Thursday, August 31, 2006

Part III - Trust That There are Bigger Plans in Store for You - CNN Story

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Eleven years ago a young lady named Heather Whitestone became the first woman with a disability to win the prestigious 1995 Miss America crown. She was deaf.

During her reign, she became known as a tireless supporter of the deaf and hard of hearing community. That inspired Merrill Lynch (ML) to honor her at a lavish luncheon where the World Trade Center used to be. You will recall that I was a successful ML stockbroker during the early nineties.

My intention was none other than to enjoy myself for a few hours, stuff myself with free food and perhaps schmooze with Miss America. When I walked in, I was surprised to see that just about every major media organization was on hand, including CNN.

After everyone found their table, they announced that Miss America had "finally arrived." As if on cue, she waltzed in from the back of the room, wearing a bright red designer dress complete with a white collar and waved like the Queen of England.

Following in her footsteps were two grim-looking "handlers" from the Miss America organization. They appeared uptight, probably worried that if anything went wrong, the entire world would know about it in a split-second. Everything, including how she made her grand entrance, was planned in excruciating detail.

After lunch, the executive vice president of ML introduced Heather and then she got up and spoke for about 30 minutes. She concluded by opening the floor for questions.

Looking around the room, I could see no one wanted to be the first to ask.

Feeling embarrassed for her, I felt an invisible nudge. Similar what happened four years earlier at the Merrill Lynch interview, I received an overwhelming impression to do something.

Like a reluctant schoolboy, I raised my hand, not exactly knowing what the question would be. I felt silly. She quickly picked me, visibly relieved that somebody finally decided to ask her something....ANYTHING!

Not expecting her to call on me so quickly, I stammered, hemmed and hawed and then the most meaningless question came tumbling out.

“How does it feel to be Miss America?” I said, feeling rather ridiculous.

I remember thinking, "Why couldn't you come up with something better than that?"

Well, apparently God had plans for me, that’s why.

Unbeknownst to me, the simple act of raising my hand set in motion a chain of events I could never have orchestrated entirely on my own.

A week later, my manager called me into his office. He was smiling.

Slapping his hand on the desk, he said excitedly, "Guess what Stephen?"


"I just got off the phone with CNN. They want to interview you tomorrow. Congratulations!"

"Whaaaat? How did they know about me?" I said, shocked.

"I think it was from that Miss America luncheon a couple weeks ago. You were there. Someone from CNN heard you speak or something, I'm not sure."

What happened, I later learned, was that I had attracted the attention of one of the CNN producers at the luncheon. While I was hemming and hawing, he was overheard to say to his assistant, "Who's that guy? We've got to interview him."

There I was, standing at the door of my manager's office, with grandiose visions of the phone ringing off the hook and prospects lining up to do business with me.

Vigorously rubbing my two hands together, I thought to myself, "Oh Lordy, this is going to be good - really, really good."

They came in the following morning with an entourage including the cameraman, lighting assistants and the producer. My office was transformed into a mini-movie set. After applying make-up on my face, setting up equipment and coaching me and a couple of my clients (who were also there for the interview), we were off to the races.

Two hours later, they wrapped up by informing us that it would air on national television later that weekend. I could hardly wait!

Either CNN executives liked the segment so much or there wasn't anything happening in the news, because they ended up running the interview continuously over four days. I thought for sure the whole nation was going to be banging on my door now.

It never happened.

While a few of my friends did catch me on TV, the phone did not want to give me the satisfaction. In fact, I received only one call from a prospect.


It was from a wealthy woman from Seattle. She had just seen me on CNN and wanted to me to be her investment advisor.

After weeks of going back and forth via fax and special telephone calls, she flew to New York to have dinner with me. We met at an exclusive french restaurant where I wined and dined her like there was no tomorrow. No expense was spared - she could have anything she wanted.

"Would you like the best wine?" Oh yes, she sure did.

"Would you like to try the chef's special dish?" But of course!

It didn't matter that the bill would come to a staggering $300, I was going to snatch my biggest client ever!

Towards the end of the three hour meal, I made an attempt to close the deal, but was in for another shock.

Much to my disbelief, the lady had me completely snookered. She was in no position to open an investment account because she was not even remotely wealthy! Why she flew across America to meet me, I'll never know.

Boy, was I crushed!

But once again, God smiled (more like laughed) because He had other plans in store for me.

(No, please God, nooooooooooo more jokes! I've had it up to here with your sick humor!)

One day, a package came in the interoffice mail from the PR Department. Inside the box contained the answer to why everything happened the way it did.

I don't know about you but I love getting packages in the mail. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I ripped it open to find two videotapes with my name on it. One was an unedited version of the luncheon, which was nice, but it was the other one that I clearly prized the most.

It was a copy of the nationally televised interview. Someone from CNN was thoughtful enough to send one to us. What I didn't know at the time was that snippets of this tape would eventually be used as valuable promotional tools for my new speaking career that wouldn't happen for another two years.

See how everything is orchestrated so perfectly by the universe? Amazing, wouldn't you agree?

Food for Thought: God indeed has bigger plans for you even if things do not turn out the way you think they should.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Part II - Trust that Bigger Things are in Store for You -- Driver's License

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Getting around New York City was really easy. Back in those days (1982-1998), I had a choice between taking the subway or a cab, riding my bike or as I often did, used my feet to get around town.

It was during the early eighties that I somehow lost my driver's license. I assumed that when the expiration date drew near, the Department of Motor Vehicles would automatically send me a renewal form. Had I bothered to investigate, I would have discovered that it was my responsibility, not theirs, to submit the necessary renewal forms in a timely manner.

But what did I care? After all, I reasoned, why have a car in New York when it was virtually impossible to find a parking spot and on the lucky few times when you did find one, an enterprising traffic cop would almost always cite you for some ridiculous parking violation? Didn't they have anything more important to do, like catching hardened criminals or something?

What I didn't know was that if your license was not renewed within a certain time frame, the law required that you go through the whole process of re-applying for a new one all over again. That meant getting your eyes checked, taking several weeks of driver's ed followed by a written multiple choice test and then a road exam. All of this would take weeks, if not months.

One day, I felt a strong urge to get my affairs in order, including getting a new driver's license. On the face of it, there was no reason to do it. Several more weeks passed without taking any action until the urge became so strong, that I could no longer ignore it.

With great reluctance, I signed up for drivers ed during the winter of 1996-1997. After I took all of the required classes and passed the written exam, a road test was scheduled for January 1997. A week after the appointment was made, a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles came in the mail with instructions to meet the examiner in Brooklyn, NY on a specific date and time.

When I got there, there was a small group would-be drivers shivering in the cold, waiting for the examiner to show up. They were mostly high school boys and girls who had just turned sixteen. I was probably one of oldest people in my thirties there that day.

After what seemed like hours, I spied a small black four-door Nissan with “Department of Motor Vehicles” emblazoned on the side, making its way over.

“Oh God, I hope I go first, I’m freezing,” I said to no one in particular.

The examiner took forever in gathering her papers, made what was probably an unnecessary phone call and sloshed her way through the wet snow to where we all were standing. She took roll call, fast reading off a litany of names, making her speech somewhat unintelligible, even for an expert lip-reader like myself.

I inched a little closer, furrowed my eyebrows and zeroed in on her thick lips, hoping to catch my name tumbling out of her mouth. Instead, I found myself wondering if she recently had her lips injected with collagen! I shook my head vigorously and forced myself to focus a little harder.

Finally, she blurted out something that vaguely looked familiar to me. "Hopson, where is Mr. Hopson?"

