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Monday, October 19, 2009

Why you owe it to the world to run with your ideas

When I was maybe 13-14 years old, my family drove down to Chicago to visit my aunt and my uncle. I remember us going out to some tennis courts near where they lived and hitting around a bit with the family. My dad just didn't look right the whole time, looking like he was in pain. Later that day, we found out his stomach was bothering him a lot. My dad loves spicy food (he was born in the Hunan province of China, which is known for spicy food), but he started having these ulcers and had to cut way back.

The next day, we were going to drive back to Milwaukee, and my dad was so bad he couldn't drive. My mom, who didn't drive the mini-van much, gave it a go even though my uncle offered to drive us back. We did fine, as I sat in the front seat and helped navigate. My dad laid down in the second row of seats, still suffering from pain. When we neared the Milwaukee area, he let out an audible groan, and my mom started getting scared and we decided to go to the hospital where a family friend practiced. We helped my dad out of the car to the emergency room, where they put him in a wheelchair. I'll never forget the image of my dad in obvious pain sitting in a wheelchair clutching his insurance card.

I don't remember how long my dad stayed in the hospital, probably a day or two, but I do remember what happened next. Ulcers were through to be a weakening of the stomach lining, causing your stomach acid to irritate the stomach. It was also conventional wisdom to think that stress would cause the acid levels of your stomach to increase, causing ulcers. But one of the doctors treating my dad had read about a new line of thinking for ulcers based off some new research that showed that ulcers were caused by bacteria. They put my dad on anti-biotics and Pepto Bismol, and within a few weeks he was cured.

The doctors that helped discover this bacteria being the cause of ulcers deservedly won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2005. I love this story for many reasons, of course number one being the quality of life my dad now enjoys. The second part of this story I love is how people took a different approach from conventional wisdom and solved an age old problem. 

This is where entrepreneurs fit in. They're the ones that zig when everyone zags, and are passionate about their goals enough to keep pushing on even when others constantly shoot you down. The doctors were willing to think outside the box and not be dissuaded by public skepticism. One of the doctors actually drank some of the bacteria himself to prove to others that it was the cause of ulcers. How many problems are out there right now because people refuse to believe anything other than conventional wisdom? Is there a cure for cancer out there that we're not seeing because everyone thinks cancer is a mutation of cells in the body? Maybe it's caused by bacteria, or a fungus? I have no idea, but I wonder what alternate theories there are out there. On a business note, are there opportunities out there that everyone's passing up? Or even discouraging you from doing because they think it's ludicrous? If you think you're right, you owe it to the world to at least try. 

My dad has never relapsed and eats spicy food now whenever he can find someone else to enjoy it with (my mom doesn't eat spicy food at all!). One of my favorite images of him now is watching him eating something so spicy it makes him sweat. He usually follows that up by saying, "mmm that's good!" All because someone challenged conventional wisdom and believed in their idea.



Anonymous said...

sweet story. combines a couple of beautiful ideas into one thread.

dasickis said...

I understand your point with cancer, but the definition of cancer is mutating cells:
Cancer is a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (division beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood).

However, your point is valid and I've been thinking about this for a while. This weekend I'll have a blog with that post on my site and I'll trackback.

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