Sunday, July 30, 2006

Photos from NSA Convention - Orlando, FL

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Well, here they are. The first snapshot on the left is a courtesy of my friend Dov Friedmann, an internationally renowned photographer from New York. On the left is his mom (Susan Friedmann who is known as "The Tradeshow Coach"), myself (middle) and Stephen Shapiro, author of business best-seller Goal Free Living on the right. We were attending a black tie affair at the National Speakers Association convention. Had a great time!

Thanks to Lethia Owens who was so kind to take some digitial snapshots and offer to email them to me. From left to right is myself, Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest, and Jessica Cox on the far right (she does not have arms and is learning how to fly with her feet - imagine that!).
We were introduced to the crowd of 2,000 at the end of Howard's speech. He wanted to tell them about our aviation accomplishments and to let them know who we were as upcoming speakers in the business.

Thanks Howard! Posted by Picasa
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Times when you REALLY have to trust the pilot....

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Dan Poynter recently sent an email to some of his aviation friends in the speaking/writing business. I liked them so much, I went to and downloaded the photos. The photographer's name is on the bottom left corner of each photo, giving them full credit.

Imagine you're a pilot trying to make a landing on one of these strips!

Why don't you try this one with stiff crosswinds!
Or taking off in a Boeing 747 at an airport like this one in China....
Going to the Blue Lagoon? Be sure to bring your lifejacket! Posted by Picasa
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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Timing at the National Speakers Association Convention

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If you're wondering why you haven't received a post from "Adversity University" in the last few days, it's because I was away at the National Speakers Association (NSA) convention held in Orlando, FL the last five days. Pictures will be coming soon. Yes, I know, I know. I've got to get myself a laptop. Anyone have a spare?

The last time I attended an NSA convention was ten years ago in exactly the same hotel. It was there I met my future mentor, Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines. I was just getting my feet wet and learning all about the speaking business. There were thousands of people at that convention and it was quite overwhelming, even scary. I knew no one with the exception of some chapter members from New York City, where I was living at the time.

Meeting Howard in 1996 was like planting a seed. Similiar to what happened when I met Donna Moore (my aviation friend), neither of us knew why we met. But I knew something would come of it. When I meet people, I am very aware that I am meeting them for a reason, especially if the connection feels good. After the 1996 convention was over, Howard and I went separate ways. He went on to speak all over the world, earned prestigious speaking awards and got elected to the NSA board. Meanwhile, I did several professional speaking engagements before turning my focus exclusively to aviation. We kept in touch mainly by email.

After five years of flight training and becoming a private and commercial pilot in the process, I finally reached the summit in aviation by becoming the world's first deaf instrument pilot in February 2006. Because of that, Howard came roaring back into my life in a big way. This achievement inspired him to help get my story out to a special group of aviators at NSA. Never did I expect this to happen in any way form or shape. It took me completely by surprise.

From the moment I earned the rating, everything changed. It galvanized Howard to organize a platform from which I could re-ignite my speaking career. Interestingly enough, it took a full decade for all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.

To remind you of what it's like to fly in instrument conditions, see this video. You may need to download Google's free video software.

It was as if the universe said, "Okay, it's time to bring these two men back together and make waves in the speaking business." Notice the timing of it all. Our reunion this summer happened at exactly the same hotel where we met a decade ago. What are the odds of that happening?

At first glance, you may not think it's a big deal but consider this. The instrument rating event took place not last year, not two years down the road but this year. 2006 is the year NSA was holding its annual convention at the same hotel where Howard and I first shook hands. If you really think about it, it's almost symbolic. We've come a full circle as the saying goes.

The instrument rating came to me when the folks at American Winds Flight Academy felt I was ready. No amount of pushing or shoving would have made one iota of a difference. Without interfering, the universe unfolded everything at just the right time. It couldn't have happened at a better time!

This strongly supports my new friend and best-selling author Stephen Shapiro's philosophy of a goal-less life. Yes, you read that right. Contrary to popular belief, setting goals for yourself is actually counterproductive! He advises people not to let goals consume them to the point of obsession. Actually, Stephen (hey, that's my name too!) explains in his book that it's okay to have some goals but with a different twist. It's not about saying you will achieve such and such at such and such time but setting an intention about something. Then letting things unfold naturally and taking appropriate action based on your intutition.

I never said I would achieve it by 2006. I simply made a decision that I would somehow earn the rating and then let things flow after that. I did what I was called to do on the way by praying, taking action and keeping my eyes open for opportunities. How I got the instrument rating was by making a clear decision, planting a seed and then letting it go. Everything that was supposed to happen did so naturally. I recently wrote an article on how timing is everything in the last post.

Letting it go doesn't mean sitting around, hoping things will come your way. It means listening to your intuition, taking appropriate action and not forcing the dream to happen.

Stephen Shapiro wrote a business best-selling book called Goal Free Living. I highly recommend it. It's an excellent read. The book even has a "Goalaholic Quiz" for those of you out there who profess to be suckers for goal setting (I used to be one of them). Here's a teaser for you from the book:

1. Once I have set a goal, I will stay committed to achieving it even if my interest have changed.
2. I find myself saying that "I will be happy when......"
3. I am focused on, and living for, something I want in the future.

He has a total of 10 questions with a scoring pad for you to evaluate your answers. You might be surprised!

After months of speeches over the summer, I made my NSA debut last Saturday. This spawned more miraculous encounters. Every night in my hotel room, I prayed that I would meet the right people at the right time and that's exactly what happened.

As the convention progressed, I found myself networking with several top speakers, a young public relations executive from Southwest Airlines, a self-publishing guru, a couple of best-selling authors, a former CBS executive, a real estate multi-millionaire, a young armless girl who's learning to fly, the world's highest paid stuntman from Hollywood and a quadriplegic who just pulled in over $100,000 last month in speaking fees. Incredible what gifts the universe send your way when you are ready!

