You saw my title was international director, so I’m working for this little five million dollar company made up of twenty accountants where life is black and life is white, and here I am, Mr. Lala Land, and they say, “Well, we don’t know what title to give you. What do you want for a title?” I said, “International director.” They said, “But we already work in a couple states.” I said, “International director.” So I’m flying back from Chicago, and I’m sitting beside this twenty-three, twenty-four year old interior designer who wants to get into hospitals, and we’re talking back and forth, and I give her a copy of one of my books, and – you haven’t gotten yours, but I have – so we’re flying back, and we trade cards as we’re landing in Pittsburg, and she goes, “Hey! You got to make up your own title!” I thought that was pretty insightful. I said, “Yeah, I wanted to call it intergalactic, but they wouldn’t let me.”
The second phone call I got was from the Netherlands. Now, if I had just called myself a director, and I wasn’t the international director, might I have gotten that phone call? Because the third phone call I got was from Argentina, and I just spoke in Denver, and the two groups invited me to come to their hospitals from Japan and from Denmark. Because I didn’t say that I’m not the international director, I said that I’m the international director, and now, guess what? I’m the international director. You tracking me here? What are the limitations that you place on you? Where are you going with this stuff? What do you want to do? Because somebody gets there. Somebody makes it.
You know, let’s be honest. I wanted to be a professional trumpet player. But to be a professional trumpet player, I had to be in the upper .02 percent of trumpet players. And I played for the Ice [inaudible] and the ice [inaudible] and Disney and all those things, but I never made it. I couldn’t have been a Hollywood recording trumpet player or a New York Broadway pit player. I couldn’t have done it. I didn’t get it. And it wasn’t because I didn’t practice, and it wasn’t because I didn’t care about it. I mean, I just read the book The Outliers. Have you ever read that one by Malcolm [inaudible]? You’ve got to read that book.
It talks about guys like Bill Gates and it tell you about people that we all assume are just brilliant people that made it, and you find out that there were a whole lot of forces involved. I mean, you know, Bill Gates’s mother was on the board of IBM, and his father was one of the most successful attorneys in the whole United States, and he went to the only private school in the world where he had access to a mainframe computer twenty-four hours a day in 1965. Okay?
I mean, there were some things that fed it, and the other thing that fed it is that Bill Gates spent ten thousand hours on that computer before he dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft. And what he found, what Malcolm [inaudible] found, is that all those people spent ten thousand hours that made it, practicing their trade, practicing their craft, getting really good at it. I spent the ten thousand hours, but there’s a point at which there is a separation. Now, having said that, [inaudible] wasn’t better than me. Did you ever hear of him? Probably not. There were trumpet players who weren’t better than me who made it. So somewhere along the line, something in my head said, “You’re clumsy, or you can’t do that, or –“ You tracking me here?
Because there are people who aren’t as good as me. I mean, look at the singers. There are multimillionaires that are basically talentless, you know? But they make it, so what is that that gets you over that and through it and into it if you want to do that? I mean, you know, and I’m not saying you need to be a professional trumpet player or a professional football player or a professional, but yeah, I feel sorry for the guys. I know a guy that tried out for the Steelers twice, which is a big deal to even get invited to try out twice, and got rejected twice, and has now spent the last fifteen years living that life of “I didn’t make it. I was rejected. I didn’t get there.”
You know, the guy’s like standing in the corner every day, just staring at the wall. So you can’t let that happen, either. I mean, you have to set goals that are within some realm of personal reality, but having said that, I could never have predicted two hundred fifty million dollars in grants. I could never have predicted an international research institute that now has the breast cancer genome mapping tissues for the world out of Windber. Who could predict that? How could you predict that? How could anybody have even dreamed that? But I tell you what, when someone came to my door and said, “I have an idea, can I talk to you?” Guess what I said? Always, guess what I said? “Come on it. Let’s talk.”
