Dr. Vivek Murthy – COVID-19, Anchors and Loneliness

The latest (#417) episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is with the former Surgeon General of the United States of America, Dr. Vivek Murthy. He spoke of various things that made this episode an enjoyable listen – how he would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic, anchors and loneliness.

I just loved listening to his calm voice. I hope he takes Tim’s suggestion of starting a podcast seriously.

From his suggestions on how he would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Lead with Science in your decision making and Scientists in your communication.
  2. Be transparent with the public. This is key to building and maintaining trust. This also creates accountability.
  3. Provide resources needed by the people in the front line. This means things like providing Private Protection Equipment to people in the front line.

Dr. Murthy says “Remember your anchors” is a reminder he developed when he was serving time in residency dealing with life and death on a daily basis. He defines anchors are forces that anchors his life. These are people, in his case, like his parents and friends. He tries to stay connected with his anchors because he found that the times when he found himself to be anxious and worried was usually the times when he had lost touch with his anchors.

Dr. Murthy’s friend provides a definition of friendship that I particularly liked. A real friend is someone who reminds you of who you are even if you forget.

Dr. Murthy said that he had begun writing and talking about loneliness when he found that people at his workplace did not step out of their place to help others. He instituted a practice of sharing an employee’s non-work related life once a week. This 5 minute practice, over time increased helpfulness among employees and productivity at the workplace. He says, the lack of connection has an effect on health and also is a basis of social connection.

He thinks that organisations should work on loneliness at the workplace because it has an impact on the organisation’s retention capability and profitability. He said asking employees if they had a friend at the workplace showed an impact on their engagement at the workplace.

His book, Together (Amazon Affiliate Link) , to be released on April 28, 2020, called Together, is about loneliness but also deals with workplace loneliness.

In passing, Tim Ferriss mentioned an essay by Tim Urban called the The Tail End. Tim says this essay had an impact on the more time that he spent with his family since reading the essay.

In the essay, Tim Urban says that he would spend less than a year’s worth of time with his parents for the rest of his life compared to the first 18 years of his life. Hence, he says that he is down to the last 5% of the total time he would spend with his parent. He says that he is at the tail end in terms of time he would spend with his parents. Hence he says he wants to improve the quality of time that he spends with them.

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