Stress blog

Live like there's no second chance

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. December 18, 2012

The story of people's lives can inspire and educate us as our lives unfold. Of course we can learn from professors and textbooks, but the lasting lessons come from each other. Let me explain.

I recently met a patient who was doing well with advanced cancer. Being curious, I always ask patients about their occupation. This gentleman said he was a high-wire electrician and explained that his area of expertise was high-voltage environments.

I asked about the risks with this kind of work. Here's what he told me, "You don't get a second chance."

In a humorous way, he explained that if he touched one of the wires he would be electrocuted. And because he typically worked on high-rise construction projects, the chance of resuscitation was virtually zero.

Intrigued, I asked him to tell me how he'd been able to do this kind of work for 20 years. This was his checklist:

  • Always ask what can go wrong.
  • Stay physically fit.
  • Get a solid night's sleep.
  • Stay alert and focused. Distractions can be fatal.

These lessons will stay with me. I would also add that you need to be vigilant for opportunities. A door may open or another may close and you may miss it if you're not paying attention.

With

Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

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Dec. 18, 2012