Tony Bartelme is a Three-Time Pulitzer Prize nominee, narrative storyteller, and investigative journalist. He has recently spent five months in Tanzania in order to capture and tell the story of brilliant brain surgeon Dilan Ellegala, which began with a post-residency vacation and ended with a revolution of Tanzania’s medical training programs. Tony documented Dilan’s story in a book which he titled A Surgeon in the Village: An American Doctor Teaches Brain Surgery in Africa.
Tony joins me today to discuss the impact that a single individual can have, especially the amazing change wrought out by surgeon Dilan Ellagala in Tanzania. We talk about the global shortage of doctors and the immense number of lives that could be saved each year if they only had access to proper surgical care. We also touch on the importance of teaching, and the passing on of our knowledge for the betterment of others. Lastly, we discuss Tony’s unique writing and reporting process.
“Failure is a gift, as long as you learn from it”
This week on the School For Good Living Podcast:
- The story of a Surgeon in the Village
- The power of teaching
- The gift of failure
- Standstill – the craziest surgery imaginable
- Clear intentions and their value
- The writing process
Connect with Tony:
Watch the interview on YouTube.
Listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Spotify!
Visit the Tony Bartelme guest page right here on goodliving.com!
Tony Bartelme [00:00:01] I’ll tell you, think of the craziest surgery surgery you could think of, so I can’t think of a crazier one than than stopping a person’s heart. To to open a person’s head, dig as deeply into a person’s brain as you can. With a tiny clip the size of a mosquito wing…
Brilliant Miller [00:00:26] Hi, I’m Brilliant, your host for this show. I know that I’m incredibly blessed. As the son of self-made billionaires, I’ve seen the high price some people pay for success. And I’ve learned that money really can’t buy happiness. But I’ve also had the good fortune to learn directly from many of the world’s leading teachers. If you are ready to be, do have and give more. This podcast is for you.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:49] My guest today is Tony Bahrami, he’s author of A Surgeon in the Village An American Doctor Teaches Brain Surgery in Africa is an incredible, true story of a surgeon, a brain surgeon, Dr Dilan Ellegala, who travels to Tanzania after 15 years of being inside the medical establishment, learning to be a brain surgeon in the United States. In this interview, we cover so much about, again, the difference one person can make. Tony is a very talented journalist, is an investigative journalist, a narrative storyteller that’s been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three times. I love this review on The Washington Post. That a surgeon in the village is a harrowing and important book. I’ll just share with you this one last fact, which we talk about in the interview. We’ll get right into it. But you know that five billion people on this planet live without access to adequate surgical care. That means 17 million people die every year. Who wouldn’t otherwise? When Dylan went to Tanzania, there were about five brain surgeons in a country of 42 million people. Fortunately, through the work that he has done and is doing, that’s changing in Tanzania and elsewhere. With that, I hope you enjoy this conversation with my new friend, Tony Bartone. Tony, welcome to the School for Good Living.
Tony Bartelme [00:02:12] Great to be here with you. Brilliant.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:14] Tony, will you tell me, please, what’s life about?
Tony Bartelme [00:02:18] What’s life about? I think life is about. A journey to find the true you. Which is easier said than done.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:30] It’s like you set me up perfectly for the next question, which is who are you? What do you do? How do you commonly answer that question anyway? Or how do you like to.
Tony Bartelme [00:02:39] So I am. My profession, I don’t think that’s me, but my profession is as a storyteller, a a storyteller who writes, writes things, I am a searcher, an investigator. I try to find subjects and issues that go beyond the obvious because. We already know what’s obvious.
Brilliant Miller [00:03:04] Yeah, although my dad used to say nothing is obvious to everyone.
Tony Bartelme [00:03:09] He’s right because, yeah, once you dig deeper the obvious, you know, there’s always one more layer.
Brilliant Miller [00:03:16] Yeah, absolutely. Well, with that, in recognizing your long career in journalism, in this investigative reporting, this narrative storytelling, something I’m really interested to know is how do you choose your subjects? I mean, I realize you have you probably got an editor. You’ve got people who are asking you to take assignments or inviting you to. But how do you like to choose? What are the stories that you like to investigate?
Tony Bartelme [00:03:42] So almost every good story begins with a conversation, just like we might be having today, so somebody inevitably comes up to me, says, Tony, you ought to look at this. You ought to investigate this or you I can’t believe I just heard about that. And then from there, you just go deeper. And I try to find stories that accent that I’m interested in personally, if you can find a story that that that. You can actually grow from as you investigate, then you’ve got that kind of congruency, I guess, that that allows you to really tap into that inner passion, that inner motivation, and then pretty soon you’re growing with the things you’re investigating. And it’s like a beautiful tree.
Brilliant Miller [00:04:34] So there’s a story that you followed, and I understand it might have been as long as five years that became the book became your book A Surgeon in the Village. An American doctor teaches brain surgery in Africa. But we tell me, how did this story come to you or how did the conversation that initiated this book begin? And what was this journey like?
Tony Bartelme [00:04:57] So it began with a conversation. An editor walked over to me in the newsroom where I work one day and he says, you know, I just had this I just met this crazy brain surgeon. He lives here in Charleston. And he he he was he told me all these crazy stories about opening up people’s brains and middle of somewhere in the middle of Africa with a tree saw. You ought to sit down with him and find out what he’s doing. And so I did, and I called him up and set up an appointment to meet him at a restaurant a few blocks from where I’m sitting right now, right near the medical school. And I remember getting there on time. And he arrived. He he didn’t arrive for 10, 15, 20 minutes. And I kept thinking, you know, and brain surgeon, he’s probably got a God complex. He’s he’s probably a real jerk. And then he walks in and he’s this six foot four guy. He’s got a shaved head, which is perfect for teaching brain surgery. You can point to what you’re going to do to somebody’s head. He’s in his scrubs and he sits down. And I was a little ticked and he sits down and immediately apologizes. And he said, yeah, I was caught in a surgery. And with my little chip on my shoulder, I said, piece of cake, right? And he loved that because people tend to treat brain surgeons as these deities now and immediately, you could almost see his shoulders relax, OK? I can have a conversation with this dude. And then we were off and he told me his story.
Brilliant Miller [00:06:42] Now, I realize it might be unfair to ask you, well, what was the story, right? I mean, that’s why you wrote a book. That was what you spent years, right?