My hand shot up in reflex, albeit a little too quickly.

"Here," I replied. Had Ivan Petrovich Pavolv, the famous Russian scientist from the 1800's, been with me that day, he would probably have rewarded me with a large biscuit or something.

As soon as the examiner was done with taking attendance, I immediately approached her to make her aware of my situation (the incident with the James Bond lady from the bar in Soho was still fresh in my mind).

"I just want to make you aware that I'm deaf and that I lip-read. Okay? "

She nodded and then gave me a fake smile.

"How reassuring," I thought. "At least we're not driving to some swanky hotel today," I mumbled under my breath.

The examiner's eyebrows shot up, "I beg your pardon?"

Surprised that she overheard me, I said, "Oh, it's nothing. Ummm, I'm ready when you are."

With a smirk on her face she replied, "Well, Mr. Hopson, it just so happens that you're the FIRST one on my list for today's road test. SHALL WE?" She eyed me suspiciously and pointed to the government-issued car.

After climbing in with the examiner, she said sternly, “Mr. Hopson, the first thing you're going to do is parallel park. Remember, you’re only allowed 3 reverses. Please drive up the road here and park right between those two cars (pointing up ahead).”

I was sixteen all over again.

Somehow I managed to squeeze between two abandoned cars and then we were off making the required left and right turns, stopping along the way here and there. As we drove through what looked like a drug infested neighborhood, I wondered for a brief second what I would do if we suddenly got caught in a hail of gunfire between rival gangs.

Yeah right.

Snapping back to reality, I realized the examiner was instructing me to get on the highway for some real-world experience.

Thirty minutes later, we went back. After I parked the car, she smiled for the first time, revealing pearly white teeth and handed me a slip of paper saying, “Congratulations, Mr. Hopson. You'll be receiving your driver's license in a couple of weeks.”

Six months later an opportunity came my way to work on a book project in another state, which required that I get a car. And what do you need in order to drive?


That explains why I felt a strong urge to renew my license even though there was nothing to indicate the need for one. After moving a thousand miles away (via U-Haul truck), I went out and bought my first car, made easier becuase I listened to my intuition (eventually!) and took appropriate action.

Food for Thought: God has a plan for everyone. Trust that He knows what you need to do next. It's up to you to take action and the rest will fall into place naturally.
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Monday, August 28, 2006

Part I - Trust that Bigger Things are in Store for You--The Beach

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The majority of us have spent part of our lives not knowing what we want to do. We seem to drift aimlessly thinking that life is about paying the bills until we are presented with a set of circumstances that force us to sit up and take notice of why we are here. Some of those events are quite jolting while others represent a gentle reminder.

Have you ever had an “Ah-ha” moment where the answer you were seeking came to you in the form of a thought that flashed through your mind? You’re almost never prepared for it. You go into a situation thinking you’ll accomplish one thing but end up achieving something else entirely.

One day in 1996, in the middle of a particularly busy trading day at Merrill Lynch, I made arrangements to fly out to Florida for a well-deserved break. Eager to recharge my batteries and get away from the daily hustle and bustle of Wall Street, I couldn’t wait for the cool ocean mist to dampen my hair (I had lots and lots of it back then) and feel the hot sand beneath my feet.

The morning after arriving, I hurriedly ate a low-fat breakfast (i.e. yogurt, banana and coffee) and then headed straight to the beach. I brought with me the usual paraphernalia including a bottle of tanning lotion, an extra large beach towel and a good book. After finding myself a lounge chair, I plopped down for a full day of nothing but relaxation.

The combination of an engrossing book and the tantalizing feel of the hot sun against my pale winter skin made me comfortably drowsy. Everything in my body let go and sort of melted. The stock market slowly faded from memory and I lost all track of time.

Drifting further away from reality, my eyes grew heavier and heavier with each passing moment. No longer did I feel the weight of the book sitting on my chest. It rose up and down with each breath I took. A gentle breeze would pick up now and then to brush against my moist forehead, giving me that cool sensation. As I slid into the abyss of sub consciousness, images began to form and solidify. Characters swam into focus. They were all talking to each other and to me. My mouth opened and closed as if on autopilot, while bits of salvia involuntarily slid down my chin. I hope to God no one captured that on tape - I must have looked awful!

Then it happened.

A thought suddenly thundered its way into my head, shoving aside those dream characters like a tidal wave, stunning me with its forceful impact. Jolted out of my stupor, my eyes flew open. Bolting upright, I unconsciously wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and blinked against the now harsh sun. Then I looked around to see if I was imagining things.

Rubbing my eyes vigorously, it took a moment to realize that I was having one of those divine "AHA" moments. The thought was so clear even though it made no sense at the time. It was an inner knowing that despite my success on Wall Street, buying and selling stocks and bonds was not really my life's purpose. Instead, it was to become a motivational speaker and writer, touching many people's lives. (Note: It had not yet occurred to me that flying was part of that package - it would come later).

What was so strange is that although I had not spoken to a live audience since college fifteen years earlier nor had I ever published anything, I just knew that I was supposed to head in that direction. Every single cell in my body was tingling - I was now wide awake. I couldn't wait to return to New York to begin laying the groundwork for the future.

Despite the rousing excitement, I had some doubts, voices in my head telling me that I was crazy for doing this. It meant peanut and jelly sandwiches would be replacing expensive dinners for a very long time.

Eight months later, with only two weeks to go before Christmas, I cleaned out my office and said my goodbyes. Walking across the marble lobby of the Merrill Lynch building for the last time, I remember thinking I had no idea what would become of my future. Little did I know that I would eventually go on to become the world's first deaf instrument pilot, publish stories in 3 best-selling books and become an in-demand speaker and writer, sharing my life's experiences.

Food for thought: Trust that bigger things are in store for you if you listen to your intuition, take action and believe that things will work out despite lack of clear supporting evidence.
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Friday, August 25, 2006

Part III - Do Visualizations Really Work?

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This is the last part of a series of articles about the power of visualization. Patience is critical to the success of the visualization process. Let's have some fun with this today. I ask that you be open minded and go with the flow.

Have you ever fantasized about being rich and famous? No? You've never thought of what it would be like to have all the millions in the bank and have the press stand by your door, ready to snap your photo?

Stay with me on this. No one knows you're thinking about this secret little fantasy except yourself.

Now, let's say you've been visualizing yourself as a movie star, best-selling author or perhaps a politician and you're speaking all over the world, in great demand. Day after day you imagine yourself holding press conferences, watching your bank account overflow and getting invitations to the hottest parties in town.

Would you be able to handle the paparazzi following you everywhere, invading your privacy? How would you feel if you wanted to go skinny dipping in your own pool but couldn’t because you were afraid the tabloids would get a shot of you and sell the image for thousands? What about all these new people coming out of the woodwork, claiming to be your “friend?” Where were they before you became famous? Would you wonder if the people you’re now with have your best interest at heart?

Do you remember the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton scandal? She was lucky to have survived a brutal ordeal with the media. They had a field day and literally tore her apart. I read her autobiography and she wrote how it was her dream to be famous someday. By the time the Clinton/Lewisky scandal died down, she longed for anonymity. She wasn’t ready for it. It wasn't what she thought it would be.

If you suddenly became famous, would you be able to handle the pressure of being a celebrity?

This is why the universe is very exact. Every step on the way to your dreams is thrown in your life for a reason – to prepare you for what's to come. In one of my other posts, I wrote how we are "life's perpetual trainee" - always preparing for the future (Tip #9).

