All About Ego- Truth or Lies?

John: I am working on breaking the habit of being self-serving. John 1.0 had a tendency to take credit for success and deny responsibility for failure. In other words, it worked because of me. If it didn’t, it was because of someone or something else. On some level, it makes sense; as it protects and builds your own ego. The problem is, if you deny responsibility for when something goes wrong, you can’t learn from your mistakes. John 2.0 is accountable to everyone and does not care who gets the credit, as long as he is a valuable contributor. This made me think about the last time I made a drastic mistake as John 1.0. Maybe you thought about it too. Did the mistake occur because you spoke too quickly, didn’t get all the facts before you made a decision, or alienated someone and ruined a relationship? Chances are it was either fully or partially your fault. After all, you were there. Pain and mistakes are your greatest teachers though; without them, how can you improve?

Question for my three friends: when was the last time, you protected your ego for fear of admitting a mistake and you missed an opportunity to learn?

Jen: I cannot think of a specific situation where this exactly applied, aside from silly situations with my kids. “No, Mommy never did anything like that…” Rather, I sometimes lean too far in the opposite direction and readily admit my lack of knowledge of something early on. Let’s just say that I may sometimes tip the balance of confidence vs. transparency. I have, however, had situations where I truly believed I understood an idea or a process and set out to undertake the affiliated task. Then downstream I realized I was mistaken and had to backpedal and work extra hard to get back on point.  A recent example was related to marketing and patient selection.  In my specialized healthcare field, there are specific criteria and stipulations from CMS that define which patients are candidates for our care. Over a year into my role, I found out that I was mistaken about one seemingly minor caveat related to length of stay calculation. I shared this incorrect ‘fact’ with many individuals during training and in business development meetings. I used it as a point of argument for why we could not accept certain patient populations.

It took an ‘ego hit’, but I made the right choice

and I learned what I needed to.

Thankfully, my misunderstanding did not have any impact on which patients we were able to care for since our internal policy aligned with what I had been saying, just not for the same reason.  I discovered my error when reading a peer-reviewed article on a different subject that happened to make mention of it. I had a jaw-dropping moment, and a knot in my throat as I dialed my boss to ask, “Have I been wrong all this time.” I risked my credibility when it was necessary for me to divulge and correct my mistake, but I did it quickly and with sincere apology. The bigger risk to my credibility, and my job, would have been to continue on sharing the misinformation, or even to dismiss it as if it never occurred. It took an ‘ego hit’, but I made the right choice and I learned what I needed to.

 Molly:  When I started my career in oncology clinical research, there were only five employees; two oncologists, two nurses, and one coordinator. It was all hands on deck and a great learning experience as I got to see (and do) most of the areas in clinical research. One of the areas I did not have exposure to was the clinical research contract, budget, billing, and negotiations. That was all taken care of by the university clinical research office in Tucson, about two hours south of Scottsdale, AZ. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the initiative to learn more about the process at that time. As I advanced in my career along the leadership path I quickly identified this as a knowledge gap for me. To shorten this gap, I earned my masters degree in healthcare administration, attended a clinical research finance boot camp, and hired a consultant to train our team. What was hard for me was going from being an all-around expert to having to lead a team that I had no experience in other than education. I was used to being the expert and having credibility for the changes I was recommending to the team. In this scenario, I wanted to improve our clinical trial contract language and budgets, but I was getting a lot of resistance from the team saying “this is how the industry has always been”. For financial sustainability we had to change. My solution to was hire people who I felt was a lot smarter and business savvier than me. I was very open about my lack of experience in this area when hiring. While I was uncomfortable not being the expert, it actually demonstrated leadership and character to surround myself with very talented individuals who raised the bar for everyone in the program and ultimately our patients.

Living in a loving and accepting family environment, I learned quickly in my youth that being transparent and admitting mistakes always helped me be a better person.

Trish:   I can’t think of the last time that I protected my ego for fear of admitting a mistake and missed an opportunity to learn. When John posed this question, I had to sit back and think about this question, had to even walk away for a few days, come back to the question and think some more. At the end of the day, I still can’t think of a time I have done this. I assume it was in my youth, and I probably did a fair share of lying to my parents after I screwed something up or hurt myself doing something dumb. Living in a loving and accepting family environment, I learned quickly in my youth that being transparent and admitting mistakes always helped me be a better person.

