Many people often ask me why I founded Endure to Cure, and rightfully so. By popular standards it probably seems counter-intuitive. Why would someone want to trade a Wall Street career to start a charity? Well, my answer is pretty simple: no regrets. I want to make a fulfilling and positive difference in the world, and I am convinced Endure to Cure will be a life-changing experience for everyone involved. The worst case scenario is that everything does not work out and I fall flat on my face; then at least I will have tried my best, gained priceless experience, and I will never wonder what might have been.
So with that said, I’ll tell the Endure to Cure story. After undergrad, I enjoyed a long tenure at Morgan Stanley & Co., earned my MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and then worked at another great investment bank in Robert Baird & Co. I have a deep passion for the financial markets and by in large, I truly enjoyed the teams of people with whom I worked, the high degree of intellectual stimulation, and a pace so fast that nanoseconds can separate success from failure.
By most people’s standards, I was “living the dream.” But by my heart’s standards, I was living selfishly and arrogantly. Desperately unhappy with my direction and facing spiritual bankruptcy, I needed to change.
Then Kilimanjaro happened.
On a short but much-needed escape from the stressful 14hr workdays, and four days into what turned out to be a life-altering, six-day climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, it hit me: before my grandfather passed away from his second form of cancer, he simply asked me to carry on his spirit in my life. It was in the rocky Karanga Camp at 16,000ft as I watched passing grey clouds so large they resembled cotton candy made for King Kong, when I understood what my grandfather’s words meant to me. I heard his voice in my head, “Jason, you need to think less with your mind and more with your heart and all will fall into place. When you find the courage to pursue what your heart tells you to do, then work hard, smart and do things well. Now is the time. Use your resources and initiative to push your limitations outward each day. And then, selflessly use that experience to positively influence the lives of others. People may doubt you in the beginning, but if your heart is fully committed to what you choose to do, and you do the right things and give your best effort, I think it will succeed.” Hearing “the little voice” in your head and thinking it’s right is one thing, but acting on it is usually the hard part.
Less than a month later, I took the leap of faith and decided to resign from my job. In fact, ironically, the day I resigned I had not decided to do so when I went into the office that morning. But from here on out, I would be following what my heart says to do: help better the lives of kids who are battling cancer, and to inspire others through example that they can not only follow their dreams, but that they are capable of far more than they ever thought possible. In fulfilling this mission, along with my fellow Team Endure to Cure members, I will complete some of the most difficult endurance events in the world and climb a number of the most difficult mountains on Earth. Why? To raise funds to help improve the lives of children with pediatric cancer which I hope will contribute to finding cures. I also hope to inspire people to believe that when you have a vision, determination, and a purpose greater than yourself you can overcome any challenge despite how big it may seem.
Now, if you assume that I am a natural endurance athlete, that would be the furthest from the truth. Just back in 2005, the farthest I’ve ever run (and “run” probably is an exaggeration) was 5 miles. Thoughts of a marathon or Ironman would have been absurd. I didn’t even know what an Ultraman was until I was invited to do one. The fact of the matter is: I dislike running, I don’t go distance swimming and distance cycling for personal enjoyment, and aside from the challenge, there is not much I like about these events other than finishing them.
But what I do love is having an unrelenting purpose and doing something well out of my comfort zone that can help change someone’s life, inspire people, or give a child hope that he or she can overcome a difficult battle with cancer. While I do not know what it’s like to go through round after round of chemo, I imagine that the mental and physical anguish I experience in a long distance event can only be a small fraction of what these children must endure. That is my higher purpose. It is what pushes me when I feel like I can’t go on. It is why I believe everyone’s possibilities are endless; why our limits begin where our vision ends.
Together with everybody involved, we can help cure pediatric cancer. This is why I founded Endure to Cure and I would love for you to join me in the fight.