Not only did Howard create a debut platform for me but he also brought me up on stage in front of 2,000 people when he gave a speech himself later that evening. He told them that I was the first deaf pilot in the world to receive an instrument rating, creating instant creditability. Instead of just being another nameless face in the crowd, people started to recognize me.

Like Mrs. Jordan did for me over 35 years ago, Howard is another central character on the stage of my life that the universe put directly on my path at just the right time for all the right reasons. This is what the power of faith will do for you. When you make a decision and let go of the results, miracles occur. The impossible turns into the possible.

Food for thought: "When you 'make up your mind' about something, you set the universe into motion. forces beyond your ability to comprehend--far more subtle and complex then you could imagine -- are engaged in a process, the intricate dynamics of which you are only just now beginning to understand." Unknown Author
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Timing is Everything

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One of the things I've noticed is that timing is everything. My goals, dreams, desires have almost never happened on "my timeable" - they've fallen into place when I least expected them to. You've probably heard of the expression, "an idea whose time has come." Let that percolate in your brain for a moment or two.

The main reason my dreams have come to pass is because I've learned to trust that I am in the right place at the right time. Tip #9 in "20 Ways of Looking at Life From a Different Perspective," says we are "life's perpeptual trainee," always preparing us for what's to come.

Even though I very much wanted to leave my job at the bank because of Harry, I now know that dealing with him prepared me for future encounters with difficult people in all types of situations (aviation, business or personal).

Throughout my life, I've been repeatedly hit with the lesson of not comparing myself to others (Tip #18). Everyone achieves their hearts desires at different stages. Comparing yourself to those you admire is like comparing apples with oranges. It's impossible - you can't do it. Doesn't make sense to.

Take my desire to publish a book compared to others as an example. Even though I managed to land a prominent literary agent five years ago, every publisher we approached turned us down. Of course, I was disappointed and ended up shelving the book project. Fortunately I was aware of the "timing is everything" philosophy and turned my energy towards aviation, knowing that I would eventually come back to writing again.

Well, here I am, writing through this blog and picking up where I left off with my book project. I am now making yet another attempt, this time with more stories and more experiences to boot. In fact, my new editor just returned her revisions of the manuscript via email attachment a moment ago.

The point? If I criticize myself because I don't yet have a book compared to Joe Blow, it serves to negate the belief that I am exactly where I need to be right now. My life's path is not the same as his. Everything that is happening in my life is laying the foundation for my greater work to unfold. Joe Blow's destiny is different from mine so why compare? Instead of beating myself up because I don't measure up to Joe Blow's achievements, I now spend time congratulating myself for having come this far and for how much I've already accomplished. Try it on for size - you'll be surprised.

In the aviation arena, when I made a decision to go for the instrument rating and finally did it five years later, I understood why it took so long. The universe needed to get me properly prepared for that achievement - not only did I start with private pilot's license but also went on to obtain the commercial certificate as well. In addition, I took the opportunity to fly several cross country flights, fine tuning my piloting skills and building signficant logbook time in the process.

The biggest thing I want to impart with you is that when you truly make a decision, you really don't need to worry about the "how." When I decided to take up flying, I was not making any where near the kind of money I used to make on Wall Street. Therefore, I was faced with a financial dilemma. Since I didn't want to borrow or use my credit card, I felt there had to be another way.

There was.

Through a series of fortuitous circumstances, I was led to a very generous flight instructor who surprised me by offering to donate his instruction time. I still had to pay for the rental of the airplane but that was immediately solved when a position opened up at the very same airport. What's more, after I was hired, I discovered that I was eligible for substantial rental discounts. And then when flight training became progressively more expensive and I didn't have enough money to continue, a major speaking engagement would miraculously come my way. Never once did I have to put any of my flight lessons on a credit card - it was all paid for in hard cold cash!

Translation: When you are on purpose with your life, the universe will provide you exactly what you need to do your life's work. It's a matter of trusting the process.

Think about the possibilities that could open up for you if you pursued your heart's desires. This gives credence to the old but true saying that nothing is impossible. The universe will provide the right combination of people, circumstances, events to unfold at just the right time.

It's never failed me. Never.

Food for thought: Know you are in the right place at the right time in your journey. Be gentle on yourself and keep "buggering on!" (Winston Churchill's favorite quote).
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Harry The Bank Boss

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As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I promised I would share the story of what happened with the "bank boss" during the late eighties, early nineties. The story you're about to read was a time of tremendous adversity for me.

Every single person that appears on the stage of our lives has something to contribute, regardless of the outcome. They all take on the role of a teacher with a lesson plan or two.

David, the Bully, was one central character. If he hadn’t approached me on the playground that day, I wouldn’t have a unique story to share with my audiences. I would also not have known how much courage I really had to stand up for myself on that fateful day.

Harry is another such character. His name is fictitious to protect the innocent (or maybe not so innocent). Little did I know I was in for the ride of my life when I was transferred into his department.

It didn't take long to learn that this man had a reputation for publicly chewing out his subordinates over everything and anything that went wrong. Minor and major events were one and the same. Harry trusted no one and rarely promoted from within. His inner circle consisted of long-time cronies who were "yes-yes-yes-yes" people. Fear and intimidation often ruled the day -- no one challenged him.

Within a short period of time after my transfer, I faced each day with a sickly feeling in my stomach because I never knew what the day was going bring. Harry was like Jekyll and Hyde. One day he would be enraged and the next he'd do a complete turnabout, laughing, joking and having fun. We often knew first thing in the morning whether Harry would be in a bad mood. If he was, we joked amongst ourselves who would be the boss's "whipping boy"' that day. Yours truly certainly had his share of the whip.

At the time, Wall Street was undergoing massive restructuring due to the 1987 stock market crash where thousands were laid off. Job security was shaky at best. In fact, you were considered quite lucky if you had a job those days. This added uncertainty to an already pervasive work environment at the bank. Unfortunately, working for Harry only made things more a lot more challenging.

