Finding your purpose, and remembering why you're here, even during a pandemic

Steven Loeb · November 9, 2020 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/5137

Entrepreneurs share their journeys via "Becoming Us" a BetterHelp series

On Thursday, Vator and BetterHelp held their latest Becoming Us session, a bi-monthly program to help professionals build mental resilience through these surreal times filled with an unprecedented lockdown, lost opportunity, soul-searching protests and political unrest. As we transition to a new normal, we wanted to create a judgment-free place where people could share their unique journeys - struggles, hopes, etc. And in so doing, inspire others. 

This session, hosted by Joy Berkheimer, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and moderated by Vator CEO Bambi Francisco, was focused on finding purpose in a pandemic which has turned so many lives upside down.

(Our next event on this topic is happening on November 19. Register here. The event is free and anyone is free to share their story, or just listen in to what others have to say)

Here's how a few of them shared their journeys:

Jake Diner, CEO of Fertility Cloud:

“I want to share the story of our company. Each of our founders had a pretty painful IVF or fertility story, and we started thinking how we could help women and men and couples become parents. As we were planning the company, we kept thinking, ‘Well, what can we do better to make the service accessible and affordable?’ My partners, they've gone through a lot of IVF procedures, and they kept telling me, ‘Look, you know, the biggest problem here is that we have clinics and clinics are very expensive. Therefore they charge a lot of money. And the clinics are very scarce and they're not easily accessible, even if you do have the money.’ So, we started thinking, ‘Well, maybe we could take the doctors out of the clinics,’ and we figured out there are some procedures that don't actually require a patient to be in person. Mind you, we’re talking late 2019. So, as we put the company together, as we obtained all the licenses, as we finally found a company that would sell us insurance, malpractice insurance is crazy, guess what happened: COVID happened.

So, we are in the very beginning of the lockdown and we’ve come into the market saying, ‘Hey guys, anybody having a problem getting pregnant? We have doctors who will see you using telemedicine. They can talk to you and they can help you overcome a lot of fears, and a lot of unknowns.’ A lot of IVF procedures got postponed and for anyone who ever has to go through this, they understand that every month counts. It's not some indefinite thing where if I don't do it today I’ll do it tomorrow. So, when we were building the company, we all of the sudden had this thing coming on us, the total lockdown, so everybody was sitting at home. And we were hoping they would make babies. As we were building out the awareness of what we do, and building awareness of how we can help, we started seeing that the people started coming down with COVID, including employees in the company and the customers who were talking to us and wanted to know, what should I do? 

I constantly see my personal purpose as helping others. I derive the most satisfaction from when I get a note, ‘I don't need your service anymore. I have positive results,’ which means they’re pregnant. So, for me, that's why I'm doing what I'm doing; it’s to help other people to become parents. For my family, personally, the joy of parenthood was a long awaited, very expensive journey, but the most satisfying. I have a six year old daughter who constantly grills me on everything, and that's probably the biggest challenge I have, to figure out how to answer her questions. At the same time, we’re trying to get the word out to literally millions of women who cannot afford or cannot access the doctors and the knowledge that the medical professionals have, to answer the question of why they cannot get pregnant. 

With everything that has gone on around us, what helps me to stay sane is the laser focus on my main purpose which, for me, is to essentially lose customers. I want to lose my customers, which means they got pregnant and that means they don't need my services anymore. So, in our office, when we had an office, we agreed that we were going to build a wall with stars of everyone gets pregnant. And the more stars, the better we did our job. And, whenever I ask, ‘Why am I here? Why am I still doing it?’ it’s the wall. I want to go back on my wall. When we started here we had one person who trusted their care to our hands, and now we’ve run out of space. So, that’s what drives me, I want to build my wall. I want to build a wall of stars and do it all around the office so it should close the loop."

