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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