Live It Up!

John:    One of the hardest experiences I ever had was losing my parents at a young age. They were absolute rocks in my life for as long as I could remember. My wife is experiencing now, as her parents are in poor health, and she is afraid that today she will get the call that they are gone. While she still sees them frequently, they don’t get around as fast as they once did and, eventually, they won’t be around anymore. Words can’t describe how much I’ll miss them when they’re gone. I know quite well that the same thing will eventually happen with me. I will eventually lose a step, can’t get around as fast as I once did. And I will wonder whether or not I should be living life to the absolute fullest today instead of saving for tomorrow. But I still believe tomorrow will come and I need to be prepared.

Question for my three friends: do you live for the fullest today instead of saving for tomorrow?

Jen: Tough question! When I was 13 my mom was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease following a pregnancy that almost resulted in her death (and my sister’s, who was born in the car weighing just over 3 pounds!) Fortunately they both survived, but there were several years where every single day I thought it could be my mom’s last. She has since survived numerous blood clots, pulmonary emboli, AMIs, infections and more. My entire family lived for the moment, through every decision from choosing filet over sirloin to outlandish vacations over stay-cations. One day, my mom saw a car she really liked, and later that day my dad showed up at home with a brand new Candy-Apple-Red Mustang GT 5.0 convertible. I still have no idea how he pulled that off financially, we were far from wealthy. They made a lot of other seemingly crazy decisions over the years. When I was in middle school, they decided the Sunday as spring break was over to load up the car and drive from Bozeman, Montana up to Edmonton, Alberta ‘just because it would be really cool and make a great story!’ And they were right, it makes a great story!

It was not until more recently that they settled down somewhat. My mom is going on 23 years sick, but breakthrough medications have given her a second chance. As a result of these outlandish whims, I now lean towards a more conservative and steady approach. I suppose I don’t need to experience the risk or thrill of it.

No matter how you choose to live your life, do it authentically and own your choices. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

What does living to the fullest really mean anyhow? For my parents, it meant sports cars, traveling, months-long international cruises, parties, and living a life that is book-worthy. For me, living to the fullest means doing whatever makes me feel complete, no matter what circumstances surround me. This usually comes from simple things like spending time with my children just watching a movie, reading a book, or talking together. It’s different for everyone and I don’t fault my parents for their choices. In a way, I find it admirable that they tackled life as they did instead of sulking or giving up on life. Reflecting now, I’ve just realized while writing this that it’s probably why my mom survived the worst of the years. No matter how you choose to live your life, do it authentically and own your choices. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Molly: In this point in my life, I am all about the balance between living for today and saving for tomorrow. However, I’m in this position now because I focused on saving starting in my early 20s. I always set aside part of my paycheck for savings in addition to what I put into my 401K. I worked extra hours and invested in myself by pursing professional certifications and education. I didn’t really think about whether or not I was living in the moment, as my peer group and husband were following similar professional paths. Popular phrases were “pay your dues” not “work/life balance”, and we followed suit without question. It wasn’t until my late 30s did I stumble on finding my sweet spot with saving for tomorrow and living in the fullest. I fiercely protect my family time and use my paid time off without guilt. I do not have regrets of grinding early on in life, as I’m reaping the benefits of being able to balance it now.

I work to live life to the fullest today, but I dream and plan of my tomorrow.

Trish: John, I work to live life to the fullest today, but I dream and plan of my tomorrow. I think of what retirement may look like, where I may want to live 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20+. My tomorrow is what drives my today. My answer is as simple as that. I look forward to hearing what Jen and Molly’s thoughts are. I also look to you, John, to ask this same question to #fourfriends a year from now.


Originally published on 11.15.18 on LinkedIn

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

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

Make Ship Happen

By John R. Nocero & Jennifer S. Rawley

John: Something bad just happened in your life. You wrecked your car. You lost your job. The dog ran away. Your spouse left you for her old high-school flame she hit up on Facebook that she was catching-up with. What do you do?

You are the captain of your own ship. Unless you have got 50-plus feet of fiberglass underneath you, you’re not immune. Sooner or later, you’re going to get caught in high winds, big seas or both. Accept it, and do something about it. Make ship happen.

“You are the captain of your own ship.”

You can’t control the circumstances that the ocean we call life tosses at you, but you can control your bearings and your own compass. This concept it not new. But it not one that everyone accepts. With the advent of social media – and people only posting the good moments in their lives – we tend to assume that those people who have the money, job, career accolades and many of the things that we (that means you) want, that they must have gotten it through nefarious means, or networked better than you, had better breaks, fell into a job with the right perks, or grew up rich and could afford to make mistakes because the family had enough money to bail them out.

You call them lucky? Lady luck is a fickle mistress. She really doesn’t do anything for you. She simply opens a door. You need to walk through it. Sometimes you don’t see it as an opportunity, until you miss it.

