Mr Henry Marsh: Philosophy, Plumbing and Humility

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Paula Goode

I’m listening to the neurosurgeon, Mr Henry Marsh, talk to a large group of the public, this includes teenagers with an expectation of insights into a life of glamour as a neurosurgeon. Mr Marsh’s leaves us feeling inspired, thoughtful, and most of all sober to the inevitable fact, that with life comes death.

He calls neurosurgery plumbing because he’s no neuroscientist; nevertheless, neurosurgery is a career for educated plumbers with nerves of steel (one must achieve three A graded A Level’s, to be shortlisted for medical school). He describes the stress of emergency life-saving surgery as verging on terror, yet, this doesn’t get in the way of fast plumbing.

An ability to act in spite of fear has been suggested as a hallmark of success. It points to a well documented core leadership trait – courage. Being a doctor isn’t for everyone, but the principle of courage stands, whatever your…

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Mr Henry Marsh: Philosophy, Plumbing and Humility

Status

I’m listening to the neurosurgeon, Mr Henry Marsh, talk to a large group of the public, this includes teenagers with an expectation of insights into a life of glamour as a neurosurgeon. Mr Marsh’s leaves us feeling inspired, thoughtful, and most of all sober to the inevitable fact, that with life comes death.

He calls neurosurgery plumbing because he’s no neuroscientist; nevertheless, neurosurgery is a career for educated plumbers with nerves of steel (one must achieve three A graded A Level’s, to be shortlisted for medical school). He describes the stress of emergency life-saving surgery as verging on terror, yet, this doesn’t get in the way of fast plumbing.

An ability to act in spite of fear has been suggested as a hallmark of success. It points to a well documented core leadership trait – courage. Being a doctor isn’t for everyone, but the principle of courage stands, whatever your profession or your status therein.

Failure for Mr Marsh was core to the learning process, an uncomfortable truth perhaps. He described over delegation and misplaced trust, yet in essence, the ability to deal with failure was necessary even when the stakes were life or death. Mr Marsh was notably humble and authentic in the presence of his starry-eyed audience.

In a nutshell, the art of being a ‘consultant neurosurgeon’ appeared more about decision making than it did surgical skills; that is, to operate or not to operate? One could be forgiven for thinking Mr Marsh a philosopher not a plumber. But undoubtedly, there were no shortcuts to plumbing or philosophy.

As a true master, he glided effortlessly through two hours of crafted teaching, leaving the attendees with discreet golden insights into the world of transformation. We expected glamour, we received philosophy, plumbing and a humble version Mr Marsh. Encore!

What can we learn from Mr Henry Marsh?

  • In the presence of fear we can still do what’s necessary.
  • We don’t always get it right, this is a part of our growth and learning.
  • As we accept our fallibility, we learn humility, this creates clarity of decision making as we gain experience in our field.
  • We work as part of a team, as a leader we must own our team’s mistakes.
  • If you don’t know the answer tell the truth, we’re not all neuroscientists or…fill in the blank.
  • It takes courage to do what you love – do it anyway.

Books by Henry Marsh:

Marsh H (2014) – Do No Harm.
Marsh H (2017) – Admissions.