38- The Temple Keeps Growing
So much is demanded of you when you’re running an organization on which so many people rely for their livelihood. The mind needs time to quiet down and keep everything in perspective.
I told him I would like to talk to him about it, and I asked if he would be willing to hold off clearing the land bordering our property until we met.
In truth, I had no idea what I would say to Wilbur when we met, but I felt a deep obligation to do what I could to protect the beautiful woods on that land.
As I look back now, I am so grateful that surrender had taught me to willingly participate in life’s dance with a quiet mind and an open heart.
but he was running a farm, and slash pines were what they had decided to plant on the entire property. Our efforts seemed futile until I offered to lease the property at whatever price would assure that he earned more than the pines would yield him. Wilbur was an astute businessman, and that caught his attention. There was risk in any crop, but no risk in a secured, long-term lease. Wilbur named a price that was significantly higher than any farmer would pay to lease unimproved property. Nonetheless, it was still worth it from our perspective of protecting the trees and pasture of that beautiful piece of land. In the end, we signed a long-term lease with Wilbur that allowed us to preserve, protect, and have use of the property to our north—the property that I had once called the Elysian Fields.
Something that started out looking totally disastrous had ended up with a positive result.
I was beginning to view these storms as a harbinger to transformation. Perhaps change only takes place when there is sufficient reason to overcome the inertia of everyday life. Challenging situations create the force needed to bring about change. The problem is that we generally use all the stirred-up energy intended to bring about change, to resist change. I was learning to sit quietly in the midst of the howling winds and wait to see what constructive action was being asked of me.
It left me breathless to see all this unfold the way it did. I was playing a game with life, and every time life made its move, a part of my noisy mind fell away. Why was I needed? Everything was unfolding on its own much better than anything I could ever imagine.
As we will see shortly, this leased land was destined to play a much larger role in what life had in store for us.
“By any chance, are you Mickey Singer?” I was completely stunned as the unlikely sequence of events that brought me to this restaurant flashed through my mind.
What in the world was this? I didn’t know this person. I responded affirmatively, and the energy between us became intensely spiritual. He said that I wouldn’t remember him, but he remembered me. Back in 1972, more than sixteen years ago, he was hitchhiking through Gainesville, and I had picked him up in my VW van. He had been going through a very difficult period in his life, and he asked me about the picture of Yogananda on my dashboard.
It brought him great joy, and he prayed that someday he would have the opportunity to thank me in person for the important role I had played in his awakening. With that prayer now miraculously answered, he stood quietly before me with tears in his eyes and uttered, “Thank you.” That said, he turned and walked away.
I just wanted to cease to interfere with the perfection of life. Apparently, even a business trip to Boston is fair game for a miracle.
Section VII - When Dark Clouds Become Rainbows
39- A Touch of Magic
By the early 1990s, I certainly felt that we were done with our rapid growth. Personalized Programming was in phenomenal shape. We were up to twenty employees, and the bottom line was netting a few million dollars a year. I still had not changed my personal lifestyle, so I continued using the money to build up an endowment for the Temple and to support various charities.
Things were good, and I thought the period of crazy growth was over. Apparently, I was wrong.
To understand the next wave of growth, it is important to understand what was going on inside of me at that time. All the events that had unfolded so far in my experiment with surrender had shown me that the more I was willing to let go of the inner noise created by my personal likes and dislikes, the more I could see subtle synchronicities in what was unfolding around me. These unexpected concurrences of events were like messages from life gently nudging me in the direction she was going. I listened to these subtle nudges instead of listening to the not-so-subtle mental and emotional reactions caused by my personal preferences. This is how I practiced surrender in everyday life, and the purpose of all these stories is to share with you the perfection of the journey that unfolded.
we had no interest in owning a lot of land. Yet, over the years, the Temple would end up with an enormous amount of property, and each purchase along the way seemed to have something magical about it. Such was the case in October of 1990 when I received a call regarding a piece of property that had come up for sale in our area. The Realtor said it was eighty-five acres of combined woods and field, and it was considered one of the most beautiful pieces of land in Alachua County. I told him that I doubted we would be interested since our primary interest was in land that bordered the Temple property. He insisted on giving me a tour, and we were both very surprised when we discovered that this exquisite piece of land actually did border directly on the Temple’s leased land. That was enough of a nudge for me. I put out a minimal amount of effort, and the purchase just seemed to fall into place by itself.
This would mean that the Temple would now own 170 acres of contiguous land.
The perfection of what had unfolded was stunning, but we weren’t done yet.
I literally got shivers up my spine realizing what was about to happen. I called Radha and told her that she should probably come along with me to see this place—just in case this turned out to be the call from the universe regarding a house for me.
He had spent twelve years handcrafting the house like some people would build a high-end yacht or sailboat.