Jen: Moving from passive thinking to active doing is often the most difficult step, especially when we feel broken. Regardless of circumstance, most of us naturally lean towards being either ‘thinkers’ or ‘doers.’ In reality, we should try to find a balance of both qualities. John and I only recently began working together, but compared to one another, it’s obvious he is more of a ‘doer’ and I am more a ‘thinker’. Fortunately, we understand this about ourselves and can use this knowledge to complement and synergize projects. Knowing your natural tendencies and then strategizing around them is key.

When situations beyond our control turn negative, we risk slipping into endless contemplation or feeling sorry for ourselves. At times, I am guilty of perseverating on negative situations, especially I feel victimized by circumstances. In actuality, it’s merely a less obvious method of procrastination delaying resolution of problems.

To move away from this tendency, I had to adjust my mindset. I suddenly realized having a justifiable reason or a right to excessively think or complain about something does not mean I should complain or worry. Wow – major revelation! Absurdly simple, but it has been a game-changer for me. Since my day of epiphany I have been able to take action to improve my circumstances faster and with more clarity than in the past when I allowed myself to overthink far too much.

“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”

Many of us have heard popular motivational quotes about sails and wind. One of my favorites is from Thomas S. Monson who said, “We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” The cynical side of me sometimes creeps up to argue “what if there isn’t any wind?” I remind myself there are always choices and this is no different. I can worry about the lack of wind but ultimately do nothing or I can choose to stay positive, float with the current and hope wind will come. However, if I want to make real progress, I might instead tear down the sail and make a paddle.

John: This is who we are, where we are and we are doing something about it. If you are not there yet, seek to understand the reason(s) why and resolve it. You might not have the experience you want, connections you wish for, a dream job, or resources you think you need. Don’t allow these nuances to hold you back. Adjust your sail and find a place where the wind is blowing. If that’s impossible, make a paddle. Just make the ship happen.

Originally published on LinkedIN on 7/16/18 see it here

The Wolf Is Scratching At The Door

Originally published on LinkedIN 8/4/18 see it here

By John R. Nocero and Jennifer S. Rawley

John: I first heard the metaphor “The wolf is always scratching at the door,” from my favorite actor and role model Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Amid all his success, he let the world know that his struggle has been real and he didn’t get to the top alone. He and his family were evicted from his home by age 14, and flat broke shortly thereafter. But that didn’t deter him from transforming his dreams into becoming his reality. “Every day I wake up as if that eviction notice is right around the corner waiting for me.. which is why I always say, ‘the wolf is always scratchin’ at the door,’” he said. “He’s scratchin’ cause he’s hungry and never satisfied. We embrace and respect our past, but we never let it define our future. Let’s stay hungry and chase that greatness.”

My wolf returned this week. To me, that metaphor means I am sad, my demon of depression has returned. I have battled depression probably since my mid-teens, and no one knows self-loathing like I do. However, within the past year or so, I’ve flipped the script on it, and embraced the wolf coming with with open arms. I had a bout of sadness this week. Jen e-mailed me at one point and said, “I noticed something was up, but didn’t know what.” I really didn’t want to tell her or anyone about it, just wanted to chill with my wolf. I realize now that you can’t look away from it, or bury it in destructive habits, you have to own it and welcome those feelings or sadness, anguish or pain. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. You really have to feel it to heal it, address what is wrong, or at least acknowledge it, and then it makes it easier when he returns. Because he will.

The metaphor works for your career too. The path to the top is wrought with struggle, tears, hardships. If it were that easy all of us will be millionaires. How do you focus on living the life you are proud of when it seems the walls are crashing down?

Jen: Even those among us who don’t suffer from clinical depression have likely experienced intermittent depressed moods or situational stress. It causes the sadness, anguish and/or pain that John is mentioning.

For me, situational stress or anxiety has the greatest impact. Too many times I let my mind race trying to rationalize or understand what I am dealing with. This can lead to an onslaught of negativity, fatigue and hopelessness. It can consume me and bleed over into my work and relationships – if I let it.

Fortunately, I’ve learned what triggers this cascade of anguish and self-doubt. I allow myself a reasonable time to think or wallow in self pity. This could range from five minutes to a day or more, depending on the situation. Then once the time passes I force myself to snap out of it. Sometimes the snap is best done with a physical change. For instance, I might jump up out of my seat, take a shower, or go for a walk. I push back any tendency to allow the thoughts to come back and remind myself I’ve already lost x amount of time on it and refuse to spend any more.

Another thing I’ve learned is that the busier I am, the less prone I am to fall into letting much bother me for more than a brief moment. I’m not advocating for a life of non-stop busyness. Rather, I realized that things might not be so bad if they would have gone unnoticed on a busier day or week for instance.

Perseverance is the ultimate quality to strive for. Without it, not much will get accomplished in the long run. Likewise, lasting joy, fulfillment, and happiness cannot come without persistence. Victor Hugo said of it, “perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”

John & Jen: We have accepted dealing with heartbreak and now we are never lonely. Even if no one will sit with us in the light, the wolf is there to sit with us in the dark. We are grateful for his accountability. Next time, he shows up, I will be sure to kiss him on the mouth, hug his neck, and say “hello, my old friend. I’m glad you’ve come to see me again.” Maybe he won’t bite me then. Maybe he will look at me with empathy, and protect me, as alpha wolvess protect their pack. Greatness is never achieved alone. Surround yourself with hungry, brilliant wolves who not only buy into your philosophy, but who are all willing to work just as hard as you. Power of teamwork. And don’t ever forget where you came from.


