June 20, 2017 Blog No Comments


I just finished reading the autobiography of our interpreter in Cuba, Alberto Rivero Gonzalez. (See reference) It was humbling to learn of the adversity and trials he went through to reach his dream of greatness. So often we think that people are simply lucky, get all the breaks, or are just in the right place at the right time to get ahead. But more often, that’s not the case. There’s hard work involved.

I’m writing this on Father’s Day and am reflecting on the sacrifice and discipline I’ve seen by my father and my uncle, who raised me after my father died. As I read about in Alberto’s book, they all experienced hardship in pursuit of their dreams. Two of the three men went on to greatness, while my father died young before reaching his dream. There are lessons for us here.

My father, Gilbert McKie Milligan, dealt with the difficulty of losing both his parents at an early age. He went into the Army Air Force and became an officer and navigator. Post war he followed his creative dreams to write plays, act, and invent things, leaving his finance job to move us to the Philippines to pursue his big dream of starting an export business with a war buddy.

I was a young witness to the complexity of setting up a business on the remote island of Mindanao at a time when there was no infrastructure of electricity or running water. We lived in beautiful bamboo huts by the sea with the work camp in the jungle. My father had the business up and running for several years before the Communist rebels sabotaged it and tried to take our lives. We left in terror, being chased by gun fire as our jeep raced to the small airstrip. His dreams dashed, Dad died a few years later of a stroke.

My second father, Judge John Cooper Godbold, came from humble beginnings, being the son of a saw mill owner in rural Alabama. His father died young, leaving 3 small boys and his mother to run the mill. They were unable to keep it going, so the boys resorted to paper routes and recycling tin cans to help support their family. After serving as a Captain in WWII, his discipline, intelligence and pursuit of his goal, to be a great lawyer, landed him a full scholarship to Harvard law school.

He pursued law with an integrity that brought recognition and in his 40’s he was appointed by President Johnson to be a Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge. It was an honor he never took for granted, working 7 days a week to bring his best to our country’s legal system, supporting the important desegregation laws initiated by the lower courts in the South.

From Alberto’s book, I learned about his rural upbringing in Cuba at a time when there was no electricity or running water. He came from a large family of 6 children, which meant an unimaginable amount of work by his father to provide and his mother to cook, wash and clean by hand. His admiration for their discipline and integrity shines through every page. His mother died when he was in high school and it’s then he decided to use his intelligence to launch his dream to go to college, be an English teacher and an interpreter.

But nothing is easy in Cuba, even today. He pushed against the basics of limited transportation and limited food, bicycling up to 16 kilometer a day and often going hungry. He pushed himself every day to learn and master his profession. Alberto reached his dream, to interpret for Castro and the many famous people who come to Cuba and now, a decade later, is still dreaming to be a TV reporter.

What do these men show us is important in pursuing our dreams? At a time when so many people seek the easy path in their lives, I’m reminded of what’s necessary. See if you agree.


Have a dream that provides a clear single focus for your efforts, one that you have tremendous passion for so it receives the benefit of all your mental and physical energy. The more attention it acquires, the more likely it will materialize.


All three men survived losses in their childhood which taught them the internal strength it takes to get through hard times. Bringing a dream to life means having the discipline and passion to see it through from start to finish. It means long hours and steadfastness to make it happen. There are no shortcuts to greatness.


Being great requires consistency, integrity and the ability to stay abreast of the ever-moving flow of change. There is no resting on laurels. Continued pursuit of mastery in your field keeps your dream fresh and meaningful.


These three men were aware of the people who helped them achieve their goals– their family, friends, and colleagues. Their gratitude, giving recognition where it’s due, is a quality that commands respect. They get it because they give it and earn it.

However much we yearn for an easy way to greatness, there is no escaping these principles. The sooner we embrace them and make them part of our daily routine, the sooner things will come together in our lives.

If finding your path to greatness is something you’d like to explore, I’d be honored to help. My Transformational Life Coaching is designed to give you the tools to discover, claim or retool your calling in life. Reach out to me at my web site, www.spectrumtransformation.com and use my Free Consultation button. I look forward to hearing from you.

Gonzalez-Rivero, Alberto, Born To Translate Cuba: A Country Boy’s Dream Come True, May 19, 2014, Pfeifer- Hamilton Publishers, available on Amazon

Photo credit: Marcia Lamont Hopkins

Written by Connie Milligan, LCSW
If there is anything I’ve expressed that speaks to you, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at my email, connie [at] conniemilligan [dot] com