While on vacation on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, I decided to hike the Na Pali Coast trail, one of the most stunning, soul-nourishing, and sometimes treacherous coastlines in the world. I completed an eight-mile round-trip hike from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi`ai Falls, and it was fantastic. The connection I felt to the earth and to myself was immeasurable.
That afternoon, with a feeling of accomplishment, a beer, and aching all over, I had an epiphany: My hike had many parallels to the standards development process. The lessons are many.
- Take it one step at a time. On a steep, winding, challenging cliff trail that is constantly shifting from up to down, the only way to make it through the journey is to focus on the step that you are taking now. Likewise, when developing standards, we need to focus on the current document and the proposed changes in front of us. It’s easy to get sidetracked and move into tangents, so we need to stay disciplined and concentrate on the document and comments that are in front of us.
- We are experiencing this together. While hiking, my wife and I encountered people from all walks of life. There were the surfer dudes, honeymooners from Seattle, solo travelers from Europe, and a pair of doctors from Idaho and Chicago. We had different backgrounds and histories, but we shared the hiking experience. Similarly, when developing standards with a group, the experience of that powerful activity can transcend the differences we have as individuals.
- You never know what’s around the bend. On the Na Pali coast trail, often you literally can’t see and don’t know what’s around the bend. Will the trail keep heading up, up, up—or start heading down again? Will the landscape change? Will you be back in the forest or on open cliffs again? You don’t know, and it is part of what makes the journey manageable (you just keep going, since who knows what’s coming!) and exciting. Standards development is the same; actually, we think we know what’s coming next but the discussions so often manage to surprise us.
- Go beyond your comfort zone. I debated whether to hike the trail. It certainly would have been easier to stay at the condo and head to the beach every day. But I wanted to see the views from the trail, to experience having conquered it. So I pushed myself to do it, even though it did feel a bit outside my comfort zone. Likewise, when it comes to standards development, we all have demanding jobs and it would be easier to skip participating in the standards development process, just taking care of our own professional obligations. But we push ourselves to be involved and spend time drafting new documents, commenting on updates, and attending meetings so that we can participate in the discussion with others from around the world who share a similar passion. It’s worth the effort to get out of our comfort zone.
- When a challenge calls, answer. There were amazing highs and crushing lows over the challenging parts of the trail, and every moment was beautiful in its own way. I’m glad I answered the call of the trail. In a similar vein, as we balance demanding careers and families, we need to hear and answer the call to help move our respective fields forward. Although it seems “crazy” to some, getting involved in the standards process is a wonderful challenge. I answered the call. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself and my carrier.
- It’s all going to be OK. It is all about experiencing and truly appreciating the moments fully as we live them. Sometimes, we let life pass us by when we are too caught up in our own thoughts, worries, and anxieties. Being involved in standards development is truly a life-enriching journey that allows us to participate in something greater then ourselves.
Phil Cogdill is senior director of sterilization and microbiology at Medtronic. He is also chair-elect of the AAMI Board of Directors.