First Do No Harm

Dave Gordon

I was supposed to be a doctor.

I graduated from Johns Hopkins, famous for turning out doctors. However, my pre-med career lasted one undergraduate semester. And, I am forever grateful to Dr. Gryder, who suggested I find another way to eventually make a living; seeing as no one would ever seek medical advice from someone with a 28 average in chemistry. So, I switched majors, found my true talent, and graduated with a degree from one of the top undergraduate writing programs in the country.

But, I never got a chance to take the oath.

Before entering the medical profession, students take an oath. Many believe it is the Hippocratic oath, but that has been out of fashion for a while. Nowadays, students create their own oaths, combining the idea of “first, do no harm” with vows to remember their patients as human beings throughout diagnosis and treatment. At Harvard Medical School, each class of students now writes its own oaths, one at the white coat ceremony and another at graduation, when they take the oath as a new doctor.

The oath, no matter what words are used, is a pledge to uphold specific ethical standards. There is power in an oath; especially one you create yourself.

Have you ever thought about creating and taking an oath to yourself; to your brand? What kind of ethical standards would you hold yourself up to? And, what would your life and career be like if you embraced a “first, do no harm” promise?

Of course, by taking an oath to uphold your own high standards of behavior and communication, you are also strengthening the reputation of your team, your company and your family. Without an oath or a promise, you expose yourself  to the constant influence of others who don’t value their brand or their future reputations.

Do you think if they took an oath to first do no harm, the fraternity brothers from Penn State could have avoided the death of one of their pledges and the consequences that will follow them their entire lives?

Do you think if he took an oath to first do no harm to his brand, the college football coach with christian values would have made that call to the escort service that led to his forced resignation?

Do you think if she took an oath to first do no harm to herself, the professor at Yale would have made racist remarks in her Yelp reviews; leading to her suspension, and eventually stepping down from her position at the university?

Reputations take a long time to build, and a very short time to destroy.

With your own oath to do no harm, you are less likely to complicate your life. You won’t put yourself in situations or say things that might put your career, your position, your family or your company in jeopardy. This is more than just compliance. This is the consistent, mindful act of holding yourself to a solemn promise.

Is the joke you posted on twitter worth losing your scholarship or job? Was it really that funny?

Is the instant gratification of an angry email or text you send to a co-worker or client really worth the risk to your career?

Is your political rant gratifying enough to have you fired for being deemed a risk to the brand of your organization?

Will the action you are considering derail all of the hard work you have devoted to fulfilling the potential of your future greatness?

First, Do No Harm.

Great brands remain great not because they are dynamic, witty or flashy. Great brands remain great because they consistently deliver on the promise they make to themselves and their “customers."

You don’t need to be a doctor to make a promise to yourself. Take an oath to your brand. Then live the promise.

Stand for Your Brand,

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©2024 Dave Gordon
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