One day, I stumbled across Norman Vincent Peale's book, The Power of Positive Thinking. This gift of a book that seemed to come out of nowhere was exactly what I needed because one chapter, "New Thoughts Can Remake You" encouraged me to change my perception of the bank boss. In there was a powerful, yet simple idea:

To change your circumstances, first start thinking differently.

I took that sentence and ran with it as if my life depended on it. The moment I read it, I made a decision that I was going to change my attitude and perceive Harry in an entirely different light.

Every morning before going to work, I sat on my couch, closed my eyes and put the power of visualization to work for me. I imagined Harry as a frightened, insecure human being who might have ruled the office with an iron fist but was dramatically transformed into a loving, doting grandfather at home. In my mind's eye, he was seen romping around his backyard beaming and hugging his grandkids. I did this for months with dramatic results.

The reason I saw him in this way was because on the days when he was in a good mood, he would chatter incessantly about his grandchildren to everyone who would listen. As he was talking, his eyes -- often called the window to a person's soul -- gave us a rare glimpse beyond the Jeckyll and Hyde facade. His million dollar smile literally knocked off your socks if you were fortunate to be nearby. It was an atonishing sight to behold.

Once this grandfatherly image took root in my subconscious, I couldn't help but transcend the illusion of power he had over me. It put a positive spin on my attitude toward him because I no longer perceived him as a tyrant.

Although he certainly wasn't aware I was doing this, he did notice a different, more positive energy about me. Naturally, this made him curious. He took more of an interest in my abilities rather than focusing on my disabilities. Eventually I was treated as an ally rather than as someone to keep at an arm's length, dramatically transforming the nature of our boss-employee relationship. No longer did I feel sick in the mornings - in fact, I actually looked forward to work!

Almost a year later, Harry did the unimaginable.

He pulled me into his office on the day of our performance reviews and gave me the shock of my life with an announcement that he was promoting me to a senior staff position! I almost fell off my chair. Within hours, the entire division heard about it. Everyone knew a miracle had happened. So did I.

A few months later, I received an opportunity to work for Merrill Lynch. It was as if the universe was telling me, "good job, you learned a powerful lesson and now it's time to move on."

Food for thought: Even people who pushed our buttons and make our lives more challenging are teachers put on our path to help us learn our lessons. They should be remembered too.
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Monday, July 17, 2006

How to Deal With Difficult People

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Everyone has experienced a time when they had to deal with a difficult person. This is a form of adversity. Difficult people take different shapes whether they are argumentative, abusive, stubborn, angry, combative or a host of other negative emotions.

The question is, how can we deal with them?

In my view, angry people are screaming to be heard. They want to be valued, loved and listened to. They want to feel important but just don't know how to do it right.

Here's 7 things I do when in the presence of such a person:

1. Remain calm in the eye of the storm. Be still and say nothing. Let it run its course. Often times the angry person is trying to provoke you into a shouting match. It doesn't pay to argue because it raises barriers. Remember how I handled the barber situation?

2. Let the person do a great deal of the talking. He will soon tire of it. Sometimes that's all they want. To be heard. To feel important. Everyone wants to feel important. Some people just express it in ways that are counterproductive.

3. Genuinely see from the other person's point of view. Imagine yourself in his shoes. Never say "you're wrong." In fact, try hard to look for areas of agreement and expound on them.

4. There's power in the words "Yes, yes, I see exactly what you're saying. You mean......." This shows the other person you heard him. That's all they usually want - to be validated! By agreeing on some things, you are gradually breaking down the other person's anger or resistance.

5. If the situation turns verbally abusive, put a stop to it (with your palms extended upward as if you were a traffic policeman), and firmly but calmly state: "You're very angry right now and you're saying things you don't mean (give the benefit of the doubt) so I will excuse myself and we'll talk again after you calm down." Then leave the room or ask the person to leave.

6. If you are wrong, quickly admit it and take responsibility. You could say, "You're absolutely right, it is my fault and here is what I will do about it......."

Or even if you're convinced you're NOT wrong, at least give the benefit of the doubt, "I may be wrong, let's look at the facts together." No one would argue with that!

These words also have power - tremendous power. Not only does it validate the other person's viewpoint but it also diffuses the tension hanging in the air - it dissipates almost immediately and you can almost hear (or in my case see) a sigh of relief from the other person. They have been heard is what their brain is telling them. You might be surprised to see what happens after that. This person might do a sudden about-face and actually end up defending you!

They might have a change of heart and say: "Yes, you're at fault but it's no big deal, everyone makes mistakes." You could actually have a little fun watching the other person reverse course if you continue on with this dialogue. I've done it myself numerous times. It's almost addictive!

"I should have been more careful, I'm embarrassed to have done this. You've given me a lot of work and I'm grateful for it. In fact, I'm going to do this project all over again for you."

The other person, being human and having been heard (and validated) might protest, "No, No, I wouldn't put you through all that trouble." (If on the other hand that doesn't happen and he agrees with your assessment, well then do the next best thing and just do it.)

For the most part, you'd be amazed what was once a difficult person trying to pin the blame on you is suddenly an advocate of yours. Instead of arguing with the person, saying he was wrong and you were right, what's happened is you've changed what could have been an ugly event into one that turned out better than you envisioned! It is a most amazing feeling.

Your eagerness to show he was right and you were wrong would take the fight out of him. There is a lot of satisfaction, at least in my mind, to having the courage to admit that someone else was right in pointing out your errors. The person criticizing you is often primed for a big argument but when you surprise the other person by agreeing with some of his viewpoints, you sap his will to fight because there's nothing left for him to wield the sword!

