Lessons in Life and Health from a Frog and a Dung Beetle? Q&A With Vic Strecher PhD & Inspirational Author of the Graphic Novel “On Purpose”
Author and WWB Guru: Vic Strecher, PhD
Vic Strecher, PhD, MPH is a Professor and Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. As a teacher and researcher, Vic has spent much of his time studying the science and psychology of healthy personal change for both individuals and large populations. In 1999, Vic founded Health Media, Inc., a groundbreaking health and wellness company that, for the first time, allowed large health plans and employers to cost effectively encourage and support healthy behavior change for the thousands of their members and employees. Health Media was eventually sold to Johnson & Johnson, Inc., the largest healthcare company in the world and, as Wellness & Prevention, Inc., continues to help tens of thousands of individuals live healthier, more fulfilled lives.
Lauroly Welcome- Welcome Vic! As a seeker of wisdom I am so excited about presenting your book and mission to World Wise Beauty readers. Your bio is impressive and we can devote a whole other blog to your life’s work and scientific research but today we are here to talk about your new book “On Purpose”. My mantra at World Wise Beauty is to be “comfortable in your own skin”. Personal growth begins with a loving relationship with “the self” and if we love ourselves in a healthy way, we ultimately have more to give to the world and our loved ones. Using the American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s words “we become fully realized”.
There is no greater example of this than parenthood and as a father you have taken the journey of loving a child selflessly, losing your child painfully and having to come back to yourself. Your creative book “On Purpose” is a wonderful graphic novel of your personal journey and the profound realizations you came to as you navigated the experience of losing your daughter to a rare heart disease. It’s also an entertaining philosophy course which gets us to think about the meaning of life in a “worldly” fun way. The subtitle of the book tells us we are in for an interesting read “Lessons in Life and Health from The Frog, The Dung Beetle, and Julia”. Let’s start there with this creative title. How did you come up with this and what you made you decide to do a graphic novel? Kudos to the wonderful artist Kody Chamberlain who illustrated your book and website.
Lauroly Q- Your daughter who you lost at the tender age of nineteen lived joyfully and exuberantly despite having a life threatening heart condition beginning in her childhood. She must have been an amazing inspiration to you. What did you learn from Julia that you didn’t find in your scientific research? I have to believe you were a wonderful father and inspiration to her too. Tell us more about lovely Julia…
She lived only 19 years but I think she put more into those years than most 80-year-old lives. Julia woke me from my sleep and made me realize that every one of us has a tentative hold on life and that we should live life to the fullest while we’re here on this earth. I fully understand that this is the theme of many vapid greeting cards and posters. But when the message really hits home, it changes the direction of your life.
Lauroly Q- Julia truly was an inspiration and she did live her “gift of life” fully with love and purpose. This must bring great solace to you. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories of her with us. Let’s drill into the central themes of your book “On Purpose”. While it is about living life to our fullest potential and finding purpose in our lives, it is also about DEATH. Can you tell us why you think we all should think about our own death more rather than avoiding it as most of us do in Western society?
The consideration of death prompts you to realize that you don’t have 10,000 years to live. Our western culture has imbued us with a deep fear of death and dying: to the point that we don’t even want to think about death. We also now have lots of scientists talking about how we may be able to soon extend our lives by hundreds of years. That’s cool if you don’t spend those years watching what the Kardashians are doing with their lives. I just wish more scientists would think about how we can construct better lives with the years we currently have.
Lauroly Q- After delving into the meaning of life myself, I come across two sometimes conflicting ideologies alot. The old saying “you can never truly love another until you learn to love yourself” is often used in the “personal growth” schools of thought but many religions will encourage you to be selfless, look outward and love others to find happiness and fulfillment. I personally have found that life is a fluid dance of both these things and some of us can get “lost” in either direction. It is important to go “within” but just as important not to get stuck there! Your personal purpose in life is to show us how important it is to find purpose for our health and well-being as well as for a better society. Can you share more on why “having a purpose” is so important to health of a person and a society? I know these are big questions for my humble blog but just give us a tickler of what we can learn from your book. I have included a video from your creative website right here so our readers can learn more about you and your mission. It’s a must view!
Every society needs people who behave in ways that transcend themselves: altruistic, cooperative, supportive. These are virtues that scientists are finding to be physiologically beneficial! Most of us are not born bad. We’re born with these transcending behaviors. It’s now up to our society to nurture these transcending behaviors and purposes – not beat or bore them out of us.
Both the deeply religious Soren Kierkegaard and the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre believed that having an authentic life purpose would help us as individuals and as a society. My fear is that our world is becoming an increasingly nihilistic – lacking meaning and direction. We’re doing better but feeling worse. It’s my intention to put a dent in this problem as best I am able. One thing I know something about is interactive media – creating websites and apps that help people change their lives. I’m hoping that the book On Purpose, but also the dungbeetle.org website and related apps will help people and help our society. Ultimately, I hope that these efforts become the kernel for a larger movement.
Lauroly Closing: What a wonderful movement! Sign me up Vic! My purpose and mission is to encourage women to be comfortable in their own skin and to celebrate and embrace wellness culture. There is no greater feeling than to be fully self-actualized and comfortable in your own skin but I think the journey of becoming whole is a wonderful state of constant renewal as we grow, age and become wise. Your personal journey illustrates renewal, healing and restoration beautifully. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to feature you. I would love if you would visit WWB again and share your wisdom with us. You are an official and honorary WWB Wise Guru. I know there are so many who will want to join you in your mission and give your book to loved ones who may be needing inspiration and direction.
Visit www.dungbeetle.org to learn more about Vic’s book “On Purpose” , digital app projects and to follow his blog.