10% vs 90%

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R Swindoll

This is true!

Ten years ago, I graduated from uni. Five years of hard work, where would my Master of Speech Pathology take me? It’s a scary wide world out there!

Unlike some classmates, there was no job lined up for me. I came from Vietnam and was on a student visa, which would expire in 6 months’ time after the graduation. My possession was a credit card with a limit of $1000 and less than $500 in my savings account. My parents and big sister had kindly paid for my tuition fees and living expenses throughout most of my uni life, and so I didn’t want to burden them with my issues. I was a big boy and it was time for me to take the full responsibility for my own life.

Up to this point in time, I’d been in Brisbane, Australia, for 8 years and fell in love with the place. I decided to stay. But how?

First thing first, I needed a job to survive. In order to work legally, a working visa was required. A company would have to sponsor me, or I could apply for Permanent Residency. I chose the second option, and at the same time, sent my job application to as many job advertisers as I could.

cp5349821844680839349 My beloved Mitsubishi Magna

At this time, I had already moved out of the unit where I used to live with my friend, Megan. We both graduated from the same uni. All I had was my 11 year-old Misubishi Magna, my books and some clothes. A friend of mine offered me his couch until I could find my own place. I was truly thankful.

1907296_10152667813947802_916879936_n With my awesome housemate, Megan, on graduation day, Dec 2003

To fill in time and make some cash, I found a casual waiting position at a local restaurant. Due to my visa conditions, I could only work up to 20 hours a week. I got paid $10/hr. The amount that I made went towards paying for food, petrol and emergency savings.


January 2004 – I finally got a phone interview for a job in Melbourne. That was my first ever interview which didn’t go so well as I was way too nervous. Two weeks later, I received an “I will keep your records on file.” letter. Still, I didn’t want to give up.

Another job interview came up. This time, it was in Port Macquarie (PM), which was 6 hours drive from Brisbane. I was extremely excited, jumped in the car and made a road trip to PM. The interview went well. The Senior Speech Pathologist rang me the following day to offer me the job. I was over the moon, jumping up and down around the house like a lunatic. However, there was one problem. My bridging/working visa hadn’t come through yet. The job was handed over to someone else.

The process of job hunting continued. Ideally, I would want a job in Sydney as I had visited this vibrant city once before and actually liked its beaches and the Opera House. It’d been 3 months after my graduation and I was still working at the local restaurant. For some reason, I had a feeling that something good was going to happen quite soon!

…And one day in March 2004, the bridging visa came through. It was finally eligible for me to work in Australia. Ironically, I still hadn’t had a job.

Early April 2004, I received a phone call from Sydney. A Speech Pathologist named Kate was impressed with my resume and she wondered if I could come to have a face-to-face interview. I jumped at the opportunity and said that I would be happy to see her by the end of the week, on Friday. This time, I was determined to drive to Sydney on Thursday, and stay there until I got a job, any job, regardless of the outcome for this interview. Wednesday nightas I was driving home from work, the car started to make some strange sounds, and then stopped in the middle of a highway. There was smoke coming from the bonnet. I got freaked out. The first thought that came into my mind was, “Damn, I need to be in Sydney by Friday morning. Without the car, how am I going to make it to the interview? Why is this happening? And why now?!”. While I was sitting there thinking of a solution, NRMA turned up to tow Mr Mitsubishi to the nearest automobile, which happened to be KMart at the time. I later found out from the mechanic that it would cost over $700 and would take a week to fix the problem. I was devastated.

I went home and sat in silence for awhile. “What am I going to do? There has got to be a solution…..This isn’t going to stop me!!!”

“Right!” – I jumped online and used my credit card to book a return ticket to Sydney, arriving early Friday morning. “Whatever it takes, I have got to get to the interview.”

Friday morning –  I caught the earliest flight to Sydney and then caught a train to Campbelltown, where the Speech Pathology clinic was located. I met Kate and performed the best that I could at my first face-to-face interview. At the end of our conversation, Kate said that she would call the next day to let me know whether I’d got the job.

I spent Friday night in a hostel in Glebe. “Did I get the job? Just have to wait and see!”

Saturday morning – While having MacDonald’s with one of my childhood friend, Thao, who was studying in Sydney at the time, my mobile rang. I looked at Thao and said: “Here we go!”. I answered the phone. It was Kate. “Congratulations, Binh. I was very impressed with you and just so you know, the job is yours! When can you start?”. I was stoked and almost choked on my burger! I couldn’t believe it. Really? Me? I’m moving to Sydney, to work, as a Speech Pathologist?!

