During the past two years, I’ve listened to more podcast interviews than I can count. And each time, I’ve learned something really interesting about the person being interviewed.
For example, there’s the “accidental CIO” — a consultant who never had any intention of taking the CIO role (and never thought he’d be offered the position), and now leads a 13-hospital system.
There’s the CIO of an 18-hospital system who is also a mother of six (and, I’m guessing, an absolute whiz at time management).
And there’s the CIO who started out as a high school teacher.
We’ve spoken with CIOs who’ve traveled around the world and worked in different countries, and CIOs who’ve never left their hometown, and each time, I’ve learned something new. And it’s not just cool facts (like the fact that Randy McCleese went to college with Phil Simms — which is as cool as it gets in my book); I’ve gained insight into how the top leaders in their field deal with difficult situations.
One interview that really stood out to me was with Daniel Barchi, CIO at Yale New Haven Health System & Yale School of Medicine. During our conversation, Barchi talked about how his experience in the military helped prepare him for leadership roles later in life. While serving as a Navy officer, he endured “many white knuckle, scary moments” that ended up being valuable teaching moments.
“When things go bad in a healthcare environment,” he said, “It really does impact patient care. And having been through a lot scarier moments in the military, I find that I tend to remain calm and try to keep the people around me calm and focused on the mission at hand.”
Those words really resonated with me. I believe going through a truly stressful experience can provide you with a great deal of perspective and teach you how to distinguish between an actual crisis and a predicament, and act accordingly.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying the experience of a new parent can compare to that of a military leader but, for me and my husband, taking care of premature twins who required constant care (my son was on an apnea monitor) felt like the Battle of Bunker Hill. The ‘enemy troops’ kept coming at us. And although our resources were depleted, we pushed on, enduring hour-long feeds at 3 a.m. with one baby, only to have to repeat the process right away with the other.
The physical and emotional strain was like nothing we’d ever experienced. But eventually, the smoke started to clear. Things became more manageable, and it no longer felt like a war — we still have our battles, of course, but it’s not the war it once was.
From this experience came a silver lining that I never would’ve anticipated. After going through such a stressful time, I’ve found that the little things just don’t rattle us anymore (for the most part). Once you’ve been in the trenches — when you’re so tired you can’t process a thought, yet you know there’s no break in sight — things like my daughter spitting up all over herself and her car seat just as we’re leaving the house don’t send me into red-alert mode. And when my son decides to subsist on Puffs for a day, I know it’s not the end of the world.
The other thing I learned is that when you’re in the thick of battle, you can’t go it alone. You need someone who can remain optimistic no matter how dire things might seem; you need someone who can solve problems quickly without being asked; and, if you’re like me, you need someone who has a calming influence on you.
And for me, the calming influence is my mom. Each time she arrives to help with the babies (which is very often), I can feel myself start to relax. During the most challenging times, I relied heavily on her — not just to help with feedings, cook meals, and change diapers, but to offer gentle reminders that sometimes things don’t go exactly how you want them to, and that’s okay. Sometimes the babies aren’t going to finish their bottle. Sometimes they’re going to cry for no particular reason. Sometimes they just want to be held. And that’s okay.
Seeing how unruffled my mom was with the babies did what all the yoga and spa treatments in the world couldn’t — it made me exhale. I slowly started to realize that I’m never going to do everything right, and that’s okay.
There are always going to be times when I do need to be worried and take swift action, but there are going to be far more times when I just need to take a deep breath and say, “It’s okay.”