#846 Diagnosis vs. Prognosis

Believe One, Question the Other

In our last +1, we chatted about my little burpee saga and had some group gratitude hugs.

Today I want to chat about a line I once heard from Deepak Chopra.

In the context of dealing with a health challenge, he said something along the lines of: “Believe the diagnosis. Question the prognosis.

That was rattling in my brain after my surgery.

Yes. I’d broken my arm. The diagnosis was clear and surgery was required. So I got the surgery. (Thanks again, Dr. D! You’re an artist. 👨‍⚕️ 🎨 )

The prognosis that I wouldn’t be able to do a burpee for 9 to 12 months?


Not so sure about that.

Although breaking my arm and trying to get back to doing burpees quickly is like a flea bite compared to people dealing with cancer, I also thought of Stephen Jay Gould’s brilliant wisdom from David Servant-Schreiber Anticancer.

Quick context: As we discuss in this +1 on Cancer Statistics & You, Stephen Jay Gould was diagnosed with cancer and, according to the statistics, was (to be blunt) supposed to die quickly.

Only, he wasn’t so sure.

As Servant-Schreiber puts it: “[Gould] had lived thirty times longer than the oncologists had predicted. The lesson that this great biologist teaches us is simple: Statistics are information, not condemnation. The objective, when you have cancer and want to combat fatality, is to make sure you find yourself in the long tail of the curve.

I also thought of the creator of Dilbert. He was once diagnosed with an incurable hand condition that would have forced him to stop creating Dilbert cartoons.

Literally NO ONE had EVER cured themselves of this particular thing.

So, what did he do? He decided to be the first one.

As he says in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: “Realistically, what were the odds of being the first person on earth to beat a focal dystonia? One in a million? One in ten million? I didn’t care. That person was going to be me. Thanks to my odd life experiences, and odder genes, I’m wired to think things will work out well for me no matter how unlikely it might seem.

Fast-forward and he has a new, even weirder issue. This time, his voice stops working whenever he tries to talk to people. Eek.

Here’s how he tells THAT story:

What’s the cure?” I whispered. “There is none,” she replied.

But that isn’t what I heard. The optimist in me translated the gloomy news as “Scott, you will be the first person in the world to be cured of spasmodic dysphonia.” And I decided that after I cured myself, somehow, someway, I would spread the word to others. I wouldn’t be satisfied simply escaping from my prison of silence; I was planning to escape, free the other inmates, shoot the warden, and burn down the prison.

Sometimes I get that way.

It’s a surprisingly useful frame of mind.

(Btw: That’s pretty much exactly the attitude he had when he decided to become an uber-successful cartoonist. Think about it. What are the odds of making it as a cartoonist? Near zero. Yet he crushed it.)


Today’s +1.

Need to Optimize some statistics in your life?

Let’s be smart and grounded.


Let’s be antifragile response-able as we get to work on seeing what’s possible.

+1. +1. +1.

Unlock this Heroic +1 (and over 1,000 more)!

Create your account to get more wisdom in less time. Personal development made simple so you can flourish in energy, work, and love. Today.

Sign Up Today