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As we turn the page to a new year, I want to reflect on and acknowledge some strong women who inspire those around them to take chances toward a more fulfilling life.

The first woman is someone many in the Sacramento business community already know. Stephanie Chandler, an entrepreneur, publisher, author and speaker, has long inspired me. I admired her gutsiness a decade ago when I wrote about how she had said goodbye to a Silicon Valley career to open a bookstore in Sacramento. She chose self employment and an unfamiliar city over safe and known. Over the years she has reinvented herself and believed in herself to successfully create not-so-obvious new opportunities for herself and the community, including the Sacramento Speakers Network.

We also can learn from Ruvi Bazaz, a friend and former co-worker who despite having just turned 25, knows exactly what she wants and is living her dream. A beautiful woman inside and out, she had the courage to leave her family and a good job in Northern California for the promise of Los Angeles. She gave herself six months to work at a full-time job while modeling on the side. Sure enough, after six months, she is supporting herself modeling while also pursuing her entrepreneurial and writing interests. She inspires others through her blog InspiringWordsforWomen.com.

The third woman — let’s call her Monica — offers a less expected kind of inspiration. A clear career path always remained elusive. But at age 50, Monica has found the determination to return to school for her master’s degree while working full time. Instead of dwelling on her age and the two-year college commitment, she embraces a future of new possibilities.

I used to pride myself on my consistency. But now I realize I’ve played it safe for too long. Throughout our country’s history, the leaders we admire and remember have had the courage to take risks. So for 2013, I challenge myself and you — stop playing it safe. No matter your age or circumstances, reach out and grab your dreams.

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