My first encounter with Edward Marx was over the phone for an interview. At the time he was CIO at University Hospitals and I was interviewing him for a story – although I have no recollection of the topic. What I do recall is that Ed was in his car, his wife Julie was with him, and he had me on the speaker phone. I worked out of my house and at some point in the interview I had to ask Ed to hold while I screamed at my children to quit fighting. It was quite the professional moment but fortunately both Ed and Julie laughed.
That was about eight years ago. Not long after that interview I met Ed in person at a CHIME meeting. I was struck by how soft-soften he was and was amused by his slightly awkward shyness. I found him to be a genuinely nice guy and since then we’ve stayed in touch.
Fast-forward a few years. Today Ed is something of an health IT rock star, having won numerous accolades including the 2013 John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year award from CHIME and HIMSS.
Along the way we have developed a solid friendship and shared a few glasses of wine, a secret or two, and quite a bit of laughter. He has also been most generous in offering me valuable advice, both on a personal and professional level.
In case you aren’t familiar with Ed, he is currently the CIO of Texas Health Resources and author of the recently published book, Extraordinary Tales from a Rather Ordinary Guy. Last month I had the chance to hear his keynote address at the 2015 Texas Regional HIMSS Conference in Austin where he shared a few of his extraordinary tales, as well as the 14 rules he lives by each day. While Ed does have some “extraordinary” stories, his primary objective for writing the book and telling his stories is to encourage others to create extraordinary tales in their own lives.
Ed’s an engaging speaker and included a nice balance of well-presented information, humor, and humility. He began by sharing details of his humble beginnings and some of the struggles as a young adult, including his lack of money, being fired from his first job, and his not-so-stellar college GPA that at one point hit a low of 1.6. Despite the odds, he’s become a highly successful professional, is an accomplished Ironman triathlete, and has climbed a couple dozen mountains. He’s also happily married, a devoted father and grandfather, and an inspiring leader.
Ed shared his 14 guiding principles, but was quick to point out that these were his rules and that they may not all be important to everyone. His recommendation is that each person reflects on his own principles and finds the ones they can embrace deeply.
I later asked Ed what principles he would recommend to someone aspiring to be a healthcare CIO. His suggestion:
“I think volunteer and give until it hurts. Our jobs as leaders is to serve. If you don’t get that, you lose your humility. Just focus on serving other people. It’s the key to everything else working. I’d also add that if you are just starting out, you should build a team of life givers because leadership is tough if you aren’t surrounded by really strong people that help you. And you have to seek and chase vision, because that sets the stage to where you want to go and how you get there.”
As I reflect on Ed’s principles, a few I personally embrace include:
Risk boldly and often – Ed somewhat seriously suggests that it helps if you have ever been fired as it helps you gain certain insights. As a person who has re-invented herself and her career more than once, I’ll admit that taking bold risks can be pretty scary but also extremely gratifying when you succeed.
Work your ass off – Ed, who clearly has had many successes, does not minimize the importance of hard work. Maybe as a result of some deep-seeded insecurities I totally embrace this principle. I’ve always felt the need to do just a little bit more because I’m always suspicious that someone smarter, faster, or more ambitious than me could be nipping on my heels and trying to steal my moments of glory. Regardless of the motivation, hard work has served me well.
Physical fitness – I once did a half-marathon and once was enough. I’m happy to leave the triathlons and mountain peaks to Ed and others. I’ll just stick with my steady work-outs four to five times a week to prevent my head from exploding and my body from losing its battle with gravity. As Ed re-iterates, fitness impacts all other areas of your life, so just do something.
I’ve just started reading Ed’s book, which I am finding to be both thought-provoking and entertaining, and sure to fuel the future telling of my own extraordinary stories.
To learn more about Ed, his book, or speaking engagements, visit his website http://edmarx.guru/. Full disclosure: if you buy the book, Ed won’t be sharing any of his royalties with me (darn it.)
Michelle Ronan Noteboom
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