Inspirational Advice

Living Her Passion, Chloe Tran, The Bánh Mì Shop

Chloe Tran

Chloe Tran

While growing up in Saigon, Vietnam, little Chloe Tran was already nurturing her passion for entrepreneurship. After her father purchased a color printer, Chloe began printing colorful posters and stickers of her favorite cartoon characters and selling them to her classmates for a lower price than those sold at local bookstores. Soon, Chloe started following recipes to teach herself to bake. She claims she was sneaky at first, but once her parents discovered she wasn’t trying to destroy the kitchen, they were supportive. While relying on her family’s toaster oven to bake her cakes and pastries, Chloe found inspiration within expensive cookbooks and began documenting and practicing new recipes several times a week. By the time she arrived in middle school, Chloe had graduated to not only selling key chains and stuffed animals from wholesale markets but also her baked goods and homemade crafts. It was then that she realized she had a natural talent for entrepreneurship and started dreaming of owning a business one day.

After moving to Nebraska in 2012 at age seventeen, Chloe decided not to attend culinary school and instead enrolled at the University of Nebraska Omaha where she is currently a senior majoring in Business Entrepreneurship and Management. Although she had planned to work for different food companies to gain experience and save money for her future business, an opportunity came her way while she was just a sophomore in college. After her family decided they wanted to invest in a small restaurant, Chloe stepped in to run the shop specializing in her favorite food and drink: Bánh Mì sandwiches and bubble tea. Today, The Bánh Mì Shop is a bustling business located in Bellevue, Nebraska, that employs around 12 and serves a Vietnamese style sandwich made with a light and crispy Vietnamese baguette, fresh mayonnaise, Vietnamese style hams, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, and cilantro. Chloe says, “When I opened the shop, I wanted to make the food and drinks as authentic as possible while serving them in a modern café-style environment. I think my business has attracted many customers because of its inviting set-up.”

Inside The Bánh Mì Shop

Inside The Bánh Mì Shop

As a first-time business owner, Chloe admits that it was very scary at first. “I felt like I was walking through a foggy forest. It was a constant battle to learn what I needed, what I wanted, and what I could afford.” The most frightening aspect of her experience was watching the money her family invested leave her pocket every day, before the doors to the café ever opened. She says the limited financial support motivated her to make the business a success, especially because she didn’t have a backup plan. “Running a business feels like swimming against the current sometimes, especially during our first year,” she adds. Thankfully sound advice to keep moving forward provided her with encouragement during the challenging initial days as an official entrepreneur.

Chloe loves owning a business and the freedom that comes with it. Although the freedom is heavy with responsibilities and hard work, she says that she enjoys choosing how she wants her business to move forward, how she can contribute to the community, how she wants her employees treated, and what kind of leader she wants to be. Her support group includes staff and her boyfriend, Aaron, who has been her left hand because he handles tasks that she considers her weaknesses that allow her to be her own right hand and focus on her strengths.

Chloe has gained much from pursuing her passion. She has overcome her fears and realized that she is capable of contributing much more to the world than she originally believed. Today at age twenty-four, she describes her life as full. Although she knows there is still much to do and learn, she lives every day knowing that she is on the right track to doing her best and fulfilling her purpose.

When asked about the advice she would give someone ready to pursue their passion in life, Chloe quoted Winnie the Pooh, “I always get where I am going by walking away from where I’ve been.” She adds, “The smallest step toward your goal is still a step forward. If you believe in your dream, you can always pursue it. There is no passion better than the other; they simply benefit the world in different ways.”

Well said, Chloe.

For more about The Bánh Mì Shop, visit www.thebanhmis.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thebanhmis.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

From Pain to Forgiveness: A Personal Journey

Vicky-DeCoster-life-coach

Forgiveness can be one of the toughest—and most freeing—acts we can perform in life. But finding forgiveness is not as easy as it sounds. I once knew a woman I will call Susan. She suffered greatly regarding her relationship with her mother. The relationship had not been easy ever since she could remember. Her mother suffered from depression and alcoholism, and often took out her anger on Susan throughout her childhood. Sadly, Susan quickly became an expert at covering up what was really going on inside her family home in front of her friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.

After Susan left home at age eighteen, her mother’s downward spiral continued. The relationship was agonizing for Susan. Her mother would call her at all hours of the night, threatening suicide and sobbing into the phone. The reality was that Susan’s mother was simply incapable of living up to her title. Finally after Susan married and had her own children, one day she just didn’t pick up the phone to call her mother. Her mother never called either. There was never an argument or a cross word. Everything just stopped.

As a day turned into two and then many more, Susan focused on creating healthy relationships with her children and raising them the way she wished she had been raised. As time ticked away, Susan found it was easier to be angry with her mother than to be burdened by the sadness that accompanied the loss of what was always an unhealthy relationship. Well-meaning people suggested that Susan forgive her mother. But Susan was not ready. She knew forgiveness was a personal decision. She also realized that she did not make a conscious choice to terminate the relationship and still held out hope that her mother would one day evaluate her behavior and reach out to make amends.

