The reflections of three centenarian sisters could serve as a metaphor for the extraordinary career of Jeremy Bloom, founder of Wish of a Lifetime.
The 9-year-old nonprofit grants wishes to seniors, and in 2014 it reunited three sisters—Rose, Ruth, and Rubye—for the first time in more than a decade. When Bloom asked them about the key to their longevity, they provided him with a motto he has carried with him ever since. “They said, ‘Honey, you can drink whatever you want, you can smoke whatever you want, but never stop moving,’” he recalls.
Bloom himself has never stopped moving forward despite the numerous detours his own short career has already taken, as he relates in an inspiring presentation captured in the video below.
A three-time world champion skier and an All America football star at the University of Colorado, Bloom qualified for the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, ranked No. 1 in the world in freestyle and mogul skiing, but he failed to earn a medal in his mogul event after mistiming a jump by a single inch.
Shortly thereafter, he was drafted by the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and, after being placed on injured reserve, was released and then picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers, only to be cut before their 2008-09 championship season.
For most individuals, those setbacks would have marked the descent of a once-promising career. But Jeremy Bloom was just getting started.
“There are two types of people in this world: There are bouncers, and there are splatters,” he says. “There are people who use these really powerful moments in all of our lives to bounce back, to use those setbacks to recalibrate our compass. Then there’s the other type of mentality, of splatting, of allowing these…inevitable setbacks to define us.”
Steve Jobs, Bloom reminds us, was once fired from Apple, the company he started. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Both were world-class bouncers.
So is Bloom, author of the bestselling book Fueled by Failure (Entrepreneur Press 2015), who in 2008, at the ripe old age of 26, founded The Donna Wheeler Foundation, in honor of his grandmother. He later renamed the organization Wish of a Lifetime to expand its brand recognition. The nonprofit’s mission: “Shift the way society views and values our oldest generations by fulfilling seniors’ dreams and sharing their stories to inspire those of all ages.” The foundation has granted more than 1,000 wishes to seniors from 46 states, and it chronicles each of those individual stories on its website.
But Bloom wasn’t finished. In 2010 he also founded marketing software company Integrate, where he continues to serve as CEO. Bloom says he has built Integrate, which has raised $50 million in venture capital with a charter to “automate the top of the marketing funnel,” on five cultural pillars: performance (tenure and titles take a back seat to an employee’s contributions); entrepreneurism (which becomes ever-harder as the company matures); personal responsibility (failure is okay, as long as you own up to it and learn from it); creativity (share ideas across functional boundaries); and humility (abide by the “no a-hole rule,” as a sense of entitlement is a “cultural virus”).
To those, we’ll add a sixth pillar, always keep moving forward, despite the disappointments behind you and obstacles in front of you, following the advice of those centenarian sisters.
“They said you’re going to reach different points in your life throughout each decade where you no longer want to move, no longer want to be engaged, no longer want to take that walk or go to the gym, no longer want to participate in the world,” Bloom recalls. “And they said, reject that thinking, and always push through it and persevere.”
Check out the embedded video for a deeper look into Bloom’s extraordinary career journey and his foundation’s extraordinary work. And please visit Oracle’s Experience Inspiration page for video presentations by other inspiring business and technology leaders.
Rob Preston is editorial director in Oracle’s Content Central organization.