I was talking to someone about my early business failures and mentioned that my mistakes cost me a little more than $100,000 and that it had taken me quite a few years to dig myself back out from that. My companion exclaimed "That's nothing, dude: I lost more than half a million!"
I expressed surprise and shock. "Wow - how did you manage to get out from under?", I asked.
"What do you mean?"
What do I mean? I mean how did you get back to solvency after such a horrible loss? I've known other peple who have suffered like that and some of them never did recover - my hundred thou was pretty tough, but five times that or more is unthinkable, at least for me - it would take me fifty years to climb out of a hole like that!. I wondered how he had built himself back up.
"Well, I mean that if xyz hadn't screwed me on the deal, I would have been able to sell my share of the business for half a mill. Thanks to his lawyers, I got thirty thou."
Ahh.. slight difference there. You see, I actually LOST money. I went into debt. I OWED money. I had to pay it back, drop by painful drop. My companion simply got less than he thought he deserved. That's not the same thing at all.
I don't mean that such disappointments aren't important; heck, sometimes you can sue over things like that. But getting less than you expected isn't the same as really losing.
I was reminded of that when someone else complained about losing money on an investment. The stocks had been riding high, but took a recent tumble. He'd "lost" money.. or so he said. But in fact the stock was still worth far more than he had paid for it, so really he hadn't lost anything - in fact he'd done pretty darn well. Again, that's not a loss.
I certainly understand that it's disappointing to get less than you expected. I've experienced that myself, but I don't think of those as losses. Real losses hurt, they don't just disappoint. And they can keep on hurting for years.
I did crawl my way back. Those days are far behind me now. But I sure do remember what it felt like, and never want to be there again.
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