Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Value of Humor through Adversity-The Mouthwash Incident

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It helps if we can maintain a sense of humor even in the midst of adversity. Adversity doesn't necessarily mean life or death situations but can include life's most embarrassing moments, especially when you take a risk with something like moving away from the podium for the first time or trying on a new story and testing for audience reaction.

This involves a story where the simple act of gargling mouthwash made for one of life's most embarrassing moments made easier through a sense of humor.

Many years ago I was invited to give a talk to a group of distinquished business people in New York City. I was just getting started as a "public" speaker - "public" because I was not paid for my engagements at the time - I'm now considered a "professional" where I DO get paid.

One afternoon in November of 1997, I was invited to speak to “The 100 Club” in New York City. This group was composed of leaders from various industries.

Needless to say, I was really nervous that afternoon because I had never spoken in front of a bunch of distinguished businesspeople. Due to the way their meeting was conducted, I was given time to wander around the facility in an effort to shake off the nervousness. For reasons unknown to me, I often visited the bathroom just prior to a speech to check and recheck my appearance, wipe off any indication of sweat and if available, gargle with mouthwash.

Since “The 100 Club” met in a fancy private club in the middle of Manhattan, their bathrooms were stocked with shaving cream, razors, combs, mouthwash, aftershave lotions, hair gel, gum, breath spray and everything else you can imagine. You name it, they had it.

As I was tightening my tie and making sure it was aligned properly, something on the counter caught my attention. It was an attractive little bottle containing what looked like mouthwash. It was beckoning me to try it.

I thought to myself, “Fresh words will pour out of my tingling clean mouth and I’ll speak with such clarity!”

I poured myself a full cup of this liquid and swished it around my mouth for several minutes, feeling wonderfully happy. Then I spit it out and repeated the process several times.

Satisfied, I put the cap back on the mouthwash container and threw away the cup, took one last look at myself in the mirror and gave myself thumbs up with a wink for good measure.
Just as I was about to leave the men’s room and head out to the ballroom for my speech, I felt something odd happening inside my mouth.

My tongue was swelling! Someone walked past me in the hallway and I wanted to say, “How are you?”, instead what came out was “OW ARH UU.”

Glancing at my watch, I had a few more minutes before the speech. I ran back to the bathroom and picked up the suspicious container. I looked at the label a little closer. It read:

“The Concentrated Mouthwash is for long-lasting fresh breath. More freshness in a glass bottle for less money!!”

I realized with horror that I had just used concentrated mouthwash! You’re not supposed to use it without diluting it with water! I never felt so stupid in my life.

Panic stricken, I grabbed another cup and filled it with cold water and tried to wash away the effect of concentrated mouthwash. I looked at the clock on the wall, “Oh my God, I’ve got to go!”
Heart pounding, licking my mouth like crazy, I ran down the hall to the ballroom. Upon arriving to the door, I placed my hand on the knob, took a deep breath and slowly opened the door.
The club president was finishing up the speaker introduction.

“……and here is Stephen Hopson.”

I stepped on the stage and faced the audience. My tongue was massively swollen and I was beside myself with fear – I didn’t want to open my mouth and sound like an idiot but what choice did I have?

The opening words were embarrassingly unintelligible but somehow I managed to tell them what had just happened. Fortunately the swelling subsided quickly and the rest of the speech went without a hitch.

Guess what the topic was?

“Taking Risks!”

One cannot succeed without taking risks. In fact, in as embarrassing as they may be, they often turn out to be great stories for future speeches. They become your signature stories, your unique stories that no one else can duplicate because they happened to you, not them. They also make for great chapters in a future book such as the one I'm currently writing.

Stories like this often touches the human spirit and allows them to relate to your mishaps. It gives them a powerful reason to keep advancing toward their dreams because when they see that you’ve succeeded despite the risks you’ve taken, it stands to reason that they can do it too.

