Scott Griffith
best advice scott griffith

Chairman and CEO of Zipcar

I'm a cancer survivor. Fifteen years ago, I had just gotten off the phone with the doctor who did the biopsy. [Griffith was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma.] I called my brother and told him the results were bad and that I would need nine months of radiation and chemotherapy. He said, "I know you'll fight this and you'll survive." But, he said, "you have to think about the kind of person you want to be when you're done with this experience. Think about coming out of this a different person than you go in." When a family member says something like that, at least in my case, I take it a lot more seriously. Here's someone who knows me like almost no one else. If you have thin skin, you might say, "What's wrong with me now -- why do I need to be a different person when I'm done with this?" But the way I internalized it was, This is a life-changing event, you've been forced at a very young age to go to the edge of the abyss, and what do you want to do with your life after this?

I was living in Boston at the time, doing consulting at a Bain spinoff called the Parthenon Group. I was single, in my mid-thirties. Like most people really focused on a professional track, I had been through business school and by all measures was having a pretty good career path. I was skiing in Aspen instead of flying home. I don't think there was really any mission to my life. What my brother said to me was this lightning-rod moment. I remember writing it down, and it just started to sink in more and more that life should be different after this.

It forced me to develop a set of my own personal core values. I just started looking around. I asked myself, Do the people around me share my passions? My values? I started asking myself the reason I joined clubs or the things I read -- what article was I reading first and why? I started doing some soul searching and decided to leave consulting. I wanted to get back to real jobs. I always had a passion for transportation and technology and cities. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and when I was going to high school the city was a disaster. I became very interested in how cities get that way. I thought, What if I can find a job that would combine my passions for technology and game-changing business models and cities and put that all together? So when I stumbled into Zipcar, I was like, This is the job. This is the one I'm looking for. It sort of doubled back to that comment my brother made. There are a lot of things outside my work that have changed since I went through the cancer, but this idea that you connect your passions to your career -- when you truly do that, it becomes your life. It's why I still pop out of bed every morning.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated October 25 2012 07:21 AM ET
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