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Dreams can come true if you make the effort

I grew up in one of Buffalo's roughest neighborhoods: The Delevan-Grider District. It wasn't always rough. For me it was a place of daydreams, exploring and adventure. I hope, for some at least, it still is today.

My father was a bricklayer and my mother a homemaker. I used to cut the grass for an old lady down the street. During a lemonade break, she told me about her son who was a successful engineer for some major manufacturer. He had "made it big." In some subconscious way, that inspired me to become an engineer.

In spite of losing my father, Richard, to cancer in my first week at Canisius High School, I persevered. I had to; I had received a scholarship and I couldn't let my philanthropist down. (Thank you, Mildred). I learned everything the Jesuits had to teach me about the important things.

I loved public television, especially the program "Nova," and dreamed of a future where I could be part of the technological revolution of the 20th century. After finishing my degree in industrial engineering at the University at Buffalo, I went to work in New England. A funny thing happened, though. After working as an engineer for 20 years, I was still left unsatisfied. I got in shape and even ran several marathons, but there was still something lacking.

One clue was my pattern of prematurely ending relationships with my employers. I just could not work for people less competent than myself and try to settle for their ideas of what was right.

I had considered consulting for years, but there were so many discouraging aspects of starting my own business that I never took it seriously. During one unemployment hiatus, I decided to enroll in the BERC Entrepreneurial Assistance Program. This turned out to be a wonderful experience that confirmed my feelings. I was made to be my own boss.

I was able to develop a business plan, a marketing strategy and start my own consulting firm. I actually reconnected with residents of my old neighborhood and realized that the East Side was still a place where people had dreams. My life had come full circle.

I even handed Mayor Anthony Masiello a proposal for a project while receiving my certificate at the graduation ceremony.

It was very rough at first. If I didn't have friends to help see me through those first months and years, I never would have succeeded. (Thank you, Mom, Jim, Murph, Rose, Tom and, most of all, Phyllis).

By continuing to focus on my plan, eventually, in very small steps, it started to work. There was a lot of rejection but eventually one organization bet on me. That was two years ago. Like climbing a mountain or running a race, it's all just step-by-step.

I'm here to tell you that dreams really do come true. If a boy from Buffalo's East Side can become a successful management consultant serving the needs of some of the most well-known organizations in America, anything is possible.

I encourage you to follow your dreams. If there is no one else rooting for you, let it be me. Ignore the reasons why it won't work. If you're not satisfied with your situation, sit down and take account of who you are. What are your values, your traits and your skills? Pick a path that uses all of them, and learn what it takes to get there. Then plan it and do it. Having the courage to start is what success is all about.

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