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Career Coach: Overcoming Obstacles

In this month's column, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson offers examples of those who have overcome handicaps to better themselves.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

A lot of us put off what we really want to do, claiming we don't have the required time, resources, skills, money or knowledge. We use these excuses to handicap ourselves and put up obstacles to keep ourselves from achieving our full potential.

My first career coaching client showed up to our appointment in a wheelchair. Recovering from a recent disabling disease, he told me how he didn't let his misfortune keep him down, even though he was confined to a hospital bed for several months, lying flat on his back. He didn't lie around feeling sorry for himself. He worked from his bed. He'd spent most of 1999 on the phone working as a mortgage broker. As he became more mobile, he wanted to explore his options. He knew quite a bit about computers and the Internet and I suggested he offer his services as a web designer to small businesses. He started his own small business with a web site and now owns a rare coin business in the Los Angeles area.

Are you exploring your options or are you finding excuses for not pursuing your goals?

Christopher Kuster is an artist who works in watercolor and oils and had to overcome a major obstacle -- he is unable to hold a paint brush in his hands. In 1992, Chris became completely paralyzed from the chest down after a tragic swimming accident. Tenacious, with an indomitable spirit, nothing would stop Chris from accomplishing his goals. He taught himself to paint using his teeth to hold the brush.

Chris chose to master such a difficult skill because, "Painting gives me a release from my physical bonds, I become so engrossed in the picture that I no longer feel as if I am in a wheelchair, I am free," he said. His paintings capture the serene essence of Florida's landscape. Chris' work is represented in galleries and has been featured in newspapers, television, and nationally published on greeting cards. His unique outlook and circumstances should inspire all of us.

There are many examples of true grit, people like Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm and almost her life when she was attacked by a shark when she was 13. It was a slow process to learn to surf again. "Every time I would go out there, I would learn something new," Bethany recalls, "I kept practicing." She didn't give up on her dreams and the year after the shark attack, Bethany won fifth place at the National Surfing Championships, and took first place in the Open Women's division at the first stop on the Hawaii National Scholastic Surfing Assn. circuit.

My new home of Boise, Idaho is hosting the upcoming Special Olympics 2009 World Winter Games February 7-13, 2009. We will welcome Special Olympics athletes and their families and fans. Abdel-Rahman Hassan was transformed by his Special Olympics experience at the 2007 Summer World Games in China. This 10-year-old swimmer from Saudi Arabia is partially paralyzed, but won gold medals in 25- and 50-meter races. His talent did not come naturally or easily; his father says it took him a month to hold his breath underwater for three seconds, and a year to swim a distance of one meter.

What made Abdel-Rahman Hassan a champion? Hard work, continued effort and constant practice. Are you giving your all to whatever your dream is?

If you are healthy and able-bodied, stop finding excuses for not pursuing your dreams. Take a tip from those who don't let real disabilities discourage them. Pursue your passion with persistence and purpose.

Be determined to succeed, no matter what the odds. Figure out what is keeping you from reaching your full potential, and if it is yourself, get out of your own way and get on the path to success.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson has been a career coach since 1999. She is also a recruiter, hiring strategist, and speaker, available for personal consultations and speaking engagements. If you are interested in her professional services as a career coach, speaker, or recruiter, contact her at