American Dream

Photo Credit: © Can Stock Photo / rozbyshaka


The American Dream, the set of ideals that includes upward mobility and the opportunity for prosperity and success can sometimes feel out of reach if you’re a struggling entrepreneur or small business. That’s why on occasion this podcast likes to feature success stories to inspire us. Today’s guest, Adi Redzic, will share some tips on how to stay on track and achieve our OWN American Dream.

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What You’ll Discover About the American Dream (highlights & transcript):

Own It* The decision to find something better [1:49]

* The journey to finding the American Dream [3:00]

* The personal habits that contribute to success [6:37]

* The essence of the entrepreneurial spirit [10:38]

* Lessons learned on the road to the American Dream [12:41]

* Whether the American Dream is still achievable today [16:51]

* And MUCH more.



Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:00] The American dream, the set of ideals that includes upward mobility and the opportunity for prosperity and success can sometimes feel out of reach if you’re a struggling entrepreneur or a small business owner. That’s why, on occasion, I like to feature success stories to inspire us. And when we come back, today’s guest will share his own American Dream story and some tips for how to stay on track and achieve ours.


Announcer: [00:00:28] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matters to your bottom line.


Hanna: [00:00:39] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today’s guest is Adi Redzic. Today, he’s an award-winning life coach, leadership trainer, entrepreneur, the founder of Think Change and the author of two books, plus a motivational speaker. And in 2020, he was named one of Chicago’s top 20 executive coaches. But his journey to the top didn’t start from a position of privilege or power. It actually began with a war-torn childhood in the Balkans during the Yugoslav wars that ravaged the region, and it forced him to grow up quickly. And in the process, he has learned a powerful, impactful, time tested techniques to change not only his own life, but also to help others for over a decade. And he has helped individuals and organizations transform and grow, covering a wide range of areas, including personal and professional development, leadership and people management. And I am looking forward to hearing more about his story. So welcome to Business Confidential Now Adi.


Adi Redzic: [00:01:46] Thank you so much for having me.




Hanna: [00:01:49] It’s a pleasure. You know, most listeners can’t begin to imagine what it was like to grow up in a war-torn region and basically have your childhood taken away from you. What was it that made you decide there’s got to be something better and you needed to leave your homeland and take the risk on the unknown?


Adi: [00:02:10] You know, it was . . . I was actually about 15 years old by this point. You know, when you grow up through a war, that’s just your normal way of living. So my earliest memory of a bomb exploding outside of our window was just something that, well, that’s what happens. You live with it. And so as I got to my teen years, I was 15.


Adi: [00:02:29] I was on the coast of the Adriatic romantically throwing rocks into the water and dreaming of a better life. And really at that moment, I wondered, is it really that I want to stay here or there’s the whole wide world out there that I can embark upon exploring and figuring out and really building a better life. And at that moment by the sea, I decided that’s it. So I made my decision and I was ready to figure out everything from there.




Hanna: [00:03:00] So let’s talk about the figuring out from there. I mean, at some point, what was the worst moment in your journey and how did you overcome it?


Adi: [00:03:10] There are many, so I have to. So at that point when I was you know, I was involved with UNICEF, I was doing all these different community organizing on the ground and trying to rebuild support for my generation. But then it occurred to me that, well, education is the way to go. So I dreamed of America. I dreamed of an American Dream and figuring things out.


Adi: [00:03:34] So I came here as an exchange student and I thought that was what was going to be hard. You know, I ended up in a suburb of Milwaukee. I was a senior in high school and I wanted to figure out college after that, except I missed all the deadlines and all the different things. So the journey became, you know, you’re promised all these wonderful things. But then once you get on the ground and you start making them happen, it gets really hard.


Adi: [00:04:04] So and looking back, there were many, many difficult moments. But I think in many ways the hardest one was figuring out myself. That still is the toughest journey in life is to, you know, a lot of things outside an external world can come together once the internal world has been put in place and is authentic.


