Skillsoft Blog

There is still more for me to do and places to go

October 7, 2021 | by Michelle BB

Chances are, you can relate to the title of this post. (I certainly can.) But, you might be surprised to know who it came from.

Dr. Shaquille "Shaq" O'Neal.

It's hard to believe there are still rocks left unturned or goals unachieved for someone as accomplished as Shaq. After all, he spent 19 years with the NBA, starting with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 and ending here in Boston with the Celtics in 2011. During this time, he won an Olympic gold medal, four NBA championships, and NBA most valuable player, among many other accomplishments. He is considered one of the "greatest players in NBA history."

Here at Skillsoft, we just hosted our annual conference, Perspectives Unleashed. It was an incredibly empowering and inspiring two days. More than 16,000 people — from all around the globe — registered to take advantage of world-class keynotes, brilliant lightning talks, in-depth panel discussions, and more. All focused on “what’s next” and the power of learning to help organizations meet the challenges ahead.


One of the highlights of Day One was a fireside chat I was privileged to share with Shaq himself. During our conversation, I learned there is far more to the man than basketball. In fact, I would argue some of his most impressive achievements have happened off the court. Yes, he is a world-renown player, but he's also a media personality, philanthropist, educator, and yes … lifelong learner. And during our 40-minutes together, Shaq shared some incredible life lessons that anyone — actually, everyone — should find value in.

It's hard to pinpoint the most inspiring moments of our conversation — there were so many — but these might be my favorites. (And, I‘ve included some food for thought for us mere mortals.)

  1. It took someone believing in Shaq for him to feel confident. It was a tutor who helped him navigate a computer course, and once he figured it out, he realized — for himself — that he was smart and capable. And, once he began believing in himself, he immersed himself in learning: reading, listening, doing. And his philosophy now is that it's important to learn something every day — in the classroom or outside of it.

    Is there a person in your past who convinced you of your worth? And, more importantly, is there someone in your life right now for whom you can pay that forward?
  2. We can change our narrative (although we might get some help from our mothers). The most poignant moment of our interview came when Shaq talked about his inspiration … his mother, Dr. Lucille O'Neal. It was his mother who encouraged him to finish his degree at LSU after dropping out to play basketball, and then a life experience made him realize how valuable an education can be. As you can imagine, Shaq is involved in a number of business ventures and endorsements. During our conversation, he recalled how he would go talk to potential business partners and they would say, “Hey Shaq, how are you doing?”, shake his hand and then turn away to speak to his representation. He was considered the talent, not a business leader. They wanted to meet him but didn't expect nor realize that he was in charge. And so, he changed the narrative. Shaq pursued an MBA and followed that up with a doctorate in Education.

    Is your current role aligned to your inner vision? What can you do — or learn — to grow into the person you were meant to be?
  3. We have a bigger role to play in this world. Shaq was inspired by something Jeff Bezos of Amazon shared at a conference, "I invest in things that are going to change people's lives." He heard that, wrote it down, and began to live by it. He turned down business deals that didn't align to his philosophy. He started his own organization, the Shaquille O'Neal foundation, a non-profit that works to instill hope and bring about change in communities, collectively shaping a brighter future for our children.

    Change starts with each of us. What can you start doing right now to make the world a slightly better place?

One of the more memorable moments came towards the end of our conversation when I asked Shaq what he had left to conquer. What he needed to learn. His answer once again involved his "Yoda," Dr. Lucille O'Neal. He met with his mother shortly after retiring and as she embraced him, putting both hands on his cheeks, she said, "You've done everything I've ever asked. From now on, I want you to try to help one person a day. Just one person. Make a person smile."

And that is just what he's doing. Now, what didn't make the final cut but is forever etched in my mind is this … Shaq ended our time together telling me that on his epitaph shouldn’t list accolades or acknowledge career achievements. He simply wants it to read, "He was kind."

I am so grateful for having met and interviewed this incredible leader. To listen to our full conversation, you can watch the replay by visiting www.Skillsoft.com/perspectives2021.

Get ready to be inspired. I know I was.