Gail Allen, consultant:

“I felt like for a while I lost my purpose. The inability to connect with people face-to-face, after a while it really started to affect me. I teach dance, so it’s face-to-face, and I'm a consultant, and that's face-to-face. I teach people the Bible, so my whole life is about face-to-face things. Not having that connection really started weighing on me. I struggled with bouts of depression, which is not me; I have anxiety but depression is not a thing for me. So, I felt for a while like I'd lost my creativity, and just got lost with my purpose, and then I did a photo shoot with my photographer, who is a very young lady. At the end of the photoshoot she had to stop and tell me, she just recently started two businesses and she's been doing some different and exciting endeavors in her life and she said to me, ‘I just want to let you know, the reason why I was able to start this and discover that this is what I wanted to do is because of you.’ And she really helped me to remember that part of my gift, and part of my purpose, is to help draw out of young women what's already inside of them, what God has already been instilled in them, but have not yet tapped into or they don't know how to connect to. Or maybe somebody has told them differently, so they stopped believing in themselves. That's my gift and that's my purpose. I'm really good with drawing people's gifts out of them. So, my photographer saying that to me was really eye opening. It was really just like a rebirth for me, to help me remember who I am, and to help me remember, ‘Oh yeah, that makes me want to get up in the morning. That is what brings me joy, that's what gives me energy.’ For me, that was just a game changer. 

When you're talking about purpose and repurposing and with COVID and quarantine, how has that changed? I got distracted for a little while, but now I was like, ‘Oh no, no, no, no. I know what I’m out here for,’ and it’s just given me that energy back. As far as intention, really it reminds me of the intention that I want to have when I interact with people, whether virtually or over the phone or whatever. Even being in the grocery store, I still make attempts to have some type of connection with people because you never know what other people are going through, you never know who is hanging on by a thread. You never know who you can touch. I had no idea I was touching that young lady, my photographer, in the ways that I did. I had no idea. I was just being myself, I was just interacting with people the way I love to interact with people and little did I know I caused a whole shift for this young lady's life because of just me being me.”

Ricardo Zulueta, CEO and Founder at Start Day One:

“I’m the founder of Start Day One, it's a nonprofit foundation for mental health and suicide prevention. One of the things I discuss is purpose. So, purpose: why do we want that? It’s because it’s kind of like your ‘why.’ Everything that you do is just really an extension of yourself, but you have to figure out how you develop the purpose. A lot of people don't know. The good thing about purpose is that, as people, we kind of go away from the negative; basically, we go towards pleasure and avoid pain. Everyone knows this. What's good about purpose is that it doesn't care about the pain or pleasure. That's why it's so important, that's why you persevere. You look at you Elon Musk: because of his purpose he was ready to lose all this money for his sense of purpose. So, that's the important part of purpose. 

When you're trying to develop a purpose, it's always a verb; it can’t be a noun. You can never say, ‘I want to be this.’ That's just a noun. You'll see that a lot of mission statements are built this way, because their mission statement is like a purpose for a startup. Basically, a personal purpose is just your own mission statement, and you have to figure it out with a verb. It's never going to be a noun. Facebook didn’t say they wanted to be the best social network, that's very finite; what they say is they want to connect people. That's always going to keep going, pandemic or not. And that's what purpose does: it doesn't matter if there’s a pandemic or not, you go through. So, remember, when you come up with your purpose, it has to be a verb. 

Also, another thing is that the purpose is never for yourself. A purpose is always to benefit other people. Look at every company: it's not to be the best social network, to be the best at this, it's always to serve others in some way, shape or form. So, for your own personal purpose, it can’t be, ‘I want to be the best parent.’ That's a noun, and that’s just for you. For Jake, his great purpose was to help people become parents. That’s big. For Gail, it was to enhance people's lives through dancing. That's a good purpose, because that's something, with or without a pandemic, that you can do. If it's to help people become parents, well he's not going to stop because he can’t go out; he just figures out how he can connect on Zoom, how he can educate them and all that stuff. So, the purpose keeps going. It doesn't matter what obstacles you have there. What's good about purpose is it gives you a sort of a future thinking. When you have a sense of purpose, you have an idea of what your future is. People don't get depressed because of what they can see from the past, or even their present, it's actually what they can't see about their future.

