Have you ever asked yourself an existential question like “Who am I?” or “What the heck I want out of my life?”. Sure you did because of the simple fact that you are a human and as humans, we love to question things and ask ourselves, even if we are not sure that we can figure out any answers.

But trust me my friend; we owe all the civilization and development of the human race to these difficult questions. If you are not seeing what I say, remember that classic physics was triggered by a very simple question of Newton “Why apples fall down from the tree?”. So dare to ask yourself even if you are uncertain about finding answers. Give it try. If you failed to find an answer, then at least you have tried. However, if you succeed, you will amaze yourself and the humankind with the results.

500 days ago, I started to ask myself these existential questions. 500 days ago, I started the most profound learning journey and the most influential self-changing experience in my whole life. On the first of July 2015, I received a rejection letter from an MBA study program that I labeled, at that time, as one of my biggest dreams. That same week I broke up with my girlfriend that I used to think of as my dream woman and the one I want to spend my life with. A few weeks later, I got another rejection letter but this time from the German immigration office and it came along with a warning of deportation out of the country. They refused to extend my residence permit.

I remember this period of my life very well. I remember myself torn apart, crying like a newborn baby facing life for the first time. I hid myself from my friends and family. I felt rejected, neglected, and abandoned. I feel the sorrow deep in my heart right now as I’m writing these words. I felt empty inside. I lost over 12 kilograms in few weeks. I spent weeks talking to nobody but myself. However, I also remember weeping my tears at the gym or while I’m working. I never stopped. I kept moving forward.

I don’t have to fear or hate pain. I should embrace it and learn from it

I remember clearly the words I wrote to myself in my diary: “If I go through this pain alone and get over it by myself, I will come out of this experience stronger and become a better version of myself. I don’t have to fear or hate pain. I should embrace it and learn from it”.

In this period of time, I used to do labor work in factories to make a living. During the breaks, I used to fetch my phone from the pocket of my blue overall to check my email. All I received was more rejection emails from job applications and other MBA programs. But I never stopped. I kept moving forward.

In 500 days I had a breakup experience, 2 rejection letters from the immigration office with a deportation warning, 3 MBA rejection letters and 33 job application rejections. All these rejections built the human I am right now. All these tiny NOs built my biggest YES I have ever had in my entire life. The breakup taught me when to hold on and when to let go. I’ve learned how to balance between my heart and my mind, between the emotions and the logic. I became a better decision maker.

Two rejections to my application for the residence permit extension taught me that a right is never lost, as long as one strives to claim it. I gave in the first time and did not insist on extending my residence permit to study what I love. But the second time I fought against the system and won the fight. They told me I’m not allowed to start a social business because I am not qualified enough, but after 4 months of resistance and fighting, they came back to me to say “sorry, we were wrong, You are not just qualified, you are overqualified”.

Drops of rain make a hole in the stone

So my friend, you will meet some mediocre people in your life who will ask you not to fight against the system and call you crazy if you try. Ignore them and remind yourself: even if you are just making some noise, it will count. The drops of rain make a hole in the stone.

Three MBA rejection letters were enough to convince me to learn on my own whatever I want. I read more and discovered the world of online self-learning courses. May be I missed the chance to attend classes with good business professors, but I had deep conversations with Adam Smith, Sigmund Freud and Frederick W. Taylor while reading their books. I have been rejected from average European universities, but I studied in Harvard, Berkeley and Stanford business schools by visiting their online courses.

33 job rejections pushed me to peruse my dream. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and help millions of people. I told myself: if the failure is inevitable, let the try count. If I am going to give my best, I will go for what I love. But to my surprise, I didn’t fail. I hit a massive success in a very short period of time.

A massive success is a sum of big fat number of small fails

Now I would love to share with you the secret of success, my success formula: “A massive success is a sum of big fat number of small fails” or in another words (YES = Sum of NOs), the more NOs you get, the bigger the YES you end up with. The more NOs you face, the harder you try to achieve your goals and the bolder you become. And fortune favors the bold.

So my dear friends please look at the photo and look carefully at the big YES I’m standing beside. What do you see? Can you recognize the tiny rejections? Can you see those too many but too small NOs? I don’t think so. When you look at a skyscraper, you see a skyscraper, not the breaks. It is the same for success. When you look to a giant YES you don’t see the small NOs that built it. The dot beside the YES is not the end. It’s just a sign of a new journey, a new start and a new YES.

After 500 days I did manage to have a crystal clear idea about who I am and what I want out of my life. I am Mohamed Dahy Ahmed, a human being, a hustler and a survivor. I am a social entrepreneur, a founder and the CEO of Helpu and I want to help 100,000 refugees by the end of 2017.

Text by Mohamed Dahy Ahmed, founder of Helpu, enpact fellow 2016

Photo copyright: Bahey Zayed