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CIO Unplugged 1/1/13

December 31, 2012 Ed Marx 141 Comments

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

What Do I Stand For?

But I still wake up . . .
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure, what I stand for
What do I stand for? Oh what do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know any more.

I like the tune Some Nights by the indie alternative group fun. You can argue the meaning of the song, but the hook, “What do I stand for?” resonates with millions, including me.

The issue people struggle with most is discovering purpose in life. This is one topic I’m frequently invited to speak on and the one concern for which people often ask my help. In light of this, I’m revisiting a blog from a few years ago that I hope you’ll find practical.

I have no secret formula nor warrant that what worked for me and my family will work for you. Making life easy and eliminating challenge is not my goal. Living out purpose involves inherent trials. What I offer are principles and a process that will facilitate your journey into discovery and could possibly transform your life on different levels. I’ve shared these ideas for many years in different cultures and have witnessed dramatic change.

Let’s set the record straight: resolutions don’t work.

The first thing I ask those who ask for help is, “What’s your plan?” Such as, what is your mission, vision, values, objectives, etc. I’ve never received an articulate first-time response. But when I ask people about their organization’s plan, they’re quick to answer.

The dichotomy is evident. Why would you take the time to memorize and labor to achieve the plans of your organization but not do the same for yourself or your family? The good news: you already possess the tools and experience to close this gap. But it takes time, energy, and determination.

I finished grad school in 1989 with business planning concepts drilled in my brain. My company embraced these concepts, and I knew our execs jetted off to resorts to spend considerable time planning. Market performance confirmed a strong correlation.

For me, the disconnect came in hearing of their struggles on the personal side of the ledger. One particular Fortune article reinforced my thought process: “Why Grade ‘A’ Execs get an ‘F’ as Parents.” Having just started a family and career, I was searching for ways to have success in both.

Could I increase the odds of personal success by adopting business theory?

Our First Family Retreat

The Marx family’s strategic planning adventure began modestly. Short, inexpensive trips away from home reduced distraction and stimulated creativity. These trips morphed into more elaborate excursions, but the focus always remained on strategic planning.

12-31-2012 7-57-23 PM

Our first retreat in nearby Estes Park cost us about $100. We worked on a one-page plan that became known as the “Marx Family Constitution.” Originally written in 1990, it has withstood the test of time.

Since incorporating this process, we’ve all experienced dramatic increases in the quality of our careers and relationships. Our oldest, now age 25, had coached his college peers in these concepts. Not long ago, my wife heard our youngest, age 19, encourage her boyfriend to discover his life purpose and come up with a plan to live it out. Julie and I recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary and are still twitterpated.

I don’t have the space to share the numerous examples, but I can share the one that had the most impact. My son, age eight at the time, took a ruler and pointed to the values section of our Marx Family Constitution that hung prominently in our family room. “Dad,” he said, “was that honoring mom when you yelled?” Seven months prior, when deciding which six values needed improvement, he had contributed the word “honor.” He called me on it. Accountability!

We aim to live out what Rick Warren calls The Purpose Driven Life. Decisions on how to spend our time, energy, and resources are guided by past retreats. I could go back through 20 years of documentation and show you at least one significant event that happened each year in my career, marriage, and family. Could you?

Keeping it Fresh

Take annual retreats to focus on your plan. Get out of Dodge and spend time in a setting where beauty can inspire. A place free of distraction. As leader, your job is to facilitate.

WARNING: never force your ideas down the family’s throat. Instead, invite them to dream and evaluate. Kids especially need to think for themselves. Review your plan and encourage transparent dialogue about performance. Record the highlights of the previous year. What are the gaps and how do you close them? Include significant others and engage your kids. Teach them. Envision them — but NEVER do it FOR them. Commission them. Then watch them rock not only your world, but also the world around them.

Disney makes for great vacations. Planning retreats make for enabling identity and significance.

Take Action

Forget resolutions. They don’t work. No organization runs with resolutions. Market share would drop, and eventually you’d go bankrupt.

Schedule your first retreat and prepare to write, because earth-moving ideas existing ONLY in your head haven’t the magic to propel you forward. Write them out. Teach them. Actualize them. You only live once.

