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So a bloke with a broken thumb walks into a bar...

Or: Ways a broken thumb changes your perspective

OK, my doctor told me Mountain biking is dangerous (told to me while he and I were riding, incidentally) but until this weekend I'd been lucky - cuts and bruises, but nothing very serious. But Friday I had a nasty spill crossing a creek, and (with apologies to Mr. Rogers - who we loved) Can you say Avulsion fracture [1]?

The good news is a) xrays are all stored digitally now, so my Flickr account should be updated soon, b) it doesn't appear that surgery will be necessary, and c) I've learned a few things:
  • Mountain biking is dangerous. I'll remember that next time I ride (sometime in November, sadly).
  • I'm right handed, and it's surprising how many things you use your hand for. Glad I didn't break my foot!
  • If I ever have to have my right hand amputated because of a combine accident [2], I'll be one a jump ahead of others who haven't had this kind of experience with the left hand.
  • I have much more appreciation for the from-scratch learning that children do. I realize I took this somewhat for granted - it's slow to learn this way!
  • I hope learning to use my left hand for things will help stave off Alzheimer's (my wife is an RN in an Alzheimer's unit). As Dr. Michael Merzenich says in the article Change or Die:
    ...the brain's ability to change -- its "plasticity" -- is lifelong. the key is keeping up the brain's machinery for learning... Unless you work on it, brain fitness often begins declining at around age 30 for men, a bit later for women. "People mistake being active for continuous learning," Merzenich says. "The machinery is only activated by learning. People think they're leading an interesting life when they haven't learned anything in 20 or 30 years. My suggestion is learn Spanish or the oboe."
    Related to lifelong learning:
    • George Leonard encourages us in his book to "Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning:"To learn is to change. Education, whether it involves books, body, or behavior, is a process that changes the learner. ... and the best learning of all involves learning how to learn - that is, how to change.
    • Brian Tracy writes that "committing yourself to lifelong personal and professional development" is one of the keys to the future.
    • Peter Drucker says "We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn."
    • lifehack.org shares 15 Steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning.

On top of that, I'm trying to use this as an opportunity to appreciate being well. I'll leave you with some thoughts on gratitude I've been collecting. Stay healthy!
  • Tell someone how much you appreciate them. I really connected with the lessons from How Full Is Your Bucket? - I now carry "gratitude artifacts" to share with folks I interact with, including NASA stickers (love the meatball) and "drops" printed on-line. And uber-networker Tatsuya Nakagawa lists ways to express gratitude for someone you connect with in 15 Quick Ways to Give Value and Make a Positive Impression.
  • Appreciate great customer service. I have bunch of stories, including a nifty one from the folks at the Rokenbok Toy Company. An escalated version of the above is to offer to send a letter of gratitude to the someone's supervisor. I do this regularly, and I find people are genuinely surprised and delighted. It takes about five minutes to write one by hand, and feels great to do!
  • Ellen Weber has points out some ways gratitude transforms the human brain in Two Words Can Transform a Workplace. She writes: "Interestingly, the art and science of gratitude grows easier the more you practice it."
  • Finally, don't forget the good old-fashioned thank you note. The Esquire article A Little Gratitude gives some great suggestions.

How about you? Any tips for being grateful (or broken bone stories)?

  • [1] "A pull-off fracture at a musculotendinous or ligamentous insertion site caused by sudden forceful muscle contraction or ligament traction." Yes, I pulled out a chunk of bone from my thumb.

Reader Comments (14)

I hope you get better soon.

September 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTatsuya Nakagawa

Thanks, Tatsuya.

September 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Take care Matt! Glad you're able to take it as positively as you are :)

September 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAlvin

As one who takes part in lifelong stupidity, I both sympathize and laugh. I know that sounds harsh but...

My son rides skateboards - pools, ramps, etc. I started riding his long-board around - I used to ride - years ago. Longboarding for me is relaxing. I am not looking for big old hills, just some casual rides.

Matt, my son, decided to get me out to the local skatepark. I did the pool sort of - made it around a bit. Then went for a ramp. Bailed out on my first attempt, more or less gracefully. My second attemp, I bailed out but as I came down - I landed back on the board. It was, as they say, like I was going in slow-motion. I knew landing on it was bad so I let myself fall to the side - using my left hand to catch myself.

Fortunately, just a bad sprain. Lesson learned? I don't know.

Feel better.

September 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Moran

Hey Matt, thanks for the story and the good wishes. Glad it wasn't something more serious. Lesson learned? I don't know. - ha!

September 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Glad to have you on the Personal Development List that is on my site, The Abundance Place.

I LIKE what you said about learning to use your left hand... wonder if the fact that I am ambidextrous will help me? :)


September 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

Hi Holly,

Thanks very much for including me on your site. Much obliged.

I LIKE what you said about learning to use your left hand... Hey, I try to be optimistic and treat it as an opportunity, as much as possible. That said, I have trouble with the idea that it's happened for a reason, etc. The reason is ... I was riding a bicycle across a deep stream with slick rocks! :-)

fact that I am ambidextrous will help me? :) Only one way to find out! Start small, I say.

Seriously, thanks for your comment, and for reading.

September 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

hi matt!

1) good to get to know you! (thanks to [ priscilla | http://priscillapalmer.com/priscillapalmer/ ]!

2) hope you get better soon!

3) how did you write this blog? left handed?

4) THANKS so much for reminding me of george leonard. his "silent pulse", way back in the 70s i believe, had a deep impact on me. i had actually forgotten about both the book and the author, only remembered there was "that book". immediately put it on my wishlist. thanks again!

September 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterisabella mori

Hi Isabella,

Thanks for the good wishes.

how did you write this blog? left handed? Two words: prehensile toes. Seriously, I had a splint, so typing wasn't terrible. But as of today I've a cast, and it's much harder. No surgery required, though!

Pleased you liked the Leonard reference. Thanks for commenting.

September 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Matt - I just now read this post. That hurts just to read about it! I hope you heal quickly. In the meantime, I think it's great that you have a positive attitude about using this to build your ambidexterity. :)

September 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRicky Spears

Hi Ricky - thanks very much. It actually doesn't really hurt, unless I think about it.

Update: I now have a cast, which changes my abilities toward the reduced end of the spectrum. Good news, though: no surgery required, and should be back on the mountain bike by November :-)

September 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hello Mathew!

Thank you so much, and you are welcome :)!


September 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMax


I came across your blog in the wee hours of the morning. Very neat thing you have brewing here!

I agree completely with your points on life-learning. Some people forget that education is a process that never ends. Once you graduate, that is when the real education starts to take place!

Ill be catching up with any info you post here.


September 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBunk

Hi Bunk, good to have you here.

Once you graduate, that is when the real education starts to take place - You've got it exactly - well put.

I do like your [ story | http://lifestylemaverick.wordpress.com/about/ ].

September 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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