Home » Ed Marx » Currently Reading:

CIO Unplugged 7/20/11

July 20, 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.

PoléPolé (Slow Slow)

7-20-2011 8-30-21 PM

3:21 a.m.

Zero degrees and our Camelbacks turn to ice 2,000 feet below Kilimanjaro’s summit. Five days of steady marching behind us. Almost home, but struggling.

Team chatter is eerily silent. Heads hung low and lamps dim, distraught climbers from other groups turn around short. Fear and doubt slither through our minds. Can I make it to the top? Will I be the one who fails?

“Angels We Have Heard on High” pierces the silence. Sensing our internal turmoil, the guides sing a familiar melody that shatters our foreboding. The crescendo of “Gloria” generates a second wind. Spirits lifted, we proceed with renewed vigor towards the prize.

7-20-2011 8-29-02 PM

Panting with joy, we crest Stella Point at sunrise. We pause on the volcanic rim, a mere 750 feet from the peak. We will make it. All of us. After a brief round of hugs, we persevere towards the summit.

Without a word, the four founders quickly move out and up the line of march. We conquer the final stretch together. Kilimanjaro was our collective idea, our blood bond, thus important and symbolic to finish together. After more hugs, high fives, and requisite pictures at the peak, I cry, hard.

Thirty-six hours later, we shower and settle in at the Arusha Hotel bar to celebrate. Debriefing over beers, we relive the climb, tell stories, and share leadership lessons learned. I gladly share them with you:

. Mental toughness is only honed via trial and refined by fire. No amount of mental gymnastics can prepare you like reality can. Don’t throw in the towel in tough circumstances. Put one leg in front of the other and move forward.

Training. A person rises to his level of training, not to his expectation. No exceptions. If you don’t make the time to train, you don’t make the team – period. Over the year, most climbed smaller peaks in preparation.

Gear. Reaching the top requires the right gear. No amount of training or exhortation can close the distance between success and failure when you are ill equipped. Invest in yourself and the team. A lack of gear equals climbing failure.

Vulnerability. We threw out titles before taking the first step. Administrators, presidents, physicians, and teens were now peers. Spending 24×7 with strangers requires a rapid adoption of transparency. The first day, we peed from a distance and behind some trees. Come day two, we’d grown beyond these formalities.

Encouragement. Maximum performance is nearly impossible without a pat on the back from a friend. Kind words work like salve on a wound.

Nutrition. You can fake your way and run on adrenaline for a day or two. But without sustained energy, you will collapse. Leaders must replenish themselves routinely.

Attitude. Zig Ziglar’s adage proved true: “Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude.” No one benefits from listening to naysayers. Good leaders present good attitudes, even when they feel like vomiting.

Teamwork. Individuals caring for individuals, together. Shared hardships hasten lasting bonds.

Planning. Although the journey took only seven days, we organized over seven months. Anything worthwhile requires diligent strategic and tactical planning.

Support Team. We had an incredible support team comprised of friends and family. On the mountain, we had guides and porters.

Two lessons I’m still trying to internalize:

Climb High, Sleep Low. Reaching new heights requires giving up some ground. We spent a couple days where we gave back more elevation than we conquered. Although ‘straight up’ seemed the shortest distance, a sheer, vertical route would lead to breakdown. Every mountain has its peaks and valleys. Embrace these.

PoléPolé. To reach the highest summits, take time to acclimate at various heights and simultaneously build endurance. If you rush, the odds of success diminish exponentially. Sometimes you must go slow to go fast. Be in the moment. A leader must shrink the gap between frontrunner and laggard without losing sight of the ultimate objective or compromising passion.

7-20-2011 8-32-36 PM

We unveiled our corporate flag in front of the summit sign. This band of ruffians brought together 11 individuals and over the course of planning and execution built a team. The Kilimanjaro success rate is 60-70%, but we achieved 100%. Success demanded leadership and followership.

That rock taught us a lot. Changed us. Did someone say Everest?

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.

View/Print Text Only View/Print Text Only

HIStalk Featured Sponsors


Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ed, great article. Congrats on the feat and thanks for sharing your lessons, applicable in so many areas. What awesome inspiration.

  2. Thanks for sharing some great transferable lessons. I’ll add one more I’ve learned. Find enjoyment in the journey not just the summit.

Subscribe to Updates



Text Ads

Report News and Rumors

No title

Anonymous online form
Rumor line: 801.HIT.NEWS



Vince Ciotti’s HIS-tory of Healthcare IT

Founding Sponsors


Platinum Sponsors






















































Gold Sponsors
















Reader Comments

  • Desperado: "The vast majority of us conduct our business with integrity and understand that the more we give, we get back tenfold i...
  • Long time HIT salesman: Teri, I couldn't agree more. The vast majority of us conduct our business with integrity and understand that the more we...
  • Supporting good decisions: Mike, I read the original and I read your comments. You make some sweeping assertions without any basis in fact....
  • Teri Thomas: As a former vendor salesperson, I genuinely like lots of CIOs and would consider them friends. I was in my role a long t...
  • Mike Jude: Very interesting take on the Frost & Sullivan CDSS report. Since I wrote it, I thought I might provide some perspec...
  • Brian Harder: I get schadenfreude when learning of the woes of people who get too cocky (referring to the NULL license plate guy). ...
  • Math: Dittoing on how awesome Zenni is, I've been using them for a couple of years. Most people don't realize how much of an ...
  • Code Jockey: Gotta love it when the kids show up..... After a number of years of almost constant travel and well over 700+ flights...
  • Kermit: My family's been happily using Zenni for years. Never a problem with the quality of their products. My last order was fo...
  • Cosmos: During an inpatient stay at a Boston area teaching hospital, my wife was approached by a research assistant about enroll...

Sponsor Quick Links