An Independence Day Story

Me, moments before I boarded the plane to the US in Tehran in 1978. I can't imagine what my mom (in the background) was thinking/feeling at that moment.

Me, moments before I boarded the plane to the US in Tehran in 1978. I can't imagine what my mom (in the background) was thinking/feeling at that moment.

I grew up in Iran and came over the US on July 4th, 1978 on my own at age 16. When I arrived in the country, I didn’t know anybody here and I had extremely limited English language skills. I have come a long way since then; I have been blessed with a variety of experiences, including the privilege of having lived in four countries and having visited and spent a substantial amount of time in many others. The stories of my varied experiences, combined with my residual Persian accent with a hint of a southern drawl, tend to spark a dialogue and pique people’s curiosity about my background.

Many people who have worked with me, attended my talks, or follow my blog have often encouraged me to share my story and, while I do refer to many of my experiences in my talks and workshops, I have generally shied away from dedicating a post or a keynote to my personal story, as I don’t feel that mine is necessarily more special or worthy of being shared than anyone else’s. However, I was moved and inspired to tell my story by a couple of friends in the past few weeks, in the hopes that it might inspire others—particularly the younger among us who may be facing challenges—to keep moving forward despite whatever obstacles they may come up against. So, I figured that there was no better time than the present to share a small part of my story with you all, especially since the 4th of July is not only America’s Independence Day but my own as well.

Although I call this “my” story, I don’t want to paint myself as the main character. The real heroes of my story are all the wonderful people whose paths crossed with mine and who helped me to not just survive, but to learn and thrive in ways that would have never been possible on my own. I’d like to give a special shout-out to my parents, who sacrificed so much to make the opportunity available to me to make a better life for myself. In the absence of Skype and Facetime, they had to settle for the 3-minute phone calls that I made to them every two weeks, using a roll of quarters on a pay phone to assure them that I was okay.

There is a lot more to my story but I hope what I have shared here inspires you to tell your story and feel acknowledged for all that you have overcome. I hope it allows you to be encouraged by the inherent power that you hold within you to overcome adversity and achieve great things, and to play a key role in someone else’s story. Regardless of the past, we all have the potential to achieve greatness beyond even the limits of our imagination. May my story be a reminder that within you lies the power to boldly declare, courageously pursue, and abundantly achieve the extraordinary!

I will be back on Thursday to post my regularly scheduled blog post. Until then, may you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! As always, and even more so for this post, I would love to hear your feedback and your story. Please let me know if you would like me to share more of my story, and I'll work to do that for you. Feel free to leave your comments below or send me an email at

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