By Rachel Urist | Photos by Edda Pacifico
Vic Strecher, a behavioral scientist, is an energetic, trim, and youthful sixty-two year old. He teaches at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and is Visiting Professor at the Peking University’s School of Public Health. He has given hundreds of talks the world over. (He jokes that his frequent flyer miles are sky-high.) His TED Talks and recorded lectures, replete with PowerPoint presentations featuring trademark symbols from his graphic novel, On Purpose, have given him a YouTube presence and a popular culture crossover audience. He has long been admired for turning his research into practical applications and is the recipient of over a dozen prestigious awards. These include: the Secretary of Health and Human Services Award for Innovations in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, the Delta Omega National Merit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Health, the Smithsonian’s “Laureate Medal” in both 2001 and 2002, the C. Everett Koop National Health Award, the University of Michigan’s “Distinguished Innovator of the Year,” and the U-M School of Public Health’s “Award for Translating Research into Practice.”
With the uniquely innovative spirit he brings to the field of public health, Strecher commands widespread admiration for his scholarship, and practical contributions to the area of public health. Strecher holds a Masters and Ph.D. in Health Behavior and Health Education from U-M’s School of Public Health. Since 1995, when he completed his Ph.D., he has been on the U-M faculty at the School of Public Health. He has served as director of several research centers, including the Health Communications Research Library at the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health; the U-M’s Health Communications Research (which he founded in 1996); and the Cancer Prevention and Control at U-M’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Currently, he is Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at U-M’s School of Public Health.
Strecher is a scholar committed to making his scientific approach accessible to the lay public. The protagonist of his graphic novel, On Purpose, beautifully illustrated by Kody Chamberlain, is a wise dung beetle named Winston. (Winston blogs on his own website: www.dungbeetle.org.) The graphic novel was followed by Strecher’s more academic version of the book: Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything.
In both these books, Strecher begins each chapter with a quotation from a famous figure in history. (These quotations offer a glimpse at the breadth of Strecher’s reading and his methodical approach to the things he does.) On Purpose has eight chapters. Prefaces are from Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet (“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.”); Thomas Merton, a 20th century Trappist monk, poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion; Viktor Frankl; Saint Francis of Assisi (12th century, “Every life needs a purpose to which it can give the energies of its mind and the enthusiasm of its heart.”); Elizabeth Kübler-Ross; William James; Rainer Maria Rilke; Basho (16th century Japanese poet, “A bee / staggers out / of the peony.”).
In the second book, Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything, chapters are prefaced with quotations from Leo Tolstoy; Charles Darwin; Viktor Frankl; Søren Kierkegaard; Aristotle; W.C. Fields (“Now don’t say you can’t swear off drinking; it’s easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” — for the chapter called “Willpower”); Steve Jobs; Friederich Nietzsche; Thich Nhat Hanh (“When you are grateful, you are happy.”); David Foster Wallace (“‘Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how to construct meaning from experience.”); Seneca (“The life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.”).
In addition to the dung beetle, Strecher uses the metaphor of a frog in a pot of water, slowly boiling to death, to represent mankind’s passivity in the fact of a daunting crisis. This image came to him in the wake of his daughter’s death, at age nineteen, six years ago. It was a devastating blow. Strecher thought of himself as that frog. The frog doesn’t recognize the danger, and before he knows it, he’s dead. Strecher adds — in conversation and in his many talks — that if a live frog is put into boiling water, the frog jumps out. If, however, the frog is immersed in cold water and the water boiled slowly, the frog falls asleep and dies. For Strecher, this boiling frog is a metaphor for our lives. The image represents myriad problems — climate change and obesity, for example — and we do little or nothing about them.
Typically, when people try to intervene, they use scare tactics to trigger behavior change. But scare tactics don’t work. Subjects become defensive. So how is one to get that frog out of the water? Strecher is convinced that a sense of mission is key. Strecher says that when he suffered the death of someone dear to him, he lost his purpose. When he regained his sense of purpose, he felt revived. His goal now, he says, is to offer others a sense of mission. He cites Steve Jobs who, upon being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, said: “Death is the single best invention in life. It’s life’s change agent.”