Eighteen years passed. Through family connections, Susan learned her mother had moved to another state where she seemed to finally find happiness. Although the rejection hurt deeply, Susan had come to accept that this was the reality of her life. Then one day last November, Susan received a phone call that her mother had passed away without warning. And with that phone call, all hope was erased for reconciliation or a heartfelt apology. As Susan attempted to grapple with her pain, she set out on a lonely journey of grief. While the heartache came in waves, the anger visited less often. After months passed, Susan finally decided she was ready. She wrote her mother a heartfelt letter. Then she headed to a remote cabin with her husband. One night as dusk was falling and a fire roared in the fire pit outside the cabin, Susan read the letter aloud. She would say later that she felt her mother by her side. In the letter, she told her mother she had forgiven her. That she understood. And that she was sorry that they couldn’t have had the mother/daughter relationship they both deserved. Then she tossed the letter into the fire and let it all go.

Today as Susan looks back, she doesn’t have any regrets. She found a way to forgive and heal in her own way and in her own time. She feels at peace.

I know because Susan is me.

Forgiveness comes in its own time. It also comes with the valuable lesson that our world is full of imperfect people—even family members—who sometimes hurt us deeply. But it is possible to move past the pain and anger and find a place where you feel compassion for the person who has hurt you, just as I did. For years I wished I had a different mother. But now I realize that because of her, I am who I am today. And for that, I am truly grateful.

“True forgiveness is when you can say, 'Thank you for that experience.'" —Oprah Winfrey

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Release Your Need to Be Right

Photo by Vicky DeCoster

Photo by Vicky DeCoster

There are times when it’s important to be right like when taking away the keys from an impaired driver or performing CPR to save a life. But in today’s divided world, the need to be right is often ruling many conversations and discussions, either in person or online. Expending all our energy in an attempt to sway someone to believe the way we do can be exhausting and frequently limits us in listening to and accepting the views of others. So is it really possible to release our need to be right all the time?

There is no question we all want to be heard. Our opinions, thoughts, and feelings are important. But it is equally as important to stop talking and listen during a conversation with loved ones or strangers on the subway or a Facebook friend. Truth be known, we are not all alike in how we view the world around us. Our perspectives are different and that’s a good thing. When we listen to and honor the opinions of others—even when we disagree—we not only open ourselves to new possibilities, but also to new ways of thinking. Simply put, letting go of our need to be right expands our knowledge of the world around us.

In breaking old habits such as the need to be right, it is sometimes helpful to utilize these three tips:

Take a deep breath. During a passionate or heated conversation, it is easy to become defensive when believing, “I must convince this person to think exactly how I do.” Instead of using all your energy to sway the person to your side, instead take a deep breath to remind yourself that it is okay if we all view a situation a little differently.

Really listen. Instead of thinking about what to say next to defend your own views, really listen to the other party (or parties) in the conversation. Everyone offers a unique perspective. Even if you passionately disagree, listen anyway. Remember, we are all in this world to learn. If you are always talking over others, how will you learn?

Express gratitude. Thank them for expressing their opinion. You might say, “I appreciate your opinion. I may not always agree with you, but I enjoy that we can have a respectful conversation with each other.” It is a blessing often taken for granted that we live in a country where we are free to express our opinions.

Releasing your need to be right comes with the possibility of viewing your life—and those around you—in a new way. It is really okay if they do not think the same way you do. Think about it. How many times have you actually changed someone’s mind when they firmly believed they are right? When you let go of your need to be right, you allow yourself to be free. Your opinions belong to no one else but you. And that feels pretty darn good.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Living Her Purpose - Dr. Betsy Wickstrom

Dr. Betsy Wickstrom conducts an ultrasound on a patient at Maison de Naissance.

Dr. Betsy Wickstrom conducts an ultrasound on a patient at Maison de Naissance.

Dr. Betsy Wickstrom’s father never knew a stranger. While growing up in a Greek home on the East Coast where everyone was welcome and help was provided to anyone in need, Betsy instinctively embraced a life of service while nurturing a calling to become a physician. After her family moved to the Midwest when Betsy was in high school, she pursued her dream of becoming an OB-GYN and attended college and medical school at the University of Nebraska. Since then, she has not only made it her passion to care for women in high-risk pregnancies in her practice based in Kansas City, but also to teach Haitian women and their health care providers that they too can have healthy pregnancies and babies.

