Pixilation at its Best—The Secret to Occupational Therapy’s Competitive Edge

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Pixilation at its Best—The Secret to Occupational Therapy’s Competitive Edge

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Can you believe just a few days after presenting my keynote address at the AOTA/NBCOT National Student Conclave, I wished I would have given it a different title? The keynote was called “Winning: The Internal Dimension of the Pixel Mindset” and it emphasized embracing the competitive spirit. (In a previous blog, I wrote about the concept of tens of thousands of occupational scientists and therapists moving together in perfect harmony, like pixels on a high-definition television.) The main sources for the content were Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean and former USC football coach Pete Carroll’s new book, Win Forever. I spent quite a bit of time highlighting the Greek ideals of eudaimonia (the notion that when we act well, we feel well) and arête (which has to do with striving for excellence). Summarizing Pete Carroll’s philosophy, I stressed that occupational therapy practitioners and students need to feel comfortable always competing. By that, I meant always working hard to do your best, striving to realize your full potential and relentlessly pursuing a competitive edge in everything you do.


I now want to change the title of my talk because I recently finished another book, The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership, by John Wooden and Steve Jamison. During John Wooden’s reign as UCLA basketball coach, the team won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, including 88 consecutive wins. Based on this book, I would rename my keynote address “Success (instead of Winning): The Internal Dimension of the Pixel Mindset.”


The book says, “John Wooden embraced the belief that success, as measured by each one of us individually, is the peace of mind derived from making the absolute and complete effort to do the best of which you are capable.” He differentiated success from winning; that is, victory. The winning mindset is focused on scoring, obtaining trophies or titles, but ultimately is not the determinant of competitive greatness. That determinant is conduct such as working hard, being industrious, being enthusiastic, demonstrating initiative, being alert, developing skills, and having poise and confidence that leads to competitive greatness.


I believe the mindset of the individuals (or pixels) who make up our profession must be to develop their competitive greatness. Each one of us must strive to be an expert in the facet of occupational therapy about which we feel passionately. For example, if that is clinical work, we must relentlessly practice our skill-set, attend workshops to develop our expertise, devour all the relevant science pertaining to our field of interest, and continually refine our therapeutic use of self. If it is research, we need to work hard at developing our skills in writing grants and publications, at staying abreast of the most important scientific discoveries in our field, at participating on interdisciplinary research teams, and at being able to conceptualize studies that will be impactful. Similarly, if our passion is administration, education, advocacy, or something else, we know what we must do—and we must act with dedication, discipline, and to the best of our ability. That is effort, but effort brings about success. It also means we do not have time to criticize others and pass judgments on how they practice. Coach Wooden wrote, “Be concerned with your preparation, not theirs, your effort and desire, not theirs.”


I believe, through the process of developing our personal excellence, each of us will emerge as a pixel with its own unique luster, adding to the collective vibrancy of our profession. And I see the achievements of our profession as the summation of the investments of each pixel. Our excellence will be realized when each one of us becomes the best we can be. If we do this, none of us will have time for whining, complaining, or excuses. Instead, we will all be working hard with a competitive edge at the forefront of health care reform.


I leave you with these final words from John Wooden:


            “There’s an old saying: ‘If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I don’t agree with it in this sense: you will work plenty even if you love your job, but, the hard work will bring you deep satisfaction—fulfillment in doing the work itself. But make no mistake—you will work. It’s a little misleading to suggest that loving what you do will somehow eliminate very hard work.”


And, by the way, read his book if you have time.

  • Awesome post.  For me, that's why I love the OT profession so much, especially in the leadership arena.  There are a lot of individuals who are motivated to succeed.  Moreover, these individuals will drive one another to reach new heights in various areas.  I can sum it up by a Chinese saying- "團結就是力量".  What this means is that unity (or togetherness) brings power and strength!

    If the OT community (students, professionals, and sometimes even consumers) can work as a team, the OT profession will surely be "a powerful, widely recognized, science-driven, and evidence-based profession with a globally connected and diverse workforce meeting society's occupational needs".

  • Dean Clark, by changing our focus from the values of winning ("scoring, obtaining trophies or titles")to the values of success ("working hard, being industrious, being enthusiastic, demonstrating initiative, being alert, developing skills, and having poise and confidence")we will embody the saying, "It's the journey that matters, not the destination."

    With this mindset, our patients will be inspired by their efforts towards recovery, regardless of their anticipated success.

    And about the keynote address, we absorbed your intended message; It was the topic of discussion among us for a while, as we discussed how we can compete in the most advantageous way to achieve both our personal and collective goals in this awesome profession.

  • If we, as occupational therapists, focus on our own journey and efforts, our successes will shine as an example to our colleagues and patients. Continue to strive for personal excellence!

  • That's what I love about occupational therapy- Everything we do is based on "theories of living": therefore making our interventions useful tools- for both practitioner and patient!!!!