Being Grateful for the Challenges This New Year Will Bring

Written by: Maggie Augustyn, DDS, FAAIP, FICOI
A New Year


Dr. Maggie Augustyn starts off 2024 with a deep introspective look at the new year. Looking at Yasin Abbak’s life adventures, along with the usual insights from her heart, you will surely be able to plan this new year with new purpose.

– Paul Feuerstein, DMD, Editor-in-Chief


The usual social media scrolling at the end of the year, and at the beginning of the next, is filled with memes cursing the months prior and reliving hardships of moments past. Quotes with quirky photos challenge us to set new standards, to become hopeful and open to all the good a reset will bring. I have never understood the importance of breaks in years. After all, the 31st of December feels no different than January 1st. This coming year, I have experienced a mind shift; I finally understand the hope that a change in that one digit (2023 to 2024) can bring.

A New Year

With last year being fraught with challenges, I’d made decisions to change, to implement said change, to lessen my burden, and not to repeat the frustration. I am truly and sincerely looking forward to 2024, probably the first time in 3 decades. I have plans, new commitments, and goals, and I am going to stick to them. Having said that, as we look back at those moments last year, the ones that brought us to our knees, that made us wail, and pray, and beg for peace, let us realize that misfortune has made us stronger.

The bargaining with the all-knowing and omnipotent being, the hidden frustrations, the silent pain have prepared us for the upcoming year. And thus, I start my first column in 2024 as an unconventional celebration of our quiet suffering. Whatever gratitude we find towards each other and towards life, let us also not forget that the words of the 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens—Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker,” which is translated as “Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.”


Is it really possible to be grateful for life’s more difficult moments? Is it possible to turn the days during which we shake our proverbial fist at our higher power, asking, “why me,” into the most important and impactful days of our lives? Without a doubt, those days build resilience. But what is the return on investment for the days during which we beg life for mercy? What is fair or decent, or even fathomable about the pain one might feel in those times? What good could life possibly bring if we were to watch a fit, muscular 25-year-old young man, dying of the final stages of cancer, black out and drop right in front of us from a heart attack and stroke?

Despite knowing Yasin Abbak for several months, it was only in our most recent conversation, regarding the details of his tech startup ‘GroupUps,’ that he opened up about the above moment in his life. Yasin was 26 years old when he watched his younger brother sink to the floor. It happened a few short years after Yasin’s college graduation from Drew University, where he’d earned a dual degree in economics and political science with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. At the time, he held a well-paying job in New York City and was on a path towards leading a very comfortable life. Everything he’d imagined having wanted from life lay at his feet there for the taking.

He had capitalized on and respected his father’s hardship in moving to a new country from Turkey, leaving an engineering career behind. Yasin orchestrated his life just the way he was supposed to, or so he thought. Yet, right before his brother’s last chemo treatment, following that earth-shattering moment, he quit the swanky job in finance, leaving him no safety net. Having lived through one of his most difficult moments, the ones which leave no promise in terms of a return on investment, Yasin decided that money wasn’t worth making a life for anymore.

The dependable job no longer gave him drive; it truly no longer mattered. He’d undergone a complete shift in his core values, in his belief systems, in his direction, in what he wanted to have for his legacy. The most traumatic moment of his life was a rebirth for him.


As Yasin walked away from his finance job, he left pride at the door, packed up what he could, and moved in with the co-founder of his first company. Though ignited by almost losing his brother, he now wanted to be part of a net positive. Net positive is a global shift injected into company culture that focuses on making the world a better place with its products and services. He and Stacy Sailer, a colleague from his university days, started a company called Paired Media. Paired Media, which he later sold, offered an opportunity for independently owned restaurants to cut costs by leveraging their collective distribution power through lunch deliveries to customers as marketing channels for advertisers, making supplies free to restaurants.

It was an homage to his dad Mithat Abbak, who owned Cappy’s, a restaurant in Wayne, New Jersey, and a lunch truck in Secaucus. Yasin wanted to make it easier for people like his father, an immigrant and entrepreneur, to run a small business. He knew that lowering costs for independent businesses was a way of keeping money in the local economy, which resulted in hiring more people, paying them more, and offering better benefits than national chains. This is when service and stewardship began to run deep in his veins.

It was also at this point that he’d gained a taste for innovation and disruption. Next came a company called Fantasy Life which he formed and sold. It was known for having the fastest breaking news alert engine in sports, enabling users to identify arbitrage opportunities. It was backed by some big names in sports and entertainment. And now, Yasin has moved into dentistry as he owns and operates GroupUps, a company dedicated, once more, to helping out small businesses.

Beginning with dentists specifically, it uses data and technology to negotiate costs on behalf of the dentist for equipment like CBCT’s, X-ray machines and sensors, all the way down to sterilizers, chairs, and delivery units. The trauma of his brother’s illness has pushed Yasin to create and innovate, making net positive change in 3 very distinct industries.


Yasin’s story gives me goosebumps. To see what he’d accomplished in the last 15 years of his short life makes me believe anything is possible. But what ignited Yasin in his journey isn’t unique to the human condition. Whether it affects the patient or the family, a diagnosis of cancer is often a wakeup call, and in retrospect serves as a reality check, a turning point. I know this, as I’d gone through that journey in 2018 with my own cancer diagnosis and am happy to report that as of December of 2023, I am in complete remission, being told by an oncologist as having been ‘cured of cancer.’ Despite how hard it is to move past it, severe stress and significant hardship have its benefits. We have known this for thousands of years.