Tony Bartelme [00:06:50] Well, his story was his story. It started off with failure. He was this aspiring brain surgeon, he’s going through med school and he goes through his residency and for a brain surgeon, it takes it takes 15, 16, 17 years to really become a a really fully qualified brain surgeon. You have to go through med school and then residency and the residency can be seven, eight years. And so he’s going through this process, this incredible journey up Mount Everest. And by the end of that journey, he is exhausted and burnt out. He can you know, he’s he’s his relationships are in pieces. He’s really developed some addictions, addictions to really sort of sort of sexual addictions where you just you kind of use sex as a way of avoiding pain. And so he was a mess and he knew it because he’s a really deep thinker. And and so he decides, well, I’ve reached the pinnacle of my career. I’m going to go take a six month vacation in the middle of Tanzania with my girlfriend. And I’m just going to relax, and so he goes to Tanzania and then he realizes that Tanzania and the rest of the developing world and really in the United States is as much as anything that there’s this desperate shortage of skilled surgeons out there. And when he arrived, he said he said there were only five brains here and I remember saying, well, five brain surgeons, that seems like a lot. He said, No. Five brain surgeons for the entire country of Tanzania, which is that’s forty two million people with five brain surgeons. That’s about the same number of brains, so that’s not the same number of people from Florida to Virginia with five brain surgeons, so. People die because of the lack of skilled surgeons, and so then he, you know, he finished that. We finished the lunch and he said, you know, Tony, Tanzania is awesome. You’ve got to come see it. That’s all. Teaching experience is the greatest teacher. So come to Tanzania with me. And oh, by the way, I got married on an airstrip in front of 4000 villagers.
Brilliant Miller [00:09:12] Well, there’s a love story
Tony Bartelme [00:09:14] of OK, love story. I think I can I think I can write about this. Wow.
Brilliant Miller [00:09:19] So you went to Tanzania multiple times to write this. What was your experience like?
Tony Bartelme [00:09:27] So I went five times for about five months overall, and I remember my first visit, I went in, I flew to Tannen’s, flew to a large city in Tanzania, and then I took this tiny little plane, this little Cessna plane that that Dylan Aligarh. This was the name of the the brain surgeon. He’s from Sri Lanka. Dylan illegalized took that same plane when he first went to Tanzania, which was great for for a writer to do, because then you’re able to build a narrative around the same experiences. So I remember I took this tiny little plane flying over the bush, seeing these little circles down below. And I remember asking you, what are those circles down there? And he said there are actually there there are thickets that villagers put around their huts to keep the wild animals out. And the landscape was awesome, as he said, and then we landed on this dirt airstrip with all the villagers waiting to see him. So it was just this, you know, amazing, amazing entrance.
Brilliant Miller [00:10:36] Yeah, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Tanzania myself, I’ve never been to Hatam where this hospital is located, but I love the people that I’ve met and the countryside is is beautiful. I’ve spent five months there. But what what a privilege. What an experience and what an incredible story. Right. I mean, you mentioned opening someone’s head with a Woodstock like brain surgery and people listening might not realize, you know, the impact of not having access to a brain surgeon, a surgeon of any kind, but a brain surgeon in the bush. But in your book, which I read some parts of kind of through my fingers, just hearing these stories of hyena attacks or children with hydrocephalus or people who got hit with a stick, you know, who would have died for sure if it wasn’t for, you know, what are these extraordinary things that we take for granted, at least the availability, I think, here in the developed world. But this insight that Dylan had, and I love that you point out in the book that the Latin root of Dr. Will you talk about that and about how that informs his view of making a difference, sharing his gifts and his knowledge with with people in Tanzania and in Africa?
Tony Bartelme [00:11:53] Yeah. So the Latin root for for doctors is teacher. Teacher and teaching in medicine is is is part of it the medicine’s DNA, there’s an old saying, I’m sure you’ve heard see one, do one, teach one. That’s that’s that’s the sort of foundation of modern medicine. And so, Dylan, you know, he arrives in Tanzania and and he realizes that this vacation that he he had set up, he’s confronted with with the the incredible suffering around him. You know, there you know, there are there are five billion people around the world without access to proper surgical care, you know, and and there are 17 million people, 17 million people, 17 million people die every year because of the absence of qualified surgeons. So, you know, if you think about serious medical problems around the world, we’re not really paying attention to maybe the most important one, which is the shortage of doctors. And, you know, 70 million people dying is more than malaria, diabetes and emphysema combined. So he you know, he goes to Tanzania. So he arrives on his vacation and he’s confronted with the suffering end and he realizes that he has the skills to to help a lot of people. But when he leaves what, what, what, what will he leave behind? So he decides to to try a different approach. Teaching, teaching?
Brilliant Miller [00:13:28] Yeah, you know, one of the one of the things that really cemented for me the decision to read your book and in the long story was an Amazon review that talked about a lady, wrote something about her husband, who’s not a reader, for whatever reason, he read the book and he couldn’t put it down. And that was my experience reading this book. It was clear to me that you have a great skill not only to help the reader place themselves in this in this world. You know, that’s very far from home for those of us who live in the United States. But but to have this experience being right alongside this incredible suffering, as you mentioned, that’s that’s there that’s present all over the world, but in a in a form that we don’t see every day here and there to take us along on this journey. Like you said, there was this aspect perhaps of failure, right. Where then there was this effort, maybe the hero’s journey where Dylan left. And then he decided. And this was something that you point to, right? You talk about the biggest global health problem, you’ve never heard of this thing about the lack of access to surgical care, which I had similarly never heard of. But then what was the solution, right, because this medical mission model that has been happening, I think in your book, you point out that one trip to Mexico, one church got painted six times in a summer. It’s like that’s probably really not helping anyone and is well-meaning people want to make a difference. But we maybe don’t know how or we don’t have the faith that we can, but Dylan, I think approach this in a different way. Will you talk about how he approached this teaching model and using what he knew and what he could do to make a difference and how that this maybe I’m stacking a bunch of questions here, but then how we might be able to follow some of the example that he set in that regard to make make a difference in the world.
