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CIO Unplugged 1/24/11

January 24, 2011 Ed Marx 10 Comments

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

CIO Unplugged … Unplugged

“Aim high, aim for something that will make a difference, rather than for something that is safe and easy to do.” – Peter Drucker

How are you wired? Have you studied yourself lately, or are you busy dissecting others in order to increase your worth? (Like right now. What are you thinking as you read this blog?)

Experiences give shape to character, meaning experiences bring out what’s already inside — the genuine you. How you and I react to life’s events, both good and bad, determines whether we will find success or failure. You were created to succeed, but have you chosen to be less?

“Leaders are honest, forward-looking, competent, and inspiring.” – James Kouzes

Honest. As a college freshman, I’d hit rock bottom. A 1.6 GPA. A bank account depleted by the party life. Friends? Not sure. Family? Far away. An empty, haunting, painful experience. I saw where I was headed, and I wanted none of it.

With nothing left to lose, I got on my knees and made the decision for the greatest adventure of all — a new life, set free at last. My junior year, the adventure accelerated. I married a woman. Not just any woman. Julie was — and is — valiant, vulnerable, and scandalous, yet she keeps my feet on the ground. We said “no” to the safe life, and our journey continues 26 years and counting.

Say “no” to simply existing. The easy life makes zero difference on humanity. Healthcare IT does not need more technology or more talk about the bits and bytes. We need bold leadership!

Inspiring. A great adventure is full of thrills and danger. Climbing mountains, swimming in oceans, preparing for war, and competing at the highest levels. I’ve done these things, and I’m telling you about it without shame because I worked my butt off to reach each goal. I take roles that stretch me and then ask for more, trembling. Standing up to bullies takes guts, but someone has to do it. I will, and I have. I’ve pushed the guardrails of employers. How else can a company grow?

In June, I will lead an expedition to Kilimanjaro. We’re funding and building a medical clinic. With Tanzanian government collaboration, we will open and operate the clinic. Is this safe? Hell, no. But it’s worth the sweat and sacrifice to help a sick child.

Three times I’ve faced death. Reprimands wait for me around every corner. I’ve questioned myself and my motives. I fail, but I bounce back. I am a target. So why do I keep going? Because I understand who I am, what my purpose is, and why I was created. I take the downside knowing the upside is rewarding. The safe life is not worth living.

My five years of blogging has brought rewards and criticism — not a safe pursuit. Some find my posts offensive, and I do not apologize. While most comment to debate the merits of theories or ideas expressed, which makes us all better, others attack character. I am accused of many things: narcissism, motivational pundit, etc. (I am a work in progress and continuously developing).

Attacks come with the “unsafe” territory I’ve chosen to inhabit. I encourage debate. If you want to attack character, I am open to that as well, but I will only receive it if you engage me personally. Connect with me. Where is the credibility in taking personal shots from afar? Only cowards take the safe route.

Looking forward. My mission is to “Leverage information technology and leadership to improve health of people.” My vision is to “Develop information technology leaders who impact organizations.” Blogging on leadership from the angle of CIO is one strategy to make this mission and vision a reality.

The amount of feedback I have received over the years helps measure this. People send me stories that would make you cry. Others would have you shouting for joy. Stories of readers taking a stand. Stories of readers rising to their potential. Stories from vendor and hospital CEOs, from clinicians to the young and old, the payor, and the provider communities.

Modeling and encouraging leadership influences more people than does commenting on technology. That’s why I do it. I’m wired to lead.

The significant way to transform healthcare is to speak less on technology and instead be a leader with a bias for action. You can learn about cloud, networks, or virtualization in school. Leadership, on the other hand, is caught, not taught. I will not waste energy rehashing Computers 301 when I can challenge and inspire you to be more of who you were created to be. A success!

This blog is me unplugged. This is my background and my motivation. Do you have a defined purpose? How do you measure your results? What motivates you?

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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Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ed, I have to say I love your posts. They inspire me as a “boots on the groud” guy with leadership aspirations. When I hear about you going to Kilimanjaro it does cross my mind “here is a big wig that is bragging he can afford such trips” then I realize it’s just my pride that is hurt because I want to be able to do those things to and feel just as inspired by living life to it’s fullest. Thank you for your honesty and candor, it’s a breath of fresh air from what I normally get from management. (notice I didn’t say Leadership because in my experience there is a big difference)
    I find that the more I read from you the more I realize you are the kind of leader I am striving to be. Not that you are perfect but exactly the opposite, your not and your honest about it. Your example is the kind that makes me realize that no matter who we are it’s the same path that we trod and no one has made it to the finish line yet.
    Thank you for your ideas, passion, and willingness to put yourself out there on the front lines to let those of us struggling in the trenches know that we are not alone.

    An IS Analyst in Michigan (yes it freezing here but I love it)

  2. Mr. Marx – Again, it’s great to read your post and be encouraged. You’re a wonderful example of taking a hand-on approach to making your own and others’ lives better.

    @Doulbe A – You aren’t kidding! I love MI, too, but it’s so cold my car wouldn’t start this morning! I wouldn’t mind some of Mr. Marx’ ❂climate right about now. {o;

  3. Ed, I totally love your honesty on your post. I myself am a Registered Nurse with over 10 years in IT and every day I think of ways for me to bring what I learn to my country: Haiti. I dream about it and dream about it and dream about it. I know that I am able to do it with perseverance. I founded a not for profit way before the earthquake (www.helpinghandsbringsunshine.org) and am in the planning stage of opening a clinic and school to serve approx, 100 children. I realize that I needed to act in order for me to make a difference and touch the lives of people and to bring a smile to their face. Thank you for your positive energy,

    Fran Application manager in NYC

  4. I needed this today. Stuck in a moment. Analysis paralysis. Thanks for taking the risk and sharing. We miss you up North.

  5. Great column, Ed. Especially loved this line:

    “Standing up to bullies takes guts, but someone has to do it. I will, and I have. I’ve pushed the guardrails of employers. How else can a company grow?”

    Thanks for the inspiration for all of us. There really ARE a lot of bullies out there. Whew! Time to push back!

  6. Ed,

    Thanks for taking the time to share. Both your words and actions are inspirational. I started fostering at the age of 24, and by the end of my first year, I had the pleasure of helping over 50 kids in my own home. My foster son is 28 this year. While I received criticism from many for “giving up my life so young” I learnt more from helping others then I did throughout University.

    People used to ask me “What do you get from it?”. I used to respond “Self satisfaction, and the opportunity to give someone a second chance”. Last week I ran into one of the “kids” I had not seen since 1999, he came out from behind the counter where he was working, a tear ran down his face as he gave me a quick hug and said thank you. I am still reaping the benefits!

    People need to follow their inner selves. If you are passionate about something, and you pursue it, you are a winner… no matter the outcome.

    –To Doulbe A —
    “When I hear about you going to Kilimanjaro it does cross my mind “here is a big wig that is bragging he can afford such trips” then I realize it’s just my pride that is hurt because I want to be able to do those things to”

    My Response: You don’t have to have money, or travel to make a difference. Reaching out to even help someone in your own community reaps personal rewards that carry no measurement, and can help lead them to a better life too.

  7. Thanks Ed for another great post. It is easy to see you are a spiritual man and it is great that you make no apologies for it. We see eye to eye – keep it up!

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