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Unhustle for Leadership

Finding Courage and Following Your Dream Can Be Easier Than You Think

Milena Regos

In a world obsessed with busyness and chasing success at all costs, we end up burnt out, stressed out, and lonely. At Unhustle, my vision is to shift this paradigm. It’s about finding the sweet spot between doing and real living, embracing a lifestyle that balances life enjoyment with purposeful achievement. This is the future I’m creating with Unhustle—a sustainable, prosperous future for ourselves, our families, communities, teams, companies, and the planet.

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Hi! I'm Milena Regos, the Human behind Unhustle®.



Reading Time: 5 minutes

My immigration journey to America and how $3 dollar slice of pizza changed my life.

On Jan 2, 1996, I found myself in New York City J.F. Kennedy International Airport. This was the beginning of my journey from Bulgaria to the US. I had visited family friends in Philadelphia for 3 days and celebrated New Year’s with them. I was finally getting over the worst (and my first) jet lag. I was alone. I was homesick. I was scared.

My Journey to the U.S.

A few days earlier, I had landed at the same airport all alone with two bags of clothes. I had come to the US to pursue the American Dream and create a better life for myself. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to achieve in the US. I dreamt of a life of financial independence, freedom, and opportunities. I knew what my life in Bulgaria looked like. I had no idea what life in America can be but my eyes were wide open.

My Life Back in Bulgaria

I left a lot of good things back home. I had graduated from the American University in Bulgaria in their first class. This meant that I was in high demand in the work market. The largest advertising agency in Bulgaria recruited me to work for them. My clients included Marlboro, Jonnie Walker, Stella Artois, and Pepsi. Bulgaria had been open for business. Foreign companies were establishing themselves as market leaders in a frenzy. They needed young, skilled, English speaking people. I was one of these people. I made a lot of money. I had great friends. I had plenty of job offers. So why did I leave? I was curious. I wanted to see what else was out of there. I wanted to travel, something I hadn’t been able to do. I wanted a more stable political climate. I wanted to explore my options. Worst-case scenario, I thought, I can go back.

Being Curious

I applied to MBA programs in the United States. I was accepted in prestigious schools like Harvard and Yale. Their acceptance letters came with a certain price tag that landed them in the garbage bin. My parents requested one thing from me: that I choose a city where they know someone. This left me with only two cities in the US: Philadelphia and San Diego. I opted for San Diego (hello beach and palm trees). I enrolled in a Master’s Degree in International Marketing at Alliant University – a small, private school. My parents sold a house they owned in Sofia and gave me the money from it – all of $11,431. This was the state of the economy in post-communist Bulgaria after the Berlin wall had come down. Money was scarce. Food was even scarcer.

This is how I ended up the airport in New York City. I sat by the gate. I didn’t want to miss my plane to San Diego. I sat there and waited for my plane. I had 12 hours to kill. I was all-alone with my thoughts. There were no smartphones back then.

Being Hungry

I was starving. I was still jet-lagged and the hard-boiled egg from the morning was wearing off. It was only 1 pm and I had 12 more hours to go before I catch the red-eye flight to California. My stomach grumbled.

I decided to leave the safety bubble the gate provided me with and go for a walk around the airport. The smell of pizza attracted me to a pizza parlor where the smell of freshly baked pizza slices made my mouth water. Before I ask for one, I looked at the price. $3 for a slice! I quickly converted this into my head. It equated to almost a day’s salary back home. I slowly put away my wallet. I smiled at the vendor, thanked him for his time and walked away. I couldn’t validate spending that amount of money on a slice of pizza when I knew my parents would live on the same amount of money for a week.

My Dream was Born

On the way back to the gate, I passed by a bookstore. I can kill some time here, I decided. I glanced at the shiny magazines and I saw something that made me pause. It was a large deep blue lake with snow-capped mountains in Ski Magazine. The cover read: “California the Spring Skiing Capital in the US”. It was a story about Lake Tahoe and its downhill and cross-country ski resorts. Wait, what? There are mountains and skiing in California? I had done some research about San Diego but not about the entire state. Research pre Internet days was not as easy. My heart beat fast. My entire life I’ve been close to skiing and the mountains. In my childhood, I raced. Later, I became a ski instructor. My decision to go to San Diego had come with the realization that my ski days are over. Until this moment. I sat there and stared at the cover for a few minutes. Then, I pulled my wallet and paid the $3 to the cashier. I went back to my gate and quickly read the feature story on Lake Tahoe. I read it again, and again, and again. I looked at the pictures and imagined visiting there one day. One day, I said to myself, I”ll ski there. My first American dream was born.

Making My Dream A Reality

A year later, while going through my MBA in San Diego, I worked as an IT assistant. I spent time in the computer lab, helping other students with their homework. In my free time, I searched for a job online. A short job listing from Sacramento Bee caught my attention. It read: “If you love the mountains and you have a knack for marketing, this job is for you”. It was a small media agency in Lake Tahoe. I ended up working there for 5 years, starting their Internet division during the dot com boom. On weekends, I worked as a ski instructor at Northstar. 22 years later, I still call Lake Tahoe home. I even spent a decade as the marketing director for a ski resort, checking off another big dream of mine. I founded my award-winning marketing agency in Lake Tahoe. I lead the Unhustle Movement from Lake Tahoe. And I’m still in awe with the snow-capped mountains and the big blue lake each day.

Your Time to Dream

No dream is too big. No dream is impossible. Plant a seed now. Go after your dreams. It takes courage. It takes planning, gumption, determination. Sometimes a chance or an opportunity may bring you closer to your dream. Being open to that change is the first step in accomplishing your dream. Being aware of what you want brings you closer to designing an authentic and happy life.

If it wasn’t for me walking away from this $3 slice of pizza, I may have not discovered Lake Tahoe. My life would have looked different. Designing a life based on your dreams and your values is what life is about.

I no longer eat pizza. I’m no longer starving. I have accomplished everything I wanted from that day back at the airport. I think back to that day often. It makes me stay hungry. It makes me humble. It makes me curious. And it keeps me dreaming big.

Your turn. What is your dream? What keeps you up at night?

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