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Using Setbacks to Create a Competitive Edge

Written By: Gary 28 June 2010 Other Posts By: Gary

One of the goals of FoundersBlock is to be as open and honest with our audience as possible, to share stories we feel can be a value add to other early stage entrepreneurs that encounter the same struggles we face. Tonight, I write such a post. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of the following sayings:

  • “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”
  • “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”
  • “What defines your character isn’t that you fell down, but how you get back up”

I apologize for the cheesy selection, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, these clichés revolve around the concept of turning negatives into a positive. I share with you one story that deals with that very notion.

In the early part of January 2010, I experienced discomfort in my right thigh. At first I thought it was just a pulled muscle so I stretched and tried to sleep it off. As the week progressed, the sensation went from slight discomfort to excruciating pain, as if a needle was going through my leg. My life was a living hell. Early in the year, I experienced pain in the morning and at night, but since late February, I experienced constant pain 24/7. What’s worse, it was disturbing my sleep and left me exhausted to do any work (let alone cranky, to the chagrin of my partners). Over the past 5 months, I would sleep on average 4 hours per day and wake up in the middle of the night in severe pain. During that time span, there hasn’t been a single night where I’ve slept for more than 5 hours undisturbed. Like I said, life was a complete hell. Am I trying to make you feel sorry for me? Hell no. What I want to leave you with is that no matter how shitty the situation, you can quickly turn it into a positive outcome. You have OPTIONS to make it better, as long as you’re relentless and proactive in your approach. This is an important lesson for me that I want to share with you.

Back to the story, you would think medical attention would be the next step, correct? Well, the problem with being a fulltime entrepreneur who’s undergoing development of his venture is that he has NO CASH FLOW, hence, NO HEALTH INSURANCE! Being over the age of 25, I was no longer under my parents insurance and had little options. I tried every inexpensive alternative I could think of to alleviate the pain – yoga stretches, massages, acupuncture, vodka to dull the pain one night (haha that was a mistake). I even got my friend to have his chiropractor evaluate me for free, to no avail. Three weeks and I was still in severe pain. It was really holding me back from doing what I had to do as an entrepreneur and I was quickly falling into a state of depression. Then one day, I decided to do the only thing I can do without chopping off my leg – I applied for Medicaid. After doing the paperwork and evaluated by a caseworker, I received benefits and sought medical attention right away. I saw a pain management doctor who prescribed me meds that masked the pain for 4-6 hours per dosage. This helped my quality of living and allowed me to get through the day with little pain (however, I still have problem getting a full nights sleep). Having Medicaid allowed me to have an X-Ray, MRI, and CT Scan performed to figure out what was wrong with me. Finally, in late May, I was diagnosed with Osteoid Osteoma – a benign bone tumor growing outwards from my right femur, pressing on my nerve endings. A little devastated by the news, I was assured surgery would remove the tumor, be off any medical drugs and back on my “A-game” in no time (surgery to be performed mid July). Wish me luck!

As painful and discouraging this experience was and could have been, my development as an entrepreneur and as a person actually accelerated! I’ve accomplished more during those 5 months of pain than all of last year. I helped launch a philanthropic venture, developed a mentorship with an entrepreneur I have the highest respect for, was recruited to help manage the newsletter of a prominent entrepreneur organization, networked effectively and efficiently to find the right people to create other projects related to my venture and passions, and hey, became a co-founder of FoundersBlock.com lol. I think I was able to do all these things and more because I used the pain to push me even harder. I used the pain to remind me of my current financial situation and the only way I can get better medical care is to dig deep and execute. Instead of allowing the pain to distract me, I used it to make me even more focused on accomplishing my goals. Every morning I’d wake up, my leg throbbing in pain, I told myself “just another day closer to making it big Gary” to keep my spirits up and stay hungry. Without this incident, I feel I would have been ill equipped to experience the challenges that will certainly come in the future and for that, I’m grateful for those 5 months.

Now, to be honest, I went through a disappointing occurrence in my personal life last night, which as you can guess is the motivation for writing this post. However, learning my lesson with my previous problem, I felt that writing a post about turning a negative into a positive would be the most constructive course of action to help ease the emotional distress, while trying to inspire others to develop a winning mentality in the face of defeat. Feel free to disagree with me, but as an entrepreneur, you don’t have time to sulk, cry, and feel sorry for yourself – if you do, your competitors will indirectly take advantage of it and DESTROY you. You have to understand, as an early-stage entrepreneur, all you have is your business plan and yourself. Your company is YOU. If you don’t have your “A-Game” to network, to create, to execute, how the hell do you expect your company to grow and become successful? No matter how bad the situation may be, you have a choice. You can easily let obstacles get the best of you. Instead, use whatever setback you encounter to create a competitive edge for you. Get focused. Get motivated. Get yours.

Getting back up after falling down is a trait consistent with entrepreneurs – I just needed to learn that lesson outside the business world to know that.

If you have any personal stories where you’ve conquered any business or personal obstacle that came your way, I invite you to share your story below. Your words will be an inspiration to many, including me.

Twitter: @GaryReloj

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