Richard Villar regaled us after dinner with stories about his time as a world-renowned hip surgeon while also serving in the military special forces. He is now retired and enjoys building stone walls on his property in the Lake District of England.
Mr. Villar called for us to find how we fit together in a press fit stone wall. He reminded us that every stone matters in these types of walls because they are constructed without cement or grout.
· Some of us will be foundation stones and identify a location for new wall.
· Some of us will be keystones and discover a novel solution to a difficult problem.
· Some of us will be the crown stones embellishing the top of the wall with style.
Most of us, however, will be the small stones that do the unseen and difficult work that holds the wall together.
That makes the small stones the most important ones because without them the wall would crumble and eventually completely collapse.
(Mr. Villar told the story much better than I write about it but I hope some of the meaning remains.)
The unexpected part of the night was a trip to a dive bar in the town of Cambridge after dinner called La Raza. I’m an aficionado of how to have fun. This place was a fun palace. My erudite new friends demonstrated they were also tenured professors of fun.
Never before have I met a group of people with so much academic talent, empathy for humanity, and compassion for each other.
They are some of the most vital people I have ever met on the planet.
Here are the other two lessons I learned from Cambridge and my new friends:
Team matters. Not everyone can be the foundation stone, the keystone or crown stones. Most of us will be the glue stones that hold everything together. Seek to build a diverse and talented group of people and the entire team rises toward victory.
Don’t forget to have fun. No one was discussing medicine at the bar after dinner. We were all living in the moment and enjoying each other’s company. It was delightful or as they say in the England---brilliant.
Thank you to everyone that made me feel like royalty all weekend. And, many thanks to Mr. Vikas Khanduja for inviting me to speak at such a prestigious meeting.
It is a time I will forever hold precious.
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