Little Ketchup Girl

Michelle Bazargan CEO, Founder Align Innovations

July 03, 2017

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"How hard can it be to go up to the counter at McDonald's and ask for ketchup? The answer might depend on how confident you are in English."

How confident are you with anything unknown? How willing are you to learn? Sometimes trauma can leave people irreversibly damaged. Other times trauma can inadvertently fuel a fire to impact your world and make a difference in the lives of others.

How do you fuel your fire? How do you impact people? Many that know me would say my confidence, determination and heart stand out as my strengths. What most do not know is my road was first filled with trauma, struggle and failure.

The journey of learning and confidence never ends. Even in moments of doubt, struggle and the sheer unknown it's important to focus on how far you have come and obstacles you have survived and conquered.

Let adversity fuel your fire. This podcast is a glimpse into the challenges my family faced in our journey of becoming American. I invite you to listen to a story of confidence and determination: The Little Ketchup Girl.

CONFIDENCE is such a crucial building block to success. In my journal I keep a list of key lessons from my journey, to remind me what I have overcome. It reminds me that doubt breeds doubt and it takes CONFIDENCE to reach for new challenges in life. I refer to this list weekly, especially in moments of struggle.

I urge to you to create your own list to refer to for both gratitude and confidence. Here is mine:

1. Your Circumstances Never Define You.
It’s a choice to FIGHT or to be a victim, and only YOU are responsible for making it. I did not choose to lose my childhood, or many other horrible things that happened to me along the journey, but I did choose to overcome them. You are the only one responsible for choosing to be the best version of yourself, or choosing to be a victim.

2. Face you Fears in Creative Ways!
You have to do this slowly and repeatedly to get good at it. For me, asking for Ketchup in in broken English, was a big deal at the time, but after asking over 10 times the fear was gone, and it taught me to take small steps. Get creative with it - I used to have a fear of speaking, and a love for fitness and cycling so I became a spin instructor. The comfort on the bike helped me cope with the DISCOMFORT of speaking in front of others.

3. People and their Judgments and Opinions Do Not Matter! Remember that people operate from what they know, their experiences, their own insecurities and fears. I had to learn to have compassion instead of anger for others frame of reference. I had to learn that not everyone as escaped a war and many other horrible things, and my baseline of fear compared to someone else is drastically different.

4. Do Not Follow the Crowd. You will learn and experience so much more if you go against the norms. I struggled and still do fitting into the American culture and even my own culture as I question everything. Why is anything done a certain way? Ask the “WHY’S?” including of yourself.

5. Have Faith and Hope! My father repeated this to me every single day during our darkest moments, and still does when I call him with a struggle. Believe in yourself! Even when the odds are stacked against you. Learn to endure pain and disappointment by creating focus and energy on what the other side looks like. Athletes do it all the time, literally visualize crossing the finish line of any race or challenge.

In a world that is so connected, yet emotionally disconnected, let’s help each other create confidence within ourselves, children, friends, colleagues and all of those around us. Confidence is contagious and can make dreams come true.

This story was beautifully captured by my mentor, friend and inspiration: Steve Leeven. For Steve, being an inspiring leader and building a successful company from ground up is not enough. He wants to leave a legacy larger than life by creating America the Bilingual.

America the Bilingual
Episode 6: Little Ketchup Girl

How hard can it be to go up to the counter at McDonald's and ask for ketchup? The answer might depend on how confident you are in English.

Michelle Bazargan was a little girl when bombs began exploding outside her home in Tehran. It was then that her mother decided it was too dangerous to remain. Thus begins the story of one Iranian family and their challenges of becoming American. Sometimes trauma can leave people irreversibly damaged. Other times trauma can leave people irreversibly dedicated to helping others. Listen to episode 6 of America the Bilingual to hear what happened when that little girl grew up.

Listen on SoundCloud The Little Ketchup Girl or iTunes: America the Bilingual by Steve Leveen on iTunes

Michelle has a strong commitment for motivating, inspiring and helping others. Michelle spoke at Tedx Boca Raton on the "The Value of Deep Human Connection in a High Tech World". She also speaks on the topic of innovation and invention and also speaks at various school programs to encourage careers in STEM and several other events.

TEDx Talk by Michelle Bazargan

America the Bilingual is a storytelling podcast for Americans who are learning their next language, or would like to start. It also puts forth a vision of an America where it is normal to be bilingual. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts and hear a new episode every two weeks.

Tedx Talk - Bazargan- Value of Human Connection

Iranian Americans in Literature: So many talented authors have written about the American immigrant experience. One of these is Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, a book that, although I read it 15 years ago, still lives in me, and still shakes me. Written in the author's car in the dark early morning hours before he began his real job, House of Sand and Fog became a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award in fiction. It also became a movie starring Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly and Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who won an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.

Credits American the Bilingual is part of the Lead with Languages campaign of ACTFL - The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

This episode was written by me, Steve Leveen, and our producer Fernando Hernández who also does sound design and mixing. Our editorial consultants are Maja Thomas and Mim Harrison, research assistance from Associate Producer, Beckie Rankin.

Graphic Arts are created by Carlos Plaza Design Studio.

Music and sounds in this episode, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License, by:
Kevin Macleod - Beach Party and Quasi motion
Francisco Penilla -Bombita
Jorge Mario Zuleta - Falta seis
Monplaisir - terror party
Mystery Mammal - upright

Sounds and Fx
Yle Arkisto - Bombing, air raid alarm, mix
Danielson III - Rumble bass
Paisagemsonoraunila - At the bus terminal near the bus with the engine running
Dggrunzweig - Sound of bus
Stevious42 - Inside moving bus
Noise collector - Mcdonalds

Additional Music (ESCAPE, ADVENTURE)"-_03_Grab_your_guitar_we_have_to_fight (playful mistery) (invasion preamble)

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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