Tony Bartelme [00:15:31] Yeah, so so a lot of people go on these medical missions with the best of intentions. They go there. I think there are 6000 medical missions a year to places like this item, Luthan Hyrum Lutheran Hospital. And when people go, they these doctors and nurses and dentists, they go, they try to treat as many people as they can. And then they’re and they’re really people work so hard. The compassion is amazing. But then they leave. And so then you’re left with that ongoing surgical skilled medical gap. And so Dilan sitting there watching all this and he’s thinking, you know, is there a better way? So he decides he identifies a a a medical officer. And this is in East Africa. You have you have kind of a slightly different type of medicine, medical hierarchy. And so there was a clinician named Emmanuel Mayaga and he had had a bit of medical training in the past, probably equivalent to a maybe a physician assistant between a paramedic and a physician assistant in the United States. So Dilan sees something in Mayaga that my ear can’t see him himself. And that’s really the key. That’s what teachers and coaches do. They they see they see something in others that that those people can’t see in themselves. And then they open a door, they they create a door for that person, that opportunity to walk through. And Dilan saw this this very interesting guy, Emmanuel Mayaga. Who had the walk, the poise and the little bit of an arrogance of a surgeon, and he tries to be kind of coaches my ego into thinking that maybe he could actually do some brain surgery, even though he’s not even a doctor, a medical doctor. And so Dilan spends six months bringing my egg along, using that see one, do one, teach one philosophy. And, you know, lo and behold, he’s he’s able to teach Mayaga how to do some pretty complicated brain surgeries and then he does something different. And this is the key. He teaches Maiga how to teach others. He teaches all the skills and all the coaching techniques that he used on on on Magu on a second. Newly minted Tanzanian doctor and then teaches him how to teach and then he teaches a third and so suddenly in a country with that only had four or five brain surgeons, you’ve almost doubled it. Just through that demand a fish philosophy.
Brilliant Miller [00:18:27] Amazing. Well, you mentioned the love story here as well. What does that factor in?
Tony Bartelme [00:18:35] So the love story was a it was just an awesome story, but B, it was symbolic. So the lines here, you know, he’s sitting there with his girlfriend six months teaching brain surgery. But, you know, his relationship with his girlfriend there, he knows it’s over. And again, he’s wondering, you know, I’m a failure as a when it comes to relationships. But then he meets a pediatrician from from the Netherlands and he’s immediately lovestruck and she’s not. But over time, he. They get together, let’s say, and. The the beauty of that. Relationship is that she was she just typified she she was this classic I’m going to save the world medical person full of compassion and love and just desperately wanted to help people. And in the process, she was burning herself out and she literally almost killed herself just because she was trying to save so many people, so many kids. And so their marriage or their wedding eventually was this symbolic coming together of that teacher teaching focused approach and the compassion. The compassion, the Dylan, the brain surgeon, was missing, the hand of higher altitude way to help people that Karen was missing. The pediatrician. And then so they they got married on an airstrip in front of four or five thousand villagers. Emmanuel Magu was his best man. Is it an amazing, amazing event?
Brilliant Miller [00:20:22] Such a fantastic story. I’m curious to know. Have you optioned the book, like have you sold the rights to the movie? I know that happens with with these stories.
Tony Bartelme [00:20:37] No, not yet. No. Anybody it’s it’s one of those sort of, you know, very cinematic stories. That would be a good one.
Brilliant Miller [00:20:49] I actually do know a guy and I never thought of that. But as I’ve been doing these interviews for the last three years, I’ve learned, you know, that happens with books that I wouldn’t have thought. But at any rate, if you want, I’d love to make an initial introduction and see if it goes anywhere.
Tony Bartelme [00:21:03] But I think, you know, good stories are really often about private. People loved to learn about people’s private experiences amid these grand important settings. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:21:21] Yeah, and I’ve heard it said that the the intimate is the most universal, so there is this, you know, grand saga we’re all a part of and yet we’re all having our own experiences. So nice. Yeah, OK. How did writing this book, I’m assuming it did, right, so there’s an assumption baked into this question, but how did writing this book change your life?
Tony Bartelme [00:21:45] I learned one lesson after another about about life in and that’s the beauty of I just I’m really grateful that I’m able to, you know, learn with the people I. Investigate and so for, you know, Dilan and Caren, I got to know them really well and I got to know how they struggled and how they succeeded and and really, in the end, I was left with an amazing lesson that failure is a gift. You know, as long as you learn from it. Because failure gives you the energy, the the energy to do something, it’s a signal, it’s a flashing light to make a change. And. You know, if if you learn from it, that’s how human beings move forward, so that important lesson to me was something I sort of knew but didn’t really experience and I couldn’t really articulate it until I did that book. And then I just the the richness of the people you meet are just just I feel a much wealthier spiritually after. Meeting all these people,
Brilliant Miller [00:22:57] that’s beautiful, you know, in the book where you talk about failure and how this is one of the things that separates the best surgeons from those that don’t persist as surgeons. That actually really touched me as well, and you mentioned that book. Forgive and remember, yeah, right about this and and to me, there was also a really significant lesson in there about responsibility, right, where those who didn’t make it as a surgeon would blame other people or circumstances or bad luck or whatever. But that that that was really powerful.
Tony Bartelme [00:23:34] Yeah, that was an interesting, interesting study where they looked at successful surgeons and then ones that failed out of their surgical programs and they found, yeah, the the successful surgeons were the ones who. You know, own what happened wouldn’t stop talking about it, were they were they they it was as if they were reexperiencing their failures over and over. And the ones who failed blamed others. So, yes, owning owning that failure. And but, you know, also recognizing that it’s not the end of the world, that it is this really a sign of. That you’re moving forward now. That’s. That’s that’s what it’s about.
Brilliant Miller [00:24:16] And then demonstrating that in a very human way in the book as well, and to come full circle with that procedure, which I’d never heard of about a standstill. Will you talk about where like what that is and also maybe Dylan is the case in point of the successful surgeon who does forget or rather forgive and remember?
Tony Bartelme [00:24:38] Yeah, you know, I’ll tell you, think of the craziest surgery surgery you could think of, so I can’t think of a crazier one than than stopping a person’s heart. To to open a person’s head, dig as deeply into a person’s brain as you can. With a tiny clip the size of a mosquito wing. And then digging through all this and all these blood vessels while this person, his heart has been stopped. With their body temperature going down, getting colder and colder, in fact, you got to cool the room to to make sure the person doesn’t completely go die. So this person is on the edge of death. Their brain waves are flat. The heart isn’t beating. And a surgeon is digging deep into the person’s brain to put a clip on a tiny little blood vessel, any mistake he or she makes and the person will die. And after about 30, 40 minutes, you can keep a person sort of on that edge for about 30, 40 minutes. Any longer and then the person won’t wake up. And so that was that’s what you call a a standstill operation with a to to fix an aneurysm in the brain.
Brilliant Miller [00:26:02] This, by the way, was one of those moments for me.
Tony Bartelme [00:26:06] Yeah, I got in I was fortunate to to witness one of those those operations and boy, you know, you wouldn’t think that it was as crazy as it is. It is because these guys are so cool and calm and collected, but.