I’ve lived my personal and professional life quite comfortable with admitting mistakes and being forthcoming in my knowledge base. I also feel that as a leader, it’s important to create a culture in your organization or department that promotes the fact that mistakes are made, that they can be fixed, and we all move forth better and more educated. I’ve also worked hard to create and maintain this culture in my own household.

Now, I must admit that recently, I was using electric shrub clippers in the backyard and I was bit on the foot by several red ants (if you live in the South, you know that these ants are vicious and the bites sting and itch for days!) While being bit mercilessly, I cut wayyyyy through the thick outdoor electric cord! While yelling out to my partner, throwing the clippers away from me, and assessing the ant bites, I didn’t say that I ruined the power cord and almost shocked myself. I focused my verbal re-creation on the ant bites first and then said we needed to go to Home Depot and get a new cord. After a hearty laugh, my partner later said to me on the way to Home Depot, “Why don’t you wear socks and sneakers instead of flip flops when you are out in the mulch!?!”

by John R. NoceroJennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham

Originally posted on LinkedIn on 10/30/2018


Originally published on LinkedIN on 10/4/18; by John R. NoceroJennifer RawleyMolly Downhour & Patricia Graham

This week’s topic: Vacation

John: Both Molly and Trish are out on vacation this week, which makes Jen and I a bit envious and reflective. Both of them just knew when to take a break and recharge their batteries. I struggle with the idea of stepping away. It’s not that I am so driven that I do not feel I can, but it is truly that my work is my biggest passion in life, and is my true purpose. I also understand that the brain does better with rest, and so does the heart. Mental and physical fatigue causes stress, sloppy decision-making, and carelessness. I try to build vacations into my weekly routine – time on the weekend where I don’t look at my computer, enjoying a foot-long BMT at Subway (double-meat, double-cheese baby) alone, and time watching MLB does my heart good. I found that these short breaks allow me to disconnect long enough and meaningfully enough to recharge my batteries and I come back more responsive, more creative and more fired up to do great work. They don’t cost much – Subway generally sets me back $15, but that hour there is so meaningful, giving me great separation from work and provided inspiration as well, not to mention the health benefits.

What do you think Jen, do we not wait and go ahead and vacate too?

Jen: Well truthfully John, I am still stuck on $15 at Subway…how does one accomplish that? I had to re-read that a few times in shock.

Vacation is not something I do often. Most of my time ‘off’ is spent either on short 2-3 day quick-trips or traveling to visit family, which is wonderful of course, but to me does not qualify as vacation. Last year my family went on our first trip in years that I think qualifies. We took the kids to NYC on the train. Both the journey and the destination hit the mark and we had a fantastic time. When we got home, my daughter Addysen painted a memory for us which I will forever treasure (above). My husband’s parents came along, which was awesome – having extra adults with all the walking and crowds was a major win.

I admit that I got sucked into work a little bit, but for only worthy causes. I was needed to emergently credential a provider due to a death in the family of another. Also I was simultaneously trying to help locate a very important document remotely located inside a department that was closed for the holidays. I dropped the credentialing call in a train tunnel and struggled to speak with the second individual from wind blowing me over in Battery Park. No pressure!

Overall the trip was a success – but it was freezing cold (18 degrees!!!) and we were layered up but determined to make the most out of the time we had. The kids were whiny and sometimes crying from the cold, and every picture looks like we are in the Alps with only our cheeks showing, but we made it thru! I was annoyed by my work phone more than usual because it was buried under layers. In order to get it out, I had to remove gloves and unwrap, which was not worth it in the bitter cold. I let it ring and buzz, which was stressful for me. Here’s why- I stress more to be completely cut-off and wondering what’s needed than I do staying at least minimally involved.  I know many time management and work-life-balance experts advise against this, but it just doesn’t work for me to be cut off for more than a few hours.

