I'm sure you're familiar with the word 'no'. Or maybe more passive versions of 'no' that come in the form of phrases like 'I don't know about that,' 'Hopefully that'll work' or 'Good luck with that'. I'm sure you've seen one too many glazed-over looks as you explained your plans for the future.

This is for anyone who has felt their hopes be crushed little by little by the restricted minds of the people around them.

About a year ago, my aunt, uncle, and cousins embarked on a five month trip around the world. They abandoned their jobs and schools to visit children in Asian, African and South American countries who have so much less than us. They got some puzzled looks when they shared the calling they felt on their lives, but one year later they are changed and full of stories that will vastly change the way you look at the world.

Which brings us to today, when my 17-year-old cousin, Shayla, sent out book proposals to potential book publishers. Let me re-state that. She's in the process of writing a book. At 17 years old! That's a process that many people wouldn't even give a second thought. But my cousin, who has inspired me in more ways than one, is a living, breathing example that even the most scary, impossible dreams are within closer reach than you think.

Time and time again, I've heard other people's success stories and told myself that those achievements, of course, are possible for someone but are not probable for me. What a terrible lie to tell myself. You are capable of achieving so much more than you think and so am I. We miss too many opportunities because of the fear of failure, and that needs to stop today. If you count yourself out from the beginning, how will you ever know what you are capable of?

I cannot beg you enough to continue to pursue the things that seem the farthest out of your reach. The most important lesson that I've learned in the past year is that the biggest thing holding us back from achieving our hopes and dreams is when we've convinced ourselves that they are impossible. I promise you, they are not.