When You’re Not on the Spot, You Rot: A Sample Chapter from ‘Physician on Fire’

Illustration from Physician on Fire: When You're Not on the Spot, You Rot

There’s a small treat in store for you today on the Third Eye blog: A complete sample chapter from my book, Physician on Fire!

The primary aim of the book is to help medical professionals – and professionals in general – avoid falling into a state of burnout by doing what they can to empower their personal lives.

Yes, we know there are systemic influences, failures, and barriers that contribute to burnout – but until those larger powers acknowledge their part and make the necessary changes to balance the equation, it remains massively beneficial to keep a solid focus on your own personal wellbeing.

That’s what the book is all about – and it’s also my personal story of recovery, and the tactics I used to get myself out of the spiral and back on the straight and narrow.

Every chapter is fronted by the kind of unique illustration you see above, and also comes with a Daily Breakthrough – an activity I encourage the reader to undertake and stick to, so they can continue to galvanise themselves against the insidious effects of stress, disassociation, resentment, and all the negative thoughts and feelings that come along with burning out.

The Daily Breakthrough for this chapter, When You’re Not on the Spot, You Rot, is included here. Give it a go if you like. It might sound simple… but keeping it up consistently is where the challenge lies!

When You’re Not on the Spot, You Rot

I have an uncanny ability to get into trouble. Always have, as far back as I can remember.

The earliest memory that comes to me is when I was five years old and encountered pen knives for the first time. I developed a fascination with these knives, so I persuaded my parents to buy all sorts of Leatherman and Swiss models for me.

Naturally, I’d also run around cutting things with said knives.

Bits of wood, the trunks of trees, insects – anything that got in my path would meet the edge of my blade (not private property, though… I wasn’t such a little shit).

My curiosity was always drawn to my dad when he was checking the electricity meter. There must be something special inside that box, I wagered.

The meter had this thing that kept going round and round and round – next to a wire that stuck out from the rest. So, in my infinite wisdom, I started cutting the wire. Slowly but surely I cut my way through, and then I saw this strange thing inside of it!

Beneath the rubber coating was a wire… so I touched it and got a bit of a buzz. Thinking it felt great, I used to sneak covertly to the meter every day and treat myself to a little buzz.

But pretty soon, the buzz I was getting didn’t satisfy me anymore. I needed a bigger hit. So I cut even more, exposed more wire, and then one time I got such a big zap I ended up dizzy and light headed (no wonder I get regular heart palpitations and hear constant chastisement from my cardiologist!).

Anyway, eventually I cut through the whole wire and wouldn’t you know it – off goes the electricity. My parents found the cut wire, looked at me stalking about with my pen knife, and I got one hell of a rollicking.

On another troublesome note, as I’ve said earlier in this book, I always loved talking when I was at school. Not because I wanted to make trouble, but because I found the topics really fascinating whilst some of my classmates didn’t quite grasp the concepts they were being taught.

So the teacher would explain the topic, I’d understand it very well and the person behind me or next to me would ask me to explain it to them. I’d be seen talking to the other students, get in trouble and get sent to the headmaster’s office for my misbehaviour.

It happened so often that he’d know, most of the time, I was turning up at his door because I was talking. He’d also know that if I was talking it would either be to explain things to someone or to have a joke.

Even when I had my head down and was working, I’d get in trouble because I rarely followed the rules.

But getting into trouble is how you start evolving – it’s when you start getting better.

It’s a simple matter of processing and adapting to feedback.

When I finished my A Levels I didn’t get the grades I needed for entry to medical school. I had a hell of a stressful time during those studies – suffered a mental breakdown and lost my ability to retain things in memory.

It felt as though I was studying every single thing from my courses the night before the exam.

So I didn’t make the grades, and I was so distraught I felt I had to do something. I went straight to the admissions officer – because I missed the grade by ONE grade (they wanted three Bs. I got two Bs and a C). She apologised, but said there was nothing she could do and I should try again the next year.

This meant I was put on the spot… and I had to improvise.

After all, this was my future – something I had invested years of effort and stress into.

I remembered that I had just recently had an operation for my ingrown toenail, so I took off my socks and showed her my big ol’ nasty toe. I waved it around, squeezed it a bit to make it totally gross and started acting emotional about it.

She took pity on me and secured me an unconditional offer for the next year.

So that’s how I got into medical school – by waving my gross, pus-spurting ingrown toenail in the face of some poor admissions officer.

This defiant nature followed me into the world of work. I always tried to change things… and obviously management weren’t happy with that. There’d be resistance and conflict, but I always reasoned my way out of it.

Whenever I DON’T change or disrupt things – when I play by the book and stick to the normal routine – I get stuck in a rut. I feel down. I don’t feel like myself.

I’m sure you regularly feel that way, yourself.

If we don’t want to stagnate, we need to keep putting ourselves in new, challenging situations.

When I signed up to give a talk in Singapore, for example, I purposefully didn’t prepare for it whatsoever. It was extremely uncomfortable for me to do that. I was presenting for 20 ophthalmologists in a Singapore eye centre and, in the past, would probably have stressed myself out with attempts at perfect preparation.

This time, I simply enjoyed myself in the city when I arrived, then went straight to the talk and flew right into it by the seat of my pants.

When I finished, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and inspiring.

Listen… if you don’t put yourself on the spot and go through some really difficult, shitty, uncomfortable and sweaty times… you’re gonna rot.

When you’re always on the spot, always in trouble, always have to answer for your actions and justify your behaviour and your words… life takes on a different flavour. An exciting flavour.

It’s like popping candy for the soul. There’s a unique taste, smell and texture to it – because you come ALIVE. You’re FORCED to come alive – to be in the present, to be in the NOW because of the spotlight placed upon you.

You can’t run away and hide.

It can be scary, yes… but would you rather deal with a little fear and come out feeling more alive than ever – every single time – or play it safe and wither away in a cold, grey box?

Yeah, I thought so.

Go make some trouble. Get out of your rut and get yourself on the spot.


Today, think about how you can go and cause some trouble.

How can you cause unrest in your environment?

Note that by “trouble” I’m obviously not saying to go out, break the law and be an absolute bastard – but what can you disrupt today?

What can you “shake up” and divert from the norm?

Whatever it is, go do it – get thinking on your feet and have an adventure.

If it’s something you can do with those closest to you, something that also helps them come alive at the same time, then so much the better.

Do this every day. Disrupt your norm every day and you will come alive.

Always think about disruption, think about putting yourself on the spot, and your third eye will open wide.


If you enjoyed this sample, hop on over and pick up a copy of the full book. I’m sure you’ll love it.

You can get it directly from Amazon by clicking here (speedy for you Amazon Prime members!), or you can click here to order your very own signed and personalised edition directly from me.

And if you’d like to have a chat about anything at all, enquire about my coaching services, or book a speaking engagement, go ahead and contact me here.

See you soon.


Share this Post