Opternative Co-Founder Steven Lee on Determining Your Purpose
What is the opposite of innovation? Some would argue that it is comfort and stagnation, and the belief that the way things are currently done do not need to be changed. My previous career in eye care was filled with both attributes, with a hierarchical leadership unwilling to challenge the status quo. The thing is, why would they? When you have a successful practice, there is usually no desire to change what is working.
My background in eye care, engineering, optics, and teaching allowed me to view the situation from a completely different perspective. When one of my patients asked me “Why can’t we do an eye exam at home,” this sparked a eureka moment in my mind and guided me with the inspiration to develop the first online eye exam delivering refractive prescriptions to patients.
Venturing into entrepreneurship was one of the riskiest decisions I ever made. Since I had no formal business training, it was uncharted territory. Regardless of the risk, I felt compelled to move forward because of the good I knew this venture could provide society with. Through the many individuals and groups that helped to guide me through the process, one of them, in particular, helped me curate a definitive breakdown of why I was doing what I was doing. The foundation of what I learned came from the teachings from Echoing Green on finding purpose. I found out that I needed to break down three key components in order to determine my ultimate purpose: what was a need in the world that I wanted to solve, what were my skills and gifts, and what did I love to do?
1. A NEED IN THE WORLD / TARGET USER
My career in eye care exposed me to all the intricacies of vision examinations relating to both refraction and eye health, and what could be improved in the system. Patients were complaining about feeling pressured to purchase eyewear and materials, and practice managers would penalize physicians if they did not ‘recommend’ enough materials to their patients. This boiled down to the fact that the eye care industry, and optometry in general, had evolved into a system where the majority of revenue was obtained through material sales (eyeglass frames, eyeglass lenses, contact lenses, etc.) and profitability was always at the top of mind of practice managers. This experience led me to believe that there was a definite need for a better delivery mechanism for eye care. Personal experience and patient commentary demonstrated that there was a need for a better way of delivering refractive eye exams.
2. YOUR SKILLS AND GIFTS
Ever since I was a young child, I demonstrated an inquisitive nature and found the world fascinating. From the awe and wonder of nature to the technological breakthroughs of modern science, I was amazed at how everything worked and why they worked. I enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together to learn their intricacies and mechanisms of action. I also spent time dabbling in various artistic hobbies: sketching, abstract art, and architectural design. Then, having received formal training in eye care, engineering, and optics, I was able to gain a great understanding of the human eye and the visual system. I feel that through my unique educational background, this allowed me to gain the skills and gifts necessary to innovate in an industry that lacked any dramatic change over the past century.
3. WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO
My internal inquisitive nature has always made me bring up the question of “Why?” Why does light bend when passing through various mediums? Why do certain configurations of chips on a hardware board perform better than others? As I was able to learn the answer to these questions, I was better equipped to solve problems that I was exposed to. I’ve always enjoyed problem solving. Starting a company that would allow online refractions to take place would require a lot of problem solving, and I knew this venture although filled with difficulties would be an enjoyable and challenging undertaking.
Figuring out the purpose of why you want to pursue a mission can be daunting, but analyzing the three key components of a need, the skills you have, and what you love to do, can help isolate your ultimate reason for why you are doing what you are doing. In my case, those concentric topics merged together to create isolate my purpose: to enhance eye care through technological innovation.
Steven Lee has a background in engineering, as well as a keen interest in optics. Before starting Opternative, he was previously in clinical practice from 2007-2013. Steven loves thinking outside of the box and enjoys creating solutions to problems that people never thought were possible to solve.
Kevin Bugielski is the Marketing Manager for Victory Lap, a purpose-driven startup changing the sales game. Avid Snapchatter, SoulCycle lover, newfound runner, but ultimately, a foodie.