Suppose you dream of winning the lottery. Almost everyone does that right? They think sudden wealth will solve all their problems. But what if they do not have a wealth consciousness? Contrary to what you might think, having more money, especially if it happens suddenly, has the potential of creating more stress and challenges.

You’d have to find a good accountant, something you might never have worried about before. Which one do you hire? Who can you trust? What about people who claim to have your interest at heart and ask that you lend them money or invest in a venture? Where were they before you won the lottery?

Yes, you will certainly be able to pay off your debts but are you consciously ready to handle this kind of money? Will you squander it or will you invest it wisely? Will you hoard it or will you share it? Lottery winners are known to win millions only to go broke a short time later because they weren’t prepared to deal with it. They didn’t have the right consciousness about money. They didn’t know how to handle it responsibly.

Trust that if your visualizations are not manifesting in the time frame that you want, all is in perfect divine order. Never force or hurry the process. Go with the flow - if it is meant to manifest, it will in due time.

Food for thought: Are you mentally, physically and spiritually ready to handle the manifestation of your dreams today?
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Part II - Do Visualizations Really Work?

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Creative visualization is a simple process where you invest your time, emotions and energy into seeing yourself achieving your heart’s desires. It is one of the greatest, easiest ways of connecting with the universe. There is a universal intelligence that is responsive to us. You've heard of the saying that "God acts in mysterious ways." This intelligence is available to anyone by simply tapping into it. No experience necessary. No special degrees or magic abilities either!

Here's how I did it with the motivational speaker example from Part I:

1. The first step is to enhance the environment where I am doing the visualization. Since I can't hear, turning on relaxing music isn't exactly an option for me (but that's something you can do if you are hearing). What I usually do is light a candle and/or turn on a lamp and set it on very low wattage (so that it's not too bright nor too dim). Then I start off by asking God to be present throughout the process. I imagine angels in the room with me, guiding me along the way. You want to be doing this in a relaxed and not strenuous manner.

2. Then I get comfortable in my favorite sitting spot and close my eyes. From that point on, I imagine, in the most vivid color possible, myself standing on stage, in the spotlight, speaking to thousands. Not only do I see myself moving around on stage (or even mingling amongst the audience), gesturing, and using different voice inflections, but I also imagine a wave of emotion sweeping over the audience - they are laughing and crying throughout the presentation. For added excitement, I throw in "special effects" – their heads are following every move I make because their eyes and ears are hanging on to every word I say.

Then the "movie" pans over to the book signing table, where I am autographing books and greeting/hugging/shaking hands with everyone. People are coming up to me with gratitude written all over their faces, thanking me for making a difference. As I'm imagining this, I am usually overcome with a profound sense of love and gratitude as if I were actually at the speaking event! It's amazingly inspiring and motivating because something mysterious happens to you on a cellular level while you're doing this. Don't ask me why - I'm not a scientist or a doctor. I just know it happens because I've done it.

3. After finishing, I say a prayer of thanks because it is considered a done deal without any doubt (important).

Would you like to get started? All you need is an idea of what you desire - be it a new car, a new job, a new relationship, money in the bank, a promotion, etc. Color your imagination as vividly as you can with sounds, emotions, feelings and thoughts. Incorporate the sense of smell. If you want a new car, imagine the smell of leather. If you want a new baby, imagine the baby smell. Hear it coo in your mind, see yourself rocking it to sleep. If you want a promotion, imagine yourself moving into the corner office with a great view of the city below you. Or if you're into sports, imagine yourself shooting that hoop in the last few seconds of the game or making the finals in the swimming championships.

The important thing to understand is that results of your visualization will manifest on God’s time, not yours. Be open to what comes your way and take appropriate action when you receive an impression. If you do this consistently, watch out! Your dreams are bound to manifest!

Now, I have a third part coming - there's more! In Part III, I will write about why visualizations manifest on God's time, not yours. There's a logical reason for this. Stay tuned......

Food for thought: Be patient and focused. Practice visualization with a sense of detachment and remain open to what comes your way.
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Monday, August 21, 2006

Part I - Do Visualizations Really Work?

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For those of you who are really into the self development and motivational/inspirational arena, you've probably read about the power of visualization. Maybe you've tried it. Maybe not. If you haven't, perhaps you are wondering if this stuff really works or if it's a full of bugaboos.

Today, instead of expounding on what it is and telling you that it works, I am going to offer you proof that it does. Then in the next article, I'll talk about what it is and why it works.

Visualization technique: As a teen, I drove my mother's car down the middle of the highway and pretended to take off and land. Paid the price in terms of 4 speeding tickets! Used to go to the airport as a youngster and watch planes take off and land all day long. I also played with model airplanes and flew them over makeshift villages with plastic green roofs and white picket fences. Sat on my couch and visualized myself flying in all sorts of weather conditions. I imagined feeling the vibration of the engine and went through the motion of starting it up, rolling down the runway and taking off, etc. Finally, I bought a MS Flight simulator and hooked it up to my desktop computer and played with it for hours.
Result: Became a pilot May 2001. Two years later, became a commercial pilot. Three years after the commercial, became the world's first deaf instrument pilot (fly in the clouds).

Need more proof? Visit the bio section of my website, scroll down the page and you'll see a bunch of links to newspaper articles.

Visualization technique: In 1996, I cut out a section of the New York Times best-selling list and put it on my refrigerator. Crossed out the top-selling author's name and wrote in mine. Every time I walk in the kitchen, I am reminded of my desire to be a "best-selling" author. Note: This piece of newspaper is now turning yellow and curling at the corners from age!
Result: Published 3 stories in 3 different best-selling books. Also written and published several articles online.

Need more proof? Visit your local bookstore and pick up a copy of "Chicken Soup for the College Soul". Go to page 278. Order a copy of "heartwarmers" from Azriela Jaffe (it's now out of print now but it was an Amazon best-seller when it first came out). She has some extras in her inventory - contact her at: The "heartwarmer" story is on page 38. And finally, the third one was published in "Magical Souvenirs" on page 206. As for the articles, they can be seen here.

Note: I still have the dream of publishing my own book and having that become a best-seller. Stay tuned!

Visualization technique: Played schoolteacher as a child in my bedroom. In later years, I would go to church, sit in the main lecture hall (with seating capacity of 2,000) and imagine myself on stage speaking to thousands. Then I carried out the vision by actually getting in front of several civic clubs (i.e. Kiwanis, Lion's, Rotary, etc.).
Result: Spoken to thousands around the country and continue to build a reputation as a professional speaker.

Need proof? Visit my website and see testimonials from various audience members. The first time I spoke to 1,000 people was at a high school in Virginia in the late nineties. In the near future, my website will be undergoing a major facelift, which will include videos of speeches I've done.

Visualization technique: Cut out a picture of the hotel of where winners would be staying. This was posted by the telephone in my office where I could see it every day. For months, I imagined myself wriggling my toes in the warm sand, swimming in the ocean and watching the sunset from the hotel balcony.
Result: Won sales contests three years in a row. Went on all expense paid trips to Bermuda, Mexico and Florida.

Need proof? I have a clip of myself being interviewed on national TV (CNN) but until I learn how to post videos online, you'll just have to believe me on this one.

Food for thought: The more you visualize, the more your dreams will come to pass and manifest for you!
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More pictures from Nat'l Speakers Assoc Convention

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Thanks to Rosie Horner for taking this picture. I am sitting here with one of my mentors, Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines after a speech he did in front of 2,000 people. He did a great job! Rosie's website is:(

From left to right: Me, Howard Putnam and Jessica Cox.