Strecher is a compassionate and conscientious teacher, a meticulous researcher, and an innovative entrepreneur. He is also caring, a description used by every person interviewed for this article. As an entrepreneur, Strecher’s success is notable. His first coup, in 1998, was to found HealthMedia Inc. Based in Ann Arbor, the company was created to develop and disseminate tailored health interventions for health promotion, disease prevention, behavioral health, and disease management. The company’s interventions benefited millions of users in North America, Europe, and Asia through health plans, employers, pharmaceutical companies and governments. Strecher started the company (with Rick Snyder, Michigan’s current governor), and sold it in 2008, to Johnson & Johnson. By then, the company had over 185 employees. According to Strecher, the company sold for about 175 million dollars.
Today, Strecher and his wife, Jeri Rosenberg, live comfortably in the lovely Ives Woods neighborhood, in walking distance of U-M’s central campus. They appreciate what they have, and they express that appreciation through philanthropy.
Their generosity has benefited the University of Michigan Pediatric Cardiology Department at Mott Children's Hospital, the U-M Nursing School's Julia Strecher Scholarship Fund, the Steven Gradwohl Art of Primary Care Award, the Ann Arbor Community Foundation, SafeHouse, the Huron Valley Humane Society, and Project Grow.
The couple is also involved in the local arts scene. Rosenberg, an artist, was a founding member of Wonderfool Productions, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging public art education and presentation. She and her husband were among the founders of FestiFools and FoolMoon, annual events they continue to sustain. In 2013, the couple was presented with the Golden Paintbrush Award by the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission in recognition of the recipients’ role in starting and sustaining two annual public art events, FestiFools and FoolMoon. In October 2015, the Neutral Zone celebrated Rosenberg and Strecher at its annual event honoring “local community leaders and philanthropists for their interest in and support of the arts, both at the Neutral Zone and within the wider community.”
Strecher’s current professional enterprise is JOOL Health. Its pet project is the “JOOL App,” a product designed to be individually tailored by and for each user. It already has over one thousand users and has helped substance abusers overcome drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and food addictions. It has also helped healthy people become healthier. The website explains that it offers: “Purpose-driven health engagement for individuals. Powerful analytics for organizations.” Effecting change with this app is completely private. It dispenses with embarrassing interpersonal interactions that might thwart one’s desire to change. The challenge for the app user is twofold: 1. to launch oneself into the process; and 2. to persist. Once begun, the program can seem to propel itself. At JOOL Health, Strecher and his staff work not only to improve the app continually but also to create methods to assess its efficacy.
David Rossiter, Chief Creative Officer of JOOL Health, notes that the app is currently available only through employers, health plans, and health systems. A consumer version of the tool may be made available in the future, both as app and in a web version. He also notes that the app is part of a larger platform that also offers, among other things, ways to participate in workshops and podcasts.
Rossiter is an avid user of the app. He explained that it encourages people to reflect on their life in a manner that allows for a sharper, clearer discovery of personal purpose. It encourages users to monitor how well they’re living in accordance with their stated purpose, and helps them develop the energy and willpower they need to effectively pursue it. It helps users improve the key health behaviors that support purposeful living in the areas that Strecher considers elemental: Sleep, Presence (mindfulness), Activity, Creativity, and Eating. (SPACE is the acronym Strecher has adopted.) Rossiter lists the benefits for people who use the app — even for a minute or two each. Users:
Chart their SPACE, energy, willpower, alignment with their four-dimensional life purpose (personal, family, work, and community), along with two personal outcomes of their own choosing (e.g. migraines or kindness)
- Receive personalized tips on how to improve their health behaviors and outcomes
- Set and monitor progress towards personal behavioral targets
- Explore which personal and environmental factors have the most impact on them
- Receive personalized, accurate predictions for their levels of energy and willpower over the coming day, along with tips they can use to offset low predictions or capitalize on high ones
Rossiter is enthusiastic about the tool. “We're adding more features and functionality at a furious clip,” he said. He remembers when the app was just “a glimmer in Vic’s eye.” Rossiter mused over the work he’s done with and for his current boss.
