Would You Trust A Surgeon With A Butterknife?


The other day I was at a Utah Marriage Commission meeting talking to Ryan Dunn. He’s a professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at Weber State University.

We were obviously talking about marriage (what else are you supposed to talk about when at a Marriage Commission meeting?) - when he asked me a question that really made me think…

And now I’m going to ask you the same question.

Let’s pretend you are terribly sick. Your heart is failing. You need emergency open-heart surgery if you’re going to live through the day. Now here’s the catch…

You have to make a big decision regarding who performs the surgery.

You get 2 choices:

Your First Choice

An experienced surgeon with hundreds of successful open-heart surgeries under his belt, and decades of experience and education… but he’s only allowed to use the rudimentary tools you have in your kitchen

Your Second Choice

Jim the accountant who has never taken an anatomy class in his life… but he’s allowed to use some of the most state-of-the-art surgical tools on the market today.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually had to think about it for a second. The answer quickly became obvious. I’d want the experienced surgeon.

The tools he uses are nowhere near as important as the knowledge, experience, effort and commitment he’s put into mastering his craft.

That’s when the lesson smacked me in the face.

Just like owning a scalpel or forceps won’t make you a great surgeon, having great relationship tools in your relationship tool belt doesn’t make you great at relationships.

Knowing about good communication techniques, or understanding the importance of setting boundaries, or a good strategy for apologizing won’t make you a great relationship partner.

What makes you great is the experience of implementing this stuff over and over again. The real difference-maker is the effort you put into making these tools a part of who you are.

It’s kind of like the story I shared a while back about how I froze up when reciting the “Man In The Arena” quote at a men’s retreat because I hadn’t practiced it in a high-stress situation.

Knowing the answers is not the same as knowing them under pressure when it really counts.

The tools you have at your disposal will not make a real difference unless they become an extension of YOU.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The tools I teach you about relationships - or the tools you get from therapy, books, podcasts, seminars, etc. - they only work when combined with a heart that’s in the right place, and a willingness to practice until the thing that feels unnatural becomes natural.

Who you are is more important than what you know!

Your goal when reading my emails, doing challenges, reading books, or whatever else you do to improve your relationship, shouldn’t be solely to develop skills.  

Your first priority should be to get your heart in the right place.

Your second priority should be to do what is necessary to show up as the best possible partner you can be in order to diminish the amount of unnecessary suffering in your life and in your partner’s life.

Love is a heroic endeavor.

Love is truly a heroic endeavor. And the hero that comes out victorious in love is the one with a courageous and virtuous heart.

A hero that changes the world starts by leaving what is comfortable, and venturing into the unknown.

Heroes take responsibility for their own fate, and the fate of those around them. They have learned that nobody is coming to save them. They’ve realized that waiting around for someone to show up and hand them the life they always dreamed of is going to result in a very long wait, and a very empty life.

Heroes do whatever it takes to understand their weaknesses and fortify them. They know if they pretend those weaknesses don’t exist, it could result in their demise.

Heroes surround themselves with people who support their mission, and they don’t pay any heed to those who would dare oppose them.

Heroes constantly face their monsters head-on. They know that running away from the “dragon” will only give him more time to grow and become even more dangerous.


Now, let’s bring this full circle...

The metaphorical surgeon at the beginning of the email… she saves lives not because she has special tools, but because she spends her life dedicated to her craft.

She knows the cost of a small mistake, and so… she practices until she can do a procedure in her sleep.

She overcomes her fears and nerves of cutting into a living human body.

She has mentors and teachers who show her way, and correct her mistakes.

She is a hero because she knows her tools are not enough.

And just like her, you must know that you are the hero of your story… and that tools are not enough.

My hope is that, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, I can not only provide you with some tools (like a relationship lightsaber), but also act as your guide along the way, and help you keep perspective, and find meaning and purpose in your endeavors… even if I’m just an occasional voice in your head.

I want nothing more than for you to be the hero of your story. Really.

Ready To Take Action And Become The Hero Of Your Own Story?

I’ve put together a 7-day challenge that is designed to give you the tools and mindsets you need to create a relationship that’s better than you ever imagined. Get more details here: