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If I knew I could not fail, I would…

September 18, 2009

This morning I had the privilege of meeting with Alex Carmichael to understand her vision for the company she co-founded, CureTogether.  In addition to the  advice she provided on where my combination of my skills and vision may be most valued, I also appreciated the thought-provoking tagline on her business card: What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Two answers occurred to me on my train ride home.  This is not the first time these BHAGs have occurred to me.  Now that I’m putting them in writing, I can bet that it won’t be the last, either.

…align human effort globally towards extending the experience of being human indefinitely.

Having been raised in a Seventh-Day Adventist home, my world view in elementary school was that Jesus would be returning to Earth again very soon to take believers with him to Heaven.  Even though I knew that believers who had died prior to his return would be resurrected, I really hoped that he would come before I died so I could be spared from the experience of death.  Decades later, two things remain the same: my interest in living indefinitely and my belief that it’s possible.  If I were to name the most relevant aspect of my world view that has changed since then, it is this:  we are empowered and capable of overcoming the forces that bring each human life to an end.

Easy? No.

Possible? Yes.

Will it happen within my lifetime? I’m looking forward to finding out.

How will it happen? We won’t know until we get there.  However, the description that I relate to the most is that told by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman in their book, Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever .

I thought you were job hunting, not dreaming of the impossible. In my mind, they aren’t mutually exclusive.  In fact, if I look back at many of the key job-related decisions I’ve made, this dream has had a significant influence; I simply described it as wanting to apply my expertise in a way that helped people.  The mission statement of my previous employer, Medtronic, is even in line with this dream:

To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.

Great, so you have a vision, purpose, mission statement, blah-duh-blah.  What specifically are you going to do? I’ll answer that with this observation.  When Earl Bakken wrote that mission statement, it was his tinkering with a hot new technology called the transistor that enabled him to extend life with the first battery-powered pacemaker.  What’s the hot new technology that sweeping the world today?  For one, Twitter.  For another, Facebook.  Where do I think that these types of technologies are being tinkered with that will ultimately improve health and extend life?  If there’s anything to learn from Earl, I’ll bet it’s in someone’s garage.

You said there were two things you’d do if you knew you couldn’t fail.

Storytime has ended for today.  Stay tuned!

(How would you answer this question?)

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