We brought [the app] to its current state of maturity. It’s the kind of tool it’s best to spend time with. It has multiple layers of functionality that directly relate to understanding who you are, why you do what you do, how you can improve things in meaningful ways. It all starts on the premise that in our fragmented, modern life, it’s easy to get separated from what’s most important to you. We want people to consider what they care about most — their “core values.”
But Rossiter is quick to point out that the app is not the only focus of the company.
The core goal of the company is to help people find and succeed in their life purpose. They can use the app to achieve that. But we have other things: large-scale workshops, keynotes, videos, workbook [in progress — a companion piece to the app — and to Strecher’s book], and JOOL vibe, a tool to look at the data of the population to see what’s happening in the lives of the app users.
Rossiter is enthusiastic about both the company and the app, which he uses daily. He said, “I’m 64 with the energy level of my 25-year-old self. I ride my bike to work; I play guitar and sing in a musical band.” (He has performed at Crazy Wisdom.) “I’m a super user of the app.” He also enthuses about his boss, who is “an exemplar of what he’s talking about: energy, will-power, stamina, purpose. He will go on the road, giving talks, sales presentations, for weeks on end, if that’s what’s on the schedule. He’s inspiring. He takes time to get to know people.”
Danielle Butbul, one of JOOL Health’s young interns, was also happy to talk about her boss. “I really can't say enough good things about Vic — as an individual and as a co-worker,” she said. Butbul appreciates the workspace that Strecher created. Rossiter adds: “A lot of the joy comes from Vic. He’s set up a beautiful environment, which is not typical for a start-up.”
My first meeting with Strecher took place last summer in his company’s airy fourth floor suite in an industrial park on West William Street. Strecher works alongside his 14 full-time employees. In summer, there are, typically, three or four additional interns. Upon arrival, I was escorted to the kitchen — sleek and spare — and introduced to Strecher, who was seated at a counter along with six young staff members. Unaffected and unassuming, he introduced himself to me, then introduced me to the others in the room — an equal number of males and females. They were dressed casually. Each had a laptop open. Conversation flowed comfortably. After fifteen minutes, the two of us left for more private quarters; within the open and transparent spaces of JOOL Health, privacy is effected with glass walls. One staffer calls the place “organic.”
Strecher took great pains to make his workplace match his purpose. Butbul said:
Vic has put a lot of thought into designing a warm and comfortable workplace that stimulates creativity and positive energy, from the physical design of the office — which he completely renovated to be an open space office — to the furniture he chose: beautiful, comfortable, and practical, to the people who now work there — each genuinely kind, fun, and extremely impressive. Vic also made sure that there is a yoga room — we have yoga classes twice a week, a nap/meditation room, and a spacious kitchen. The space is designed to help us build creativity, activity, and presence into our day.
Strecher’s focus on caring is evident not only in the way he designed the workspace but in the way he relates to people around him. One staffer addressed this with the following:
His deep consideration for the well-being of his co-workers is not only evident through his creation of a vibrant and comfortable workplace, but also through the way he addresses everyone in the company as being equally significant. He is also always asking how everyone is doing, and always available to answer questions and provide insight. Fun fact: this summer his desk was at the same table as all of the interns!
His caring was clear to me even before I met him. Before writing this piece, I asked him whether he’d agree to be its subject. His response came with barely a moment’s hesitation: “Yes, I’ll help you out.” His response was about helping, not about being featured.
While success is nothing new to Strecher, his career took a turn — and a new intensity — when his daughter died. It happened during a family vacation. Julia, an idealistic nursing student, died in her sleep. She had a history of heart disease, so her death was a shock but not a surprise. At six months, she contracted chicken pox. It affected her heart. Thereafter, the family’s life was marked by frequent and harrowing hospital visits. Her first heart transplant occurred before her first birthday, her second when she was nine. There were touch-and-go moments. More than once, they thought they had lost her. On that fateful vacation, just hours before dying, she uttered words that remain indelibly etched in her father’s memory: “I’m so happy, I could die right now!” In retrospect, those words convey a kind of reassurance, if not validation. Her parents had long struggled with how they might help their daughter have a life worth living. Her words seem to say that their efforts were not in vain.