Like many of you, I get hundreds of e-mails and texts most days, even over the holidays. The times I have tried (or been forced) to cut myself off from my work phone have been anxiety inducing. I worry about the buildup and what I will ‘go back to’. For the record, this is not unique to my present job, its something that has been the case since my first healthcare leadership position and prior to that when I owned a restaurant. For this reason, I function instead in a ‘critical only’ sort of mode. What this means is that I peruse my inbox 2-3 times each day mainly clearing it out, filing away, delegating, or bumping into a file I will name “do this when I get back” or similar. I set my out of office to inform external senders how to contact me in an emergency and advise them to resend the email with “URGENT” in the subject line. When I peruse the inbox and text messages, I will usually only make note of them unless urgent, even if my reply is asked for. If I am still needed a while later, I will address. Many times however, the team has already resolved the issue or determined its no longer urgent. This helps me to have some boundaries and free time. It also helps my team to stretch their skills and grow.

To answer the question, should we take vacation, I say “YES!” I was hoping to do so this month, but it’s looking more like November due to some unforeseen circumstances. I am always waiting for the right time, and there probably isn’t going to be a perfect time, so I might just pull the trigger. Maybe Molly and Trish can write something about us while we are gone, what do you think?

Molly & Trish on vacation



Do Nothing

Originally published on LinkedIN on 9/27/18 see it here

By John R. NoceroJennifer RawleyMolly Downhour & Patricia Graham

Topic: Do Nothing

John:  I get so focused when I am in the office – all I want to do is get things done. But during a recent weekend, I didn’t do much of anything. I got up regularly, pet the dog (I love him so much), made a sandwich, watched the rain. Yet I felt like I got a ton done; my brain recharging more than anything. It is astonishing how much you can get done when you don’t really do…anything and just stare out the window. I thought about new things, such as writing topics, or improving methodologies. I reflected, I cried, I purged regret. Working from home was amazing for me, as being in a different environment stimulated my thoughts. Originally, I was thinking that being home will be so difficult, that it was going to be an unnecessary hardship. Actually, it wasn’t the chore I thought it would be. Now looking back on my time at home, and saying let the world pass by, is a smart move. It was research in a way – research being me-search.

Question for my three friends: did you ever have a time where you didn’t do anything, just let life pass by, and the synapses fired in a way you did not expect?

Jen: I try to ‘do nothing’ every day if I can. It’s something I do purposefully so that I can be alone, uninterrupted and completely unoccupied and free to think. It’s the best thing I do for myself on a daily basis. Every now and then, I get a chance at a lengthy “do nothing” block of time. It’s usually on a weekend and my husband, knowing I get such a boost from it, will take both of our children off somewhere for the day or overnight. These are the times I keep a certain notebook and pencil nearby wherever I sit or walk and ideas come faster than I can write them down. The notebook is almost illegible to read (being a pharmacist helps decipher later) and an unorganized mess of words and phrases. I can take those random notes and thought and translate them later into tangible goals, actions or creative future plans. This time is so sacred and coveted by me that whenever I get asked “what’s your favorite thing to do,” I quickly answer “absolutely nothing” – I’m sure you can imagine the looks I get after that!

Molly:  Fall 2014 was a stressful time. I was burning the candle at both ends with a demanding job and family responsibilities. I could feel myself closing in on my breaking point, so I took an unplanned vacation by myself to visit my parents. For five days I was responsible for absolutely nothing. I took naps in the sun listening to the waves crash on the beach. I ran for the pleasure of running and not for race training. I sat on the dock breathing the fresh fall salt air; enjoying the water-colored sunsets with a glass of wine. I ate delicious meals planned and made by my parents. I read books with no value other than just being a light story with a predictable happy ending. I didn’t wear any make up, use a hair dryer, or dress in anything other than work out clothes and pajamas. It was the recharge I desperately needed before hitting the ground running on my return. Even the memory of the peacefulness I felt during that time brings a smile to my face and that is priceless.

