The most interesting takeaway I had from a lecture by Garth Gallagher, the author of Napkin Notes had nothing to do with the notes he wrote on his daughter’s lunch box every day from kindergarten through high school. (Gallagher gained notoriety for his habit in part because he has cancer, so pre-wrote 800+ notes to ensure that Emma would have a note through high school even if he were not alive to write it.)
What I found fascinating was his advice in the Q&A portion of the talk, when he was asked about his cancer care. Gallagher recounted how, for his first appointment with his doctor, he wore a loud orange Star Wars shirt so the doctor would remember him. Gallagher postulated that if the doctor saw him as a human instead of just a number, he would receive better care.
The Star Wars shirt became a recurring theme throughout his entire treatment. He wore a different Star Wars shirt to every appointment. Friends and even strangers started sending him shirts, bringing his current collection to over 55. He noted that doctors, nurses and other staff would comment on his shirt each time, perhaps not even knowing his name, but knowing him as “that Star Wars shirt guy.” He maintains finding his hook has resulted in more personal attention and better care than had he remained indistinguishable from other patients.
Is there a lesson you can take from Gallagher’s eccentric approach to his health treatments? Perhaps you can have a signature that helps identify you at trade shows or dealing with bureaucracy or even in a professional setting such as with Madeline Albright’s pins. There are times to blend in and times to stand out. May the force be with you in whichever way you intentionally choose.
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