How one man inspired me to pursue my dream


I grew up in a home filled with books, and a big blackboard that hung in the living room. My dad was a home tutor - he taught English, Math and accounting. One fine day, I came across these words on that tattered and weathered blackboard: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” -Napoleon Hill

As a ten-year-old, I had no idea what those words meant, or its significance. I headed out the door and played badminton with my friends.

All throughout junior and high school, I couldn’t keep still. I played hockey, netball, threw shot putt and discus, ran middle distances, roller-bladed, jumped over piles of bricks and skated downhill like a dare-devil. In college I continued to play netball and rowed the dragon boat. When I got into the work force, a tipped scale reflecting an overweight BMI (body mass index) became a wake up call for me to get active again, so I did, and soon discovered swimming.

From a regular 20 laps (1,000 metres), I quickly started swimming 60 laps (3,000 metres) non-stop, every single day, for no rhyme or reason, and no race in mind. Intrigued by my consistency, one day, a pool guard said to me, "you should do the Ironman".

I had no idea what the word 'Ironman' meant. I didn't think much about it, but shortly after, I started running and cycling, and two years after that encounter with the pool guard, I did my first triathlon, and another three years later, I completed my first Ironman.

You see, everything that we see, hear and allow into our hearts and minds have long-lasting effects.

Like Napoleon’s words on the blackboard I saw when I was ten. Like the pool guard’s words in 2008. Like Meryl Streep’s outstanding acting skills that moved me to reconnect with my mom in 2012.

It both baffles and amazes me that our personal pursuit of our dreams does have an impact on another person - it may touch, inspire or move someone else into action and change the course of their lives.

Paul Bragiel’s pursuit of his childhood Olympic dream did that for me. A successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist, he left his job to follow his passion.

The odd were stacked against him from day one. He was out of shape and some might say, out of his mind. He had to search for an Olympic sport to qualify for, and by process of elimination, narrowed it down to cross-country skiing. Next he had to look for a country to adopt him so he could represent that country in the sport, and after writing to over 130 country officials, Colombia granted him citizenship. He flew all over the world chasing snow to ski and train. In his first competition-distance run of 15 kilometers, he finished in about three hours (the fastest Olympians do it in under 35 minutes). For the next seven months, he trained hard, lost 35 pounds and brought his ski time down to just over 41 minutes in a 10-kilometer race (the winner posted over 24 minutes). He improved his timing by over two hours in just seven months! Paul now has just a month to go to earn an average score in his five best races to earn a spot in the 2014 Winter Olympics - he is optimistic that he would make it.

Paul Bragiel Ski

When I read his story, I felt a punch in my heart that said, "This is it. You're doing this, Angie. If Paul can beat the odds and ski in the Olympics, a seemingly big and crazy dream, surely you can ride across America.”

Doing the Ironman, was for me, a test of the human will and spirit to undertake anything that goes against what we think we can do.

Now, to ride across America is yet another huge dream - to see this great country in all its splendor, powered by self will and strength.

I wrote to Paul, shared my dream, and told him that I feel selfish - that riding across America feels like a selfish, personal agenda, and I mask it with the goal of collecting inspiring stories and stunning photographs.

In his response, Paul wrote me these comforting words: “Don't over analyze things. Just do what makes you happy. People will see that and come along for the ride.”

I held back a tear when I read his response. Paul is right - I owe it to nobody to pursue my dream. I owe it to myself to pursue my passion, and shine in what I do best. My husband often tells me this: “Do what you do best, and your colors will shine.”

Angie bike

So this is my story. I hope you will see that doing this ride is important to me, no matter how incredulous it may seem, and I hope that you will support me in my journey.

I leave you with this quote by the ingenious, late Steve Jobs, excerpted from his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”