David Roy was diagnosed two years ago with stage four, metastatic pancreatic cancer. At the time, he was given four and a half months to live and was told to settle his affairs. Few people with this diagnosis live more than a few months. David was not willing to accept the prognosis and set out to create a different one.
David reached out to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, whom he met on a plane years before. Dr. Soon-Shiong is a billionaire physician with a dream to convert cancer into a treatable chronic condition like high blood pressure or diabetes. It is without question a worthy dream to prevent the 500,000 deaths each year in the United States that are attributed to cancer.
Yet achieving a dream or big idea may be best described by Ray Bradbury. You need to “jump off the cliff and learn how to make wings on the way down.” David and Dr. Soon-Shiong do not have the benefit of waiting for all the answers prior to pursuing their dreams. Most likely, neither does anyone else. The complexity of our modern day means that key insight you need may only surface as the result of experimentation. Achieving dreams can be so complex that success is tied to the mastery of trial and error, revalidating, resilience and adapting. The speed of change to our personal, community and other realities means the world will be a different place from when we start as compared to when we finish. Here are examples of realities that may change or emerge along the way:
- Game Changing Event (new History) – which can impact other realities
- Compelling Story (new History) – which can change how we think
- New Leadership – new leader, new decision makers
- New Science – compelling new science, research or study
- New Culture, Customs & Traditions – such as selfies or dress down Fridays
- New Perceptions – of safety, confidence, etc.
- New Rules – rules, laws or standards that could accelerate other realities
- New Technology – Snapchat, Uber
- New Physical Environment – new school, new building
- New Resources – new money, new discovery of oil
- New Personal – new baby, new home, new job
It’s been over two years since David Roy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Dr. Soon-Shiong sequenced the DNA in David’s tumor. Based on those results, Dr. Soon-Shiong helped Roy enroll is in a clinical trial involving a promising cancer treatment approach called immunotherapy. The goal of the trial is to ignite David’s white blood cells (T-cells) into killing his cancer cells. David Roy tells the CBS’s 60 Minutes show, “We are on the edge here, of going from the oil lamp to electricity. And it is going to happen.” Many experts agree.
Dr. Soon-Shiong has invested close to one billion dollars (See 60 Minutes episode) for an unknown outcome. Some of science, technology and infrastructure he needs to test his theories do not exist, so he is building them. He is investing in genome sequencers that will find the mutations of cancer tumors to pick the right drugs to melt away cancer cells. He is investing in research to study how to activate the patient’s own T-cells (immunotherapy). He is investing in technology that can find a single cancer cell out of a billion circulating in a patient’s blood stream to monitor treatment progress. He is building supercomputers and high speed network that can transfer the equivalent of 30 times all the data on Facebook every day to interpret the genome data of people that need it.
Dr. Soon-Shiong is testing so many paths that people question his focus. Dr. Soon-Shiong told 60 Minutes that people say to him, “You know, Patrick, you’re all over the place”. His response is, “You have to be all over the place.”
David Roy and Dr. Soon-Shiong do not know the path to their dream. They each continue building the wings that Ray Bradbury describes. They are both criticized for providing false hopes and Dr. Soon-Shiongs for incomplete science.
If you are in the middle of a dream pursuit and still don’t see the path, keep revalidating and adapting. If you are waiting to discover a path to start your big idea, you may want to start now. You may only find the path along the way. It may be the way you make almost anything happen.