By any means any means I can conjure, my lifework is to ignite the imaginations of people to dream without limits and to inspire action to pursue their passions. That requires confidence, something I once lacked to the bone. I was downright terrified to stand before a crowd and speak. Being handed a microphone was like being handed a reptile. If I drove alone from Buda, Texas to Dallas, I was sure a tire would blow out on a deserted stretch of I-35 in the path of a tornado. Or tornadoes. Oh heavens—and riding horses! As a native Texan, that fear was something to keep secret. I didn’t know then as I do now, that watching the news and reading the headlines is what fueled my fear.
Whether it’s fear of public speaking or snakes or skydiving, the key to success is perseverance and courage, advice I took to heart from author/illustrator Kevin Henkes in 1997, before I was a published author and before I was able to speak to an audience without shaking and stuttering. My advice to anyone actively trying to accomplish a goal is to climb right over any obstacles and do not listen to a word of discouragement from those who say, “Do you know how hard that is? You’re crazy. You can’t do that!” Because, I swear, if I can, you can. Your path may be bumpy, but whatever happens, your sense of self-worth comes in the trying. Nothing happens if you don’t try, so why not? In the words of Henry Ford: “Obstacles are those most frightful things you see when you take your eyes of your goal.” One of his first obstacles was a banker who declined to give him a loan because “the automobile will never replace the horse.” How many Fords are on the road now? (In addition to mine)
Only surround yourself with people who support your greatness.
It takes confidence to dream big. It takes courage to build confidence. And boy, does it take a lot of never-endingpractice to build courage—the courage you need to achieve your goals. If there’s something you want to do but are afraid to do, do it anyway—and do it now. It’s perfectly okay to be scared. Who isn’t at times besides James Bond, who isn’t real. But never let fear keep you from your passion, joy and achievement. Empty your Bucket List.
Without courage, you’re stuck in a wish.
Once upon a time, I was mired in a misery of wishes until…the afternoon in 2005 when I was watching Oprah and folding the daily mountain of laundry. She kicked off the show with: “Write in with your dreams!” I thought, “Hey, I’m a writer. I’m going to write my dream and she’ll make it come true!” But when I picked up a pen, I was stunned to discover I had none—or if I had one, it had fallen down the rabbit hole and I would have to brave it out and go claim it. A month or so later, after praying (begging) to know my dream, it came to me in an epiphany and I wrote it down:
To rid myself of fear. To be a fearless traveler with a mission. To wake up every day with joy. To have adventures. To take care of myself and my children financially. To have plenty of time, talent and money to give away. And mostly, to have something meaningful to say so that at the end of my life here, I could pat myself on the back and say, “Way to go, Dianna. You did good.” And P.S. Please make it fun.
Que milagro! That is exactly what happened. By practicing courage, my fears evaporated one by one, poca a poco. Adventure swept in. Since then, I’ve driven throughout the U.S. and Mexico, often alone, meeting only the kindest, most resourceful people. (Only once did a tire blow out in Corpus Christi. A truck driver who had a daughter my age changed it). I’ve lived in rural Mexican villages, lived on a sailboat, ridden on the back of a motorcycle through two countries (and accidentally ended up behind the Federales in La Carrera, the “Mexican Road Race.” And most recently—by means of a hand-painted car called The Maiden America II—I’ve been honored to collect the dreams of people from many nations.
I welcome any private or public occasion to tell this story, to dispel many myths of danger, and to call on people—especially women and young adults—to lead a brave life of service to the people of our world and the planet we call home.
Wherever one goes, there will be good people … and a few who make us redouble our efforts to leave a legacy, a legacy of having been kind and bold and meaningful.
Bless all those who encouraged me and those who believed in me, especially my mom.And bless Oprah Winfrey. If I hadn’t responded to her… well uh, her command…I would still be among The Lost and Unclaimed. Because of her, I found my calling: to lead a life of service among those who most needed what I could offer. I wouldn’t have founded The Oz Project, and through it given hot air balloon rides to a thousand Mexican children in orphanages and rural villages. I wouldn’t have met the crewmates who became my best friends. I wouldn’t now be living in the countryside of the Osage Nation Reservation, writing a book called Road Writer, creating WRITE ON!, delving into my Cherokee and Dunkard ancestry … and receiving food, shelter and advice from my mom and step-daddy. Mostly, thank you to the Power who heard my prayer and answered it by giving me a life beyond what I ever could have imagined. This is why I write non-fiction.