Let me ask you: What risks have you taken in advancing toward your dreams today?
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Winston Churchill--KOB

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Watching movies is a great way to stay inspired and learn about how people have overcome adversity. I highly recommend "The Gathering Storm," a British film with Albert Finney in the lead role as Winston Churchill. It is a wonderfully inspiring story of how he overcame great resistance and doubt from his fellow politicians about the Nazi war threat.

Despite great political success as a young man, he reached a point where no one was paying much attention to him anymore. In addition to battling dark depression at the time, Winston thought he was finished politically but the little boy in him refused to give up. As a youngster, he had a vision that his destiny was to save Great Britain from another nation's war machine.

Because of his belief in destiny, his passion for doing what's right, the ability to entertain the possibilities and acting on his intuition, he was able to use his great speaking skills to convince the parliament that Germany was indeed marching across Europe and wiping away millions of people.

On days when nothing seemed to be going his way, he would start the day off by saying out loud: "KOB - Keep Buggering On!"

Let me ask you today: Are you going to "Keep Buggering On" when everything is going wrong in your life and no one seems to care?
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Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Importance of Surrounding Yourself with the Right People

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I've only been in Ohio 8 months. Making new friends in a new town where you know no one is not easy; however, surrounding yourself with the right people is critical to your ability to overcome adversity. Oprah says it best:

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down" - Oprah Winfrey

Last night I had a small party for friends from my church. I was fortunate to have a group of people who enjoyed themselves to the fullest without any air or pretense or expectation. Laughter came easily. We all felt comfortable in each other's presence. It was a wonderful feeling.

Are you feeling alone? Join a church. Become a member of Toastmasters if you want to be a better public speaker. What about local civic groups including but not limited to Kiwanis, Lion's or Rotary clubs? They provide wonderful networking as well new friendship opportunities.

When you go to these functions, go with the mindset of helping others. Become a matchmaker and bring people together without any expectation of return. Believe me, if you let go and let God, you will experience incredible abundance in return; however, you must make sure your heart is in the right place - otherwise the universal law of giving and receiving will not be complete.

How can you tell if they are genuine? Watch their behavior. I ask myself the following questions about people who come into my life (and be sure to put yourself in another person's shoes asking the same questions about you!).

Listen to how they speak. When you hold a conversation with them, is it all one-way? Or do they take time to listen to you? Do they appear to have your heart at interest when they're really trying to make a name for themselves? How do they treat you - with respect or do they treat you like a child?

Are they controlling and manipulative? When you confront them about this behavior, do they try to turn things around by saying that they were "just kidding" or make it look like it was your fault or say you're "imagining things?"

Are they willing to listen to your constructive criticism and take them at heart?

When you make a suggestion, do they act condescending or do they respect your opinions?

Are their behaviors congruent with what they say? Do they maintain integrity? Do they do what they say?

Do they really care about your achievements or do they appear jealous? Are they constantly telling you to see the big picture when they themselves aren't seeing it?

Listen to your intuition about the other person. If you feel a tightening of your stomach, your heart picks up a beat and you feel drained when around a certain person, your spirit is trying to tell you something. Listen to it. You may have to let go of that person with love. Find a way to move on without burning any bridges.

Let me ask you: Are your friends willing to take the bus with you when things go down the tubes?
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Universal Secrets of Turning Adversity Into Possibilities

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The secret is this: Napoleon Hill once said "Every adversity carries within it the seed of equal or greater benefit."

If in the midst of great pain, discouragement or heartbreak you seek that seed and fertilize it, you will eventually overcome adversity and turn it into a university of possibilities.

Think about it. The universe is governed by laws. It is knowledge of these laws and using them to your advantage to achieve your dreams that will determine your life's path.

One of my favorite universal laws is the law of giving. This lends credence to the idea of asking others, "how may be of service to you?" When we give and expect nothing in return, the universal law of giving operates in a way that you get something in return. There is a constant exchange of energy between you and the universe. When you give, you get.