Once Upon a Time

Originally published on LinkedIN 8/9/18  see it here

By John R. Nocero and Jennifer S. Rawley

John: I love Cy Wakeman! I’ve never met her, but I feel like I have. She has been a professional mentor to me through words and videos since 2014. One thing she says is, “we’ve come to accept drama as a cost of doing business. We’ve simply accepted the conventional wisdom that if you have people, you will deal with some drama and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

I hate drama. My life is a drama-free zone. I hate drama more when I unknowingly cause it through self-destructive behaviors and thoughts. Writing things down can help you tune into these behaviors, especially those that you convince yourself are true, which really aren’t true at all.

Case in point – you are in the break room heating up your lunch. A co-worker walks in. You say hello but your co-worker ignores you. You get angry inside, say something like “so-and-so always is nasty, he/she never liked me. No one likes me here. I should just quit. Maybe I can find a new job today. I will go to the job board this afternoon and start applying for new jobs. ” Then you go to the job board, start applying for new jobs, completely ignoring the project that was due at 5pm. All because you invented a story in your own head, and then decided you should believe it and act on those false beliefs. Smooth move, Cliff.

Tuning out your storytelling thoughts is difficult. Sometimes, you get so enmeshed in a situation that it is hard to stop your mind from reeling. What do you do?

Jen: I used to pride myself on being a good reader of people and situations. Sometimes I still do. However, I’ve also found that such quick judgment should be reserved for urgent situations. More times than I can remember, I have jumped to quick conclusions (sometimes when it wasn’t even necessary) out of impatience or sheer haste. Sometime later I will find out new information that would have altered my initial decision. Most of us have fallen victim to something like this but it still stings a little each time.

Worse perhaps than being upset with myself when I make hasty decisions, I can feel betrayed or angry with someone else. I typically trust people, and I hate it when they break that trust. So many times, people that I trusted have come to me making outlandish claims that I (at first) believed. Fortunately, I have lived by the motto “trust but verify,” so in most cases it only cost me time, effort, and trust. Even so, during the verification process, I often end up chasing down a lot of rabbit holes. Most of these people don’t even consider themselves liars or storytellers, rather they think they are speaking the truth. They are so caught up in their own drama they have failed to acknowledge the difference in what they believe and what is factual.

Case in point – my story time: Once upon a time, in a land far, far away in approximately 1985 (for the sake of anonymity), there was a middle manager who reported to one of my direct reports. Following a frustrating shift at work, she contacted the compliance officer of the organization about several issues. On a side note, she did not previously come to me with the issues and many of them were new to my direct report as well. She gave us very little time to do anything before jumping to compliance. As with all such claims, I took them very seriously and completed a thorough investigation. For the record, I take all claims seriously. Calling compliance only makes it more stressful for everyone involved. The investigation took close to a week to conclude, which ended up being about six and a half days too long for her liking, despite the fact that the allegations numbered in the dozens. Aside from the sheer volume of allegations, there was a microscopic shred of truth within (or as a foundation to) a lot of it. This complicated it in a new sort of way – and I learned a lot of hard lessons that week.

At the end of it all, I was unable to substantiate much of anything. There were a few items that were entirely subjective, so I acquiesced as much to her, but overwhelmingly she was off point. I got nothing else done that entire week, I had to suspend some other staff members pending the investigation who ended up having done nothing wrong, and it prevented me from doing a lot of other things that quite frankly were more important. To make it worse, at the end of it all, she said she wanted to recant her accusations. The week had given her time to reconsider and she realized that she was self-described hyper-emotional about some things . I truly don’t think some people realize the impact that their storytelling has or can have on other people.

I fully echo what John says, I also hate drama. I used to refuse to “play the game,” and after a hard fought battle with the real world, I surrendered. I realized that refusal to play equated to holding my breath to make a point, eventually I would be forced to take a breath and there was no way I could hold it forever without my autonomic nervous system forcing me to do so. Its the same with drama or stories (or whatever you like to call it), there is no fully avoiding it. Some people play nice in the sandbox, some throw it in your eyes. Some people seem to need the drama to give their life meaning. It’s rare a day goes by that I don’t shake my head and think to myself “how do some people make it through life?” I try to learn from the experiences I’ve had weather they were mistakes that I have made such as jumping to conclusions and trusting too easily or mistakes of others when they have done the same.

John & Jen: It is important to get out of your own head and into the facts. Don’t judge your own feelings. They are yours. Own them but at the same time, only trust the things you know to be true. After all, if those things can survive your rigorous questioning, they must be rooted in fact. Everything else, is just a story. Delete the story. Burn it. discard it. Blow it up. Drop it. Focus the facts solely on your reality and ask yourself, what is the very next thing that I can do to add value? Once you define it, do it and follow through with action.