7. If you're dealing with someone you deal with on a daily basis like a boss or co-worker who is constantly negative, combative, argumentative and the like, what I've done is to use the power of visualization. I imagine that person as a loving spiritual being having a human experience. I did this with a boss I had at the Wall Street bank several years ago. He was an absolute tyrant and gave everyone, including me, a hard time. In retrospect, he was clearly unhappy and insecure.

One day I had an idea (thanks to the book The Power of Positive Thinking) and started to visualize him as a loving grandfather because when he was a good mood (which you never knew would happen), he would lovingly talk about his grandchildren. His eyes and face would light up with incredible joy, leading me to realize there was a softhearted man behind the mean-looking facade. Every morning before going to work, I imagined him romping around in the backyard on a warm, breezy day with his grandkids squealing and laughing with delight. I did this for several months with amazing results.

Long story short, this man promoted me almost 1 year later. I will be writing a story about this experience in the future but what I want to emphasize is that this promotion was in no small part due to the power of visualization. No one can dispute that this works because I've lived to tell the story. I've used it win trips to Mexico and Bermuda (sales contests at Merrill Lynch), to forgive those who have hurt me, to become the world's first deaf instrument pilot and to give powerful presentations, to name a few. It's absolutely amazing.

Food for thought: Think about how you dealt with difficult people in the past. Were you tempted to prove them wrong, trying to save yourself face? Were you able to see through the facade and truly see that all they want is to be heard, loved and validated? Have you tried the power of visualization?
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Saturday, July 15, 2006

20 Ways of Looking at Life from a Different Perspective

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1. It's not what happens to you but how you perceive it that determines how you will deal with the situation.

2. Behind every difficult person you meet, there's a lesson to be learned.

3. Instead of saying, "Why is this happening to me, you say, "What can I learn from this?"

4. Trust that everything in life is temporary and that going through different cycles is part of the process. Translation: Life will get better if you just have enough faith to get through this one.

5. We all have a divine blueprint for our lives - there is a such a thing as destiny and it's up to us to discover what it is through our innermost passions.

6. The power of visualization cannot be ignored - it actually works! Don't say it doesn't work until you've tried it in earnest. Have you truly visualized yourself having or doing something?

7. God is your partner in life, let Him in and let him co-create things with you.

8. Without adversity or life's challenges, we would never know what we are truly made of. It is through the toughest times we learn what we're capable of doing; thereby becoming stronger and more confident in the process.

9. Everything you've experienced in life has been in preparation for what's to come later in life. In fact, you are "life's perpeptual trainee."

10. Learn to trust and pay attention to your intuition -- those "AHA" moments --- they are often right on the nose.

11. There are no accidents. Everyone you meet, everything that has come your way was not an some random fluke.

12. Plan on making a fool of yourself and not take life or yourself so seriously - even God has a sense of humor. (i.e. Tell him your plans!)

13. Go crazy and send handwritten thank you notes to those who have helped you. Gratitude and positive energy attracts success, abundance and more of what you're thankful for.

14. Be patient - you will be rewarded justly. Dont't bother seeking revenge - it isn't worth it.

15. Know that you are making a difference in small and large ways by just being who you are.

16. Refuse to compromise your integrity. People can see right through you and can detect whether you're genuine or not. If you truly care about your customers, friends, family or business associates, they'll stick with you through high and low because they know you care about them. In other words, they don't care what you know until they know you care about them.

17. Fear is misdirected energy and must be redirected into faith.

18. Refuse to compare your progress with others. It will only serve to destroy your confidence. Everyone is at different stages in their lives and if you understand that you're right where you're supposed to be, then it won't matter what others are doing. You are unique with special qualities, talents, skills and thought processes, etc. There is no one like you so how can you compare yourself to others?

19. If you haven't failed enough in life, you haven't risked much. Life without taking adventurous risks is downright dangerous.

20. Understand that you do matter - there is a purpose to your life - find out what it is and use your gifts to make a difference.

Food for thought: The list can go on but these are some of the impactful thoughts that have helped me through life's toughest moments. Can you come up with a list of your own thoughts?
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Million Dollar Boy and the Red Paper Clip Guy

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There's a saying floating around cyberspace that people will respond to a unique idea emotionally rather than logically and possibly cause a firestorm of media attention.

If I told you on one muggy summer's night in late August 2005, a young lad from a university in London was lying on his bed with a notepad, brainstorming ideas on how to pay for his education and came up with an idea that eventually brought him over $1 million from people around the world, would you believe me?

What if I told you a guy traded one very red paperclip for a nice house, would you call me crazy? After an hour or two of scribbling ideas on paper, Alex Tew of London would create internet history by becoming the first person in the world to sell a million pixels on his website as advertising space. Lo and behold, he became an internet sensation and attracted attention all over the world, garnering well over a million dollars because he acted on his intuition! Check out his website by going to the million dollar homepage. It's a fascinating and inspiring story.

Meanwhile, a guy named Kyle MacDonald of Canada got this idea of making a series of trades, starting with a red paper clip and ended up getting himself a nice house. Go to his blog.

What inspires me is if Alex and Kyle can come up with ingenious ideas and get themselves a million dollars and a house, well the sky's the limit, wouldn't you agree?

Food for thought: Entertaining the possibilities and acting on your intuition is the most valuable asset you'll ever have. Ever.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Trust in Being Brave - The Merrill Lynch Story

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Like I mentioned in a previous post, I spent a decade at a Wall Street bank in a variety of different positions, most of which I viewed as nothing more than a series of jobs to pay the bills. Yes, that's how I viewed my purpose on this planet at one time. It took a major awakening in the late 80's to snap out of this sleepy way of life.

Towards the end of ten years at this bank, I was itching to make another change and move on because I knew I was capable of doing much more than what I was doing at the time. I had no idea what I would do but I put myself in an open frame of mind and prepared to seize an opportunity when it came my way. There's a saying that when you are ready, it will come.

I didn’t have to wait long. The timing was right.

