Lessons from Doctor Who

Originally posted 2011-08-23

I marathoned through Doctor Who earlier this year, and there’s something about the character of the Doctor that strikes me more than anything else. In short, it’s about the way the Doctor handles people. Being as omnipotent/omniscient as he is, he sets up elaborate plans, which his human companions often screw up royally due to their human emotions and imperfections. Of course, I sympathize with the Doctor - silly, st-you-pid humans!. But the story is told by an omniscient narrator, and I suppose I wouldn’t do any better if I were in the humans’ shoes. That’s completely irrelevant to my main point, though.

What I find most striking is how the Doctor takes human fallibility in stride and rarely gets angry - angry is usually not useful. Instead, he works past human flaws to get them to do what he needs them to do.

There’s no use complaining about another person’s shortcomings. You just have to accept and work with it. This is most often said about relationships, but it’s true with all people, in all situations.

A non-obvious corollary of this idea is that there’s no use complaining about your own shortcomings. You just have to accept and work with it. And of course, you have to admit that you have shortcomings at all.

Whenever you’re in a complex situation involving emotions, ask yourself: “What outcome do I want here?”