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Different Times, Different Footprints: Make the Impact Needed in Your Time

Photo Credit: Gustavo Fring

In the mid 19th century, there was a brilliant surgeon who had unmatched skill and understanding of the human body and used this talent to save very many lives. However, due to the difficulties of international travel and communication at the time, he was constrained and was only able to save very few lives outside the shores of his own country.

He then decided that it was a much more efficient use of his time and talent to dedicate his life to teaching people to be as skillful as he was. He, therefore, started a School of Surgery!

His logic was rather simple: As a surgeon, he could only perform one surgery at a time and if he had to travel by ship to other countries, he could only save a handful of lives a year. But if he sacrificed his time and talent for saving lives and used it instead in training others, he could, in a manner of speaking, be in several places at the same time and therefore, multiply his impact.

He also disagreed that he was “special” and believed that his skill and talent could be taught to absolutely anyone and so, in picking his students, he made sure that they were everyday people.

Dr. RuoiVas, as he was known, got a few students from humble backgrounds and spent his days training them on the delicate skill of surgery. Though he was known to have performed some of the most complicated surgeries known at the time, he had to “reduce” himself to performing simple surgeries so that his young trainees start with and get experience on the basics that will eventually form a solid foundation.

He always told his students that with the way the world was evolving, he anticipated a time when mankind would have the ability to travel cross-continent in just a few days, or less, and then, at that time, they would each be able to perform hundreds of surgeries a year.


Dr. RuoiVas had a major flaw though: he had a bit of a temper that sent him into a violent rage.  Luckily, the trigger for this temper existed entirely outside his medical field and it never showed up at work. Outside work though, he was known to have beaten up quite a few people every now and then. The “DOCTOR” was a perfect professional worthy of respect and emulation but the “MAN”, RuoiVas, had his personality flaws that many detested.

All his students knew about this flaw but understood that part of him was never going to interact with them.

This made it easy for them to understand what he meant when he made statements like: “I want you all to be, not just as good as me, but much better than me; to do greater things than I have done”; and “You need to observe and do what I do”. They all knew and understood that the “me” or “I” he referred to was the “DOCTOR” part of him and not his personality that contained the flaws. So, to the students, it was a massive compliment, not an insult, when they helped people and got feedback like: “you remind me of Dr. RuoiVas.”

After a few years under Dr. RuoiVas’s tutelage, almost all the trainees were now full-fledged, well-trained, surgeons and they had only one mission:

“Go into all the world, save as many lives as possible and, while at it, replicate me in you by training more and more surgeons.”

Though none of them associated with the flaws in the personal temper character traits of Dr. RuoiVas, each of them had earned their badge of honor and each added the prefix “Dr.” to their names.

The “Dr.” in Dr. RuoiVas had successfully been replicated and one key success factor was the understanding that the doctor in him had a completely different skill and demeanor from the temper issues RuoiVas struggled with.

Dr. RuoiVas was indeed right, and as his students spent time performing life-saving surgeries, they also made time to train people to be just like them and as technology improved, these  “grand-students” of Dr. RuoiVas were able to perform, collectively, thousands of surgeries daily across the entire world. They were able to touch far more lives than Dr. RuoiVas could ever have and his main wish had been fulfilled: “Go into all the world, train more surgeons and save as many lives as possible and do greater works than I did.”

Sometimes, these surgeons get themselves in a fix and get asked or ask themselves, “what will RuoiVas do?” and on one occasion, one of them answered and said:

“For what you did, RuoiVas would have beaten the daylight out of you, but I am not replicating RuoiVas, I am replicating the doctor in him. And the doctor in him would still perform the surgery on you and save you, despite your terribly bad behaviour.”

Or sometimes, the learned doctors emphasized that though Dr. RuoiVas was constrained in doing surgeries outside his immediate environment due to the limitations of his time, today, we are much freer than he was. He had to concentrate on teaching to develop people that would perform the ACTIONs he was constrained from. We, that can, should therefore ACT more while those that want to TEACH should do so. A unique constraint still exists though, and that’s the fact that in some of the written teachings of Dr. RuoiVas, some of his technique and reasoning for the techniques was / have been lost in translation, culture and context.  We hope the world will eventually be able to reason that out and overcome the constraint, even though evidence shows the contrary!

We need to remember that Dr. RuoiVas bought us the freedom to be the best version of himself without being tied to his limitations or the restrictions of his time!

And the question “What would RuoiVas do?” was seen for what it was: an absolutely misdirected priority.

The question: “Despite all that has happened and how you feel, what would the doctor here today do to positively impact as many lives as possible?” was what gave the atmosphere for deep reflection and positive energy, the ability to put sentiments aside and it was always a call to action that saved lives!

To replicate the doctor means being the impact that’s needed in your own time; it doesn’t mean you are to live as he would have in his time. Too many people are limiting themselves based on the same limitations the doctor experienced in his time, despite the fact that those limitations long ceased to exist!


Zeal Akaraiwe is the CEO of Graeme Blaque Advisory. He is an experienced financial advisory executive with over two decades of experience in the banking industry.

Twitter: @zeal_a | LinkedIn: Zeal Akaraiwe

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