Lessons from Open Heart Surgery – A Year On 

Wednesday, 13th December 2023 marked a significant milestone for me.

Not a “big birthday” or business sale but the one-year anniversary of having open heart surgery.

There was only a short gap between the diagnosis of severe aortic stenosis and nearly eight hours of an invasive, yet ultimately life saving procedure.

The year since has flown by and although I’m sanguine about things and live in the present as much as possible, it’s certainly taught me much about myself, life and interestingly for me, business.

I thought I’d take a few minutes to share four things that have impacted me in the hope it may help you stop and reflect as we go into the end of year break.

1. You can’t do it alone.

Although under the direct care of super surgeon Mario – he had a great team. Assistant surgeon, Anaesthetists, and a Scrub team. There was the post-surgery nurse team and the Physiotherapist. Then the data specialists, ECG’s, X rays, echocardiograms, and blood teams. Then chefs, porters and others who helped me back to my feet. One procedure, multiple specialisms and dozens of people involved. Building a team of experts around you is vital for success.

2. Environment dictates performance.

My surgery was delayed due mostly to one factor. The desire of the surgeon to do a complex procedure with the right parts in place to minimise failure. He insisted on a particular theatre in one hospital with a specific Scrub team and Anaesthetist. He knew the procedure was double the normal risk so insisted on minimising that by controlling the controllables. Working with distractions or multi-tasking makes you less effective. Find a space that’s yours for the work that matters.

3. Accept you WILL fail but go ahead anyway.

Some people unfortunately don’t survive these kinds of procedures. They carry significant risk. I got through mine with a couple of hiccups but I got through and live a stronger and healthier life than before. We face a fear of failure when we take risks – my big learning is to lean into that acceptance and go anyway. There’s very little I can do now in business that is as risky as being turned off for 14 hours whilst someone mucks about with your heart. Compared to that, most things are risk free.

4. Enjoy it.

I’m here today, at the end of my first year of a new life because of the incredible skills of many people. Life is lucky and precious. We live in a mostly privileged world and take for granted many things that others don’t have. Like being able to breathe. I’m grateful, everyday for that luxury and all the other things I get to do. I intend to enjoy this privilege we call life and the added privilege that comes with building a business that serves other’s needs. If you don’t enjoy it – what’s the point.

I can’t perform surgery of any kind myself, but I can give you an insight into what’s getting in the way of the growth you would like. If that’s of interest, get in touch.


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