But Strecher was crushed. He began having visions of his daughter. She counseled him. She even chided him. As he kayaked into a sunrise, he saw her emerge from the sun, saying: “You have to get over this, Dad. You have to change your life.” From beyond the grave, Julia shepherded her father through the grieving process. He embarked on a reading binge that included the writings of great minds from ancient to current times: Aristotle, Socrates, Seneca, Nietzsche, Mozart, Shaw, Kierkegaard, Camus. Paralyzed by his loss, and in an effort to stay afloat, he devoured their words. That journey into these minds proved transformative. His response was visceral: “As I was reading philosophers — over two thousand years old — I started feeling these were letters written for me.” He decided that getting out of his own grief meant he should stop thinking about himself. He realized he was feeding off of this crisis, and it was all negative. He added: “I needed to start thinking about other people, other things. Heal yourself by helping other people.”
He makes no secret that Julia’s death triggered the work that drives him today. One might say he wears his heart on his sleeve to drive his point home. He decided that he would teach all his students “as though they were Julia.” His purpose statement is his mantra. “My purpose is to help others create a purpose in their lives, to teach every student as if they were my own daughter, to be an engaged husband and father, and to enjoy love and beauty.” He paused, then added: “That’s why I try hard to stay healthy. My hedonistic personal purpose is to enjoy love and beauty.”
The story of Julia’s life and death figures large in each of the two recent books he wrote, yet there is nothing exhibitionistic about his display of grief. His experience, however painful, changed his life, and he uses it in the hopes that others will learn, too — without having to experience the painful loss that he suffered.
The paternal, nurturing quality of Strecher’s relationship with his students and co-workers is reflected in their descriptions of him. Andy Ying, a former student, rhapsodized about his teacher. Ying recalled that after each class, at least a dozen students lined up to speak to the professor, a situation Ying had never encountered before. After his first Strecher course, Ying summed up the experience by saying: “Learning with Dr. Strecher is both purposeful and purpose-full.” But Ying had experienced Strecher’s outreach even before enrolling in his courses. During a personal crisis, Ying had approached another professor to discuss the advisability of proceeding with his long-held plan of attending medical school. Was medicine truly the right career path for him? That professor urged him to contact Strecher. Ying sent an email, and Strecher responded immediately. Ying looks back now and says: “Most professors would have thought I was crazy. That he took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me struck a deep chord.” Ying, who took his MCATs last summer, plans to use his medical training to enhance a career in patient care, public health, and entrepreneurship.
Asked to talk about his experience as Strecher’s student, Ying responded:
Dr. Strecher presents the material in a transcendent way. He gives his own personal examples and invites students to do the same. Students would reveal personal stories and issues, relevant to material. He was a catalyst in helping students connect to the material.
Strecher himself has no qualms about addressing the personal. Asked about the role of grief in his life, Strecher said:
Grief doesn’t go away. I don’t want it to go away. It’s a direct reflection of my love for [Julia]. I never want to forget her. This ache, this hole, should be there. The best metaphor I heard, for death of a loved one, is: if you’re a tree on a mountainside, and a boulder rolls and hits the tree, the tree grows around the boulder; it doesn’t go away.
Asked how this experience of loss has affected his relationship with others who underwent such travails, Strecher responded:
I always welcome conversations with people who’ve lost loved ones, but I don’t feel I’m in a ‘club.’ Yes, we share something in loss, but I don’t seek out others who’ve lost children. My daughter always said ‘I just want to be normal.’ She didn’t want to go to camps for sick kids, special kids. She didn’t want to give inspirational talks. That wasn’t her identity. She wanted to give back.
He added that he doesn’t mind meeting with grieving parents, but he has no need to affiliate with these support groups. I asked about his core values, a term that figures large in his philosophy. He replied:
I started thinking about what I cared about most personally. I started realizing: I love these students. I love teaching. I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility toward them. I wondered: how do I translate that into my life? My hedonistic personal purpose is to enjoy love and beauty. To me, even climbing a mountain smacks of narcissism. Why are they really doing this? They have families, children, but they put their lives at risk. People who perform such “heroic” feats — if they’re doing it for something beyond themselves — then it’s not heroic. It’s narcissism.
