How do you become an astronaut when you’re born before space travel? How do you build a real-estate empire when you’re born in a refugee camp and married off at the age of 15? Two women I’ve met in the last few weeks set their sights on an “impossible” dream and achieved it. How? Big Dreams. Hard Work. No Excuses.
“We should never reach our potential. It should keep moving and evolving,” said
Roberta Bondar at a University of Guelph MA Leadership event earlier this month. Canada’s first woman in space- and the world’s first neurologist in space- was born before Sputnik. Her high school guidance councillors discouraged her from pursuing science. The traditional fighter-pilot route to space was closed to women who could not be Air Force pilots in until 1988. After 18 years in university and in medical practice for only 18 months, she could easily have pursued her life on earth… couldn’t she?
“You have to take what you know into the field and keep building on it,” Dr. Bondar explained. So, insatiably curious and always open to new opportunities, she applied for the space program when NASA put out a call for astronauts. Selected among thousands of candidates, her training started in 1984 and culminated with eight days in space aboard Discovery in January, 1992. The research she conducted during that time now helps astronauts spend more time in space. Now, her earthly mission is to get more people to connect with the natural environment – primarily through photography.
Showing an image of a massive space rock and astronauts figuring out how to get over or around it, Dr. Bondar challenged the audience: “Is this an obstruction or an opportunity? Don’t think negatively or you’ll never get around the rock.”
Millionaire developer, author and real-estate magnate Tahani Abudareh reinforced this sentiment just a few days later when I heard her speak at a women’s networking event. Praphrasing Jim Rohn she said:
“The person who really wants to do something finds a way. The other person finds an excuse.” “What is your excuse?” she prodded. Is it 100% true? What is the opposite of that excuse? Replace it with a new truth.
Born in a Jordanian refugee camp and married to a Canadian man at the age of 15, Abudareh came to Canada not knowing anything about the country, her new family or the language. She said she had every reason not to dream big. “Who am I to dream big? My English isn’t good enough. It’s not part of my culture. I don’t have time while going to college, raising a family, and working part-time to send money to my family in the Middle East.” But she persevered in the belief that education would be her salvation.
“Set a goal in your mind. Now think bigger. Now think bigger still,” Abudareh challenged the audience. She explained that after divorcing her husband she had to feed her children and make her way in the world. She wanted not just to survive but to thrive for them so she convinced local homebuilders to let her be their agent. She said she would work harder for the sales than anyone else because she was the most motivated. Within a few years, sales were flourishing and she had started to build up her portfolio of investment properties. She is a teacher, a speaker, an investor, an author and a champion for women.
“The little girl from the refugee camp builds houses,” she says and shared her goal of helping 100,000 women own their first investment property. Echoing some of the advice shared by Dr. Bondar, Abudareh says the recipe is simple:
Take action. Be creative. Find the best in your field and ask them for advice. When someone helps you, they become committed to your success. And if they won’t help you? Move on and ask someone else. Believe that you’re worth it.
It’s easy to sit in the audience and think these are unique stories; but are they extraordinary? Are they unbelievable? Obviously they are believable… they happened. Do they have to be out of the ordinary? From space to real estate, the message is that achievement can- and should be- ordinary and believable. Similar to the conclusion drawn in The Confidence Code, you just have to go for it.
What’s holding you back?