Battleship, Nicotine, and Vitamin C

I’m a big believer in acupuncture ever since an episode I had 17 years or so ago where my hands were numb from typing. After seven visits to the acupuncturist I could use my hands again. Since I’m not getting any younger and I still type a lot (witness this post), I’ve been visiting the acupuncturist again.

My first acupuncture therapy was in Japan with Dr. Shuichi Katai who is a prominent researcher in the field who made it interesting for me. Dr. Katai would often teach acupuncture outside of Japan, and he suggested that when I have acupuncture done again in the future that I select a doctor who could read Chinese because the way it is practiced in “the West” is less holistic way than the way it is taught in Asia. He explained that in the West, the various needle points on the body (at least 17 years ago) are labelled with letter/number combinations – much like playing the Milton Bradley (now Hasbro) game “Battleship” with “E-17″ or “H-22″ etc. Whereas if you read the Chinese literature on acupuncture, there’s a narrative logic between the various meridians in the body that can describe a more holistic connectivity of all the various points. The Battleship analogy still holds, I believe, because frequency is important with acupuncture because the doctor is trying to metaphysically “sink” a few battleships in your body.

Luckily like Dr. Katai, my new acupuncturist Dr. Z doesn’t silently administer her needles – we often talk about the nature of acupuncture and how it all works. I like how she describes acupuncture as being able to address three important health factors: 1) the immune system, 2) blood circulation, and 3) mental and physical stress. She described two situations that I thought have some connection to leadership that I haven’t fully connected in my mind, and leave this note for the future.

Dr. Z has many patients that come to try to stop smoking. She described to me how it is much easier to stop smoking when you smoke 30 per day versus someone that smokes just six a day. Her rationale was that in trying to quit smoking, you are going from “a lot” to zero. The attack path is clear, the goal is clear, and it is felt throughout. Whereas when you are trying to quit from six a day, your mind has already acclimated to a “this is just as good as smoking zero” rationale. It reminded me of one of the concepts in the Heath brothers book Switch where they talk about how important “motivating the elephant” can really be. It’s like when they say how easy it is to make a change happen in the face of a major perceived need; whereas it’s much harder to change when the need is only slight. Nonetheless, Dr. Z is proud that she’s been able to help many of her patients quit smoking. How does she do it? Dr. Z coyly smiles and says, “Because I address their immune system, their blood circulation, and their mental and physical stress.” She also added, “Because everyone loves to look a little more beautiful – reducing smoking makes their faces look much more fresh.”

The other story I enjoyed from Dr. Z was her take on Chinese medicine and herbs. She felt that there’s a problem with medicine in general where people believe that if they take more, it’s proportionately more better for them. As an example, she said that it’s long been known in China to prescribe 10 milligrams of Vitamin C as herbs. But she finds it odd that we believe here in the States that 100 mg or even 1000 mg will be ten or one hundred times better for us. It made me think of how there’s a limit to the power of a solution. And if you can’t see that limit, and stop at the right moment, then you’ve actually made a new problem instead. It’s an argument that supports the classic, “Less is better than more.” Or perhaps said differently, “Enough is more than good enough – it’s great.”

This post is not in a fully organized state, and I leave it as a note for myself. I hope that someone out there can use it somehow. -JM