William Osler

All morning long I’ve been thinking about William Osler. Technically speaking, it’s Sir William, because he was knighted by the Queen.

Osler was one of the most productive men in human history. Among other things, he invented the American medical system. His biographer needed 1400 pages to record all his accomplishments and contributions.

Osler’s home was stocked with books. Visitors marveled at the number of books he had read and wondered how he found the time to read even one book, let alone the thousands in his home. And when they asked him, Osler told them all the same thing. He read them all by reading for fifteen minutes every night before going to sleep. By relentlessly devoting a little time each day to this one task, he accomplished something extraordinary.

Osler credited the enormity of his success to a single, tiny principle. He believed that it is not our job to worry about the future. Our job is to focus on the task at hand. He woke up every morning and got to work on the jobs that had to be done right now. He set his mind on the task at hand and got it done.

I know so many people who go through life never getting to work on the task at hand. They plan to do this and plan to do that and wind up accomplishing nothing. I’m no better. I could fill 1400 pages with all the things I planned to accomplish. I know people who could fill entire libraries with their plans.   

I thought about Osler all morning. In the past, I would have thought about writing something and never pick up a pen. Writing this short piece was one of the first parts of my resolution to be like Osler and focus on the tasks at hand.

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