Let Magic Happen Blog

SWIMMING with Sharks in the Workplace

“How To Swim With Sharks” is a classic parody of surviving the political power plays that are an unfortunate part of any workplace environment. It has particular relevance to Dealing With Skeptics regarding alternative medicine as discussed in the June 2013 Let Magic Happen newsletter. The attack on me by an anatomy professor and an oncologist during a Duke Medical School Curriculum Committee meeting in 1998 is described in this 7 minute video along with the rules about swimming with sharks.

Voltaire Cousteau

Actually, nobody wants to swim with sharks. It is not an acknowledged sport and it is neither enjoyable nor exhilarating. These instructions are written primarily for the benefit of those, who, by virtue of their occupation, find they must swim and find that the water is infested with sharks.

Abbreviated Rules
1)  Assume all unidentified fish are sharks. Not all sharks look like sharks, and some fish that are not sharks sometimes act like sharks. Unless you have witnessed docile behavior in the presence of shed blood on more than one occasion, it is best to assume an unknown species is a shark. Inexperienced swimmers have been badly mangled by assuming that docile behavior in the absence of blood indicates that the fish is not a shark.

2)  Do not bleed. It is a cardinal principle that if you are injured, either by accident or by intent, you must not bleed. Experience shows that bleeding prompts an even more aggressive attack and will often provoke the participation of sharks that are uninvolved or, as noted above, are usually docile.

3)  Admittedly, it is difficult not to bleed when injured. Indeed, at first this may seem impossible. Diligent practice, however, will permit the experienced swimmer to sustain a serious laceration without bleeding and without even exhibiting any loss of composure. This hemostatic effect can, in part, be conditioned, but there may be constitutional aspects as well. Those who cannot learn to control their bleeding should not attempt to swim with sharks, for the peril is too great.

The control of bleeding has a positive protective element for the swimmer. The shark will be confused as to whether or not his attack has injured you and confusion is to the swimmer’s advantage. On the other hand, the shark may know he has injured you and be puzzled as to why you do not bleed or show distress. This also has a profound effect on sharks. They begin to question their own potency or, alternatively, believe the swimmer to have supernatural powers.

For Rules 4-10 see, http://www.apor.org/html/how_to_swim_with_sharks.htm

*Little is known about the author, who died in Paris in 1812. He may have been a descendant of Francois Voltaire and an ancestor of Jacques Cousteau. Apparently this essay was written for sponge divers. Because it may have broader implications, it was translated from the French by Richard J. Johns, an obscure French scholar and Massey Professor and director of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, 720 Rutland Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21203.

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 1987; 30: 486-489.

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