Even though twenty out of twenty-five of them or twenty-seven of them were stupid. But every once in a while you get that gem, you get that idea, and you work with somebody, something happened. Just like the colonel said. Well, as long as we’re doing genomics, we might as well do proteomics, too. Might as well. I don’t know what it means, and because of that we became the genomic and proteomic center with the tissue repository that was important enough that the president of [inaudible] sent an entire jet full of scientists from [inaudible] to come look at.
So we start to say okay, something good is happening here. Something good came out of this. Did any of you know that the Today show broadcast live from the Windber medical center? Did any of you know that? But they did. The Today show was in Windber broadcasting live. I forget what year it was, 2004, 2005. And you know why? Because we had a breast center designed by people who had breast cancer. And you know what they did? They said, “You know, it’s really a drag when you go in to get your mammogram because it hurts, you aren’t allowed to use deodorant, there’s never a mirror to comb your hair after you take your clothes off. You’re standing naked from the waist up in a room. It’s cold, it’s uncomfortable, it’s humiliating.”
And so we designed everything away from that, and we designed a [inaudible] where only one breast was exposed at a time and you could Velcro it back up, and dignity was part of what we sold there. And the Today show had a producer whose mother had breast cancer who just went through the other end of it and said, “Wow, I’ve got to show this place.” So the Today show came up. And we were front page of [inaudible] college international, and we were twice written up into Wallstreet Journal, and Forbes, and Fortune, and four times in USA Today. If someone would have told me that all that would happen and really nothing, that you would be able to sit in this room and not even know it, I would have said, “You’re crazy.”
But guess what? There’s [inaudible] stations now. There’s twenty-four hour everything. It’s just a screen that’s going on out there now compared to what it was. If we’d have been on the Today show fifteen, twenty years ago, that’s all that would have mattered. The world would have come to an end as we know it. But we still tripled in size. And all of this, all of this was from not being afraid to try that jump, and I think that as you go forward in your life, in your career, in your work, you need to remember just parts of today. And I’ll tell you a really cute story. So I got invited to make a speech by a chairman of the board of a large health system.
And sometimes when I speak, my peers don’t care for it. Actually, blue cross had me speak to all the CEOs once, and it was like deer in the headlights out there, because I’m talking massage and doggies and harps and they’re going, “Oh, yeah. This guy’s nuts.” Alright, so I’m making the speech to this health system. Now, I knew about halfway through that, the CEO wasn’t enamored with this story, because he actually left. He got up and walked out, but I kept going on, and at the end of the speech the chairman gets up, comes up to the front of the room, shakes my hand, standing ovation, puts his arm around me, grabs the microphone, and says, “If only ten percent of what this man said is true, it’s incredible.”
I guess that was a compliment. That means I’m a ninety percent liar. So anyway, I’m done doing this. Consider yourself the most lucky class in the world, because I’m never coming back. You all need to ask me anything you can think of, ask me any questions you want. If you don’t have any questions, then it’s up to your bosses what you do. Yeah, that was a lot of the push back I talked about. I mean, basically, in all candor, the nursing was probably thirty percent behind nursing at the other facilities financially, and so whenever I’d say “We’re going to implement this,” they’d say, “We don’t have time to do that. We don’t have time to do that. You’re not paying us enough to do that.”
But it really wasn’t a process, it was a brain process, and so what I decided was okay, if I can surround them, their patients, with other people that will provide comfort and care and love and nurturing to them, that would take the pressure off of them. And the other thing that happened is that we had a settlement from blue cross about two or three years into my tenure there that amounted to like a million dollars, and so we ended up being able to increase the salaries all around, and that began to soften things up.
But I remember the day I walked into the hospital, I’ll never forget this day. And the heaviness was gone. It just felt good. I mean, it always smelled good, but it felt good. And I walked into the HR department, and I said, “It feels different here. How many people have we hired?” Well, we had hired as many people as we had working there when I got there, so once we got to the critical mass where there were twice as many people working there and they were all new and they wanted to be there, that’s when it really started to take off. I mean, it took me at least twelve years to get to probably eighty percent of what I tried to implement with plain tree. Right after I left they became a plain tree designated hospital, which means they’re one of ten in the world out of five hundred, but maintaining that and keeping that level of commitment is a very big challenge.