Adi: [00:04:26] So I think that has been the hardest now in terms of externally speaking, I had two suitcases and three hundred dollars when I when I arrived. And so the question was, how do I get to college? While I counted I think a 150 of them around the country, I missed a lot of deadlines. I was very good student. I had all the good grades and experience extracurriculars. But it was a question of finding the place that would help me financially. And as an international student, those options were very, very limited.


Adi: [00:04:58] So I found a place called St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisconsin. There were a few other schools that tried to help me out, but I chose St. Norbert’s or rather we chose each other. And once I got there, although I ended up having to fundraise to cover the gap financially, I thought that’s my opportunity to show myself to show what I made out of. And I pushed through.


Adi: [00:05:22] I was very involved. I was very active, you know, lots of internships, lots of opportunities, a couple of majors, a minor and I graduated. All those experiences led me to having an awesome opportunity right after graduation, which then got a life of its own.


Adi: [00:05:38] So. Sort of one thing after another. When I look back, it all makes sense, but as I was going through it, I thought I was just doing the things that everyone else was supposed to do or everyone else was doing, which is you figure out your way. You look for opportunities, you don’t give up.


Adi: [00:05:53] And in fact, one of the first things I did when I when I came to the U.S. was to write on the sheet of paper. I want. I can. And I will succeed. I had no idea how that was going to happen, but I just knew that the failure was not an option. And so I pushed through. So that’s I mean and I mean, there are many great opportunities, great things that happened. But there were also a lot of challenges, that’s for sure.


Hanna: [00:06:20] It definitely sounds it. You persevered, you were persistent, you didn’t give up. And I think that’s half the battle, not giving up. Kudos to you and for the courage that you’ve exhibited in being able to push through because some people would give up.




Hanna: [00:06:37] What personal habits do you think have contributed to finding yourself, as you put it?


Adi: [00:06:45] Introspection and also owning it. I love that catch all phrase because it incorporates some of the things you just brought up. And, of course, thank you. Thank you for the compliment. It was persistence. It was perseverance. And actually, in my first book I talk about those ingredients as being essential along with responsibility. So for me, it was it was really saying, OK, I’m taking responsibility for myself.


Adi: [00:07:10] I look at myself in the mirror and I do this every morning. When I look at myself in the mirror, I say, “You’re it, show up, live out your purpose, give it your best.” This may be the last day of your life or it’s certainly the last day of the rest of your life. So make it count and then I kind of build on that.


Adi: [00:07:32] So some of these skills emerge from, OK, there is a need, no one’s going to solve it. For me, there is something I need to achieve. Well, I have to be the one who shows up and who goes after it. And also I have to look inside to figure out what are my own, whether conscious or subconscious, blockages that I have to deal with.


Adi: [00:07:53] So, you know, I didn’t know what PTSD was. So post-traumatic stress disorder or injury or however they call it, I didn’t . . . I thought, again, war was just a thing that happened to me, not a big deal. But that stuff caught up with me. So I had to go deeper.


Adi: [00:08:09] You know, when I ran a center for spirituality, leadership and service, one of the things we talked about is don’t go left or go right, go deep. And the idea there was you have to deal with your demons, you have to figure your stuff out.


Adi: [00:08:23] And then, I mean, again, take responsibility for all of it, because we all can complain, mom, dad, whomever, life happened. But at the end of the day, you know, what’s that saying? The buck stops with me. So that’s kind of what I followed. And I still do. And that habit kind of pushes everything else from there.


Hanna: [00:08:45] Well, good for you, because I know some people, they look in the mirror, they don’t like what they see. And I’m not talking about their hairstyle or, you know, oh, my gosh, there’s a mark on my face kind of thing. But there’s insecurities and it sounds like you don’t take no for an answer. You’re going to keep pushing through and as you say, own it.




Hanna: [00:09:05] So how did that translate into your own business? And when you decided to launch a business, your entrepreneurship? Tell me about that.


Adi: [00:09:16] So it’s actually interesting. You said by the mirror. I did have that moment, but I looked at the mirror and I said, “I hate you.” And I did this along with a bottle of Jack Daniels on the floor of my apartment.