Someone I knew who happened to be vice president at Merrill Lynch told me they were looking for new stockbroker trainees. After telling me about career opportunities at the company, he asked if I would be interested in going to work for them as a future stockbroker. I immediately said I would. ("Plan to say yes to opportunities!")

An appointment was set for an interview with the branch vice president at the Fifth Avenue location (New York City) where they had an opening. It was scheduled on a cold, blustery day in February 1992.

I’ll never forget walking into his office. It looked like a Ritz Carlton penthouse suite complete with plush carpeting, expensive oil paintings, a king-sized maghoney desk and a complete living room set along with countless of sales awards. I didn't see a marbled bathroom in there but wouldn't have been surprised if there was one! The place was a statement of tremendous wealth and success.

The vice president was a young, successful sales manager who was dressed to the nines for success. I liked him the moment we met. He had an air of confidence that was refreshing. The man was articulate and laughed easily. But despite his friendly manner, I was intimidated. The lofty atmosphere was not something I was used to. My time at the bank was rather drab in comparison.

We talked for a grand total of twenty minutes after which he requested that I make an appointment with twelve of his stockbrokers, all of whom had offices of their own. That meant they were bringing in a healthy six or seven figures a year. The vice president also told me to write up a marketing proposal on how I would build my clientele if he were to hire me. He shook my hand firmly and wished me luck.

The more I thought about a new career as a stockbroker, the more passionate I became. Thoughts like “financial freedom,” “act as your own boss,” “earn what you put into it” got me excited.

I should mention that shortly after my introductory interview, I was struck down with a nasty cold that threatened to put me out of commission. However, because I had an overwhelming sense of passion about making this career change and trusted that life was about to get better and better, I forced myself to make those 12 appointments and went through with it.

What followed was an unbelievable series of even more obstacles during the interviews. Not only was I feeling crappy at the beginning, but each and every one of the interviewers said that being a stockbroker was "very tough." They invariably told me that 80 percent of newcomers failed within their first year and that there was a lot of rejection to content with. Some even had the gall to tell me I was better off in my nine-to-five job at the bank!

My stomach tightened with each passing interview but my overriding faith more than made up for it. I refused to let their comments derail me. Never before was I so determined to succeed with the task at hand!

By the time I went back to the branch manager two months later for the final interview, I was exhausted. But I walked into his office with my head up high and proudly handed him my marketing proposal that I worked so hard to put together.

His reaction to the proposal was disappointing. He hardly looked at it, tossing it aside. The vice president's face was frowning probably because he had other things on his mind.

He absentmindly picked up a paper clip and started to fumble with it, not saying anything for the longest time. The silence was literally deafening. It was obvious that the vice president was struggling mightily with a decision. Although the 12 interviews went well, he seemed unsure that I had what it took to be successful.

Suddenly, without warning, I was seized with an overpowering sense that this was "my moment." My skin felt prickly, a sure sign that my inner voice was telling me to do something.

It was now or never.

I instantly knew what I had to do. Did I have the guts to do it?

My heart yammered like crazy over what I was about to do.

Pointing my shaky finger at him, I mustered the courage to speak up and forever changed the course of my life: "Sir, if you don’t hire me, you’ll never know what I can do for this firm."

Then I did the hardest thing I ever had to do. I shut my mouth and waited.

The moment I spoke, it was as if everything was slow motion like in the movies. He stopped fumbling with the paperclip, looked at me with those piercing eyes and then shocked me with a smile - his first since walking in that morning. Then he threw the badly deformed paperclip into the wastepaper basket with a resounding clunk. Two points for him.

Taking a deep breath, he said, “Okay, you got the job.”

Enormously relieved, I was halfway out of my chair and was about to shake his hand but before I had a chance, the young vice president thrusted his finger in the air and said, “on one condition.”

Slowly sinking back into my chair I said, “What’s that?”

“You must resign from your job at the bank effective two weeks from today, come to us and we’ll train you for three months on a small salary. Then you'll have to take the securities examination. It’s 250 questions long." he said.

Lowering his voice slightly, he warned, "Mr. Hopson, if you fail by one point, YOU’RE OUT!” He made a larger than life gesture with his thumb like an empire calling an OUT in a baseball game.

Despite this shocking statement, it took all of 2 seconds to reply. “Ok, I’ll take it.”

I’ll never forget the look on my boss’s face at the bank the next morning when I handed in my resignation. He raised his bushy eyebrows and sarcastically said, "What's this?" Wall Street was undergoing a major shake-up at the time. The market had bottomed out and interest rates were soaring. On the surface, it appeared it was not the "right" time to make such a drastic career move but I did it anyway.

Two weeks later, I cut the cord at the bank and left. During the following three months of training at Merrill Lynch, I studied for the exam, acted as a “gofer” (for the established brokers) and kept my nose to the grindstone, doing the best I could.

Finally, it came time to take the securities exam in April of 1992. Taking the elevator up to the 4th floor of a beautiful gleaming glass building downtown, I followed signs to the testing room. After showing identification and signing in, I took a seat in the waiting area. From where I sat, I could see rows of computers and uncomfortable looking chairs through a window that served as a wall between the reception area and the testing room. There were a handful of other applicants in the waiting room with me. It reminded me of an open casting call in Hollywood. They all appeared like nervous out of work actors, biting their fingernails and shifting their feet. I did my best to ignore them.

The exam proctor led us to our assigned computers, gave us appropriate instructions and then told us to begin.

Two and a half hours later, I pressed the enter button on the keyboard. A colorful pop-up window came up, asking if I was done and whether I wanted to review my answers. No sense in second guessing myself so I clicked “Finish.”

A flashing message followed with: “Please wait while your scores are being tabulated.

My mind immediately flashed back to the day of the final interview with the vice president's ominous warning, "If you fail by one point, you’re out!”