Trish: It takes a huge effort for me to “just do nothing” on a regular basis, but I realize it is very important for me to do so. I know that if I take time for myself to breathe, to just sit, clear my head, and recharge my batteries, I am rejuvenated and have great clarity. My method of doing nothing actually takes a good bit of effort. My perfect “do nothing” scenario goes like this. Step one: Check clock… is it time yet to do nothing? Step two: Decide that it is time to do nothing. Step three: Finish out work for the day by rechecking work calendar for the next day, did I reply to all the emails/calls I planned? Yes? Okay, log off computer and walk out of home office! Step four: Go grab the essentials: outdoor speaker, glass of Bourbon (neat), a chocolate truffle, Marty, and the dog. Step five: Assemble all required essentials on the outdoor patio, assume the “do nothing” position- on a patio chair with my feet on an ottoman. Step six: Breathe through my first sip of Bourbon, turn on music and look at nature. We both may sit for a while and say nothing, pet the dog, and sip on our Bourbon. At some point, Marty and I will begin discussing our day, a plan, or an idea. Some of the greatest discussions have turned into ideas that have turned into reality have happened on that patio. Peace brings clarity. Clarity brings forth ideas. I’m looking forward to my sip of Bourbon and chocolate truffle this evening. What will you do to bring you peace and clarity this evening?

Do It Every Day!

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer RawleyMolly Downhour & Patricia Graham

John:    I just got done with a normal workout: 100 chin-ups, 200 dips, 300 pushups, 400 squats. I work out every day, have since I was 13. When I was playing sports, it was about becoming a better athlete, after college, it was about looking good for the chicks, and now it’s about fighting off the grim reaper. I’m 43 and will say, I look pretty good for a 43 year old cat. At least I think so – I really don’t care what others think, except my son, who plays college football and still can’t out-chin me. Anyway, it has become an important part of my day, my Prozac time and why I don’t need therapy. It grounds me. Helps me focus. Centers me. Press rewind and hit play, stop, repeat. I have done this routine over and over for 30 years. It’s normal. Doing something every day represents so many areas of my life now, both personally and professionally, where I am constantly trying, learning, getting it, and once I get it, it becomes so important that I do it every day. In the age of super productivity hacks and abs in 15 minutes, basic hard work is important enough to me that I do it daily. If something is not important, I don’t do it. EVER.

Question for my three friends – what is the one thing that is so important you do it every day?

Jen:  The one thing I do every day is find uninterrupted time to do nothing but think. It can be for a block of 15 or so minutes, or an hour plus, but it must be devoted time. For instance, I can’t do it effectively while driving or listening to music (although that may work for others). I used to call it quiet reflection, others may call it deep thought. I told Trish about it a year or so ago and she happened by an article on transcendental meditation and dropped it on my Facebook wall and said “I’m ready to start doing this!” You can read that article here, it’s called “My Only Regret Is That I Didn’t Find This Practice Twenty Years Ago.” 

One of the things in life I am most grateful for is that I did naturally begin this practice many years ago. I have had it as part of my routine for as long as I can remember, even as a small child. Back then, I thought other people might think I was odd and didn’t really tell anyone. My parents thought I took a lot of naps, but in actuality I just spent a lot of time lying in my bed with my eyes closed thinking. It’s not the same as having an uncontrollable stream of thoughts like some people get during stress or anxiety. It’s a deliberate process of taking all the external input and stimuli from the world around me and then processing it. The first time I ever ran a defragmentation on my computer I remember how I thought – “Wow! This is a great visual to explain exactly what I’m doing in my thinking time – I’m taking all the stuff floating around and reorganizing it, cleaning up, and making space for new information.” In actuality, it’s much simpler, but the results are the same – my brain gets defogged, sharper, and I get a ton of energy. If I miss doing this for more than a day or two my world seems to crumble. At best I lose my ability to reason, struggle to make decisions, or am hyper-emotional. At worst, I literally get sick. For that reason, I will do everything in my power to protect my time, even blocking it on my calendar.