Adi: [00:09:28] And externally I was very successful. But internally there was still that. . . And that’s . . . that’s what I’m talking about. Introspection, that part caught up. That truth from within, caught up. And I have to own up to that. And owning up to it meant I hate myself and own it and saying, OK, well, I feel that.


Adi: [00:09:47] So I was at this point in my relationship, my romantic relationship collapsed. I was overweight. I would seem so lethargic and external success did not translate into internal peace. And so at that moment, I actually contemplated suicide. And I thought to myself, well, no, that just seems  . . . I’m way too curious about life. I want to figure out what happened. But I didn’t want to live with that hatred.


Adi: [00:10:08] So how do I move from self-hatred to self-love? And so I kind of followed the path, devised a process that led me from that self-hatred to self-love. And today I’m happy to say when I looked in the mirror, I definitely don’t feel self-hatred quite to the contrary. So that is what definitely happened to me. And I know a lot of people go through it and a lot of people don’t own up to that truth because it’s too harsh and it hurts.




Adi: [00:10:38] As far as the entrepreneurship, one of my first business ideas, and I think this is a reflection to the war and the poverty and things like that, was when I was seven years old. I actually wanted to figure out how to buy some sodas wholesale directly from a factory and then sell them at school retail and make some money so that entrepreneurship  spirit has always been part of me.


Adi: [00:11:04] I like the idea. It’s not about the title. I don’t care about titles. It’s not about books. I can say I’m a business owner. What really matters is contributing, contributing to the world, doing something better than others are doing. Fixing something, improving upon something. And then, of course, it’s about freedom. It’s about freedom and ownership, giving it your all.


Adi: [00:11:27] So when I was in college, I did a lot of things like ran a newspaper that I took it so far because it was about that ownership and empowering others and contributing and living out a mission. And then after that, I was very much involved in different things. So building a financial think . . . I think I got financial literacy running a nonprofit, and then all of that led to building my own consultancy and coaching business. And really I fell into it.


Adi: [00:11:56] I had this whole dream once having worked with UNICEF, I thought, you know, I’ll come to America, I’ll go to law school, I’ll run for office. That was my sort of a dream until I realized I had other skills, you know, between intuition and to communication skills, to business mastery, if you will. And I use those. And I realized, well, I can actually help people in a different way. And that’s when the coaching component came in.


Adi: [00:12:24] And it was a question of doing it on my own terms and doing it in my own way, because I believe that I have something unique to offer to the world and like many other things, that got a life of its own.


Hanna: [00:12:37] Well, that’s wonderful. That’s a way for you to share your gifts and your talents.




Hanna: [00:12:41] If you had to start your entrepreneurial journey over again today, what would you do differently? What do you know now that you wish that you knew?


Adi: [00:12:50] Then I would probably put less pressure on myself to do it right or to do it in a way that maybe others were doing it. I would focus even more on what is my unique value proposition and what is my unique voice and what is my unique contribution.


Adi: [00:13:10] You know, people talk about big, complex processes and setting up a business or a social and social enterprise, a nonprofit. But really what it’s about is what is it you’re trying to contribute to the world and the four ingredients of having a plan, having a marketing strategy, who is going to do the work for the people, and then the budget?


Adi: [00:13:33] I think I that fell victim to some of the over thinking and worrying and doubting as well as, of course, expecting an overnight success, you know, after a year’s time or six months, like many of us want. So it’s really kind of not being so hard on myself, recognizing that we build it and they will come and trusting the process. I think if I could go back, I would lean into that more because that would have probably saved some pain and some stress and definitely some of the gray hair. I probably wouldn’t have that.


Hanna: [00:14:12] Well, look at it this way. The gray hair just makes you look more distinguished. So it could be another asset.


Adi: [00:14:20] Exactly.


Hanna: [00:14:21] There you go. You’ve got to make the most of it.




Hanna: [00:14:24] What do you think the best business advice is that you’ve ever received?