Once I looked around inside, I realized that I could not have designed a more perfect house for myself if I had tried. Though every bit of the house had its own special character, there was something magical about the small third story that sat above the kitchen area. As I climbed up the steep open staircase, I felt like I was going up into a tree house. But what I found was the most perfect space for a meditation room I could imagine. The top floor was a single ten-by-twelve-foot room with every inch handcrafted into an artisan’s dream.
The space was so exquisite that the mind became quiet just being there.
Needless to say, I purchased the house and have lived there ever since. The magic of how all these properties joined together came to a crescendo with this latest purchase.
No one planned it; it just unfolded that way. To say I was humbled by what life had done this time would be an understatement.
Life calls me on the phone one day and says, “Mickey, your house is ready.”
My commute to work—truly amazing.
40- The Scary Messenger of Change
I settled into my new house in the spring of 1991, and it seemed like I was living a dream. I was completely content with everything around me: family, business, and the Temple community. The perfection of what I was surrounded by was enough to challenge the rational mind. And I was always aware that I had never asked for any of it—I was living in a life made by the flow of life.
I had already learned time and again that it didn’t matter if I understood what was happening; it was sufficient to devote myself to the present moment and trust that the flow of life knew what it was doing. The flow of events that happened next was so miraculous that it had the effect of permanently freeing me from an entire layer of my personal mind. If life could pull off these events, how could I not completely surrender to her perfection?
There was no possible way I could have known that in order to keep up with Personalized Programming’s destined growth, it would not be sufficient to double or even triple my current twenty-five employees; I would need to grow to more than three hundred employees. What is more, I could never have imagined that our building needs would have to grow from our current forty-three hundred square feet to over eighty-five thousand square feet to provide for what was coming.
My heart dropped as I realized that this little piece of heaven that had come together organically over the years was about to change.
With each passage of time, the risk increased that the county would shut us down. Nonetheless, I was patiently waiting for life to make her move.
It fit in perfectly with the Temple property, so we went ahead and bought it. There was no way at the time we could have ever imagined that this purchase would end up related to Personalized Programming’s search for legal business zoning. We were just dealing with what was put in front of us.
It was projected that for the next twenty years, a hundred large dump trucks would be driving down our road seven days a week.
I will never forget Rick’s face when he walked into my office to tell me of his conversation with the Realtor. The impossible had happened—the flow of life had just unfolded in a way that led to a phone call telling us that instead of a waste dump adjoining Temple property, we could put our business there. Rick and I just sat in silence for a while. The feeling of awe and grace in that room was so powerful that neither of us could move, let alone speak.
First, life had informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I had to leave my office on Temple property and find a new location. When I tried to comply, nothing would fall into place. Then, out of the blue, we were presented with a piece of land that would ultimately connect Temple property to our future office property, without us having the slightest idea of what was really going on. The flow of life then presented us with what appeared to be a terrible situation wherein someone was preparing to build a waste dump adjoining our property. But what was really going on was that life was preparing to give us a great gift—the most perfect piece of land for Personalized Programming’s future. This land adjoined Temple property and could get legal business zoning, something we had previously been told was impossible out here where we lived. And let’s not forget that all this happened while I only had twenty-five employees and could not possibly have known that I would ever need anything like this—but apparently life knew, and she certainly took good care of us.
By the time it was all done, we ended up with five buildings, giving us more than 85,000 square feet of high-tech office space. To this day, I stand in awe of how life unfolded so perfectly to provide us exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it.
Personalized Programming, 1993. They said it was impossible, yet life manifests this gorgeous new office building bordering Temple property. What an amazing flow of events!
Medical Manager Corporation R&D facility, 2003. Life even knew enough to allow for undreamed of expansion—from one building to a pristine five-building office campus.
41- The Foundation Is Built for the Future
By late 1994, I began to realize that I couldn’t possibly run all the programming groups and the financial and management aspects of a multimillion-dollar business, as well as prepare for the next wave of growth. I needed some serious help. So I did what I always did—worked even harder and waited for the flow of life to do its thing.
Tim was another miracle. Just like everything else that showed up exactly when it was supposed to, life had dropped this highly skilled and experienced IT developer/executive in my lap. He would not only end up being the solution to the software development problems we were having, he would also end up being the solution to a much larger problem that hadn’t even surfaced yet.
He was young, very clean and proper looking, and in his right hand he was carrying a bible. That’s an unusual thing to bring to a job interview, but Tim was clearly a very religious Christian, and he wanted me to know it.
Tim was, in fact, a rocket scientist. He had worked for years at Harris Corporation writing code for missile guidance systems. I immediately realized I could check off the “smart enough” box. He had been a developer, team leader, and project manager. Tim excelled so thoroughly at his overall project development and people skills that he was now a senior consultant for Texas Instruments running large projects for clients.