I swallowed hard and waited and waited. After what seemed like hours, this showed up on the screen:

“Congratulations, you passed with a score of 83! Go to the front desk and retrieve a printout of your test results. Thank you and have a good day!”

From that point on, I never looked back. In my first year as a rookie stockbroker, I earned a paltry $16,000 - people on welfare was probably making more than me! Four years later, I was bringing in $300,000. Even CNN came to interview me.

If I hadn't acted on my intuition and boldly told the vice president, Sir, if you don’t hire me, you’ll never know what I can do for this firm, I might still be tolling away at the bank, desperately waiting for retirement to arrive. Who knows?

Food for thought: When you scrounge up the courage to be brave, you find out what you're truly capable of doing, garnering handsome rewards in the process.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Trust that Your Passions will be Supported by the Universe

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Several years ago, after spending time in quiet reflection and reviewing childhood playacting roles, I wrote down things I had a passion for when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had read some wonderful books that I found quite helpful including Carol Adrienne's The Purpose of Your Life.

It is said that passion can make your life richer in more ways than one. By recognizing what makes you happy and simply doing more if it, you can create a fulfilling and rewarding life for yourself. All kinds of people are transforming their passion into profits these days.

For the first ten years after graduation from college, I listened to other people’s "well meaning" advice instead of trusting my intuition. I ended up working at a bank in several clock-punching-nine-to-five positions, the majority of which I absolutely no passion for. I was bored to tears. After almost a decade there, I began to realize that I was capable of doing much better. I also had a feeling my destiny was something altogether different but I didn't know what.

So I set out to find my path.

That's when I eventually quit and became a Wall Street stockbroker. Five years after that, I had another revelation and quit Merrill Lynch to follow my dreams of becoming a motivational speaker and eventually pilot. Those were heady days, trust me. Scary too but well worth it.

Doesn’t it make sense that if you are doing what you love doing and getting paid for it, you’d be happier, more content? Millions of people are tired of going to work with a less than excited attitude these days. Why do you think they dread Monday mornings? Why do you think customer service is just horrid - are these people, by definition happy in their jobs?

Here's how I found my passion(s). I took out a piece of paper and wrote with wild abandon what I wanted to do with my life. I wrote anything that came to mind without worrying how ridiculous it sounded. I also wrote down my goals with the same zest. My mind was allowed to drift back to when I was a kid - I asked myself what things I did during "playtime activities" that made time fly by fast.

While I was doing this little exercise, my ego tried to interfere and plague me with doubts saying things like, “How will you accomplish this?” “You're crazy, you can’t afford to do this!” “How will you survive?" “You're not good enough." If you have a family to feed, you might get something like, "You've got a family of four mouths to feed, you'll just have to wait until they graduate from college before you do this!" If thoughts like these find their way through your mind, gently acknowledge them and set them aside. In other words, give them no power.

I vividly remember when I used to play "schoolteacher." As a youngster, I pretended I was a pipe smoking professor, teaching imaginary students for hours at a time in my tiny bedroom. Even though I didn't grow up to be a "professor," I am now a teacher of sorts as a professional speaker showing others how to turn adversity into a university of possibilities! (and while I don't smoke pipes, I do smoke cigars!)

Another childhood pasttime was imagining myself as a pilot, flying model airplanes over makeshift villages with little plastic houses and fences. Right around that time, I begged my mother to take me to the airport to watch planes take off and land until I was old enough to drive. When I turned 16, I often took her car to the airport and hung out all day by myself instead of going to the local mall with my friends. Then I took it one step further and drove out to the countryside where I could safely drive down the middle of the highway, pretending to take off and land. (Unfortunately, I ultimately paid the price with a couple of speeding tickets! Isn't that what the pundits mean by "paying the price"? Well, it was definitely worth retrospect, of course!)

See the connection there? Whatever you used to do as a child that you found fun and engaging is most likely what you're destined to do as an adult. The reason many people aren't doing what they're called to do is because they ended up repressing their dreams in the name of "being realistic."

Realistic according to who? Their parents? Their friends? Relatives? Society? They have a myraid of excuses saying, "You don't understand, I have to work at XYZ Corporation because I have to pay the bills even though I hate my job." No, life is not about paying the bills. It's about living your life's purpose and all it takes is a little time to find out what it is.

Only you know what you’re good at. Others might have some kind of idea where your talents lay but that’s only their opinion. You’re the only one who can decide what talents you have and how you will apply them. The universe will guide you if you pay attention to "coincidences" and "synchronicities" which hint at what action you should take.

Based on my life's experiences, I've found that the universe eventually provided me with the “how.” That's how I was able to earn the instrument rating for the first time in aviation history this past February. When I first started flying in 2000, I distinctly remember seeing FAA regulations where it spelled out, in black and white, the two way radio requirements for the instrument rating. By definition, that excluded the deaf pilot population; yet, I affirmed that I was going to find a way around it somehow. What happened was I made a decision that I would achieve it even though it looked impossible at the time. I'm very fond of a quote by an unknown author:

When you "make up your mind" about something, you set the universe into motion. Forces beyond your ability to comprehend--far more subtle and complex than you could imagine--are engaged in a process, the intricate dynamics of which you are only just now beginning to understand.

You see, I hadn’t yet met Donna Moore who eventually introduced me to Denise and Mike of American Winds Flight Academy. I hadn’t heard from the FAA that it was indeed possible for a deaf pilot to fly in instrument conditions (i.e. flying in "bad weather"). If you want to see what it's like to fly in actual instrument conditions, go here and watch the 43-second video. Be sure to turn up the volume on your computer speakers. You may need to download Google's free video program in order to watch it. It's really cool!

All of that was to take place in the future - 5 years after I made the decision!

