Originally published on the Global Liver Institute’s blog: Liver Matters – Solving Problems Saving Lives.
By Amita Shukla
“Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.” –William James
A few years ago, during lunch with a friend, she shared her story of undergoing a major organ transplant. In the days following her procedure, her condition was precarious but she pulled through.
In the years since, she has survived many other surgeries. Each time, complications, risks, and fears notwithstanding, she has not only gotten back on her feet but done so faster than most—and often under miraculous circumstances. That day over lunch, I asked what helped her bounce back each time. She responded with words from her surgeon: “You wanted to get well.”
Her desire “to get well,” as I have learned through the years, is about much more than a drive to live. It is a burning passion for her mission—to make a difference in the lives of patients through advocacy, education, and innovation—a calling she has made her own for close to two decades.
Over the years, while mentoring, advising and investing in healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs, I have always looked for one quality above all others—an inner fire. Such burning passion not only ignites the work of change agents, it serves as the essential fuel for their success.
In today’s fast-changing times, we need such passionate change agents more urgently than ever to catalyze progress toward a better world. Yet, what is the stuff of their passion? I think true passion—the kind that betters the world—is the convergence of three powerful forces:
1. Unconditional Love: When we are truly passionate about something, we are excited about it. Beyond enthusiasm, we also find deeper purpose and meaning in it. Unconditional love comes from a deep, authentic place. It embodies steadiness and continuity and is grounded in caring and compassion. It is more about a mission or vision of how the world could be than about any particular idea of how it will become that way. Such love brings clarity to our dreams, yet maintains flexibility in how we attain them.
2. Unwavering Commitment: Change agents are often out to disrupt the status quo in a world where doubt, skepticism, cynicism, and judgment easily arise. What separates those who succeed from those who fail is an ability to not be distracted by naysayers, to keep going, and to maintain a relentless focus on desired outcomes despite the potential for derailment. Such commitment harnesses focus, transforms stumbling blocks into stepping stones, and energizes forward momentum.
3. Unqualified Courage: Fear, doubt, failure, and the temptation to quit are part of every journey. The difference between those who keep going and those who give up is not the absence of fear. It is the capacity to live with fear. Being able to bear fear is at the core of resilience, perseverance, and grit. It allows us to recognize and acknowledge risks without being held back by them. Courage empowers us to focus on the positive, on what can go right. It keeps us going as we often fail our way to success.
These forces burn bright in my friend. Her eyes light up when she talks about helping patients. Her laughter and cheerfulness are infectious. Even when the going gets tough she says, “I can’t give up—there is no one else doing this.” She brings this mindset to everything she does. When she had a double knee replacement last year, as a “mentor” to the hospital’s CEO, she made continuous suggestions for improvement before, during, and after her stay.
When it comes to living, in the words of William James above, she is the most alive “liver” of life I know. Her name is Donna Cryer and if you are reading this you may know her already. As a founding member of her board, I know that the greatest power she brings to her work is not written in her bio or resume. It can only be seen and felt—in her light that is always shining, tirelessly focused on making a difference, and spreading joyful energy to everyone around her.
As we gather in gratitude this Thanksgiving, let us remember to give thanks for such “livers” in the world: individuals who work selflessly and tirelessly—often quietly and away from the limelight—toward the betterment of their fellow human beings. Ones continually transforming what divides us into understanding of how our challenges unite us. Ones who are not just solving their problems in the world but sowing seeds whose fruits they themselves may never reap. And then, do more than give thanks. Go out and make change happen. Light your own passion within with courage, commitment, and love. Or, become fuel for another liver and keep their flame burning bright.
Amita Shukla is a founding board member of the Global Liver Institute. She is an innovator and entrepreneur focused on creating transformative innovations for human health, well-being, and potential. She is the founder and CEO of Vitamita and the author of Enduring Edge: Transforming How We Think, Create and Change. Amita regularly mentors startups, advises organizations, and speaks to audiences of innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders in industry, academia, and government. She holds a BA in biochemistry from Harvard, an MBA from Stanford, and 10 patents. Learn more: http://vitamita.com/amita