We began to discuss development philosophy, and we were as different as the way we dressed. To me, software development was a creative art—to him it was an engineering project. The truth is, I knew it had to be both in order to be successful in the long run. Tim clearly brought to the table the experiential discipline that comes from being a senior software engineer in a Fortune 500 technology company. We were desperately in need of that knowledge and experience.
But I still had one issue that needed to be resolved. If Tim was going to seriously consider taking the job, I needed to be sure he was going to be comfortable with who I was.
He was fascinated by the artifacts of the various religions and asked a lot of deep questions about meditation and yoga. It turned out that Tim was much more than a very religious person—he was deeply spiritual and was truly a lover of God. Rather than being offended by how I had come up, he was inspired by it. A very deep spiritual bond formed that day as we shared our spiritual experiences and beliefs with each other. This bond of spiritual friendship grew stronger and stronger over the next ten years that we worked together. Apparently, life had outdone itself once again
I couldn’t wait to find out how much of the load Tim would be capable of carrying.
As I pondered over the enormity of the project that lay before us, it finally hit me—this was the real reason that Tim had been sent to us. He had been sent to reengineer The Medical Manager into a totally new product with the latest development technology.
We couldn’t afford to stop the rapid pace of development of the existing system, so I gave Tim the go-ahead to hire an entire additional development team to build the new product. Intergy would be the new product’s name, and it was a good thing we were building more buildings because we were certainly going to need them. I trusted Tim implicitly and gave him whatever he asked for. It took us close to five years to release the new product, but when all was said and done, we ended up with a product that would keep us in the marketplace for many years to come. As I look back now, it is so obvious that we could never have succeeded as we did without Tim showing up exactly when he did. How in the world does this keep happening, again and again?
42- Meanwhile—Back at the Ranch
There was so much work to do at Personalized Programming that I pretty much worked all my waking hours—except for my mornings and evenings in the Temple. The Temple community was so stable that it hardly took any of my management time. Radha was able to manage the Temple and its finances even though her position as the chief financial controller at Personalized Programming kept her working day and night. In the midst of all this transformation, the Temple was about to experience a change of its own.
When I heard that Amrit had actually left the community, I invited him and his wife to come spend some quiet time living with us at the Temple. To be there when a person is soaring high is an easy relationship. To be there during hard times requires deep friendship.
he was just completely surrendered to going through the experience. I constantly saw in Amrit what I always saw inside of me: when push comes to shove, I don’t care what it takes, just free me from myself.
Standing soul to soul, Amrit and I had that in common—liberation at any cost.
I recalled King Solomon’s wisdom: For every thing there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. I had been honored to know Amrit as a world-renowned teacher; I was now all the more honored to be close to him as he passed through a period of great darkness or, better put, as a period of great darkness passed through him. He never complained, and he never got depressed or despondent. He just spent each day surrendering at a deeper and deeper level. Reality was what it was—might as well use it to let go of the personal self.
I couldn’t believe the place when I saw it. It was an absolutely beautiful giant house sitting on the shore of a gorgeous lake.
It was a perfect home for Amrit and his family. Every place I walked, I felt Amrit.
He then told me the price. I couldn’t believe my ears—it was the deal of the century.
What I saw was that no matter who we are, life is going to put us through the changes we need to go through. The question is: Are we willing to use this force for our transformation? I saw that even very intense situations don’t have to leave psychological scars, if we are willing to process our changes at a deeper level. My surrender experiment had already taught me to deeply honor the transformative power of life. Sharing that time with Amrit would prove to be all the more important since life as I knew it was once again about to go through a major, unexpected change.
Section VIII - Embracing Explosive Expansion
43- The Medical Manager Sprouts Wings
If you had asked me in 1995 what I thought the future of Personalized Programming looked like, I would have told you that we had grown about as big as we could, and the challenge was going to be staying at the top of our industry. If you had asked me about my surrender experiment, I would have told you that the relentless practice of letting go of myself in order to fully embrace what was unfolding around me was having a profound effect on my spiritual growth. It had, in fact, become my way of life. I had seen time and again that letting go not only led to amazing results, but it also left me in a state of profound inner peace. I was not in charge; life was in charge, and there was an underlying sense of enthusiasm and excitement about getting to see what was going to happen next. After all, just look at what had happened so far.
By the end of 1995, Personalized Programming had grown to seventy-five employees and had enough work to keep us busy for a very long time. I loved what we were doing, and we were obviously very good at it. Our revenues had reached ten million dollars a year, and since most of that was royalty payments, we were profiting five to six million a year.
The first clue that dramatic change was once again on the horizon came when I learned that Systems Plus and many of the dealers were discussing the possibility of merging together into one company. Apparently, they felt this would help them compete better at the national level.