Dreams do come true after all!

I flew back to Brisbane, got my car fixed, said goodbye to my friends and my boss at the restaurant, and drove to Sydney a week later.

..And that’s how my life in Sydney started.

The journey was long and there were hiccups along the way, but “giving up” was NEVER an option. 

We don’t have any control over external mishaps. We, however, have control over HOW we react to these circumstances.

Here is the lesson that I’ve learnt:

  • Have a clear goal
  • Stick with that goal
  • When mishaps happen, asking ‘Why is this happening to me?’ isn’t going to help.  Asking ‘How am I going to deal with this problem?’ will definitely display some options for a solution.
  • Take massive action to achieve desirable outcomes
  • Have faith in yourself
  • Use all the resources that you have available to help you reach that goal
  • Most importantly, be thankful for everything. When you come out the other end and survive, you will be a stronger person.

302050_10150365208488757_1183081505_n 23 years old, In Sydney, finally

409596_10151215958217802_1564445419_n Woohoooooo the Opera House!!

“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.” – Napolean Hill

Thank you for reading. Love and peace to you.


I’m currently writing an E-book on how to be yourself and be happy. Please fill out your details in the contact form below and you will be notified when the book is ready!

Why did I live below the line?

“Every 3 seconds, a child dies completely unnecessarily as a result of extreme poverty …The thing is, all these deaths are avoidable..” if we take proper steps to raise awareness and act to end poverty.

During the Vietnam war, my grandparents and parents grew up in poverty. As I was told, life was extremely tough. Mum used to help her parents sell “banh beo” (a traditional Vietnamese dish) on the street. Dad sold knick-knacks and did a number of odd jobs hear and there throughout his childhood to help support his family. Both of my parents went to school but did not have an opportunity to attend college. When they met and got married, my parents decided to work hard to send my siblings and I to school to get an education, and hopefully, we would have a better future. I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t because of them. To my parents, education is the key to overcome poverty.

On 6-10 May, 2013, together with thousands of other Australians, I took on a challenge of feeding on $2/day, for 5 days, to fundraise for The Oaktree Foundation. The funds that we raised helped  renovate schools, train teachers and provide education opportunities for thousands of young people in East Timor, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. I never thought it would even be possible to eat on $2/day in a developed country like Australia. The fact is, almost half the world – over 3 billion people, live on less than $2;50 a day!

Here is my journal of Live Below the Line (LBL) 2013:
Sunday night before the LBL week: it’s time to go shopping.
My budget of $10 Australian dollars for the week’s grocery: a loaf of white bread, 5 eggs, 3 apples, 2 oranges, and 2 cans of tuna. I didn’t think it was possible to buy all this  food for $10.
Day 1’s breakfast: simple and full of protein
Day 2, 3 and 4’s breakfast, lunch & dinner. The budget of $2/day could only stretch so far when it came to hunting for a bargain. I felt hungry throughout the day/night and found it hard to concentrate on work. There were coffee withdrawal symptoms too (as I used to have one coffee per day) ! Dinner = 50 cents = Mi goreng + 1 egg. Imagine the children who have to go to school on an empty stomach because their family cannot afford to buy food. It must be very hard to focus on schoolwork. 
428724_10151872776487802_846214916_n          482481_10151872776627802_1474856074_n        943070_10151873083737802_1894525773_n
Day 5: Boiling my last egg in a cup at work (no access to a stove). Today was the last day for Live Below the Line and I felt great, knowing that tomorrow I would be able to eat proper and nutritious food. However, this is not the case for many people who have to battle extreme poverty everyday not knowing when it’s going to end.
945163_10151879730082802_672092042_n   940819_10151878360512802_198165151_n
3581_10151878360452802_1756408928_n Having lunch with my friend, Angelica Casado, who was also doing LBL.
At the end of the challenge, I was able to raise over $600 for the Oaktree Foundation. LBL had taught me a number of valuable lessons:
-Anything can taste SO good when you’re hungry
-With some creativity, $2 can go a long way
-Never waste food/water
-Appreciate an abundance of foods/beverages available in Australia
-Look at life from a different perspective and appreciate the little things in life
If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of those living in extreme poverty, why not join the Live Below the Line challenge this year on 5 – 9 May 2014.
For more information, go to:
“One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.” – George Eliot
Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment.
Love and peace to you.

I’m currently writing an E-book on how to be yourself and be happy. Please fill out your details in the contact form below and you will be notified when the book is ready!