How ‘Solitude' and ‘Self-Awareness' Helped Dwyane Wade Bounce Back From Hard Times

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After departing from Marquette University in 2003, basketball star Dwyane Wade, 40, won three NBA championships and was a NBA all-star 13 times before retiring from the NBA in 2019. His career came full circle on Sunday, as he returned to Marquette to deliver the commencement speech to almost 2,000 graduates.

Wade was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree during the ceremony.

He says much of his speech was inspired by his 14-year-old daughter, Zaya Wade, who helped him identify two key drivers for his own success: solitude and self awareness.

Reminiscing on his senior year of high school, Wade says he was recruited by Coach Tom Crean, who recognized him "not just because of his basketball abilities, but because he believed he wanted more for himself and his family." But first, Wade had to pass the ACT test.

Despite taking prep classes and studying around the clock, Wade says he failed the test.

"If I didn't pass, I felt like everyone would look at me as a failure. All I could think about was my fears. When I arrived at the office, I was handed the envelope, and I opened it off to the side. And not to my surprise, I didn't pass. I immediately became frantic and nervous."

Crean still proceeded with his recruitment plans, but Wade's excitement was short-lived. Wade says that he was overcome with fear about his next phase of life, but creating space for solitude helped him persevere.

"In solitude, I find clarity. There is no judgment and it's where I get to know the real me," he said. "In solitude, I find understanding and create solutions. It is also where I visualize what I want for my life. And I design a plan for achieving it. In solitude, there's nothing that will get in the way of you creating the life you want, except you."

Wade urged graduates to be comfortable being alone with their thoughts, because "in solitude, there are no barriers."

He also shared an important lesson he learned from a friend.

"He said our two greatest fears are abandonment and claiming our greatness. We all look in the mirror every day. And in that mirror we really get to see ourselves. We see our strengths and weaknesses, our imperfections. This is an opportunity to acknowledge ourselves again, without judgment. This is self-awareness."

After the Miami Heat lost the 2011 NBA championship to the Dallas Mavericks, Wade says "soul searching" helped him realize that he needed to step away from "being the man" to focus on getting in tune with himself. Wade encouraged the class of 2022 to be self-aware during their post-graduate journeys, explaining that self-awareness fosters inspiration and growth.

"As we become more self-aware, we achieve a better understanding of who we are. We discover our values, our character, what we consider to be right and wrong. We discover what drives us, what inspires and motivates us. We observe our habits, think actively, learn to enhance what is positive and discard what is negative."

Wade then concluded with a quote from his good friend, the late Kobe Bryant, before congratulating graduates and their families on their huge accomplishment.

"It's not the dream that we should chase, it's the experiences on a journey to fulfilling our dreams. That's the win. [Bryant] said those times when you stay up late and you work hard. Those times when you don't feel like working but you push yourself and you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. It's not the destination, it's the journey."

"Will your journey have some highlights? Yes. Will your journey have some lowlights? Yes. But if you continue to build on your discoveries and experiences, if you establish your moments of solitude and allow yourself the space for self-awareness, you will arrive at a place where you can grow, not only in terms of what someone else has planned for you, but by living life on your own terms."

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