So Here’s What I Have Learned in My 30+ Years of Healthcare

By John Shufeldt

After over 30 years in healthcare and over 60 years on this earth, I have been fortunate to learn from people from all walks of life:

  1. At the end of the day, life is simply about perspective.

If ranking, this is the most important. Simply changing your perspective changes everything because it changes your attitude toward whatever life can throw at you. When all else fails to fix the problem, change your perspective.

  1. Being able to laugh at yourself is important.

I do more stupid things in a week than most people do in a year. Fortunately, I am usually able to laugh at myself—slightly—before everyone else does. Lacking this trait, I would probably be constantly embarrassed. Not laughing at yourself, or taking yourself too seriously, often leads to a high level of humiliation.

  1. It is easier to be nice.

For some reason in healthcare, most people don’t seem to actually expect anyone to be nice to them. So, when you display kindness, it is often met with appreciation and you are left wondering how many bad experiences the patient has had. A professional, but patient-friendly demeanor can also help you stay on the good side of a patient who might otherwise be inclined to file suit in the event of a misadventure.

  1. Arrogance is insecurity in disguise.

What I came to understand is that arrogance is simply a cover for insecurity. Insecure individuals will go to great lengths to let everyone know what they have accomplished, how much money they make, how they won some competition, etc. For whatever reason, these individuals do not have any capacity for meaningful internal affirmation. The take-home point is this: humility counts for much in life.

  1. If it is not fun, don’t do it.

In the grand scheme of things, we are only among the living for a short time. Why do things that do not bring you joy or are not fun? I am continually amazed by people who hate things about their life but do not make any effort to change their circumstances. If they are unwilling to take steps to change their circumstances, they should at least think about altering their perspective so that whatever is making them so miserable is seen with a fresh set of eyes.

  1. Failure is not always bad.

Michael Jordan said: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” The point is this: If you approach failure as simply a hurdle to jump or an event from which you can learn, failing is not so bad. In fact, it may lead to your next success.

  1. The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.

Socrates was quoted as saying, “A wise man knows he knows nothing.” When you think about it, that is the best part of learning- the knowledge that there is still more to learn. How boring life would become if you knew everything you needed to know.

  1. Most barriers are imaginary.

Most people have greater capacity than they ever give themselves credit for. Most of us have never been truly tested. Think of people who run the Badwater Ultramarathon—135 miles in 120-degree heat—or Navy SEALs during hell week or people who against all odds perform heroic feats to save others or themselves from catastrophe. If asked, probably very few of these outliers would ever admit to “knowing” they couldn’t have accomplished the unimaginable prospectively.

  1. Physician entrepreneurship is necessary.

Being both an entrepreneur and physician gives a unique perspective on healthcare innovation. When these two combos mix- greatness is bound to happen. Taking this leap will change your life. Whether you fail or succeed, you will gain insight and knowledge and build valuable traits like perseverance, humility, and creativity.

This list is far from exhaustive and given some of my personal debacles of the past 60 years, I clearly have a long way to go during the home stretch. However, as Michelangelo reportedly stated, “Ancora imparo.” I am still learning.


For those of you who are still wanting to learn more, you can follow me on LinkedIn, listen to my podcast, or buy my book, Entrepreneur Rx.