In 2003, Betsy was led to her purpose during her first trip to Port au Prince, Haiti, to teach medical students and residents. As she embarked on a tour of the national hospital, she noticed a ward filled with women suffering from eclampsia—a disorder that is rare in the United States because women are delivered with pre-eclampsia before they endure potentially devastating effects such as seizures, coma, brain damage, blindness, and fetal death. After Betsy noticed the helpless looks on the faces of Haiti’s bright young physicians, she knew she needed to find a way to deliver prenatal care that would prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

With assistance from Dr. Stan Shaffer, Betsy co-founded Maison de Naissance, a birthing center that provides economic opportunities for local women, a community health education service, and runs the busiest family planning program in the entire southern peninsula. Since then, her role has transformed from medical director to providing annual professional development and education, as the 100% Haitian staff now lead the programs at Maison de Naissance. Today, Betsy works from her home in Kansas City as president of the supporting nonprofit organization, Global Birthing Home Foundation, raising money and awareness while nurturing a new dream to plant birthing centers using the same model across Haiti and in other developing countries.

Betsy, the mother of two adult daughters, is clearly devoted to continuing her purpose in life. She jokes that Maison de Naissance is her “third daughter” and says it is wholly gratifying to witness the Haitian staff and community now directing and choosing beneficial programs for patients and families. Betsy follows the advice from Dory in Finding Nemo and just keeps swimming every day. There are days when she is certain the donations will dry up and the latest natural disaster will prompt the end of their work. But then she remembers the moment when she realized that Maison de Naissance was founded under miraculous circumstances. When it was time to find a property for the community birthing center she wished to build, Betsy pulled out a check that was tucked into her passport. It was originally written to support another program near Port au Prince (which the program was unable to cash). The amount on the check happened to be the exact amount needed to pay the back taxes and purchase the property on which Maison de Naissance now resides. “It makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck to think about that moment. It was a clear mandate that this was the work I was meant to do,” Betsy adds.

Betsy has gained much from pursuing her purpose. “It’s impossible to measure the joy I receive when one of our staff sends a photo of a chubby, healthy baby with a beaming mother.” In addition, Betsy has learned patience, faithfulness, to give until it hurts, and then give some more. She offers sound advice for anyone who wants to pursue their passion in life. “Evaluate your strengths. You have been given them for a reason. For me, it was teaching. Who knew I would learn to be a passionate fundraiser? Not me! But if your strengths are leading you in a particular direction and then you feel that tug to take the next step, gather some like-minded people and discuss it. You don’t have to make a blind leap into the dark—research, learn, and talk it out. But when the light bulb comes on and you have that moment where you know this is what you are meant to do, move forward and ‘just keep swimming’.”

Mother Teresa once said, "The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it." Betsy is living proof that relying on faith, love, gratitude, and a passion for helping those in need has led her to realizing a purpose she is more than happy to fulfill because she too believes in miracles.

To learn more about Maison de Naissance and the Global Birthing Foundation, visit their web site at www.globalbirthinghomefoundation.org or find them on Facebook.

Dr. Wickstrom with lab technicians Marthe and Mirlande (in the polo shirts) and Rosena, the director of Maison de Naissance.

Dr. Wickstrom with lab technicians Marthe and Mirlande (in the polo shirts) and Rosena, the director of Maison de Naissance.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Three Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone Today

Stagnancy in life can be stifling. When it seems like we are simply treading water and going nowhere, the resulting apathy has the power to rob us of energy and, worse yet, hope. Truth be known, we all feel safer when we are functioning within a comfort zone where we can easily predict our days and even what might happen next.

Photo by Vicky DeCoster

Photo by Vicky DeCoster

Sometimes the possibility of change can seem overwhelming and even frightening. So, how does one find a way to overcome long-held fears, break down the walls that surround a comfort zone, and begin believing that you can achieve your dreams? Here are three ways you can begin expanding your own comfort zone today:

  1. Do one thing you pledged to never do in your lifetime. Whether it is singing karaoke in front of a crowd of strangers or holding a snake, prove to yourself that you can conquer your nervousness and actually do something you never thought was possible. When tackling real change, this exercise will help you to remember all the times when you overcame self-imposed hurdles and lived to tell about it.

  2. Plan an adventure. Have you ever wanted to backpack in the mountains? Run a marathon? Take a class in rock climbing? Learn to deep sea fish? Expanding your comfort zone to include new adventures will not only test your character, tenacity, and drive to work past obstacles, but will also prove that you are capable of resolving daily challenges in innovative and creative ways.

  3. Try something new. Whether your new thing is sampling a plateful of frog legs or ice skating at Rockefeller Center, seek to experience all that life has to offer. Even if you end up pledging in front of the waiter to never eat frog legs again or swearing you'll never lace up a pair of ice skates in your lifetime, these experiences still have the power to transform your mindset to believe that you can walk through fear to test change—even if it turns out that it is not right for you.

When we take one small step at a time to expand our comfort zones—and survive—it is conceivable to teach ourselves that life is an adventure meant to be embraced, loved, and, most importantly, lived to the fullest.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.