Brilliant Miller [00:26:27] Now, on the part too that you talk about in the book for for many years, and I don’t remember the hospital, maybe you maybe recall it, I’m thinking of Bellevue, but we’re above the surgical area. The words were prepare to meet your maker.
Tony Bartelme [00:26:41] Prepared it. Yeah. Talk about a really bad attitude, you know, but above. Yeah. So you’re sitting there on your bed about to get cut open and prepare to meet your maker was a sign above you and.
Brilliant Miller [00:26:55] But things have changed. Yeah, thank goodness. Well, before we before we transition our conversation. I want to ask what what do you hope like, first of all, was there a specific audience that you wrote this book for, you know, and if so, who was it and what did you want them to take away from it?
Tony Bartelme [00:27:17] So my audience really was anybody, you know, but especially students and. People who are interested in helping others. That was my my main goal, because this, I think, helps you think a little more deeply about helping others. And I hope in a way that that helps more people in more and better ways.
Brilliant Miller [00:27:45] Yeah, I think it is I think it’s working, but do you are you seeing that that’s happening now that the book has been out a few years?
Tony Bartelme [00:27:53] I’ve had, yeah. So I’ve had some really nice anecdotal moments where, you know, I remember meeting a medical or a student who was struggling and really didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. And he basically quit school and he read the book and he decided to go premed and become a doctor. So. So that was nice. And then then I met a guy who who ran a program for medical missions for students. And he did it in Latin America. And he read the book and he said, oh, I need to I need to change my entire business model. Wow. And so he began doing kind of both, you know, missions for students and then also setting up a teaching focused program for dentistry in the Dominican Republic. So things like that really. That was nice. That made it all worthwhile.
Brilliant Miller [00:28:51] Yeah, that’s great. And you probably know this better than I having written many more words than me and sent them out much more broadly into the world. But we never know the impact that our words will have.
Tony Bartelme [00:29:03] No, we never know, but, you know, if you if a positive intention, no matter what it is, you can’t hurt. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:29:14] Well, you relating that story of that that student who had dropped out made me think about something you include in the book where Dilan, from an early age like four years old, had seen his uncle as a doctor. And Dylan, growing up in Sri Lanka had told his parents, I’m going to be a doctor. I were you I was so impressed by the impact that that had on the whole Ellagala family and the certainty that a four year old had, but what I wonder is and then he did he followed that life path, as you said, 15 years through medical school, becoming the brain surgeon, one of the on the path to be the best in the world. But not all of us have that kind of clarity from such an early age. What’s your view of how we can find it more easily than. You know, we might otherwise, if we don’t already look inside and know for sure, you know, what our path is.
Tony Bartelme [00:30:07] Yeah, that’s a great question, because, you know, so Dylan, is this guy with, you know, who has this very, very clear intention at a very young age? You know, he’s living in the in the mountainous area of Sri Lanka and goes up to his parents one day and says, you know, I’m going to be a doctor like my uncle. And from then on, his parents thought, hmm, yeah, and so they began to shape their lives around that intention, our son could be a doctor. And eventually they decided to actually leave Swerling, Sri Lanka, leave their home and move to the United States. They moved from Sri Lanka to the South Dakota. You know, talk about a change in scenery. So they and. They really sort of created this this this very nurturing environment for that original intention, and so really that’s I think the lesson is, is the power of a of a clear intention. But then but that we all have that in us. Right. So it’s, I think, a matter of just recognizing that and then then everything, you know. Things can kind of come together once that clarity is reached.
Brilliant Miller [00:31:25] Yeah, so amazing, just that out of the mouths of babes, I kind of think that this four year old and the parents, you know, like you said, they start to shape their whole lives around it and support him and his intention. And I was just reminded of the power of our speaking, the power speaking can have and the power that intention can have.
Tony Bartelme [00:31:42] Yeah, you know, it’s funny, I gave a talk a year a couple of years ago in the Detroit area in front of a bunch of medical residents, and there’s about 150 people in the room. And I asked them, how many of you just raise your hands? How many of you knew you were going to be a doctor when you were a kid? I’d say 80 percent raise their hands. Wow. That’s our intention.
Brilliant Miller [00:32:12] Yeah, that is powerful. Well, what related to this book have we not covered?
Tony Bartelme [00:32:23] So the well, the challenge for me, the challenges of writing this book were really hard, so it’s from a writing standpoint, writing about a a country that you’ve really never been to, about a field you know nothing about or very little about. And then writing with authority required a lot of work and a lot of fun because so, you know, so Meagan ended up learning how to do brain surgery and he operated on a bunch of patients. And I didn’t know, you know, if he was telling me the truth. And as a writer, I mean, that’s the first thing you got to find out is whether people are telling the truth. And so I went out in search of my IGAs patients, and that may have been the most the most fun I had on the entire project was was looking for my patients because this area was incredibly remote. Nobody has addresses. A lot of these patients came from areas that were, you know, an hour or two away. And and so it was like finding a needle in a haystack. And so we ended up going out with a, you know, a couple of translators and just riding down these dirt roads to the end of the earth, it felt like. And then I just remember one time we we we we were looking for a guy who had been hit in the head with a stick, and it was one of my first patients. And and I went to found his his wife and and she says now he’s he’s over there over the hill with his second wife. And and so we go over to his second wife and down these long roads and paths and over through rivers and and then they said, no, he’s he’s over there, done some road. And so again, another hour we’re hiking and driving through another place and then we bump into a bunch of people who are completely drunk. They were just just sitting around drinking homemade whatever, and they kind of basically said Niu’s over that way, that way, finally. So we spent the whole day looking for the guy. Finally, we bump into a guy. We see a guy in the road and we ask, you know, we’re or this guy is. And he said, Oh, yeah, yeah, he’s running from you.
Brilliant Miller [00:34:51] Who did he think you were?
Tony Bartelme [00:34:53] He thought we were the cops. And so that was a you know, it’s a treasure hunt. And we ended up finding most people, not him, but we we figured, you know, if he can run from us for an entire day, that brain surgery worked.
Brilliant Miller [00:35:08] Yeah. Amazing. Well, that’s so great. Well, thank you for for sharing of your experience. I came across in my research this idea that you like your your subjects to involve some sort of quest. And it certainly sounds like this gave you that.
Tony Bartelme [00:35:27] Yeah, no, you know, people are infinitely interested in how. Other others manage their decisions, you yeah, and and that’s, you know, stories are how how we learn and and what better story is, is one about a quest to learn or a quest to grow. A quest to overcome.
Brilliant Miller [00:35:51] Yeah, absolutely. OK, well, with your permission, I want to go ahead and transition us to the enlightening lightning round.
Tony Bartelme [00:35:59] Oh, cool.
Brilliant Miller [00:36:01] OK, so question. So again, this is a series of questions on a variety of topics. You’re welcome to answer as long as you want. My aim, for the most part, is to ask the question and stand aside. I might pull on a response here and there, but. That’s the basic design, OK, question number one, please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a….
Tony Bartelme [00:36:27] Long hike up a mountain.
Brilliant Miller [00:36:30] OK, question number two, one important truth, do very few people agree with you on?
Tony Bartelme [00:36:38] That’s a hard one. Dude, that’s a great question.
Brilliant Miller [00:36:45] I should acknowledge it’s the famous technologists and investor Peter Tiel’s question, but I do love the question.
Tony Bartelme [00:36:55] Oh, you’re going to have me thinking for about the next three days on that one.
Brilliant Miller [00:37:00] Oh, we can we can come back to.
Tony Bartelme [00:37:03] Let me set that one side, because that’s a good one.
Brilliant Miller [00:37:08] OK, maybe one of these others will jog something else, too, so we’ll keep going and I’ll come back to it at the end. Question number three, if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a T-shirt with a slogan on it or phrase or saying or quote or quip, what would the shirts say?
Tony Bartelme [00:37:27] I am the truth and so are you.
Brilliant Miller [00:37:34] I want I want to know a little more about.
Tony Bartelme [00:37:38] Well, I think it has a lot to do with this idea of a quest, you know, we’re all, I think, on a quest to be the people who we are. And we’re given all this programing at the beginning of our lives. And our parents put a little bit into us and others put into us. And social media takes a lot out of us. And and so we’re on this journey and the closer to who we get. Time and again, I’ve just seen people who are more the closer to who they are, the more. Realized they are the the the calmer they are, the the more you know, the people who are comfortable in their own skin, those types.
Brilliant Miller [00:38:21] I love that. Thank you. OK, question number four, what book, other than one of your own have you gifted or recommended most often?
Tony Bartelme [00:38:31] The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky is fantastic. Fantastic book that basically, I think explains everything,
Brilliant Miller [00:38:41] OK, what are you reading right now?
Tony Bartelme [00:38:44] Reading this wonderful book called Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller. And it’s just I’m only about a third into it, but it’s this part memoir, part part meditation on on an. This theme of order and chaos. And she’s a wonderful science writer and.
Brilliant Miller [00:39:10] Love it sounds cool. All right, thank you for that question number five. So we’ve talked about the travel, some of the travel you’ve done already in this interview. What’s one travel hack meaning something you do or something you take with you when you travel to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
Tony Bartelme [00:39:27] Always pack really light. So, you know, I went to Tanzania with the single backpack and just the less you have, the less you have to worry about. Less I lose stuff. So less I have to lose. And and if you do lose something, you really know it. So one bag.
Brilliant Miller [00:39:47] What have you lost when you were traveling that caused you some consternation?
Tony Bartelme [00:39:52] You know, I think I’ve I guess I’ve never lost a laptop.
Brilliant Miller [00:39:58] Never left it in the seat back pocket,
Tony Bartelme [00:39:59] no, but I’ve lost phones, I’ve lost wallets, I’ve lost my passport, you know.
Brilliant Miller [00:40:08] OK, question number six, what’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Tony Bartelme [00:40:18] Well, you know, this is a minor thing, but it’s something I did recently where I just went completely offline and disconnected from the Internet, and I think that’s increasingly important going on a digital diet. And also. Also, another thing that I just did recently, I know if you ever heard of Imhoff, I have, yeah. The Iceman Ice Man. Yeah. So I always tried to do meditation and in fact, the line kind of got me into the meditation and have a little trouble with it. And and so I started came across this guy, Wim Hof, this crazy guy from the Netherlands. And his big thing is, is taking deep breaths and really hyperventilating and then taking cold showers or ice bath. And but I really found that that his breathing technique is is really a wonderful form of active meditation that kind of leads to a deeper kind of. Meditation in general.
Brilliant Miller [00:41:21] That’s awesome. All right. Question number seven. I phrase this question, what’s one thing you wish every American knew, although one of my guests suggested I phrase it, what’s one thing you wish every United States citizen knew? But either way, you prefer the phrasing. How do you question?
Tony Bartelme [00:41:44] You know, the first thing that comes to mind is that I wish every U.S. citizen could go to China. Go to Hong Kong, go to Israel and see. How? We’re we’re not moving forward that well, I think that that opens I think that would open a lot of people’s eyes. I’m I’m a richer person for visiting China and realizing that we’re just we’re not we’re not up to snuff in a lot of ways these days.
Brilliant Miller [00:42:26] What’s one example of that for you?
Tony Bartelme [00:42:33] You know, the American culture is so focused on consumption. And so. So focused on building our own little private gardens. That we forget that they were part of this larger community sometimes, not always. And because of that, we’re kind of alone and we’re not working together like we should, we’ve seen that politically, we’re seeing that in lots of other ways. So, yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:43:08] Thank you for that. Question number eight, what the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about making relationships work?
Tony Bartelme [00:43:18] Honestly, I think the key and that’s really being honest with yourself and, you know, as soon as you start fantasizing or thinking about the future. Then you’re creating these false narratives, so I think living in the moment, that’s that’s what I try to do. I fail all the time. But it’s if you live in the moment with your relationship, the future will take care of itself.
Brilliant Miller [00:43:45] Yeah, plus, I think that’s why we call it a practice, right?
Tony Bartelme [00:43:50] Yeah, nice.
Brilliant Miller [00:43:53] Question number nine, aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about money?
Tony Bartelme [00:43:58] Oh, don’t invest in the stock market or at least don’t try because I suck at it. I lost a lot of money. I lost a little bit of money because writers don’t make any money. But, yeah, I don’t know. Leave that to the experts.
Brilliant Miller [00:44:12] OK, and I’ll come back to the other just to see if there happens to be anything this time. But what important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Tony Bartelme [00:44:25] Damn, that’s a good one. So I’m trying to think, you know, what are people or what people disagree with me about and. That’s where I’m stuck.
Brilliant Miller [00:44:42] OK, let me go in what might seem a bit of a random direction, but really fascinated by the TED talk you gave on plankton. And you learn a lot you shared a lot in that brief talk about plankton. But was there something you learned in that, that either many people didn’t know or for whatever reason didn’t agree with you on or don’t agree with you on?
Tony Bartelme [00:45:05] Yes. Yeah, my my investigation, plankton was again, another really rich journey because, you know, I didn’t know anything about plankton, but, you know, plankton, these little specifically phytoplankton are are produce half of the oxygen on earth or as I said in my talk, every other breath. And the you know, the climate change is creating this giant chemistry experiment in our oceans where our plankton are most important, oxygen producers live. And we don’t really know what’s going on. And so, again, that was one of those stories that that’s hidden in plain sight. What’s more important than the air we breathe? Oh. So, yeah, that was a that was a, you know, beautiful story because I actually in to try to try to tell it. Well, I you can’t just sort of hit people over the head and say, oh, planked, you’re going to die because you’re you know, you’re oxygens going down the tubes. So I really had to create this. The story about butI. In a mystery, because because people are not going to read 5000 words about. Plankton, but they will read books about beauty, that will read books about mysteries. And so really, that was really the important thing to me, was really to, you know, get that the wonder of a beauty, the wonder of these little critters and the wonder and the mystery of it all get and shape the story around those themes.
Brilliant Miller [00:46:43] All right. Thank you for that. OK, the last question here in the Enlightening Lightning Round is kind of a gimme, it’s if people have learned more from you or they want to connect with you, what would you have them do?
Tony Bartelme [00:46:54] Well, one easy way is just go to my website, TonyBartelme.COM, and that’s a tongue twister. So just Google me. And and then I’m just happy to talk to anybody about what’s on their minds.
Brilliant Miller [00:47:07] Awesome. OK, well, just a few last questions for you about creativity and writing before we go to that part of the interview, I just want to share with you that as an expression of gratitude to you for making time to talk with me and everyone listening. I’ve done two things. One is I’ve made a microloan to a woman entrepreneur in Cambodia named Simone. She earns for US dollars a day and she’ll use this money to buy cassava, seedlings, soil and fertilizer for her farm and in the process, improve the quality of life for herself, her family and her community. So thank you for giving me a reason to do that.
Tony Bartelme [00:47:44] Well, that’s wonderful.
Brilliant Miller [00:47:46] Yeah, and the other thing is I went to Medoctari Africa’s website, and I made a hundred dollar donation to the to them for the work they’re doing.
Tony Bartelme [00:47:54] Oh, nice on
Brilliant Miller [00:47:55] your part, so thank you.
Tony Bartelme [00:47:57] Absolutely. Thank you.
Brilliant Miller [00:47:59] Pretty cool. OK, so the last part of the interview here, writing and creativity. And. And to start with kind of a well, let me start with this, when did you first know yourself to be a writer?
Tony Bartelme [00:48:17] Oh, you know, it took a long time to talk about failure, you know, I went to I went to journalism school and mainly because my math made my head hurt. So, you know, even into my senior year in journalism school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I remember I took one of those career tests. I think they still do them where you you you answer question. Basically, researchers interviewed thousands of people who say they are happy in their careers and then they match their personality traits with yours. And so I took this test and I’m you know, I’m actually answered the questions in such a way that I hope the results would skew away from journalism. Got got the results back. Lo and behold, off the charts says I should be a reporter. I’d be happiest in a reporter. So made me wonder if all those happy journalists had lied to their researchers. But so here I ended up I ended up in my first job at a journalism school. It was, of course, with an engineering company. Right. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I was bored within six months and I took my make a good money. But I was just I was dying inside. And so I took the first job I could in Greenville, South Carolina, Mass was making twelve thousand dollars a year. It was a poverty line, wages. But, you know, that’s when I realized when I started actually doing it that I had. I had found the career that I was probably born to do. But it didn’t happen, it was not a clear, clear and linear path.
Brilliant Miller [00:50:04] Did it ever become clear and if so, how, how and when, what made it clear?
Tony Bartelme [00:50:10] So. Early on. I remember I was sitting at my desk, this is you know, I was 22, 23 years old, about 22 and, you know, sitting at my desk and I and I, the editor comes over to me and he hands me a press release. And it’s it’s about a. About a Christmas tree in a mall that was Angel Tree, they call it, and said, Tony, go ahead and do a do a story about this angel tree. And I looked at it and I thought, oh, God, this is not what I was born to do. So I was a little ticked off. So I said, you know, I’m going to go go to that mall and look at that stupid angel tree and go out there. And I looked at the angel tree a few days before Christmas, it was empty, nobody nobody had given any donations. Well, that’s OK. So I went back, I spent a little time writing it, they put it on the front page and just kind the way I wrote it. And and then the next day, the tree was completely full. Well, that was my first, that was my first. First sort of experience of a you do a little extra, go a little deeper and be, yeah, man, what I’m doing might actually help people.
Brilliant Miller [00:51:30] That’s really cool when you say you went deeper with that story. How did you go deeper? Because it seems on the surface pretty straightforward. You get this assignment, you can look at the tree, it’s empty. You write a piece that says, hey, the tree is empty. But how did you how did you go deeper with that? What did that mean to you?
Tony Bartelme [00:51:47] Well, first of all, I was actually going to look at the tree and then, you know, instead of just writing what was on the press release, that that would have been the go to thing for most people. And in so digging that just a little extra deeper and finding that they’re oh, it’s not not doing so well. And then I actually I’ve been tried to find the story. I haven’t been able to find that story. I did. But it was I remember trying to put it within the season and what I remember trying to write it better than I normally would. At that point, I wasn’t the best writer. So probably it wasn’t a very deep story, but it seemed to resonate and. Going a little extra deeper, you know, that’s always the most important thing that I can do as a reporter is. Go beyond the obvious, yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:52:42] Well, in that once that famous saying about a drop of ink can make a million think.
Tony Bartelme [00:52:46] Oh, yeah,
Brilliant Miller [00:52:47] nice and how cool your words have the impact of making a difference for others, even from this early, early time in your career. That’s pretty cool. Tell me what you’ve learned about. How do I say this without sounding totally mystical, right, but about the energy behind words, because in any communication there’s the content, but there’s also the intent or the the energy, so to speak. What have you learned? About, if anything, what have you learned about that? How do you see that?
