Impact Insights

One Dinosaur’s Evolution to Embrace Change – A True Story

Ken Mueller

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”  ― Leo Tolstoy

My Story Begins on Wall Street

Be innovative without changing a thing?

I was a newly graduated Finance major who wanted to become a stockbroker. After several months of hard work and a lot of rejection, I landed a job at Merrill Lynch.  Too naïve to realize the odds were against me, I got registered and just went to work. I eventually spent over 22 years on Wall Street, serving as both a Financial Operations Principal and Chief Compliance Officer for several regional brokerage firms. Through all that time, I convinced myself that I knew everything there was to know for my job… Change was not a word I used to describe my life.

Change by Force Majeure

My industry imploded in 2005-2006. My firm closed, and along with tens of thousands of folks, I found myself unemployed. As I looked for work, one thing became apparent, I was going to have to change to survive. I had become a dinosaur; I was stuck in my old ways and apparently still as naïve as that college graduate from two decades earlier.  The world had changed, and while I stayed comfortable in my own environment, it had passed me by. I needed to evolve my outlook and my beliefs about how things worked. I decided that if I had to change, then I was going to do it in a big way.  I left Wall Street to follow a passion and dream that I had been thinking about for years.

Change by Choice

I entered the culinary world and became a chef. I had no time for culinary school, so I learned as I worked. It’s one thing to cook in your kitchen or to cook for church. It’s quite different when you are in a commercial kitchen creating hundreds of plates for paying customers.  Ironically, my first paying job was as a chef at the country club I could no longer afford to be a member of. Still, I discovered that change was exciting. Learning enriched my life.  I wasn’t afraid to try new things or discover better ways to do something. It took seven years, but I eventually became a certified Executive Chef, running kitchens where I served over 1,000 meals per day.

Change of Mindset

I continued to learn, usually from folks half my age. Success to me was no longer in a job title or measured by my paycheck, but instead what I could learn and become and what kind of difference I could make along the way.  In my mind, two of the most important issues in our world today are an archaic and dysfunctional healthcare system and finding ways to harness the growth of technology.   So, after being in the workforce for nearly 30 years, I once again changed careers and became an Epic software analyst. I was fortunate enough to join Impact Advisors, where I work on new challenges every day.  I am continually facing a world that is changing, and this time I have the tools, support, and knowledge to contribute. Every day I learn something new.  Every day I am surrounded by the best and the brightest.  Every day I look forward to changing something about myself to become a better person, both personally and professionally, while also leaving a positive mark on healthcare.

Lessons Learned Along the Way

What I have learned over the past few years is that from a technology standpoint, both Wall Street and the Food Service industry are years ahead of healthcare. I bought my first house when I felt that trading volume would hold above 1 million shares a day; now technology processes hundreds of millions of shares every day for pennies. Financial plans that would take me days to build for clients are now instant and free on hundreds of websites. While today many providers still hand-write notes and orders and prescriptions, your server enters your lunch order on a tablet.  The system splits the order and directs it to different stations in the kitchen for faster and more efficient preparation. It also tracks inventory and tells the owner when to reorder. It bills the customer, tracks tips for the server, handles time cards and prepares financial reports for the accountant to review. Meanwhile, your healthcare provider’s note is passed from nurse to manager to maybe a coder or a biller. Chances of error increase exponentially and efficiency decreases at every turn.

People, and by extension institutions, dislike change for many reasons. Change by definition means a loss of control, and I don’t necessarily mean from a political context. Change coming from outside sources affects our sense of self-determination. Overcoming inertia in your own life is hard. Moving the culture of an entire health system is downright daunting.

Sage Advice from a Former Dinosaur

By definition, change is a departure from how things were previously done. Consider the way you are doing things now, perhaps the way you have always done things. When change involves a major shift of operational direction, some might infer that the original direction (or process or system…) was wrong. The only thing wrong is not embracing change. Enjoy learning new skills! People who are not willing to learn will never be open to change, as hunger for knowledge is a catalyst for change. Become part of the evolution that propels healthcare into the forefront of technology, especially technology that improves treatment and contributes to the welfare of patients and their families. Change yourself and you might just change the world!

2 thoughts on “One Dinosaur’s Evolution to Embrace Change – A True Story

  1. Dan Herman says:

    Great perspective, Ken! Thanks for sharing. I commend you on your courage to take risks and following your passion. I agree that the key impediment to improving healthcare for consumers is the aversion to change and the fear of taking calculated risks on the part of many operational leaders.

  2. Judy says:

    Love your journey!

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