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Health Leadership P3

Your brain’s full of these things. And work away from sun to sun to do what other men have done. They follow in the beaten track, and out, and in, and forth, and back, and still their devious course pursue to keep the path that others do. But how the wise old wood gods laugh who saw that first primeval calf. Ah, many things this tale might teach, but I am not ordained to preach.

That’s what’s going on. Precedent. We have precedent, and we follow that precedent to the death. We follows those paths, the paths that make no sense at all. We follow those paths over and over and over again, and I have to tell you, if you think that change is scary, wait ‘til you experience obsolescence. I can remember being called into the office in January of 1992, and the boss said, “Well, the sisters decided to sell the hospital. It’ll take place within the next three months. Look for work. It’s over. It’s over.” No matter how hard you worked, no matter what you did, it’s over. You are now obsolete in this position.

And I had a binder three months later, I swear to you, it was this thick with 253 rejection letters for jobs. Okay? So take your shoe off. Wave it around once in a while and experience what’s going on, and then understand that those people who refuse to take their shoe off when you are trying to lead a change in your organization, they’ll probably never take their shoe off. Ever. And that’s what we’re going to talk about.

So down here in the bottom, this would be me. I was trying to escape. Those are my cousins. I’m still trying to escape from them. But that was me whenever I was whatever, eighteen months, two years, I don’t know. And in healthcare, I was trying to do the same thing. I was trying to escape from the calf paths. Why did it have to be that way?

I remember meeting the president of an eight billion dollar health system. I walked in, sat down, and he knew I was a hospital president, and he started off by saying, “I just want to tell you,” this is his opening statement, “I just want to tell you I don’t like hospital presidents.” That was the opening statement. And I said, “You know, I have a rough time with them myself.” Because they’re following these calf paths. How do we change it? How do we move on?

And so what the leaders do, what’s your job? Your job is to create a vision and a direction for the organization, and then to mobilize to accomplish that vision and direction. That’s a great combination of words. It’s a great combination of words. But the key up here is to mobilize, to get people to do it. I mean, you can tell, I could tell those three vice presidents, “I’m going to introduce massage therapy.” That was one of my first statements. “I am going to introduce massage therapy into a hospital.” And I knew why I wanted to do it. If you read all the literature that was out there, the American public was spending billions of dollars a year to get massages. But they weren’t getting them in hospitals. So it’s like, if they’re going to spend the money on it, and we need money, why not have them spend it on it at a hospital? That was the logic behind it.

But the calf path was, well, massage therapists didn’t go to medical school. They don’t have a four year degree usually. They’re not advanced, certified, yadda, yadda, yadda. People will think that we are – okay? And so the resistance was it’s not what we do in hospitals. We can’t do that in a hospital. We cannot add that. So we will give you lip service and we will tell you that we agree with you, we will tell you that we’re going to do it, but we will find every possible road block we can find to keep that from occurring. Have you experienced this? Have any of you ever experienced this in your lives? Have you caused it? I don’t know. I mean, I’m asking, right?

So I had a young administrative fellow from the University of Pennsylvania who was on a full scholarship, and this guy maintained that he was not bright. Full scholarship, UPenn. He said, “I’m not bright, I just can’t forget anything. So when I read something or hear something, I remember it my whole life.” And I’m thinking, “Yeah, that works. You may not think you’re bright, but that’ll work for you.” And so he talked to me about what’s going to be our goal. And I said, “I don’t want to do what people will like. I want to do what people will love.”

Now, I’m a baby boomer, and I have to tell you, he have been a total pain the whole way through. I mean, the boomers have messed up your life in so many ways you can’t even imagine. You just can’t even dream of all the things we’ve done to you. And we’ll continue to do until we ride off into the sunset. I remember walking into the house one day after having bought a pair of blue jeans that were clearly the wrong size, but they fit me, and I was on cloud nine. It was kind of like a Jerry Seinfeld bit. I had on this – it has been a long time ago since I even saw these numbers – but I had on these 32 waist blue jeans, and I should have clearly been in 34s, but they fit, and I’m like, “Yeah!” I’m walking in, kind of doing this, “Check it out.” My jeans on, and my wife took NewsWeek and slid it across the counter. On the front cover of NewsWeek was a guy standing there in blue jeans, and it says, “Levis changes the shape of their jeans to pear shaped to fit the baby boomers.”