Food for thought: Cultivating and nuturing your passion(s) will take you places beyond your wildest dreams. Trust that your efforts are being supported by the universe once you make a decision. Also trust that life is very generous to those who follow their passions.
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Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Power of Intention

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If you've been with me since the inception of "Adversity University," you are witnessing an evolvement of sorts. One of my greatest passions (Have a passion) is writing not only personal stories but also about my spiritual experiences. I've experienced the power of intention, taken risks, had faith in the outcome and perceived people, places and circumstances in a different light. All of this will become subjects of future articles in this blog so be on the lookout for them.

Whether or not we realize it, many of these topics are closely aligned with how we grow as spiritual beings having a human experience. When we learn how to harness universal principles, we are better able to deal with adversity that comes our way. We are in effect reprogramming our minds to think outside the box and creating the life we envision for ourselves. Some examples include my achievements in aviation, Wall Street as well as in professional speaking.

Today I wish to share with you an email I got from someone who I've been corresponding with over the last few years but have not yet met. Her name is Kathyrn Troutman, who specializes in creating powerful resumes for federal government employees and applicants. She is known as the "Federal Career Coach." Here's a synoposis of what she wrote to me:

That's how I started. One workshop at the Justice Dept. on Federal Resume Writing. WE thought 30 people would come to the Great Hall of Justice for a noon-hour "brown bag lunch". 650 people came! That was the day my government training career began.

The reason this happened so easily and effortlessly for her is because she didn't have any attachment to the outcome. Kathryn simply submitted a proposal, it was eventually accepted and then she went with the intention of providing for the highest good of all and look at the turn out! It was that simple!

That's what I intend to have happen with the number of subscribers I am aiming for (200,000) within the next 12 months. I'm not "hoping" or "wishing" for it to happen. I am "intending" for this to be reality. There's a big difference. Stay tuned......and watch the number of subscribers rise in that little orange Feedblitz box on the right.

I used to be one of those people who would put a "disclaimer" on my dreams saying things like "Well, I hope it will happen." When someone makes a firm decision, it's amazing how the universe just lines things up for you because making a decision as opposed to be "muddy" with your line of thinking clears the way for things to come your way. I'm starting to do this with my financial affairs and for the first time in my life, I actually feel like I am well on my way to becoming truly financially independent - it's no joke. I will be writing about that too.

Consider this. I was browsing through a great "Personal Development for Smart People" blog the other day when I stumbled onto some writings by Steve Pavlina about the power of intention. Something just clicked in me and I feel like a changed person. It's strange, I can't explain it but I really felt an internal shift take place. All I know is when I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, I was looking at myself in the mirror and suddenly saw the image of a millionaire. That has never happened before. It's quite amazing, really. Stay tuned for that as well......

Food for thought: Think about the last time you made a firm declaration or decision and how ideas or opportunities flowed to you after that. Have you ever experienced this? That is the power of intention at work in your life!
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Friday, July 07, 2006

Leeza Show

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My all time favorite story I get to tell over and over again in my speaking engagements is the power of 3 words that was uttered by my fifth grade teacher many, many years ago. I never forgot it.

About 8 years ago, I was in my New York City apartment one Saturday morning and was thinking about all the people in my life who had made a difference. There were many but my fifth grade teacher's face swam into focus. The image of her powerful smile was crystal clear.

As soon as I saw her in my mind's eye, my attention immediately focused on a way to thank her. I got quiet and reflected on this. A few moments later an idea was born.

Why not thank her on a national talk show? What could be better than that?

The idea was so strong, so powerful and what's more, it felt right. After firing off a letter to six national talk shows, I kept it to myself and waited. Ideas should be allowed to percolate and develop in secret before they are shared with the rest of the world. There is a time and place for everything so I prayed that if it was meant to be, then Mrs. Jordan would be presented with a big surprise at just the right time.

Within two weeks I was atonished to hear back from The View and Leeza (no longer on the air today) and The Gayle King Show (King is Oprah's best friend - her show is also no longer on the air). From that moment on, everything was a dizzying blur.

Of the three shows, the producers of Leeza were quicker to make arrangements while those at The View and The Gayle King Show dragged their feet. My intuition told me to go with Leeza and not wait for the others to make up their minds.

Mrs. Jordan was one of those teachers who never missed a day of class and didn’t want to go to California to accept a "teaching excellence award." Good heavens, her fifth grade students were far more important than some frivolous award!

She was so stubborn that the Leeza producers were forced to enlist the help of her husband, her daughter and even the school principal to convince her to appear on the show. Thanks to their herculean efforts, they were finally able to cajole her into taking a few days off without revealing the real reasons for going.

So far so good.

Less than a week later, she and her daughter boarded a flight to Hollywood while I boarded a different plane out of JFK, several hundred miles away.

When I arrived at the hotel in California, I was shocked to learn that they were staying in a room only one floor above me! Since the taping wasn't scheduled until the next morning and while I wanted to avoid bumping into them, I didn't exactly relish the idea of being cooped up in my room and ordering room service. So I came up with a plan.

In the mood for a little local sightseeing, I put on a pair of dark sunglasses, my favorite baseball cap and then peeked out into the hallway before making a mad dash for the stairways. Yes, I know. I know. Watched too many spy movies. Still I can dream a little can't I?

On the morning of the taping, the hotel security staff came up to my room and escorted me to the service elevator for a ride down down to first floor where a presidential-like limousine was waiting for me behind the hotel.

Forty-five minutes later, the fifth grade teacher and her daughter went through the hotel lobby out to the front where a bell hop was standing at the door of another black limousine.

Talk shows sure know how to treat their guests!

Upon arriving at the Paramount lot, I was led to the "green room," where guests waiting to go on the show sipped tea, coffee or even booze (if they were desperate enough for one). I opted for plain water, my mouth was parched.

While waiting, a very frazzled producer stopped by and quickly requested that I make a short 10-second statement on tape to be played later. I said something like "Mrs. Jordan, you made a very big difference in my life I am here to thank you for it." She snatched the tape and disappeared like there was no tomorrow. I was alone again.