I told him that I would be willing to legally commit to providing The Medical Manager software to the new company. He then dropped the bombshell: any investors in the company would insist that the foundational software be owned by the company itself.
I was very uncomfortable with the thought of selling Personalized Programming. But I was even more uncomfortable thinking that I would be the reason that all these hundreds of dealers, and Systems Plus, were unable to get their hard-earned value from their businesses. I told John I was not interested in selling the business at any price, but if my reluctance was truly in the way of everyone else’s dreams, I would have to give his proposal some consideration. I told him he could come back to see me if he succeeded in getting others to buy in to his plan. What I was really hoping, however, was that the whole thing would just fall through by itself.
I didn’t like it one bit, but I was fully committed to seeing where the path of surrender to life was going to lead me.
John Kang made me a persuasive offer for Personalized Programming that included both cash and stock in the new company.
44- Medical Manager Corporation—MMGR
When the smoke cleared, I was to be the chief executive officer (CEO); John Kang, the president; and Rick Karl, the general counsel.
His only son had dropped out of graduate school in business to live in the woods and meditate. I never left the woods, yet all of a sudden I was in my dad’s world. He kept telling me that he just couldn’t believe that Morgan Stanley, one of the premiere brokerage houses in the world, was interested in my company.
My dad was very interested that my company was going public, and we talked to each other more during this time than we had for the previous twenty years put together. It makes sense—we now had something in common to talk about.
It wasn’t too much later when my dad died. But you can be sure he enjoyed being able to give his son his lifetime-learned advice about becoming a public company, the health-care sector, and Wall Street in general.
Despite the amazing sequence of events that led up to this point, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
When I had originally dropped the certificate in my deposit box, it was pretty much worthless to anyone but me. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The most savvy investors in the world were valuing this piece of paper at over a hundred million dollars.
My mouth went dry, and tears welled up in my eyes. I had given everything up, and it kept coming back tenfold. When I had decided to let go and devote my life to serving what was unfolding in front of me, I was earning less than five thousand dollars a year. When Built with Love came together, it grew from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands in revenue. When Personalized Programming came together, it quickly grew to millions and then more than ten million in sales and royalties. Now I was dealing with a hundred-million-dollar asset. It wasn’t the money that moved me; it was the invisible hand of life that blew me away. I stood there in the bank and offered that piece of paper back to the universe from whence it had come. I vowed to serve the company I had watched life build, brick by brick, and to use the money entrusted to me in a way that would help others. I took a deep breath, closed the deposit box, and prepared to ship the stock certificate up to New York.
45- Becoming CEO
Medical Manager Corporation was born out of a successful IPO on February 2, 1997. Out here in the woods of Alachua, not only did I maintain my position as president of our large R&D facility, but I also became CEO and chairman of the board of directors of the new company. I was completely naive as to how much work I would be taking on as CEO. I quickly realized that it was going to require all the one-pointed focus I had developed through my years of meditation.
It wasn’t long, however, before I realized that I couldn’t possibly keep up with all the weekly status reports plus be properly prepared for the executive conference calls. I needed some serious help, and as you may have guessed by now, that is exactly what I got.
magic showed up in the form of a young lady named Sabrina.
She had been selling, installing, and supporting practice management software since she was thirteen years old.
she was only twenty-two when she began working at Personalized Programming, and had never even been to college.
Sabrina was the person I turned to for executive help when I became CEO.
Much more interesting to me, however, was the tremendous growth that could come from our ability to electronically connect our enormous number of doctors to the rest of the health-care industry.
I then informed her that she was going to be in charge. This was the birth of what we called Medical Manager Network Services. The success of this venture at so many levels was practically incomprehensible. It started out as an inspired vision and grew into a $100-million-a-year line of business. In a very short period of time, we led the industry in electronic transactions.
I never worked so hard in my life. But it didn’t burn me out. In fact, it had the opposite effect. The more I let go of “Mickey” and just committed myself to the task life had given me, the more the spiritual energy flow increased within me. It was as though by aligning myself with life’s outer flow, the beautiful, inward flow of energy was naturally strengthened. By now, I had become thoroughly convinced that the constant act of letting go of one’s self-centered thoughts and emotions was all that was needed for profound personal, professional, and spiritual growth.
46- The Internet and Health Care
After almost thirty years, I’d seen enough perfection unfold around me that nothing in me wanted to interfere with the flow ever again. I had seen time and again how what at first appeared to be a problem turned out to be a guiding force of change leading us forward. That was certainly the case toward the end of 1998 as our executive strategy calls began to focus on how the Internet was going to affect our business. It concerned us that our competitors would soon have inexpensive access to all physicians nationwide without the need to build out a dealer network.