This photo was after Howard did a speech in front of 2,000 people at the convention. He brought Jessica and I up to the stage to introduce us to the speaking industry. Jessica is just learning how to fly WITHOUT ARMS. As of that day, she had about 10 hours of flight time with an instructor. I had the honor of getting to know her and she's going to go far in the speaking business. She rocks!

Photo credit: Dov Friedmann (

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

What's Your Contract with God?

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Do you have a contract with God?

The secret to living your life’s dreams isn’t really all that mysterious. God will work miracles for you if you are willing to reprogram your mind to think a little differently. Contrary to popular belief, life does not require a fierce struggle. It might take some sacrifices, yes, but nothing that you can’t handle. Yes, it also takes a certain amount of risks but again, nothing that you can’t deal with.

As incredible as it may seem, we don’t have to do anything extraordinary except believe that God/the universe will provide us with the tools that we need to achieve our dreams. He will bring about circumstances, people, events at just the right time for things to unfold in the most natural way possible. The critical ingredient is having a contract with God and believing that you are right where you're supposed to be and that bigger things are in store for you.

If life was a breeze without any challenges, how would we learn about our capabilities or discover our life’s purpose? How would we learn what our perceived self limitations are? Challenges are designed to push you through self imposed limitations and go beyond your comfort zone. That's why challenges are included in your contract with God.

Over the years, I have reprogrammed my mind to perceive problems, difficulties and setbacks as having a divine purpose behind them. What I’ve done is trained myself to believe that I could achieve my innermost potential by not only believing in myself but also knowing that God and the universe would help me along the way. I believe in the saying that God helps those who help themselves. That's why the contract requires you to perceive set-backs as growth tools with a divine purpose.

Instead of thinking you are the source of your ideas, start realizing that God speaks through you (as well as through other people, circumstances that appear in your life). It is your responsibility to listen to your heart and hear what God is trying to tell you. If you get a strong feeling or thought telling you in no uncertain terms that you need to take a specific course of action, than that’s God prompting you to do it. That's why the contract specifically states that God/the universe is your main supplier for He promises to provide you with with ideas, thoughts, words, deeds and whatnot to achieve your life's purpose.

In short, the contract calls for you to reprogram your mind.

God is in the picture and has always been. Even when I turned my back to Him as a young kid, He was forever waiting to be invited back into my life. God is like the polite guest outside the front door, waiting to be let in the foyer. The contract promises you that He will not butt in unless you specifically ask him to.

Every single time I took a leap of faith in the face of the unknown, mighty forces of the universe have always come to my aid – always. That's in the contract too.

On the wall in my office, I have a piece of paper that says “What’s Your Contract with God?” It reminds me that He is the source of my abundance, not my business partners, family members, friends, clients or employers. You may receive something from them but they are being used by God/the universe to provide you with what you need. They are not, in of themselves, your sources. God is more powerful than all of them combined. We tend to forget that he works through them to do his work, not the other way around.

Take out a piece of paper and write down “What’s my contract with God?” and let that percolate for a few days. Look at it before you go to bed and again when you wake up. And then sign it.

Food for thought: Having faith in 21st century is no different from any other time. It involves a simple act of signing a contract with God and trusting that all is in divine order. Then it requires taking action like experiencing the gamut of our emotions, taking responsibility for our choices and then trusting that we will be led to the right places at the right time.
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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Exercising Your Risk-Taking Muscles

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Even experienced risk-takers get "butterflies" every time they take on new challenges.

A great way to exercise your faith muscles is by doing things slightly different every day like taking an unfamiliar route home after work, asking your boss for a raise or if you're self employed, raising your fees. If you tend to be quiet in group meetings, gather the courage and speak up. Say something even if it’s just a follow up question.

When I’m with a group of people, I tend to get lost easily because the dynamics of a group conversation tend to be different than one-on-one talks. In a group situation, everyone is usually talking at once - it becomes impossible for me to keep up with them. There was a time in my life when I would tune them out whenever the conversation became impossible to follow. My line of thinking was something like, "Oh well, they aren't saying anything important anyway." I would just laugh and smile, pretending I knew what was happening.

Nowadays I'm a lot more proactive and I'll either turn to the person next to me and strike up a conversation or I'll pipe up and address the group as a whole with follow up question. For example, if everyone was laughing at a joke, I'll risk my neck by saying, "What was that joke again?" By doing that, I don't feel so left out. It also serves to get me back in sync with everyone else.

If on the other hand, if you are by nature an outspoken person with strong opinions, why not try listening more? Be still. Resist the temptation to make yourself sound important. Watch what other people have to say. You might be surprised to learn something new.

What about asking the waitress to take back your lukewarm coffee and replacing it? Some people would rather not rock the boat and risk other people’s criticism by appearing to be a "pain." You want a hot cup of coffee? It's certainly within your rights!

Just the other day, I was out having lunch with some friends from church and I was served a dish with stale bread. I don’t know about you but I like my bread nice and soft so I asked the waitress to replace it. In the past, I might not have bothered because I didn’t want everyone at the table to disapprove of me. Crazy, huh? Indeed! Who cares what they think?!?

As I mentioned before, I miss out a lot on what’s being said in group conversations (in case you forgot, I'm deaf). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to force myself to ask people to repeat themselves, putting myself at the risk of having others smirk, roll up their eyes or even sigh heavily (you can always tell when they do that because they heave their shoulders rather dramatically and appear to be taking incredibly deep breaths and blowing it all out). If they react that way, you don't want them around anyway.

All of these things are ways of building risk-taking muscles. No one wants to be rejected but so what if the other person gave you a dirty look or roll up their eyes? What’s the worst thing that can happen to you? Okay, your ego might get bruised or you might feel embarrassed but you’ll get over that, won’t you?

There's a book whose title I think is very appropriate here: "What Other People Think of You is None of Your Business." Pretty cool huh?

Consider the payoff that comes in the form of excitement and confidence because you risked your neck to do something you were afraid to do in the first place. People are more afraid to live their lives to the fullest than they are of dying!

Shaving my head in high school (for the swim championships) meant I would be bald the rest of the year and possibly ridiculed (I wasn’t – in fact, I gained more respect even though I didn't make the finals!). Going off to college meant I would live on my own for the first time (loved my newfound independence). Moving to New York City to work on Wall Street meant I had to change my living situation from suburban to city life (got used to it). Telling the VP at Merrill Lynch during an interview, "if you don't hire me, you will never know what I can do for this firm" opened the doors to incredible abundance. Quitting Wall Street to become a motivational speaker, author and pilot has led me to my wildest dreams. The list goes on.

Because I took risks little at a time and built them over a period of years, I've discovered that I was more than capable of surviving when I stepped out of my comfort zone. I've never had to worry about a roof over my head or putting food on the table.

If you decide to honor your life’s purpose or at least engage in a meaningful search for it, you will have to step outside your comfort zone.

Food for thought: Regardless of the decisions you're facing, remember risk- taking, unlike hope, is an action word. To develop it, you must exercise it regularly.
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Friday, August 18, 2006

Paying the Price for Your Dreams--Grocery Shopping Expedition

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This story happened a few years after quitting Wall Street in 1996. I was starting over to follow my dreams of becoming a motivational speaker and author.

The decision to switch gears led me to one of the most challenging times of my life. Because of this life altering change, there was a heavy price to pay. While making the transition, I was struggling to pay the rent. But one has to eat, right?

One morning, the refrigerator and cupboards told me it was time to restock them. Making an ATM withdrawal of $40, the amount I had budgeted for groceries, I headed for the nearest supermarket, eight city blocks away.

Arriving at the store twenty minutes later, I grabbed a cart and went shopping. After an hour of walking up and down the aisles, I had everything I needed and went to the checkout lane.