Paul said in his Letter to the Romans (5:3-4) “Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope.” And more recently, the Dalai Lama has stated “the person who has had more experience in hardship can stand more firmly in the face of problems than the person who has never experienced suffering. From this angle, then, some suffering can be a good lesson for life.” And so there ought not be a surprise that traumatic events fragment and even pulverize current life doctrines. Those moments can and do rob people of what they believed life to be like. So much, in fact, that it forces them to put the pieces back together and create a new, a higher, a better-defined, a more united sense of purpose; a new determination for a life is often born. There is a term coined to define that, it’s called post-traumatic stress growth.


Sociologist Glen Elder has spent his career studying the reasons for which some individuals collapse on account of hardships and others prosper, grow, and even boom following. He studied adversity and had even determined the age at which misfortune and sorrow might have to hit in order for the person to thrive. He gathered data on the Great Depression and World War II, examining people at various ages; he then produced well-defined analyses of longitudinal data to find out exactly that: why some people collapse, and others thrive.

His determination was, as he studied the young men who suffered through the trauma of WWII, that the late twenties was the magic age at which resilience begins to crystallize in a very significant way. People who served in the War in their mid to late twenties turned their lives around in a much different way than those who’d lived through it in later decades of their lifespan. For trauma to have made individuals stronger, better, and happier it must hit people in their late teens to late twenties.

Elder’s work explains how the most difficult moments of Yasin’s life drove him to unequivocal success. But not just that, they led him to a life he’s proud of, a life for which he has no problem getting up in the morning, a life where he considers serving a gift.


Now Elder studied generations even a hundred years ago. There is, of course, no wonder that since then much has changed, in terms of how we live our lives. Consider parenting, for example. Our ability to parent back then is of no comparison to what we’re able to do for our children today. I believe it is our hardships and the love which we want to raise the new generation in that might drive us to, in some way, protect the young from any kind of danger and difficulty. We want to watch our children grow up, protecting them at all costs from discomfort. But given Elder’s scientific data, isn’t it possible that if we continue to do that, there will be some kind of fallout? Is there any wonder that if we placate our children with trophies for lost little league games, we could actually do more damage than good? Are we dangerously overprotecting our children, creating a handicap for their own growth and evolution?

How often are we seeing parents fighting their kids’ battles at school and on the playground? How often do feel the need to do the same? It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch your kid live through suffering on account of life. We must remember, though, that us running to the rescue will only impede their growth, create a hindrance at finding their own purpose, their own value, maybe even a sense of self-worth. I will be frank; I remember reprimanding young children on the playground who pushed my daughter when she was 5 years old. I have also watched her go through her first heartbreak and have made an attempt to reach out to the mom of the kid in an effort to smooth things over.

Having read the studies that Glen Elder devoted his life to, I am going to be driven to step back, now, and watch her grow on account of said hardships. I will listen and encourage her, I will support and offer unwavering love, but I will not step in to fight her battles. She’s watched her mother battle the trauma of cancer and mental illness, not something that every third-grader has endured. As hard as that was for our entire family, I now have faith that there is significant benefit from that pain. But there will be more to come.


Life can create unyielding agony and pain; no one is spared, not ever. Trauma shatters beliefs and robs people of their fundamental and familiar sense of meaning. The disturbance of our hopes and dreams, even of our routines, can often make us beg for mercy. In times of sorrow, it’s hard to think and to consider the positive. It’s almost impossible to find the good behind watching a loved one suffer or battle what could be a terminal illness. It’s hard to think that anything worthwhile can come from the bottomless pit of darkness.

I challenge you here, at the cusp of this new year, to find a purpose in misery and despair. I challenge you to accept that resilience and adaptability, which are birthed from hopelessness, may be the key to living a good life. I challenge you to remember Yasin’s story. Passing through life crises makes us more human, more compassionate, more understanding, and more accepting of those around us. We have scientific proof that on the other side of stress lies growth, grace, and goodwill. Consider the hardship of our children and stand beside them, facing them together and not in front, shielding them from it. Consider that the worst moments in our lives could be just the beginning of a new and better life. As we face this new year, let us not just be open to the hopes and dreams we hold, but also to moments of internal growth when things don’t go our way.


Dr. Maggie Augustyn is a practicing general dentist, the owner of Happy Tooth, a faculty member at Productive Dentist Academy, an author, and an inspirational speaker. She obtained her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Augustyn is passionate about reading, researching, writing, and speaking on topics that encompass the human experience, including our struggles, pain, and moments of vitality.

new year

Maggie Augustyn, DDS, FAAIP, FICOI

Her personal mission is to inspire individuals to embark on a journey toward a more authentic self-actualization. She has a notable presence in the media and is a frequent contributor to Dental Entrepreneur Woman. Dr. Augustyn takes great pride in her role as a contributing author to Dentistry Today, where she publishes a column titled “Mindful Moments.”

She has also been featured on various podcasts and is a sought-after national speaker, emphasizing the significance of authenticity and self-discovery.