*Each Monday, Prophet’s Chief Curator and Provocateur, Andy Stefanovich, shares a Monday on-ramp with Prophet employees across the globe. We’ll begin sharing them here, and encourage you to join the conversation by answering questions and providing your own comments below. Happy Monday!
Not long ago, to say an ulcer was caused by anything other than stress was akin to saying the Earth was round during the Middle Ages. And two doctors from Perth Australia, Doctors Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, were doing just that - trying to convince the medical establishment that the bacterium helicobacter pylori, not stress, caused ulcers.
Dr. Marshall was so determined to change the accepted dogma, that he actually drank a mixture that contained the bacteria. Days later he was sick with severe stomach inflammation. “I didn’t actually develop an ulcer, but I did prove that a healthy person could be infected by these bacteria.”
Dr. Marshall’s courage, and that of his colleague Dr. Warren, was validated in 2005 when they earned the Nobel Prize in medicine. Courage is the volition and ability to act on your beliefs in the face of opposition. (That’s Marshall on the right, celebrating with Warren after the announcement of their Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine.) So what can we learn from Marshall and Warren?
Stand by Your Convictions.
Find courage in the higher order benefits of fulfilling your vision. “We felt it was important to act…people died from ulcers all over the place; and to test our idea, you just needed to take some antibiotics. So we weren’t very ashamed about getting our message out,” said Dr. Marshall.
Model Courageous Behavior.
Dr. Marshall characterized himself as someone with the courage to asks questions and challenge assumptions. “I guess all my life I’ve made my own decisions. My mother was a nurse, and in her era, most diseases weren’t understood; people rubbed camphor on your chest if you had a cough. She used to be annoyed with me because I would challenge everything she said…unless someone could show me the facts.”
Find Leverage Points.
The courage to support a vision takes time and energy. A way to maintain that energy is finding allies within “the system.” “When you start off with a new idea, all your scientific pals set out to prove you wrong. That’s the scientific process. Part of [the change in attitude among peers] had to do with Dr. David Graham, chief of medicine at Baylor, and a thought leader in gastroenterology. He started off as a real skeptic but quickly turned around. To his credit, Graham never said I was wrong. He said, “I don’t know, and I’m going to find out.”
Today, thanks to the courage of Dr. Marshall and Warren, the debilitating pain of chronic ulcers can be treated with a relatively simple regimen of antibiotics. How far would you be willing to go for something you believe in?