In a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His latest — Want success? Be prepared to fail — is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.
“No pain, no gain” is a mantra for many people who exercise, motivating them to lose weight or get in shape.
Yet in other facets of our lives, we reflexively avoid pain, adversity and even uncertainty. A potential entrepreneur may hesitate to launch a startup because it could fail. A student may avoid law school for fear of the bar exam. Or a leader not open to new ideas could hinder a company’s ability to capitalize on opportunities.
It’s part of human nature to avoid pain. But pain, adversity and uncertainty, despite the hardships they bring, are where you can truly experience life. If you think about it, avoiding pain in its entirety can make you miss life’s real rewards.
Take the book “Principles,” by Ray Dalio. He’s the founder of Bridgewater Associates, a highly successful financial services firm. In the book, Dalio examines the concept of decision-making and provides a way for the reader to create a series of life principles and work principles. An underlying theme is our aversion to pain; Dalio advises us to embrace reality and deal with it, as opposed to ignoring it.
Dalio developed these principles after watching his startup business grow to 16 people and then shrink to one employee – himself. He had been “dead wrong” on a critical financial venture. Dalio realized that if he “was going to move forward without a high likelihood of getting whacked again, I would have to look at myself objectively and change.” Enter the concept of principles.
Here are three key takeaways from some of the principles in Dalio’s book and how his principles might not only help you, but also help change health care.
Be prepared to fail well. It’s good to fail. We’ve all done it. And if we learn from failure, better things will come from it. In Principles, Dalio writes:
“Everyone fails…The people I respect most are those who fail well. I respect them even more than those who succeed. That is because failing is a painful experience while succeeding is a joyous one, so it requires much more character to fail, change, and then succeed than to just succeed.”
In our careers, we tend to think failure can set us back years. Yet some of the greatest mistakes — from Steve Jobs being booted from Apple, the company he founded, to Thomas Edison’s 1,000 failed attempts to create the light bulb — paved the way for transformational success. Dalio says mistakes are “a natural part of the evolutionary process.”
So if failure knocks you down, like it has done for many of us, you’re certainly not down for the count. You have the choice to rise back up and get closer to success. In any career journey, Dalio writes, failures “can either be the impetus that fuels your personal evolution or they can ruin you, depending on how you react to them.”
Health care needs to fail like Thomas Edison failed. There have been many attempts to rein in health care costs. But focusing on costs won’t solve the core issue, because costs are a reflection of our society’s unhealthy lifestyles. I’ve seen that a broader approach, designed to help people change behaviors at all phases of life, will help bring down these rising costs. It’s not going to happen overnight for all of us, but if we keep at it and learn from our mistakes, it will.
Experience life by being less pain-averse. Failure can lead to pain, but if you can open yourself to more difficult situations, you’ll enhance your chances for long-term success. It’s important to realize that if you want to succeed, you have to be willing to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and you can do this by embracing difficult situations. The journey – good and bad and everything in between — is where life happens.
If you can move beyond being pain-averse and push ahead when things get difficult, you’ll be heading in the right direction. As Dalio says:
“Every time you confront something painful, you are at a potentially important juncture in your life—you have the opportunity to choose healthy and painful truth or unhealthy but comfortable delusion.”
Health care is changing, and change can be difficult. I’ve been in the health care industry for decades, and the industry is heavily focused on how new technologies, from blockchain to artificial intelligence, can deliver better patient care. Health care is also changing from episodic care to focusing on managing health holistically, recognizing the importance that lifestyle plays in overall health. Getting comfortable with these changes will almost certainly improve the lives of many people.
Be open-minded, radically open-minded. You can fail. You can make mistakes. But you need perspective, beyond your own, to make use of these experiences. Being open to diverse points of view can only make you better. You might have issues, as a leader, not knowing all the answers. Yet in my experience, I’ve seen that the best leaders are the ones who seek out fresh perspectives.
Dalio encourages radical open-mindedness and radical transparency, which are “invaluable for rapid learning and effective change…Being radically open-minded enhances the efficiency of those feedback loops, because it makes what you are doing, and why, so clear to yourself and others that there can’t be any misunderstandings.”
For example, take a look around your office. If you have diversity of thought, diversity of culture and diversity of males and females – but don’t have an inclusive environment where people feel welcome and safe to be their true selves – it will be difficult to create new ideas. Being open-minded and seeking alternative opinions is an important part of being a good executive, family member or community leader.
Health care does not have all the answers. Our industry has made tremendous advances, but to continue this momentum, we must look outside our industry for answers, starting first with the perspective and needs of health care consumers. The industry also needs to listen to and partner with physicians and clinicians, as they play the most critical role in improving patient health.
Health care is evolving. For the benefit of health care consumers, it’s time to get comfortable being uncomfortable.