Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Success {Women in Business} Marin, Napa, Sonoma County Commercial/Business Photographer...Shelley Hohe

Being a woman who owns their own business I know it takes a lot of dedication and passion to grow your business.  When I received a phone call to take business photos for Lana "Svetlana Kim" an international business woman, speaker, political refugee and author of "White Pearl & I", I just knew I wanted to be a part of a new project she is going to be a part of called "One Red Lipstick".  One Red Lipstick is a documentary film, book and conference for woman that exposes the truth about becoming successful even when you feel it will never happen for you.   I can see why they wanted Lana to be a part of this because she is such an example of a hard working woman who overcame obstacles to achieve success.

When I met Lana I was amazed by her beauty and grace.  Even more I was so touched by her story and all she went through to get where she is today.  As a woman who owns their own business I know there have been difficult times where I felt like "am I doing the right thing?"  or "is this business really going to succeed?" Sometimes as woman we are the ones who are hardest on ourselves because as woman we are prone to compare ourselves with other woman.  I know I have been guilty of this myself.  Even though I have been in this business for 6 years, it doesn't mean it has all been easy but I am glad I stuck with it and pursued my dreams.  I am a huge believer that overcoming obstacles in your business just grows you even stronger to achieve success!

After learning more about Lana and her story it really motivated me to keep pushing onward in my business.  Meeting Lana and talking with her was just confirmation that if you truly love and have a passion for what you do, you should never give up!  I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to meet Lana.  Her faith, hope and love was such a great reminder that with God ALL things are possible!!

Today on my blog I would love to share her story in her words below.  You can also find out more about her by clicking on the title of her book above.  So it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Svetlana Kim…

"My grandmother always reminded me, "Anything is possible."  I arrived in New York City on December 18, 1991, with literally one dollar in my pocket.  I had one dollar, and a dream.  I didn't speak a single word of English.  I didn't have a rich aunt or uncle to greet me at the airport.  I had no place to stay.  I tell you this because I know very well what it means not to have a steady job, and to have to clean restrooms for five dollars a day.  I know what it's like to have no change for bus fare, and to go hungry for three days.  I know what it means when fear controls your life.

Fear:  It is one of the greatest obstacles to achieving success.  There's no number—no limit—to the kinds of fears we must face every day.  And just think about the damage unchecked fear does to us.  Think about the tremendous energy we waste just thinking about fear!  Does it really deserve that much attention?  No!  That's why I call fear a "spoiled child"—it takes and takes, distracting us from our real goals.

When I came to America, I did so with an open-date airline ticket.  After three difficult months in American, the night before my return ticket to Russia was due to expire, I didn't sleep at all.  My pillow was wet with tears.  This was my last chance to go home.  Making decisions is difficult, but making a decision that will affect your life once and forever is nearly impossible.  I agonized all night long.

My flight was leaving at  nine o'clock the next morning.  When morning came, I made a cup of coffee and went outside.  But instead of heading for the airport, I took the first bus I saw and ended up in a nice part of the city, where I saw a woman pushing a stroller.  On impulse, I followed her.  A block later, she entered a building and posted a note on an announcement board:  Nanny wanted.

I could read her note!  Even though I still knew very little English, I understood what this woman was advertising for.  "Nanny" in English sounds like the Russian word, "Nannya."  I understood that she needed some help.  But when I turned around, she was gone.  I ran outside, screaming, "Hello!  Hello!"  The woman stopped.  I did my very best to speak good English—and I got the nanny job!

I came to America, like so many others, because I believed in the words of the Declaration of Independence:  That "all men are created equal" and that they have incredible rights—including "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  I had faith in the American dream:  a faith in things unseen, the courage to embrace one's fear.  I had many fears, but my dream was bigger than my fear.  I learned to embrace my fear, and to release it.

My greatest inspiration through every difficulty I've faced is my paternal grandmother, Bya-ok, which is Korean for "White Pearl."  She has always believed that I can do, be, and have anything I want if I dream big, and pursue those dreams.

The word "failure" did not exist in White Pearl's vocabulary.  Instead, she called life's difficulties and challenges "life lessons."  I once read that every single pearl evolves from a central core.  This core is simply an irritant—a fragment of shell or fishbone, a grain of sand.  To protect itself from this irritant, the oyster secretes multiple layers of nacre, which, over time, form a beautiful pearl.  I think of this process when I think of my grandmother:  She experienced some very difficult events in her own life, but despite it all, she became one of the rarest and most beautiful of pearls.

My grandmother's parents were the first generation of what we call Koryo-Saram, which means "Korean person," the people who came to Russia during the Joseon dynasty.  They came to Russia in 1900, after a poor harvest and famine in Korea, to pursue a better life.  They were country people, very down-to-earth and hard-working.  They had no electricity or plumbing, no bath or shower.  These are the people White Pearl and I are descended from—people of courage, of tenacity.

The wisdom of White Pearl's parents was passed down to my grandmother, who passed it down to me.  Now I want to pass this wisdom to you.  I want to share seven life lessons I've learned from White Pearl, and have mastered on my own.  I still apply her lessons to every situation I face today.  Her wisdom kept me strong and kept me going.  I am who I am today because of the lessons I learned and lived.

As White Pearl would say, "Face every situation with faith, hope, and love.  Embrace all that life throws at you, good or bad; neither will last forever.  Life is a gift from God, and it's up to you how to use it."

Secret #1:  Embrace serendipity

My life is often a string of serendipitous events and good fortune.  And sometimes, when you embrace serendipity, you achieve greater dreams than you dared to expect or hope for.

