#497 Poison into Medicine

The Ultimate Alchemy

Continuing our “let’s create an indestructible self” theme (!), here’s another way Alex Lickerman encourages us to think about it in his great book The Undefeated Mind.

He tells us that we need to get good at turning poison into medicine.

Specifically, he says: “From the Buddhist perspective, I told him, all of us have the capacity to make use of any circumstance, no matter how awful, to create value. This ability to ‘change poison into medicine,’ as it is known in Nichiren Buddhism, makes plausible the transformation of even the most horrific tragedy into something that enables us to become happier. . . .

Believing in your ability to transform poison into medicine when you don’t know how, and often won’t except in retrospect, is difficult, I admit. But that’s the confidence you have to find. That’s the confidence that represents your greatest defense against discouragement.”

I was thinking about this the other day as I was chatting with my brother about his ongoing Conquering of cancer. (We’re still early on but he’s working hard and doing great, btw. Thanks for all your love and prayers!!)

Now, OBVIOUSLY, no one wants to get a cancer diagnosis. That’s the ultimate “poison” of our modern lives.


We need to have the strength of will to shift from being the patient “submitting to” our illness (and, at times, our doctor’s “standard of care”) to being the CONQUEROR unyielding in our commitment to alchemize that poison into medicine and, literally, to use the experience as a catalyst for us to experience a far greater life than we had before.

Changing poison into medicine.


Today’s +1.

Do you have any “poison” in your life these days?

Perhaps it’s a medical diagnosis or a financial setback or struggles with the kids or …

Whatever it is for you, let’s QUIT thinking we’re somehow going to cruise through life without any hiccups. (And, let’s quit thinking something’s wrong with us when we hit the inevitable speed bumps (or walls!))

We need to EXPECT obstacles. As unpleasant as it is, we need to expect “poison.”

And we need to believe in our ability to turn that poison into medicine—taking the stuff that we’re afraid might kill us and, through force of character, transmute it into stuff that MAKES US STRONGER.

As Nassim Taleb tells us in Anti-Fragile, “Wind extinguishes a candle and fuels a fire.”
Let’s turn our poison into medicine.

Let’s energize our fires with every obstacle.

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