Finding purpose and meaning in life

Finding purpose and meaning in life

holding-hands-858005_960_720When I was asked to write this blog about innovation, ever-the entrepreneur and rule breaker, I asked if I could actually write about purpose and meaning? Lucky for me, the answer was yes.

As chance would have it, while studying for my certification in Applied Positive Psychology in the last few months, I learned that having clear meaning and purpose is one of the most innovative ways to have a longer, healthier and happier life. This applies to companies too. Those with a very clear sense of purpose actually perform better than those without one.

ViktorFranklDuring my own happiness quest, I came across this article about Viktor Frankl, a neurologist and psychiatrist from Austria who was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps for three years. The article suggests that deep fulfillment and contentment comes not from seeking happiness, but from seeking meaning through serving others.  Frankl wrote that life offers you purpose and meaning, but it doesn’t owe you fulfillment or happiness.

Frankl believed, as do I, that most people no matter their age want to lead meaningful lives and contribute to causes that are greater than their selves. His seminal work, Man’s Search for Meaning references an early 1900s study of American university students, 78% of them said their first goal was “finding purpose and meaning in life.”  This remains true today; a recent study found that the number one factor 21-31 year olds wanted in a career was a “sense of meaning.”  Frankl didn’t think just college students were seeking meaning though. He thought that every one from juvenile delinquents to criminals to drug abusers were seeking meaning. And if we pre-suppose this is the case, then we will “elicit a spark from [them], and make [them] become what … [they] are capable of becoming.”  Frankl is one of the reasons I am currently researching how the desire for meaning and purpose has driven some young people to join terrorist groups and gangs and why I think its important to develop alternative pathways to help these young people uncover their purpose and lead meaningful, constructive lives instead.

We know that meaning and purpose has clear health benefits not just for young people or juvenile delinquents, but also for those perfectly well adjusted folks in middle age and beyond. National Health Institute funded research suggests that you could live up to seven years longer if you have a clear and compelling purpose guiding you. Researchers have also found that a strong sense of purpose may actually reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, arthritis and stroke.

So, perhaps you buy into the fact that meaning and purpose is key to flourishing. Now, you may be asking how best to uncover your own purpose and meaning? And, how can you keep it at the forefront of everything you do?

For me, the core of purpose and meaning in life is about making a difference in the world. I believe that no matter who you are, where you come from, or where you’ve been- you have gifts, skills and abilities to solve problems in the service of other people. Some people will use this formula to derive meaning from a 9-5 job, for others it will be through the companies they build, and for others in the volunteer work they do or in how they show up for their families.

Ultimately, when you know and use your gifts in a way that lights you up and serves others, I believe you have found your reason to wake up in the morning—your purpose—and your life will be better and in fact, happier for it.

Curious risk takers wanted

Curious risk takers wanted


“When all think alike, then no one is thinking.” ~ Walter Lippman

Innovation is defined as a new method, idea or product and yet so few of us are willing to embrace new ideas, thoughts or patterns. Change can be a dreaded word. Innovation requires us to remain open to new ideas, to brainstorm, and allow others to feel safe to brainstorm with us.

Innovation is asking what if, over and over and over again.

Innovation-Blog-ArtInnovator’s think outside the box and are often curious risk takers who go deeper in their analysis. An innovator sees what isn’t there and thinks of ways to create change or improve upon that which we have grown accustomed. Jay Terwilliger of Creative Realities, Inc. puts it this way:

“Don’t stop thinking just because you have found a solution you like… challenge yourself to go further before you settle.”

Consider a challenge or situation you currently face. What other solutions might you innovate by looking for multiple positive outcomes?

An innovator sees the world with a child’s view: untainted, free of prejudice, and open.

Wouldn’t you love to wake everyday with the uncorrupted fresh perspective of a child? To embrace each day with a mind that questions everything from a place of innocence, curiosity and without judgment?

With some effort and practice, if we reframe our thinking, we are all capable of returning to such mental landscape.

Frank Laubach (Laubach Literacy Method) was an early innovator with a philosophy: “Each One Teach One”. He believed if you can read, you can teach another person to read. Simple.

Laubach’s idea was a literacy innovation. Think about the exponential power, the positive lasting change, his philosophy created. Countless numbers of lives were greatly improved by this one idea.

Let’s take the Laubach concept to a personal level.

If everyone reading this blog applied persistent, innovative thinking toward improving their day to day experience, one simple idea at a time, what changes might we create? Whose lives might we improve, in addition to our own, by challenging ourselves to go further, seek more, and continually ask what if?[/box]


The future belongs to the risk takers

The future belongs to the risk takers

risk-takersAre You an Innovator? In my role as the Chamber of Commerce President, I am often asked about the future of our community. How do we turn things around? How do we move forward?  What will Richland County look like in the future?

Those can be hard questions for anyone to answer with any degree of certainty. What I do know is that our community has been built by a series of strong entrepreneurs who have created businesses, watched them grow and then supported the community in many generous ways.

I would like to suggest that the future of Richland County will rest in the hands of the innovators, the risk-takers, the ones that are crazy enough to believe that their idea will succeed. I don’t think the future rests in the hands of just a chosen few either. We’re living in the age of the “Innovation Economy” and it’s dominated by those who are disrupting the accepted way of doing business.
—Jodie Perry, IOM

Webster’s Dictionary defines innovation as “the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods.” Examples about all are around us! Facebook and other social media tools have completely changed the way and the speed that we interact with other people all over the world. Other technology such as Uber or Airbnb is disrupting the way we travel (and it’s happening much faster than the regulators understand). On a local level, we have an innovative tech company like LocaLynx who is changing the way consumers find coupons and connect with businesses.