Molly:  I cannot believe I’m sharing this, but the overall message to me is important. The thing that is so important to me to do every day is connect with my husband…by wearing matching underwear (pattern, not style). Yup. You read that right. It started as a joke. We were driving home from working-out and were listening to ESPN Fantasy Football Podcast. There was a commercial for MeUndies (matching underwear for couples). I thought that was odd for that specific radio audience and we laughed about it in the car. I checked them out when we got home since Valentine’s Day was coming up and thought a three pack would be a cute and funny gift. My husband loved it so much he bought us the monthly subscription. Now each morning, we ask each other, “what undies today?” as they also have great names like “Taco Love.” The point is that we connect everyday first thing in the morning (even when we travel) and laugh.

Trish:    For the last six months or so, I’ve started off the day by uttering the same words aloud and with decent volume, “Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning!” Now, it’s possible that I am speaking to no one in particular, except maybe the ceiling- but on most days, the dog and my significant other (Marty) are both still in the bed and hear my morning greetings. I’ve learned that no matter how rough of a workday I know is ahead of me, I am starting the day out on a positive note. The mini-routine is this: morning alarm goes off, I shut alarm off, dog wakes (shakes and stretches), while dog is making is slow crawl toward me for his morning pet, I say aloud, “Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning!” Marty may let out a funny groan or may even mock my announcement with a childish-nasty teasing version of “Good Morning” that sounds something like “Ged morninnnnngggg”, but the dog is always happy to hear my morning announcement. I’ll laugh, Marty will laugh, the dog will smile, and I’ll jump out of bed with the dog following close behind so that the dog can give his version of morning greetings to the backyard lawn.

As cheesy as this mini-routine is, it has become a very important thing I do every day to create positivity from the get-go. My morning announcement reminds me of a teacher I had in high school that would stand outside of his classroom door at the start of each new class period, and as students would approach to walk into his classroom, he’d smile and say “Be Ready! Be Ready!” He’d clap his hand once while saying this statement or even pat a student on the back as they passed through the classroom door. As a result, he created a positive and joyful start to that day’s American History lesson. (Shout out here to one fine educator and leader, Mr. Paul Gossert previously of Lecanto High School, Lecanto, FL). While some of the students would repeat “Be Ready!” right back to Mr. Gossert, or would say “I know, I know, Be Ready!”, no one could argue Mr. Gossert’s intent to motivate and inspire his students with his simple interaction. Okay, now back to my simple proclamation…

Instead of waking up and immediately reviewing my calendar for the day in my head and adding on to my already long work and personal to-do list, this simple act of expressing upbeat optimism has made a difference in how I approach the day. A little positive attitude, smiles, and laughter can erase whatever negative thing or experience happened the day before and kick-off a new day with brightness and confidence. Sometimes this brightness will last throughout a hard day or helps smooth out the rough edges of the challenges that I may encounter. Consistently, I make a good morning turn into a good day that turns into a good evening and the cycle repeats.

I encourage you to try something cheesy to communicate to your partner when you wake up, to your child before heading to school, or to your office staff as you walk through the door. I’d love to hear from you how it made you feel and how you observed others when communicating. I bet you’ll promote amazing joyfulness and be cheerful throughout the day. Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning!

Originally published on LinkedIN on 9/19/18  see it here

Simplest Way to Improve Your Life

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham

 “What’s The Simplest Way To Improve Your Life?

John: The simplest way to improve your life is to change your perspective and do something different. That’s it. You need to have a willingness to walk away from anything that does not suit you or your terms. That sounds selfish, but it is part defense mechanism, and partly because I don’t ever want to devalue myself. I am old enough where I should work with the best people and roll with the best people, in both my professional and personal life. If you are not the best to me, then you can roll with someone else. People are like seasons. Sometimes they leave and that’s okay – they leave room for something better to come. Sometimes they come back and your relationship is even better than before. That’s fantastic. I see myself as the driver of my own fun bus. If you want to jump on, great, you can ride with me. if not, that’s great too. If I can’t give you love, then I need to move it along. Either way, I still win. This is the absolute simplest way I know to make my life better.