There’s nothing worse than going through planning exercises merely to have the plan collect dust. Create a living vision. When someone asks you a career or life question or you face a major decision, your purpose will keep you standing.

What do you stand for?

***If interested in creating a plan for your career, life, etc., leave a comment. I will send you a copy of my one-page strategic plans (personal, career, family). I will include a retreat guide designed to stimulate thoughts and ideas around your mission, vision, values and objectives as you put your plan together.

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 "141 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ed, love the concept and was having a conversation today with my 8 year old on goals. Would love to see your plan to help with a model for a life plan. Especially love the idea of a planning retreat.

  2. Would love help with a family plan! Being a single parent takes lots of love and a good plan!!! Thank you Ed!

  3. Thanks for sharing this information. Would love to see your personal and family plans. Happy New Year, Ed.

  4. Enjoyed your post and would like to see your plan and retreat guide. I should have tried this with my family before now, but would like to try now. My 8 year old daughter would probably enlighten me. Happy new year to you and your family.

  5. My nieces have taught me to write long and short term plans. I have encouraged my colleagues to do likewise. Would love to compare your plan with what I have learned. I always look forward to reading your blog. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Would be interested to see your family plan and guide. Work is easy compared to single parenting! Happy New Year Ed

  7. Excellent post, Ed, on a too frequently overlooked aspect of our lives. A copy of the material you referenced would be greatly appreciated.

  8. Great article – would love to see your plan. at the retreat do you set aside time for discussing purpose and vision.

  9. I listened to you speak at the CIO conference a few years ago and was inspired and impressed. I would love to see the plan.

  10. I absolutely would love a copy of your plan etc. I am now of the belief that it is never too late. I love your posts, they have been very thought provoking.

  11. As usual, you share valuable “gems” for us to all to consider.

    Thank you for continuing your inspirational work… 🙂

    Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year!

  12. Insightful and fitting to read on New Year’s Day; I’d be grateful for a copy of your plan and retreat guide. Thank you!

  13. Thanks for the inspiration and Happy New Year to you and your family! Thanks for offering to share your plans/retreat guide…I’ll take you up on it!

  14. Ed,
    Thanks for the New Year’s pep talk. With a growing family (3 kids under the age of 6), I’d like to make sure that we all establish family values and a plan for growing close and staying close. I’d love to see your plans and your retreat guide, to use in creating our own plan.

  15. I wish I had thought to put things in this format. very useful empowering for the people you love the most. Kids will kept us honest and on tract…. many times I find I have taught them things I did not want to pass on. This can help correct that to some degree

  16. As always, a succinctly stated argument for the value of a family and personal plan! I look forward to using the tool.

  17. Hi Ed, Happy Holidays! Thank You for sharing yet another inspiring and spiritually moving piece. Yes, I too, have lived by my “cause”/Mission in life, namely; Give without expectation of receipt in this lifetime…pass it forward. 🙂 I would love to see your 1-page strategic plan. We wish you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Cheers & Blessings, Nini & The Jackson Family

  18. As a new father, I am in definite need of plan for every aspect of my life. I would value any information you would be willing to share.

    Thank you and God bless!

  19. Excellent article Ed and very appropriate as we begin a new year. What you talk about here and the examples you share testify to the equation I have adopted: small smart choices + consistancy + time = radical change. Thank you for sharing your experience strength and hope with the rest of us. These are the building blocks for achieving great things that we were all destined for! Happy New Year!

  20. You are an inspiring writer and I always enjoy your posts. I am interested in receiving your plan. Thank you and Happy New Year.

  21. Would greatly appreciate a copy of your plan. Thank you for the inspiration and for your devotion to helping others through life!

  22. Can’t thank you enough for all of your inspiration and contribution. You never disappoint. I’d love a copy.

  23. Thank you for all your contributions, this will be great as we begin a new year. I would love a copy of the plan.

  24. thanks for sharing. I’ve used a 1- 3 – 5 year planning sheet with my family and would love to see your statement. Thanks!

  25. My wife and I have always had weekly “meetings” to plan our weeks, months, year, etc. and the kids always want to be a part of it. They are now old enough where we have discussed including them, but I like your retreat approach for the family. I’d love to incorporate that and involve our whole family.

    Please share at your convenience.


