It may be hard to imagine a time in our life when we were more vulnerable than Edward Jenner. It was the day when he extracted pus from nasty lesions on Sarah Nelm’s hand and injected it into James Phipps, an 8 year old boy.
Vulnerability is a state of being and stepping stone to achieving joy, love, creativity or innovation. Yet we do everything we can to avoid it. We may not want to risk trying a new ice cream flavor, or to get rejected or ridiculed. While vulnerability can’t be skipped during the pursuit of a dream, big idea or breakthrough innovation, the potential upside or prosperity impact may help us step out of our comfort zone. We are all very lucky Edward believed the prosperity impact justified being vulnerable.
Edward became an orphan at age 5 when both of his parents died. He had a very bad experience at age 8 when they injected him with a tiny dose of small pox which was standard practice at the time. This defining event led him to become a country doctor. He was always thinking of ways to help his England community that was ravaged by small pox. He observed that milkmaids would break out with the cowpox lesions like Sarah Nelm, yet would not contract small pox. His big idea was that the pathogens in the cowpox would trigger an individual’s immune system to adapt in a way that prevents them from contracting smallpox. It could prevent small pox and young kids from getting very sick from small pox injections like he did as a kid.
James Phipps never contracted small pox after he was injected with pus from Sarah Nelm in 1796. Edward Jenner’s innovation eventually led to the World Health Organization declaring the worldwide eradication of small pox in 1977. It also launched the field of vaccination (word derived from virus affected cow), becoming the most effective way of preventing infectious diseases.
When an Aspirer pursues a dream, big idea or breakthrough innovation, it is unlikely to have the impact of Edward’s. Yet Aspirers need enough prosperity impact to inspire them to deal with the vulnerabilities that come with the pursuit. If the Beneficiary of the dream needs to change, they may require significant prosperity impact to entice them to experience it.
Insight into the prosperity impact may help determine if it significant enough for people to justify being vulnerable. We each have a different definition of prosperity. Whether the prosperity impact is enough is based on individual’s definition and personal impact to each of the following:
Time – Is it worth the time investment? Will a positive result mean more time?
Health – Will it improve or maintain good health? Will it help enable achieving desired experiences?
Comfort – Will it make them feel safer? Will it result in more emotional or physical support?
Paycheck – Will it help to make more money at work? Will it help to afford a desired lifestyle?
Financial – Is it a good deal financially?
Wealth – Will it or does it have the potential to improve overall financial wealth?
Purpose – Will it increase the sense of purpose? At home? At work? Or with a passion?
Social Network – Will it mean more friends? Will it improve relationships?
Control – Will it offer more control in life? At home? At work? Or with a passion?
Community – Will it improve the communities in life? Will it improve standing in the communities?
Here is how Edward Jenner described the prosperity impact he felt when he discovered the small pox vaccine: “The joy I felt as the prospect before me of being the instrument destined to take away from the world one of its greatest calamities (smallpox) was so excessive that I found myself in a kind of reverie”(1). His prosperity impact was so significant that the Englishman was able to write a letter to Napolean to secure the release of prisoners. The leader of France found it hard to say no to the father of the vaccine.
Dealing with vulnerability is what defines champions. The prosperity impact of coming out on top ignites their creativity and enduring grit. With employment introducing more vulnerability and less security, we can all learn from Edward and these champions. Employment success is now more about making complex things happen, creativity and innovation than being compliant, avoiding risk and doing only what is expected.
The potential prosperity impact may help us deal with the queasiness of vulnerability at work and in pursuit of a dream, big idea or breakthrough innovation. It may offer key insight into how to make almost anything happen.
(1) The Life of Edward Jenner, MD, By John Baron