Working to make a difference
Berman, Davidson found success through pursuit of their passions
“My general formula for my students is ‘Follow your bliss.’ Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.” — Joseph Campbell The Power of Myth
Campbell, the late expert on mythology, wasn’t directing his students to embrace hedonism, although some may have preferred that interpretation. He was talking about identifying a pursuit you are passionate about and giving yourself absolutely to it. He also said that if you follow that bliss, “you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.”
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees exemplify the “follow your bliss” philosophy. They are people who achieved success not as a primary goal, but as a means to accomplish the objectives that mattered to them.
Richard Davidson, former American Hospital Association president, took an unusual path to getting on his track. He started out as a teacher, but a hospital administrator who had heard about Davidson promoted him for a job with the Maryland-district of Columbia-delaware Hospital Association. He was talked into the idea after being admitted to the executive’s hospital and being under the effects of Demerol.
Davidson found that being a teacher and working on behalf of hospitals and communities were really parts of the same continuum. Colleagues recall that he brought a teacher’s sensibilities to the management of an organization. He led the Maryland Hospital Association through the adoption of a state rate-setting system. Later, he led the national association through the Clinton healthcare reform debate.
“We do what we do only for the purpose of curing and we’re an organization that does this in taking care of you with respect that’s beyond reproach,” Davidson says of the hospital industry.
Howard Berman’s path to fulfillment took him to senior director and vice president, group vice president of the AHA, and president and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Berman says he never aspired to an impressive job title.
“What I wanted to do was make a difference, and the difference I wanted to make was to make the quality of life better in our communities,” he recalls. Being a top executive was a means to that end.
Those who know him say that his primary concern is the well-being of the community. He asks about the finances later. “That’s not something you typically hear from someone of his background,” one colleague observes.
As if channeling Campbell, Berman counsels, “Don’t plan a career. … Is what you’re doing now interesting? If it isn’t, what do you want to do? Stay where you are until you want a greater challenge—and take risks.”