Laws for the Navigation of Life


Peter Josef Safar (1924-2003) had a remarkable life.

Born in Austria of Jewish ancestry he managed to evade the Nazis as a young man and survived the tragic death of his young daughter from status asthmaticus. Despite such terrible trials he went on to give the world ‘the kiss of life‘ and became the acknowledged ‘Father of modern CPR’. He had a relentless interest in everything and was a true humanist.

In 1994, on the occasion of his 70th birthday he was presented with a framed set of laws by his friends and colleagues. These laws were derived from the sayings of Peter Safar himself. They were titled ‘Peter’s Laws for the Navigation of Life‘ with the instructive subtitle ‘The Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive‘.

Imagine the laws spoken in the Austrian-English idiom, by an elegant and energetic elderly man with a wide grin on his face:

Peter’s Laws for the Navigation of Life: The Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive

  • If anything can go wrong, fix it!
  • When given a choice, take both.
  • Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.
  • Start at the top and work your way up.
  • Do it by the book… but be the author.
  • When forced to compromise, ask for more.
  • If you can’t beat them, join them, and then beat them.
  • If it’s worth doing, it’s got to be done now!
  • If you can’t win, change the rules.
  • If you can’t change the rules, then ignore them.
  • Perfection is not optional.
  • When faced without a challenge, make one.
  • “No” simply means begin again at one level higher.
  • Don’t walk when you can run.
  • Bureaucracy is a challenge to be conquered with a righteous attitude, a tolerance for stupidity, and a bulldozer when necessary.
  • When in doubt, THINK!
  • Patience is a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing.
  • The squeaky wheel gets replaced.
  • The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live!
  • Death is not the enemy but occasionally needs help with timing.
  • When on thin ice, dance.
  • It’s up to us to save the world.


the names behind the name

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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