First, Do No Harm

George Washington was out late riding his horse, got caught in the rain, and developed a sore throat. The next day, his doctor came to heal him. The doctor sliced open George and drained him of blood, a common medical practice in the 18th century. Due to lost blood, George died. The healing (bloodletting) caused more harm than his illness (throat infection).

George’s death was iatrogenic, a Greek word meaning “caused by the healer.”

This medical idea applies to many situations—business, politics, and investing. Humans are biased toward action, so we often act before considering downstream impacts. It’s common in circumstances where we’re divorced from the consequences of our efforts.

To overcome, remember Hippocrates’s first principle of medical practice: first, do no harm.

Maybe the best course of action is nothing at all.