The Ship of Theseus, 50 Trillion Cells and The Importance of Purpose
The Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch wrote of the mythical king and founder-hero of Athens Theseus: “they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place.” Plutarch’s writings became the subject of a thought experiments which examined the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.
There are many proposed theories for the Ship of Theseus thought experiment. However, what I would like to consider today is that every cell of our bodies dies and is replaced on a consistent basis. This makes us much like the Ship of Theseus and raises similar questions, if we have all of our “components” replaced, do we remain fundamentally the same person? If we do remain the same person, how do we do so? What remains constant as we evolve?
Taking that thought one step further, when you consider an organisation is a mass of people and if those people are constantly replaced, like the cells of our bodies, does that organisation remain fundamentally the same organisation? Who or What dictates what the organisation stands for? What remains constant as the organisation evolves? What happens if the people stay and the “cells” of the organisation do not regenerate?
You are 50 Trillion Cells
When you look in the mirror you see yourself looking back, but is it really you? Like any multicellular life form “you” are a thriving community of 50 trillion (1 trillion = 1,000 times one billion) cells working in collaboration to create “you”. Individual cells have a finite life span, they continually die and are replaced with new cells, so our bodies are in a state of continual regeneration.
This Thursday Thought is inspired by the latest Innovation Show with cell biologist and author of “The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles”, Bruce H. Lipton. Bruce deconstructs how our thoughts control our cells and thereby the outcomes of our lives. Allow me to give a brief overview.
Bruce discovered that cells are not just simplistic life forms, but that each cell is on a specific mission, it has an intent. The simpler the life form, the simpler the job of the cell. In a unicellular life form a cell is like a jack of all trades, playing many roles to keep the organism alive. More complex lifeforms consist of more cells, humans for example are multicellular consisting of more than 50 trillion cells. These cells work together as a collaborative community to ensure our wellbeing. Like any collaborative community, like a society, there exists a division of labour, where cells specialise at specific tasks. Think of this as an assembly line if you will, each cell performing a specialist role. This saves time and most importantly it saves energy.
Bruce tells us that our cells and our proteins are agile, our proteins are like LEGO sets, they can assemble, disassemble, reassemble endlessly. Take for example Keratin, the key structural material in hair, nails, horns, and the outer layer of our skin. Like all cells, it has a specialist role, but from where or from whom does it receive the instructions for what to do? Where does it get its orders from? How does it know what to do?
This is where Bruce’s work gets fascinating. Yes, our cells take their “instructions” from the mind, but they also receive vibrational instructions from the environment. The life of a cell is impacted not by its genes but by its physical and energetic environment. The cell’s awareness has an immense impact on the life of that cell. Why does this matter?
If a cell or 50 trillion cells (us humans) experience a negative environment such as an abusive childhood, a dysfunctional relationship or a toxic boss, the cells are impacted negatively. Cells go into survival mode and become more concerned with protection than growth. Alternatively, if the cells perceive a safe, healthy and vibrant environment, full of praise, positivity and love those cells will then thrive. When cells are not in protection mode, they are in growth mode.
This all brings me to the point of this Thursday Thought. Cells in collaboration create the wonder that is the human body, but the human body needs a positive environment in order to thrive. It is also crucially important to understand that humans need positive direction to positively instruct the cells, we do not want rogue cell behaviour, we don’t want keratin developing horns where our hair should be!
For most of us our internal dialogue is predominantly negative. Negative thoughts create negative energy and this has a profound impact on our cells. If cells are the lego pieces that construct us, then negative thoughts influence negative outcomes just as positive thoughts influence positive outcomes.
While humans are the collaboration of 50 trillion cells, organisations resemble humans on a larger scale. Organisations are the collaboration of humans. Like the cells in a multicellular being, each human has a specific role — or several, like keratin — within an organisation. Like humans, the cells must receive direction from somewhere in order to work towards a common purpose. As we discuss on the show, purpose influences cellular regeneration (the telomere effect).
Let’s briefly explore organisations next.
Organisations Are Collections of 50 Trillion Cells
“Leaders must establish common purpose and build trust within an organization.” — Stanley A. McChrystal
In many corporations, there is a distinct lack of common purpose. As we have briefly explored cells are positively influenced when they exist in a positive environment and they receive direction on their mission. Just like a human who lacks “why” will lack “try” and wander through life, so will the members of an organisation. We need to feel we are part of something bigger than a paycheque.
When we have no organisational narrative we wander, we lack commitment and withhold our discretionary effort. When there is no company narrative people create their own. Since our minds are negatively biased (most internal chatter is negative) the narrative we create is most often a negative one.
Have a think of what your company self-talk might be? What does your own self-talk about your company sound like? In previous roles and in my work as an organisational consultant today I often hear: “Sure nothing will ever change around here!”, “This place! Sure, we will never innovate” and “The problem with this place is the people”. Such corporate mental chatter reinforces an unwanted reality and the cells of the humans working in the organisation react accordingly, they stagnate or entropy. Cells react to direction and vibrational and environmental signals, when the signals are negative so is the outlook of the cells.
In a world of rapid change, our people need to be agile, our cells need to embrace reinvention and regeneration. It is the organisations who embrace change who will ultimately survive disruption.
“Success doesn’t bring happiness, happiness brings success.” — Bruce Lipton
Stunning new scientific discoveries about your brain’s functioning show that all the cells of your body are affected by your thoughts.
Bruce Lipton Ph.D, a renowned cell biologist, describes the precise molecular pathways through which this occurs. Using simple language, humour, and everyday examples, he explains how the new science of epigenetics is revolutionising our understanding of the link between mind and matter, and the profound effects it has on our personal lives and the collective life of our species.
- How stem cells work
- How we could increase the length of our lives
- How we should encourage children
- The subconscious versus the conscious mind
- How we download negative programming as children
- How we self sabotage
- How we mostly end up like our parents
- How changing your consciousness changes the character of your life
- The Placebo Effect
- The Nocebo Effect
- Why Love is important
- 95% of the day we are self critical
- How we sabotage our relationships
- Solutions for how to reprogramme our subconscious
Have a listen:
More about Bruce here: