Vocation (n.) is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which she/he is suited, trained, or qualified. Alternative definition: a calling that drives us to make an impact, great or small, on the people and things that populate this Earth
I have a strong personal belief that we all have a vocation. However, identifying this vocation, and then acting on it, is not easy. One of Health for America’s greatest contributions to the fellows’ lives is the opportunity to discern our vocations and support to take the first steps in realizing them.
Challenge 1: What am I supposed to do with my life?
As the majority of us know it is often difficult to identify what your vocation may be. This year the four of us affectionately, and often despairingly, called this frustration: the land of confusion. The land of confusion is space you occupy when you are trying to discern what your life goals are, what impact you should have on your community, and sometimes just what you want to eat for dinner.
It appears the only way to minimize this land of confusion is by experiencing as many different careers, situations, and individuals as possible. HFA gave us this opportunity. Over the last 11 months, we shadowed nurses in patient’s homes, watched doctor’s deliver terrible news on rounds, saw researchers present groundbreaking new technologies, heard the passion in entrepreneurs’ voices as they threw their whole being into a pitch, and listened to congestive heart failure patients tell me why they wanted to thrive.
These interactions all brought me closer to discerning my vocation. Additionally, HFA made it possible for us to get feedback from our mentors, advisors, patient friends, and the other fellows on our strengths and weaknesses. With this support I discerned my vocation: to be a designer of interactions and opportunities. I am called to build situations, organizations, and locations where individuals can convene to improve the health of all individuals.
Challenge 2: How on Earth do I fulfill my vocation?
Once you think you have your vocation figured out it is often difficult to see the path ahead or even know what the next step should be. This resulted in weeks of reading everything I from Good to Great to Delivering Happiness often waking up in the middle of the night with lists of questions and doubts.
Thankfully HFA exposed me to the lean startup methodology, a technique for testing assumptions and building successful ideas and companies. So I began to A/B test my life, pivoting when what I tried didn’t bring me closer to my vocation, and testing my assumptions about what I was good, or bad at. This helped me identify the next steps to making my vocation a reality.
Then HFA gave me the incredible opportunity to fulfill my vocation; I was offered the Executive Directorship of Health for America. In this role I could be designer of interactions and opportunities. My goal as Executive Director of Health for America is to facilitate, with the help of our excellent team, opportunities for our fellows, partners, and members of the entire healthcare ecosystem to build sustainable, impactful health solutions. Each day I can wake up and be an active designer of interactions and opportunities for hundreds of individuals in the healthcare community.
I owe a great deal of gratitude to Health for America and all the individuals I met during this experience for helping me discern my vocation and giving me the opportunity to act on it. And I plan to pay it forward as Executive Director, an alumnus of the program, and health entrepreneur, so that all our fellows, partners, and team members may discern their own vocations and build a better, healthier world.
To Nick, Sandra, and Ellen: I could not have asked for better crew on this Health for America journey. You each taught me skills I didn’t even know existed, imparted whole textbooks worth of knowledge upon me, and showed me new ways to approach people, problems, and opportunities. You challenged me to be a better designer, teammate, and individual; for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you for the late night conversations, which covered more than heart failure solutions; the small selfless, but not unnoticed, daily sacrifices you made to keep me happy and sane; and your gentle cajoling to make me less of a square. It will be with great joy that I celebrate all of the ways in which you each improve our world. As Ellen would say, never change.