Resilience comes from having to stop what you’re doing and take off for a treatment center in California every 9 weeks to undergo a series of medical procedures as part of your ongoing recovery. It’s painful and fatiguing and it can wreak havoc on the body. Life is full of resistance seeking to sink your dreams. Resilient people are strong by nature. But it’s their vision and faith that keeps them going, and mostly, the smiles, handshakes, and hugs they get from people who understand and embrace that vision. That encourages them to go forth and keep standing up in the face of adversity.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Petinga. Scott Petinga is a philanthropic entrepreneur and testicular cancer survivor, who is using his businesses to help solve humanitarian needs. Since successfully battling testicular cancer 15 years ago, he has been active in causes that support men’s health. He founded the TH!NK DIFFERENT Foundation and Center for Advocacy for Cancer of the Testes International (CACTI) which strives to redefine the way patients receive care and is helping reshape the voice of advocacy globally.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Igrew up in Atlantic City during the ’70s and ’80s. It was a rough and tumble existence so I decided at 18 not to stick around and joined the Marines, in hopes I would see the world…only to have my military career cut short by a DWI. Not mine, but that of the gentleman that ran me over. And because of the resulting injury, I was back home within 2-years of leaving.
Speed ahead to 2004. I’m in my early 30s. I was enjoying a pretty successful career in marketing when I’m diagnosed with testicular cancer. Long story short, I survived from this god-awful disease but continue to experience excruciating pain and bruised (both my body and my ego) from all the ongoing treatments.
That journey taught me a lot about myself and the world around me. It even changed my mindset. Cancer made me understand more deeply, appreciate more quickly, cry more easily, hope more desperately, love more openly and live more passionately. But most importantly, it made me aware of the significant shortcomings in the medical system. Now, I’m on a one-man crusade to improve the way patients receive care and transform how the medical community goes about treating and supporting victims of this disease.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
You really get to learn who your friends are when you go through a bout with cancer. Sure, they told me to take the time I needed to recover and that they supported me all the way, but in the end, the work came first and I had to leave what was a pretty promising career.
The takeaway from that was the great awakening I went through. I realized, through my battle with cancer, that I had to be my own advocate. No one else was going to step in and go to bat for me. I also learned it was a waste of time focused on a career that benefited everyone but me. This led me to become my own boss who could call his own shots.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
With all my companies, I’ve wanted to run them using a different business plan. One that benefitted me, of course, but also my employees and mostly, the world. That’s why all my start-ups have a charitable component to them. For me, these businesses are not about making a bunch of institutional shareholders richer. They’re about making people, with names and faces, better. That’s why each of our businesses supports humanitarian needs — from healthcare to education.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
While there are a number of individual heroes in my story, I want to recognize some of the doctors and researchers who truly make a difference: Dr. Sia Daneshmand — Associate Professor of Urology (Clinical Scholar); Director of Clinical Research at Keck School of Medicine of USC, Dr. Stuart Siegel, former Associate Director of Pediatric Oncology at Keck School of Medicine of USC, Dr. Zarko Manojlovic, Assistant Professor of Research; Director of the Keck Genomics Platform at USC and Dr. Charles Ryan, Professor of Medicine; Director of Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation at University of Minnesota.
These are people who “get it,” despite some of the restrictions they may have levied upon them by the industry they work for. These are professionals who fielded my questions with integrity, saw me through challenges, understood there are problems in the current system and share my vision that we can be doing more for patients. I’ve gone on to fund some of these researchers and doctors because I know they care and I know the work they’re doing is impactful.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience comes from having to stop what you’re doing and take off for a treatment center in California every 9 weeks to undergo a series of medical procedures as part of your ongoing recovery. It’s painful and fatiguing and it can wreak havoc on the body.
Life is full of resistance seeking to sink your dreams. Resilient people are strong by nature. But it’s their vision and faith that keeps them going, and mostly, the smiles, handshakes, and hugs they get from people who understand and embrace that vision. That encourages them to go forth and keep standing up in the face of adversity.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
I believe there’s a lot to respect and learn from how Scott Hamilton turned his multiple battles with cancer into a positive one. He raised a ton of awareness and inspired millions of people. What he does is revolutionary, especially in regard to fundraising. And because of that, he will always be one of my heroes.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I wasn’t the smartest, the fastest, the strongest, the most popular, the most athletic, the best dressed or had the best personality. I was always told I’d be a f*cking nobody.
So hats off to the naysayers, the cynics, the complainers, the defeatist, the downers, the gloomy, and the killjoy. If it wasn’t for the arrogance, bitchiness, carelessness, difficulties, hardship, jealousy, negativity and oppression I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I’m doing.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Cancer was my greatest setback. For a while, I let it define me, but it has since taught me that life never goes according to plan and nothing is ever random. Today, through the Center for Advocacy for Cancer of the Testes International (CACTI) and the TH!NK DIFFERENT Foundation, we are actively engaged in defeating the monster that kicked my a*s. There would be no better comeback story for me.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Our household was simply crazy growing up. There was a constant array of uninvited guests, all who smoked, drank and cussed, parading about the house during my so-called formative years. But it was my Pappou who gave me my insatiable drive. At the age of seventeen, my grandfather emigrated from Sicily on a steamship to America as did hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of other Italians. When he first arrived, he fought prejudice, but he learned to adapt and overcome. His distinctive work ethic was strong and Pappou would often do the work that no one else wanted to do as it allowed him to achieve a position in the lower-middle class. Above all, he showed me that the world was made up of all sorts of people, but if you took the time to get to know them, you could learn a lot from them and form invaluable friendships that are as strong as family blood.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Step 1 –Whatever pain you face, you’ve got to shut down the initial pity party and start taking steps to improve your life.
Step 2 — Never resign yourself to the current situation. Always strive to improve your lot.
Step 3 — Celebrate the victories. Embrace them. Then get back to the ring.
Step 4 — Share your wins with everyone as it shows how you overcame adversity.
Step 5 — Practice gratitude every single day.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Right now, I’m most inspired to improve the way patient care and treatment is done in this country. It’s why I became a Strategic Healthcare Advisor from Cornell University and started a new consultancy firm called Revitally which will enhance the individual experience of care; improve the health of populations; plus reduce and control the per capita costs. Together, we can change what’s possible in healthcare.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What she’s done for women and for advancing progressive ideals in the country has been remarkable. I could pick her brain about how best to go about judicial reform, especially as it pertains to the family court system. Today, biological fathers have no presumption of equal visitation rights and as a result of are a violation of basic fundamental rights.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!