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Using an Entrepreneurial Spirit to Find a Cure for Deadly Diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s



Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of qualities.  First, you need courage.  According to the book The E-Myth, 40% of small businesses fail in the first year.  Of those that survive the first year, 80% fail in 5 years.  Second, it takes persistence.  You need to be able to overcome adversities and stay the course even when things don’t look good.  Third, and this is the one I think makes entrepreneurs one of a kind, you need to have the drive, the sense of urgency, and the ability to remove all barriers.

Legend has it that when Larry Ellison started Oracle they had to bring in a large computer into their modest office at that time.  After much struggle bringing it in, the engineers realized that there were no power outlets in the room, and this became a huge problem which prevented them from working on a key project that could have meant the survival of the business.  They called Larry in and explained the problem.  Larry left the room and came back with a hammer.  The engineers were terrified.  They thought they had made Larry so mad that he was just about to smash the computer with the hammer.  Instead, Larry hit the wall with the hammer several times and made a hole in the wall.  Mind you, this was leased space that they didn’t own.  Then Larry took the power cord, pulled it through the hole and plugged it in the other room – problem solved.  The engineers were astounded.   This is a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit.  To the entrepreneur, there is no barrier big enough to keep him from reaching his objectives.

Now, take this entrepreneurial spirit and blend it with the following scenario:  You are suddenly diagnosed with a deadly disease for which there is no cure, and you only have a few years left to live.  Instead of using all you entrepreneurial drive to build a profitable business, you now have to use the same skills to desperately try to find a cure for this deadly disease while you are still alive.  Sounds like a good Hollywood script?  This is actually the true story of a man called Augie Nieto, the entrepreneur that started Life Fitness, who two years ago at the age of 48 was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Augie started Life Fitness from scratch. Today Life Fitness is a $600 million business, the largest fitness equipment manufacturer in the world.  Augie started his entrepreneurial activity by opening a gym in California while he was still in college to try to keep his weight off and to help others with their weight problem.  Then he heard of a bike that was being developed for medical use, bought the rights to the bike and sold it across the country from his motor home.  Initially his efforts were a flop.  He sold less than a dozen bikes in nine months.  But as the great entrepreneur that he is, Augie did not give up.  He arranged to give away 50 bikes to large health clubs, and suddenly the idea caught on fire.  The Lifecycle bike became a famous brand in the fitness market, and a fitness equipment powerhouse was born.

Augie’s new passion is to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease as quickly as possible.  About 30,000 people in the US suffer from this debilitating disease that progressively robs you of your ability to move, talk and breath. This happens because the nerve cells that connect to the muscles, allowing them to function normally, retract and become dormant, causing paralysis.  Most people diagnosed with this horrible disease die within 5 years.

Augie has assembled a group of doctors, geneticists and ALS experts to try to identify the genes that trigger this disease and potentially find a cure.  He has developed a foundation called Augie’s Quest and teamed up with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), a group that researches several neuromuscular diseases.  But Augie wants to run this effort like an entrepreneurial venture, with speed and efficiency, instead of the bureaucratic ways of a research institute.

Augie also tapped TGen, a nonprofit organization that uses gene screening techniques to identify potential genetic causes for diseases.  Through his drive and initiative, he was able to raise enough money to fund research in partnership with MDA which helped scientists identify 25 genes that appear to have a bigger role in the disease.  There is yet much work to be done, but with Augie’s leadership and constant push to get results faster, scientists have many more clues about genetic links to the disease now than they had just nine months ago.

If we had an entrepreneur like Augie driving the search for a cure for every deadly disease out there, we would see miraculous medical advances.  I hope Augie’s drive and relentless pursuit of a possible treatment for this debilitating ailment can inspire others to do the same.

Just two days ago I posted and article entitled Success is Personal.  In that article I raised the possibility of adding a more personal touch to this site and I said I would try to do so when appropriate.  Well, in this article I am going to get personal.  This week I learned that my friend and best man in my wedding is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

I plan to contribute to this cause, and therefore, I would like to announce that 100% of all donations proceeds on this site will be directed towards two charitable causes.  Fifty percent will be applied towards Augie’s Quest, and the remaining 50% will continue to support Feed My Starving Children.

Please visit Augie’s Quest web site.  Forward it to your friends.  Spread the word about this debilitating disease.  Make a donation, either here or directly in their web site.  I will pray that this entrepreneurial pursuit becomes one of the most successful ever and that they find an effective treatment very soon. 

 





There Are 3 Responses So Far. »

  1. Hi David:

    Thanks for sharing this story and wonderful cause with us. The Carnival of Healing #66: Joy, Peace, Renewal is up at Intensive Care for the Nurturer’s Soul. Happy New Year!!

    Warmly,
    Hueina

  2. Research Blog on Locating Support for Motor Neurone Disease Sufferers

    We at The Patient Connection are currently running a research blog or online discussion on the subject of support and information resources for Motor Neurone Disease Sufferers. As well as the impact of the condition more generally

    In particular we are interested in your experiences during and after diagnosis.

    We would love it if you could share your story or just post useful resources for patients, carers and family members

    If you would like to join us please go to

    http://www.thepatientconnections.com/blog.asp?bid=&uid=35

    Thanks and please remember your opinion does count.

    Best wishes

    Belinda
    The Patient Connection
    Belinda.shale@thepatientconnections.com

    PS Please email me if you have any queries

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