Dan Novaes

Life Hacker | Entrepreneur

"When complacency prevails, enlightenment dissipates"

Medium: How to always WIN even when you lose

How a near death experience changed my life

We all want to win, but unless you’re Charlie Sheen, winning all the time can seem impossible. It’s easy to beat ourselves up over any little setback. I, however, have learned that every day I am winning, even if I don’t feel it at that moment. It’s all about perspective.

I realized that losing was actually the way to winning last year in 2012. Let me set the stage for you:

- In January, I was invited to be a top 25 candidate for Techstars NYC

- In February, I’m rejected by Techstars NYC

- In March, my girlfriend rejects my “startup” lifestyle and breaks up with me

- In April, my cofounder splits, but not before stealing ~$50,000 in company funds and assets

- In May, my first company’s warehouse is robbed of $60,000 in goods

- In June, angry buyers who had not received their merchandise (thanks to last month’s warehouse robbery) slammed us with chargebacks and caused our merchant account to shut down

- In July, the stress gave in and my body gave up on me

Obviously, the first six months of 2012 were a little unpleasant. By the end of June, my family was pretty worried about me, not only financially, but emotionally, too. I’m a stoic at heart, and my response turned into a mantra: “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine”.

Except I wasn’t.

My monthly income was severely affected and a good part of my net worth was depleted in previous months. The main thing I kept telling myself was that I was young and I have the rest of my life to make up for If I go broke. Regardless, the stress caught up to my health.

Before I knew it, I was bedridden and barely eating. In a little less than a month, I lost almost 38 pounds. I started getting migraines and fevers. I visited various doctors who couldn’t seem to pinpoint the problem; not exactly what you’re looking to hear from a “specialist in viruses of unknown origin”. Instead, I was prescribed lots of medication, which only served to bog me down with horrible side effects. I began to seriously think that I must be dying.

As humans, we are quick to take things for granted, especially our health. But it isn’t until your health is stripped away from you that you realize how even the simplest things can make you happy.

Eventually, I got out of my rut. 2012 was the hardest year of my life, but it ended up becoming the period I am most thankful for. I grew mentally, spiritually, and even financially (the last one is a work in progress ).

I took away 5 key lessons from this experience:

It could always be worse

No matter how many obstacles life throws at you, stay positive and don’t take things for granted. By May of last year, I thought it would be impossible for my life to get any worse. Little did I know July would make the month of May look like a cakewalk.

Take each setback as an opportunity for growth

No one wants bad shit to happen. But in life, that’s inevitable. Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, always take it as a lesson. Learn from it, grow from it, and prevent similar issues from arising in the future. You will grow as a person and will find it easier to live with yourself when things don’t go your way.

Be accountable for your mistakes

This is an admirable quality that will make you a better leader. Too many times when we face setbacks, we are quick to point a finger. Instead, we should be holding ourselves accountable. I could have blamed May’s robbery as someone else’s fault, however, what I should have done was implement higher security controls and mitigate potential losses with an insurance policy.

You’re not alone

It’s common to feel a sense of solitude at our lowest points in life. It feels like everyone else catches the big break while you’re getting shafted. You read the articles and don’t understand why it isn’t your company being featured on Tech Crunch or why Investor X isn’t responding to your emails. The truth is, everyone else is in the same boat. People are always quick to talk about their successes while completely ignoring their failures. Just keep on keepin’ on and know that you’re not the only one experiencing failure.

Life works in mysterious ways

In our darkest hour is when we see a light at the end of the tunnel. If all my setbacks from 2012 hadn’t occurred, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If I hadn’t been denied from TechStars, I wouldn’t have started my current company or met my amazing team. If I hadn’t been robbed, I wouldn’t have ventured into a new industry; which by far has the highest chance at becoming a “big” business for me. If all these mishaps hadn’t occurred, I would likely have taken the backseat and become complacent. I am thankful for everything that happened, because now, every setback only serves to push me forward.

So I challenge you, next time you are faced with a setback, think twice before getting down on yourself!