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Immigrant Resilience — The force behind my story

I immigrated to this country from Brazil when I was 12 years old. My parents were small business owners and hard working entrepreneurs looking for a better life in the United States. After selling everything our family had, they bought a one-way ticket to pursue the American dream. Although my parents didn’t have a dime to their name, their optimism and work-ethic carried them through the darkest of days. I witnessed it all, admiring their struggles, their victories, but most importantly their positive attitude and resilience.

My parents’ boldness, like of many immigrants, is what inspires me every day. The immigrant grit is a motivational force driving me to keep striving to be the best person that I can be regardless of the limitations and disadvantages set in front of me. After all, you can’t fail if you never stop trying. My socioeconomic upbringing is the catalyst that drove me to start companies that create social impact and double bottom-lines instead of just pure profits. The immigrant story is the reason I am willing to take risks, the reason I am willing to put myself out there, the reason I want to solve hard problems in hard industries, the reason I want to create solutions for the forgotten and the underserved masses.

At one point I was illegal for three years, I went to community college, I had to drop out of university because I could not afford tuition. I lived off credit-cards and was homeless. My first company grew to millions in revenue but failed. I’ve gotten rejected tens of thousands of times, but I’ve gotten a few wins, and these wins were a catapult compounding me into even bigger victories. The people who believed in me felt the hunger, they saw how deep the fire burned, and for myself and them, I will not disappoint. This journey is all I got, and like many other immigrants out there, failure is not an option, it is all or nothing. I have to remind myself often, it is not linear; it is not predictable, and it is not always the strongest, but the most resilient that survive. Although I’ve succeeded several times, I’ve failed hundreds more. I am willing to try, to risk, to challenge what is possible. Who I am today are the cumulative sum of all the hardships, failures and learnings not just across my own immigrant story but across all of the people that inspire me each day to be better. Through one of the hardest years of my life, my father said something that stuck with me: “There is no victory if there is no battle.” I practice his words by never backing down even in the midst of fear and challenges because I hope for a greater purpose. After all, to battle is the only thing any immigrant can do in hope for a better tomorrow for themselves and their families. Ambiguities and struggles are inherently part of the plot of an immigrant’s life story, in the script nothing is guaranteed because there is no safety net.

My mother never wanted children. She thought the world was cruel so she did not want her child to suffer through the same struggles she had gone through. Finally, when she eventually and accidentally became pregnant with me (her only child), I barely survived because of her circumstances and complications. After many fights, I miraculously lived and she kept me. My mother then decided to name me Victor, because I was persistent enough to live and “win” in the face of death. She hoped that the name would instill a supernatural force driving me always to succeed and to become resilient against all of the life’s struggles. I don’t know if that’s where my determination to succeed comes from, but I sure hope I am making her proud and doing justice to my name. After all I never actually lose, I just learn :).

Reach me @ victorsantos.com