Richland County is in the midst of enormous change and we have a strong need for more innovators to step up and help us move forward. There are a tremendous amount of resources available locally to help you get started. If you are an innovator who sees the opportunity to start a new business you can get help from organizations like Braintree Business Development Center, SCORE or the Small Business Development Center. Starting a business is a huge risk, but it can also have huge rewards.

If you have had an idea rolling around about a new business or a new way of doing things, why not take some time to check it out and see if it’s possible?

Maybe you have an innovative idea, but no idea how to make a business. That’s okay! We have people who can help you with that!

Perhaps you are an innovator but you don’t want to start your own business, that is okay too! You can introduce new ideas or methods right where you are. I have tried to do that through my work with the Chamber and I know there are so many wonderful organizations who are looking for people to help.

We’re in the age of the Innovation Economy and if we want Richland County to succeed we all need to start thinking like innovators. I’m excited to get to work.

My story of being an innovator and entrepreneur

My story of being an innovator and entrepreneur

HospitalBedWhen asked to write a blog on Innovation/Innovator, my first thought was how does Webster’s define it?

[wc_row][wc_column size=”one-half” position=”first”]

[wc_divider style=”dashed” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]


noun | in·no·va·tion | ˌi-nə-ˈvā-shən:

A new method, idea, product, etc.

[wc_divider style=”dashed” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]

[/wc_column][wc_column size=”one-half” position=”last”]

[wc_divider style=”dashed” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]


A person who introduces new methods, ideas, products, etc. or makes changes in anything already established.

[wc_divider style=”dashed” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]


After thinking about this I would like to share a little bit of my story of being an innovator and an entrepreneur. All companies start from either a great idea or a necessity.

Innovator and entrepreneur–Global Medical Foam, Inc. is a bit of both.

My terminally ill husband had a rare form of terminal thyroid cancer that metastasized to his spinal cord with 13 tumors that were very painful for him. Using the skills I had acquired in nursing school, I was determined to not let him develop a pressure ulcer (bed sore). I developed a product to help with off-loading (keeping body weight off) the tumors  and the doctors and nurses loved it. Fortunately, I had a great idea, but now the challenge was in figuring out what to do with it!

I had managed to wrap up the intellectual property I generated while developing the product and I had identified sources for all my materials. However, I didn’t have a clue as to how to start a company, make and handle inventory, market the product, and meet payroll. In a nutshell I stepped off the deep end and formed Global Medical Foam, Inc.

Without any formal training in product development, I researched cushioning materials, identified a grade of polyurethane foam suitable for the project, and experimented with ways of making it even softer by creating “fingers” in the foam with deep peaks and valleys to aid in proper positioning. I was able to produce several of the devices that were used on my husband as well as some other patients in similar circumstances.  Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to also patent the design features of my device.

One of the assets that I brought into my own company was passion and a voracious appetite for information. I was growing organically, totally on my own.

The banks didn’t want to give me a business loan.

What did I know about business?

I needed to mortgage the house, which is what I did because I believed in what I was doing, and I had a passion to help people. I asked lots of questions of lots of people in the medical field and other business owners:

  • How to handle patent attorneys
  • How to manage cash flow
  • How to build inventory and manage it
  • Who to target for sales of my product
  • Methods of distribution
  • Pricing

These are just a few of the categories that I was able to wrap my arms around and begin to grow. I found myself filling the role of CEO, COO, CFO and everything else down to the housekeeping. Yet, I was able to expand my product line to an excess of over fifty different sku’s. I also did all the marketing and found success in Ohio nursing homes, long term care facilities and rehabilitation centers. We now sell to the Cleveland Clinic, and was asked if we could ship our products to the Cleveland Clinic in Dubai!

Recognized for innovation.

The Cleveland Clinic Wound Care Team submitted Global Medical Foam, Inc for the NAWBO Innovative Visionary Award in 2014.

You know you are a successful innovator/entrepreneur when you present your thoughts or ideas to someone and they say “Why didn’t I think of that?” you then know you are a innovator. The meaning of Innovation to me is exactly what Webster’s describes it as, but in addition; I believe innovation is in the everyday life things. We are innovators every day.

All the things mentioned previously are about innovation, however, after being widowed for 20 years I found a soul mate, Larry my fiancé, my love. I never believed I could love so deeply.

Heartbreak and innovation.

Then, Feb. 2, 2015 just over a year ago Larry had a massive heart attack at the end of our driveway and passed away.

I was devastated. I checked out for 3 months, unable to go to work, to be innovative, or face the world again.

What I learned through all of this was that I had built a business that had sustained itself without me being there for 3 months and I had been blessed with a wonderful staff who loved me and loved what they were doing.  THEY kept the business running that I had built.

When I think and feel the words—innovation, innovative, innovator—I think of how I had to be all those things within myself to bring myself back around to the innovation that developed Global Medial Foam, Inc. It has been a journey of a lifetime. We have been featured in:

  • Columbus Dispatch
  • Columbus CEO Magazine
  • Ostomy Wound Management
  • Innovation Visionary Award News Letter
  • Mansfield News Journal
  • Richland Area Chamber of Commerce Newsletter
  • Small Business of the Year Award Entrepreneurial Category

We are all innovative/innovators, we just need to sit back and analyze that word within ourselves. The reality of life is that you deal with your circumstances as they come to you.

“Man/Woman’s mind stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes

There are many ways to measure success but in the final analysis of life, it’s how you measure it for yourself that truly counts.