Words of advice for trials & tribulations: Q&A with Stephen Goldner

At TEDMED 2014, forensic toxicologist and attorney Stephen Goldner shared the compelling story of how helping one person turned into a lifelong effort to change (and, in some cases, even save) lives. We reached out to Stephen to learn more about what drives his work.

What advice would you give to other aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs?

People’s minds are constantly changing, and innovators are so driven toward new interests, that they often have difficulty staying focused on the “grind” of daily business building. I strongly suggest finding a mentor. Someone who can provide focus and encouragement during both the good times and the bad times, and who can then make the all-important connections to people and resources at just the right time.

Stephen Goldner, TEDMED 2014.
Stephen Goldner, TEDMED 2014.

Who or what has been your main source of inspiration that drives you to innovate?

My parents, who quietly insisted that I should do something good for people through my work. Later, I found a master scientist, John Broich, who inspired many people and became my business partner and friend for life. John was a devout seeker of truth, and a data-driven scientist who could see molecular structures in the air and then bring that discovery to life in the laboratory. Another source of inspiration is Alan Kaplan, who created the Food and Drug Law Institute in Washington, DC, and became my mentor when I switched careers and became an FDA lawyer. Alan showed me how to see the many different aspects to matters of law and ethics, and the importance of considering societal consequences.

Most of all, my life-long devotion to humanism has been mentored by someone I never spoken to, and only met briefly twice. I know him from his writings, and his frequent video-talks, even though I have to rely upon translation from Japanese to English. Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai International has shown me how to turn my personal karma into a day-to-day, moment-to-moment appreciation for finding what needs to be done for people, figuring out what I can do, and then doing it.

Why does your talk matter now? What do you hope people learn from your talk?

Nothing is more precious than life. My talk celebrated helping people find new medicines so they could live. I hope people learn that their simple act of helping one person can turn into a huge mission and help thousands, if not millions, of people all over the world. I hope people see that I am just an “average Joe” who figured something out and then sought out others to join in that mission.

What is the legacy you want your work and/or your talk to leave?

I hope that, somehow, my story will encourage hundreds and thousands of people to endure the entrepreneur struggles and bring their humanistic ideas to fruition.

What is next for you?

Certainly we continue to implement the CureLauncher technology; we’ve done that for more than 11,000 people and multiple clinical trials so far. Things are really interesting at this point in time because I was recently asked to set up the foremost cannabis testing laboratory in the USA. The laboratory, Pinnacle Labs, is based in Michigan and will open on October 15. Once it does, the synergy will kick in. We’ll be running multiple clinical trials for people using marijuana, and collaborating with distinguished medical centers and physicians, and even law enforcement labs, that want to help bring together great science and medicine to show the value of this plant medication.

All innovations need the right time, the right people and the right circumstances to “take off and soar” – so, whatever your dream is, keep on “keeping on” and you will be amazed at all the value you can create in the world.