One word of caution. Universal laws are not meant to be manipulated. If you simply give to get, you cause the flow to stop. When you give with your heart and with no expectations, you will receive much more. What goes out must come back. Such is the dynamic energy that defines life.

Deepak Chopra said in his book "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" that in every seed is the promise of a thousand forests. But the seed must not be hoarded; it must give its intelligence to the fertile ground."

The same thing can be said of sharing our knowledge and talents with others so that they may benefit. Perhaps your knowledge and experience will help others shave some time off the learning curve.

Perhaps you have money to give away. Money is a form of energy. If you hoard it, it will not circulate for you. If you want to make more money, give away some of what you have now and watch your abundance grow!

The return is dependent on the amount you give from the heart without any strings attached. Give with joy. Give with faith. Give with confidence that you are not losing anything.

The universal law of giving also covers receiving. Be open to receiving as well as giving. It doesn't have to be anything materialistic. When someone pays you a compliment, thank that person from the bottom of your heart. If you're outside and the birds are singing, be thankful for the divine gift of hearing. Be in a grateful frame of mind and open to receiving gifts. It may not come in the form you expect but they are gifts nevertheless. Accept them graciously.

When you give and receive graciously and with gratitude, you allow the universe to keep the circulation flowing.

Try this: Where ever you walk today, give someone a gift. It could be a prayer, flower, a compliment. You could send an email to someone you've been mentoring with a valuable tip. Provide others with value - find a way to enrichen their lives. It could be a statement of confidence in them. It could be a quote you read in a book that would help someone at that moment. When you recieve a gift, accept it with gratitude. Keep the cycle flowing.
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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Entertain the Possibilities-Swimming Championships

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High School Swimming Championships

I had been taking risks and entertaining the possibilities as far back as high school. Back in those days, my biggest passion was swimming. While I was not a “hot dog” (a term given to swimmers who consistenly broke records), I did have a dream and that was to make the finals at the state championships in my last year of high school.

My parents wanted me to belong to a sports team of some sort to help me develop social and competitive skills. Believe me, I tried out for track, baseball, football and even tennis but never made the cut. Did that ever happen to you?

My family was always going to swim meets for my two younger sisters (and eventually brother). We had always been a swimming family so when I arrived to high school, the natural choice for me was to try out for the swim team.

They immediately placed me on the freshmen team. Eventually I worked my way up to Junior Varsity and finally Varsity. At one point, I had gone to summer swim camp in Fort Lauderdale for some serious training for my event (200 yard individual medley - consisting of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle - in that order).

The swim team had done particularly well during my senior year, advancing all the way to the state championships. I was thrilled when "Rabbit," our coach, put me in for the 200 individual medley event. (We called him "Rabbit" because he had two front teeth that was permanently puckered out of alignment).

The day before the state championships, I was watching the 1978 Olympics on television. My favorite event, of course, was swimming. As I was watching the men’s freestyle event, it slowly dawned on me that there was indeed a way to make the finals.

I noticed that all the guys were......bald!


In my last year of high school?

Right before the senior prom?


Before I could change my mind, I made a beeline to my parent’s bathroom and promptly locked the door. The last thing I wanted was for someone to barge their way in while I was doing the unthinkable. Rustling through the cabinet beneath the sink, I found what I was looking for.

Trembling with excitement, I put the small black case on the counter and gingerly opened it. It was the electric shaver my Mom used to cut my hair when I was a toddler. Before plugging it in, I opened the door and poked my head out to see if anyone was around. Seeing no one, I got right to work.

With the razor whirring to life, I held it beside my face and stared at the mirror.

It’s now or never.

Starting on the right side, I mowed in neat lines from front to back, watching clumps of beautiful teenage hair tumble to the floor. I was halfway through when I felt the pounding on the door.

My mom!

Stupidly I said, “Who is it?”

More pounding.