Adi: [00:14:28] That’s a great question. I think. Wow, I’m literally, as you ask that, I go back to like so many of them. I think the best advice I received was to simplify. So it’s this idea. You know, I remember my mentor telling me whether it’s a dollar, a thousand dollars, a million dollars, it’s number one. It’s just one number and then a bunch of zeros afterwards.


Adi: [00:14:59] So if you move into complicating the process, complicating what it’s all about, you’re  going to get caught up in the minutia of it as opposed to looking at the essence of a business. And that’s one of the contributions.


Adi: [00:15:14] So when I worked with some organizations, they tend to have all the departments and acronyms and structures that make things a lot more difficult. So the bureaucracy essentially. And bureaucracy may sometimes make sense and other times makes people feel good because everyone’s contributing. It can also leave people isolated and leave people feeling like they’re not really contributing to the core of the business and so the best advice of simplifying helps to see, “OK, well, what are we really selling?”


Adi: [00:15:47] So here’s a marketing strategy. If we are selling something, how do we sell it and whom do we sell to? That is simple and direct. So you see, I mean, Apple is very well known for their marketing approach or their sales approach that is very clean. They don’t complicate the process. They don’t give you a million options to customize and things like that. And  I tend to resonate with that because that just made sense.


Adi: [00:16:17] And now, if you think of people trying to build, you know, have lines of products and I was talking to a client a few days ago and she’s so concerned with, well, should I do this, this, this, this and that, which one should I focus on? Should I have a big menu? I like don’t! Focus on what it is that you’re best at, sell that first and then expand if there is opportunity to do so.


Hanna: [00:16:41] Very good. Keep it simple. That’s always a good process. Always a good suggestion because it helps keep focus.


Adi: [00:16:48] Exactly.


Hanna: [00:16:49] Absolutely.




Hanna: [00:16:51] Now you’ve had an amazing journey here coming from the Balkans and getting established here, as I mentioned in the beginning. Now there are probably some people listening and certainly people in the United States who believe that the American Dream is dead and that the opportunities that might have been available in the 1950s or 60s aren’t there anymore, that there’s no chance for success. What advice do you have for those skeptics?


Adi: [00:17:20] Well, here’s the thing, I believe that change is the only constant, and so the opportunity, the nature of opportunity changes.


Adi: [00:17:29] So when people talk about, “oh, we want back certain good old times” or something like that, that’s foolish. And I mean, I come from a culture that very much lives in the history and its glory days. But that’s not . . . we have to innovate. We have to look for new opportunities. And it’s the same thing with the American Dream.


Adi: [00:17:47] What is the essence of the American Dream? It’s the opportunity to self-actualize, the opportunity to be who you are, speak your truth and have certain inalienable rights. Those rights of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, as cliche as they are, they still exist.


Adi: [00:18:05] It’s a question of how best, where to identify and where to find our own manifestation of those rights and those opportunities. So the American Dream is alive, however, in the context of what is happening in the United States. I’m concerned that there are different people who, like you said, skeptics who think the Dream is dead, whether by certain groups killing it or not being the same way that things used to be, or because someone else stole it, or any of those things. Whatever the reason, that’s not going to bring back the spirit of the American Dream.


Adi: [00:18:46] So I firmly believe that that spirit of opportunity still exists in the United States as well as other places. So the question is, can we identify that opportunity? Can we look to ways to work together? Can we innovate? Can we allow change to take place as opposed to resisting? At the moment we stop resisting change that’s where opportunities happen.


Adi: [00:19:10] So it’s one of those things, whatever we resist persists. If we resist change, our mind is not going to let us see opportunities. If you let go, if we say, OK, the American Dream is changing, it’s no longer the way it was in the 50s. What are the opportunities today? That is how we can we can identify what that means for us. And so when we look at  people actually innovating, building businesses, looking for opportunities; that still exists.


Adi: [00:19:41] And I think if we collectively embrace some of that spirit, as opposed to focusing so much on divisions and what was at some time and no longer is, I think we can . . . all of us would be much better off, if we can create and move forward and leave the world a better place.