The overweight, gum-popping cash register girl said in a monotone voice, “How ya doing?” She was totally oblivious to me. Ringing up item after item was just a clock-punching job to her. She was looking totally bored. My eyes, on the other hand, were riveted to the cash register; desperately hoping $40 would be enough.

I may be deaf but I swear I heard the chime of the cash register that day when she pressed the total button. It came to $39.99. Never in my life was I so glad to open the palm of my hand for one penny in change!

Deliriously happy that I had enough food for the week, I had totally forgotten that I would not be hauling groceries back to the apartment via taxicab. As soon as I stepped outside, I smacked into a wall of sweltering heat. In a hurry to escape such oppressive conditions, I absentmindedly went to flag down a cab but then I remembered.

I didn't have enough money.

Eight long blocks.

Gritting my teeth and taking a deep breath, I grabbed 5 heavy bags in each hand and started the trek home. Before I knew it, I was muttering a litany of expletives, defiantly annoyed at the prospect of having to carry a truckload of groceries. By the time I arrived at the curb to begin the trek uptown, sweat was pouring down my face. I was very hot and bothered. Pity anyone who was near me.

Because my hands and shoulders were aching, I decided to take a quick break. Setting the bags down, I rubbed my reddened hands and took a swig of bottled water. As I was drinking, images of starving children in Africa flashed through my mind followed by a simple yet profound reminder: "Be thankful you have food to eat this week. Have faith, things will work out."

I immediately knew where that came from. Instantly awashed with renewed gratitude, I looked up a the blue sky and said a silent prayer of thanks. Then I made the rest of the way home without further incident.

Food for thought: If you have just enough faith to pursue your dreams, you will always be provided for as long as you take responsibility for the consequences of your choices.
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Price You Pay for Not Accepting Yourself

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This is a short story of something that happened to me many years ago. The incident taught me a valuable lesson in self acceptance. It has never been told before.

The incident I'm about to share with you was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life but I can laugh about it now. Looking back, it was God's way of saying, "Hey, get over yourself! You are who you are for a reason, just accept it!"

It took me years to come to terms with my deafness. When I was a kid, I was acutely aware of the difference between myself and the others. Even though I appeared to be gregarious and happy-go-lucky, deep down I felt like an ugly bucktooth kid who wore a hearing aid box that was holstered in an albatross with wires that ran from the box up to the hearing aid in my ears. Not a day went by during those years when I didn't wish I was someone else with normal hearing. It would be a long time before I finally became aware of my inner power and understood that I was on a very special path to make a difference in the world.

For a short time, I went through a period of denial by refusing to use hearing aids. Without them, I looked completely "normal" as long as I didn't open my mouth - that way, no one would ever suspect I had a hearing disability.

One evening during the mid-eighties, I paid a price for adopting this defeatist attitude.

I was hanging out at a trendy nightspot in Soho (New York City), having a cocktail. There I was by myself at the bar, nursing a martini and minding my own business when a strikingly beautiful woman slid next to me. She looked like she just stepped out of a James Bond movie. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this sophisticated-looking lady demurely ordering herself a glass of red wine, the color of which matched her lips almost exactly. She was by herself.

On this particular night, I left my hearing aids in the top drawer of the dresser back at home. Since I was in no mood for idle chit-chat, I ignored her. Don't ask why I didn't sit home by myself if I didn't want to talk to anyone - who knows what I was thinking at the time?

Somehow I made the mistake of turning in her direction. The inevitable followed. She said hi. I said hi back. Suddenly we were talking about nothing important. As far as I could tell, my accent-sounding voice never betrayed me. Apparently, I was doing a pretty good job lip-reading because I was responding in all the right places. Every time she laughed, smiled or rolled up her eyes, I did the same.

Eventually, we reached a lull in the conversation. She lit up a cigarette, slid over a little closer and whispered something in my left ear. Instead of automatically jerking away as I tend to do when people forget that I read lips, I just sat there. As she spoke, I felt the pressure of the enunciation of her words blowing against my ear.

Then she pulled back and looked at me in a quizzical sort of way. Judging on the basis of her looks, it seemed she was waiting for an answer. It had to be either a yes or no.

"Yes, sounds like fun," I said brilliantly.

Extinguishing her cigarette in the ashtry, she swiftly put on her mink coat and said, "follow me."

Warning bells were blaring, but I paid no heed. I trotted after her like a clueless Golden Retriever to a waiting cab outside the bar.

We sped several blocks uptown and pulled up in front of a swanky hotel. As the cab was ricocheting on the way up, my mind was busy trying to figure out what she whispered in my ear earlier. Maybe she invited me to a party or something, I thought.

After paying the fare, we breezed through the lobby and took the elevator up to the 19th floor. I grew more worried as the numbers climbed higher on the overhead panel.

Trying to appear nonchalant, I asked, “Where are we going?"

“You'll see.”


Arriving to the eighteenth floor, we stepped out, turned right and stopped at Room 1960. Pulling out the room key, she turned to me and said, "Are you ready?"

I nodded.

Pushing the card in and out of the slot, she swung the door wide open. My eyes were immediately drawn to the king-sized bed. What I saw scared the hell out of me.

It was strewn with leather chaps, two sets of whips and a pair of handcuffs!

My knees almost buckled.

"Hey, listen, I gotta run, this isn't my cup of tea man. I thought you invited me to a party or something."

“Well, what are you deaf or something!?”

If she only knew.

Bolting past her, I practically slid down the stairwell all the way to the lobby and hopped into a waiting cab, just like in the movies. When I got home, I think I fixed myself a very stiff drink or two. Or maybe it was three?

Food for thought: What was the most embarrassing incident that happened to you in the past and what did you learn from it? For me, once I became aware of my life's purpose and understood that being deaf was a part of the divine plan, I became very much "on purpose." Nowadays I wouldn't be caught without my hearing aids!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How to Banish Worry When All Hell Breaks Loose

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In 1995, I was riding high as a Wall Street stockbroker. I had lost 20 pounds and was looking quite healthy. My clients were enjoying double-digit growths and I was making a handsome six-figure income. On top of that, I was winning sales trips to exotic places like Mexico and Bermuda, interviewed on national television and accumulating one sales award after another.

Little did I know all hell was about to break loose. The problem was I had no clue it was coming. What's more, it caused me a lot of unnecessary worry.

One of my accounts was a woman whom I had affectionately labeled "the grandmotherly client." Always reeking of cheap perfume, she was a rail-thin lady with bushels of snow white hair whose kind face was overshadowed by gigantic red framed glasses. Like many of my clients, she was quite fond of me.

We had met at a black-tie fundraising affair one evening in New York City. Several days later, she opened an account with me, transferring almost all of her savings and investments. In the weeks that followed, we worked diligently to construct a portfolio in accordance with her investment objectives.

All was well until the market took a sharp nosedive in late 1995, causing investors everywhere to panic. Like everyone else, this scared her. Being the conscientious person I am, I took great pains to remind her that it was only temporary. After extensive hand holding sessions, I thought we came to an understanding and had everything squared away.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

My eyes widened in horror one morning when the legal compliance officer handed me a 3 page letter from her. It was full of harsh-sounding legalese, accusing me of gross incompetence! My hands shook rather violently.

"How could this happen?" I thought.

Before I was hired at Merrill Lynch, there was another deaf stockbroker from a competing firm who had developed a very bad reputation. Unfortunately, he had tricked hundreds of unsuspecting clients into making risky investments (options), causing tremendous losses. Many of them were retirees, living off social security who had no business having their money in options.

