Like anyone else, I’ve made my share of mistakes and poor choices in life. Yet somehow I’ve managed to achieve a degree of success and am now at a good place personally and professionally. When I reflect on what I’ve done right and where I’ve gone wrong, something interesting occurs to me: Things seem to turn out best when I just don’t give a damn. Allow me to explain what I mean.
When I say I don’t give a damn it should not be assumed that I am careless in what I do. In fact, I am something of a perfectionist in my work and I pride myself as being as good at what I do as anyone. What I don’t do is panic or let the pressure of the job get to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve been called into surgery when some young (or sometimes not so young) surgeon has gotten into trouble and hit the panic button. Something about the atmosphere of frantic energy seems to calm me, and more often than not I’m able to resolve the issue with a combination of skill, experience, and most importantly a steady confidence. It’s almost as if panic in others puts me in the zone. When all is said and done and there is a chance to decompress it feels awfully good. I’m an effective surgeon because I don’t give a damn.
Owning my own practice means that I am almost as busy a small business owner as I am a physician. Business means bills and medicine means paperwork. There are always records to update, forms to submit, and bills to pay. Frankly, there isn’t enough time for it all. My solution? I don’t give a damn. The first and last priority for me is the well-being of my patients. Everything else comes second. Secretaries are always clamoring for records, insurance companies are always demanding forms and codes, and utility companies are always screaming for payments. I don’t give a damn. Everyone gets what they need from me in due time but I refuse to panic or allow myself to be distracted from giving my patients my full and undivided attention.
As shocking as the news might be to my mother, not everyone in the world loves me. I have found that you cannot have opinions or make choices in this life without pissing off someone somewhere sometime. I don’t give a damn. I make decisions that are in my own best interest and that allow me to look after the needs of my family. Why would I give a damn about anything else? Plotting, worrying, and trying to please others dilutes a person and results in a loss of focus and resolve. When a person starts to lose himself in this way he cannot be of use to others. You have an obligation to those you love to not give a damn. The important people in your life are counting on it.
Not giving a damn doesn’t mean being irresponsible or selfish to the extent of harming others. On the contrary, not giving a damn is essential to being effective at your job, at peace in your life, and useful to those who depend on you. Do what is right for you – now – and you will be more effective, balanced, and reliable for yourself, your coworkers, and your loved ones. Many people are too insecure, guilt-ridden, or overwhelmed by challenges and details to be effective. They seem to think that panic indicates commitment and worrying about what others think shows thoughtfulness. They are wrong. Try it for yourself. When faced with a difficult problem, person, or situation tell yourself you don’t give a damn, and believe it. Calm down, slow down, and act rationally and efficiently without unproductive anxieties. You will be surprised at how much more effective and capable you are without all the baggage that most people carry around weighing you down.
If you really care—don’t give a damn.