By Cheryl Anne Groth
How 12 years of Overcoming Adversity Eventually Led To Success
Michael Nova’s story is one of pure persistence. Traveling along a long and winding road of misadventures, he found that the road itself was where the magic was happening, and that it wasn’t what was happening to him that was important, but how he reacted to the happening …
…And how that reaction led to Michael becoming the founder and creator of our website here at Rise Up Eight.
With the realization that his story was having an impact upon people, he thought of creating a website as the next level in the exploration of the human condition that began with his music group X: THC‘s music and film multimedia project, X: The Human Condition.
The idea was to create a space where hundreds of people could share their stories of overcoming adversity just as he had. And that began the great experiment of Rise Up Eight.
We sat down with Michael to discuss how it all began. Here’s our interview…
Michael, Can you share with us the beginnings of your journey and what challenges you faced early on?
Well, the origins of Rise Up Eight actually began as I was growing up. I had always felt like an outsider and very rarely fit in. That manifested not only into my art, but professionally as well.
I remember working my way through school, jumping from one job to another, stuck in these jobs that left me unfulfilled, dreading to go to work every day. Eventually I had to get out of that dead-end job–and the whole “job” thing entirely–so I resolved to quit to start my own business. Mind you, this business was just an idea. I had no idea if it would work or not, but I was so miserable that I had to make a change.
That action changed the course of my life…
I was overcome with the joy of newfound freedom when I left my last day of work. I felt like I was released from prison. I literally jumped in the air, skipping down the street like a kid on the last day of school…“I’m free! I’m free!”
So where did you go from there?
Well, eating tuna out of the can for months was not fun, but 24/7 hustle paid off eventually. A few years of struggling with getting the business off the ground, I received a phone call from the New York Times. They wanted to interview me about my business, Nova Music Productions Inc.–the same business that I once had no idea would even work. Here I was going to be interviewed by the New York Times!
I found success, and it taught me was that I COULD achieve my dreams, though I had been foiled so many times in my past.
I began to realize that some people live their lives locked inside a cell called “beliefs,” and they live their whole lives locked inside this limited cell. But what if you were to step outside this limited cell and feel the freedom of something unlimited, something called “possibility”?…
Had I continued to live my life locked into a career that left me unfulfilled, I could’ve been trapped in that predicament for the rest of my life, and many people find themselves in that situation. Trapped at a job they don’t want, in a relationship they don’t want, in a living situation that they don’t want..
But this realization that we can step outside this “cell” and experience freedom, I brought this realization into my music. As a lifelong musician, as I mentioned before, I always had feelings of being the outsider, even among those closest to me. This fueled my creativity.
I studied hypnotherapy and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) as a way to understand these feelings of alienation and began work on what would eventually become the music and film multimedia project, X: The Human Condition.
And what was this multimedia project all about?
I wanted to create something that was more than just music. I believed that this would be some kind of “message in a bottle” to others that felt like they couldn’t find their place in the world. I felt that this was a story that was necessary to be told. Someone needed to speak for those that would not be spoken for–for all the people that hide their feelings behind fake smiles and secret disillusionment.
I understood this, and wanted to do one good thing in my life…one thing that would make a difference to someone…
But I realized that without any visual stimulus, there would be something missing. You had to hear it and see it to feel it. It had to be multi-sensory… joining film and music together into a live multimedia experience. Experts in the entertainment industry told me it couldn’t be done. But I did it anyway, on my own.
So how were you able to put together the cast and crew for this production?
Not easily. It took 12 years. Even the music itself took years because I couldn’t find the right producer to get the music to where it needed to be. Eventually I found the right person in Chris “Ninjaboy” Liang, who was on his way to becoming a successful sound designer creating music for major TV networks and films. Together we formed the group, X: THC, as an acronym for X: The Human Condition.
And thankfully, people believed in the project. Much of the cast and crew agreed to work on a cut rate or on a volunteer basis.
But serving as a first-time director with no film experience became a nightmare for me. Murphy’s Law set in. Anything that could go wrong went very wrong. Funding the entire project out of my business became increasingly stressful. What was supposed to take a month to film took almost a year, and I went over budget. My business was suddenly in trouble because all my attention was focused on the project. I didn’t realize that my business was falling apart.
How did that happen?
I don’t know. I just went to the bank one day to make a withdrawal and they told me I couldn’t make a withdrawal because I was overdrawn. I couldn’t believe it. There was nothing in my bank account. I suddenly realized that I had completely neglected my business because I was living in a microcosm of this project that had enveloped my entire life.
Meanwhile, I had made money in the market as a part-time day trader, but my luck ran out after the market crashed and I lost all of my profit along with 90% of my savings.
I lost ten pounds off my already thin body, lost my appetite and fell into a dark depression. I looked like a living, breathing skeleton, and I didn’t care. One night, I came very close to suicide, but somehow I got through it. I persisted, and when I look back now, I see that as a turning point. Because in everyone’s life there is that point where you can either give up or keep carrying on.
I found a second wind, I dove into the project all over again, feeling that I had no choice but to finish what I started, because I was too deep into it to quit. I borrowed money to get my business back on its feet. I got myself an iMac computer and learned how to edit the film myself, with help from several professional editors who volunteered to help.
So you were back on your feet again?