By the time I arrived to the securities business, I already had my work cut out for me. If I was to make it, I had to work a thousand times harder to earn the trust of potential clients. I vowed that I would do right by them and not steer them wrong. Eventually my reputation for integrity slowly but surely became widely known. My intention was to have not one complaint lodged against me.

Until I was handed that letter, I had almost succeeded.

The rest of the week blurred by. I walked around in a daze, losing all interest in the stock market. A million debilitating thoughts ran through my head: "You're going to be fired!" "You will be hauled to court!" "Your career on Wall Street is finished!" In the days that followed, I kept reading her letter over and over, not believing what she wrote. I must have looked like a shell-shocked zombie for I hardly ate or slept.

Eventually, I was called to the compliance office to discuss how we were going to handle the complaint. Swallowing hard, I knocked on the door of the compliance officer.

He motioned for me to come in and sit down while finishing up a call. As he was talking on the phone, he was smiling and winking at me. I thought that was strange. Maybe it was one of those “calm before the storm” type of things.

Putting the phone into the cradle, he took a deep breath and smiled some more. Did I want coffee or tea? I didn't. I wanted this to be over with. Either he was going to fire me or I was going to have to quit.

I braced for the worst.

No one was more surprised than I when he calmly folded his hands and proceeded to tell me that the next step was to write a memo to his attention, describing how and why this woman's portfolio was constructed the way it was.

"Hand it in a week from today," he said.

That’s all there was to it. No drama, no threats, no nothing. I couldn't believe it. For the first time in weeks, I saw a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

I went right to work on the memo. A week later I handed it in.

What followed taught me the first of many lessons on how to banish worry when in the midst of a major crisis:

1. The first thing you do is get busy obtaining the facts. That's what I did when putting together the memo. I gathered all pertinent information and created worksheets to show exactly what happened from the time she opened her account until the day I received the letter. Getting busy makes it difficult to worry about the future.

2. Analyze the data.

3. Make a decision on a course of action to take. Sometimes a course of action becomes clear to you and you just do it. Other times you have to let it go. In this situation, I had done my part. I handed in the memo. I had to trust that it would work out.

It did. She eventually transferred somewhere else. I never heard from her again. Two years later, I had a spiritual revelation, telling me that my destiny was no longer to be stockbroker, buying and selling securities but to become a motivational speaker, author and pilot. And that's what I'm doing today.

Food for thought: Fear brings on worry. Worry makes you tense and clouds your judgment. Trust that getting the facts will banish worry and help clear the mind. A course of action will become apparent one way or the other. Trust that if you did everything with integrity, the universe will do justice for you.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stephen now a recognized authority at Ezine Articles

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I'm excited to share with all of you, particularly those who have signed up for a free subscription to "Adversity University" that many of the articles/stories posted here have been accepted over at Ezine Articles, where I am now a recognized authority on different topics.

The amazing thing is that within 48 hours of posting the first 10 articles over there, hundreds of people from around the world have already viewed them, leading to a sharp spike in traffic to both my website and this blog. It's still too early to tell the long-range impact this will have web traffic but the numbers are very encouraging!

When you have a moment, please visit Ezine Articles and rate your favorites. Thanks!

If you're new to "Adversity University" (many of new visitors are coming from overseas, see the MapStats in the sidebar and scroll down for a map of the world), signing up is easy and painless. By entering your email in the appropriate place (see link below), you will get an email notice every time a new article is posted to this blog so that way you won't have to keep checking back.

You can unsubscribe anytime you wish, easily and effortlessly by clicking on an "unsubscribe" link that comes with each email notification. It's a no risk proposition! Here's the sign up form:

After filling out the appropriate boxes, you will get a confirmation from Feedblitz asking you to confirm your free subscription. They will ask you to click on to a hyperlink in that email, to verify everything. That's it! It can't get any easier than that!

Have a great day until the next time I post something here. FYI, I have more photos of the National Speakers Association Convention coming up soon as well as a new article percolating in my brain so stay tuned!
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Sunday, August 13, 2006

What Kind of Thoughts Go Through Your Mind?

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Have you ever noticed the kind of thoughts you have on a daily basis? Be honest with yourself. Make today a day where you are super conscious of your thought patterns. Notice what you are thinking and saying throughout the day. You might be surprised.

For instance, when you wake up, do look forward to the day with delicious anticipation or do you allow your mind to be flooded with dread? Let's say you have a big important sales presentation scheduled. Do you find yourself already thinking how badly it will turn out or do you trust that because you will do your very best, everything will work out?

Take yourself to a restaurant for a bite to eat today. Act like a CIA agent and eavesdrop on other people's conversations. What are you hearing? I bet the farm that the majority of them are in "negative-talk mode." They are blaming their parents, their children, the government, the boss, co-workers or neighbors for all their problems. Do you find yourself in that "talk-mode" too?

How about when you see something you would like to have but your financial situation isn't where you'd like it to be in order to have it? Do you repeatedly say, "I can't afford it?" Or do you say "I choose not to purchase it at this time?" Or better yet, "I intend to have it?"

A lot of people ask me if I have my own plane. I used to say, "I can't afford it." While the amount of money in the bank at that time might have actually reflected that, the more I said it, the more it stayed that way because it was part of my belief system.

Instead, I now say, "I intend to have my own plane for speaking engagements." The more I say that, the more I believe it. The more I believe it, the more I train my subsconscious to look for ways to make that dream a reality. It is this kind of thinking that helped me become the world's first deaf instrument rated pilot and an award-winning Wall Street stockbroker, to name a few. You see, because I've trained myself to think outside the box and keep negative thoughts at bay, I've achieved my dreams. So can you.

Now, like I said, I am continually a work in progress. Even though I've accomplished the amazing with my life, I still have to work on my thoughts. New things surface, occasionally causing me to slide back if I get sloppy.

Let's talk about money. Who doesn't want more of it? Well, why don't some of them have it? The answer is because on a subsconscious level, they don't feel they deserve it!

WHAT??, you say? Okay, settle down - watch this.

Stay with me on this. Come grocery shopping with me.

Let's go to the cereal section. There I am, comparing a generic versus brand name cereal. As I'm looking at them, I know that this particular brand A is better for me (i.e. less calories or more fiber, etc) yet if I'm not watching my thoughts, I'll convince myself to put the generic box in the shopping cart because I'll think I'm saving a few extra bucks. Some of you might say, "Well, Stephen, isn't that the right thing? After all, it adds up, doesn't it?"

Not really. I know better. Why didn't I get the better cereal for myself? After all, it's better for my health. What gives? On a deep level, I'm thinking "I better save up money for a rainy day. I might not have enough money down the road to afford nice things so I better play 'smart' and get the cheaper brand."

Can you see how subtle this line of thinking can be? It's a reflection of my fears of the future. Amazing, isn't it? The next time you go shopping for food, watch how you feel when deciding on what to buy. Do you tend to choose one product over the other because you are subconsciously saying to yourself, "I can't afford it?", "I don't deserve it?" Or perhaps you're convincing yourself that you're saving money for a rainy day?

Your choices are based on what feel you deserve or what you think the future will hold for you. This line of thinking will spill over to every area of your life - your relationships, business, job, friends, boss - your EVERYTHING.

Taking responsibility for how we think is the first step in empowering ourselves and undo years of wrong thinking. We may not be able to control outside circumstances, but the more we replace fear-based thoughts with empowering ones, the better we are able to magnetize what we desire in easy and effortless ways.

Here are some examples of how I've changed my thoughts over the years:

1. Money does not grow on trees.
Replace with: The universe provides unlimited abundance for those who believe they deserve it. (I now tithe up to 10 percent of my income which helps me stretch my wealth consciousness - what you give away freely and clearly, you get back in more ways than one).