Jen:  For me, improving my life simply was not always simple because I didn’t believe it possible. I had to first learn and implement some fundamental principles and then the floodgates opened for me. Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily and serving others is life changing for me. Doing these two things results in immediate fulfillment like nothing else.  Whenever I feel down or upset about something, I seek out opportunities to find someone to thank, give a compliment, or ask if i can help them with something. Sometimes, when larger scale service opportunities are presented I am inclined to excuse myself as being “too busy”, and sometimes I do turn them down. However, I can honestly say each and every time that I have participated in a service venture, I leave wondering how I could ever have considered not going. I have energy, enthusiasm, and feel genuinely good about myself and the recipients.

“Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily

and serving others is life changing …”

Some of my best memories and life-changing moments happened while providing service. My favorite was after Hurricane Katrina, while I was a pharmacy student in Atlanta, there was an opportunity to serve the thousands of displaced families from the areas hit. I worked with a team to temporarily set up a disaster clinic in a shopping center parking lot. We put hundreds of fold out tables and thousands of chairs all over and provided immediate medical screenings and prescriptions. Not only was it fascinating to see the work of many produce life changing (and even potentially life-saving) help, I was able to practice pharmacy in a way I haven’t since. Declaration of disaster laws allowed pharmacists and other medical professionals to practice at the height of our skill-set and beyond what our licensure typically allows. I learned so much in those few days. I went back and forth from doing patient screenings and prescriptions to running into the Kroger pharmacy and filling them. We provided all the services for free and several businesses, including Kroger who was my employer at the time, helped pay the bill. I also recall Chick-fil-a providing meals for everyone. That’s the great thing about service and thankfulness, they are endless as each prompts the other and can cause a domino effect. My few hours working as a pharmacist intern allowed me to serve others, better learn my craft, receive kindness from others such as the food, and thanks from those I helped. There is no feeling in the world like when I handed a mother of a small child anti-seizure medications they had left without, seeing the relief in her eyes and hearing her tearful heartfelt thanks. It made me feel like I changed her world, and it changed mine. If this isn’t life changing at its best and most simple, I don’t know what is.

Molly:  I love the topic “simplest way to improve your life” (as if it was ever that simple.) We all have responsibilities and basic needs that need to be satisfied for survival. With that in mind, my recommendation to improve your life is to surround yourself with positive people and minimize toxicity. For me, that means working with people that share my passion and support me as a colleague and friend. One of the core values in my company is locking arms to achieve goals together. I love that we are there for each other, even if we’ve never met. Just hearing the heart-filled stories about co-workers showing up for each other in times of need can give me the boost I didn’t know I needed. I look forward to our company newsletters to read and see pictures of my co-workers locking arms with each other and the community over and over again. When you work full time, work culture is everything. To improve your life, do a double check to make sure your work environment is the right fit for you and a positive one.

Trish:    I have an ongoing war with my brain trying to figure out just how to improve my life. I’ve been convinced…for a good while now…that if I can simplify my life, it will be a grand show of blissful happiness. My epiphany occurred several years ago when I was working on writing a thank you note and I trashed several versions because I was trying too hard to convey just the right message. I know we’ve all trashed a few thank you note versions, but I take my gorgeous must-be-monogrammed-stationary seriously and messing up even one piece ticks me off! Okay, so, back to the epiphany. My significant other was watching yet another one of my complicate-all-things-in-life-scenarios and he said, “Trish! Just write something simple-stupid!” With that, I knocked out a simple and effective thank you message and didn’t waste one more piece of my precious stationary! I remembered that “simple-stupid” came from a mentor of my significant other. The mentor said that leaders should approach every easy and difficult situation with simplicity in mind. He called the technique “simple-stupid” to remind himself that it is stupid to approach any situation without simplicity first.

As “simple-stupid” as this sounds, I find it hard to remind myself to approach daily life with simplicity. Instead of working hard to remind myself, I made a metallic gold sign that says, “Keep Life Simple” and hung it in my kitchen. I look at this sign daily and it helps remind me that I am not alone in my quest to improve my life and we all struggle with over complicating things. From writing thank you notes, having discussions with poor-performing subordinates, making sure the kids have everything they need for school, to finding time in your own schedule to just breathe for a moment, we must find ways to remind ourselves daily to simplify. Hmmm. Maybe I should ditch the fancy monogrammed stationary for a cute pack of dollar store thank you notes. It’s the simple and meaningful message that counts, right?