With apologies to those of you who dislike sports analogies, this past week in college basketball provided an excellent parallel for what we do every day—and critical lessons to keep our emotional and mental health in a place where we can continue to try to help patients.
As many know, for the first time in the history of the men’s NCAA tournament, a 16 seed (lowest seeded team in a 64 team field) beat a #1 seed (in this year’s instance, the team touted as the best team in the whole tournament). The historic nature of this was lost on no basketball fan, but the way in which Virginia Tony Bennett—the losing team’s head coach—addressed the world in defeat was noteworthy.
Two of his statements were ‘“This is life. It can’t define you. You enjoy the good times & you gotta be able to take the bad times. When you step into the arena…the consequences can be historic losses…and you have to deal with it” and “maybe those who haven’t been in the arena or in the competition, maybe they don’t understand that.”
I couldn’t help but think he was speaking to me. These two comments might as well have come from a supportive, experienced mentor helping more junior surgeons through tough times. To compare surgery and basketball is, of course, absurd. But the lessons are the same. If you don’t want to get wet, stay out of the water. And there will be good days and bad days.
Hopefully, as we all grow through our career, we continue to keep things in perspective, and help people through hard times—recognizing that, on balance, we are doing more good than harm.