Stephanie Ngo Pham came to the United States in 1979 as a Vietnam War refugee, arriving at New York’s JFK Airport cradling her three-month-old son and firmly grasping her two-year-old daughter’s hand. She had no material possessions other than a few clothes and the documents that granted Stephanie and her family entry into their new country. When she tripped and broke one of her thong sandals, she took off both her shoes (her only pair), stuffed them into her plastic bag, and proceeded to walk barefoot out into the snowfall.

This is how she arrived in America, with no coat to keep her warm and not even a dollar to her name. She was cold, hungry, and humiliated as others pointed and laughed at her bare feet. But she was determined to make it, for herself and for her children.

Six months later Stephanie was bussing tables at a southern California restaurant and studying in a city college to learn English and acquire marketable skills. After earning her cosmetology license, she began working as a nail technician while she continued to wait tables at night, sometimes working as many as 18 hours a day. She made sure to save every penny she could.

Only three years after immigrating to the U.S., Stephanie had saved enough money to open an 800-square-foot nail salon in the heart of Los Angeles. Within eight years, she added 14 more. Today Stephanie is the proud owner of 25 nail salons throughout California, Arizona, Georgia, and Canada.

Her story shows us that we have the ability to recreate our lives.

Some of us first need to overcome what misfortunes have befallen us. Regardless of what’s been taken away or what’s been done to us or what injustices we’ve suffered, we can create a life that in some way is better than the one we had before.

Take Cale Kenney, for instance. When she was 19 she lost her left leg, hip, and pelvis in a motorcycle accident that ended the life of her good friend. She spent the next four and a half months in a hospital, fighting excruciating physical pain, grieving her many losses, and holding on to her dream to get back to college.

Despite the hardships she reached that dream, completing her degree. Cale also started to do things she never before imagined herself doing, such as skiing, sailing, and boogie-boarding. She became a reporter, launched a literary magazine, and wrote her own book called Have Crutch, Will Travel: The Adventures of a Modern-Day Calamity Jane. “All of a sudden,” Cale told my co-author and me, “I had this life that was just as glamorous and exciting as the life I had wanted with two legs.”

Reaching A Dream is a Process

Have you ever seen the comedy What About Bob with Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray? In this movie, the therapist (Dreyfuss) recommends a book he wrote, called “Baby Steps,” to his patient (Murray). In real life, that’s exactly what you have to do to reach a dream: Take baby steps, one small step at a time.

Look at Carl Karcher, founder of the Carl’s Jr. fast-food chain. Today more than a thousand Carl’s Jr. restaurants operate worldwide. How did it all begin? It started back in 1941 when Carl and his wife bought a hot dog cart set up on a Los Angeles street corner. His fast-food empire grew from these humble beginnings.

All right, it’s you’re turn. You can launch your dream today by taking baby steps. What are you waiting for? Do any one of these six action items today and you will get the ball rolling:

  1. SEEK resources to help you. Check out a book at the library (a fantastic free resource) to help you with your goals. Use the Internet to learn more about what you can do to achieve your specific objectives. Or sign up for a course or a training seminar offered in your community. Learn everything you can to help you move in the direction you want to go.
  2. CREATE space in your home to accommodate the practical requirements of your dream. For example, clear off space on your desk or kitchen table. Allocate a corner of a room specifically for working on your dream. Utilize your study, workshop, office, spare room, countertop, garage, basement, dorm room, whatever you have available. Make physical room somewhere in your dwelling place for your dream.
  3. DEVOTE time for your dream. Wake up half an hour earlier, or go to bed thirty minutes later, and use that extra time to work on your goals. Push aside distractions; a little less time in front of the TV or reading email will give you a good chunk of time to work on your dream.
  4. MAKE a list of what equipment or supplies will help you reach your dream. Examples: computer, sewing machine, guitar, reading lamp, filing cabinet, tape player, lawn mower, software program, training manual. Start saving today—even if you set aside just a dollar a day—to make this purchase a reality in the near future.
  5. FIND a mentor or role model. Who’s doing something you’d like to do? Who’s passionately enjoying their job or volunteer work? Contact that person and find out how they got there. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Offer to take them out to coffee or lunch, letting them know beforehand that you’d like to learn the ins and outs of what they do.
  6. START a dream journal. Write down your ideas about what you’d like to do with your life. Include goals and plans, strategies, things to try, lessons learned, everything and anything related to your dream journey.

Don’t wait until the first of January. Start NOW. You can do at least one thing today to put yourself on thedidi.jpg pathway to your dreams.

(E-MAIL THIS TO A FRIEND by using the email link next to the headline)


Graciela Sholander co-authored Dream It Do It: Inspiring Stories of Dreams Come True, a perfect gift for your college bound graduate (which was published also in a Korean-language edition in South Korea). A big fan of the Good News Network, Graciela is a freelance writer who’s written hundreds of articles and has ghostwritten a dozen books including memoirs, health and wellness manuals, and spiritual guides.

(Above photo, Road to 2007
, submitted by Pamela Shandel (c) 2007)

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