Unleash the Dragon – The Great Wall Marathon

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Ever since I was a kid, I had always been fascinated by the Great Wall of China. Why did they build it? Who built it? How long did it take? Can you really see it from space? What would it be like to walk on? and was it built to keep the rabbits out? (simply explained in a commercial advert back in the 90’s) lol

In January 2014, I came across this awesome Marathon Trailer and it ignited that burning desire in me to travel to China.

I started training vigorously. Mind you, the longest distance that I’d ever run was the City to Surf (from Sydney CBD to Bondi Beach – 14 km). So this would be my first marathon ever. Apart from training the body, I also trained the mind to stay calm in difficult situations by practicing yoga regularly.

McElhone Stairs – Potts Point and the Blue Mountains were the places where I did most of my training for the stairs. The rest was around the local areas and on the treadmill.

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13/05/14 Leaving for Beijing, feeling very excited and nervous!

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14/05/14

Met the most amazing and inspiring group of runners from all over Australia

Photo: @ Tiananmen Square

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15/05/14

Inspection Day – up early and caught a bus for 2 hours from Beijing to inspect the wall. We walked 3 km on the wall to get used to the structure and to see what we were up against! I was absolutely enthralled by the beauty of this manmade structure. We were notified that there would be over 2000 participants on race day. WOW!

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17/05/14 RACE DAY

Rise and shine at 3:30 AM. Took a bus to the section of the wall (2 hours from Beijing) for the 7:30 AM start. It was freezing cold and dark!!!

The atmosphere was amazing!

With Paul, Laura, Erin & Myriam

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Was lucky to run alongside these most athletic ladies from Brisbane, Erin & Donna

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Before the race with the awesome Myriam

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….and the happy Laura, who was cheering and taking photos before I took off! Getting very nervous now!!!

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1,2, 3…….GOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

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After running for 5 km up the hill, I finally reached the entrance of the  Great Wall10271494_10152823557352802_8475303718824804564_n

The moment we’d all been waiting for…. Man, it was steep and those steps were so uneven. Lucky it was a cool and sunny day and I didn’t sweat too much at this stage.

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Off the wall and into the villages….the locals were so warm and welcoming, saying hi to us along the way!

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….and into the valley….At this stage, my left knee started to hurt, which forced me to walk and run at a slower pace.

 

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Still had time to take a selfie ūüôā

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….Had been downing over 15 bottles of water and 3 bananas…gotta keep going….

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…31 km already? I’ve made it this far? No way!!!

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11 km to go. Gotta get going! Back into the wall for the second time for all the full marathon runners. At this stage, I could only drag myself by pulling on the hand rail, one or two step at a time. The left knee was hurting badly, so I needed to straighten the left leg whenever I went down the steps. The view was stunning from above.

“I’ve made it this far. Don’t give up now.”

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Very exhausted! It was approximately 2 pm at this stage. I’d been running/walking/dragging for over 6 hours now. Still had to get out of the wall, and down the hill for 5 km before reaching the Finish line. “I can do this!!!!”

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Regardless of the sore knee, I got out of the wall and slowly ran/walked down the hill for 5 km before reaching the end.

Almost there!!! 1 km to go!!!

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Spending some time at this sign, 42 km, thinking, my goal has been reached!!! It was an uplifting and happy feeling. I got a bit emotional!

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…ran to the finish line and discovered that my teammates were still there waiting to cheer for me after all this time. They’d been standing there for as long as I’d been running. I was SO THANKFUL, and with all the energy that I had left, ran to the FINISH LINE.

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EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE WHEN YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!

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I’m dedicating this journey to my beloved parents, my family, my life coaching team, sponsors and supporters and to all the new friends that I’ve made during the marathon. Thank you for your love and support.

A massive THANK YOU to the Felicity Kent & Angela Everett from Travelling Fit for their commitment, effort and organisation from the beginning until the end of the trip. They definitely made everything so much easier for us while in China. Thank you guys, you truly are amazing! For more information on Travelling Fit, go to http://www.travellingfit.com/home/.aspx

Also, thank you Adventure Marathon for creating this great marathon. For more information go to http://www.adventure-marathon.com/default.aspx

See you at the next race, wherever that may be ūüôā

Binh

 

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.

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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¬†night,¬†as 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‚Ķ..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

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

Thank you for reading. Love and peace to you.

Binh

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 Рover 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.
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Day 1’s breakfast: simple and full of protein
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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.¬†
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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.
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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.
Binh

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!

Come out, Come out, Whoever you are

I’m gay, and proud of it!

I was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Only about a decade ago, if a guy acted in a feminine way, he would be laughed at and/or given a well-known label, “b√™ ńĎ√™” (a Vietnamese word that has its French origin meaning: fag). The term was commonly used. It could easily hurt someone’s feelings and lower their self-esteem. I certainly had this experience ever since the age of 4.