Purpose keeps going. It's very infinite. That's really the biggest difference, because that's your ‘why.’ I actually like Joy's first slide where it has those directional things. When I help people who are lost, I picture them driving a car. When people get lost in a car, they don’t place it in park and go, ‘I’m lost,’ and then stay there. What you end up doing is trying to figure out where you're trying to go. So, that's always my question. ‘Where are you trying to go?’ Because that’s your purpose; it's why you’re in a car in the first place. ‘I'm trying to go to California to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents.’ It has to be very specific and people don't understand that purpose is the compass. Not necessarily the directions, it's just a compass. What turns you're going to make, what you're going to do. When you're in a car, when you get lost, you go to a therapist if you need directions. But if it's not that, sometimes you come through these obstacles, so purpose tells you, ‘Why are you trying to go?’ Whether there's an accident in the front, you don’t all of a sudden put it in park, you figure out how you're going to get there. Because you have to. I want to spend Thanksgiving with my family so I have to go, that's why I'm going. So, what happens is, whether there's an obstacle in the way when you're in traffic and stuff like that, you reroute, just like your GPS says. We don't typically put it in park. 

After your purpose, it's really about fixing your perspectives, because your perspectives either are going to be a threat or a benefit to your sense of purpose. You know which ones those are. The reason it's so important to figure out your perspectives, and really keep that in line with your purpose, is because all of your decisions follow your perspectives. All of it. That's really just my thing with purpose, just so people know how to develop it. It's not about just developing meaning. Instead of, ‘what's the meaning of life?’ because that's where people are trying to answer this really huge question, but really it's what makes your life meaningful. So that's really what you want to ask yourself.”

Zulueta also spoke about his clothing line and the way he used it to try to help people find their purpose.

“My clothing line is called Fükitt Clothing. So, the story behind this is, everyone knows to live life to the fullest but it's impossible. It's actually human nature to take life for granted. That's why we complain about Mondays, traffic, weather. No one is immune to it. So, what I learned was everyone knows this concept but then why isn't anyone doing it? Really, they just need reminders, like someone getting cancer, the pandemic. All of a sudden you go, ‘Oh my god, life is so precious. What am I doing?’ Because you already know the concept, you’re just reminded of it. But it's temporary. You didn't know Monday was coming again? You didn't know traffic sucks? It just comes back, so it's very temporary, it fades. So, one of the things we did with the brand was act as a reminder. Like, ‘Hey, stop complaining about it, and live life more.’ So, whenever you do something inspirational, it always goes towards mental health. We took it a step further, we went to suicide prevention, because I actually lost my brother to suicide. One of the biggest things I learned from him, or that incident, at least, is when people get sad or depressed, it is not the situation, it's actually their perspective. That's why rock stars commit suicide while the homeless people are the ones trying to stay alive. That doesn't make any sense. So, it's the perspective we needed to change. One of the things we did with our apparel, even though it's pronounced ‘Fükitt,’ it persuaded people to say ‘fuck it’ more, without being offensive about it.  

Here's why that's really important: all of you, and everyone else, are exposed to motivational stuff every single day. Facebook videos, Instagram quotes, on a daily basis. And if that's the case, why isn't it working? Because they're all meaningless, all of it. The only time they actually become meaningful is when you make a decision about something. That's it. Guess when you say the phrase ‘fuck it’? It's only until after you've already made a decision. That's the only time. The reason you say it is you're confirming to yourself that you’re actually going to follow through and commit to the decision you just made. You never back out. And so, that mindset allows you to quit the job you hate, to change your perspective on a pandemic, to start your own business. Until you decide, nothing happens. And people assume that you need to solve all the problems before you make that decision. It's reversed: once you make that decision, you figure out the freaking solutions, just like that. That's why we called our nonprofit Start Day One, because you have to start day one, you have to decide. Until you decide, nothing's going to happen. When I was talking to my friend about the mission behind the brand, I told them it was something about the past and regrets. The solution to regret, by the way, these are just things that you never forgave yourself for. That's it. That's all they are. They're just personal experiences you've never forgave yourself about. That is it. You will not forgive yourself. So, that's actually the cure to regret. But anyway, it was something about regret, so I said, ‘Live life without regret.’ And then I said it was something about taking a risk, just moving forward. Either way, it’s an act of progressing, moving forward. And he said, ‘No, accept the challenges.’ I'm like, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because the challenges are always being set in front of you, but it's still up to you to accept it or not. And when you actually say ‘fuck it,’ that's actually when you accept the challenge,’ and I'm like, ‘Wow, you're right.’ So, that's actually become more like a personal motto now. So, any challenge that I see, any regrets that I potentially might have, it's like, ‘forgive yourself about those regrets, and then accept the challenges that are worth the risk.’ Worth the risk, not any risk, it has to be worth it.”

(Image source: verilymag.com)

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