Tony Bartelme [00:53:21] Yeah, that’s a great question, because really the the the quality of your writing is really dependent on that that energy. You know, it’s that that little extra that little extra work you put in to make make the world closer to what it, you know, ought to be and. You know, writing is hard. It takes time to to figure out a good metaphor that’s not a cliche, it takes time to get that extra detail. It takes time to to to craft a sentences that maybe create a bit of a rhythm and pacing that that lead kind of lead the reader. Down the page and then to to an endpoint that kind of punctuates the whole thing, and so, yeah, behind every bit of writing, there’s a lot a lot of. A lot of a lot of work.
Brilliant Miller [00:54:16] Yeah, I remember when I was first exposed to that, when I was getting more serious about writing in my own life and I called the only person I knew personally who was he was a New York Times best selling author. And I asked him, you know, he’s about thirty five years older than me, but he was willing to share a bit of his journey and so forth. And he talked about how he said, you know, now that I’m in my he said now that I’m approaching my 70s, I just don’t have the stamina to write like I used to. And I thought, who needs its writing? How do you need stamina? But he said, that’s a you know, it’s a real thing and got to use it while you’ve got it and nurture it and protect it.
Tony Bartelme [00:54:55] So that’s really interesting. I hadn’t really thought of that. But yeah, it is physically demanding. I mean at the end of a day long writing day. You know, my wife gives gives me grief because she, you know, if I’m going through a really long writing process, I look like I’ve just been beaten up. My face is just a mess. And inevitably, there are a bunch of Amazon packages coming because I’m distracting myself by buying stupid stuff. And so, yes, physically, it’s it’s a lot of writers will will will write in the morning and then quit writers that I’ve known. And just to maintain balance.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:38] That was one thing when I read a book by a guy named Mason Curry called Daily Rituals How Artists Work. Do you happen to know this book? Mm hmm. And he and he he read biographies and he read profiles and and different accounts of different artists and authors and even a couple of scientist, Benjamin Franklin was in there and Darwin was in there. But it was just this really neat book that gave a little vignette, you know, like probably two hundred of these different people. And it was remarkable to me was how little as a percentage of a day many of these people worked, but how prolific they ended up being, because I think they were in their zone of genius. They were doing what they loved. They did it over a period of decades. They gave their full intensity while they were in it. But I’m curious with you, what does your writing routine look like and how do you differ? Because you’re a journalist, but you’re also writing books and there’s, I’m sure, a different cadence to that. Do you have a sort of routine that you follow generally? Does it change when you’re in a book project? What is what does that look like? How do you manage your time as a writer to book?
Tony Bartelme [00:56:47] Projects are exponentially more challenging because once you reach a certain word count, I think it’s you know, if I had to guess being around eight or nine thousand words, just the complexity of the organization, the amount of information that you’ve got to, you know, put in your internal brains, hard drive becomes just this extra lift. So a book project, the surgeon in the village was was a really hard project because I was also doing my job as a reporter. So, again, you’re sort of balancing everything. My my routine really depends. What I try to do is when I’m really, really writing, I try to seclude myself and really just give it my all. And and I might work 12, 13 hours a day and do that until and just I’m not functional and just not writing. And then I stop and rest. So it’s a little manic. And I know other writers who kind of experience that to it’s you, but you got you got to capture that lightning, right, when when it’s in in getting that lightning often might take six hours of sitting on your butt trying to figure something out and then, boom, what happens? Something and you’re done in an hour.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:02] Yeah, that reminds me, I didn’t watch the series Mad Men. I don’t know if you happened to watch it when it was out. Yeah, but I remember the one scene when what’s the guy’s name, Draper. And his boss comes in when he’s lying on a couch and his boss says, you know, I just can’t get over the fact that virtually every time I come in here, it looks like you’re doing absolutely nothing. But sometimes that’s when maybe our best work is organizing itself.
Tony Bartelme [00:58:26] So now I remember I remember in college, I took a philosophy course we had to read Heidegger, who’s like ridiculously complicated. I remember I took a bunch of naps. As I read it, it was a day full of naps as I read it, because it was so demanding and for a like this glimmer of a second, I actually understood a tiny bit of it and. It’s all gone now, but, oh.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:52] I’m going to try this question, there’s a disclaimer I don’t love this question, but I’m going to try it. Maybe you’ll have the fantastic answer. What’s the worst advice? What’s the worst advice you hear given to beginning writers?
Tony Bartelme [00:59:12] The worst advice. Is it I hear a lot of people get down on it and. And so you’ll never make any money, you’ll never be able to support yourself, never, never be able to do it, and I would say maybe it’s that discouragement. It’s a tough it’s a tough road. But if it’s something you’re passionate about, if if that’s your thing, yeah, that’s bad advice. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:59:48] And what’s that that same doubt kills more dreams and failure ever will.
Tony Bartelme [00:59:52] Yeah, right. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:59:54] What what have you learned about. This is like a big question from the beginning, too, but what have you learned about storytelling?
Tony Bartelme [01:00:05] Yeah, story, story telling are these little gifts that we give each other, the little gifts of of other people’s experiences that allow us to.
Unidentified [01:00:15] You know. Lauren.
Tony Bartelme [01:00:20] And so. You know, I think it’s really important for us to give good, good ones.
Brilliant Miller [01:00:27] Yeah, I agree, I totally agree, and I was I was intrigued as I looked at your craft, I tried to as I was reading and just trying to comprehend what you were communicating also. Going, how did he do it? How did Tony do this when obviously you were there, as you said, you were on the ground in Tanzania for five months, you met these people, you went far and wide to talk with people and so forth. But there were. So two particular questions I was really curious about, one was dialog, because I know, like dialog is probably for artists what drying fingers is really challenging, right, to to create dialog. And what have you learned about crafting dialog that’s human, especially when you’re not necessarily working from a transcript? Because my sense was you weren’t in the room for some of those conversations, but how did you approach that? So that’s my first question.
Tony Bartelme [01:01:19] Yeah, that’s a great question and an important one, because, you know, some you know, I was I was there for for a lot of the experiences, but I wasn’t there for a lot. So I have to reconstruct. And that’s where writers can get into can get into this gray area, making making stuff up and or not capturing it properly. And so that’s where the work comes and that’s where the reporting is, where you you know, I remember, you know, Dylan, I wasn’t with Dylan when he was running down the airstrip and bought this tree, saw that he, you know, that he used later and. And so I remember I actually walked down the airstrip with him and and I and I asked him what color was the the dust and what kind of pants you were wearing. And and so just experiencing those with the subject can help make it more accurate. And that’s the most important thing you can do. And then dialog, a dialog is gold when you’re a writer, because it really it really livens up a story. And I would always try to you know, I would say, what do you remember saying? And then I try to corroborate that with somebody else to make sure that he didn’t make it up. And I don’t think he did. But you just want it to be as accurate as you can so that that’s where the work comes in. And that’s that’s the difference between sort of average reporting and building a narrative. You build a full palette and more colors the more accurate it is.
