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Ask These 4 Questions to Clarify Your Purpose in the World

By | Barry Stiles |

By the time I was diagnosed with stage 4 neck and throat cancer, I thought I was done with life-changing experiences for a while. In fact, I had been running the company that my previous life-changing experience inspired me to found for only six months when I got the call.

What happened was this: Five years before my own diagnosis, my then 4-year-old son was battling a rare form of lymphoma. I was witness to our beautiful boy’s extraordinary bravery as he endured spinal taps and an extremely aggressive chemo treatment.

During this time, I occasionally escaped for a short run around Rice University to clear my head. It was during one run around the decomposed granite track that circles the campus, looking for answers to questions that had none, that I realized how I could combine my skills and passions to make a tangible difference in the world.

Related: 3 Reasons Productive Passion Is the Tool You Need to Succeed

I saw clearly that I could meld my skill set as an engineer and entrepreneur with my passion for family to help create a cleaner, less toxic environment for our kids. I envisioned a company that would keep plastic out of the oceans and landfills by using 100% post-consumer plastic, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by offering an eco-friendly alternative to concrete and asphalt, and cleanse toxic automobile pollutants by natural filtration of storm water. I wanted to make a real contribution toward a safer environment, and my son’s bravery was the deep well from which I could draw inspiration.

Three years later, my own cancer treatment and recovery, coupled with the unending support of my team and our clients, sharpened the clarity of purpose I had found. No one person and no one company can eradicate cancer, but making strides in that direction has imbued our company’s mission with urgency and intention: to improve our environment and communities by eliminating toxins and carcinogens that are present in our everyday lives.

I encourage you—entrepreneurs, business owners and dreamers—to find fuel in your life challenges. The most trying times can clarify what motivates, inspires and challenges you. When you see what lights your fire, go for it. Even without a traumatic experience, you can take steps to clarify your purpose.

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