Being the youngest in a family of 4 children, I found myself spending more time with my 2 older sisters playing with dolls, tea sets and dress up.

My brother, who was on the opposite end of the spectrum, participated in all the boyish and adventurous activities e.g., football, karate, running around with bare feet… I admired him for that as he was much loved by the kids in the neighbourhood and my relatives.

I, on the other hand, was known to be the quiet one who was good at art, singing, dancing and literature. Most of my close friends were girls and I found them to be easy to talk to as we shared common interests.

As a result, I was automatically placed in a “different” category and name-calling was not an exception. I went through my childhood feeling attracted to the same sex. I thought that it was just a stage of development that would pass in time. I even thought that, when I grew up, I would get married and have kids just like everyone else.

At 15, I was not doing well in school. I used to be at the top of my class in Primary school. However, for some reason, my grades were lower than expected as I became older.

At the end of year 10, I asked my parents if I could leave Saigon to study in Brisbane, Australia. At the time, my parents were successful entrepreneurs and so I was lucky to be flown to Brisbane, where I finished my High School and Tertiary education.

Growing up with my Christian beliefs, I used to tell myself that “homosexuality is a sin”. I kept the secret to myself until I was 21 when I met my first boyfriend at a social gathering.  That was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Living in an open-minded country like Australia allowed me to be myself. I made new friends to whom I came out, and they had offered me a tremendous amount of support.

Throughout my teenage years into adulthood, I was not around my family and therefore they did not know much about my “other life”

My parents often tried to match-make me with a nice girl every time I came back to visit them in Saigon. I often kept quiet about my lifestyle in Australia as knowing the truth could potentially disappoint my family.

I then moved to Sydney where my second relationship took place. Up to this point, I’d never had a girlfriend. People often questioned my sexuality. I was fed up with social expectations.

I decided to come out to my siblings. To my surprise, they’d known for quite awhile now. They would still love me regardless of my sexual orientation. Pheww! What a relief to know that I was very much loved and supported by my brother and sisters.

The next step was to tell my parents. I often avoided the question of marriage.

Until one day, my Mum directly asked me: “Binh, as you’re older now, it’s time to think about finding the right girl and getting  married…”. I thought to myself, this is the moment.

So I replied, “Mum, I’m interested in men.”. Mum did not respond or appear angry. She remained calm but did not look at me.

I turned to my Dad and said: “I’m sure you guys know!”. He said: “Yes! We’ve known about this for awhile…and at this stage, I don’t think it really matters. We are open-minded and as long as you’re happy, that’s all we care about!”.

I was in tears. That was much easier than I thought.

Both of my parents passed away not long after that due to terminal illnesses.

I’m glad that I came out to them as they are my parents and have the right to know.

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One might think she/he has to be ready to come out. In my opinion, it is a progressive process which involves a number of small steps that should be considered in order to achieve the ultimate goal:

1. Come out to yourself: Get to know yourself well: your strengths, weaknesses, interests and sexual orientation. Accept and love yourself for who you are because at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.

2. Come out to your close friends: Coming out to your close friends is a good place to start. Some will be happy for you. Some will be confused. Some will get upset. Just come out anyway! You will at least receive much-needed support.

3. Come out to your siblings: If you have siblings, come out to them. Like it or not, they are related to you by blood and they might want to know the truth. You’re now a step closer to telling your parents!

4. Come out to your parents: This can be the biggest challenge! Take a plunge and tell them when the right moment comes e.g., when they ask you about your relationship status or suggest that you get a BF or GF. You will feel so much better afterwards. Parents often have great expectations of their kids and some will find it hard to accept the truth. Time will tell if they are able to live with this truth or not.

5. Come out to the world: Now that you’ve gone through all of the previous steps (remember, it doesn’t have to be in that particular order), it’s time to come out to the world and let them know how proud you are to be yourself

While “hiding” in the closet, I missed out on a chance to “seek” my truth

By coming out, I am being true to myself and others and live a happier life. Coming out is hard, but not coming out is even harder.

Be true to yourself. Be happy.

Love and peace to you.

Binh

Swimming Upstream

“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul…we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” – Neil Armstrong

Hi, my name is Binh Doan and this is my testimony. I would like to share this message to inspire people to become whoever they want to be and to make their dreams come true regardless of their outer circumstances.