2. I don't deserve it.
Replace with: I intend to spend 10 percent of my income on something I would not normally buy myself.

3. I expect to have an argument with so and so.
Replace with: I see a successful outcome, coming up with a resolution that will work for both of us.

4. If it isn't one thing, it's another....
Replace with: Everything happens for a reason, I will learn something valuable from this and move on.

5. My mailbox is full of nothing but bills.
Replace with: I am grateful to be able to pay my bills easily and effortlessly. I am being provided with what I need and I gladly pay for them. (Watch how your body feels when you're writing out checks - does it feel uptight?).

6. I made a huge mistake.
Replace with: There's no such thing as mistakes, only experiences.

7. I better not charge too much for my services.
Replace with: I intend to charge what feels right and let things come my way naturally. (One lesson I've learned is when a potential customer asks me what I charge, I look at him in the eyes and flat out state my fee and then I shut up. Be okay with the silence, let them respond. People often sell themselves short by being uncomfortable with the silence and blurting out too soon, "But I'm willing to cut it down to X dollars.").

8. The economy isn't doing well, therefore, I shouldn't go ahead with this idea.
Replace with: I refuse to let outer circumstances stop me from going forward with this idea. The universe will supply me with what I need to bring this into reality. (and it does!)

9. I hate my job/my boss.
Replace with: I intend to reinvent myself and find ways to help others at the office. I intend to do more than I'm called to do. My focus will be on things I like about this job/my boss. (Or else if it's meant to be, I will be presented with another job opportunity easily and effortlessly!!).

10. This is too good to be true - it won't last forever.
Replace with: Nothing is too good to last forever. (You're probably thinking well, what about the ebbs and flows that seems to be a natural part of life? My response is, regardless of what happens on the outside, you can adjust to changing conditions and still lead a stress-free, joyful life.)

Food for thought: We have this amazing power to choose our thoughts. Many of the problems in life are man-made. We can use the power of our imagination to create results for ourselves regardless of what the economy is doing, who is President or what kind of upbringing we had. You can choose to smile, see everyone as a child of God or you can be bitter because you someone did not treat you right. You can choose to dress elegantly or look like a total slob. The choice is yours and yours alone.
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Ripple Effect - A flashback to the early 90's.....

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Have you ever thrown a flat rock across a body of water and watched it transform into a bunch of ripples? That's the impact my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Jordan, had on my life when she uttered three words so many years ago, THAT'S RIGHT STEPHEN!

One of the most requested speeches I do nowadays contains the story of the day she said those words. She never knew the impact of those three words until many years later when I surprised her on a national talk show (Leeza, now off the air).

Is it possible that you are making an extraordinary difference in the lives of others without even knowing it? Today I am encouraging you to be more aware of your inner power, which has the potential of becoming a ripple effect touching far more people than those in your immediate surroundings.

The Mrs. Jordan story reminds me of a speech I did in the early nineties when I was just getting my feet wet in public speaking. A Kiwanis club in Brooklyn had invited me to speak to their members. Since I didn't know what to talk about, I decided that I would use one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul stories. The topic was “Making a Difference.”

This particular club held their meetings in an Italian restaurant somewhere in the middle of eastern Brooklyn. Most civic clubs meet in restaurants where they conduct business while having a meal (usually lunch, sometimes dinner). Many a fledging speaker got their start by speaking for food. I got to enjoy some of the greatest meals in exchange for a twenty to thirty minute speech. It gave me an opportunity to try out a new topic for size and test its impact.

I took the subway to Brooklyn, arriving at the restaurant thirty minutes early. The purpose was to give me an opportunity to check out the room, get acquainted with the person who would introduce me, get a feel for the layout of the room and perform a sound check (with the help of a hearing person, of course).

Dinner was served while regular business was conducted. Before I knew it, it was time for me to be introduced. Throughout the meal, I had an opportunity to get to know the club president who sat next to me.

“I’m really looking forward to your speech tonight,” he had said.

They say that public speaking and death are the two biggest fears people have. It isn’t easy getting up in front of a room full of people whose eyes are feasted upon you, watching every move you make. There’s also the possibility that someone may not like your speech. They’re easy to spot. Either they’re snoring, fidgeting, looking down on the floor or staring at you vacantly. They are the ones who sit in stoney silence while everyone else is cracking up. It’s tempting for an inexperienced speaker to try and win them over at the expense of 98 percent of the people who seem to be enjoying themselves. I was thinking of that when the club president gently nudged me.

He leaned over as if to whisper in my ear. I automatically backed away so that I could read his lips. His face crumbled into an embarrassed laugh mouthing, “Oops, I’m sorry, I forgot! I’m going to introduce you now.”

After a brief introduction, I started my speech by sharing the “Blue Ribbon Story” from one of the earlier Chicken Soup books. The story always made me cry everytime I read and re-read it, so I felt it would make for a great topic. My intention was to illustrate the power of making a difference in other people's lives.

The story was about a young school teacher who had an idea for a class project. She wanted to see the impact of the project not only on her students, but also on those in the community.

Each student was given three blue ribbons, the words “Who You Are Makes A Difference” of which were printed on them. The students were instructed to think of a person who made a difference in their lives. Whoever they thought of would be the first recipient of the blue ribbon. The first receipient would then be instructed to pass on the second ribbon in the same way to someone else, who in turn would give it to a third individual. The third person would report back to the student the impact of the blue ribbon campaign.

A junior executive at a local company was the first person to receive one, given by a young boy from the class who wanted to show appreciation for the help he got for career planning. The boy pinned the blue ribbon on the executive’s shirt and asked him to find someone who made an impact on the man’s life.

Later that day, the junior executive went in to see his boss, who was known for being grouchy. He asked to see the boss for a few moments and said that he admired him for being creative. The boss was very surprised. The junior executive followed through by giving him the second ribbon, explaining what he was doing and for him to report the results of the third ribbon to the young boy. The final ribbon was placed in the hands of the boss.

The boss went home and waited for his fourteen-year old son to come home. He sat the boy down and explained what happened to him at work. “The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of my employees came in and said he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius.” The father explained to the boy that while he was driving home, he was trying to think of someone to give the third and final blue ribbon. “I thought about who I wanted to honor and thought about you. I want to honor you.”

The father explained that he was very busy at work and when he came home, he didn’t pay much attention to the boy. “Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You’re a great kid and I love you.”

The boy was startled by the frankness coming from his father and started to sob uncontrollably. He looked up at his father and said that he was planning to kill himself that night. The boy told his father that he didn’t think he was loved but now that he knew otherwise, he wasn’t going to. Note: This story was slightly edited and paraphrased but its source came from the following: "Chicken Soup for the Soul...101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit," published 1993, ISBN 1-55874-262-X by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (p. 19).

It impacted almost everyone in the restaurant that night, especially the club president. There was not one dry eye in the room.

I wrapped up by reminding everyone that they could be making a difference in someone else’s life without even knowing it. Then I sat down. The club president picked up the wooden hammer and banged against the gong, signaling the end of the meeting.

I looked out the window and saw to my dismay that it was pouring outside. Heavy rain was cascading down the windows. The raindrops were illuminated by the street lights outside. Suddenly I realized I didn’t bring an umbrella and murmured to myself, “Darn, it’s raining; I’m going to get wet. Oh well!”

As soon as I said that, someone tugged at my sleeve. I turned around to find the club president standing there. He was asking if I wanted a ride to the subway station. I gratefully accepted.

