Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Endure to Cure

Another Guest Blog.  Enjoy

Why I founded Endure to Cure
by Jason R. Sissel

Many people often ask me why I founded Endure to Cure, and rightfully so.  By popular standards it might seem counter-intuitive.  Why would someone trade a Wall Street career to start a charity?  Well, my answer to that is pretty simple: no regrets.  I am convinced E2C 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, I'll tell the E2C story...

After undergrad, I enjoyed a long tenure at Morgan Stanley & Co., earned my MBA at the Kellogg School of Management, and then worked for another great company, Robert W. Baird & Co.   I loved working at Baird and I have a deep passion for the financial markets.  By most people's standards, I may have been "living the dream."  But I felt like something was missing and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't identify that elusive void in my life.

Then, on a vacation 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 really meant to me.  I heared 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 fearless; and do it 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 "that 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.  Over the next few years I will be following one of the things my heart says to do.  I expect to log over 1,000 miles of swimming, over 3,000 miles of running, over 39,000 miles of cycling, countless hours of strength and mental training, and climb a number of the most difficult mountains on Earth.  I do this to complete my Endurance Campaign and raise money to help improve the lives of children with pediatric cancer.  While I endure this arduous physical and mental challenge, I also hope to inspire people to believe that when you have a vision, determination, and perseverance you can overcome any challenge despite how big it may seem.

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 perhaps "run" 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 an Ironman other than finishing!

But what I do love is having an unrelenting purpose and doing something well out of my comfort zone that changes someone's life, inspires people, or gives 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.  And this is why I founded E2C!

Team Endure to Cure also hosts a team of fundraising athletes known as “Team Endure to Cure” who are comprised almost equally of men and women of all skill levels.  The team motto is, “Anybody. Any Event. Anywhere in the world.”  You decide your dreams, we will help take you there.  In the process, you not only transform the lives of kids who we are fighting for, but also inspire and unite people worldwide.  Our team of athletes raises funds for very specific causes at our beneficiary organizations.  Check us out at endure to cure to learn more and thank you for reading!

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