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How Ryan O’Donoghue and Jon Strum Turned Difficult Circumstances into Meaningful Purpose

By April 1, 2022August 24th, 2022No Comments
forge ahead podcast ryan o'donoghue and jon strum

Ryan O’Donoghue and Jon Strum both lost loved ones to severe illnesses, and that experience informed their life purpose. Ryan O’Donoghue is now CEO of First Descents, a non-profit offering transformative outdoor adventures to young adults facing serious health conditions. Jon Strum is the founder and host of the RealTalk MS podcast, a leading resource for people living with or impacted by multiple sclerosis (MS).

We recently spoke with Ryan and Jon on the Forge Ahead podcast about finding purpose in difficulty, offering customized support based on individual needs, and tapping into your resources.

1. Find Purpose in Difficulty

If you’re facing challenging times, think of other people who may be experiencing something similar. Seek out these people so no one feels alone or isolated during trying circumstances.
After Jon’s wife was diagnosed with progressive MS, he says the disease took everything they had. But he was determined to have something good come out of that experience. Through his podcast, RealTalk MS, Jon says he was able to make a difference in people’s lives. He says, “I don’t know if it balances all out, but it certainly feels a lot better knowing that something positive can come out of a really difficult situation.”
We can learn from Jon’s experience that helping others during periods of difficulty can empower you and give you purpose.

2. Offer Customized Support Based on Individual Needs

People have different experiences and ability levels. Ask people what they need to feel supported. Offering tools and resources is a small gesture that will help people perform better and make them feel valued and welcome.

Ryan says at First Descents they work to understand participants’ needs and abilities to help them have a successful outdoor adventure. Ryan and his colleagues consider factors like fatigue, mobility, and balance to plan activities. He says, “Our goal is to really help serve as a catalyst to help you believe in yourself again, and to get you, as we like to say, ‘Out Living It’ again.”

Ryan teaches us that offering accommodations takes little effort but results in a big payoff.

3. Tap Into Your Resources

If you are having a hard time, remember there is a whole community of people going through the same thing. Reach out to them for support. You’ll make connections and learn about valuable resources to help you face your challenges.

Ryan says First Descents participants become part of a community and develop life-long bonds. He says he has seen them deliver meals and travel to support each other for medical procedures. He says, “We take care of one another. We have shared values and a commitment to helping one another.”

What can we learn from Ryan’s experience? You’re never alone in any situation, and the power of human connection can sustain you during difficult circumstances.

Visit the Forge Ahead homepage to hear the entire conversation with Ryan and Jon.