His umbrella was big enough to cover both of us while we walked to his car. As we pulled away, he drove slowly, as if he didn’t want to drop me off so quickly. I could tell there was something on his mind. He was in deep thought, as if he was trying to figure out what he was going to say.

Switching on the night light (it was totally dark by that point), he said, “Your speech about making a difference really hit me hard tonight. I want to thank you for coming out to Brooklyn and sharing that story with us.”

He continued, “It made me realize that I’ve never told my sons that I loved them. I’m going to sit them down and tell them exactly that. Thanks for reminding me.”

I sat there in stunned silence. I couldn’t believe how much of a difference I had made in this person’s life simply by choosing that story. There I was, a fledging speaker, already making a difference on a set of boys I would never get to meet.

We finally arrived at the subway station. I turned to him and firmly shook his hand, saying, “Thank you for letting me know how much of a difference my talk had on you. I know your boys will forever remember what you're about to tell them tonight. They will never forget it.” Tears were rolling down the man's face. I gave him a bear hug, squeezed his hands one final time, and got out of the car.

Standing on the curb, I watched him the tailights fade into the night. When he turned the corner and was out of sight, I realized I was shivering. I was completely soaked!

As is true with so many things in life, I never found out what happened after that. I can only surmise those boys were forever changed. That's the ripple effect you could be causing without knowing about it!

Food for thought: Never underestimate the power of making a difference in the life of another person. You just never know what your words or your smile will do. It might even save someone's life. Think about it.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ask and You Shall Receive Miracles

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when saying the word "miracle"? Is it the blind boy who wakes up one morning, suddenly able to see for the first time in his life? Or how about the person who's been deaf since birth who is now hearing a bird chirp for the first time? Many people think miracles are like these type of farfetched events that happen only to others. They couldn't be more wrong about that.

All it takes is the willingness to believe you deserve miracles by asking for them. And I don't necessarily mean those kind of miracles. I'm talking about simple every day things like getting that job or house you want, the ideal partner or whatever it is you desire.

As the world continues to evolve through a spiritual transformation, more so-called coincidences are taking place as the number of people who raise their level of consciousness increase. This is because through self exploration, there is a growing recognition that in order to lay claim to what we want, a change of consciousness has to take place from within ourselves. This leads those on the self-awareness path to open themselves to the possibility of asking and then receiving miracles. All that needs is a shift in their own perception of the universe in which we operate in.

Like a computer that runs on a set of procedures that must be followed in order to operate the machine, the universe has its own set of laws that must be followed in order to recognize, receive and accept miracles.

I am not a scientist or anything but one thing I've noticed is that when we change our outlook in life, we release a certain form of energy that tends to attract what we put out. If we expect miracles, we will receive them. If we feel we don't deserve them, they won't come to us. It's that simple.

Miracles are everyone's divine birthright. If that's the case, then how come some people seem to lead happy, successful lives while others seem to live in despair? Stop and think about this for a moment.

Have you found yourself wondering about so-called coincidences or miracles that have occasionally appeared in your life only to dismiss them as "lucky events"? Think as far back in your life as you can. Focus on the major events that have happened to you and look at how they unfolded at just the right time. Have you noticed that every single person (or event) appeared at just the right time at the right place? They were people or situations that you could not have possibly engineered entirely on your own. For example, was there a favorite teacher like Mrs. Jordan who took you under her wing and gave you encouragement when you needed it the most? Or how about when you went out on a limb in total faith to achieve something like applying for a job at Merrill Lynch and then it happened?

You and I already know there are mysterious forces at work all around us. The key is to make those forces work to our advantage. How?

The first step is to open yourself to a power greater than yourself and allow the light of love, courage, strength and hope to pour through you. Be willing to listen to your heart for that's where the soul speaks to you. God has a divine plan for each and every one of us. You have a blueprint that is yours and yours alone. It's up to you to find out what it is.

You may be wondering where to go next in your life. I've come to that fork in the road many times. Part of the deal is that you can ask for anything you want providing you have a clear intention in your mind of what it is. Make a decision and go for it. Once you make that decision, you must be willing to wait patiently for things to unfold. There is often a divine lesson to be learned while going through the waiting phase.

Let me give you a seemingly minor detail that happened to me several years ago. I once owned an apartment co-op in Queens, one of the outer sections of Manhattan. Commuting to work was a 45 minute ordeal twice a day. It got to a point where I wanted to be much closer to my office in the city. Since I was making enough money at that point to afford a Manhattan apartment, I made the decision to go and apply for one. What you don't know is there were two potential obstacles in the way.

Even though I was making great money at the time, my credit history was anything to be desired. When I was younger, I had been foolish with my credit cards and did some major damage - I had creditors all over my back, threatening to haul me in court if I didn't pay up. It was a heavy lesson in fiscal responsibility. This meant my credit background could hurt my chances of getting an apartment in the desired location. Despite this, I set an intention of finding myself an apartment anyway. That was the first step.

The other obstacle was finding a desirable tenant to rent my Queens co-op. I had wanted to hold on to it thinking real estate values would eventually go up and then I could sell it at a profit later. While the Queens apartment was in a very nice neighborhood, it was still a long ride to Manhattan where most people worked. That was a potential turn off to rental prospects. Also the co-op board was known to be very choosy about who they let in, possibly turning off qualified tenants. I admit this had me worried in the beginning. But I knew better.

This is where I put the power of the universe to work in my favor. Not only did I set an intention of finding a new tenant but I also believed I would find a nice apartment in an area where I wanted to move into. I prayed about it and made a commitment to take action whenever I received an impression to do so. (i.e. listened to my intuition).

The first thought that came to mind was to find a couple of realtors and make it known that my co-op was available for rent. That was the second step after setting an intention. Within a few weeks, two young guys put in an application for the apartment. They were friends who were looking for a place to share. As I suspected, the co-op board asked them for substantial financial records. They balked and almost walked away. This is where I reminded myself to trust the process and believe that everything would work out for the best. I did not force my hand to "facilitate" the process, as so many people tend to do when things aren't going their way. Eventually they were approved and moved in. They turned out to be responsible tenants, paying their rent on time almost every month (they were late a couple of times but always paid up).

While the co-op was interviewing these people, I was trying to find my own apartment in the city. Remember, I had bad credit to begin with (it's since been repaired). One day I found an apartment complex (with a doorman) that I liked very much and something told me to fill out an application. I did just that and handed over $100 for the credit background check. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't anxious about the results of that credit check. Once again I pulled myself up and put into practice what I learned - I released the outcome to God.

A week later I went into the management's office in Manhattan to follow up on my application, not knowing what to expect. I'll never forget the lady who told me, "Congratulations, you got the apartment." What shocked me was that several people had also applied for the same apartment. Not only that, but each one of them had far better credit than I!

Yet I got it. Why?

Food for thought: Have faith, expect miracles to come your way and you shall receive.
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Keynote Speech for First Communications Corporation

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Thanks to Susanne Noel of First Communications telephone company, I have a sample of pictures from a keynote presentation I did this morning for the entire company. Susanne is the lady on the far left in the first photo below. Thanks Susanne! I also wish to thank Lori Adams for handling all the arrangements for me including audio, audio visual and other important details.

For those of you who became willing participants during the question and answer session as well as the time when I asked people to write down and share what points they got out of my stories, thank you. Here are some pictures from the event. Enjoy!

Audience members having breakfast before the presentation.
Audience participation - "THAT'S RIGHT STEPHEN!"
Interacting with everyone - Oprah style
Making a passionate point - can you read my lips? No? Don't worry, I can't either! Posted by Picasa
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