Hanna: [00:19:59] Absolutely. Absolutely.




Hanna: [00:20:03] Now, I know that behind every successful business is at least one adviser, mentor, a business coach, or influencer of some kind. Who or what has influenced your business philosophy?


Adi: [00:20:16] I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by a number of different people who contributed to my life. And so I’d say that, you know, I’ve had a coach myself who has helped me for a long time, both in sort of an internal spiritual journey, personal journey, as well as with business. And actually that’s where some of the simplifying things comes from.


Adi: [00:20:41] I also I’m a big fan of, you know, people like Joseph Campbell and his work on Hero’s Journey, because I think we’re all on that journey. And if we embrace the spirit of that, it helps us overcome obstacles. Indeed, some of those obstacles make more sense when they happen, when we kind of see our life as such.


Adi: [00:21:00] And I think the big contribution to my desire or the big influence to my desire to contribute to the world is definitely my grandma. She raised me and she was sort of a light even after she passed away while I was still in Montenegro. Her spirit permeates to this day, including this desire to give to the world, to serve the world, whether through business ventures or by advising others, by coaching, by leadership training, writing books.


Adi: [00:21:29] All of those things come from the same place. And that is what you just said. How do we make the world a little bit better? A little bit more, just a little bit more prosperous for everyone. And she definitely lived that out and instilled that in me. So those are sort of more personal, emotionally driven ones.


Adi: [00:21:50] Of course, I’m a ferocious reader and I spent I mean, I’ve read so many business books and leadership books and management books that there’s a lot of influences. So it’s kind of a bit tough to say just this one person. But there’s a lot of people that I respect for different reasons, from Richard Branson to Steve Jobs, you know, to some more philosophical thinkers as well.


Hanna: [00:22:15] Wow. That covers a lot of ground. But I like what you said about the hero’s journey, and I think we’re all in our own way on our own unique hero’s journey and need to find the right opportunities to self-actualize. And fortunately, we can we can do that. And certainly hearing your story and the struggles as well as the successes, because you’re on your own hero’s journey, I think is very inspiring. So, Adi, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.


Adi: [00:22:49] Thank you for having me. And, you know, I encourage people. We are indeed all of us on our journey. I tell people, own it, take it, take it by the horns and run with it, because in the end, a lot of our lives we’ll look back. What will count is how much we showed up, how well we lived, how much we tried. We’re never going to say, oh, look, I tried that and it didn’t work. The only thing we’re going to regret are the things we didn’t try.


Adi: [00:23:14] So if your listeners are talking about building a business, starting a business, or even, you know, like your website says, keeping themselves out of court, any of those things starts with the willingness and the courage to embark upon that hero’s journey, individual hero’s journey. So thanks again for having me. Really appreciate it.


Hanna: [00:23:34] That’s our show for today. But don’t go anywhere. I have a really easy ask for you. Would you please open your podcast app and give us a five-star review and leave a comment about what you love most about the show? I do read them all and it’ll take you less than a minute. And while you’re at it, share this episode, tell someone about it, because the best way to grow our audience is by word of mouth. And if you want the detailed show notes, links to connect with my guest or stuff that we talked about, even if you want to ask a question, have a show idea. Come on over to


Hanna: [00:24:06] I’ll catch you on the next episode. And in the meantime, have a great day and even better tomorrow.

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Guest: Adi Redzic

Adi RedzicAdi Redzic is an award-winning life and executive coach, leadership trainer, entrepreneur, the founder of Think Change, and the author of two books, plus a motivational speaker. In 2020, he was named one of Chicago’s Top 20 Executive Coaches.

But his journey to the top didn’t start from a position of privilege or power. It began with a war-torn childhood in the Balkans during the Yugoslav wars that ravaged the region. It forced him to grow-up quickly.

He has learned powerful, impactful, time-tested techniques to change his own life and assist thousands of others in doing the same. For over a decade, Adi has helped individuals and organizations transform and grow, covering a wide-range of areas including personal and professional development, leadership and people management.

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