“Okay, okay, just a sec,” I said in exasperation.

I opened the door a crack and positioned my head in a way that only the side with remaining hair could be seen.

“Yeah, mom, what’s up?”

“What are you doing Stephen?”, she said.

“Um, not much, do you need to use the bathroom?”

“No, answer my question, what are you doing in there!!??”

No sense in hiding anymore. Taking a deep breath, I pulled the door wide open.

She let out a loud gasp, covering her mouth in horror.

Mom practically screamed, “Stephen, what in God’s name are you doing?”

“Ma, some of those guys in the Olympics shaved their heads so I want to do it too. I’m going to make the finals tomorrow.”

She looked me up and down like I was crazy, then her eyes spied the mess on the floor - it was beginning to resemble my father’s favorite barbershop.

Letting out a loud sigh, shaking her head and pointing to the floor with her bony finger she said, “Make sure you clean up this mess.”

The cat was out of the bag. In no time the rest of my family will find out.

Waving her off, I closed the door firmly and hurriedly finished the job. I lathered my head with shaving cream and carefully plowed off the last remnants of hair.

Twenty minutes later, I was done.......

Is this how I’m going to look when I’m fifty?

It’s too late my boy, there’s no turning back!

If I’m going to shave my head, I might as well shave the rest of me!

Pssssss....more shaving cream.

When I went to bed later that night, I was in for a major shock - the sheets were ice cold! Where was the electric blanket when I needed it the most?

After tossing and turning for several minutes, I finally fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke at 6 am, had breakfast and headed for Albany State University, the site of the championships. So that no one would suspect anything, my head was concealed with a blue bathing cap. I wore nylon stockings and a couple layers of t-shirts to weigh myself down during pre-trial laps in the pool. The nylon stockings were nothing new in high school swimming. The “hot dogs” did it all the time.

The idea behind shaving is to compare it to a snake shedding old skin for new. You are in effect getting rid of dead body cells, giving you the like-new feeling. It provides a tremendous psychological boost - an indescribable feeling.

After swimming a couple warm-up laps, I got out of the pool, dried off and removed the nylon stocking and t-shirts. The bathing cap stayed in place. Grabbing my blue warm up suit, I sat in the corner to mentally prepare for the race.

I was very keyed up, filled with nervous anticipation about making the finals. This was going to be my special day – I was going to show everyone what I was capable of doing. I closed my eyes and meditated, murmured some prayers and took a couple of deep breaths. As I was stretching my legs, I felt a light tap on my shoulder.

It was one of the “hot dogs” from my team.

"Yo man, it's almost time."

My heart lurched. Here we go.

Wanting to savor the surprise, I slowly undressed, first the warm-up pants followed by matching windbreaker.

Then with a dramatic flair, I took off the blue bathing cap and threw it in the air, Mary Tyler Moore style.

The “hot dog” nearly fell in the pool.

He let out a gutteral scream, “Hey Hoppy (my high school nickname) shaaaaaved!”

The look on everyone's faces was priceless. It was a sweet moment for me. "Rabbit" almost died of a fatal heart attack.

Laughing, I made my way over to the the starting block. Everybody gave me high fives on the way over.

Arriving at block # 5, I took one last look at my family up in the spectator section and gave them thumbs up. Snapping the goggles in place, I stepped onto the block, shaking my arms like they do in the Olympics.

Cocking my head slightly, I waited for the magic words to come forth from the starter's lips.

Take your mark!

The swimmers instantly spring-loaded themselves into position. I was the only one with my head turned toward the starter's gun - everyone else was looking down, intently listening for it to crackle. The only way I could knew the trigger was pulled was to watch for the flash that came seconds before the sound. As long as I didn’t hit the water before the popping sound, I would not be disqualified.

Splashing into the water, my hairless body sliced through the waves effortlessly. The first lap was over before I knew it and then I switched to backstroke.

