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CIO Unplugged 1/23/13

January 23, 2013 Ed Marx 12 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

The Long View

I proposed to Julie on February 1, 1984. I was 19. I’m not sure I really knew what love meant, but I sure enjoyed being around her. I loved listening to her practice piano for recitals as I stole second glances.

Despite our young age, everyone was pretty stoked about our engagement except her parents. Looking back 27 years later, with my own daughter that age, I can’t really blame them.

Julie defined their marriage. She was the apple of their eyes. They wanted to delay giving her away for as long as they could. When they did, they hoped for a doctor or lawyer. At least those were the types they had over to dinner so Julie could meet them on weekends home from college.

I recall pulling into their driveway one Friday. My Chevy Vega with the duct-taped hood cowered next to their lacquered Mercedes. Wearing baggy sweats and tennis shoes with holes, I was the definition of poor. While I grunted away in the Army Reserve as a private, her dad stood tall as a retired WWII naval officer.

They were against the marriage from the get-go and withheld their support. Then came the final meeting, one last chance to talk us youngsters out of a commitment that had failed them both previously. They hired an investigator who reported everything about me from teenage indiscretions to bank withdrawals to employment history. There was nothing new to Julie. 

Out of exasperation came the final plea came. They offered me a handsome amount of money to walk away.

I had no hesitation. I’d already counted the cost. Despite the fast and easy reward, I took the long view. I’d never had that kind of cash, but I knew money wouldn’t make me happy. I immediately said no. They walked away.

We face many temptations in our careers. Most are not so stark, but others manifest themselves in many forms. We all know of colleagues who took bribes from vendors to influence purchasing decisions. Eventually they got caught and lost their careers and reputations. The short-term gain never pays long-term dividends.

Reviewing hundreds of resumes over the years taught me to spot trends where applicants constantly jumped from job to job, each time trying to bank a modest increase. Although a person might receive payola by making so many moves in a short period, they likely won’t land the big one. Who would hire someone whose trend suggests he or she might leave in a year? At some point, all the jumping catches up to you, especially at the highest levels. Think tortoise and the hare.

I do believe there are times you must go to grow. Other times you need to grind through challenges so your character can form and your leadership can blossom. I see too many people run at the first sight of trouble.

Boy, I’ve been tempted myself. I recall one year a while back showing up at a new employer where it was clear I was way in over my head. Way over. Everyone was nice and it was a stellar advancement opportunity, but my insecurities got the best of me. After a few months, I humbled myself and called my former employer, asking to return.

The COO, who had previously served as my mentor, said no. He explained that I needed to stick it out, learn, ask for help, adjust, and succeed. As much as he wanted me back, he knew if I went in reverse, I would never reach my ultimate goal of CIO. I followed his counsel, and today I am living my career dream. Had I taken the short view, I would likely still be working in the same position today.

My in-laws ultimately had a change of heart and helped us with the wedding expenses. I appreciated the fact they wanted to protect their daughter from making such a huge commitment at a young age, not yet even a junior in college. I would’ve handled it differently, but again, I understood the motivation.

We got married and worked our butts off to get through school and start our family. Today we are richly blessed, having taken the long view.

Whenever challenges hits me, I’m tempted by the short view. But one look at my family and my career reinforces the lesson. The long view pays off.

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this 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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12 Responses to “CIO Unplugged 1/23/13”

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  1. 12
    Mobile Man Says:

    I would agree with a few caveats:

    Employment is a two-way street. It seems that you’ve certainly been blessed and lucky to have employers, leaders, managers and co-workers who take a similar long term approach to not only their business, but their employees/team members as well.

    Too often I’ve seen (and experienced) almost the exactly opposite. The “bait and switch” job offer, the often unrealistic (VERY) expectations and lack of support. And sometimes, the flat out incompetence of the organization as a whole and/or individual departments.

    I certainly wish we could all just “stick it out, ask for help, learn and adjust”, but sometimes no matter the individual that’s not possible and it may just be better to realize your mistake, lick your wounds and move on…

    If we were all lucky enough to serve under leadership like yours, knowing we had the support and commitment behind us as long as we gave ours it might be a different story for many.

    Where to draw the line? Very good question (as in all things!)…

    And, if you really think about it – it’s that sort of thing that brings success to the organization as whole, which in turns breeds more success. It’s one of the key factors to long term success in any business – think “Good to Great” stuff…

  2. 11
    Smalltown CIO Says:

    I just wanted to let you know how much I love your insight Ed. This article has so many angles – from “don’t just a book by its cover” to having perservence as you fulfill your dreams. I also wanted to thank you for sending your strategic plans – thank you!

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