YOU CAN DO I T!
She hadn’t danced in decades—then tragedy struck
By Chris Gardner
sweeps confidently onto
the dance floor, gorgeous in
a siren-red Latin dress with
black beads and trim. She’s
competing in a national
ballroom championship in
Las Vegas, against dozens
of dancers. And now, after
four days, she’s reached the
finals in the rhythm category, which includes cha-cha,
mambo, and rumba. Despite
the pressure, the petite
Thailand native is too focused to have butterflies. “I have
to pay attention to my partner’s signals,” she says.
Dancing has been a passion of Sikarinthra’s since she
was a young girl in Bangkok and her younger brother
taught her to tango. But at 25 and newly married, she was
forced to put away her dancing shoes. “My husband was
from a royal family, and dancing was frowned upon,” she explains.
She eventually filed for divorce and moved to Chicago, where she
found work as a nurse. Raising two children as a single mother, she had
scant time for salsa.
Then a personal tragedy got Sikarinthra back on her feet, literally.
In 2008 her 19-year-old granddaughter died suddenly of an aneurysm.
Nothing eased Sikarinthra’s feeling of profound loss—not even months
of grief counseling—until a niece insisted she attend an open house at
the local dance school. “When I’m on the dance floor, any unhappiness
disappears,” she says. After just six months of lessons, she entered a
regional contest in Chicago. “My teacher said I was ready to compete.
He always thought I had potential.”
As the Vegas judges prepare to announce the winners, Sikarinthra’s
heart begins pounding. She squeezes her partner’s hand—hard!—when
their names are announced as rhythm champions. “When I was out
there dancing and I heard the crowd cheering, I knew I’d nailed it. It
was a dream come true.” —Holly St. Lifer
I’ve created greeting cards
that go with bottles of wine.
I took them to my local SCORE
The counselor loved them and
said, “You’ve got to go big!”
But the thought of selling
the cards scares me to death.
—Cecilia C., 54,
“Going big” is great, but even the
biggest companies start small.
What if you visited just one vineyard? Offer cards to go with its
wines. If the vineyard says no, you
haven’t lost anything.
Or try a local wine store, event
planner, or restaurant. Find just
one business willing to carry your
cards and your fear may begin to
turn into excitement.
The greeting card business has
grown more competitive since
people started sending messages online. But by tying your product to wine, you may have found
a viable niche.
If you’re truly terrified, partner
with someone who loves to sell.
You’d have to share the revenue,
but that beats no revenue at all.
“If you know how to move, you can dance,” says Umpha Sikarinthra.
She practices her moves at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in
Buffalo Grove, Illinois. To find a ballroom class near you, look up
USA Dance, a member organization of the United States Olympic
Committee; it has 174 chapters around the country. Visit usadance.org/chapters-
Entrepreneur and author Chris
Gardner is AARP’s Pursuit and Happy-ness ambassador. Got a question?
Ask Chris at aarp.org/chrisgardner.
FROM LEF T: KEVIN J. MI YAZAKI; ART S TREIBER
72 AARP THE MAGAZINE
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