Synetic was in a position to leverage the asset we had built to an entirely new level.
I reflected back at how many times life had presented me with changes I was uncomfortable with. In the beginning, it had been difficult to ignore the resistant mind. Over time, as I saw what had transpired by taking the risk of letting go of me, the process had become much more natural. I was surrounded by the results of letting go. There was nothing in my life I could point to that hadn’t come from surrendering to life’s flow. I was so humbled by the process that nothing in me wanted to resist ever again. I was deeply in love with the excitement and wonder of experiencing what would unfold next. It was in this frame of mind that I was off to Texas to meet Synetic’s chairman.
To me, this proposed merger was simply what was happening next. I didn’t need to think about it; I already knew that nothing inside of me wanted to merge the company with Synetic or anyone else. I loved what I was doing.
This surrendering to life was my path to self-realization.
I was not living a life based on what I wanted or didn’t want. Those types of thoughts had ceased passing through my mind long ago. I was way too busy trying to do the work life had given me. This was Karma yoga at its highest. I had given my life to the Universal Flow, and it had not only taken it—it had devoured me in the process. I didn’t care at all what happened to me. I cared about the company, the employees, the doctors, and, above all, the vision of perfection that drove the very beat of my heart.
As beautiful as that sounds, I found myself on a jet flying to a tiny airport somewhere in the middle of Texas to meet a total stranger and discuss arrangements to put the company under his control.
My discussions with John Kang about the proposed deal had shown me how sharp Marty was. Control was definitely my major issue. I wanted to be in a position to keep the dream alive and protect the company from being abused for strictly financial gain. Marty had agreed to put John, me, and some other Medical Manager Corporation board members on the board of directors of the combined company. He also agreed to make me co-chairman of the board, and John and I would become the co-CEOs. For added incentive, the new combined company would keep our name, Medical Manager Corporation.
Though I was a novice at mergers of public companies, I was astute enough to know what granting us these high-level positions really meant. It meant that Marty was so confident of his position of power that he did not feel the slightest bit threatened by ceding this amount of power to people with whom he had no history. Any way you cut it, if the deal went through, Marty was going to be my boss. This was all the more interesting since I never really had a boss before, and I was fifty-two years old. I had researched all I could about Marty. He was a self-made billionaire who bred and raced thoroughbred horses for a hobby. He had grown up on Wall Street buying and selling companies, and he had also built some very successful companies from the ground up, including Medco, which he had sold to Merck pharmaceuticals for six billion dollars years earlier. Most important, he was highly respected in the upper echelons of business. More than one article about him freely used the term “genius.”
Marty had made an offer of $1.3 billion for Medical Manager Corporation. Our board of directors was leaning very favorably toward the deal.
What I didn’t know was what life would be like in this larger corporate environment. I realized I could never know beforehand, and I was ready to surrender once again to the flow of life. From a personal point of view, I was much more interested in seeing how Marty did with me than how I did with him. I was a ponytailed, non-suit-wearing yogi, and Marty was sure to be a more traditional businessman. Was this going to work?
The meeting lasted only a few hours and everything went fine, as would be expected under these circumstances. We each had already spent sufficient time analyzing the proposed merger, so by the time we met, the synergies were quite clear. I found Marty to be very down to earth and approachable. He was all business, and I really liked that. I made a point of discussing (or more accurately—disclosing) the existence of the Temple, and my commitment to meditation and my alternative lifestyle. I knew I wasn’t going to give any of that up, so it seemed appropriate to let him know what he was getting into. It was obvious that Marty was way past the small stuff. He was a big picture person, and what he cared about was corporate development. He couldn’t have cared less about my personal lifestyle, but he paid close attention when I discussed how hard I worked every day. He told me his wife did yoga, and I figured that being from California he was bound to have been exposed to the likes of me. As Marty and I shook hands and went our own ways, there was no way I could have known how much I would end up learning, both personally and professionally, from this man.
47- Merging—But Not with the Universe
Medical Manager had a very active board of directors, many of whom had tremendous business experience, including a previous treasurer of General Motors. The board was seriously considering our various options going forward. We had done $140 million of business the previous year versus Synetic’s $70 million. But the tremendous potential value of its web portal had pushed Synetic’s market value way beyond ours and made the company an attractive partner. In the end, the board unanimously decided to accept Synetic’s $1.3 billion offer for the company.
It was the main business story on CNN that evening and was prominent in the Wall Street Journal the next day.
My responsibilities now stretched beyond the practice management business and included all the areas of business Marty’s team had been working on. In truth, that was the most exciting part of the merger. I now had an entire team of world-class executives to work with. Marty surrounded himself with the best of the best, and it was really an honor to get to work with these people.