I was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 80’s. My parents, who came from a poor background, worked extremely hard all their lives to provide a good education to my 3 older siblings and myself. At 15, I decided to travel to Brisbane (Australia) to complete my High School education. With some English to help me get by, I attended Year 11 but had difficulty fitting into the school system. I continued to struggle during my first year with understanding English and expressing myself. I spoke English with a strong accent, and the sounding of my name was sometimes made fun of by the local kids. It took me over a year to settle into the new environment and to learn about the new culture. My English continued to improve. I was a quiet kid. Sometimes, I felt like an outsider and often went to the library after school to study until late. I taught myself to tune my ears into learning how to speak like an Aussie. At the beginning of Year 12, I felt much better about my communication skills and began to catch up with my peers.

It took me over a year to settle into the new environment and to learn about the new culture. My English continued to improve. I was a quiet kid. Sometimes, I felt like an outsider and often went to the library after school to study until late. I taught myself to tune my ears into learning how to speak like an Aussie. At the beginning of Year 12, I felt much better about my communication skills and began to catch up with my peers. There were hard times but I did not want to give up. I wanted to graduate from High School, attend University and then get a good job. That would make my parents happy, as they had sacrificed so much for my education.

In 1998, I graduated from High School and was accepted into the University of Queensland. I completed my Bachelor of Biomedical Science in 2001. I then continued with my studies and obtained a Masters in Speech Pathology (2003). Throughout university, I had various part-time jobs, such as working in a fish & chips shop, helping out as a uni guide (at UQ) and serving people as a waiter in a local restaurant. These jobs not only helped me pay the bills but also helped improve my social and language skills.

In April 2004, after months of searching, I finally got a job offer in Sydney. That was my first job as a Speech Pathologist and it was based in Campbelltown. Ever since, I have been working in private practice, helping children, teenagers and adults with their speech, language and literacy difficulties. In 2011, I completed my training and obtained the CELTA (offered by Cambridge University) at

In April 2004, after months of searching, I finally got a job offer in Sydney. That was my first job as a Speech Pathologist and it was based in Campbelltown. Ever since, I have been working in private practice, helping children, teenagers and adults with their speech, language and literacy difficulties. In 2011, I completed my training and obtained the CELTA (offered by Cambridge University) at Navistas English in Sydney. I am now qualified as an ESL (English as Second Language) teacher.

All my life, I had always wanted to be a good person and to work hard in order to make my parents and family proud. In 2007, I earned my Australian citizenship. I then decided to sponsor my parents to come and spend their retirement in Sydney. My siblings and I spent almost 2 years to complete all the paper work. In 2010, my parents migrated to Australia to reunite with the family. A few months after their arrival, tragedy struck. My Dad had a sudden heart attack, followed by a stroke, and passed away at 65. My Mum, while mourning for Dad, had to deal with her newly diagnosis of lung cancer (stage 4). Mum received various types of treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and alternative medicine. She was brave until the end. In January 2012, my Mum passed away at 69.

Losing both parents within a short period of time was the most painful experience that I’ve ever had. I was in a state of confusion and was not sure what to do with my life. I sought help from a grief counsellor, who offered some great advice. However, the pain was too vast. For almost 6 months, bad thoughts came to me on a regular basis. I was not happy with life and work. However, I tried to think, “What would my parents want me to do?”. I could not give up, considering all the hard work that they had put into providing me with a good education and a good life.

I started to read various books on dealing with grief and realised that I could use my time and energy on helping others who are in need. My parents were true givers and my role models. Ever since, I’ve been involved in a number of charity events. I do feel great about being able to contribute to others’ happiness. In April 2013, I stumbled across Anthony Robbins’ “Awaken the Giant Within”. This is an inspirational and powerful book that has opened my eyes to possibilities, life and shown me how much control I have over my own life. I am now on the mend and have taken a full interest in helping others who are struggling to reach their full potential.

In August 2013, I decided to become a Life Coach and was registered with The Australian Institute of Coaching (AIC). It was a tremendously life-changing experience with all the support from the AIC team and friends/family. In August 2014, I graduated and am now fully qualified as a Life Coach. I am passionate in helping others who want to take charge and make a difference in their own lives.558381_10152231155837802_1413449293_n.jpg

Through integrating all the skills that I have learnt in the past 18 years, my goal is to help individuals achieve their life goals to the best of their abilities e.g., communication skills (speech, language, reading, spelling, writing, ESL, working memory, public speaking & accent training), study / interview skills, and confidence coaching. 

In September 2014, I created Speakable, a Speech-Language Pathology & Life Coaching practice in Bondi Junction. My mission is to help people of all ages find their voice in this world and to increase their confidence in order to turn their dreams into reality.

At the moment, I’m running Speak Up Australia –¬†a group where people get together, connect and learn to conquer the top human fear of Public Speaking. We meet every second Thursday of the month to inspire each other with positive ideas and life stories.

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You can join Speak Up @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/speakupoz/

We look forward to seeing you there.

Life isn’t easy, but it’s beautiful!¬†Let me help you reach your goals.

Love and peace to you.

Binh

PS: Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.