We changed your blue jeans, we changed the way you do credit cards, we changed the stock market. We’ve screwed up a lot of stuff. We changed sex. We changed drugs and rock and roll. Now, here I am, a baby boomer, thinking okay, my mom and dad went to the doctor. The doctor literally can say to them, “Okay, I would like you to go out in the parking lot and lay down, and I’m going to drive over you just to see your resistance to my tired.” They go, “Yes, Doctor. I’ll do whatever you tell me.” Right? They were like that. It was like, you tell me what you want me to do, I’m there.

But the boomers, and you all, I go to the doctor, and he says, “Well, I think you should do this.” And I reach down and I pull out this many printouts from my computer and say, “Well, you know, there’s a different theory on this, and there’s this philosophy is different than the one that – and maybe we should talk about this.” Am I right? It’s a whole different approach. It’s just different.

And so I’m looking at these boomers, and I’m looking at my peers, and I’m thinking, “We’re demanding. We’re obnoxious. We’re over the top. We expect a lot, and our kids are worse.” That’s a lot of you. They want it now. We work our whole life to get our half a million dollar house, and they get it the first job. So it’s like, what do we do here that will make them love us? That was the goal.

Now, this is where it gets interesting for you. There’s a guy by the name of Dr. Leiland Kaiser, and he’s a [inaudible] graduate. He’s probably close to 140 years old now. He’s like Yoda. When you listen to him it’s like listening to a Buddhist monk up on a mountain with clouds around him. He’s a brilliant guy, but Dr. Kaiser did a lecture on this once, and I got to hear the lecture, and it’s stuck with me my whole life. The future is a design function. It’s up to you to design your future. You, individually, to design your future.

I had a friend who was a 4.0 all through college, IQ of 150 plus, and could have been a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist, could have been a novelist, a whatever. A diplomat. President of the United States. But kept going from lousy job to lousy job her whole life. And I said, “What’s your deal?” And she says, “You know, did you ever see the astrological sign for Pisces?” She said, “You know, we kind of just go where the water takes us. We’re just floating around.”

Well, my whole thing was you don’t have to go where the water takes you. You can design your future, and that was his philosophy, as well. Interestingly enough, again, back in the 90s, every time a CEO in healthcare went to a conference, they would give us a binder, but it was real leather. Thousands and thousands of animals were sacrificed for our conferences. I had a shelf that I was unpacking when I retired a couple of years ago, and that shelf was filled with leather binders, most of which I hadn’t used because I had so many of them, and I pulled one out that literally I had not opened since 1992. And when I opened that binder, it said Nick’s Goals, and it listed them.

And it was like, go back to Carnegie [inaudible], get your second master’s, go to Harvard, get this, do this, get your fellowship, double your salary, lose twenty pounds – I did that and gained it back – but they’re all there. All these goals were listed, and I’m going, wow. I did them all. I designed my future. And when I looked at that, it was like how did that work? Well, I still believe that one of the reasons that it worked was because nobody else knew my goals, so they really couldn’t stop be from accomplishing my goals. Does that make sense to you?

Did you ever see the movie Ghosts with those little black things come out of the sewers and pull you down into the sewers? We’re surrounded by those little things. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look in front of you. Look behind you. Look at your family. Look at your neighbors. There’s always someone saying, “You know, she’s cuter than you,” or “You know, you’re stupid.”

I remember as a kid once I was sitting at dinner. I was about ten or eleven, and I knocked my milk over. And my dad said, “You are the clumsiest kid I have ever seen in my life!” He only had two kids. But I’m thinking, man, I must be really clumsy if I’m the clumsiest kid he ever saw, and so that started out as a cobweb in my head. Oh, boy, I’m clumsy. I’m a clumsy kid. Are you tracking me on this? The calf path. And by the time I was in junior high and I’m tripping and not catching a ball all the time, which all junior high kids pretty much do, I’m thinking man, I’m exceptionally clumsy here. And it’s, like, preying on me. I go bowling, and I’m like, should I start out with the left foot or the right foot? Because I’m clumsy. Am I going to trip and drop the – so the cobweb becomes a rope, the rope becomes a chain, the chain becomes these big steel cables that wrap around us. All of us. We all have these things in our brain that are our creation, that stem back to junior high. They do. And we let those things get in our way. We let those little ghosts come up and pull you down.

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