As it turned out, Synetic’s main competitors were our old friends, WebMD and Healtheon, who had merged together by now.
We awoke to the news that Healtheon/WebMD had managed to acquire Envoy, the largest claims clearinghouse in the industry, for $2.5 billion. That was quite an acquisition considering that Healtheon/WebMD was a web start-up company reporting enormous losses, and Envoy was a well-established, highly profitable clearinghouse for health-care transactions. It was quickly determined that we could not maintain a competitive position in light of this deal. From Medical Manager’s point of view, the deal meant that our competitor now owned the clearinghouse through which we were channeling all of our clients’ hundreds of millions of claims a year. There were times when I was very glad I was no longer in charge—late January 2000 was definitely one of them.
48- Building Rome in a Day
Marty was calm and collected at the ensuing board meeting. In fact, he seemed even sharper than usual. It turned out he was just as good at playing downside situations as he was at leveraging upside opportunities. He went over the options with the board, and it was decided we had best try to negotiate a decent merger agreement with Healtheon/WebMD. It was a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them.”
As unbelievable as it seems, Medical Manager Corporation and Healtheon/WebMD announced their merger agreement just three weeks after we learned of the Envoy deal.
The deal valued Medical Manager Corporation at $3.5 billion, and Wall Street characterized it as the merger of two behemoths in the health-care industry. It drew headlines everywhere. The announcement pushed Medical Manager’s stock price to a peak of $86 a share. This can be compared to $17.60 per share when we went public three years earlier.
The joy was short-lived. The infamous Internet bubble, caused by overinflated expectations for Internet companies, began to burst just weeks after the merger announcement. We had not even closed the deal, yet by April 2000, Healtheon/WebMD had already lost 70 percent of its value.
WebMD’s stock had once traded above $100 per share. It was at $17.50 when we closed the deal, on its way to a low of $3 in August 2001. This called for drastic measures, and that is what it got.
Marty brought in a seasoned turnaround specialist, Marv Rich, to be president during the massive reorganization. The company was losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year and the bleeding had to be stopped. Marv’s job was to work his way through all the divisions and cut them down to core competency. All that would remain was that which aligned with WebMD’s core vision and could quickly begin earning its keep.
The task before us was breathtaking, and it provided tremendous growth for me, personally. I now found myself part of a team of executives who, instead of complaining, simply rolled up their sleeves and tackled this monumental project. Everyone was working day and night to do whatever was needed to right the sinking ship. For years I had been diligently working to free myself of that weak person inside who always insisted on things being the way he wanted. Now, nothing was the way anybody would have wanted. Yet everyone just took a collective deep breath and did whatever was asked of them. It was an amazing thing to be part of, and it taught me a lesson of inner strength that permanently changed me at a very deep level.
Marv called me one day and asked me to accompany him to California where the WebMD Internet site was being developed.
I couldn’t believe what I saw when we arrived. More than eight hundred developers were working in a giant converted warehouse in Silicon Valley. It was tiny cubicle after tiny cubicle as far as the eye could see. I thought my development team in Alachua had expanded tremendously. We were around 250 people, but this development team was over three times that size, and everyone was packed in like sardines.
I had so much to learn from people like Marty and Marv, and I was completely open to the process.
Marv spent a few minutes relaxing quietly, got up from his chair, and motioned me to walk with him. He left the meeting room and called together the entire development team right then and there in the open cubicle area. He explained that the top tier of their management had just resigned and anyone who wanted to go with them should make that decision at this time. Those who wished to stay would not be guaranteed a job, but over the next few weeks we would work together to see who was needed to keep the core development going.
The only thing Marv ever said to me about the whole affair was that if you let people hold you hostage, they will force you to make terrible decisions, and you will lose. You might as well take your bumps up front and at least be in control of your destiny. Who would have believed that just a few months later, one of Marty’s senior executives would move the development of the website to New York and relaunch it with a team of less than forty developers. That new website became the foundation for WebMD’s entire future.
Again and again I was seeing that each of these intensely challenging business experiences was very beneficial for my spiritual growth. I just kept letting go of whatever discomfort got stirred up within me, and inevitably, a stronger flow of spiritual energy took its place.
We had grown to almost two thousand employees, and that made us very ripe for cost cutting.
It certainly didn’t hurt when Sabrina was able to present the tremendous growth of Medical Manager Network Services from a few hundred thousand dollars a year to a fifty-million-dollar-a-year business in just over three years.
It was during these presentations that it really hit me what had happened. John Kang and I had set out to be sure that Medical Manager was not left behind by the enormous potential of Internet companies like Healtheon and WebMD. At the same time, Sabrina and I had been struggling to find a way to get Envoy, or some other clearinghouse, to evolve enough to be able to fulfill our vision for Network Services. Despite all the negative issues we were facing, the amazing reality was that when the smoke had cleared, we ended up owning all three of these companies—WebMD, Healtheon, and Envoy. Just a short time ago, no one could have even imagined how such a thing could ever take place. It was like so much else I had experienced; the unimaginable had actually happened.