I asked him to name some of his “core values.” He said they’re listed in the book. The books were checked out in the libraries, so I bought both books and found his list of “core values” — guiding principles that people must be able to identify in order to define and reach their goals. The list includes: achievement, community, creativity, enjoyment, expertise, independence, kindness, relationships, reputation, responsibility, security, self-control, spirituality, tradition, and vitality. He hastened to add that these principles are not carved in stone. People can and should remain flexible, even as they prioritize. Lists are malleable. The point is to achieve and maintain a sense of balance while pursuing and achieving one’s goals. At the same time, one must learn to keep stress at bay. Hence the meditation. And yoga.
In the course of Stretcher’s mournful but productive year of binge reading, he developed a fascination with the lowly dung beetle as a symbolic representation of purposiveness. The dung beetle spends its life creating and then rolling balls of dung to their destinations. This insect navigates according to the stars — the only creature on earth that does so. Like the dung beetle, the Greek mythological figure, Sisyphus, was also destined to fulfill an endless and seemingly pointless task. Sisyphus was to push a rock to the top of a hill each day, only to see it roll back down. Note that the name “Sisyphus,” synonymous with scarab, is a genus of dung beetles of which there are more than 90 species.
Upon closer examination of Sisyphus/scarab/dung beetle, Strecher discovered that the ancient Egyptians revered this insect. They named their god of renewal Khepri, which is the Egyptian name for dung beetle. In forming his dung ball, the scarab attracts a mate. She lays her eggs in the dung ball, then travels with her mate. Using the scarab as metaphor, the Egyptians saw Khepri as the god who pushes the sun up every morning, over the horizon, ensuring the renewal of day — the continuance of time. Albert Camus’s use of the name Sisyphus was a way to recognize the value of all creatures and all positive endeavors.
If one were to ask: Why do scarabs and Sisyphus persist in their respective tasks? Strecher might respond: that is the wrong question. Every living creature is destined to complete certain tasks. Our roles are assigned by time and circumstance. None of us can know in advance what our tasks in life will be. As we discover what life has assigned us, we must embrace and fulfill our roles with determination and dignity. Rather than think of Sisyphus’ task as absurd, one must think of it as his purpose, nevermind that he’d need to repeat the task everlastingly. Camus ended his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, with the words: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Among the writers who made the greatest impact on Strecher during his mournful reading spree was Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), who viewed purpose as the kernel of hope, an essential ingredient of living. Frankl’s most famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, was written after the author was liberated from Nazi concentration camps. A Viennese psychiatrist and neurologist, Frankl treated suicidal patients both before and after World War II. As a Jewish prisoner, he was a slave laborer in four different camps. In Auschwitz prisoners deliberately, and not infrequently, ran into the electric fence to kill themselves. One day, when he saw fellow prisoners about to take that route, he stopped them to ask why. They responded that they could expect nothing more from life. Frankl flipped their statement around and admonished: “Do not ask what you expect from life; ask what life expects from you!” Frankl understood that it is not suffering itself that causes despair. Rather, if you feel you have nothing to give and no one to love, you have nothing to live for!
Frankl developed a new school of psychology called “logotherapy,” based on a philosophy that we are strongly motivated to live purposefully and meaningfully. Finding one’s purpose is key. When we respond positively to life’s challenges, we find meaning in life. By drawing on a person’s strengths, logotherapy can bring about a profound shift in awareness. Since Frankl believed that a major cause of depression is self-absorption, he posited that patients can move from a victim mentality to an optimistic outlook. Frankl further posited that:
Only to the extent that someone is living out this self-transcendence of human existence is he truly human or does he become his true self. He becomes so not by concerning himself with his self’s actualization, but by forgetting himself and giving himself, overlooking himself and focusing outward.
This notion of transcendence became central to Strecher’s theories of how people can change and improve their lives. In an age of “selfies” that follows on the heels of the “me generation,” transcending oneself for the greater good proves far more gratifying than simply “actualizing” oneself in a personally ambitious, self-centered, and ultimately less satisfying way. Strecher draws on countless research studies that prove this.
