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CIO Unplugged – 2/1/09

February 1, 2009 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

No Pain, No Gain
By Ed Marx

Sounds trite, I know. Some will accuse me of simplemindedness. Others will say this high school football-coach philosophy is dangerous. I agree, but still embrace.

In my thirties, I got back into playing tennis and started thrashing on the courts with some friends from work. As we verged on competitive levels, I realized we needed to pick up the intensity. A consistent first serve was the performance key. Reliance on the second serve would allow your opponent to take the offensive. Although a high, first serve percentage alone would not make you a Wimbledon champion, you’d at least guarantee yourself a quarter final match. We practiced at 6 am thrice weekly, but I showed up at 5 am to serve buckets and buckets of balls. I’d chase them down and start over again. No pain, no gain.

Now in my forties, I’m taking on the challenge of perfecting the Argentine Tango with my wife. In addition to a weekly two-hour lesson and a monthly milonga, we practice. Even if for only twenty minutes, we practice every evening. We have to, because the Argentine Tango happens to be the most artistic, intellectual, and difficult dance ever created by man. If I catch my partner’s foot too late, we miss our sweep. If we’re too far apart, one of us loses balance. I figure if we aim for expert, we might reach proficient by the time I’m eighty.

Like our dancing, my relationship with my bride of twenty-four years has been full of ups and downs. The overall trend slopes upwards to the right, but it’s interrupted with numerous peaks and valleys. Some downturns take years to correct, yet we keep at it. Annual strategic planning vacations, numerous marriage conferences, lots of books, prayer, and counsel. We’ve fought hard to reach the point we’re at today, and there is more pain to endure, I’m sure. Had we chosen not to push through the pain during any of the valleys, who knows where our marriage would be? Certainly not growing, not gaining.

And what about a career? Can you ascend the leadership ranks by good luck or good looks? Not in my case. It took pain—blood, sweat, and tears. Which meant not taking shortcuts. Not submitting C-level work. Not shaving time here and there to start the weekend early. But it’s so tempting!

I hear you. But do you want to reach the fulfillment of your calling? Then sacrifice. Love the pain.

A few years back, I had to spend a significant amount of time on the road. The librarian at Parkview Episcopal Medical Center (CO) supplied me with endless materials, from business books on tape to vocabulary building materials. While driving, I’d listen to these resources over and over until they became part of my intellectual fabric. Would have I preferred to listen to U2 or another favorite band? Of course. But to grow, I needed to take advantage of every morsel of time. I also volunteered for everything in my path; some related to IT, others benefited the hospital or another department. Would I have preferred to go home early or have a smaller to-do list? Certainly. But to maximize my potential and opportunity, I needed to self-sacrifice—so far as it didn’t harm my family. Plus, it was only for a season. Every season brings different opportunities, which require fitting sacrifices.

Today, I’ve made sure we have a library of materials available for our staff to checkout. Hundreds of books and cds on tape. We have subscriptions for “book of the month,” a concept I leveraged from the Parkview librarian. Just as serving thousands of balls to ghosts at the break of dawn paved the way to winning several tournaments; or investing the time and money to improving my tango to keep me on the dance floor, pain brings gain.

Don’t expect to just show up on the dance floor and look like a pro. If you want someone to ask you to dance, practice.

No pain, no gain.

Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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