I was shocked to see what had happened to the meeting room. Stretched around the walls of the room were computer printouts with the names of all the Medical Manager Practice Services Division’s two thousand employees. Hanging like wallpaper, they foreshadowed the day planned for tomorrow: every name on the list would need to be justified. I was aghast, especially since we had recently requested additional employees to keep up with our growth.
I knew that Marv had to cut costs, and it was my job as a corporate executive to help him. This could have created a lot of inner tension, but I decided to just surrender to the reality of the situation and be open to balancing these two areas of concern. I came to peace that night knowing my heart was in the right place, and when tomorrow came, I would do the best I could.
The next morning when I entered the room, I was again shocked by what I saw. The printouts had been taken down, and the walls were back to normal. Before I could inquire what was going on, Marv’s second in command walked me out to the hall. He told me that he and Marv had met last night, and the decision was made to skip the “bloodletting” and allow us to continue the fine work we were doing. He told me they were very impressed with what we had achieved and with our plans for the future.
He playfully asked me what I had used to drug Marv while he was down here in Alachua. He went on to say that he doubted that such an event had ever taken place in the annals of corporate history. We were all well aware that Marv’s purpose in life was to cut costs. That he would come down here with that intention, and simply walk away, is a tribute to both the quality of our division and to Marv as a manager. Medical Manager and I received a number of tributes in 2000, but none was more meaningful to me than receiving such a vote of confidence from someone I respected so much.
49- Hanging Out in Washington
The year 2000 not only ushered in a new millennium, it brought with it a flurry of recognition for the pinnacle of success that The Medical Manager had achieved. To me, who was just on the magic carpet for the ride, it was all simply a tribute to the perfection of life’s flow. I had not sought any recognition; I had just thrown myself into life’s wind to see where it would take me.
I was invited by one of our previous board members, Ray Kurzweil, to join him at the White House in March where he was to receive the National Medal of Honor in Technology. Ray is credited with many major inventions, including the first microchip that allowed an electronic keyboard to sound like a grand piano and other real instruments. He is also considered one of the fathers of speech recognition software. Ray had been on Medical Manager Corporation’s board, and I had sat on Kurzweil Education System’s board. Through it all we had become good friends. He even stayed with us at the Temple a few times and showed a serious interest in Eastern philosophy. I would have to wear a tuxedo to the While House, which was far from my normal attire, but I was excited about joining Ray for this honor.
I kept realizing that the people I was having conversations with were all National Medal of Honor winners in some field of science. President Clinton joined the mix, and I even ran into Stevie Wonder in the hallway. All in all, it was one of those “what am I doing here” moments. I’m a yogi who moved out to the woods to meditate. I surrendered to the flow of life, and I end up here—unbelievable.
the same way as we now look at the Industrial Revolution, someday people will be fascinated by the time period in which computers revolutionized how we live. Each year a panel of CEOs of the world’s leading IT companies did a search for organizations that had done extraordinary work in the field. Because of our work in the area of electronic health-care transactions, Medical Manager was one of the companies selected in the year 2000 to have its story preserved in a time capsule for the future.
Reflecting back twenty years to when I was sitting in that twelve-by-twelve-foot room in the woods by myself writing this program, one could never have imagined that it would lead to the Smithsonian.
Had Medical Manager actually reached the point of success that the U.S. government had to be concerned about the very antitrust laws I had studied in business school? No, not really, but we were going to have to convince them of that.
There were attorneys everywhere, but one always stood out from the rest. Jim Mercer was Marty’s litigation specialist, and he understood both the law and business at a phenomenal level. I had learned to have great respect and confidence in Jim, and I was glad he would be present at the DOJ meeting.
When it was all said and done, the merger was not going to pose any anti-trust problems. Though we were very relieved when the ordeal was over, it had actually turned out to be quite a learning experience.
All this exposure to intensely powerful people and situations was having a profound effect on the psyche I watched so diligently. I had never been exposed to this powerful lifestyle. Nothing in me got off on it or wanted anything from it, but it did make me deal with parts of my being that I would not have faced otherwise. If I saw any weakness, fear, or anxiety come up, I just deeply relaxed back into where I was watching from. I simply kept letting go of whatever came up. This is where life had taken me, and I used all these situations as a way of letting go of myself. It was definitely working. I kept being pushed into strongly positive and negative situations, and I increasingly found myself in a very clear and undisturbed state. It seemed that the more challenges life put me through, the less my inner energy flow was affected by outer conditions. What years of willful meditation had not gotten rid of, life’s situations and challenges were rooting out of me. As long as I made getting rid of myself my only goal, every situation was a fruitful experience. If I’d had any other goal, I think the constant pressure would have been overwhelming. I found that I actually got more peaceful inside as I dealt with the ever-increasing magnitude of challenges. Life was molding me each day to become who I needed to be in order to handle tomorrow’s tasks. All I had to do was let go and not resist the process.
