5 years, and 4 days. Why not?

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

If you want to be successful, be insatiably curious.  Ask, “Why NOT?!!!” Do it a lot and often.

Don’t accept the status quo.  Don’t accept when people sell you their limitations.  Let them keep their limitations and let not their limitations define you.

For example, years ago, when I worked for the Enron of Healthcare, lawyers from their Legal, Compliance, and Regulator departments tried and failed repeated over the course of three consecutive years to obtain a new and more expansive insurance license that would enable them to sell additional insurance products.  Instead of listening to the insurance regulators and working to find a common path would both meet the regulator’s interpretations of the law and the organization’s business imperatives, the staff at the Enron of Healthcare chose to disparage the regulators instead.  After being promoted to managing the regulatory function for the organization, I was asked by the Vice President to lead efforts to obtain the new insurance license.  My first step was to meet with the relevant stakeholders both within the company and with the regulators to find out what happened, why the efforts failed, what the legal impediments were, etc.  Repeatedly, the staff from the company told me their efforts failed because the regulators were “idiots”, “morons”, etc.  They blamed their failures on the regulators.  They saw no failings of their own.  They told me my efforts were doomed to fail because the regulators were stupid and would never grant us the new license.

Well, they were wrong.  Within months of my submission, the regulators told me they had approved my application for the new license, but they would not issue the license until my organization fix years-long violations of insurance laws that the regulators had repeatedly told the organization and that the organization had repeatedly promised to fix.  (For example, there were emails and written communications going back FIVE YEARS that the organization was illegally denying contraceptive coverage in violation of federal and state laws.  For years, the organization promised to make the necessary changes to bring their insurance polices and administrative practices into compliance with the law, and for years they failed to do so.)

Had I listened to the “counsel” of my failed predecessors, I would have given up and not try to find a common path that satisfied the requirements of the law and regulators as well as the business requirements of my organization.  In other words, I refused to let others define my strategies and worked to forge my own path to success.

Boys, ask, “Why NOT?!!!” often.  Ask, “So what?” often.  Don’t be satisfied with what you’re fed by others.

Success requires you to make use of the best and most complete information you have at your disposal at the moment of the decision.  Don’t rest on your laurels.  Don’t rely on dated and stale information.  Ask for more and better.

Be more and be better!

All my love, always,

Dad

 

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4 years, 10 months, and 27 days. The art of deconstruction cont.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, let’s continue our conversation about the art of deconstruction.  To deconstruct is to break things down to their constituent parts.  Once you do that, it is amazing what you can see about how the thing works (or fails), and how much you can reimagine the thing itself.  That’s the art of deconstruction, and it is an invaluable tool for problem solving.

Years ago, within a couple months of joining an organization, I was asked to resolve a compliance issue that plagued the company for half a decade.  Literally, there were communications with regulators going back five years, telling the organization that its conducts were illegal.  Yet, the organization was unable to bring their practices into compliance with the law.  Instead of resolving the problem, staff from organization made all sorts of excuses and complaints about the competency of the regulators.  As you can imagine, the regulators — charged with protecting the public from illegal and fraudulent practices — were not happy.

Into that mix, I was thrown.  My first steps were to read all available information about the problem, meet with all the relevant players (both from within the organization and within the regulatory agency), and ask for their perspectives on the problem.  Then, I took apart the “problem” as enshrined in writing and in practice to review it against applicable laws.  That assessment enabled me to identify where entrenched positions were consistent or inconsistent with legal requirements and find a pathway that mutually satisfied both the regulators and stakeholders from within the organization.  In a matter of weeks, the problem was resolved to the satisfaction of both parties, and a heavy penalty was averted.

Shortly thereafter, I was promoted and asked to resolve a different problem that the organization had failed to resolve in the preceding several years.  Again, I researched the matter and met with relevant parties to gain a better understanding of the problem.  Again, there were much recrimination from within the organization about how the regulators were “morons”, “idiots”, etc., which made the problem personal and was not useful to the resolution of the problem.  Over the years, instead of focusing on the problem, each party had turned its attention to criticizing the other, which then caused each party to become more entrenched in its position.  The organization behaved as if the “problem” was a fixed entity and it would succeed in its objective if only the regulators were more enlightened: the regulators thought the opposite — that the interpretation of the law was established and the organization would be successful if only it were more enlightened in its understanding of the law.   They failed to recognize that each parties had its mandate, and the path forward was to find a way where both parties were able to meet their objectives.  By reviewing documentation, business practices, and stakeholders’ perceptions, I was able to take apart that problem and find a mutually satisfactory resolution.

Don’t underestimate the power of deconstruction.  When faced with a challenging sentence, paragraph, math assignment, physics problem, a challenging essay, etc., break it down and look at it from different angles and perspectives.  If a solution doesn’t work, try approaching it from a different angle.  Don’t keep butting your head against the same wall.  Try different.

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All my love, always,

Dad