Have you ever noticed arrow-shaped flags floating across both ends of a swimming pool? They serve as visual checkpoints for backstroke swimmers to alert them of the fast approaching end of the pool. As soon as they reached that checkpoint, they automatically counted a pre-determined number of armstrokes before touching the wall and flipping to the next lap.

Upon seeing those flags, I counted five arm strokes, 1-2-3-4-5.

Then disaster struck.

Everything happened blazingly fast. I miscalculated the number of armstrokes and crashed into the wall, almost knocking me out. It took me a few seconds to reorient myself but the mishap cost me precious seconds.

As soon as I came to, I pushed off the wall and tried to catch up.

I still have a chance, I still have a chance.

After completing the breastroke, I switched to freestyle and gave the last two laps everything I had, not daring to turn sideways for air. My eyes were riveted to the end of the pool.

Slamming on the touch pad, I ripped off my goggles, practically gasping for air and looked at my family. They were cheering, clapping and giving me thumbs up. So was the swim team. My hopes surged.

Glancing at the huge digitial time board, I couldn't believe it.

My performance turned in the best time ever!

Excited, my eyes darted over to the column that listed the order of placement.

Mine was “3.”

Rubbing my eyes, I looked again.

Sure enough, I was not imagining things.

I didn’t make the finals.

Stifling the urge to cry, I dipped my head back in the water as if that would wipe away invisible tears and pulled my taut body out of the water.

On my way over to the bench, the “Rabbit” came up to me, cradled his arm around my shoulders and said, “Congratulations Stephen, you did your best time ever!”

I said, “Yeah, but I didn’t make the finals.” His mouth puckered in sympathy and he gave my arm a reassuring squeeze as if that would somehow wipe away the pain.

Meanwhile, the rest of my teammates were slapping my back, giving me high fives but I didn’t feel their joy. Suddenly my head hurt – it was throbbing furiously. I absentmindedly rubbed it. There was a lump the size of a small baseball.

That was almost 30 years ago.

The lesson? Have a passion for your goals and entertain the possibilities. Even though I didn’t make the finals, it wasn't for lack of trying. Because of my passion for swimming, I was able to take a compelling idea and follow through. As a result of acting on my intution, I ended up doing my best time ever and for that I can be proud. I won't be sitting in my rocking chair wondering what would have happened had I shaved.

Let me ask you: "Do you have a passion for something? Have you entertained the possibilities? And finally, have you acted on your intutition? If not, what are you waiting for? You only live once.
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Friday, May 05, 2006

Introducing Myself to People Who Hire Speakers

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Have you ever met a totally deaf person whose speech is startling clear? If not, here's your chance to hear what I have to say about my inspirational speaking services for meeting planners called Obstacle Illusions.

Please visit my site and you'll see a couple of videos of me speaking to live audiences.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"Is Your Price Too Low?" by John P. Hayes

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If you're just starting out in business, you've probably been in the position of wondering how much you should charge for your products and services. Have you ever struggled with how much people would be willing to pay you for your expertise?

Well, I stumbled across an article that was formerly on Zig Ziglar's website but apparently it's no longer there so I had to do a search and found it at this site. It'll change your perspective, I guarantee it. It certainly changed mine!

Here's my $67,000 question: Are you charging what you think you're worth and then trusting the process?
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Monday, May 01, 2006

An Actual Instrument Approach

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Below is a link to a Google Video that I found on the Internet of an actual instrument approach. This is as real as it gets. You may need to download Google Video to your hard drive in order to view this 43 second video. It was taken by an unknown pilot who makes his living flying cargo in the worst of weather conditions.

As you view this video, imagine what it's like to literally fly "blind and deaf! (Note: You may need to download the Google Video program to get this to work).

If you don't want to download the Google Video program, you can visit my other website where you should be able to see the same video without having to download it. Go here and scroll down the page - you'll see the same picture you see here on the right hand side of that page.
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