So I thought. But then came the real kicker. I suddenly and mysteriously developed three serious physical problems at the same time: uveitis, an eye disease, coupled with pigmentary dispersion syndrome and chronic kidney disease. I also found that I was now at high risk for heart disease, which took both my parents. I had never had major health problems before. And now I was faced with multiple issues to deal with.
I was originally misdiagnosed with conjunctivitis by the head of a major hospital’s ophthalmology department. As a result, the delay caused my vision to deteriorate to photophobia, a condition in which even a sliver of light would cause me unbearable pain. It felt like knives were being stuck into my eyes. I had never experienced that kind of pain before.
I learned later that if I had not gotten a second opinion on the day that I did, I would have lost my vision permanently. The prognosis was not good. I wasn’t expected to fully recover. But as you might guess by now, falling down seven times only meant I had to rise up eight.
Healthy Living Leads To An Unexpected Recovery
So how were you able to recover?
It didn’t happen overnight, or even over months. The Nephrologist (kidney specialist) I visited wanted to put me on prescription drugs for the rest of my life.
Before my mother passed away she gave me one warning, and it still haunts me today. She said, “Don’t let the doctors get a hold of you, because if they do, they will never let go.”
She had a virtual pharmacy at her bedside. I was not about to follow in her footsteps, and although I took his prescription, I never filled it. I went from being a junk food addict to becoming a total health nut. I consulted with alternative health practitioners to find out what else I could do to get better. Over the course of the next couple of years, I eliminated all the junk food from my life, started exercising, and began living a healthy life.
At the same time, I underwent both traditional and alternative medicinal treatments. I was not only going to beat these diseases. I was going to kick their asses! At the same time, I worked hard to build the business back up. The business grew to a tipping point where I didn’t have to make outgoing sales calls anymore. It was all incoming. I was able to bring the business back from the brink of collapse. It was stronger than ever, and so was I.
Once again, I found myself jumping up and down in the street the day my eye doctor told me I was normal again. I had made a miraculous recovery that no one had thought possible. I had applied that same persistence that I had in business to my health, and it paid off!
What’s most interesting about what happened is that I was fueled by this need to send this “message in a bottle” of X: The Human Condition out to the world, but what ended up becoming even more important than the message was the journey itself.
The original goal to create one good thing — one thing that would make a difference to someone — became this thing that would make a difference to many.
So where did this all end up?
It ended up inspiring people around the world to overcome challenges in life. I know this because we received emails from people from all over the world telling us so.
It ended up with me founding this website that you’re reading right now. Isn’t that amazing? How falling down seven times and rising up eight can lead to magical things if you don’t let yourself give up.
And with this website, Rise Up Eight, each person that tells their story is like another puzzle piece we collect, in order to put this puzzle of the human condition together. The more people we interview, the more puzzle pieces we collect, and put together. And as we are putting together these puzzle pieces, the secrets of the human condition is unfolding, just like The Matrix, where we can now see what was previously unseen to us.
And that “message in a bottle” of ‘you are not alone” that I originally created with X: The Human Condition has now fully manifested itself years later, because each of these interviews features someone going through some kind of tragedy or setback that they first experienced on their own, by themselves, but now that story is now shared in this community that we are creating. And so you are not alone… literally! This website is living proof of that.
That’s pretty amazing that all of this came together so organically from just your intention to do good, and how that can spread. So what’s the next step of this project?
Well, I think the deeper level of this website is that it’s just an extension of what my writing partner, Chris and I started with the multimedia project of X: The Human Condition. First we created an album and a film and now we are creating the website as the next level in this process. It is a process, and I have no idea what this will lead to but it’s life imitating art and art imitating life (laughs)…
For myself and Chris as artists, I think the common thread is that we are not afraid to dig deep to explore the human condition and share it with everyone, because isn’t that why we are here?
Look, I don’t think we should view adversity as our enemy. It’s our ally, because it helps to strengthen us, to grow up, literally, because just like when we play video games, we are “leveling up”, getting stronger to get to the next level in the game of life.
The next level will no doubt be more difficult than the one before. There will always be a greater mountain to climb, but since you’ve already gotten stronger, you know you can handle it. And so it goes with each level in life.
I like to say that life is not a fairy tale. But it can be a fairy tale in reverse, if you’re able to withstand all the setbacks that will undoubtedly happen, but your strength, your power, your resilience can never be taken away from you. You have to give it away to lose it.
So when you fall down seven times, RISE UP EIGHT! And I’m thankful for all the times I’ve fallen. As I wrote on our band, X: THC ‘s website, in Chapter Four of “Origins”…
Every day now, I thank god for everything…For the inspiration to create this magical art, for the persistence to keep it going when everything seemed to conspire against all hope of success, and yes, even for the physical problems I developed.
Because without them, I would not have realized how important it is to appreciate every breath… to appreciate sight and normal functioning of the body… things we never take a moment to think about. I thought things could never get worse when I was in production, with money troubles and stress that wracked my body, mind and soul. But it was when I could not see, that I saw what could not be seen.
Today, Michael’s original business, Nova Music Productions, Inc. has expanded to include Nova Custom Label Printing, Nova Disc, and Hypnotical Entertainment.
Michael’s story has recently been featured on Entrepreneur Magazine‘s website, Entrepreneur.com, and he continues to tell his story through numerous ongoing interviews.
The upcoming documentary film, Never Give Up – The Miracle of X: THC will feature the full version of the story, but meanwhile you can read the full story of overcoming adversity in its entirety on the X: THC website.