AORN Blog - The Periop Life

“Yield to Overcome”: 3 Mantras to Live By

A Conversation with Col. Nicole Malachowski, Retired US Air Force


“Yield to Overcome”: 3 Mantras to Live By

November 9, 2018     

Col. Nicole Malachowski has faced many battles in her life. As a US Air Force pilot, she led her teams through multiple combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She also paved the path for her female colleagues as the first woman pilot on the Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron.

In the single greatest challenge of her life, she continues to recover from a tick-borne illness that took away her speech, her mobility, her ability to think clearly, and her career. Through these challenges, Col. Malachowski says she wouldn’t change a thing.

“All of us have turning points in our lives that are indelibly marked in our memories. I’ve certainly had several, and because of those experiences, I’ve developed a few mantras that I try to live by…”

1. ‘Nobody wants to lead a scripted life’— Whenever I get that feeling in my stomach that what I’m about to do is too vulnerable, that I might fail, that I might rock the boat...I remind myself of these words. It’s comfortable to follow paths that have already been paved in front of you, but I believe we were made to blaze our own unique trails.

2. ‘Failure is the price of entry if you want to achieve something great’— I’ve learned that in the pursuit of gnarly dreams and goals, there are going to be stumbles along the way. It’s a guarantee. It’s easy to stay where you are and maintain the status quo, but that’s not how big dreams are achieved. When you are truly stretching yourself, there are going to be bumps and bruises, and that’s okay.

3. ‘Yield to overcome’— Sometimes the universe is going to hand you a challenge that you have absolutely no control over. The best example in my life is my medical journey, it was life-changing. The more I questioned why it was happening to me, the more I tried to fight the inevitable, the more I slowed my recovery and progression. I simply had to let it go and yield to the fact that it was happening. Yielding is not surrendering or giving up, it is about acceptance of the present reality. Once I learned to ‘yield to overcome,’ I was able to reinvent myself into the person I am today.

Col. Malachowski says it’s important to believe in the positive impact you know you make, even if you don't see the end result.

“It’s not always in the big and monumental moments that we help positively shape other people, it’s often in the things we didn’t even realize we were doing,” she says. “If you have integrity to who you are at all times, your impact truly grows. I believe the impacts you have that you are not aware of are just as significant, if not more so, than the ones you are aware of.”

Make time to collect more life lessons and practical inspiration from Col. Malachowski at AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo April 6–10 in Nashville. Read more about Col. Malachowski and other keynote speakers.