Since I was first asked a few years ago to speak about Apple founder Steve Jobs and his extraordinary success, I've had several occasions to give that presentation and to further reflect on his life and work. In connection with these events, I've often been asked the question, "Who'll be the next Steve Jobs?" or "Where's the next world changer, and universe-denter, now?"
I think one such person just may be Elizabeth Holmes, who as a 19 year old Stanford University undergraduate, decided to drop out and start a business that may just change the world on the scale of a Steve Jobs. Her vision is for revamping healthcare for the better, and she has amazingly innovative and practical ways of doing so. One of the best articles about her is here, in Fortune Magazine.
It made me smile to see in the Fortune piece the little factoid that when Elizabeth went off to college, her dad gave her a copy of one of my favorite practical philosophy books, the Meditations by stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Explaining the gift, he said, "I wanted it to reinforce the message of a purposeful life," and added, "I think it really affected her." The stoics like Marcus, and Seneca, and even the most austere Epictetus, do tend to have that affect. They teach us the inner conditions for outer greatness, as I relay in my own little book, The Stoic Art of Living. The young Ms Holmes clearly got the message and has launched an entrepreneurial adventure that is likely to change the world in very positive ways.
Let me give you an example. Do you dislike having a large needle inserted into your arm to take your blood into large vials several days before your annual physical, or any other sort of doctor visit? She's discovered a way to replace the dreaded needle in the arm with a painless finger prick, get all the blood needed in one drop, and do pretty much any test in four hours, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional lab work, which can often take many days. Because of her numerous inventions, we'll be able to monitor our health at a fundamental level and in an ongoing way, and catch problems before they develop into terminal difficulties. Medication delivery systems will also likely be revolutionized by her company, Theranos, with doses constantly tailored to patients and their particular responses, changing as alterations are needed, and with information being instantly sent out to both patients and doctors. The large scale shift from her small but powerful innovations will be amazing, over the years,
Elizabeth is described by people who know her the best as having "pure" motivations, wanting to do great good, and as being basically uninterested in the personal financial boon that her inventions and creations will inevitably bring her. What's made her so different? What's set her apart? Well, the pure heart was a great start. But she also combined this with a powerful approach to business. She's a young woman with great curiosity about how things work, and how they could work, instead. She's paid attention to common problems, thought about them creatively, and come up with innovative solutions that bring together divergent perspectives in a unique way.
That's a formula we can all aspire to emulate. Will it make you or me the next Steve Jobs, too? Hey, I'd be content to be the next Steve Wozniak! But, actually, I really just want to be the best TomVMorris that I can be. A strong purpose, pure motivations, a desire to do good, great curiosity, and a proclivity to take innovative approaches to common problems can position any of us to be the best that we can be, and to put our own small dents in the universe.
Finally here, a shout out to the universe-denter and game-changer Tanya Maslach, Chief of the Tribe at www.GoTribal.com, where healthy lifestyles are being encouraged in new and innovative ways, through the power of relationships. It was Tanya who just recently introduced me to the work being done by Elizabeth, whom I consider to be her kindred spirit. Go visit GoTribal and find out why.