3 inspirational stories of refugees who became entrepreneurs

Building Blocks: Actionable insights to build an Intentional Life

Hey everybody,

Here’s another batch of actionable insights to start your week off right, so you can be more intentional with how you live, work, and create.

I want to take this week to share a few stories about immigrants, refugees, and other human beings who’ve faced seemingly insurmountable odds to have the chance for a better life.

Those who make it out have a responsibility to those who didn’t. To live fully, do work that matters, and be a beacon of hope for future generations who will inevitably face similar tragedy.

Let’s get started.

Insight 1: Your world isn’t THE world

I’ve shared Art’s writing before—he’s an inspirational entrepreneur and someone who consistently makes me feel unprepared and disorganized by comparison.

I grew up poor in a small town in rural Appalachia—painfully sheltered from the rest of the world.

It’s hard for me to fathom the diversity and volatility people who grew up in European countries have faced.

Americans like me have never personally dealt with fleeing a war-torn area.

Reading Art’s account of his family fleeing war, and how often they narrowly escaped death, is a haunting reminder of how war affects us all.

Art inspires me, and others, to be a better entrepreneur and think bigger. But he could’ve easily never made it past 2 years old.

Here’s his story.

Insight 2: The entrepreneurial impulse is a double-edged sword

Have you ever been curious why Californian doughnut shops are often run by Cambodians?

In most of America there’s an average of about one doughnut shop for every 30,000 people – in LA, there’s one for every 7,000 people. And of the 5,000 independent doughnut shops in California today, around 80% are still Cambodian, she says.

Ted Ngoy, aka the Donut King, is responsible for the Cambodian doughnut monopoly, and his story is a rollercoaster.

Full of twists and turns including making a blood pact with a girl whose window he climbed through after serenading her with flute music, fleeing a tyrannical regime that executed millions of his people, rising from janitor to owning a donut empire, losing everything through gambling addiction, diving into politics, an affair that cost him his family, getting exiled, finding religion, and rebuilding the pieces of his life again.

Like I said—it’s a rollercoaster.

Here’s his story.

Insight 3: Luck plays a part in success, but so does perseverance

From so poor he couldn’t afford a pen to take notes in school, surviving being dropped in the Moroccan desert six times after getting caught trying to flee his country, to becoming the UFC Champion, Francis Ngannou’s journey embodies everything inspirational stories are made of and proves the power of perseverance and conviction in your vision.

Here’s his story.

Question for the Week

Who are some refugees, or descendants of refugees, who inspire you?

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Insights in Action

One of the best ways to clarify your thinking is to write it out.

So if you want to develop your thinking on the Question for the Week, or start applying insights from today’s newsletter, send a tweet to @CoreyWilksPsyD with your thoughts and put #BuildingBlocks at the end so I can find it.

Not ready to “think in public” yet? No problem. You can also reply to this email if you want to share your thoughts with me.

Until next time—memento mori,

Corey Wilks, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Executive Coach


Check out the cohort-based course I’m building here.