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CIO Unplugged – 4/15/10

April 15, 2010 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.

Do You Have What it Takes?
By Ed Marx

Interestingly, yet not surprisingly, my most popular posts are not on healthcare technology but on leadership. Evidently, industry challenges and solutions are secondary to the primal importance of management execution. In other words, you can have great ideas and vision but if you lack leadership, “Fergeddaboutdid”—as Johnny Depp humorously mimicked Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco.

We’re born questioning our existence, and many of us spend a lifetime searching for answers. Some of us never find them because of our insecurities that skew the process. While wrestling with my own fears, I’ve always asked this one question, which I believe is universal:

“Do I have what it takes?”

Athletes wrestle with the same question, especially right before an event. During my first Escape to Alcatraz, I sensed the vibrant energy flowing from the participants on the boat heading toward Alcatraz. We discussed race strategy, weather conditions, currents, and the great deals we got on our technically-advanced wetsuit. But as race time approached, an eerie silence took over. Some would call it the sound of focus. I’d argue it was the deafening throb of introspection. Do I have what it takes?

Last fall, I completed my first extreme adventure race. 40 miles of technical mountain bike trails, 13 miles of kayaking, 1 mile of river swimming and 20 miles of running, all integrated via traditional map and compass. Before the starter pistol fired, I listened to people sharing battle stories from the adventure race season. As the minutes wore down, I began to grasp the reality of my latest endeavor. Traversing unmarked trails, my three-man team would be on its own, finding the way with no support other than what we could carry. Do I have what it takes?

When I held our first child. When I first spoke in public. When I first led troops. When I took on my first CIO role and faced numerous challenges, I asked myself the question. I’ve tried to live in such a way that I can answer in the affirmative. I realize that having what it takes revolves largely around preparation, which breeds confidence. And, I’ll tell you what. When you’re floating two miles off shore between San Francisco and the frigid, shark-infested waters of the Pacific, you’d better be able to answer the question positively. Otherwise, fergeddaboutdid.

Simply put, we don’t rise to the occasion, we fall to the level of our preparation.

Where the athletic pursuit boasts physical demands, leadership carries the challenges of high stakes, decision-making, and time pressures, to name a few. I’m compelled to do everything within my control to be ready for whatever work throws at me. Some things I can’t prepare for, such as the perpetual supply of surprises, disappointments, crises. Nevertheless, I want to be equipped and confident to answer the ultimate question.

May 2nd of this year, I’m diving back into the frigid San Francisco Bay. I will ask myself the question. And despite my fear, I will put my face in the water and push one palm back after another. Same at work. Between the ACO, meaningful use, and the ever-evolving tech advances, I’m equipping myself.

Are you?

(Otherwise, fergeddaboutdid!)


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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