  26. This makes intuitive sense to me. I have made the mistake many times of assuming the family could read my mind. Each of the individuals in the family seems to have a pretty strong personal vision, but I am not sure we have ever shared them effectively, nor have we created a shared vision. Would love to see how you did this!

  27. I regretted not asking you for a copy of your plan in your previous post on the topic, so don’t want to miss the opportunity again. Please send a copy of it. Thanks very much.

  28. Great, though-provoking post – as always! Please share your plan and retreat guide with me at your convenience.

  29. Great column, Ed. I’ve instituted something similar with my own family. I also have my children fill out quarterly happiness surveys, and when my oldest left for college we had an exit interview with him. I’m proud to say that we have experienced 0% turnover during the past five years.

  30. Hi Ed – thank you for this great article. I am definitely interested in the examples you are willing to share. I am newly-wed and my husband and I want to ensure we are intentional in our family life. I think that this may be a divine intervention to have a tool to help us do that in a purposeful way. Thank you.

  31. Thanks for sharing your family plan, Ed. I’m wondering what the family thought when you first proposed a retreat? My kids will think I’m nuts, but we’ll give it a go. Thanks for the plans.

  32. Ed; I enjoyed your article and am interested in implementing something similar. Please share a copy of your planning material.

  33. Ed, I love this and would love a copy. I use to be more diligent about career & personal planning, but got away from it ,in part ,due to having children. Thank you for the incentive.
    Lori Thesing

  34. Ed, Very well written article. I would be most interested in a copy of your plans. Thank you. Happy New Year!

  35. Ed-
    Excellent writing, I can tell you are passionate about this topic, as I am. I would love to receive your plans, hopefully I can use them to improve mine. Keep the thoughts and music flowing.
    Kindest regards.

  36. Hi Ed, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post – very relevant for the stage of life I’m in. I would love a copy of your plans. Thank you and Happy New Year

  37. Experiment, try, fail, learn, and try again. Sometimes you just got to go with your gut!

    The journey is far more important then the destination!, Learn, live, and enjoy! don’t over think it! you’ll find yourself slowed by the small stuff and go nowhere!

  38. Ed,
    Thank you for the article and I’d be happy to learn from your example. I appreciate your willingness to share.

  39. I struggle with these concepts and look forward to receiving a copy of your plan. I want to enjoy the journey more and have my family be a part of that success vs. feeling like I have to choose.
    Thank you!

  40. I could not agree more with the idea of having a plan for what you want to accomplish, how you want to live and ultimately how you want to become a better person. As I constantly revise and build my plan to lay the foundation for my life I am really looking forward to receiving a copy of your strategic plan.

  41. Ed,

    I must say that when I stumbled on to the blog of the CIO of one of the largest healthcare systems in the country I was expecting to get insight into the business and technology challenges that such a responsibility would include, not insight into something that could change my life.

    Every moment of every day I wrestle with the questions you raise and have been looking for the answers in career counselors, seminars and self help books only to be fed “quick-fix” techniques that have not been effective.

    I would be very interested to learn more about your process and how to structure a similar summit for myself and my family. I love the idea.

    Thank you.


  42. Ed,
    What you said is profound.–especially about “Why Grade ‘A’ Execs get an ‘F’ as Parents” and the fact that we have company mission goals down pat (but not family ones).
    Please share more.

  43. Fascinating concept and good timing – currently dealing with a troublesome teenager . . .or maybe I’m the problem? Would love a copy of your strategic plans.

  44. Long time reader – thanks for your thought-provoking posts! Looking forward to reviewing your plans and adapting them for me and my family. Have a great 2013 –

  45. Great article & insight. I’d love to see a copy of your strategic plan to see how we might use it in our family. Thanks in advance

  46. Ed,
    You always leave me thinking. Thanks for sharing as we are all on the same journey called life. So let’s make the most of it.


  47. Thanks for sharing Ed. I think you’ve shared this in the passed, but I’ve since changed computers and I cannot find the copies any longer. Please share again.

    And thanks…again.

  48. Ed – as always, I love keeping up with your blog posts. Please share the templates for career and personal planning/balancing. Thanks!

  49. Great post! Ideas remain ideas as long as they stay in one’s head. Put them on a piece a paper, and you’ve got yourself a plan. I’d love to see a copy of your plan, as I’m getting ready to design mine.

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