Looking around the room, I was mesmerized by all the photos on the red walls of famous people who were previously on the Leeza show. I was jostled out of my reverie when the door suddenly burst open and the same producer was back.

Mouthing the words, she said, "It's time. Follow me please." I felt a lurch in my stomach. Here we go. The producer hurriedly led me to the studio where Leeza and the studio audience were waiting for me.

After personally introducing herself to me (Leeza was very warm and articulate, instantly putting me at ease), the red dome lights on all the cameras were blinking, which meant they were now taping.

Sitting next to me, Leeza started off the show by asking me what it was Mrs. Jordan did for me over 30 years ago. I related the story about how 3 words, “THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN” was such a powerful moment and how it forever changed my life.

Pointing to cheap double doors behind me, Leeza said, "Stephen, why don’t you step over to the other side and hide behind those doors? When it’s time for you to come out and surprise Mrs. Jordan, a technician will signal you."

On my way to the hiding place, I stretched my arms out and said, “I hope she recognizes me!”

Once hidden from view, Leeza called out to the teacher, “Okay, come out Mrs. Jordan.”

A camera on the floor with rollers was positioned by the entrance to the studio so that viewers watching television could see the apprehensive teacher make her way in from a different, albeit lower angle. Leeza guided Mrs. Jordan to her seat and gave her a few seconds to get comfortable.

“Do you know why you’re here today, Mrs. Jordan?” Leeza inquired.

“No” she said apprehensively.

“Well, it's a good thing. It's a very good thing. Someone wrote to us and said that you are to be honored for making a very big difference in this person’s life. We’re going to play a tape to see if you recognize this person’s voice.”

“Okay,” said the now quivering teacher. She went to pull out a Kleenex, almost knocking the box off the table.

While all of this was going on, I was watching everything through a closed-circuit monitor on the floor. When I first saw her walk in, I almost let out a yelp. She looked exactly the same and not a day older. I recognized her immediately. Goose bumps spread like wildfire all over my body.

Leeza nodded to some invisible technician to play the recording.

The main camera zoomed in closer to Mrs. Jordan. An instant flash of recognition spread across her face, causing tears to well up.

“Mrs. Jordan, do you know who that was?” Leeza asked gently.


“Well, who was it?”

Stifling a sniffle, she said, “Stephen Hopson

My hand flew to my mouth. After all these years, my favorite teacher still remembered me!

Leeza nodded yet again to the invisible technician who suddenly materialized next to me. It was time to go out and greet my former teacher for the first time in 30 years.

Taking a deep breath, I gave the fragile stage door a powerful shove and swung it open, slammed my right foot forward and opened my arms far and wide, inviting her to come and hug me.

The teacher made her way to where I was standing and hugged me tightly. We didn't want to let each other go. Putting my left arm around her, I made a sweeping motion with my right hand over the audience and whispered, “All this for you.”

There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

We made our way to our seats and she pulled out another Kleenex, this time knocking the box to the floor.


“Mrs. Jordan, you remember Stephen extremely well?”

Dabbing her eyes, she nodded.

“What do you remember about Stephen?” (pictures of me as a child with my dog played in the background)

Glancing upward to gather her thoughts, she said, “Well, he was smart, well behaved and a hard worker.”

Leeza turned to me and said, “Stephen would you like to say a few words?”

I grabbed the former teacher's hand, positioned myself so that we were looking at each other in the eye and said, “Mrs. Jordan, you made a very big difference in my life 30 years ago. You took me under your wing and believed in me. You said "THAT'S RIGHT STEPHEN" and that forever changed my life. You’re here on the show today because I wanted to thank you for that.”

She reached for the Kleenex box again, with Leeza standing nearby - just in case.

Sobbing, Mrs. Jordan said, “Thank you Stephen, thank you.”

Click here for some photos of us posing after the show was over.

Food for thought: You don't necessarily have to thank someone on a national talk show but is there someone who really turned your life around and you want to remember and thank that person this week?
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

How Southwest Remembers People

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For those of you in the United States, Happy Fourth of July! If you're an international subscriber, please celebrate with us in spirit!

The last part of the HEAR Principle is something Colleen Barrett, president of Southwest, is famous for. According to the book NUTS! by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg, Colleen is fanatical about remembering those who helped make it possible for Southwest to enjoy stupendous success.

She does this by sending birthday cards to all the members of the Texas legislature. Through a special network in place at Southwest, Colleen is notified of noteworthy circumstances affecting one or many of the thousands of employees upon which a personalized note or gift is sent, often surprising the receipient.

On top of that, Southwest sends 75,000 greeting cards a year to customers, employees and friends to recognize their birthdays, anniversaries, losses, new babies and other significant events. Imagine that!

Do you think sending 75,000 cards a year is overkill? I don't.

Southwest knows something you and I already know through the application of the HEAR Principle. When we remember those who helped us along the way, not only are we giving them recognition for what they did but we are also reminding ourselves that we are not alone. That we cannot exist in a vacuum. Successful people and organizations cannot slosh their way through adversity without some kind of assistance. It's impossible!

When people are recognized by you or your company, it makes them want to be there for you again becuase it was brought to their attention that they really do matter. Even if they thought they didn't "do anything much" to help you - simply by remembering and recognizing them, you are bringing the light of recognition into their lives. You'll recall a post I wrote in so many words how people "crave recognition." It's so true.

They feel their efforts in helping you was worth their time and as a result, feel inspired to lift you to even greater heights all becuase you chose to take a few minutes of your time to remember them in some way form or shape.

There you have it. If Southwest can unknowingly apply each and every part of the HEAR Principle, so can you. Why not give it a try?

In the very near future, I will be posting a "call for stories" from you out there to share with me your experiences in overcoming adversity. Be on the lookout for it!

Food for thought: Is there anyone you'd like to remember for helping you through major turning points in your life? Give it some thought - you'd be surprised at the number of names that pop up!
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