Just as serendipity helped me get my first job as a nanny in America, it also set off a chain of events that helped me write my first book.  When I first moved to Washington, D.C., in January of 2006, I met a woman named Jean C. Palmer.  Jean was surprised to hear my Russian accent—she wasn't the first one, and won't be the last!  I told her the story of my ancestors:  How they moved from Korea to Russia 106 years ago to escape famine; how, in 1937, Stalin designated all ethnic Koreans enemies of the State and with barely a day's notice, had people packed into cattle trains and forcefully deported.

I also told Jean about my own journey to America—how I was a fourth generation of Koreans raised in Russia, and how I dreamed of coming to America, and made that dream come true.  I told her about the single dollar in my pocket when I arrived in this country, and about the difficulties I faced and trials I went through—and how all of this resulted in me being hired as a stockbroker and, eventually, moving to Washington.  Jean looked at me with astonishment and said, "You must write a book!  You must write your book."

Serendipitously, after Jean's encouragement, I met a surprising number of great writers.  They walked into my life at seemingly random moments, and each one asked me, "Are you writing a book?"

Jean connected me with her friend, Sam Horn, bestselling author of POP! Stand Out in a Crowd.  Sam also believed I had a story to tell, and she invited me to her house in Virginia.  But two weeks after my first conversation with her, I received a blow:  The company I worked for had closed my department; I was without a job.

I sat at my desk, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.  I was saddened, but my guts told me that this was the best thing that could happen to me.  I cleaned my office and organized all my files, making sure that there were no bills left for my clients.  Then I walked into the CEO's office, calm and with a smile on my face.  I told them that I was grateful for the promotion I had received two weeks before, but that I had recently been considering my resignation because I wanted to complete the manuscript that I had begun to write.

They were surprised but appreciative of my work for them.  The offered me a severance package, and even joked that I should have my own TV show.

I began to write my book.  Life had brought me serendipity, disguised as difficulty!

Serendipity had brought Sam Horn into my life, and she encouraged me.  I told her about the time I purchased cat food at a Safeway for my dinner.  We eat a lot of canned food in Russia.  In Russia, we didn't have bread—and here, in America, I discover food for cats, in a can!  Sam said, "This story goes in your book."  I told her about the time I deposited my first check into a trash slot at Wells Fargo bank because I'd never send or used an ATM before.  "It goes in the book," Sam said.  "Oh, no," I said.  "I will look silly."  I was laughing—but I put it in the book!

Serendipity also led me to two more important friends:  John Tullius and Ron Powers.  One day, while looking at Sam's website, I read a post about the Maui Writers Conference.  Sam encouraged me to submit my manuscript—but the deadline was that very day!  I submitted fifteen rough pages and a synopsis about my potential book.  In less than an hour, John Tullius, the founder of the conference wrote to me:  "I love the story of the breadline and the mafia guy in the fancy car scalping airline tickets!  But each scene needs to be more fully exploited."  He gave me advice about including details, and conveying the challenges I faced as a young girl struggling to find my dream.  He advised me on how to expand twenty pages of manuscript to fifty, seventy, even one hundred.

Finally, he said, "Pour your heart out to me.  I am your reader.  I want to crawl inside your heart.  Let me know every intimate detail, even the stuff you don't want to tell.  Then you'll have written a blockbuster sensation that people will want to talk about.  Remember one thing a you write:  Fear nothing."

In Hawaii, at the conference, though, I was not myself.  Suddenly, my confidence was gone, and my attitude diminished.  All my classmates were seasoned writers and had completed manuscripts.  And twenty minutes before class, I discovered the worst:  My name wasn't on the list!

The instructor, Ron Powers—the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Flags of Our Fathers and  Mark Twain:  A Life—allowed me to sit beside him in class, despite the fact that I was not on the list.  The next day, he arranged for me to officially be in the class.  After my graduation, we became friends.

He told me, "The best way to write is to write, write, write and to read, read, read."  He urged me to interview White Pearl.  When the conference and workshop were over, I flew to Washington, D.C., went home, switched my luggage, and was on my way to the airport to visit and interview White Pearl.  Writing my book, I learned more about my grandmother and my family than I ever thought I would.  When I finished my book, my grandmother said to me, "Thank you for your courage for giving voice to my people."  My vision for a book was bigger than receiving royalties.  I wanted to share the story of 480,000 ethnic Koreans who live in the former Soviet Union today.  Until the era of glasnost and perestroika, the topic of the forceful deportation of Soviet Koreans was prohibited.

Serendipity led me to the people who inspired me to include my own story of success—and the story of my grandmother, and of the Soviet Koreans.  And with my grandmother's permission, the photographs that I used in my book were donated to the Asian Division of the Library of Congress.  Today there is a new collection with my book, and all the future studies and books on the topic of ethnic Koreans in Russia will be added to that collection."

With gratitude,

Lifestyle, Portrait and Wedding Photographer serving Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Beyond!
To view more photos and stay updated on special offers
Like Shelley Dee Photography on Facebook

Copyright 2013 ~ Shelley Dee Photography

1 comment:

  1. Dear Shelley,

    Meeting you was a great pleasure! What a serendipity!

    It has been only a few days since we met but I kept thinking about you! I check your Facebook page daily.

    Your generosity, kindness, integrity, and attention to details reminded me my Grandmother, White Pearl. You're much, much younger!

    I believe that it was one of the most beautiful moments which I call "serene-destinty." Thanks to my friend, Sam Horn, who introduced me to the concept. Please visit her website at

    Wishing you all the best that life can offer! I have tremendous respect for you and your creative work, Shelley!