Brilliant Miller [01:02:53] Yeah. And you really and you touched on the second question before I even asked it, which was also then about detail, you know, for these events that you weren’t there. When I remember there was one passage where you talked about the tone in his voice, you know, this kind of thing. And I just wondered, like, how do you know? Because I remember I collected a. I collected stories about my father five years after he passed and I talked to about 200 people and they would tell me and there’s that writer’s advice of show, don’t tell. But there’s that challenge of people tend to tell you, well, he did this, he said this, you know, this happened, but the color and so forth, and that that balance between being accurate when you weren’t the firsthand experience here, but then also attempting to give that gift of a story or something to the reader that makes it so they can picture it and ideally so they feel it.
Tony Bartelme [01:03:50] So that’s how that’s that’s that’s that’s the challenge, so you makes you a really irritating interviewer. So I would I would say, all right, talent, let’s walk into that room where you met with all of the medical students and then you told them that to they were all sitting in the front row. And that really, really ticked him off because he felt that was just a sort of colonialism. And so only one day asks the medical students to move to the rear and let the Tanzanians move to the front or not let but make them move to the front. And and so they all change places. And so I wasn’t there when that happened. So but I the room was there. So I walked in one day years later with Dilan. And said, all right. You know, where were you where exactly were you point exactly to where and what were you wearing and what did smell like? What did it sound like? And then you start building those details. Fortunately, I was lucky. Dylan has a wonderful memory and he’s just he’s a smart dude. So that helped. And plus, it took a lot of pictures and that would help to kind of. Build, build your pallet, yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:05:08] Awesome, thank you for that. How did you. The question the question I want to ask here is about. Well, the first question is, did you upset anyone with this book? Did you disappoint anybody? Did you piss anybody off?
Tony Bartelme [01:05:26] Yeah, I did. So. The book, a lot of the book is set in hiding in Hatam, a little town in Tanzania, and it’s that there’s a Lutheran hospital, Hilum Lutheran Hospital there. That’s the setting. And it was set up by Norwegian’s 60, 70 years ago and was really, you know, they a Norwegian family was really running the hospital for four years and years and years and years. And some of the Norwegian family members still were active in it and I talked to them and over time, they really love their story. They love that. They think they did something wonderful there and they did. But they thought that I was writing a book about them. And, you know, and. I can see why that, because I asked so many questions and I was, you know, I was very, you know, you know, actively trying to understand that their their story. But the book wasn’t about them and they were really mad. Wow.
Brilliant Miller [01:06:37] You know, I as I’ve been studying, writing. Recently been introduced to the idea that fear is actually what gets in the way we interpret it in different ways of stress or resistance or, you know, other things. But one of them I know from people who want to write a memoir or people who just want to write some other kind of nonfiction, sharing their knowledge in a way that would help other people, that they are afraid of those very things, that they will upset somebody, they will let somebody down. It won’t be good enough for whatever. Did you have those fears like you probably didn’t know that you were going to upset this Norwegian family when you were writing, but I imagine that you must have faced some kinds of fears or doubts, as we all do in the process. But you persisted and you published and I’m really glad you did. But did you face those? And if so, what did they look like for you? And how did you move past them?
Tony Bartelme [01:07:32] Yeah, that’s a that’s a wonderful topic because fear, fear and writing, yeah, because one of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t be able to do it well. And and then, you know, that’s sort of for all my stories that, you know, are you doing it? Did you do a good job? And then you just kind of you got to set that aside. I know there were there were points when I was working on that book. I was so into it, my identity was so attached to it that I lost myself a little bit and and that was not a good thing. And that would be a advice I would give to aspiring writers to remember who they are, that they’re not their writing. They can step outside of it and everything will be OK. But my identity became a little too connected to it. So there’s that fear and I see that fear and a lot of other. Writers, younger writers especially, who are afraid to. Yeah, to kind of really get at the heart of a story there, too dependent on other people. Dominating the story, so sort of this he said she said type of story, but when after a while, if you dig deep enough, you’re the you’re the authority, you’re the writer, you’re the storyteller, and you got to have that confidence to. The shape it. Awesome. That’s a great question.
Brilliant Miller [01:08:58] You’ve been so generous with your time and sharing of your experience and what you’ve learned, and there’s so much more we could talk about. But I think my two final questions here, one is about any other advice or encouragement that you would leave someone listening with, particularly those who are in their creative in the middle of their creative endeavor. The other is just generally if there’s anything else that we haven’t touched on from life or your work or what you’re learning right now or anything. So in some order, however you choose, would you would you be willing to answer those two very poorly worded questions now?
Tony Bartelme [01:09:40] I really loved your questions because you’re obviously a deep thinker and and that’s what it’s about. And I’ll say that with this thought in mind, because when I’m trying to work on a story, sometimes play a little game with myself. I asked myself. What’s the story about? And then very quickly, I answer that question so it might be about plankton and I ask myself, well, no, what’s the story really about in one word, one or two words? Well, maybe it’s about climate change. Now, what’s the story really, really about? No mystery. OK, what’s the story really about? I try to go in until I can’t think of anything more and that I’ve reached and this is the important thing that I’ve reached some sort of universal theme, something that is raw and real and is universal that we all can relate to. And once I’ve kind of reached that that level that helps guide my reporting, it helps guide my writing, and you can you can play that game with an email, you can play it with a 5000, 10000 word story. You can you can do it with a book. And and I did that with the surgeon in the village and an originally. I wrote it and I thought, oh, it’s really about the transformational power of teaching. But I didn’t really get to the real world, the real theme, the real most the most important thing, which was failure until after I wrote it, and that failure is the gift that we all give each other if we learn from it.
Brilliant Miller [01:11:24] OK, well, Tony, we’ll wrap there. Thank you so much again for sharing so generously of your experience. And I know you certainly don’t need my my approval or my affirmation, but I think you’re a wonderful writer. I loved this book. I’m so glad you wrote it. I do feel motivated to do something to help close this gap of 17 million people a year who die around the world for lack of adequate surgical care. And I would have known that if you hadn’t done it. So I’m just at the end of our time together and of reading your book and reflecting what you wrote, I am filled with gratitude as well.
Tony Bartelme [01:12:04] Brilliant. Yeah. I really appreciate your your your your search for depth. That’s it’s really refreshing. And thank you for that.
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