As Strecher contemplated the writers he read, he became intensely aware of the centrality of purpose in their philosophies — and in life. He calls Seneca “an Ann Landers of ancient Rome,” and cited a letter in which a woman, writing at her son’s graveside, asked the sage: “What should I do?” Seneca replied: “It doesn’t matter how much wind is in your sails if you don’t have a harbor.” Strecher also cited Socrates’ famous saying: “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and added Aristotle’s less well-known response: “Yes, but the purposeless life isn’t even worth examining.” In their writings, both Frankl and Strecher quoted Nietzsche, who also weighed in on this point: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
In Life on Purpose, Strecher discusses Aristotle’s use of the word “Eudaimonia” to mean the true self. One’s daimon is what’s true and most divine inside us. The authentic self transcends one’s ego-focused desires. Aristotle said that the self-transcending state of Eudaimonia contrasts with the self-enhancing “hedonia” (as in “hedonism”), which concerns the pursuit of (short-term) pleasure. Strecher, being the researcher he is, points out that recent studies have shown that people who score high on the eudaimonic (v. hedonic) scale are healthier. More specifically, they show “less inflammatory gene expression.”
Strecher also points out, that according to the latest research, roughly half the disease and deaths in the U.S. are caused by lifestyle — in other words, by our behaviors. (He said this in his “Vic Strecher TEDMED 2009” talk, https://youtu.be/bxMGuGUROiA). Strecher had already intuited this phenomenon when he embarked on his most recent contribution to public health: the creation of the JOOL app.
In approaching his self-appointed task of making his findings useful to the public, Strecher asked himself: “What would Viktor Frankl have done now?” Strecher’s answer: “He’d create an app to help you find your purpose.” Similarly, he asked himself what Aristotle would do now. His best guess: “He’d write a graphic novel!” Strecher did both.
The breadth of Strecher’s professional literacy shows itself in his frequent mention of researchers at work in his areas of interest. Among the many he cites is Elizabeth Blackburn (author of The Telomere Effect), who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the role of telomeres at the end of our chromosomes. Telomeres, like the protective caps on shoelaces, keep our chromosomes from fraying. We’re more likely to get sick when our telomeres shrink, which makes our chromosomes more susceptible to damage. An inability to cope with stress can shorten our telomeres. Scientists have discovered that telomerase, an enzyme that helps repair damaged chromosomes, may carry anti-aging properties. It may, in time, be used to fight cancer and improve the quality of other medical treatments.
Strecher names dozens of other university researchers. They include Emily Falk; Jennifer Crocker; David Yeager; Frans de Waal — who concluded that it’s “nature, not just nurture, that promotes empathy and altruism”; Adam Grant — who urges people to be “helpful and altruistic” while preserving their own goals (“Don’t be a chump!”); Edith Chen and Greg Miller — whose “shift-and-persist” axiom emerges from their deduction: “To adjust to life’s stresses, making shifts in perception, when it’s accompanied by a persistent pursuit of a goal, helps.”
Vic Strecher has no plans to slow down. If and when he is satisfied with the JOOL app, he will move on to future innovations. He remains helpmeet to his wife, who treasures his companionship. His elder daughter, a professional photographer, remains devoted to her dad and has made him a grandfather, a role he reveres. Strecher does not lack for purpose, and he continues to extol transcendence over self-enhancement. Winston, his alter ego, has much to say on this last point, the egotistical versus communal impulse:
Research shows that self-transcending values are more likely to create well-being and greater willpower to change behavior than what we might call “self-enhancing values”; and that college graduates who placed importance upon close relationships, community involvement and personal growth were, two years later, more likely to have achieved these goals and to have greater well-being, whereas graduates who aspired more to money, fame, and appearance were, two years later, more likely to have achieved these goals but had greater ill-being.
Strecher’s drive to help others find purpose is, within his circles, legendary. Again, in Winston’s words:
People with a purpose appear to be more likely to avoid illnesses. In fact [researchers found], people with a low purpose in life were more than twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than people with high purpose in life. Having a purpose is associated with living longer! Having a purpose is associated with well-being: happiness, better sleep, even better sex!
If Winston were real, he might be pleased to know that in today’s world, the dung beetle is highly valued, especially among cattle-raising farmers in Australia who import the bugs to nourish their pastures. Flies, too, process dung, but flies carry disease. The dung beetles do the job with utmost efficiency and no collateral damage.