For the next few years, my Medical Manager Practice Services Division continued to grow to its peak financial success. We grew to more than twenty-three hundred employees and were generating more than three hundred million dollars a year in revenue. We were the most widely installed practice management vendor in the country.
It was a period with tremendous challenges that I thought was putting me through unprecedented growth. Little did I know that life’s portal of dramatic change was about to open up once again. When it did this time, it would completely redefine for me what it meant to go through a transformational growth experience.
Section IX - Total Surrender
I noticed I had a voice mail from Lisa Elliot, the resident attorney at the R&D facility in Alachua. She said it was very important, so I returned her call while still in the parking lot. I got Lisa on her cell phone, and she was very glad to hear from me. Her voice was uncharacteristically tense, and I realized that something was very wrong. She began by telling me that I needed to come to work right away because the FBI was there, and they wanted to see me.
She said, “No, THE FBI is here—twelve to fifteen agents plus the Sheriff’s Department. They’ve taken over the entire facility. They’ve shut down all the phone lines and the entire computer system. This is a full-blown raid. Helicopters are flying overhead, agents are armed, and there’s a search warrant. You need to come here right away!”
I clearly heard the words she was saying, and I understood the sense of urgency with which they were said—but the situation was so absurd that I could not relate to it in any manner. It was like—maybe they have the wrong address. I guess that’s why it didn’t disturb me. In fact, it sounded like it was going to be rather exciting getting to show them they had made a mistake.
As I drove up the long and winding drive through the beautiful hayfields, law enforcement vehicles were scattered everywhere. When I approached Building 1, I saw the Sheriff’s Department’s forty-foot Mobile Command Center stretched across our parking lot.
There were, indeed, two helicopters buzzing overhead. I think they ended up being part of the media coverage.
I was presented with a search warrant, which Lisa had already reviewed, and I was informed that the warrant gave them full control of the facility. They had the right to take any and all items that fell within the itemized categories. They asked me to sign a paper acknowledging that I had been served the warrant. I glanced at Lisa, and she nodded that I should sign. I had absolutely no idea what to do; I was completely out of my element.
They didn’t say much, but they referred me to a list of about thirty names that they said were persons essential to their investigation. The entire executive management team from the original Medical Manager Corporation was on the list, as were Marty, the attorney Jim Mercer, and some top people from WebMD’s corporate accounting.
I was taking everything in very calmly, but my mind was spinning trying to find clues about what was behind all of this.
It was actually the presence of one name on the list that first caught my attention. The name was Pat Sedlacek. Unlike everyone else on the list, this person was neither part of our executive team nor part of legal or accounting.
The subpoenas we obtained of their bank accounts had revealed an intricate network of shell companies Bobby had been using to hide the money.
The investigators were able to trace the funds coming in and going out of these accounts to see who was involved in the money trail. Pat had already begun to cooperate, and it was obvious that Bobby Davids was the ringleader.
By the time of the raid, we had traced millions of dollars, and it was still an ongoing investigation.
Why a sneak-attack raid in Alachua, Tampa, and New Jersey when everything was readily available?
I was not concerned in the least. I knew I had not done anything wrong, and therefore they were not going to find anything.
If this was a case of Bobby lying to try to save his neck, the evidence would clearly reveal the truth.
I wanted to make sure I was present enough to fully take in this extraordinary experience. It’s not every day that the FBI shows up and raids your place for absolutely no apparent reason.
My desk was cleared of every single scrap of paper. All my file cabinets were empty, as were all those of my executive assistant, Sandy Plumb. All legal files were removed from Lisa’s office and from the legal filing rooms. My conference room table used to have stacks of file folders piled up that were actively being used to run the business. They were all gone with no way to re-create them. And it was not just the paper documents that were being taken; agents were also making mirror images of all our computer disk drives, both the desktops and the servers.
There was really no reason to be thinking about why this was happening or how it would turn out. Since I had absolutely no idea what was going on, thinking about it wasn’t going to help. Instead, I enjoyed spending my day letting go of whatever that voice in my head was trying to say and deeply relaxing whenever my heart began to feel anxious. In this situation, surrender was not an option; it was only sane thing to do.
the government had taken 1.2 million e-mail messages, 1,500 boxes of files containing more than 3 million pages of documents, and 830,000 computer files. This was, indeed, a day that would live in infamy.